The Gospel Coalition

Earlier in the week I saw this quote from Wendell Berry go out on Twitter:
Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures.

Knowing what I do about Berry, and considering the theological persuasion of those I see repeating the sentence, I wonder if people consider this line from Jayber Crow to be a repudiation of Calvinism. Many people would. I've encountered numerous Christians who object to Reformed theology because they can't believe "we are puppets on a string," or that God "made us as robots," or to put it more elegantly like Berry, that God "would coerce the love of his human creatures."

And yet, that's not at all what Calvinism teaches. At least, that's not what we should be teaching. It's true that Calvin, like Augustine before him, believed the will of God to be the necessity of all things. But the Church's leading theologians have always carefully distinguished between different kinds of necessity. Calvin, for example, though he held to the highest view of God's sovereignty vehemently rejected any notion of necessity which entailed external coercion or compulsion. In this matter he was simply following Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and the entire tradition of Christian orthodoxy.

This is why the puppet and robot analogies don't work, and no Calvinist should own them. While we believe that God's grace is irresistible and flows from his electing love, we must be clear that this grace renews us from within. It does not coerce us from without. God is not a puppet master pulling on our strings so that we do what he wants apart from our own willing or doing. His will precedes our will, but it does not eradicate it.

Anyone familiar with the Canons of Dort should know that Calvinists do not believe that God works on his people by means of forcible coercion. Instead, we believe that God supernaturally, sovereignly, and irresistibly renews our hearts so that we can feel and choose and do what we ought.
However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. (Third/Fourth Head, Article 16; emphasis added)

In short, Calvinists have no problem affirming that God does not coerce the love of his human creatures. Where we may differ with others is in our joyous affirmation that our love for God is only possible when God—by mercy alone, through sovereign grace, and by his eternal decree—chooses to love us first.


Comments:

Mike Donahue

March 9, 2013 at 12:54 AM

Nothing like the old Calvinist debate to prove Christians still struggle with sin.

Props to THOMAS MCGRATH for the Spurgeon quote! I have to agree that there is a mystery here. We should remember that we are on holy ground when debating this subject. But with the massive implications of determinism, like how I view evangelism, and God Himself, the debate is inevitable. Let's just not lose our testimony over it.

This issue I have with putting regeneration before conversion in the order of salvation, is that it makes faith merely accidental to salvation. Can God come in and dwell in a heart that is rejecting Him in hopes that he will turn to God once he has been born again? Romans 5:2 says "we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand," it does not say that grace gives us access to faith, as the Calvinist's think. Of course no one will ever be saved without the initial work of the Spirit convicting the sinner. "No man seeks after God" and "salvation is of the Lord," non-Calvinists aren't denying that, we just think that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom 10:13). And that election, predestination and foreknowledge are not synonyms.

Wesley

March 9, 2013 at 12:50 AM

Dude! KD did you kick the Arminian bee-hive or what?!? Brothers and sisters, why not rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven and stop the bickering about how they got written there? This is-fighting does not adorn the gospel by any means.

Trey Medley

March 9, 2013 at 11:34 AM

@Kraig

Yes the lack of a reply feature is annoying.

What you set up is essentially a false dichotomy. Either I am free to do as I desire (and my desire is predetermined) or I am free to act against my desire (and my choice is indifferent or arbitrary). The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes single causation. The truth is there isn't single causation. Now in a deterministic/compatibilist there may be multiple causes, but they don't compete, or at least, if they do, one is clearly stronger. In a libertarian freedom (which is the actual term, not freedom of indifference, for my perspective), one may act contrary to desires, but that does not mean, then, that there are not other competing desires. I may not necessarily follow the clear winner, but that doesn't mean I don't have good reasons.

Regarding loving my wife. Actually, that is what happens, initially, but we don't put it that way because we are polite. OR, rather, we start loving (but it's not really love) for other, often selfish, reasons (she makes me laugh, I think she's pretty, etc). But as time goes on, we have to make the choice to continue to love her (it doesn't just happen). And then it's not just that she's lovely and therefore I love her, but rather I love her and that makes her lovely (in fact, I think Calvinists would agree this is an apt description of God's love for us). That's not to say I didn't have good reasons initially for pursuing her, but ultimately, my lasting love for her doesn't have anything to do with her, or even me, but as a result of a choice.

Also, yes Kant talked about choosing good regardless of expected outcome, but he was reaching back to Plato (or, rather, platonism as Plato had fallen out of favor in Germany at that time). Plato set up two examples, one who is universally considered good, yet does wicked things, and someone who is universally considered wicked, yet only does good things. Which, Plato asks, is better? He suggest the latter is by far. However, he has no real reason or motivation to do the good, other than that it is good.

And anyway, what is a Calvinist doing talking about praiseworthy actions? Total/Radical Depravity says that we cannot do anything good or praiseworthy, which is why our move to love God is not found in us, but in God (it is not praiseworthy at all). Besides, it is hard to talk about moving from death to life because of another's actions as praiseworthy anyway. Is a drowning man whose life is saved because he cried out for help considered praiseworthy? No. He

VM

March 9, 2013 at 11:09 PM

What worries me most about this discussion is that there is very little Scripture being referenced on either side of the debate. Arguments which are predicated upon our own logic and reasoning of how God should operate are dangerous at best. I have personally been on both sides of the Arminianism/Calvinism coin over the past few years, so I won't emphatically endorse either one here. I will however endorse the Bible as our only hope for knowing God.

Steve in Birmingham, Al

March 9, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Of course it could be that the Bible can be understood as teaching that God is completely in control in one sense and not in other senses. For example, from the perspective of what God desires according to his holiness, justice, and love, the holocaust absolutely was against his will/desire. In another way, though, God determined to permit it to occur (so it was in another sense his will). Even Open Theism would posit that God would be aware the holocaust was unfolding, even if he didn't (according to them) know that it was certain to occur. He had the power to stop it and he did not, so even the Open Theist God is not relieved of responsibility. He still determined not to prevent what he surely saw was impending, so his will was to allow what he detested for other reasons (human freedom, judgment?). I do not see how Arminianism avoids the dilemma it proposes for Calvinism.

[...] the entire article here - http://thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung Share this:EmailFacebookPrintPinterestMoreStumbleUponDiggRedditTwitterGoogle +1Like this:Like [...]

AJG

March 9, 2013 at 08:14 AM

Brothers and sisters, why not rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven and stop the bickering about how they got written there? This is-fighting does not adorn the gospel by any means.

Calvinists are hypocritcal about this. Thay are notorious for throwing around the Arminian=Semi-Pelagian accusation (RC Sproul anyone?), but when they are made to face the logical end of their own theology, they cry foul. If Kevin wants to argue that Calvinism does not teach puppet theology, it is not sin for those of us who see that it does to point out that he is wrong.

If you're going to be a Calvinist (although I can't understand why anyone would want to be), at least have the courage to own up to its logical conclusion.

AJG

March 9, 2013 at 08:09 AM

Sorry, I thought the discussion was about how God does what he does, not whether he does what he does.

Did you read the title? You're affirming that Calvinism DOES teach puppet theology (although you prefer the less offensive potter/clay metaphor) which is what Kevin denied. Why don't you take it up with him?

[...] can read the post in its entirety here. Share this:MoreLike this:Like [...]

Mike B

March 8, 2013 at 12:19 PM

@Stephen

"How is it difficult to understand that God is in complete control over everything and, thus, He permits everything that does happen to happen? ..."

It is not difficult to grasp. But what you just described is Arminianism and not Calvinism.

Trey Medley

March 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

It seems you're splitting non-distinct hairs. What is the difference between "coercing" and "bending" the will without eradicating. In either scenario, there is no actual choice being made. Rather one is made to want to do something and then does it. It's the same distinction some compatibilists (of free will vs determinism debates) wish to make between their position and the determinist one. They claim that freedom is "doing what you want," and that merely our desires are determined (in fact that seems to be the same argument here: your desires are changed so that you only want to follow Christ via "irresistable grace.") However, that is *not* freedom. Freedom is contingent volition, in other words the ability to do otherwise.

If the only freedom we have is to follow our desires, and our desires are only for wicked things or against God (via Total (or Radical) Depravity), then the only reason for a change in our desires is an arbitrary decision by God ("unconditional election"). So God does not really love everyone, but rather arbitrarily chooses who he does or doesn't love, by this logic.

I'm sorry, the God I serve loves everyone, even when we reject him (his love is unconditional too). A God who loves doesn't arbitrarily force people by changing their desires (you may not call it "forcing" or coercion, but a "bending" of the will, no matter how pleasant, can only be that), but rather keeps loving and demonstrating this love, and that love is what changes us. It is a willed response in that we can choose to act contrary to our desires in response to other competing desires. Calvinism is still puppet theology, only the puppets aren't aware they are puppets.

Take for instance a common example. When animals are trained to perform certain tasks they are conditioned through a variety of means until they "want" to do a task. Once they want to do that task so strongly that it is ingrained in them, are they ever really free to not want to do so? If they don't perform the expected behavior we say they either weren't properly trained, or there is some overriding desire/inhibitor preventing them from doing the task. In a scenario where all inhibitors are removed and an animal (say a dog, or a circus animal) is very well trained, would they/could they ever choose *not* to perform a trained task. So, I guess we have two options: Calvinism either is puppet theology, or it reduces us to the level of trained animals. Which is it? In either case it's dehumanizing.

Stephen

March 8, 2013 at 11:57 AM

How is it difficult to understand that God is in complete control over everything and, thus, He permits everything that does happen to happen? And how is permitting something to happen equate to "causing" or "creating" sin, evil, etc.? You do not have to create evil in order to permit it to occur. I don't understand how this is so difficult to grasp.

AJG

March 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM

@natanm
Thank you for yet another example of theological fudging! Fudge it all you want, when “the will of God is the necessity of all things” (sic!) you have complete metaphysical and moral incoherence. Is the will of God the necessity (sic!) of the Holocaust, the necessity of last night’s brutal gang rape? All the ‘careful distinctions’ that you note in passing cannot prevent the conclusion that God is the cause of evil.

Exactly! This is why I respect John Piper and John MacArthur, even though I find their theology to be evil. At least they own up to the fact that God controls everything in the universe including every quantum fluctuation. Since you and I are made up of fundamental particles and God controls every particle in the universe, you and I are under his direct controls (i.e. we are indeed God's puppets). Of course, even they also backpeddle and claim that somehow we are responsible for our own sin even though God is controlling us. Calvinism is an incoherent, evil logical mess.

AJG

March 8, 2013 at 11:24 AM

@Daryl

It’s also helpful (for folks like Pastor Harris and natanm…) to remember that God does not cause evil, nor does he need to.

Oh yes he does Daryl. The God of Calvinism is the source of all things including evil. John Piper admits it in the quote I just gave you. You just want to run away from the nasty conclusion that Calvinism leads you towards. Sorry, but if you want to be a Calvinist you need to own up to the fact that God controls EVERYTHING.

AJG

March 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM

John Piper says the following:

"God is not the least taxed by keeping every sub-nuclear particle in its place. I used to say electrons, but now there's something smaller than electrons. Everything in the middle of the molecule moving, and the electrons—he's got them all in orbit, just like he has the planets in orbit.

So the macro-world and micro-world are all managed by God. Which means, Yes, every horrible thing and every sinful thing is ultimately governed by God."


So, yes. The God of Calvinism is a puppet-master who controls every particle in the universe. Kevin is trying to tiptoe around this to make it somehow more palatable.

Daryl Little

March 8, 2013 at 11:18 PM

Also...I don't prefer the puppet-master imagery. I prefer the potter and clay imagery.

Much more Scriptural and more obviously controlled by the potter I think.

Daryl Little

March 8, 2013 at 11:14 PM

AJG,

Sorry, I thought the discussion was about how God does what he does, not whether he does what he does.

I'm not trying to duck God's control over every sub-atomic particle or every action and decision of mankind (or any other kind).

I affirm that wholeheartedly because I see it everywhere in Scripture.

The free-will bit that claims that God simply responds to what goes on, doing what he can with it all, I see nowhere in Scripture, so it's easy to reject that.

Mike B

March 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Kevin,

"While we believe that God’s grace is irresistible and flows from his electing love, we must be clear that this grace renews us from within. It does not coerce us from without. God is not a puppet master pulling on our strings so that we do what he wants apart from our own willing or doing. His will precedes our will, but it does not eradicate it."

Your description - without the irresistible part - sounds more like the non-Calvinist/Arminian position. God provides the person who is unable and unwilling to come with grace to understand his need and the provision God makes in CHrist. That person than has the real choice to accept or reject this amazing gift. Gods will is for all to be saved, to make a provision for that salvation, and to provide grace to understand that need for salvation. His will does precede our will and by giving us a choice does not eradicate our will. When we freely (in the true sense of the word) choose faith we then are renewed by this amazing grace and become a new creation.

If I have it right (feel free to correct) the Calvinist position affirms that man is totally unable to come to God. The person has no desire or will to seek God and never will w/o God's grace. But God graciously chose that person in eternity past without any condition. At some point God provides the grace to regenerate that person thus making them a new creation and giving them a new will. This grace of being reborn can not be resisted nor was it sought for by the person. Out of this new will the person now "freely" chooses faith (but can not do anything else).

The disconnect for non-Calvinists is how does the Calvinist view not work apart from the will of the person or eradicate it. An unwilling person was given no choice but to become a new creation. At what point did the person want or desire God without God changing their will first. I know Calvinist theologians will teach/say that this grace does not remove the will of the person and that it is a tension we must live with but logically it does not seem to follow.

Thanks
Mike

Kraig

March 8, 2013 at 10:46 AM

In closing Kevin writes, "Where we may differ with others is in our joyous affirmation that our love for God is only possible when God—by mercy alone, through sovereign grace, and by his eternal decree—chooses to love us first."

I've never met a Christian who would not affirm that statement. Everybody joyously affirms that "God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God definitely has to initiate salvation. He seeks and saves the lost.

If Calvinists are annoyed by the "robot" analogies, I'd guess that Arminians are equally annoyed by the "salvation by grace alone/God initiates" comments.

Where folks do in fact differ is in how God draws people to himself, and how the Spirit of God works in a person's heart before belief. Does the Spirit work in such a way that a person could believe (but might not want to)? Or does the Spirit work in such a way that a person wants to believe (and therefore will)?

I assume here that the human will does what it most wants to do. So spoken in another way, the difference is whether the Spirit of God changes a person's "want to" concerning the gospel before belief.

Or, to put in one final way, the difference is whether regeneration occurs immediately before after initial repentance/faith.

John Davis

March 8, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Kevin,

I'm a non-Calvinist (free will theist?) and while I fully understand what you're saying, ultimately this leaves me unsatisfied.

God is still the ultimate cause of everything is he not? This is the issue for free will believers I think and this doesn't resolve that. It just says God doesn't cause everything in the same way, but he still actively causes everything. Free will believers like myself would then still have an issue because God would be the cause of evil and sin. Correct me if I'm not understanding you fully but that's what I got.

jigawatt

March 8, 2013 at 09:40 AM

Have you ever taken a kid to see the Grand Canyon for the first time? How about a kid who didn't really want to go? I haven't myself, but I can imagine something like this. Little Junior just wants to stay at the cabin there on the South Rim and play his video games. "No, son, you're going with us to see the canyon," dad says. "But I've seen pictures and videos" he says, "And it's just a big hole in the ground. I don't see what all the fuss is about." Dad, of course, makes him come and when Junior finally sees the Grand Canyon for real, he's jaw-dropped and speechless. Now, who in the world would try to fault dad for going against his son's will?

THOMAS MCGRATH

March 8, 2013 at 09:15 PM

Just this week I completed reading some of what Charles H. Spurgeon wrote pertinent to this very subject. You can find this material in the book: Hall, Robert. Grace Abounding in a Believer’s Life. Lynwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1994. Pages 145 -146. ISBN: 1-883002-09-5 (Robert Hall is the pseudonym for Lance C. Wubbels who compiled these writings of C.H. Spurgeon.)

Here is what Spurgeon wrote of “The Certainty and Freeness of Divine Grace”.

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” KJV

“LET IT BE ALWAYS REMEMBERED that the words of Jesus Christ are full of truth and grace and that in each of these two sentences there is the surest truth and the freest grace. There will be some who will perceive the truth of the first sentence and prize it most. They read the word, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,’ and they say, ‘Yes. Here is a high doctrine. Here is the security of the covenant, the purpose of God effectually carried out. Here is the truth that we love and the grace in which we glory.’ Others overlook the first sentence lest it raise questions too hard to be answered and grasp the second sentence, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’. They say,’ This is it. Here is universality of description. Here is freeness of invitation. Here is a gracious overflow of liberality. This is the gospel indeed.’ Proclaiming the second sentence, they neglect the first.

But let us not set one Scripture over against another or attempt to divide the living child of revelation. It is one and is alike glorious in all its parts. You who love to hear the gospel preached to sinners, do not be afraid of the doctrines of sovereign grace. You who love sovereign grace, do not be afraid of the free invitations of the gospel and the wide door that Jesus opens for needy sinners in many passages of Scripture. Let us receive all truth and be willing to learn every lesson that the Lord has written. We must remember that if we cannot as yet reconcile truths and know everything, we are still mortals. Some things must be unknown to us. Let us know our ignorance and despair of becoming infallible, and we shall be in the path of true wisdom.”

Alex B.

March 8, 2013 at 09:04 AM

Kevin,

I was curious if you knew of any good articles that deal with this in a little more depth? I would have to agree with your statements, but I would like to learn a bit more about how it all works. If not, that's fine too. Thanks!

Daryl Little

March 8, 2013 at 09:03 AM

This is a helpful reminder Kevin, thanks.

It's also helpful (for folks like Pastor Harris and natanm...) to remember that God does not cause evil, nor does he need to.

Since the fall Genesis 6:5 (Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually) has been true. So there is no need to speak of God causing a gang rape or the Holocaust.

Did he will them to happen (that is, so no one thinks I'm obfuscating, did he actually WANT them to happen)?

Of course he did.

For an all powerful God to claim that he didn't want something to happen, which he easily could've stopped, is folly.
But that's not the same as causing it.

Given our overwhelming propensity to sin, we must remember that outside of God's direct intervention, we would all make Hitler look like a school-girl. But, by the grace which he extends to all of creation, he restrains all the various evils that he does not want to happen, leaving only that which he has infallibly willed to happen.

It's a significant distinction which, it seems to me, to be too easily overlooked by those trying to create a God who depends on my permission in order to save me. (Which is, I think, the real issue with those who deny or hugely qualify God's sovereignty)

He neither asks nor needs to ask for our permission, but, as Kevin (and Calvin) pointed out, his work amongst all people is primarily at the level of the will, so that we all freely do whatever we want, while at the same time, infallibly doing only what the Father wants.

Jack

March 8, 2013 at 08:56 AM

Thanks Kevin,

I've encountered the robot objection often, along with the analogy of the uncoerced love of a wife. However, I've liked to counter back with the relationship picture the Bible actually gives us: the love between father and son. I was designed to love my dad, and did so before ever before ever choosing to do so. Even abusive fathers are loved by their children (albeit with a growing hurt, resentment and need for protection that can lead to severing the relationship, of course). That is why the abuse is so damaging, because we can't just turn off the love switch when someone hurts us. Love isn't predicated on a free will choice. Like you said, it happens inside of us, apart from coercion, but outside of our control.

natanm

March 8, 2013 at 08:41 AM

Thank you for yet another example of theological fudging! Fudge it all you want, when "the will of God is the necessity of all things" (sic!) you have complete metaphysical and moral incoherence. Is the will of God the necessity (sic!) of the Holocaust, the necessity of last night's brutal gang rape? All the 'careful distinctions' that you note in passing cannot prevent the conclusion that God is the cause of evil. On a Calvinistic reading, these events and every other event in the world have taken place necessarily. God is the necessary and primary cause of all worldly events. All agency is removed and the world collapses into God's will. History has no metaphysical weight. It is simply a place holder for the logical distance between God's will and the actualisation/execution of that will. And all this for what? for safeguarding divine sovereignty, as if divine sovereignty is inextricably (and necessarily!) tied to this conceptual scheme. One word: DISASTRUOUS!

Pastor Jason Harris

March 8, 2013 at 07:59 AM

So still, in effect, the Christian is directed to his own good works and sanctified life as a means of comfort and assurance.

[...] Does Calvinism Teach Puppet Theology? – Kevin DeYoung [...]

Mike B

March 8, 2013 at 06:18 PM

@Kraig

"Divine determinism and exhaustive foreknowledge go hand-in-hand."

Actually they do not. Determinism is to be the cause of something, but FK is to know something. Where Calvinists tend to make an error here is b/c in that system God only can FK what He determines. An Arminian does not accept that view of FK.

Now FK means that everything is going to certainly happen but that does not make God the causal agent. Which is a big difference. Consider as an illustration, your knowledge of past events. You know that Luther hung up the 95 theses but your knowing this does not cause it. Yet it is certain that it happened. God and FK work in a similar way only God can know things in advance (and we can't).

Kraig

March 8, 2013 at 05:28 PM

@Jonathan

The only way to truly escape divine determinism is to go the route of open theism, which is perhaps what you have done. Divine determinism and exhaustive foreknowledge go hand-in-hand. If God had exhaustive foreknowledge of what would happen in the world he created, he would ultimately be the causal agent of everything that would happen by creating that world. Even under the Classical Arminian model, God would have destined individuals to damnation because he created a world knowing that they wouldn't choose to be saved.

Destinations | Luggaged

March 8, 2013 at 04:15 PM

[...] reasoning? Second, and more important, this isn’t what Calvinist teach. It is a straw man. Kevin DeYoung reminds us of this [...]

Steve Cornell

March 8, 2013 at 04:14 PM

God does not desire that any perish (II Peter 3:9), yet some will perish. Why didn’t God decree what he desired? Perhaps because of respect for human responsibility – a gift from God to humanity.

Can we then speak of God’s dispositional will in conflict with his own sovereignty? Can God be all-knowing, all-powerful, all-benevolent and yet weep over the choices we make that require His judgment? If we take the Bible seriously we must acknowledge certain facts about God that are beyond our full comprehension.

This tension appears in the God-man, Jesus. He prayed “not as I will but as you will.” Was this a conflict in the divine will? He stood over Jerusalem and and grieved about how often he wanted to draw them into his protective love but how since they would not therefore he did not. Which one comes first? Did Jesus being the God-man know that Jerusalem would reject him? Why did Jesus offer to receive those whom He knew would reject Him? Perhaps the offer resulted in a kind of self-ratification of predetermined condemnation for those who rejected. Herein lies a bit of a mystery beyond our finite comprehension. His offer was authentic. Their rejection was culpable. He weeps.

Jonathan

March 8, 2013 at 03:36 PM

God determines everything, which is the logical conclusion of Calvinism. I'm not saying that all Calvinists believe that. But logically and philosophically, I can no longer take Calvinism seriously on a lot of levels because the logical conclusion is divine determinism. I cannot believe in Calvinism. It's intellectually dishonest and contradictory.

Mike B

March 8, 2013 at 02:54 PM

@Ben Hein

I tend to think of it as me (clay) questioning the interpretations of other people (who are also clay) and not questioning the Word of God (the potter).

Ben Hein

March 8, 2013 at 02:42 PM

A lot of people posting about their feelings or "their god". Who is the clay to question the potter?

yankeegospelgirl

March 8, 2013 at 01:55 PM

I think you're just pushing the causation backwards a little bit. You've still got the "irresistible" in there. Nice try, though. Sincerely, an Arminian fan. :)

Mark L

March 8, 2013 at 01:50 PM

Nice response Kevin, one other thought - I didn't create my wife so it would be quite wrong to coerce her, but God did create me. That is a major difference. It is not that God might have a right to coerce us, but that he had the power to recreate us from the inside out. Berry's comment misses the mark because the relationships are not identical.

Kraig

March 8, 2013 at 01:45 PM

Sure would be nice if the reply feature was fixed...

@ Trey M.
You write, "Freedom is contingent volition, in other words the ability to do otherwise."

How is my choice to love God praiseworthy if not caused by my desire to want to love him? Wasn't it Kant who argued that a choice is praiseworthy only when we don't want to do it (we are indifferent)? That's ridiculous. Tell that to your spouse! "Honey, I choose to love you, but not because I want to. I could totally not love you. That would be an easy choice, and one that is definitely on the table. But right now I decided to love you." How romantic.

The thing I find hardest to grasp about what you call contingent volition, or I think what is sometimes referred to as the freedom of indifference, is that, while I'm free to choose one thing over others (and my psyche recognizes this choice), at some point I need to make the choice. How is that choice made? If there is no causal relationship between the myriad factors that I would consider and that would help me to make a certain choice over against other options, then the choice must be arbitrary. And if my volition makes arbitrary choices, I'm no longer free to choose whatever I want, because whatever I want may not be what my volition chooses!

And while I'm free to make a choice, most choices I make are in large part outside my control, but dependent upon my environment that is influenced by the rest of creation, especially other human beings. More than that, most choices are reactionary--I don't have time or opportunity to deeply contemplate all options, because an immediate action is required.

To make it even more complicated, I have a sinful nature that can make me do things my mind doesn't really want to do. For example, sometimes I get short with my spouse, and I make a snappy reply. Why would I do that? I know that's stupid, and wrong. I certainly didn't "choose" to snap back--it just happened.

Enough rambling. I just think we are not as free in our decision-making as some folks would like to think. There's a whole lot of external stuff outside my control, and even the interplay of my own flesh and mind and emotions is impossible to figure out.

Time for lunch. Am I free to choose to eat lunch? I suppose so. But my tummy gives a pretty convincing argument. I definitely want to eat lunch. I just hope my volition agrees!

anaquaduck

March 8, 2013 at 01:20 PM

The puppet thing is not the same as a partnership, yet nothing is outside of Gods control. Satan also has the ability to coerce if I am not mistaken, but only to a point & only for a limited time.

It’s a difficult dynamic to appreciate, puppets & robots for me infer a lack of person. Humanity has a heart & will & our own accountability before God.

God did pull on my heart strings through the power of the gospel though, I give Him the credit for that conversion & in that I see an undeserving act of mercy & love. This speaks to my heart & will in all areas of my life. The mystery of how & when sin entered in remains for now, but I am assured of its deceitfulness & power in this world but also of Gods victory over it.

Casey

March 19, 2013 at 01:33 PM

My understanding of God's sovereignty is that nothing that we do is our own actions. The gospel says that we are all saved, but we are not saved if we don't accept Jesus to be our guide and ultimate representation of God to lead us to eternal life. My question is, if God is omniscient, then He knows what I will do. Therefore, He knows if I will go to hell or Heaven, and He has known it since the creation. Even If I commit to follow Jesus, or not, my decision has been made, Even if I have not made it yet. So Calvinism, in my mind, sucks. But there is no escaping the fact that God is omniscient, omnipresent and my creator. The only light that I see is that whatever I do, I am doing my creator's will. Whether it be gunning down school children or doing missionary work, I'm doing, following the plan that the Calvinistic God has made for me. How am I wrong?

Jim

March 12, 2013 at 03:04 PM

Yes God created this world and the evil in it. However, that was not and is not His will or intention. The evil was allowed because of His ultimate love. Because God deals only in love, He wants all His creations to love Him back freely and without any influence. In order to obtain a world of true love where His creations love Him freely, God had to take the chance of being rejected by His creations. This is ultimate love. When there is a possibilty of rejection and yet, the partner still loves you, the relationship is fulfilling and lofty. This is the level of love God regards His creations. How can you fault God for loving us so??

Timothy

March 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Isn't the problem, at least for those unpersuaded by Calvinism, that although they accept that Calvinists (usually) do not think that God's control is equivalent to making us puppets, they cannot see how Calvinism does not make us puppets. Thus as Calvinists attempt to persuade Arminians, the Arminian is effectively being asked to believe that God does make us puppets as he cannot see how Calvinism does not imply (in the strict mathematical sense) that. And thus can take offense. The Calvinist is bewildered (and can take offense) by the resistance of the Arminian because he is confident that Calvinism does not imply we are puppets.
No matter how long we trawl through the arguments, it always seems to come down to this; one side thinks the other is claiming that God has made us puppets and the other denies that they are making that claim.
So if you are a Calvinist, think carefully how you might phrase the argument to protect yourself (or better still Calvinism) from the accusation of puppetry, for the sake of the Arminian. And the Arminian needs to listen carefully to the arguments of the Calvinist in case he can discern how the Calvinist position does not claim what the Arminian (and the Calvinist) deny, viz that we are puppets.
As an Arminian I cannot see, though I run and run, how Calvinism does not imply puppetry although I accept that most Calvinists do not think it does (I suspect that even the at times outrageous expressions of John Piper are more hyperbolic than strictly referential and that even he is not into puppetry).

Does Calvinism Teach Puppet Theology?

March 11, 2013 at 12:04 AM

[...] Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan since 2004. Kevin blogs at the Gospel Coalition, and this article is reprinted with his [...]

John Uit de Flesch

March 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM

irresistible grace...enough said

Kraig

March 11, 2013 at 04:53 PM

@ Mike B

I'm sure we are at an impasse, and that's ok.

My point to the causation thread: God is the ultimate cause of evil because he created a world in which evil could happen. No theology can avoid God being the ultimate cause of human evil. Even if God were not omniscient and did not know what free agents might do, God still ultimately caused what happens in the world by the mere fact that he created it.

But causation is not directly related to morality. Morality has to do with law. "Where there is no law there is no transgression." God can do whatever he wants and not be charged with evil because there is no law governing the works of God.

My point in the Spirit's work thread: Does God know how much influence is needed in order for a person to make the decision to accept the gospel? If he does, then God is "causing" the person's decision by influencing enough or not enough for them to believe.

Or is prevenient grace more like a half-way second birth that is the same for all men? -- We are all "born again" or "enabled" to the state of Adam where we can choose to believe or not believe, and at that point the Spirit's influence stops (so that he does not sway the decision one way or the other), and then if we do believe we are born again.

Mike B

March 11, 2013 at 03:37 PM

@Kraig

If I currently do not want to repent and believe the gospel, can God work within me so that I change my mind?

Yes. That is generally what Arminians assert happens with prevenient grace. God illuminates and convicts man of sin, righteousness, judgment to come to a point where he/she can make a decision on whether to accept or reject the gospel.

Mike B

March 11, 2013 at 03:34 PM

^ my comment lost the not equals, should have read:

Knowing [does not equal] Causing.

Mike B

March 11, 2013 at 03:32 PM

@Kraig

To follow up with the other thread regarding causality, my argument was that if God knows what will happen (FK) and has the power to stop it, but does not, then God in a way caused the thing to be.

On that we will have to disagree. Knowing Causing.
See the illustration above on Luther. Did you cause him to hang up the 95 theses?

BTW: using your logic then God would be the cause of evil, sin etc. would he not?

Kraig

March 11, 2013 at 02:20 PM

@ Mike B

To follow up with the other thread regarding causality, my argument was that if God knows what will happen (FK) and has the power to stop it, but does not, then God in a way caused the thing to be.

If I create an environment where I know that my child will run into the road, and I place my child in that environment, even though I don't have to--I could place her in another environment--when she runs into the road, did I not, in some way, cause that event to happen?

Likewise, if God knew that Adam would sin in a certain environment, then God knowingly caused the situation wherein Adam would sin by creating the environment in which Adam would choose to sin.

The point I'm trying to make: If God knows the future choices of human beings, God is ultimately the causal agent of the environment wherein those future choices would take place. To be more direct, the only way that God did not knowingly cause the environment that led to the Holocaust, would be if God had no knowledge that it would occur.

Ergo my statement that open theism is the only way to avoid divine causation of human evil.

Kraig

March 11, 2013 at 01:59 PM

@ Mike B

If God knows us better than we know ourselves, as it is often said, then is there any way in which the Spirit can work within a person effectively without it being against the person's original will?
Wouldn't God know the point at which the Spirit's influence would change our will? And if the Spirit's influence is not enough to change our will, then the work is fruitless. But if it is enough to change our will, then the work is effectual.
If God has foreknowledge of what I will/would do, would God not know beforehand what I will/would do if the Spirit influenced me this much or that much?
If I currently do not want to repent and believe the gospel, can God work within me so that I change my mind? Or can I only change my mind as a result of external influences? If only external influences are allowed to affect me, then wouldn't God have less persuasion/power in my conversion than the words of another human being?

Mike B

March 11, 2013 at 01:43 PM

@Timothy

"Isn’t the problem, at least for those unpersuaded by Calvinism, that although they accept that Calvinists (usually) do not think that God’s control is equivalent to making us puppets, they cannot see how Calvinism does not make us puppets."

That I think is a great summary of the problem. I also try to be fair in noting that Calvinists do not accept/teach that man is a "robot/puppet". But I see it as the only logical conclusion to what they are teaching.

"The Calvinist is bewildered (and can take offense) by the resistance of the Arminian because he is confident that Calvinism does not imply we are puppets."

Many Calvinists are at least aware of where their system logically leads. Hence the appeal to paradox. A good example of this is Charles Spurgeon who often refers to two truths that can't be resolved on this earth with human reason. Someone posted a comment quoting Spurgeon already above.

"As an Arminian I cannot see, though I run and run, how Calvinism does not imply puppetry although I accept that most Calvinists do not think it does"

me too. ;)

though I think using terms like "puppet/robot" do not help the discussion.

The question from my first comment (at least in relation to the OP and its focus) is:

how is a the person who is both unwilling and unable to seek or desire God (totally unable) who is given no choice (unconditional election) but to become a new creation thru regeneration (irresistible grace) not eradicating the original corrupted will?

The change involves renewing from within the person (giving them a new will), but that is still done against the person's original will. If it is not against the person's will than we no longer have the doctrine of total inability.

MikeB

Greg

March 10, 2013 at 07:51 PM

The comment form cut off my website URL - it's correct in this one now.

Greg

March 10, 2013 at 07:50 PM

Kevin - very interesting discussion here. I'm developing a TV show about a Christian college and the theological disputes like Calvinism versus, well, everybody else, that are polarizing its students, partly based on my experience at Seattle Pacific University (Free Methodist but lots of Calvinists by way of nearby Mars Hill). Hit me up if you're interested in learning more about it. Thanks for kicking the beehive!

Jim Vieceli

March 10, 2013 at 03:56 PM

Sorry I am late to the party... "If there is no free will = God is the author of evil." Is something I struggle with as a believer. While it doesn't add or remove my name from the book, I think the enemy uses it to make it more difficult for me to fellowship with Him. I want to ask two questions:
First It was said earlier in the comments that God didn't have to create evil because "ever since the fall, every intention of his heart was only evil..." So what about Adam? He was created perfectly. So did he have free will? How did sin find its way in? One could shift the problem to Satan was also created un-fallen by God also, so what was the source of his fall? Certainly someone had to have a truly free will?

Secondly: Given Calvinism, how can we not think that it is nonsensical for our Lord( with the obvious strong emotion He was feeling) to lament over Jerusalem in Matt 23:37b: "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." How does it make sense for God to say that by His grace, many times He willed something that man refused or resisted to appropriate?

I am grateful for your comments.

May God richly bless you

Jim<
1Corinthians 15:1-4
www.needhim.org