Stunning

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wow, more from Mark...

Fall: God Judges

By Pastor Mark Driscoll


Who is Mark Driscoll?




Well, well well.
I have heard a lot about this guy but have deliberately never said anything about him until today.

My wife comes home from work, and then goes to a prayer meeting, comes home and tells me she might be going to a seminar with a few other women, and the speaker is some American guy. She gives me the invite, and I see the name Mark Driscoll.

She asks me if I know of him. I say I have heard a lot about this man, and a lot of what I had heard was not the most positive, and then I said without even giving it a second thought, "he has been called the cussing Pastor!"....I then immediately felt bad at saying that.
"What do you mean", she said. I gathered my thoughts and simply told her that some people seem to be offended by the man and his methods, but I had not actually come to an opinion. I told her he was a Christian with a huge Church and that he was quite popular and apparently "cool" and stuff.

Anyway, I had the idea to let her hear him for herself, so I went googling on the net. Then, out of nowhere, came the words "vintage Jesus" in my mind. I had heard that name a few times from reading various blogs.
I found the video series on "Vintage Jesus", and part one about the Deity of Christ, and so my wife and I watched it.
At the start, we both kind of squeemed at a few comments but we kept watching the video.
In the end, we both thoroughly loved his message, and we share it here for your thoughts.

I know that not "all" of his presentations may be this good, and I have heard others by him that do make
me squeem and wish he never said what he just said, but this video I had not seen before, and I very much liked it and see Mark here as a very faithful ambassador for our Lord.

There was nothing new in this video that I have not heard before in my Christian life, but if this guy is being given an audience on a regular basis, I can only thank God for this "kind" of message, which is much needed today.
I welcome any feedback!

Enjoy, Mark Driscoll.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Repeated again, because it is important!

Two wills, well meant offer, John Piper and an Arminian thrown in for free!


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The following article was written by an Arminian (though he would not personally own that name) one Steve Gregg owner of Narrow Path Ministries. He is quite a passionate and fairly articulate Synergist, who offered a critique of John Piper, regarding his "two wills" in God doctrine.

Why would I bring this to the attention of Calvinists?
Well, not for the main reason most of you would think!

As much as I appreciate and respect John Piper, I am responding here in order to also provide a critique of the way in which he presented his "two wills" doctrine, for I never did like the way in which he presented his argument.

It is no surprise that an Arminian would have problems with it, but what I find fascinating, is when some of what the Arminian says, is actually true!

I will offer my critique soon, but in the meantime, please first read John Pipers article on the "two wills" and then read Steve Gregg's critique of it, and then I shall present my concerns.

Incidentally, I have had conversations online with Steve Gregg in the past at Unchained and his own board, and now James White has decided to review his mountain of audio lectures upon Calvinism. I was one of those that James mentions, when he stated recently that some of his listeners had suggested he review Steve's materials.
The reason I brought him to the attention of James White, was not that Steve was really saying anything "new" regarding the debate, but rather, Steve Gregg seemed to be passionate and willing to debate. James and other Calvinists know too well, that getting an open public moderated discussion upon Calvinism and Arminianism is nigh well impossible, (Think Dave Hunt, Geisler and more recently the Caner Brothers debarkle)

Piper's more complete treatment of this subject can be read at

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/doctrines_grace/2wills.html

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Steve Gregg writes,

I believe his argument is flawed. Here is my critique:

John Piper's essay, "Are There Two Will in God," written as a chapter for the book, "Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge and Grace," is an attempt to show that the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election can be harmonized with those texts of scripture which seem to teach the "Arminian" idea that God really wants all men to be saved, and none to be lost.

Calvinism teaches that there are secret "decrees" of God which determine the ultimate destiny of every person, and that, before the onset of human history, every person was thus predetermined by God's decree either to be eternally saved or eternally lost. It is a corollary of this teaching, jealously defended, that God's choice in the matter was not affected in any way by the decision that men make, nor of God's foreknowledge of any such decisions. The sovereign grace of God, who could, if He had wished, have chosen to save every person for salvation, instead chose only some ("the elect") for salvation, and either passed-over (as modern Calvinists say) or positively reprobated (as John Calvin taught) those whom He did not desire to save.

The fate of every man, woman and child is said to be determined by these sovereign decrees alone. A man can do nothing to change the destiny that was determined by God for him before he was born. He can simply live out the scripted routine of his existence, experiencing the illusion of free choice, but really just fulfilling the secret will of God for him, whether by his life of piety or his life of reprobation.

The Arminians (and the primitive Christians prior to Augustine) have always felt that this is a misrepresentation both of God's policies and of His desire. They believe that God really desires that every person should be saved and live righteously, and that any failure to do so on the part of a man is owing to that man's will to reject God's will, and not a result of God's willing the man to be reprobate.

The scriptures most often cited to prove that God desires all men to be saved, and that He sent Christ to reconcile the world to Himself are II Pet.3:9/Ezek.33:11/ I John 2:2/I Tim.2:4, 6; 4:10. There are others besides. In fact, every passage in which God complains about man's sin or unbelief bears further biblical testimony that God has not decreed that men should sin or that they should be in unbelief. These passages number in the hundreds in scripture.

The fact that God wants all men to be saved, set in juxtaposition with the fact that not all men end up saved, suggests that there is not only one will in the universe, but at least two. Arminians say that there is the will of God and the will of man-two wills at odds in the universe. Calvinists say the two wills that are at odds are both in God. That is, in one sense, God wishes all men would be saved; in another sense, He really wants millions of people to burn in hell for all eternity. Piper opens his essay with this ambitious statement of purpose:

"My aim in this chapter is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God's will for 'all persons to be saved' (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion."

I have been surprised to see how many readers seem to think that he accomplished this goal. He does make about as good a case as can be made for such a doomed postulate, but he does so by tricking the mind of the inattentive reader (I don't suggest that John Piper intends to "trick" anybody. I am sure that he is very convinced of the validity of the case he makes, but Calvinists have in many ways allowed themselves to be "tricked" by a faulty logic which they would never accept if used by their theological opponents. It manifests the phenomenon of how intense desire to believe a thing to be true will lead a man to accept uncritically the flimsiest case in its defense).

Like any good polemicist, Piper begins by explaining the perceived problem and presenting a few of the scriptures that support the objections to his view. He presents the conundrum: God wills that all men would be saved (it's scriptural); but God has willed to damn a large percentage of men who He could as easily have saved (it's Calvinism). There must, then, be two wills in God that are contrary to each other.

The bottom line in Piper's argument is that a rational being may indeed will a thing at a certain level, but choose not to implement that thing out of deference to a higher purpose. I may want to sit around today and play my guitar, but there is work to be done, so I type. On one hand, I want to relax and play music, but some things are more important to me than that, so I really don't want to relax as much as I want to accomplish something that precludes my relaxation. Two wills. It's that simple. Or is it?

What if I were capable of doing both? If I could play the guitar and type at the same time, without sacrificing the quality of either activity, but I chose not to play the guitar? Could it really be argued, in such a case, that I truly wanted to play? The only reason that I don't do everything I want to do is that I can't do some things without sacrificing other things that I want even more. To say that God wants to save all men, and could do so, but chooses not to do so suggests that there is a higher compelling interest that God has in mind which would be compromised by His saving everyone. Piper acknowledges this, but says that the Arminians are in essentially the same position as are the Calvinists, in this respect:

"…God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. This is the solution that I as a Calvinist affirm along with Arminians…"

Piper says that the Arminians view man's free will as that higher priority, which God refuses to compromise, while Calvinists identify that highest priority as "the manifestation of the full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29)."

This line plays well for Calvinists, but non-Calvinists do not think that God derives more benefit or glory from His judging the wicked than He would derive from saving them (nor do we believe that the Calvinist explanation is the only one that preserves man's humilty and God's glory in salvation). Given the choice between showing mercy and judging sin, on an even playing field, God would prefer showing mercy every time (Ezekiel 33:11). In God's list of priorities, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

Let's face it, Calvinism has always presented a God of a different character than that which Arminianism and primitive Christianity embraced. The God revealed in Christ must judge sin, when it is persisted in, but is really like a father longing for the restoration of his estranged children. If a single sinner repents, God and His angels rejoice. Calvinism's God, on the other hand, rejoices to cast the children who disappoint Him into flames of eternal torment.

This is how He chooses to glorify Himself, even though He could as easily have saved them all with the same sovereign grace that He exercised toward the relatively few whom He actually chooses to save. Though He is said to be the perfection of fatherhood, Calvinism's God is not like any loving father known among men. Even evil fathers, Jesus said, delight to give good things to their children. This is not in contrast to the way God is. It is a dim reflection of that greater compassion in God. "How much more shall your Father who is in heaven…"

The non-Calvinist view does not believe that consigning billions of people, made in God's image, to eternal damnation was ever "Plan A" with God. The eternal fire was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41)-not for men. The only reason that men ever go there, against God's stated will, is that (dare I say it?) God cannot prevent them!

Yes, I said it. There are some things that God cannot do. The Bible says so.

For example, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). If He tells a sinner that he is capable of repenting and doing good (Gen.4:7), but in fact that man was predestined by the good pleasure of God to be irredeemably evil and to go to hell, then God is lying, because He isn't telling the truth. If God says that He had desired to save the lost, but was unable to do so because they "were not willing" (Matt.23:37), but in fact the reason they never came to Him was because He had secretly decreed that they should not and could not, then, again, He is lying. This is impossible for God to do.

Another thing God cannot do is deny Himself (2 Tim.2:13). He cannot violate His own character and values. Arminians believe that God's decision to make man in His own image was not very unlike the decision of a human couple to start a family, rather than simply to breed Labrador retrievers. The dogs will never turn on their masters, but most people think that children hold more potential and can be much more satisfying, in the long run.

It is in the nature of children to be morally free and responsible, though the good parent attempts to educate, civilize and influence a child's will through proper nuture. No parent wants to see a child go astray, but every couple, in choosing to bring a human being into their home (rather than a puppy), knows that it is in the nature of free moral beings to make choices and to live with the consequences. Many parents have known the grief of their children's rebellion, but have been unable to control the will of another independent human soul. God apparently knew this frustration as well:

"I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not consider…What more could have been done…that I have not done? " (Isa.1:2-3; 5:4).

We might think that God should have been satisfied with oxen and donkeys, who know their master and give no cause of heartache-but, then, He wouldn't have any children at all, would He? I think that the teaching of scripture about this matter is that God's highest priority in creation was that He have children, not pets; a family, not a menagerie.

He was under no external compulsion to create people, but He sovereignly chose to do so. He really desired that every one of His children be saved and in relationship with Him, but He wanted them to have that relationship with Him upon a different basis than that of the birds and the bunnies He had already created-all of whom relate to Him just as He wished they would, but without much depth or intimacy.

To have real people means having real choices, which animals don't have. It means taking the risk of being disappointed. But if it was God's choice to create such beings, who can fault him? The point is, once such beings are in existence, they make their own choices. That is what they were made to do. Does God wish for them only to make right choices? Of course He does. But it is in the nature of the case that one free will can only wish that another free will should do a certain thing. It is not possible to dictate and determine what another free being will choose.

In God's case, as sovereign judge of a universe that contains free and responsible agents, He is not at liberty to save those who refuse to be saved, and must, of necessity, punish those whose choices incur righteous judgment. Thus, no one ultimately wins against the sovereign God, though the scriptures bear abundant testimony that many truly disappoint Him.

In the course of making his case, John Piper drifts into a lengthy, and irrelevant, discourse that gives the inattentive reader the impression that the case for his basic point is supported by a wide range of examples and arguments. Piper shows that the crucifixion of Christ, which was the will of God, involved the sinful acts of many participants-Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, et al-who were doing things that God says are not His will for men to do. The same is true of Joseph's brothers accomplishing God's will through their selling Joseph into slavery.

Also God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and the hearts of other wicked men, as an act of judgment against them, resulted in those hardened sinners performing sinful acts that God elsewhere declares to be contrary to His will. These examples are given to demonstrate that God "in one sense" wills righteousness, but "in another sense" wills evil. Strange as this may seem, Piper tells us, "God's emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend."

This may be true, but there is nothing very complex or mysterious about the cases Piper gives. Those who killed Jesus and those who betrayed Joseph were already very evil men, by their own choices. God permitted them to carry out their evil designs, just as He allows all men to choose sin, if they insist. God was not obligated to allow them to carry out their evil purposes. He prevented them from doing so on many previous occasions. But, when allowing them to do what they wished proved to be expedient for God's purposes, Jesus was "delivered [into their hands] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). There is nothing complex about this. It is the simple principle, as enunciated by Napoleon Bonaparte: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

There is nothing here that says that God put it in the hearts of these men to choose the evil of their ways, nor that these particular men were predestined to be evil. If they had been better men, God could easily have delivered Jesus (and Joseph) into the hands of other evil characters. There have always been plenty around.

Then there are the cases of God's hardening Pharaoh's (and certain other people's) heart, of His giving the unbelieving Jews "a spirit of stupor" (Rom.11) and of His giving certain people up to reprobation (Rom.1).

The hardening of the heart of a man so as to prevent him from repenting-and the turning of a man over to the bondage of his own sinful choices-is simply God's way of saying, "You have exercised your freedom of choice very poorly hitherto, and you are now under my judgment for your sins. Your judgment will be a moral blindness amounting to the suspension of your opportunity to repent." It is God's prerogative to judge a man however He sees fit, and to exploit that judgment for the higher good of His kingdom. There is nothing complex or mysterious in this fact.

What Calvinists fail to recognize is that the whole enterprise of God hardening the hearts of certain sinners, so as to prevent their repentance, implies that, had He not taken this special action, they might have repented. Yet Calvinists believe that it takes special election and action on God's part to make a man repent. If their doctrine were true, God would never have to do anything special to keep a man from repenting. Calvinists would embarrass themselves less by concealing this phenomenon of God's hardening certain men's hearts in scripture, rather than continually bringing it up to their own undoing.

In fact, Piper's bottom line is very simple and unrelated to the lengthy case He makes for God making use of sinners to accomplish certain important purposes (e.g., the crucifixion of Christ and the transporting of Joseph to Egypt in order to save his family from famine). His real position is that there are some priorities in the mind of God (as in all rational beings) which cause Him to sacrifice certain desires for others-and that the damnation of certain men was so essential to His highest goals, that He had to predestine certain persons, as yet unborn, to that fate, in order to guarantee that He would be glorified in this manner, while He still loved them and wished they had been saved.

What he fails to show is that there is any scriptural support for the notion that God's highest desire (or His desire at any level, for that matter) was to create any human beings strictly for the purpose of their damnation, to whom He would never grant the genuine opportunity for salvation, because it pleases Him just to know that He is glorified in their eternal torment.

He thinks Arminians are wrong because they appeal to man's "free will" as the factor that overturns God's desire for all to be saved. Yet, "free will," Piper asserts, is not a concept found in the Bible. In commenting on 1 Timothy 2:4, Piper writes:

"There is no mention here of free will. Nor is there mention of sovereign, prevenient, efficacious grace. If all we had was this text we could only guess what restrains God from saving all. When free will is found in this verse it is a philosophical, metaphysical assumption not an exegetical conclusion."

While the term "free will" (like the term "Trinity") is not found in scripture, it is everywhere illustrated in scripture as well as history and personal experience. The Calvinistic terms "decrees of election" and "decrees of reprobation," on the other hand, are neither found in scripture, nor illustrated there.

If reason be sought why certain things-like the salvation of all men-are declared to be "the will of God" in scripture, but those things do not come to pass, Piper is correct in recognizing the involvement of "two wills" at odds with each other. His mistake is in seeing both of these wills as being "in God," rather than recognizing there is the divine will and the will of man. Is man's will, then, greater than God's? Only to the degree that "God wills" it to be.




Tartan's views regarding all of this.

First of all, let me state this at the outset, and in doing so, be quite clear about the matter concerning "two wills" in God.
It is right and legitimate to understand God willing in different ways. It is valid to understand God having certain ways of making known His will in scripture.
As Piper rightly points out in his article, many reformed Theologians have made note of God willing in a "Preceptive" sense, and also in a "Decretive" sense. Precept and Decree.
I believe Piper should have emphasised together with reformed Theologians, the primacy of God in having "One will", but also having different ways of understanding this "One will".

I mention this because in the past, reformed writers were very careful to uphold that God essentially has "one" will, and therefore He is not a confusing God or a being with conflicting wills etc.
I believe Piper could have been much stronger in this simple fact,
Therefore I affirm that God does not have "two wills" per say but rather, He has "one" will, that can be at times understood in different ways, namely by Precept and Decree.

Just briefly, "precept" has to do with law and commands, therefore when God expresses Himself in a way that demands obedience from us, then this is called God's "preceptive" will.
This aspect of God's will can and often is thwarted by sinful humanity. God demands His "precepts/laws" and man often does not comply.
God's "decretive" will has been called His "Sovereign/secret" will, or His will whereby God's will is "always" done. Whether it be the sinful actions of humanity or the dropping of a sparrow to the ground. Everything that happens in the Universe has been "decreed" to happen, and does so with a "purpose" known only to God in an ultimate sense, and as an encouragement to all whom love Him and trust in Him, knowing that "all things" are working for those who love Christ, and are the called according to His purpose.

Now let me get to the heart of the matter, and exactly where I disagree with Piper.
In trying to maintain this "two wills" teaching, he compromises certain passages of scripture in order to make his case. He does not seem to fully realise, that he is giving away ground here to those who embrace a synergistic system of theology, a concession he does not have to give, and in the process, he opens up the doors to the whole "well meant offer" debate, that is pretty much embraced today by most evangelicals.

Now I realise he is attempting to put all interpretations of these passages (II Pet.3:9/Ezek.33:11/ I John 2:2/I Tim.2:4, 6; 4:10.) on the table for evaluation, and I even get the feeling that he himself holds to a more robust Calvinist understanding of these passages, but what he actually achieves is a confusion where there never was one.

For me, it is better to stand on your interpretation and defend it with reference to the analogy of faith, rather than concede some ground for the sake of appearing somehow balanced.

He is quite right to point out the violence done by Arminians to these passages, but then he goes on to appease them, and in my opinion, give up ground to not only the issue of God's sovereign will, but opens a door to a culture already more than willing to embrace paradox, contradiction and irrationalism.

The "two wills" teaching is now being used to teach that God wants everyone to be saved, and yet God only intends to save His elect.
If you listen to "two wills" teachers, you will hear them speaking in contradictions. It is a sad thing for a Calvinist like me, to hear other Calvinists doing this, and doing it unapologetically.

The fatal flaw in their understanding, relates to their comprehending this supposed "two wills" teaching and a faulty understanding of "Law" and "Grace" as revealed in scripture.
The older theologians were much more succinct when discussing these matters.
That is why the reformed creeds say such things as,

"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions (emphasis mine), immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will,"
The Westminster Confession Ch 2 Of God, and of the Holy Trinity/ London Baptist Confession 1689.

The Nicene Creed if written later would have said, not only "one God", "one Lord", "one baptism" but would have said "One immutable will too! if faced with today's "two wills" theory!" but I digress..

It has been suggested, that people like me merely collapse the "decretive" will into the "preceptive" will, and thereby do damage to the sincere desires found in God, for all to be saved.

I find this allegation quite objectionable on many grounds. By the same logic, the Doctrine of Limited atonement could be viewed as a teaching that collapses the genuine "free offer" into insincerity in God, or the doctrine of election into this same dangerous possibility. It is ridiculous.

First of all. It is quite right to speak of God as the "Offended" party, within His rights to command obedience to His law, and therefore, in that sense, He expects or demands this "compliance" from humanity.
It is at this point, that the "two wills" theory is put forward in order to make the argument, that what God actually commands, equates exactly to what God Himself desires to see happen in all men without exception, meaning precisely that God desires that all be saved

Now, I am not going to discuss the Arminian interpretations for the passages mentioned above, but deal with what many Calvinists are currently teaching in regards to the "two wills" teaching.

Act 17:30 "Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent"

The popular inference drawn from this passage, with minimal balance from other scriptures, is meant to teach that what God commands = what God desires to see happen.
It is as if the word "command" and "desire" are synonyms.

Now bear in mind the "big idea" behind the view that teaches that God "wants all men" to be saved, is their understanding of these passages, and dare I say it, the complete lack of balance with reference to other passages that are quite clear and address the Divine intention in the atonement.
Such as the High Priestly prayer prior to the crucifixion, where Jesus prays,
"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours." Joh 17:9

Does this passage speak to the idea that God desires for all men to be saved? In any sense?
Or
As it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Rom 9:13

Surely, these passages have something to do with the subject matter pertaining to this "two wills" teaching?

Is it not much more Biblical to teach that in the matter of salvation, rather than declaring that God wants everyone to be saved, is it not scriptural to teach what scripture plainly states, such as

For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Rom 9:15
Together with,
"Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens." Rom 9:18

Today, it is a given, that if you challenge the "two wills" teaching or the "well meant offer" doctrine, you are an unbalanced and myopic Hyper Calvinist. So be it, and yet one does not have to negate the "free offer of the gospel" in order to reject what the modern proponents are teaching.

As a Calvinist, I hold to the promise of salvation in the gospel, preached universally to all where the gospel is sent, with the condition being "repentance and faith". I affirm that we can and must "plead" with sinners to repent and believe the gospel.

I affirm that man has a duty to obey everything that God commands, and that includes repentance and faith in Christ for salvation.
The fact man has "no ability" to do so, is neither here nor there, and as I am not arguing with Arminians, I shall say no more upon "responsibility does not imply ability".

The point is, one can be a balanced Calvinist and affirm the "free offer" without having to embrace the paradoxical theology connected with the "two wills" theory and or the "well meant offer" controversy.

In the same way that the "free offer" does not imply "ability" from man, the command to repent and believe does not imply that God "desires" the salvation of all men. It is imported into scripture.

In fact, the Bible teaches quite clearly that the "free offer" of the gospel is "One call" that goes out to whomever hears it. Upon this proclamation, there is the promise of salvation for all who will repent.

Calvinist Theologians have been careful here to explain this "one call" having a "two-fold" purpose.
It is sometimes called the "General call, which "includes" the Special or Inward call to the elect"
One call, two purposes.

I am arguing that behind that "One call", there is a God with "One will", and that will is always accomplished, just as His "decretive" will is always done.
(For many are called, but few chosen. Mat 22:14) and (to the one we are the savor of death to death, and to the other we are the savor of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2Co 2:16)

What the "two wills" teaching does is introduce a kind of conflation within the Godhead.
It is as if God is both willing to save everyone and only the elect at the same time. It is contradiction, not paradox or even mystery. It is straight out contradiction, and I assure everyone that God is not confused, nor does He desire the salvation of everyone, as these teachers have us believe.

I have provided the basis above for the call of the gospel, and there is no "two wills" there to be found as scripture affirms.
Two-fold aspect regarding the "One" general call, yes, but "two wills", absolutely not.

Just for the record. It was not Calvinism that steered many Calvinists in this direction, but actually men who held loosely to the "L" in the five points of Calvinism. It was ever the ambition of the Arminian together with the Amerauldians and others to link the "free offer" with the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Others within the reformed movement went further and embraced not only a "well meant offer" to all men without exception, but tied it all in with "Common grace" and the atonement.
Probably without doubt, it was the respected Dutch Theologian Abraham Kuyper who spearheaded the modern "common grace" movement that enamoured the likes of John Murray, Ned Stonehouse and Van Til, however, I believe Kuyper's own warning was not heeded. He had said that some men might run with his teachings upon grace, to such an extreme, and end up doing damage to the atonement and evangelism/preaching. I believe that has happened in our day and particularly the last century.

I only have to think of the recent attempt to reach out to the Mormon Church by Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard J. Mouw. A man who embraces the modern "common grace" argument to an extreme. If we want to throw the "Hyper" name around, then one can make the argument, that these Calvinists that are pushing "Common grace", "well meant offer" and universal "expiation" are the "Hyper" Calvinists. It seems to me, that the real "Hypers" are laughing at all of this, and Calvinists are becoming more and more confused about these matters.

There also seems to be a kind of fear out there in Calvinist circles, that if we do not teach this modern well meant offer, with this "two wills" import, we shall be ridiculed, shunned and shamed.
I personally have been on the receiving end of this mood, and it ain't pretty as they say.
Nonetheless, often it seems like a witch hunt!
The prevailing mood runs like this. Who are the so called Calvinists that dare question the wisdom of the many? Let us shut them out, quiet them, ridicule them at any cost. We are repeatedly told that
the world needs to hear that God is desiring that all who hear the gospel be saved. That is the message we must have for a dying world. Unless we present the gospel in that way, we are merely giving out "information" rather than offering Christ to all men.

I have had conversations with these Calvinists, who have ridiculed everything that I have just said, and then turned right around and have said "more or less" what I did say, just changing the sentence slightly, in order to make some huge difference, and yet I wonder if they even heard what I said!
What they heard originally was that I challenged certain aspects of "well meant offer" and challenged the "two wills" teaching and that I challenged the "Universal expiation" teaching and that I challenged the "Common grace linked with the Atonement" idea, and kaboom!, all ears are suddenly deaf to what I then say from that point on.

In conclusion, I just want to say precisely what I do affirm and reject.

1/ I affirm Common grace as historically defined, but back away from the type that Richard J. Mouw embraces. I do not strictly link the atonement with Common grace, but I do believe there are temporal benefits for the Non Elect, that are by-products of those who are the called.
Having saved sinners in the culture is a benefit to the culture, and has a positive effect for all men without exception.
Generally, common grace is that kindness or benevolence of God the Creator, bestowed upon the unworthy, things like rain and sunshine, family and health, and even life and all of its legitimate pleasures, without immediate punishment for rebellion, are all elements of common grace.
Together with God restraining evil in the society, common grace is certainly biblical.

2/ I affirm the theological construction regarding "two wills" as a tool that helps us understand the Preceptive and Decretive will, and that it is not an artificial distinction demanded by Calvinistic theology. Knowing what God's will is with regards to the "well meant offer", depends upon exegesis of scripture, and not upon the theory that God actually has two wills pertaining to salvation.

Where I disagree with Piper, is where he states the "two wills" in the following way,

"The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say Yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say Yes to the universal, saving will of 1 Timothy 2:4 and Yes to the individual unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23."

3/ I reject any "well meant offer" that presumes that God is desiring for all to be saved to whom the gospel is preached. Men say God desires all men to be saved, I say that is not true.

This issue confuses God being pleased when sinners repent, or that He gets no pleasure from the death of the wicked (Eze 33:11) with the false conclusion that God is sincerely desiring for all men to be saved.
(it is true that God has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but scripture also affirms that God is pleased at their destruction, so to use these passages to come to the conclusion that God desires for all men without exception to be saved is eisogesis at best and contradiction at worst."

To illustrate a practical example, if a person wants to know if God wants to save him, we can certainly assure the person, that God rejoices over every sinner that repents and trusts in the Son, who has come to save His people from their sins, and that God does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but assuredly, He will punish the wicked who remain in unbelief.

Such an example not only gives hope to the sinner, but proclaims the freedom of God in salvation.
It is a faithful proclamation, rather than an anthropocentric one.

3/ I affirm what has been called "the free offer of the gospel", that is, the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel to all that will hear it, and I affirm that upon the condition of repentance and faith, whosoever believes shall be saved.
I affirm that this obedience (which results from grace) pleases God and the Holy Angels.
The word "offer" meaning "proclamation", as the gospel itself is not an offer per say, but actually a command! (2Th 1:8, 1Pe_4:17. )

I affirm that God shall show mercy to whomever He shall show mercy, and therefore I reject that God desires the salvation of all men without exception.
(Rom 9:15, Rom 9:18, Joh 17:9, Mat 9:13, Mar 2:17, Luk 5:32.)

I affirm that God has "one call" with a twofold aspect to it (general and effectual), and therefore it would be a contradiction to say that this "One call" has a desire for all without exception to be saved and yet the same call is the very means to draw His elect people. (Mat 22:14)
God is not irrational, nor does He have conflicting desires within the Godhead.
Scripture proclaims that God gets "all" of His desires.

(Isa 46:10) "declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure;"
(Daniel 4:35) "all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What doest thou?'".
(Job 42:2) "I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted". "
(Psalm 115:3)Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases".

Much more could be said and countless more scriptures given in order to uphold my argument presented here. I give this brief written piece to generate discussion. For light rather than heat.
For reason rather than irrationalism. For God's glory rather than mans post modern felt needs.
As Pilate said long ago, "What I have written, I have written." Joh 19:22

Tartanarmy April 2007.

Encouraging and timely...



Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not much goin on...

I have been quiet lately due to other matters, but hope to start posting again soon, maybe!

Made a few comments here regarding eternal Justification being called Hyper Calvinism. Oh, how easy that word is thrown out there!
I agree with what Spurgeon says in the quote I provided at Gene's forum, where he and Jonathon throw around the term "Hyper" far too easily.
Mark

Friday, May 16, 2008

A full response.

Continued from the comments section here.....

THE MODE OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IN REFORMATION ARMINIANISM AND OPEN THEISM.

In recent years, open theism has engendered a plethora of critical interactions. One recurring criticism is that the movement is a theological novelty without precedent in the history of Christianity.1 Although at times it is recognized that many open theists began as Arminians, it is argued that their adoption of open theism moves them beyond the scope of Arminian theology and some suggest altogether outside the pale of the Christian theological traditions.2 Arminian theologian Robert E. Picirilli argues that open theism's rejection of exhaustive divine foreknowledge is "too radical a break with classic Arminian theism to maintain a 'family' relationship."3 Even Clark H. Pinnock seems uncertain, given its modifications of Arminianism, whether it stands within or without of the Arminian tradition.4 The theological controversy over open theism has also provoked institutional struggles, not least in our very own Evangelical Theological Society.

In the following, I reconsider the "family" relationship between Arrninianism and open theism particularly in light of Picirilli's charge that they are incompatible theologies.5 The relationship of open theism to Arminianism is important, because the conclusion reached on this issue has the potential to further divide or unite evangelicals. On the one hand, if open theism is part of the Arminian theological tradition and criticisms of open theism apply more broadly to Arminianism, then this controversy could further divide evangelicals-i.e. Reformed groups versus open theists and Arminians. Yet on the other hand, if open theism is part of the Arminian tradition, then perhaps recognition of this point can assist in transcending the categories of heterodoxy and orthodoxy that frequently characterize this debate.

I support the latter option by arguing that open theism is part of the Arminian theological trajectory, because they share identical theories of the mode of divine knowledge. I focus on the mode of divine knowledge in respect to libertarian choices and actions, because it gets to the heart of the theological controversy over open theism and its relationship to Arminianism. The mode of divine knowledge refers to the manner in which or how it is that God knows libertarian choices and their consequent actions. I argue further that since Arminianism's affirmation of divine foreknowledge of future libertarian choices and open theism's rejection of the same both derive from an epistemological disagreement over whether future libertarian choices are legitimate objects of knowledge, this is not at root a theological disagreement. Moreover, this epistemological disagreement is secondary to their more fundamental theological consistency concerning the mode of divine knowledge.

Before proceeding further, a clarification of the term "Reformation Arminianism" is in order. I use the term because Picirilli uses it. He has defined it as that form of Arminian theology that reflects the thought of Jacob Arminius.6 It is called "Reformed" in a broad sense that denotes Arminius's commitment to central doctrines of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers.7 I selected Picirilli's description of Reformation Arminianism because it is a contemporary Arminian interaction with open theism and it also reflects a common Arminian position in North American Evangelicalism. In addition, he directly engages open theism and, as noted, wants to excise it from the Arminian theological family tree.

I. THE MODE OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IN REFORMATION ARMINIANISM

Picirilli outlines the basic affirmations of Reformation Arminianism as adherence to the notions that "the future is certain and foreknown by God," and that the certainty of the future and God's foreknowledge of it in no way undermines human freedom and moral responsibility.8 In order to consistently maintain that the future is certain, that it is foreknown by God, and that human beings are free, he adopts libertarian freedom, the consequential and historical nature of divine knowledge relative to libertarian choices and actions, and the timeless nature of God's knowledge.

According to Picirilli's libertarian view of freedom, free choices are contingent. Contingency means that no causal conditions are involved in a choice so as to make it unavoidable. The person always remains free to choose otherwise.9 Yet given Picirilli's affirmation of the certainty of future events and God's foreknowledge of those events, his acceptance of libertarian freedom might appear to be inconsistent.10

To reconcile God's foreknowledge with future free activities of human beings, Picirilli posits that God's knowledge is subsequent or consequential to those choices and events. The subsequence of divine knowledge means that knowledge of an event necessarily presupposes its occurrence. Picirilli illustrates the consequential order between event and God's knowledge of event with the example of a car accident. He states, "the accident remains a contingency that may or may not occur until it actually happens. The knowledge of it grows from its actual occurrence (even though future to God), not Hence, in Picirilli's view, God's knowledge follows or depends on something actually happening. The consequential order between event and God's knowledge is not only logical, but it is ontological. The relationship is ontological because God's knowledge depends on the event's actual occurrence. The event itself comprises the content of God's foreknowledge. If nothing has happened, there is nothing to know. The event must precede God's knowledge such that God's knowledge is subsequent to it.12 The language used here to express the ontological and consequential relationship between God's knowledge and historical occurrences must be placed within Picirilli's adoption of divine timelessness. The ontological order of God's knowledge does not entail a temporal sequence. When the drama of history is acted out, it includes a temporal and an ontological order, but from God's perspective it is only an ontological order.

Accordingly, divine knowledge is consequential and historical. The consequential nature of divine knowledge denotes that it follows the historical incidents. The historical nature of divine knowledge indicates that it presupposes the concrete historical occurrence of something. "Historical" does not mean that God's knowledge is necessarily temporal, although it is in open theism. Divine knowledge is historical, not because God learns in a temporal chronology, but because God's knowledge presupposes the occurrence of something in time or that it will occur in time. Even a timeless God knows things in a historical continuum, but the phenomena that constitute that knowledge exist eternally before God. Historical proceedings that are past and no longer extant or are future and do not yet exist from a temporal perspective are eternally present to God. The eternal presence of the history of the world to God means that all history bears the same ontological status before God.

The principle that knowledge presupposes the occurrence of an event should be understood in relation to the general Arminian rejection of the Reformed concept of foreordination. According to foreordination, God foreknows because God foreordains. Picirilli maintains that the mode of foreknowledge through foreordination is inconsistent with genuine human freedom and moral responsibility.13 He also insists that foreknowledge can neither be causative nor the basis of the certainty of future occurrences.14 On the contrary, he proposes that the certainty of an event resides in the fact that it will occur. Although Picirilli's theory of divine knowledge is consequential and historical, it still seems to conflict with the notion of libertarian freedom. This is because from the temporal perspective, future free choices are indeterminate. In other words, if God's knowledge follows events, how could God know future free choices of a libertarian sort?

Picirilli resolves the divine foreknowledge-human free will conundrum by appealing to divine timelessness.15 From the vantage point of eternity, God timelessly knows all events, including those that are the product of libertarian freedom.16 Picirilli's appeal to divine timelessness reconciles the certainty of God's foreknowledge with the contingency of temporal events, because it can continue to maintain that divine knowledge is subsequent to events (although it does not answer the issue of whether future libertarian choices are even proper objects of knowledge). God's knowledge remains, like human knowledge, "after the fact."17 Therefore, while from a temporal perspective libertarian choices are uncertain, God knows them as accomplished because God sees the panorama of history in an eternal instant.18 Foreknowledge and libertarian freedom are consistent, because the mode of foreknowledge remains consequential and historical. The subsequence of divine knowledge to events is not a temporal subsequence, but a subsequence in the order of nature that is consistent with the timeless nature of God's foreknowledge. Moreover, timeless foreknowledge does not conflict with the indeterminate nature of libertarian freedom insofar as it retains the principle that divine knowledge follows the choices and acts deriving from libertarian freedom.19

In summary, Reformation Arminianism claims that God possesses foreknowledge, because God sees the train of contingent events from the standpoint of timeless eternity. The temporal train is eternally present to God and, therefore, contingent events, although future and not proper objects of knowledge for temporal beings, are eternally known by God. Furthermore, divine foreknowledge of future contingent events does not mitigate contingency, because that knowledge, wedded to the concept of divine timelessness, presupposes the occurrence of the events that are the objects of that knowledge. Finally and strictly speaking, God's knowledge is not foreknowledge, but eternal knowledge.20 From the human perspective God's knowledge of the future is foreknowledge, but from the divine position of eternity, God's knowledge is eternal.

II. THE MODE OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE IN OPEN THEISM

The open theist theory of divine knowledge is often called presentism or present knowledge.21 Presentism includes specific theories regarding the extent and mode of divine knowledge, human freedom, and the relation between God and creation. In terms of the extent of divine knowledge, a God with present knowledge knows all that is possible to be known. God possesses exhaustive knowledge of the past and present and all future possibilities and probabilities. In respect to knowledge of the future, God also foreknows future events that occur due to the necessity of physical forces-i.e. an earthquake that results from seismic activity-as well as events that are the result of pre-determined providential interventions.22 However, God does not possess knowledge of the future that is contingent upon human libertarian freedom. As contingent, such events are indeterminate and are not, therefore, proper objects of knowledge.23

Like Reformation Arminianism, the mode of divine knowledge in open theism is consequential and historical. Yet, unlike Reformation Arminianism, open theism teaches that God's knowledge is ontologically and temporally subsequent to, or at least coincident with, temporal occurrences. Since future libertarian choices are indeterminate until the person actually chooses, no basis exists to foreknow these future choices. God must wait until the person makes the choice in order to know what choice the person will make. Thus, God's knowledge of a libertarian choice is the consequence of the choice, and since the choice is indeterminate, God must wait until that choice is temporally actualized before God can know it.

Open theism rejects the traditional Arminian use of the theory of divine timelessness to solve the tension between exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian freedom. Open theists often maintain that timeless foreknowledge seals the future and removes genuine freedom.24 In contrast, it embraces the notion that future libertarian choices are unknowable and that God's knowledge of the world as it relates to the free activity of human beings arises from the temporal unfolding of human activities. Finally, open theism's rejection of timeless divine knowledge and affirmation of an open future in respect to future libertarian freedom should be understood in light of its more fundamental commitment to relational theism-according to which God created human beings for reciprocal relationships.25

In summary, open theism believes that since future libertarian choices are indeterminate, they are not proper objects of knowledge. Consequently, God cannot know those choices until they are made in time and space. In contrast to some Arminian scholars, open theism also rejects the concept of timeless divine knowledge as a mechanism to reconcile divine foreknowledge and libertarian freedom. As a result, open theism repudiates the notion that God possesses foreknowledge of future libertarian choices and the actions that arise from those choices.

III. THE THEOLOGICAL CONTINUITY BETWEEN REFORMATION ARMINIANISM AND OPEN THEISM

As mentioned, the relationship of open theism to Arminianism is a point contested by Picirilli and doubted by Pinnock.26 In contrast to Picirilli's rejection and Pinnock's uncertainty on this issue, I argue for a substantial theological continuity between Reformation Arminianism and open theism based on their identical theories of the mode of divine knowledge regarding choices and actions contingent on libertarian freedom. The important point is that both views agree that God knows events because they occur and they do not occur because God knows them or wills them. Furthermore, although their differing conclusions on the possibility of foreknowledge of libertarian choices is significant, it should not cloud the fundamental identity of their theories of the mode of divine knowledge.

Looking at one of Picirilli's examples helps to underline the theological continuity between these two positions. Picirilli cites God's testing of Abraham with the command to sacrifice his son to illustrate the consequential and historical nature of God's knowledge of events linked to human freedom. Picirilli notes that in the order of event and knowledge of an event, God does not know that Abraham will be faithful until he acts faithfully. That is to say, while God's knowledge of the temporal testing of Abraham is eternal, God's knowledge of the testing still, in terms of ontological order, follows the testing.27 For instance, if it were possible to interdict God's eternal vision of temporal history at the moment just prior to Abraham's binding of Isaac, God would not know if Abraham would follow through with the command to sacrifice Isaac, because God does not know that Abraham will act faithfully in the continuum of events until Abraham acts faithfully.

Picirilli clarifies the consequential nature of God's knowledge of Abraham's faithfulness relative to his act of faithfulness with the following comment:

Comparing our own (after)knowledge of Abraham's situation. . . . We know both that he could have disobeyed God and that he did obey God and pass the test. The second we know only "after the fact," only because he did actually obey God when the time came. I would maintain that God's (fore)knowledge of the events bears exactly the same relationship to them, ontologically, as our (after)knowledge.28

In other words, Picirilli teaches that God's knowledge of events is consequential, because it ontologically follows the event. The use of "ontological" is noteworthy, because it indicates that God's knowledge rests on historical incidences. Calvinism also affirms that God's knowledge has an ontological basis. But, it is based on the divine will, and not historical events. In the Calvinist ontological order, God wills, God knows, and then things happen, whereas for human beings, knowledge follows historical phenomena. For Picirilli, the relationship between an event and knowledge of an event is the same for God as for human beings; namely, knowledge of something follows its occurrence.29 Again, the consequential nature of divine knowledge does not entail a temporal sequence. God's knowledge is eternal. God eternally knows that Abraham will act faithfully. The subsequence of God's knowledge of Abraham's faithfulness to Abraham's actual act of faithfulness in history is consistent with the eternal simultaneity of God's knowledge, because God sees the events of history in an eternal instant.

The result is that Picirilli's theory of the mode of divine knowledge matches that of open theism. For example, Sanders's statement that "God's knowledge of what creatures do is dependent on what the creatures freely decide to do" is the same as the theory revealed in Picirilli's comment that likens God's "(fore)knowledge" to human "(after)knowledge." Accordingly, Sanders maintains that God's knowledge of Abraham's faithfulness is, like human knowledge, "after the fact."30 In concert with Picirilli's theory of divine knowledge, open theists maintain that God does not know that Abraham will act faithfully until he acts faithfully. In other words, God's knowledge is consequential and historical. God's knowledge of Abraham's faithfulness is the consequence of his act of faithfulness; that is, it is subsequent to his act of faithfulness. The difference resides in that Picirilli affirms that God timelessly sees all events from eternity, whereas open theists maintain that God sees these in their temporal development. Yet, given that they agree on the mode of divine knowledge, why do they reach such different conclusions regarding the feasibility of foreknowledge of libertarian choices and actions?

IV. THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL DISCONTINUITY BETWEEN REFORMATION ARMINIANISM AND OPEN THEISM

The critical point that divides Reformation Arminianism and open theism is not theological, but epistemological. Their primary difference resides in their contrasting opinions on the scope of epistemology; namely whether libertarian free choices are proper objects of knowledge. Reformation Arminianism accepts the principle that they are proper objects of knowledge. This supposition is the basis of its affirmation of exhaustive foreknowledge and its use of timeless divine knowledge to resolve the tension between divine foreknowledge and future libertarian choices. If Reformation Arminianism rejected future libertarian choices as proper objects of knowledge, then it would also reject God's foreknowledge of these and the timeless theory of God's knowledge as the solution to the foreknowledge-freedom dilemma. Indeed, if future libertarian choices are rejected as objects of knowledge, then a foreknowledge-freedom dilemma does not exist because foreknowledge of libertarian choices is impossible. However, because Reformation Arminianism affirms that future libertarian choices are cognizable, it can use the theory of timelessness to affirm that God foreknows those choices and that God's foreknowledge of those choices does not mitigate their contingent nature.

Open theism denies that future libertarian choices are proper objects of knowledge. As a consequence, it rejects timeless divine knowledge as a way to resolve the foreknowledge-freedom problem. The adoption of the principle that future libertarian choices are unknowable necessarily leads to the conclusion that the future is open, at least in so far as the future pertains to libertarian choices.

While the epistemological difference is not the only point of divergence between these two positions, it is the significant one in this debate. For instance, they posit differing theories regarding God's relationship to time-i.e. temporal versus atemporal. Nevertheless and without diminishing the importance of other variations, the primary theological controversy in this discussion has been the nature and scope of God's knowledge. Reformation Arminianism accepts future libertarian free choices as proper objects of knowledge and, therefore, knowledge of these is entailed in God's omniscience. Open theism rejects future libertarian free choices as proper objects of knowledge and, accordingly, it does not include these in God's omniscience.

The epistemological disagreement is secondary to the theological agreement, because the concept of libertarian freedom is derivative from the more fundamental theological issue of God's relationship to creation. The theological theory of the mode of divine knowledge gets to the root difference between the traditional theological trajectories of Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism affirms that God knows because he foreordains events, including those events deriving from human freedom. Arminianism affirms that God knows events deriving from human freedom because they occur. In other words, God's knowledge in Calvinism is not consequential to the event, but to the divine will. Arminianism and open theism affirm that God's knowledge is consequent to historical events. Thus, they both represent what is often called relational theism, according to which God's knowledge and interaction with creation are dynamic and not the products of the unfolding of a divine decree. The agreement on the mode of divine knowledge reflects their shared commitment to relational theism. God's knowledge is consequential, whether God sees tunelessly as in Picirilli's Reformation Arminianism or temporally as in open theism. The disagreement over whether future libertarian choices are proper objects of knowledge is subordinate to their more fundamental agreement on the nature of God's relationship to human beings with libertarian freedom.

V. THE ECUMENICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE THEOLOGICAL CONTINUITY AND EPISTEMOLOGICAL DISCONTINUITY BETWEEN REFORMATION ARMINIANISM AND OPEN THEISM

If we grant, for purposes of developing implications, the validity of the argument that open theism stands in fundamental theological continuity with Reformation Arminianism, at least two responses are possible. One could determine that since the theories of God's relation to creation taught by open theism are also present in Arminian theology, neither of them should be considered as valid forms of evangelical theology. This option may be improbable, but it should not be discounted as rhetorical obscurantism. The reason for this is that although Reformed (and Arminian) theologians often insist that their criticisms of open theism are not at the same time implicit criticisms of Arminianism, other scholars who are not entangled in this controversy do in fact locate open theism within the Arminian tradition.31 If these latter scholars are correct, and the argument presented here suggests that they are, then criticisms of the one do apply to the other. Although it would be unfortunate, recognition of this could further fracture evangelicalism.

However, an alternative, and one that is ecumenical in nature, is also possible. The case presented here that open theism and Arminianism share fundamentally compatible theologies of the mode of divine knowledge and diverge on a secondary issue of whether future libertarian choices are proper objects of knowledge promises to promote more civility and unity between the differing groups. For example, Bruce Ware is certainly correct that the open theist rejection of exhaustive divine foreknowledge is inconsistent with the traditional Arminian doctrine of foreknowledge.32 Yet, despite this they share the same theory of the nature of God's knowledge. Additionally, the doctrine of foreknowledge is not at the heart of either open theism or traditional Arminianism. More essentially, they both affirm that God's relation to creation is contingent to some degree on human reciprocation to divine initiative. I maintain that this essential theological unity can and should mitigate descriptions of them as opposed theological trajectories and foster a sense of kinship among the differing theological parties.

VI. CONCLUSION

Reformation Arminianism and open theism bear identical theories of the mode of divine knowledge. Reformation Arminianism's affirmation of and open theism's rejection of divine foreknowledge of future libertarian choices stems from an epistemological disagreement over whether future libertarian choices are proper objects of knowledge; hence, it is not at root a theological disagreement. Moreover, their epistemological disagreement is secondary to their more fundamental theological agreement regarding the mode of divine knowledge. It is so because the disparity over whether libertarian choices can be known is held within their more basic commitment to relational theism. Their continuity on the mode of divine knowledge means that open theism is neither a radical new theology nor a radical departure from traditional Arminian theology, but rather stands in theological continuity with the Arminian tradition. The theological continuity between them provides a basis for ecumenical rapprochement among the disputing groups within evangelicalism that already accept Arminianism as a viable form of evangelical theology.

1 For presentations of open theism, see David Basinger, The case for Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996); Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000); Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (Didsbury Lectures, 2000; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001); Pinnock, ed. et al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); and John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998).

1 use the term "open theism" to refer to the controversial movement in North American evangelicalism rather than the Openness of God, Free-Will Theism, and the polemical and pejorative Neotheism and Neo-Arminian because those theologians that adopt the tenets of this theological movement use the term, it is one of the shorter options, and it bears no uncomplimentary connotations.

2 For examples, see Norman L. Geisler, Creating God in the Image of Man? The New "Open" View of God: Neotkeism's Dangerous Drift (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1997) 11-12, 126, and 145 and "Norman Geisler's Response," in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (ed. David and Randall Basinger; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986) 170; Tony Gray, "Beyond Arminius: Pinnock's Doctrine of God and the Evangelical Tradition," in Reconstructing Theology: A Critical Assessment of the Theology of Clark Pinnock (ed. Tony Gray and Christopher Sinkinson; Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster, 2000) 138-42; and Bruce A. Ware, "Defining Evangelicalism's Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical?" JETS 45 (2002) 194; and idem, God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000) 31-33.

3 Robert E. Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to John Sanders's The God who Risks: A Theology of Providence," JETS 44 (2001) 471.

4 Pinnock, Most Moved Mover 106, 143, and 149.

5 Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future," JBTS 43 (2000) 259-71 and "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 467-91.

6 Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 259-71 and "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 467-91. However, it is surprising that in his attempt to portray his views in continuity with Arminius's theology he does not utilize middle knowledge to reconcile divine providence and foreknowledge with human libertarian freedom, as did Arminius. For Arminius's use of middle knowledge, see The Works of Arminius: The London Edition (3 vols.; trans. James Nichols and William Nichols; vol. 1 1825, vol. 2 1828, vol. 3 1875; reprint with an introduction by Carl Bangs, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996) 1.653-54 and 2.120, 122, 124, 342, and 719. For scholarship on Arminius's use of middle knowledge, see Barry Bryant, "Molina, Arminius, Plaifere, Goad, and Wesley on Human Free Will, Divine Omniscience, and Middle Knowledge," Wesleyan Theological Journal 27 (1992) 93-103; Eef Dekker, "Was Arminius a Molinist?" Sixteenth Century Journal 27 (1996) 337-52; Richard A. Muller, God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991) 154-63; and William G. Witt, "Creation, Redemption, and Grace in the Theology of Jacob Arminius" (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1993).

7 According to Picirilli, these doctrines are "that guilt, condemnation, and depravity passed to the whole human race by means of Adam's sin; total depravity; the absolute sovereignty of God; salvation by grace through faith, not of works; that Christ's atoning death was penal satisfaction for sin; that both his penal death and active obedience are imputed to believers; and that apostasy can occur by retraction of faith only, without remedy" ("Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 259).

8 Ibid. 271.

9 Ibid. 262 and Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 474.

10 However, it must be noted that Picirilli also allows for instances of necessity. At times and based on predetermination, God may act in such a way that it necessitates particular events (Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 262-63).

11 Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 477. Picirilli uses several additional examples to illustrate the subsequence of God's knowledge to the actual occurrence of the historical event. He refers to a woman seeking guidance on the selection of a suitable husband. Regarding her selection of a husband, Picirilli argues that, "God's knowledge of what the young lady will do is logically dependent on her choice, not vice-versa" (Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 477; Picirilli is interacting with Sanders's earlier use of the woman seeking divine guidance in the selection of a husband; sec Sanders, The God who Risks 204). Thus, the mode of divine knowledge or the way that God knows an event contingent on libertarian freedom is consequential and historical, because it follows or is the consequence of the event known.

Picirilli also points out that God's foreknowledge of events is analogous to human knowledge of past events. Human knowledge of past events does not cause events, but rests on the fact that they occurred. Likewise, God's knowledge is not causative, but rests on the occurrence of events (Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 263). Picirilli further applies this logic to the relationship between foreknowledge and predestination. God predestines, because he foreknows those who will accept Christ. In other words, the order is the person's decision to accept Christ, God's foreknowledge of that choice, and predestination. Predestination presupposes God's fore-knowledge of the decision to accept Christ, and foreknowledge presupposes the person's decision to accept Christ (p. 267).

12 Ibid. 263 and Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 473-75 and 477. Picirilli's notion of the consequential and historical nature of divine knowledge in regard to events linked to libertarian freedom is not unusual in the Arminian theological tradition. For instance, not only did Arminius affirm it (The Works of Arminius 2.368 and 3.65), the contemporary Arminian theologian Jack Cottrell does as well. Cottrell teaches that "it is part of the self-limitation of the Creator that his own knowledge of his creation is in a sense derived from the creation. Even though his knowledge is eternally the same we may say that his knowledge of the contingent events of his creation is logically dependent on their actual occurrence" (Cottrell, What the Bible says about God the Creator [What the Bible Says; Joplin, MO: College Press, 1983] 285 [emphasis added]). Cottrell's notion that God's knowledge is "derived" and "logically dependent on their actual occurrence" reflects a consequential and historical mode of divine knowledge. Thomas Oden also affirms the consequential nature of divine knowledge in The Living God: Systematic Theology: Volume One (Peabody, MA: Prince, 1987) 71. Thus, Picirilli's theory of the mode of divine knowledge stands in continuity with Arminian theology past and present.

13 Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 265-66. Note that Picirilli misunderstands the relationship between foreknowledge and foreordination in Calvinism. He states that Calvinism "makes foreknowledge and predestination synonymous and thus makes foreknowledge an active cause" ("Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 266). On the contrary, Calvinists do not conceive foreknowledge and predestination as synonymous concepts nor do they attribute causality to foreknowledge. In Calvinism, foreknowledge is the product of the divine decree and predestination and, therefore, foreknowledge is a distinct theological concept. Moreover, fore-knowledge is not causal, but rather the effect of the divine decree or will. The divine attribute that exerts causal influence in historical events is not divine foreknowledge, but the divine will.

14 Picirilli misinterprets Sanders as teaching that proponents of simple foreknowledge believe that foreknowledge is causative ("An Arminian Response to Sanders" 472-73). However, Sanders expressly points out that simple foreknowledge is not causal (John Sanders, "Why Simple Fore-knowledge offers no more Providential Control than the Openness of God," Faith and Philosophy 14 [1997] 37). The non-causative nature of foreknowledge in Arminian theology is widely noted: i.e. William Hasker, "A Philosophical Perspective," in The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (ed. Clark H. Pinnock et al.; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1994) 149; Oden, The Living God 71; and Richard Rice, "Divine Foreknowledge and FreeWill Theism," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man (ed. Clark H. Pinnock; Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1989) 125.

15 Laurence W. Wood argues that the Boethian view of eternity is a preferable solution to this problem than the common appeal to divine timelessness (Wood, "Does God Know the Future? Can God Be Mistaken?: A Reply to Richard Swinburne," The Asbury Theological Journal 56/2 and 57/ 1 [fall 2001 and spring 2002] 5-47).

16 Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 262-64 and 266-77 and "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 471 and 478. Wood also maintains that in the Boethian view God's knowledge follows "real events" (Wood, "A Reply to Swinburne" 8-10).

17 Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 475.

18 Ibid. 471 and Picirilli, "Foreknowledge, Freedom, and the Future" 262. Futurity is, strictly speaking, only applicable to temporal beings. For the timeless God, there is no future or past; God eternally or timelessly knows all the events that comprise the temporal history of the world.

19 At this point Picirilli is inconsistent on his theory of the mode of divine knowledge. On the one hand, God's foreknowledge is intuitive; that is, it is not discursive. According to intuitive foreknowledge, "God simply 'sees' all that will ever be, and this includes the contingencies that might be one way or another" (Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 471). On the other hand, he maintains that God's knowledge is analogous to human knowing, according to which there is a sequence between event and knowledge of the event. Although for human knowledge the chronology is ontological and temporal, for divine knowledge there is only an ontological order (Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 474-75).

20 Others also note this, see William Hasker, "Foreknowledge and Necessity," in God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom (ed. John M. Fischer; Stanford Series in Philosophy; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989) 226 and Thomas V. Morris, Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology (Contours of Christian Philosophy; ed. C. Stephen Evans; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991) 100.

21 Pinnock, Most Moved Mover 106 and Sanders, The God Who Risks 198-99 and "Why Simple Foreknowledge" 26-27.

22 Gregory A. Boyd, "The Open-Theism View," in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (ed. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001) 13-28; Jason A. Nicholls, "Openness and Inerrancy: Can They be Compatible?" JETS 45 (2002) 629-49; and John Sanders, The God Who Risks 75, 130-31, 133, and 173.

23 Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000) 23-24 and 32-33; Hasker, "A Philosophical Perspective" 148; Pinnock, "There is Room for Us: A Reply to Bruce Ware," JETS 45 (2002) 216; and Sanders, The God Who Risks 198-99 and "Why Simple Foreknowledge" 26-27. Although open theism's denial that God knows future libertarian choices is sometimes presented as a modification of the traditional doctrine of omniscience, it more accurately stems from their belief that future libertarian choices are not proper objects of knowledge (Hasker, "A Philosophical Perspective" 148 and Pinnock, "God Limits His Knowledge," in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom [ed. David and Randall Basinger; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986] 149-50 and 157). For instance, William Hasker defines omniscience as "at any time God knows all propositions such that God's knowing them at that time is logically possible" ("A Philosophical Perspective" 136). His definition is one that most Calvinists and Arminians could accept, for after all, Calvinists and Arminians do not maintain that God knows the logically impossible. Moreover, many Calvinists agree with open theists that future libertarian choices are not proper objects of knowledge and in this respect consider open theists consistent Arminians. For example, John S. Feinberg argues that the open thcist theory of present knowledge is the most effective in resolving the tension between libertarian freedom and divine omniscience in contrast to the theories of Boethius, Ockham, simple foreknowledge, and middle knowledge (Feinberg, No One like Him: The Doctrine of God [The Foundations of Evangelical Theology; ed. John S. Feinberg; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001] 759-60 and 775). Stephen J. Wellum also notes open theism's "logically consistent" resolution of the divine foreknowledge-human freedom dilemma (Wellum, "Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience, Inerrancy, and Open Theism: An Evaluation," JETS 45 [2002] 263). In addition, Wayne Grudem remarks that open theism is the "most consistent Arminian position," albeit that it is nevertheless inconsistent with Scripture and deleterious for Christian spirituality (Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994] 348). In contrast, traditional Arminians accept that future libertarian choices are proper objects of knowledge. Thus, the difference is not the concept of omniscience per se, but the legitimate scope of knowledge.

24 Boyd, God of the Possible 23. Open theists reject foreknowledge of future libertarian free choices primarily on the basis of Scripture and not philosophical considerations. However, they also frequently hold on philosophical grounds that the theory of timeless foreknowledge of future libertarian choices undermines genuine freedom because God's knowledge of those choices is certain and, thus, the person cannot really choose otherwise (William Hasker, "The Foreknowledge Conundrum," in Issues in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion [ed. Eugene T. Long; Studies in Philosophy and Religion 23; Boston, MA: Kluwer, 20011 100). Although neither God's specific providential act nor God's knowledge necessarily causes the certainty, nevertheless it is certain that specific choices and actions will take place as specific points in time and space. Thus, the possibility of doing otherwise in a given circumstance is an illusion.

25 Boyd, "The Open-Theism View" 23; Hasker, "The Foreknowledge Conundrum" 110-11; Pinnock, Most Moved Mover 79-107; and Sanders, God Who Risks 12 and 235-36.

26 Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 471 and Pinnock, Most Moved Mover 106, 143, and 149.

27 Picirilli, "An Arminian Response to Sanders" 474-75.

28 Ibid. 475.

29 Ibid.

30 Sanders, The God Who Risks 199.

31 Ware carefully notes that his criticisms of open theism in no way apply to Arminianism (Ware, "Rejoinder to Replies by Clark H. Pinnoek, John Sanders, and Gregory A. Boyd," JETS 45 [2002] 248-49), Yet ironically, Ware insists that all providence-foreknowledge-human freedom models that include libertarian freedom entail a risk-taking God and detract from the glory of God (Ware, God's Lesser Glory 48 and 226). It seems that he is willing to fellowship with Arminians who are blind to the implications of their theology, but not with open theists who have drawn the appropriate conclusions. In contrast, Roger E. Olson points out that the criticisms of open theism are often the same traditional Reformed arguments against Arminianism (Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002] 196).

32 Ware, "Defining Evangelicalism's Boundaries" 194.

STEVEN M. STUDEBAKER*

* Steven Studebaker resides at 85 Harper Lane, Royston, GA 30662.

Copyright Evangelical Theological Society Sep 2004
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Simple logical refutation of the Arminian theory of simple foreknowledge.

Thanks to Daniel Chew for putting the following up at his webpage. I thought it was rather good, but most Arminians will not even begin to refute the logic of it, sadly.
If they ever did, there goes their Arminianism, aka Non Calvinism!

Mark

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The open theist William Hasker has presented a masterful logical argument that shows the incoherence of Arminian simple foreknowledge with its belief in libertarian free will. This argument can be found in the book The Openness of God by Clark H. Pinnock et. al. (1994), p. 148, which I have reviewed here. Since Hasker has done such a masterful job of showing the incoherence of the Arminian position, I would like to share his argument here.

Suppose that there is a person known as Clarence who is addicted to cheese omelets. Will Clarence have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow morning, or won't he? The argument proceeds as follows:

1. It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)

2. It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe anything that is true (Premise: divine omniscience)

3. God has always believe that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow (From 1, 2)

4, If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in anyone's power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Premise: the unalterability of the past)

5. Therefore, it is not in Clarence's power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast (From 3,4)

6. It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one (From 2)

7. Therefore, it is not in Clarence's power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 5,6). So Clarence's eating the omelet tomorrow is not an act of free choice (From the definition of [libertarian] free will)

What this argument shows is that it is logically impossible that God should have foreknowledge of a genuinely free action. It follows from this that if there are actions that are free in the libertarian sense, it is logically impossible for God to know in advance how such actions will turn out.

Hasker then continues by stating that the best evasion from this argument that he has seen so far states that God's knowledge of what Clarence will do does not cause Clarence to eat the omelet (Openness, p. 149). However, he similarly states that althought this may be true, it is irrelevant to the argument as presented, which does not make any claim to the effect that God's beliefs are the cause of human actions, which I concur. The main point of this argument is to show that human actions according to the simple foreknowledge scheme cannot be made by libertarian free will, which undercuts the entire focus of the Arminian belief system. This logical refutal of Arminian simple foreknowledge is thus valid and sound, and thus Arminianism is rendered philosophically incoherent.

Monday, May 12, 2008

And deeper and deeper into ignorance we go!

We read over at Steve's forum,
And deeper and deeper into the swamp we go.


Quote:
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus.
So here we have a believer, i.e., someone who believes the testimony (facts) about Messiah are true, who becomes a new creature (regenerated) in Christ Jesus. Are there any "new creatures" who are not in Christ Jesus? Who are not believers? The Calvinist would have us think so. Where in the scriptures are we told of even one?
Quote:
It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin,
Fair enough. This change of heart through the conviction of the Holy Spirit is a response to hearing the gospel message. The gospel is "the power unto salvation" says Paul. And who has ever been convicted, who hasn't heard? This change of heart is actually one aspect of repentance.
Quote:

to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this aspect of repentance, perhaps better termed "reformation", involves a commitment to the Lordship of Messiah in all things and trust (faith) in Him as Savior.

An Arminian


How about not reading faith precedes regeneration into the equation? He even says ABOVE, “becomes a new creature!” So an unbeliever becomes a believer by regeneration? But they will not have that.
Arminians just cannot do it.

So, it is the one willing, the one doing something, the one who can understand that makes the difference between sinner and saved sinner, and not God alone?
Monergism vs Synergism, or is that “sinner-gism”?

Mark

Arminian conundrums!



Psa 5:5 The foolish shall not stand in Your sight. You hate all doers of iniquity.


The church we attend observes communion each Lord's day. We have several men who each give the communion devotion. Today was Brother Dave's turn. According to Calvinist Doctrine, he told a lie! Brother Dave said the following:

"There isn't a person here today that Jesus didn't love."

If Calvinism is true, Dave couldn't possibly know this.

Arminian

John 6, Steve Gregg and eisogesis!



An Arminian interpretation...........
I heard Steve Gregg argue this and I see others at his forum interpret the same.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives to me will come to me. The one who comes to me I will in no means cast out.

This is true -- all that the Father gave to Jesus did come to Him -- the question is "who are those people"? Who "did" the Father give to Him? That answer is elsewhere in Scripture.... In John 17:6, Jesus is praying about his disciples and he says to His father "I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given to me out of the world." So, these are those who the Father had given to Him.

He says "they were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word." When he talks about these people (frequently), he's talking about people who were "ALREADY" the Lord's people. Now, Jesus did NOT believe that all the Jewish people were God's people. (e.g., "you were of your Father, the devil -- you're not God's people, you're the devil's people.") Jesus does NOT indicate that God took some of the devil's people and gave them to Jesus. Before Jesus arrived, the faithful remnant was God's people. God took these and gave THEM to Jesus. They were already committed to God, and it is natural that they (the true remnant) would believe in the Messiah when he was announced -- those who were still alive in fact did, and Jesus is just stating that he already knew that they would.

Let us have a look at this, considering context and stuff like that.

Sonic boom! did u hear it?
It was the noise made at the speed of which the text was left at!
Immediately John 6 is speedily departed from, and the next station is John 17.

Any interaction with John 6? Nope, nada, zip.
Does not John 6 have a context, and a flow of thought?
It certainly does, and Arminians cannot even begin to do exegesis of John 6, for if they did, their Arminianism would fall apart at the seams.

Steve asks who these people are who come to Jesus, and immediately goes to John 17 to answer this question.
Leaving John 17 aside for a moment, does John 6 tell us who these people are?

If we go back in John 6, we have Jesus making an important point in answering this “who” question.
We read, Joh 6:33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.

When Steve Gregg tries to convince us that Jesus has only these believing Jews in mind, he is way off the context in John 6. Jesus has already maintained in verse 33 the “who” question, which includes all people groups including the Jews, but particularly the world.

Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.

There is no reason to read “All” as “all the present tense believing Jews” in light of the context. To read it as such is gross eisogesis on Mr Gregg’s part, or wherever he got the teaching from.

In verse 51 Jesus ties in the “bread which comes down from Heaven” with the natural thought flow from the earlier verse 33, where the link between the “bread” and the “world” ties in overall with the answer to the “who” question of verse 37.

Also, if Jesus was so clearly talking about present believing Jews as being the “who” are given, then why are even the Disciples offended at this teaching?

Now, going to John 17 to answer the “who” question of John 6:37.
First off, we have a different context here, where Jesus is praying immediately prior to going to the cross. He is praying for that unity that He shares with the Father, to also be shared with all believers.
First the current believers are in mind, but Jesus also prays for every single believer in future times in this prayer which is clearly taught in John 17:20.
Joh 17:20 And I do not pray for these alone, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word.

So, we see a correlation and harmony with the same people Jesus prays and intercedes for in John 6, namely the elect, believers, all that the Father gives to Him, and not just some present tense group of people.
Jesus in John 17 does not pray for the “world” in verse 9, but again makes comments consistent with John 6:37, 44 and 65.

For Steve Gregg’s views to hold water, one needs to butcher the text and read one’s theological presuppositions into both John 6 and John 17, as well as just about everywhere else that is relevant to this discussion of God’s ancient choice of who shall make up His family.

God is free in the matter of Salvation and man hates that fact.

Mark