Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Calvinist Humility Displayed

Here are some comments taken from the combox of a recent post on apostasy in Hebrews by Ben Witherington. The first comments are from a Calvinist objector, followed by a small portion of Ben’s response.

“Many words don't mean truth, more likely much sin, as Prov 10:19 says, a big reason for the shallowness of web "christianity" (if the present atomized "web christianity" isn't an oxymoron versus God's Heb.10:25 picture of the Church.

Contra Witherington and Wesley, and their countless antiBiblical synergistic egoistic delusional errors, castles on air with not one verse of Scripture to support them, there is of course no possibility of a true Christian apostatizing, as 1 John 2:19 and all of Romans and many other passages make clear, explicated voluminously by so many of the Puritans (such as John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, to name but two, and ably demonstrated at www.monergism.com and www.desiringGod.org for those who desire God more than men, unusual for synergists, as Ben's bizarre and irrational antiBiblical insistence (sadly almost universal today) on God idolatrously glorifying man and not Himself as supremely worthy), whom synergists can't handle honestly but need not worry about today's illiterates ever reading to expose their bluff, stupidity, vacuity, and vanity. As C.S. Lewis said about the assured results of modern criticism, the only reason the results are so "assured" is that the original authors are dead and so can't blow (=refute) the gaffe (=error).

As John Piper has pointed out on the passage in preaching through the book (www.desiringGod.org), contrary to the usual eisegetical delusions of synergists, for whom the ego is God, and God is belittled, contrary to the pillar of Romans 9:15 that tells us God is sovereign and decides all (Prov 16:33), Hebrews 6 refers to two DIFFERENT soils, NOT one soil that changes itself; sadly I myself taught Ben's error many years ago before I matured, and was rightly ejected from the house I shared with Christian brothers for it as I wish would happen to wake up those following Ben's error to make them take the Christian faith versus mere ego seriously.

Ben would have saved himself a lot of wasted time and effort typical for synergists trying to use special knowledge like "rhetorical signals" and what not, going all over the map with extraBiblical legerdemain vainly trying to escape the simple meaning of the Sacred text, and thus failing to notice the small but essential point that overthrows these vast (and as vain as vast, in both senses of the word) synergist speculations with a bogus antiBiblical view of grace that has been so catastrophic in destroying God's Church, especially but not only in the west) by substituting for His true Gospel of grace, Wesley's and Finney's ultimately humanistic chicanery of a pseudo-gospel of works and ego (I (appropriately the middle letter of sin) have the final say, not God, in who is elect, contradicted by Rom 9:15) that today's tragically stupid and worldly Biblically illiterate couch potato devils'/idiots' box & screen imbibers are all too happy to embrace as James 4 adulteress-idolatresses. God save us, for only His grace in sending conviction and revival to His Church that has lost her way (at least in the west), gleefully headed like lemmings for certain destruction but for His amazing grace.”

Witherington’s entire reply was excellent but I only want to cite a small portion:

“It is interesting to me, who has read the works of Calvin, Owens, Edwards, Berkhof, Berkower, both Hodges, Warfield and so on and did attend a Reformed seminary and has respect for that tradition, that I am happy to admit I learned a lot from them, but when I actually turned to doing the detailed exegesis of all the NT, while their theological system was certainly logical and coherent, unfortunately it did not match up with what the actual text of the NT was teaching on ever so many points, not the least of which is what it teaches when it warns genuine Christians about apostasy.”

Here is exactly why I reject Calvinism. There is no doubt that Calvinism as a system is, to some extant, inherently logical. The problem comes when we try to harmonize this “system” with the Scriptures. The fact that its doctrines are at odds with so many of the most basic Scriptural declarations (e.g. God’s love for all the world and desire to save all) is the reason why this Arminian rejects it. I suspect that is the case with most Arminians and Non-Calvinists. It is not some desperate desire to “worship at the alter of free will” or “exalt man above God”. It is simply a desire to build theology on the teachings of Scripture, however bothersome those teachings may be to some (e.g. the possibility of genuine apostasy, etc.), rather than constantly struggling to fit the square peg of Calvinism into the round hole of Scriptural teaching.

Calvinists can reject Arminianism for whatever reasons they like but they should have the decency to stop trying to tell Arminians why they reject Calvinism. Calvinists may not like it, but I suspect that most people reject Calvinism for no other reason than that they find it thoroughly unbiblical. If I could find real support for Calvinism in the pages of Scripture, I would embrace it at once. Don’t you think I would like to be one of those “intellectual elite?” However, as attractive as being a “mature” and “intellectually superior” Calvinist might be, I would rather be a fool in their eyes for the sake of allowing the Lord to define Himself and His intentions through the infallible revelation of His word.

I should point out that the arrogance of the commenter at Mr. Witherington's blog is by no means representative of all Calvinists. Some have similar thoughts but would never express them as this gentleman has done. There are surely numerous Calvinists who exercise genuine humility in thought and practice everyday. However, the attitudes expressed by the above Calvinist commenter sadly seems to reflect the norm rather than the exception among Calvinists today, particularly on the Internet. This is strange behavior for those who claim to have a corner on humility based on the teachings of their theology. It is even stranger that those who claim to alone understand the "doctrines of grace" so often conduct and express themselves with such little grace themselves.

45 comments:

Nick Norelli said...

In reading this guy's comments I was reminded of an old skit from the show In Living Color in which Damon Wayans played an illiterate inmate in prison who used nothing but large words and pieced them together so inapproriately that he sounded like a complete moron. This guy's comments go beyond the usual lofty language employed by Calvinists and into idiocy.

Paul said...

I read that post of Witherington and the comments on it with great eagerness when it was posted, while I agree with you that the “Calvinist” could have shown more humility and respect especially to a fellow believer; I must say though that I was disappointed with the reply. Don’t get me wrong, it was civil and humble, all the things that were not displayed by the “Calvinist”, but he never addressed the Biblical concerns that were raised. Now I have seen that things can get heated when the two sides engage each other, but I tend to weed through the name calling and the making fun of each others view to see if there is a biblical point. Sometimes that is hard to do, some people are not gracious, humble or loving, but if you can sift through it you can perhaps see some great questions and comments that are hidden in all of the “other” stuff. This is one of those instances where the “meat” was not addressed due probably because of the overall tone of the reply.

BTW, while I know you do not care for the people at Triablogue they did have a great post on this very Witherington post titled ‘No True Scotsman’ that was damaging a bit to his overall view of the text.

kangaroodort said...

Hey Paul,

I glanced at it earlier but did not read very carefully. I have a hard time reading their material for reasons that you are aware of. Anyway, from what I read it seems that they have misunderstood BW's comments. He was not making any concession that apostasy has reference to "never believing in the first place". He was saying that one who "never believed" in the first place could not be said to have committed apostasy, and that the apostasy of true believers is what the Hebrews texts is describing.

Arminians do not deny the presence of false converts. What we do deny is that the concept of false converts fits passages like Heb. 6 and 10, among others.

There is no doubt that there are those who never had saving faith despite putting on a good show. But these were always unbelievers and hypocrites and, for that reason, cannot be properly called "apostates."

BTW, what specifically did you find compelling about the Calvinist comments that you wish BW would have addressed?

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Nick wrote:

“In reading this guy's comments I was reminded of an old skit from the show In Living Color in which Damon Wayans played an illiterate inmate in prison who used nothing but large words and pieced them together so inappropriately that he sounded like a complete moron.”

First of all, I **loved** the In Living Color show (my favorite character was “Homey D. Clown”, for example when he went to “Chey Whitie” to meet “the man”! :-)). Second I work with inmates and I have actually seen some guys like this in real life. I have also seen some guys who were incredibly smart and eloquent in prison as well (sad to see such obvious verbal talent wasted).

Paul wrote:

“Now I have seen that things can get heated when the two sides engage each other, but I tend to weed through the name calling and the making fun of each others view to see if there is a biblical point. Sometimes that is hard to do, some people are not gracious, humble or loving, but if you can sift through it you can perhaps see some great questions and comments that are hidden in all of the “other” stuff.”

Very good point. I do the same thing myself when sifting through calvinist sites.

Paul also wrote:

”BTW, while I know you do not care for the people at Triablogue they did have a great post on this very Witherington post titled ‘No True Scotsman’ that was damaging a bit to his overall view of the text.”

I read that post and doing exactly what you encourage, I also saw quite a great example of how the calvinists themselves engage in this ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy.

It goes something like this:
The Arminian claims or argues or suggests that if all events are predetermined as the determinist wants us to believe, then we become, in effect, like robots or like puppets under the control of a puppet master, a person external to our self, who preprograms us or pulls our strings (or in Antony Flew’s example we become like hypnotized people following a post hypnotic suggestion) and that is a bad thing. The calvinist responds by claiming that it is not true that determinism entails this conclusion (so the determinist claims this is not a legitimate counter example to his determinism.
If robots or puppets, who are completely controlled by an external agent are presented as a counter example to calvinism’s exhaustive determinism (to the claim by the calvinist that determinism does not entail that we don’t have a will and do not act freely, that determinism is not a problem), the “No true Scotsman” fallacy would run as follows:

(1)Being like puppets (or robots), we no longer have free will, in effect our wills are eliminated, we do not have free will, and this is logically entailed by exhaustive determinism/calvinistic compatibilism, and shows the problems with it.[THE CLAIM BY THE NONCALVINIST]

(2)Calvinistic compatibilism does not eliminate our wills, we still act freely, still have free will [THE CLAIM BY THE CALVINIST/DETERMINIST]

Therefore:

(3) being like a puppet (or robot), no longer having a will, in effect having our wills eliminated, is not a true logical entailment of exhaustive determinism not an accurate illustration of calvinism

(4) being like a puppet is not a counter-example to the claim that exhaustive determinism/calvinistic compatibilism involves people having a will, acting freely,

After presenting an example the logical fallacy article then stated:

“This fallacy is a form of circular argument, with an existing belief being assumed to be true in order to dismiss any apparent counter-examples to it. The existing belief thus becomes unfalsifiable.”

And that is just how it goes when the Arminian brings up that if exhaustive determinism/calvinism were true, then we would be like robots and puppets, having our wills eliminated, not having free will. The calvinist ***assumes*** his determinism to be true and simply dismisses it as a counter example to determinism. The existing calvinistic belief in determinism becomes unfalsifiable.

What is surprising is that thinking persons, throughout history, keep seeing this logical entailment of determinism/calvinism, keep bringing it up, convinced that it is a problem for determinism, and the calvinists just don’t see (or want to see) the problem.

This reminds me of another little inconsistency with calvinists. They will argue that they believe in compatibilism (that everything is predetermined and yet we supposedly have free will, we have a functioning will, they claim that we act “freely” because we do what we want to do) when arguing against noncalvinists about “free will”. But these same folks when they are talking about Romans 9 will then let their true colors out saying that like the Potter in Romans 9:20ff we are like inanimate pieces of clay and God does whatever He wants to do with us in predetermining our every move.

So the calvinist objects to the counter example that his determinism leads to us being like robots (or puppets), things completely controlled by an external agent/God, without a will of their own, without the capacity to make real choices (**that** they say, is not a counter example to their determinism) but then the same calvinist has no trouble resorting to an example where we are completely controlled things with no consciousness or will of our own (clay) when speaking about how God is the potter and we are the clay! [note – Paul uses the potter and clay analogy/illustration not to argue for predeterminism of all events, but to argue for God’s sovereignty, that He has the right and power to do as He Pleases {it should be noted that the biblical concept of God’s sovereignty is precisely this: that He does as He pleases, sovereignty is not equivalent to the exhaustive predeterminism of all events), just as a Potter has the right and power to do as He pleases with his clay; He can even refashion clay that wasn’t going the right direction on the Potter’s wheel which is what God shows and tells the prophet Jeremiah when he has the prophet go to learn at the Potter’s house/Jeremiah 18; the unbelieving Jews, who when Paul wrote Romans 9-11 had been broken off the tree could be brought back and regrafted into the tree if they had faith in Christ cf. Rom. 11:12,15,23-24].

Robert

Paul said...

Robert,

It seems that you always bring up the robots and the like in all of your comments. I will give you credit though; your comments are shorter than they used to be. As for free will, I am of the opinion that we freely chose what we want and that God knows it before we chose it. Now I have never in all my years seen how we can actualize a different choice then the one that God knows. So all this talk of LFW seems rather silly to me; if God knows that we will choose to commit adultery than that is what we will do. It’s not like right before we were to commit the sin that we would say, “No, I will not do it because it is a sin and it would hurt my family.” Instead we do it because that is what we freely wanted to do. The only way that I could entertain the idea or premise behind LFW is if God does not know for certain that it would happen, this of course leads me into Open Theism which I wholeheartedly reject at this time.

Please know that this is not talking about determinism per se, what it is talking about it common sense and logic.

Ben,

The problem is with the “never believing in the first place”. How can you know who “really, truly” believed in the first place? The question was that it looked like a “believing” person that showed signs of it being legit rejected Christ and all that he stood for and turned his back on what Christ had done for him. Only too much later return and again look like he was “believing” and again showed signs of being legit. Maybe this time the “signs” were stronger, but nonetheless the gist was that his story fit in neatly with Hebrews 6. When confronted with this scenario Dr. W started saying maybe he was not a “true” believer in the first place or never “really” committed apostasy. So I suppose if the person in this scenario were not to return then Dr. W and you would say, look here this is apostasy and it is clearly shown in Heb. 6, but since this person returned to the faith then all of the sudden we see back peddling and well he was never a “true” believer and/or he never committed apostasy. When the Calvinist says this you guys jump up and down and hoot and holler about Scripture being abused and misused.

For the record, I did not find the Tblog post on this to be negative or name calling or un-loving in anyway.

Robert said...

Paul writes:

”It seems that you always bring up the robots and the like in all of your comments. I will give you credit though; your comments are shorter than they used to be.”

Interesting observations here.

First, the observation that “you always bring up the robots and the like in all of your comments.” This is both inaccurate and not true. I have sometimes brought up the robot analogy because some calvinists are not honest about the logical entailments of their determinism. If you want to claim and believe that every event is predetermined then you also need to be honest enough to acknowledge that were this true, then we would be no different than a puppet or robot whose every move is determined by an agent outside of themselves.

Many, many smart people have seen this same problem with determinism. And rather than dealing with it honestly, calvinists just engage in the fallacy which I discussed.

Second, your observation about the length of my posts is also interesting when you compare what I write with people who engage in these huge tomes where they rail against noncalvinist views for page after page (and then write follow ups on that and follow ups on the follow ups and . . . ).

You also share your own views on “free will”. Which is in itself interesting as you say it is silly to talk about it but then you talk about it . . .

You wrote:

“As for free will, I am of the opinion that we freely chose what we want and that God knows it before we chose it.”

Of course God knows what we freely choose to do, He knows everything including the freely chosen actions done by us. But acting “freely” is also more than just doing what I want. Determinists like to limit it to doing what we want (but they leave out the dirty little secret that if everything is predetermined then so are our thoughts and desires, we only desire or want to do, what the controlling external factor wants us to do, so we only choose or want to do what someone else wants us to choose or want [so if say God predetermines our every action, then who predetermined for us to have the desire to commit adultery? God did; and that applies to every sin we commit, every sin that he not only foreknows but also brings to pass if he predetermines everything as calvinists believe]).

“Now I have never in all my years seen how we can actualize a different choice then the one that God knows.”

Right we never actualize a choice different than the one God knows that we will actualize because God foreknows everything. But the Arminian has no problem with believing that God foreknows everything, that is a standard belief which has always been held by Arminians (it Open theists and Socinians who deny it) and it is also a biblically revealed truth as well.

But Paul you need to distinguish between foreknowing a future event (which noncalvinists may believe in) and predetermining all future events (which is what calvinists believe in).

Take your own example, a person committing adultery. If God foreknows that a person will commit adultery that means that God knows that you will do that action in the future. But God simply knowing about something does not mean that He wants it to happen or that it pleases Him that it will happen. So God can (and does) foreknow all sorts of things that He does not want to see happen, things that go against what He wants to happen, and things that go against his own commands. When someone claims that God predetermines every event however, they are claiming more than just that God knows it will happen. Whatever God predetermines to happen is what he wants to happen, and if He predetermines everything that happens then everything that happens is exactly what he wants to happen. And the claim of exhaustive predetermination of all events leads to some real significant problems (notably that God becomes the author of all sin, like a script writer that writes every detail of a play, similarly, God prescripts everything so everything that occurs is what He prescripted).

It should also be noted that there is a big difference between God knowing something will happen and **allowing** it to occur, and God predetermining for every event to occur. The Arminian believes that God does foreknow every event and that he will even allow some sins to take place in order to bring about a greater good (the two classic examples of this principle being the crucifixion of Jesus and the mistreatment of Joseph’s brothers). But I am guessing that you already know this principle (and probably reject it if you are a calvinist).

“So all this talk of LFW seems rather silly to me; if God knows that we will choose to commit adultery than that is what we will do.”

The talk about LFW is only silly if certain things are of little consequence to you. If you understood the issues and differences between people who believe in LFW and determinists/calvinists, then you would know why it is quite important. Again, does God permit or allow sin, or does he predetermine for it to happen? Does God preselect vast numbers of people to be eternally punished in hell for eternity, and predetermined for them to commit their every act of sin and rebellion, and then have a sham judgment in which he then condemns them for doing the very actions which he predetermined for them to do, or does God fairly judge people for the actions they freely choose to do?

“It’s not like right before we were to commit the sin that we would say, “No, I will not do it because it is a sin and it would hurt my family.” Instead we do it because that is what we freely wanted to do.”

Actually Paul, if every event is predetermined by God then it **is** exactly like that.

If our every thought and action and desire and verbal statement, everything is predetermined by God to be exactly what we do then let’s take your own example and show what happens if exhaustive predeterminism were true. First you claim the person would not say ““No, I will not do it because it is a sin and it would hurt my family.” If God had predetermined that the person first felt bad about the potential sin of adultery, then guess what? They would have that thought because God had predetermined for them to have that thought and it would be impossible that things be otherwise. You then claim they would not have that thought and then go ahead and commit adultery (or any other sin). Again, you don’t seem to realize what exhaustive determinism means or leads to. If God had predetermined that you would have felt bad before committing adultery and then you went ahead anyway and committed adultery, then God would have predetermined both that you felt bad and that you went ahead and did the action anyway (and it would have been impossible for things to be otherwise).

Paul what you seem oblivious to is that exhaustive determinism means that ***every*** event is predetermined,***every*** event has to occur, ***every*** event is necessary and it is impossible that it be otherwise.

This becomes really sad for the Christian because say that just before you sin you hear your conscience saying not to do a particular action, you also may be convicted by the Spirit not to do that action, you then pray not to give into that temptation and even quote 1 Cor. 10:13. But if God predetermines every event, then he predetermined for you to hear your conscience and ignore it, to be convicted by the Spirit and ignore it, and then to pray in line with 1 Cor. 10:13 (a prayer that God both predetermined that you would pray and predetermined that He would not answer) then you would go ahead and do the action because God wanted you to do that very action. This makes everything a sham, it all becomes an awful game where you guessed it, we are manipulated to do everything we do and are in effect no different than robots or puppets.

“The only way that I could entertain the idea or premise behind LFW is if God does not know for certain that it would happen, this of course leads me into Open Theism which I wholeheartedly reject at this time.”

You have pretty limited options then. Limitations you have chosen to put on yourself, a choice that you made. You state your choices as either LFW and God does not know the future OR reject LFW and believe that God does know the future.

The third option which is the truth, which is the view of Arminians you have arbitrarily dismissed: we sometimes have LFW and God does know the future including our freely chosen (non predetermined) actions. It is significant that this third option is only true if calvinism/exhaustive predeterminism is false. But you give indications that you are committed to calvinism so as long as that is your choice you exclude the truth from yourself. And since you indicate that you have read my posts in the past, and obviously repeatedly rejected what I was saying that means you have made your choice, you embrace exhaustive determinism/calvinism.

”Please know that this is not talking about determinism per se, what it is talking about it common sense and logic.”

I love common sense and logic (that may be one of the reasons that I love the philosophers Thomas Reid and Mortimer Adler and love studying and applying logic). I have only been talking about common sense and logic all along. Common sense and logic is that we do in fact have LFW. Common sense and logic is that if everything is predetermined then we don’t have free will and we only do what we were predetermined to do. Common sense and logic is that if God prescripted every event then He is the author of sin. Common sense and logic is that if God predetermined every one’s salvation, then all who go to hell go there because that is exactly where God wants them to go (and they never had a chance to be saved; they were set up and ensured damnation before they ever set foot on this earth). The fact is that in order to embrace exhaustive determinism/calvinism you have to reject common sense and logic.

Robert

Paul said...

Robert,

It must be nice to claim to believe in LFW, but not hold to it. You wrote Right we never actualize a choice different than the one God knows that we will actualize because God foreknows everything. right here you have abandoned the definition of LFW and in fact are in line with compatabilist freedom. Since this seems to be in harmony with my own views then it seems needless to pound away at the keyboard and argue about it, since we are in agreement that LFW as defined does not exist.

Another problem I guess I have with the idea of LFW is when you wrote we sometimes have LFW let me see if I can show my problem ”sometimes”??? I assume there is something in Scripture that tells me when I have it and when I don’t, please point me to the verse or book that addresses this ”sometimes”.

wrecks said...

?

Just because God knows the future, means that 2/or more possible choices were not possible, although only one is what was actualized?

Pizza Man said...

Paul -

The way I understand LFW, it means that individuals have the ability to make real choices that have not been pre-determined by God. It does not preclude the possibility of foreknowledge.

The way I understand compatiblism, it means that everything is decreed by God, but it seems from our view like we have choices.

If you define compatiblism as God foreknowing but not causing then call me a compatibilist! :) But that's not usually what people mean by compatiblism.

Paul said...

Pizza Man,

This is about as basic as it gets- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

BTW, do you also hold too the idea that we ”sometimes” have LFW? Or are you more consistent and believe that you have this “LFW” all the time?

Please know that the above sited article is not a in depth study of compatibilism or of libertarianism, but it is enough to see some differences. It seems interesting that as we learn more from the field of science though that libertarianism is shown to be erroneous in most things. Of course there could always be exceptions to the norm:)

I firmly believe that everything has been decreed by God and Robert has shown two clear examples of such decrees that do not make God the “author of sin”. I fear that most people cannot distinguish between one being a cause for sin and one being a doer of sin, there is a difference and it does matter how you see those two things in relation to one another.

Anyways, thank you for your reply and I hope that I have clarified my point. I apologize now for not being able to interact anymore on this since I am leaving town early tomorrow morning and will be back next week.

God bless

omakase said...

Calvinists should learn from the prince of preachers concerning 1 Tim 2:3-4:

"What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. "All men," say they,—"that is, some men": as if the Holy Ghost could not have said "some men" if he had meant some men. "All men," say they; "that is, some of all sorts of men": as if the Lord could not have said "all sorts of men" if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written "all men," and unquestionably he means all men. I know how to get rid of the force of the "alls" according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, "Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth." Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, "Who will have all men to be saved," his observations are more than a little out of place. My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God."

-CH Spurgeon

Robert said...

I took the time to write a post in which I addressed Paul’s points and see that most of what I wrote was ignored. Now he is making an outrageous claim: that I do not even hold to LFW:

”It must be nice to claim to believe in LFW, but not hold to it.”

I have made myself very clear about my support of LFW and my opposition to compatibilist determinism. And Paul has seen me espouse it here and elsewhere. For him to make such a statement is disingenuous.

And consider his reason for now claiming that I do not hold to LFW:

“You wrote Right we never actualize a choice different than the one God knows that we will actualize because God foreknows everything. right here you have abandoned the definition of LFW and in fact are in line with compatabilist freedom.”

That is very twisted logic from someone claiming they were **only** interested in engaging in common sense and logic. All I said was that God foreknows our choices, He knows what choice we will freely choose to make in the future (or put another way if God’s beliefs about the future are true, and He knows how we will choose to act, so whatever possibility that we end up actualizing from among various possibilities by our choice, he will always know it and know it before we make the choice; or converted into a negative statement: “we will never actualize a choice different than the one God knows we will actualize”).

How is **that** a denial of LFW?

Paul appears to be extremely confused. First he says that: (~A) I claim to believe in the reality of LFW but do not hold it. Then in the same post a few lines later he writes:

”Another problem I guess I have with the idea of LFW is when you wrote we sometimes have LFW let me see if I can show my problem ”sometimes”???”

Wait a minute, first he claims that (~A): I claim to believe in the reality of LFW but do not hold it, now he says he has a problem with (A) MY STATEMENT that “we sometimes have LFW”. How can I **not** hold to LFW (~A) if I say that (A) we sometimes have LFW and **Paul himself** quotes me on it and then says that is a problem for him? And this is just after he says our views **are in harmony with mine** (“Since this seems to be in harmony with my own views then it seems needless to pound away at the keyboard and argue about it, since we are in agreement that LFW as defined does not exist.”). If our views are in harmony then how does he now have a problem with my statement that we sometimes have LFW?
So I don’t hold to LFW, and yet I say that we sometimes have LFW, and Paul’s view is harmonious with mine and yet he is bothered by my statement that we sometimes have LFW? How confused can Paul be?

He also wrote:

“I assume there is something in Scripture that tells me when I have it and when I don’t, please point me to the verse or book that addresses this ”sometimes”.”

Perhaps an appeal to common sense and logic may help here. When speaking of some human experience we could say of it one of three possibilities: (1) that it always is happening, (2) that it is never happening, or (3) that sometimes it is happening and sometimes it is not. Suppose we ask about the human experience of sleeping. Are we always, never, or sometimes sleeping? The answer is sometimes we are sleeping and sometimes we are not sleeping. Let’s take another example, the laws of nature, the laws of physics. Regarding natural laws do they hold true: Always, Never, or Sometimes? Well I would suggest if they never held true, we would never have discovered them and science would never be successful.

On the other hand, do they **always** hold true? No, because sometimes God intervenes in nature (e.g. when God does a miracle) and the laws of nature seem to be suspended for a time. But just because they may be suspended temporarily for a time, does not mean they have been eliminated, or that they were never valid or that they will never operate again. Classic example of this is Peter walking on the water. Ordinarily do people walk on the water? No, and we know this to be true because of the laws of physics. But Jesus walked on the water and for a brief moment so did Peter. So the laws of nature were temporarily suspended in those cases.

Now let’s take LFW. Do we always experience LFW in precisely the same way under any and all possible circumstances and conditions? If you ignore both every day experience and scripture, you might go to one extreme and answer that we “never” ever experience LFW (but then you would be a calvinist and be dead wrong). On the other hand if you ignore scripture and go to the other extreme, you might answer “always” (but then you would be wrong again). Here is an example of LFW being temporarily suspended.

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king. Previous to God intervening in judgment on him, Neb engages in all sorts of choices in the LFW sense (especially as a powerful King of a powerful empire). But then God intervenes and judges him for his pride and he ends up **for a time** eating grass like an animal. During this time in which he ate grass like an animal, did Neb have LFW or was his ability to choose suspended and not normal? So we do not always have LFW and we know this to be true because of some special cases where people’s ordinary ability to make choices appears to have been suspended (just ask Neb).

Is it absurd then to claim that we sometimes have LFW and sometimes do not? No, in fact it is just as absurd as claiming that the laws of nature are sometimes in operation and sometimes temporarily suspended. So in response to Paul’s amazement that I could possibly suggest that we “sometimes have LFW”. My response should hopefully demonstrate to those who **are** engaging in common sense and logic, that in fact the claim that sometimes we have LFW and sometimes we do not, is an entirely reasonable proposition.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Pizza Man,

You wrote:

“The way I understand LFW, it means that individuals have the ability to make real choices that have not been pre-determined by God. It does not preclude the possibility of foreknowledge.”

Wow so somebody else besides me actually believes that we can have free will in the libertarian sense AND at the same time God foreknows all future events? :-)

”The way I understand compatiblism, it means that everything is decreed by God, but it seems from our view like we have choices.”

Earlier compatibilists argued that all events are predetermined and at the same time people act “freely”. I put “freely” in question marks because the compatibilist is very careful to define free will as doing what you want to do, but not being able to do otherwise. So as long as you are not being coerced in your action, and you are doing what you want to do, then according to them a person has free will.

The libertarian on the other hand agrees that when we act freely we do what we want to do, but also adds the element that we can do otherwise (given two possibilities to choose from, I can choose either possibility, both options are available and accessible options). The reason the compatibilist does not also accept this element of doing otherwise in his definition of free will is because if an action is predetermined, then you can only do the particular action which was predetermined for you to do (and if you can only do the one action then you cannot do otherwise hence the determinist does not include this element in his definition of free will).

A major problem with the compatibilist definition however, is that in order for us to have a choice as ordinarily understood we must be able to do otherwise. If I cannot do otherwise, if I must do a particular action, then I may be making a choice, but I do not **have** a choice. This is where Compatibilists will sometimes be a bit disingenuous, because they will speak about **having** choices when in fact, and they know this, the person makes a choice but does not have a choice.

You made an interesting statement:

“everything is decreed by God, but it seems from our view like we have choices.”

Note carefully if God predetermined everything, then determinism is true and in every case in which we do an action we can never do otherwise. Now if that were true, it may seem as if we **have** choices, but this is a false belief. I may believe that I could have written this post or instead played a game of chess with a friend. But that belief assumes I have a choice that I could write this post or choose to play chess (that I could do either one). But if say it was predetermined for me to write this post, then it is impossible for me to have played chess instead. So my belief that I could have done either option, is a false belief. Since we have this belief that we have choices all the time, if our every action was predetermined then the reality is that we are constantly holding the false belief that we have choices when in fact we never have choices.

”If you define compatiblism as God foreknowing but not causing then call me a compatibilist! :) But that's not usually what people mean by compatiblism.”

You are not a compatibilist because you believe that we have choices and you believe that this belief is true. You make a good point here as well: foreknowledge is not the same as predetermination of an event. Predetermination involves God preplanning an event and then bringing it to pass. Foreknowledge involves knowing an event will occur but not necessarily bringing about that event. With predetermination God wants the event to occur. With foreknowledge God may or may not want the event to occur.

Robert

Pizza Man said...

Good points Robert.

The difference is that Arminiams make the distinction between God's foreknowledge and God's decree. God knowing doesn't necessitate God causing. The Calvinist is saying that God foreknows everything BECAUSE He decreed it to be that way.

Big difference.

Dawn said...

Robert & PizzaMan, I think we all agree here. Though, I believe that even if God decrees something that He foreknows it still allows us a choice. He simply decrees that which He foreknows. What He foreknows does not, in any way, mean that He does not intervene as that is also a part of the foreknowledge He has decreed. Hope that makes sense.

Robert said...

Hello Pizza Man,

You wrote:

”The difference is that Arminians make the distinction between God's foreknowledge and God's decree.”

Right, that is a useful distinction. I believe that God decrees (if you mean by that term “preplans” some outcomes) and God has foreknowledge of all events, but that does not mean that every event that occurs is decreed by God.

“God knowing doesn't necessitate God causing.”

Another important distinction. God knows every sin that we will commit but that doesn’t mean that he necessitates our sins or causes them to occur. He allows them to occur and we cause our own sinful actions.

“The Calvinist is saying that God foreknows everything BECAUSE He decreed it to be that way.”

An important difference between an Arminian and a calvinist concerns God’s capacity for having foreknowledge of all future events (including freely chosen actions by us). The Arminian believes that God can (and does) have this kind of foreknowledge: the calvinist does not. The calvinist believes (and this is amazing) that God only can know the future events if he predetermined them. Put another way, the calvinist limits God’s knowledge/foreknowledge to what God decrees (if God does not decree it then he can’t know the future event).

”Big difference.”

Yep there is a big difference between believing that God has foreknowledge of all events whether he predetermined them or not (the biblical understanding), and believing that God can **only** foreknow what he predetermines (a man-made limitation on God’s knowledge/foreknowledge). One is a much stronger conception of foreknowledge than the other. And one is a biblical conception of foreknowledge while the other comes from a man-invented system of theology.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Dawn,

You wrote:

“Robert & PizzaMan, I think we all agree here.”

You are probably right about this.

“Though, I believe that even if God decrees something that He foreknows it still allows us a choice.”

Right, a major problem with both open theists and calvinists is that they both believe that God ***cannot*** foreknow a future event if that future event involves genuine choices as understood in a libertarian free will way. Sadly, the calvinist based on this erroneous belief retains God’s foreknowledge but jettisons free will/having choices as ordinarily understood. The open theist goes to the other extreme, he keeps libertarian free will but jettisons God’s foreknowledge. The bible presents **both** exhaustive divine foreknowledge of future events (including our choices) AND free will understood in the libertarian sense.

“What He foreknows does not, in any way, mean that He does not intervene as that is also a part of the foreknowledge He has decreed. Hope that makes sense.”

I think you are saying that God’s foreknowing future events is going to include his own interventions as well. So regarding the future he knows what it will be, and that future includes both his interventions and the free choices made by human persons.

A great example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus (God) coming to this earth in the flesh (technical term for this is “the incarnation”) was a monumental intervention into human history by God. God planned to do it all along, and then did it and knew he was going to do it before Jesus actually became flesh and dwelt among us (witness the Old Testament prophecies about it). God also had a pre-planned (from eternity) way of salvation that was going to be centered on Jesus’ incarnation and the events that occurred in connection with it (including the crucifixion). God also knew what the freely chosen actions by the opponents of Jesus would be to Jesus’ incarnation and the words and deeds He would do while on earth (they would devise a plan and scheme to have him crucified and would be successful in their scheming) and that this would result in Jesus being crucified.

All of this is stated very well in Acts 2:23 “this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
God foreknew what the evil men would do with Jesus, and God sent Jesus to the world knowing the response and knowing the result would be the crucifixion. God also allowed all of this to occur as part of a plan of salvation (“the predetermined plan”) based upon his foreknowledge of these future events (“and foreknowledge of God”). God also holds those who did the evil acts responsible (“you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men”).

Now here is something interesting if God has foreknowledge and we have free will as ordinarily understood: could those men have done otherwise? Yes, they were not necessitated in their actions but freely chose to do what they did. On the other hand via his foreknowledge God knew how they would in fact freely choose to do their evil actions. So they freely choose their actions, God knew what they would do and did not coerce or necessitate their actions, He also did not prevent their actions from occurring. So they are responsible for their evil actions, they acted freely (they could have done otherwise than they did, but God knew they would not choose to do otherwise) and God foreknew it all.

Robert

Dawn said...

Robert, you said, "Now here is something interesting if God has foreknowledge and we have free will as ordinarily understood: could those men have done otherwise? Yes, they were not necessitated in their actions but freely chose to do what they did. On the other hand via his foreknowledge God knew how they would in fact freely choose to do their evil actions. So they freely choose their actions, God knew what they would do and did not coerce or necessitate their actions, He also did not prevent their actions from occurring. So they are responsible for their evil actions, they acted freely (they could have done otherwise than they did, but God knew they would not choose to do otherwise) and God foreknew it all."

That's how I see it! :-)

Ben said...

Let us say that 1,500 B.C. God already knew me and knew that on March 14, 2008 that I would strike my wife. Somehow I was born 1,000’s of years later and somehow I married my wife and on March 14, 2008 we get into an argument and I get all emotional and the thought of striking her enters my mind and at the same time the thought of just walking away enters my mind. Now which do you suppose I am going to do? Whatever I do I will have done it because that is what I wanted to do, but could I have chosen an alternate path that did not involve striking my wife?

Again, just keep in mind that God KNOWS, ABSOLUTLEY CERTAIN that I will strike my wife. Given that is there any way that I will not strike my wife on March 14, 2008? Any would you still say that I did it freely?

Just to take it one step further, let us say that my striking my wife on March 14, 2008 is what leads us into marriage counseling with our minister and it is during this counseling that I get saved. Without the event of striking my wife and going to counseling I would never have come to be saved. So God used the striking that was certain to occur as a means to bring me one step closer to salvation.

What you and your ad hoc view of free will would entail is a God that saw the play already and then fashioned and shape his plan accordingly. Now when I read my Bible that is not the type of God that I see.

Robert said...

“Ben” if that is really your name. You can present billions of scenarios of “what if this” or “what if that”. Doesn’t matter what you bring up, your scenarios both real and imagined, do not change the facts that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of future events AND that we sometimes have choices. Both common sense and revelation establish these two points, so you can stop spinning your wheels and choose to accept it or choose not to accept it (and that is your choice).

Robert

Ben said...

LOL, LOL, LOL

So we should just accept your "common sense" and your own "revelation", Uh OK... NOT.

I will stick to Scripture and what GOD has revealed in it, rather than your "common sense".

Nice to see you interact though with the argument. lol


BTW, I doubt you coming to my house and meeting my wife and kids would convince you that I am not Manata. Oh well, your "choice" right. lol

kangaroodort said...

Hey Ben,

You posted at Triablogue:

This has been very informative and I thank all of you for the work that you do. It is hard for someone like me to argue since I am new to the faith, but man you guys know your stuff.

Have you now changed your mind about arguing?

Let me address a few of your questions even though none of this is really related to the thread.

Whatever I do I will have done it because that is what I wanted to do, but could I have chosen an alternate path that did not involve striking my wife?

Yes you could have at the time you made the decision. If you had chosen an alternate path then God would have foreknown that. God knows your choice as certain only because you will actually make that decision. That does not speak to the nature of that decision-- whether it was necessary or contingent.

Again, just keep in mind that God KNOWS, ABSOLUTLEY CERTAIN that I will strike my wife.

Good point. Your decision is certain. That does not mean it was necessary. It doesn't mean that you could not have made another choice, only that you did not (or will not) in fact make another choice.

God's foreknowledge is similar to our knowledge of the past. We know past decisions as certain because they did in fact happen as we know they did. That does not mean that a past decision was necessary. It doesn't mean that a decision had to be made as it was made, only that it was made as it was made. The simple foreknowledge view suggests that God knows the future as surely as we know the past (even more so) and that this knowledge is no more causitive then our knowledge of the past is causitive.

Without the event of striking my wife and going to counseling I would never have come to be saved. So God used the striking that was certain to occur as a means to bring me one step closer to salvation.

That does not necessarily conflict with a simple foreknowledge view.

What you and your ad hoc view of free will would entail is a God that saw the play already and then fashioned and shape his plan accordingly.

That is a little simplistic. God foreknows our actions, all events in history, and his own interactions with people in the course of history as well. For more on this see here:

http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/gods-sovereignty-and-mans-free-will.html

Now when I read my Bible that is not the type of God that I see.

It is great to see that you want to base your view of reality and the revelation of God on Scripture.

When I read my Bible I do not see the God that is portrayed in Calvinist theology.

God Bless,
Ben

kangaroodort said...

BTW, Where do you live? If you live near by then I would love to come and visit you and your family. We can talk about Calvinism and Arminianism over some coffee.

Ben said...

Kangaroodort,

No I have not changed my mind arguing, I still am not good at it:)

I have read the different views on this topic and while I am not an expert it seems that a good majority of philosopher’s do not believe in LFW as usually defined. Again I can not at this time accept your view of things, the problem is still God seeing the play and then working it to where it is best for his purposes. Yet I read in many places where God is the one that planned and brought things to happen the way HE wanted them to happen.

While my decision was my own I would say that it was necessary for it to happen. In fact if it did not happen then in this scenario I would not have been saved. When you wrote It doesn't mean that you could not have made another choice, I disagree. Again in this example I could not have made another choice or God would have been wrong. The idea that I had the choice to walk away can never be actualized. Now I tend to believe that everything up to that point led me to do what I freely chose to do, meaning my genes, family, environment and all hosts of other things all contributed to my choice, but the idea that it was not necessary is unacceptable to me at this time.

I live in Nashville, TN and while we are not big coffee drinkers I would be happy to fix you a cup.

kangaroodort said...

Ben,

You wrote:

Again in this example I could not have made another choice or God would have been wrong.

God could not have been wrong because if you had made another choice then God would have known that instead. God's knowledge of your action is dependent on your action and not the other way around. That is why it is "knowledge" and is not causative.

Again, think of it in terms of our knowledge of the past. If I know that I had eggs yesterday morning it is only because I had eggs yesterday morning. If I had pancakes instead it would not make me "wrong". Rather, my knowledge would be different and not wrong. My knowledge would then be that of having pancakes instead. My "knowledge" of either has no bearing on the nature of those choices--whether they were necessary or contingent when they occurred, as I said before.

Is Tom M. the same Tom who blogs at "The Everyday Christian"? I have interacted with him before but he just went by Tom. I noticed that he is from Nashville and has linked to some of my posts in the past.

God Bless,
Ben

Ben said...

No, Tom M is in Louisville, KY and he does not blog. He doesn't even have a blogger id, but he always puts his name on comments instead of being anonymous.

The only way I know if I had eggs is because I had them and not before. I could not have accurately predicted thousands of years before, say 10 years since I was not around thousands of years ago, that I would have eggs on that given day. Again, God does not have just knowledge of the past like we do. We are told repeatedly that He brings things about they way He wants too and not they way He saw them happen by seeing what you would do.

kangaroodort said...

The only way I know if I had eggs is because I had them and not before. I could not have accurately predicted thousands of years before, say 10 years since I was not around thousands of years ago, that I would have eggs on that given day.

That is because you do not have exhaustive foreknowledge. But God does. The illustration of our knowing the past is just for the purpose of helping you see the similarities--God's knowledge is not causative any more than ours and His knowledge is based on what will certainly happen without making those happenings necessary.

We are told repeatedly that He brings things about they way He wants too and not they way He saw them happen by seeing what you would do.

But seeing what we would do, or rather "knowing" what we would do can be instrumental in bringing something to pass. God does not only foreknow what we alone will do but also what He will do as He intervenes in human history and interacts with people as history unfolds. He knows our future reactions to His influences and how He will in turn react to our responses, and how He will work all of these things perfectly into His sovereign plan to bring about whatever He pleases to do.

Did you read the link I provided? God is not just a passive observer and is able to work within history to accomplish all his goals. Nothing can thwart His purposes because He has unlimited resources and infinite wisdom. The existence of free agents doesn't frighten or intimidate God. He is able to work all things together for the accomplishing of His purposes, even those things which free agents freely do which are contrary to His will (e.g. sin), and He has perfect foreknowledge of the whole process.

God Bless,
Ben

Ben said...

The problem I have is this, if LFW is true then we are the sole cause of what we pick or choose. Since there can be no external cause for us choosing one thing over the other than whatever we choose cannot be known until we instantiate or actualize it. God knows everything that we have/are/will do before we were ever born. So before we actualize or instantiate anything God already knows and therefore it cannot change or be different. Saying that of course it could because God would just know that rather than the other does not change anything. Of course God knows if we change our minds, but the point is still that he knows this before we ever actualize it. If we truly have LFW this would not be possible because the event would not have happened until the moment that it was actualized or instantiated. What you have God doing then is skipping ahead to see how you respond to his influence in a particular scenario.

I have not read any major work that says that divine foreknowledge and LFW can be reconciled. The reason is simple, if we have LFW then what we do cannot be known until we actualize it, since even our motifs and beliefs cannot be used with certainty to predict our choice; so God would have to wait to learn what our decision will be if he wanted to be certain about it.

kangaroodort said...

Ben,

I guess we could go on and on with this one. I don't see a difficulty and you do.

You seem to be hung up on the idea that if God knows something in advance then we cannot do otherwise, but I think I have shown that is not the case. God's foreknowledge does not speak to the nature of our choices.

If we truly have LFW this would not be possible because the event would not have happened until the moment that it was actualized or instantiated. What you have God doing then is skipping ahead to see how you respond to his influence in a particular scenario.

Why can't God transcend time in such a way that He can see choices that have not yet been actualized (from our perspective) as if they have (from His perspective)? Will you really try to limit God in such a way?

I don't understand how God could have created the world out of nothing. I don't understand how God could have become a man and simultaneously been completely human and completely divine.

There is much that I don't understand about God that I accept by faith because He is beyond my finite comprehension, so why is it so hard to believe that God can perfectly know the future in a way that our free choices are no less free? It seems to me that your view limits God's ability.

Yet, you affirm things that are even harder to make sense of in my opinion. You seem to believe that God causes every event that takes place and can only know these events because He causes them. Sin is an event. Therefore, God causes sin, does He not? You have God causing confusion when the Bible says He is not the author of confusion. You have God judging and condemning people for perfectly fulfilling God's will, for even the reprobate can do nothing but what God wills and God supposedly created the reprobate in order to bring glory to Himself in destroying Him. So God condemns the reprobate to an eternal hell for doing just as God decreed for the purpose of bringing ultimate glory to Him?

I could go on and on. The point is that your view creates far bigger problems IMO by trying to force God into a box in which He cannot know something that He does not cause Himself. I guess you just have a smaller view of God than I do.

I have not read any major work that says that divine foreknowledge and LFW can be reconciled.

Then you have not read much. Ben, correct me if I am wrong, but didn't you say that you are new to the faith? Just how new are you? Should I be surprised that you have not read any major work that reconciles free will with exhaustive foreknowledge? Are you being straight with me Ben? Much of what you have said so far does not comport very well with what you have so far revealed about yourself.

God Bless,
Ben

Dawn said...

Ben, you said, "I have not read any major work that says that divine foreknowledge and LFW can be reconciled. The reason is simple, if we have LFW then what we do cannot be known until we actualize it, since even our motifs and beliefs cannot be used with certainty to predict our choice; so God would have to wait to learn what our decision will be if he wanted to be certain about it."

Then it seems to me that you do not believe God to be omniscient. To the contrary, God is omniscient and He knows everything given every possible circumstance. He knows how we will react to His intervention in our lives and how we will pray and how we will react to His answers to our prayers, etc. Just because He foreknows doesn't mean that we cannot change our minds up until the nano-second that we perform an action.

LFW doesn't take away one iota of the sovereignty of God because that is the way that HE planned it and decreed it. It was His pleasure and His will to allow His creatures a limited free-will. We WILL NOT do anything He doesn't allow.

Ben said...

Kangaroodort,

I am not forcing God into a box; you are, when you think that you can have LFW and keep his sovereignty and omniscience intact. The reason is simple if you have LFW then there can be no external cause for your decision and your motifs, beliefs and desires cannot be used with certainty to predict what choice you will make. Given this the only thing that God can do with certainty is skip ahead to see how you will respond to his influence, since there is no determining factor of how you will respond in that scenario until you, as the determining agent, instantiate the decision.

Should you be surprised that I have not read that much on the topic? Please, just because I’m new to the faith does not mean that I have not read on the topic. In fact, some of my time before coming to faith was spent trying to debunk what I thought was crap. Now there is a great deal of this being discussed in the philosophical world, but if you do a bit of reading yourself you will quickly see that LFW has fallen out of favor in those circles for the simple fact that you cannot reconcile complete sovereignty & complete omniscience with LFW. On top of that science is showing the notion of LFW to be false as well. For awhile hope was put in Quantum Physics to be able to show LFW, but even that has been refuted.

When I read the Bible it is plain to me that our motifs, beliefs and desires are sufficient cause for our decision and the reason why we do decide. When Dawn wrote
He knows how we will react to His intervention in our lives and how we will pray and how we will react to His answers to our prayers,
This is just logically impossible if we have LFW. Again the simple answer is because not one of those things can be sufficient cause for our response. It appears that you guys try to have it both ways by bastardizing the definition of LFW.

Rather than go round & round on this I will just leave it at that. Feel free to reply and have the last word on this, if you so desire:)

kangaroodort said...

OK Ben, I will take the last word. Thanks for offering :)

You wrote:

I am not forcing God into a box; you are, when you think that you can have LFW and keep his sovereignty and omniscience intact.

Hardly. Sovereignty does not need to be defined as meticulous control over every choice a person makes with respects to infallible causation. In fact, such a definition of “sovereignty” is contrary to normal usage. God can sovereignly govern His universe while allowing for free choice since He has Himself sovereignly decided to give His creatures free choice.

Again, you limit God by saying that God can do anything He wants (sovereignty) except grant His creatures a degree of free will. If God has sovereignly decided to grant His creatures a measure of free will then who are to say that He cannot do so?

The reason is simple if you have LFW then there can be no external cause for your decision and your motifs, beliefs and desires cannot be used with certainty to predict what choice you will make. Given this the only thing that God can do with certainty is skip ahead to see how you will respond to his influence, since there is no determining factor of how you will respond in that scenario until you, as the determining agent, instantiate the decision.

I already answered this multiple times. Again you limit God by trying to box Him in to what your finite mind thinks He can and cannot do.

Now there is a great deal of this being discussed in the philosophical world, but if you do a bit of reading yourself you will quickly see that LFW has fallen out of favor in those circles for the simple fact that you cannot reconcile complete sovereignty & complete omniscience with LFW.

Am I supposed to care if LFW is falling out of favor among certain "philosophers"? How many philosophers are we talking about here? Are they Christian philosophers or secular?

Did you know that the belief in the Trinity was seriously challenged by the Arians to the point where some believe that the belief in the Trinity became the minority view? And why was that? Because the Trinity didn't make sense to some?

On top of that science is showing the notion of LFW to be false as well. For awhile hope was put in Quantum Physics to be able to show LFW, but even that has been refuted.

Did you know that the belief in divine creation has also been "refuted" by science? The fundamental problem with you appealing to science on this issue is that science does not hold to an immaterial aspect of human existence.

As long as Christians hold that we possess an immaterial mind or soul, then we do not need to be concerned with the cause and effect relationship of physical objects as we have no reason to believe that non-physical things like "souls" operate in such a way. Certainly God, who is Spirit, is an example of a non-material entity that does not function according to the cause and effect laws of physics, correct? So why can't those who are made in His image function in a similar way?

When I read the Bible it is plain to me that our motifs, beliefs and desires are sufficient cause for our decision and the reason why we do decide.

I don't necessarily disagree that our decisions are based on our greatest desire (if that is what you are getting at). The question is what determines our greatest desire? I believe the free agent determines his or her greatest desire. The free agent weighs his options and gives greater weight to one, thereby deciding in favor of that option. How does he or she do this? With the God given capacity of the mind to make decisions.

This is just logically impossible if we have LFW.

So you keep asserting.

Again the simple answer is because not one of those things can be sufficient cause for our response.

And here again you beg the question of determinism.

It appears that you guys try to have it both ways by bastardizing the definition of LFW.

Sorry you see it that way.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

I responded rationally to Ben the calvinist’s post,and his response was scorn (LOL) rather than any kind of reasoned response. He must be learning from the Triablogers as their standard operating procedure is to mock people rather than deal with arguments and interact in a way consistent with biblical admonitions. At first I was not going to bother responding to “Ben” (if that is really who he is) but since he sounds just like someone else that I know and I want others to see how extremely weak his points are, I am responding here.

Ben writes:

“The problem I have is this, if LFW is true then we are the sole cause of what we pick or choose.”

And what is wrong with doing our own actions and being responsible for our own choices? Isn’t that how God created us to be? On the final judgment day why are we being judged for our actions and not someone else’s actions. For actions we did, choices we made? Young children know these concepts, older people know these concepts and everybody in between know these concepts.

“Since there can be no external cause for us choosing one thing over the other than whatever we choose cannot be known until we instantiate or actualize it.”

How do you know **that**? That is just assuming that God cannot foreknow the future possibilities that we are going to actualize or instantiate when we freely make our choices. You also beg the question here: merely assuming the very issue that is being addressed. And who says that God created us so that we would be like puppets controlled externally by a puppet master? As long as people have been on this earth they have known that they cause their own actions. Ever seen a small child and heard them exclaim: “No, I want to do it myself” (meaning though someone external to them offers help they want to prove to themselves that they can do the action on their own, that the action is in fact their own action not the action of another person)???

“God knows everything that we have/are/will do before we were ever born.”

So God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events including those that involve our choices.

“So before we actualize or instantiate anything God already knows and therefore it cannot change or be different.”

So when we actualize or instantiate some possibility we are making a choice right? And once we make a choice we can’t take it back right? Can we un-ring the bell that has been wrung? NO. What is the problem with stating that once we make a choice (“it cannot change or be different”)?

Take the example of choosing to lift up my arm and wave at someone and choosing not to lift up my arm and wave at that person. Say I choose to wave my arm. And say this arm wave will happen next Saturday. God already knows I will wave my arm right? And if in fact I am going to wave my arm next week, then if God knows the facts, the future events that will happen, then he has to know I will choose to lift up my arm right? Now here is where Ben has not thought through things enough. If I in fact next Saturday will wave my arm, can I also keep my arm down at the same time and in the same circumstance? No. Why not? Because I will make the choice to wave my arm and so I will wave my arm. Now once I make the choice and wave my arm then I can’t make the choice to not wave my arm. And God foreknows facts, he knows what will **actually happen** right? So if I wave my arm he knows that will happen and if I choose not to wave my arm then he will know that that will happen too. Either way, which ever way I choose, if I actually choose to do it, he will know it accurately and in fact already knows it.

“Saying that of course it could because God would just know that rather than the other does not change anything. Of course God knows if we change our minds, but the point is still that he knows this before we ever actualize it.”

There is only one actual future (the set of events that will actually occur in the future). And this is true whether you are a mistaken calvinist like yourself or if you are someone who believes in the reality of choices as I do, no matter who you are and what you believe there is only going to be one actual future. If God knows that actual future (and he does and He says He does and I believe that He does) then God knows what you will actually do.

“If we truly have LFW this would not be possible because the event would not have happened until the moment that it was actualized or instantiated.”

Now this is a real strange sentence and indicates a problem. Come by again: “the event would not have happened until the moment that it was actualized or instantiated”? Isn’t an actual event an event that involved a possibility that was actually actualized or instantiated, an event that actually hapened? Back to the hand. Say I will be thinking about whether or not to wave my hand next Saturday and I will then choose to either wave my hand or choose not to wave my hand. Whatever I choose to do is the actualized possibility, is the instantiated event, is the real event that actually occurs. And when does my choice of a possibility become an actual event? When I make the choice. And if the event involves a free choice then the event will not be actualized, will not be instantiated until I make my choice. So how is making a choice and thus actualizing a possibility a problem?

“What you have God doing then is skipping ahead to see how you respond to his influence in a particular scenario.”

And when he “skips ahead” to see how you **respond**. Isn’t your response a choice? So He would be foreknowing a choice that you are going to make right? And if you had chosen to do otherwise would he not foreknow that actual event that is part of the one actual future as well?

”I have not read any major work that says that divine foreknowledge and LFW can be reconciled.”

You have not read much then. Why don’t you try reading a guy named Alvin Plantinga. Start with his little book GOD FREEDOM AND EVIL and then after you have read that read his essay “on Occam’s way out”. Then read the material by William Lane Craig on middle knowledge (e.g. THE ONLY WISE GOD). Then read lots and lots of others, but start with those, that should get the ball rolling.

“The reason is simple, if we have LFW then what we do cannot be known until we actualize it, since even our motifs and beliefs cannot be used with certainty to predict our choice; so God would have to wait to learn what our decision will be if he wanted to be certain about it.”

You restate your weak argument and so I will give you another strong argument against your reasoning here.

God knows everything that will occur, correct? Yes.

God foreknows all future events that will actually take place/occur/the one actual future, correct? Yes.

God acts freely ***sometimes***, meaning that God has choices between accessible alternatives (he can actualize either possibility before him).

Some examples would include: God created the whole universe, but was not necessitated into doing so (there was no factor outside of himself that made him do it, no person before Him who predetermined his actions). He also could have chosen not to create anything if He had chosen to (since He is perfectly self sufficient and in need of nothing). So did the creation of the universe involve a choice on the part of God (in the libertarian sense that he did one thing but could have done otherwise)? Yes. Or how about when God says in Romans 9 that He has mercy on whom he has mercy and hardens whom He hardens? Does that refer to a choice on the part of God,that he can choose to have mercy on one person or choose not to have mercy on that same person? If God does choose to have mercy on a particular person is He necessitated to do so? No. Did he have a choice to do so? Yes. Could he have done otherwise? Yes, if he had a choice.

OK, these choices that God has including whether or not to create, whether or not to have mercy/harden a particular person, etc. etc. does he **foreknow** what He will choose to do? Yes.

Is God no longer acting freely if He foreknows his own freely chosen actions? So in fact the free choices of a person can be foreknown and God Himself provides a great example of this reality. And if this is reality with God’s free choices in the future, why not ours? If ours are fixed and so free will in the libertarian sense is negated, so are His choices (in fact our free will choices are similar to His as we are created in His image and so similar to Him). And if his freely made choices can be foreknown by Him then why can’t he foreknow our freely made choices?

Robert

Ben said...

First Robert I apologize if you think that I have responded with scorn and/or mock people, in this case I assume you are talking about me mocking you. While I have given Kangaroodort the last word and will not interact on this further I did want to take the time to apologize for any hint of scorn or mocking of your view. Also, just as an fyi, the discussion is not about having choices, it is about actualizing those choices:)

While I have read Plantinga and Craig, I will read them again to see if perhaps I missed where they made the point of LFW. Hope you have a blessed rest of the week!

Robert said...

Hello Ben,

You wrote:

”I guess we could go on and on with this one. I don't see a difficulty and you do.”

The fascinating thing is that this guy says you absolutely cannot simultaneously have God’s foreknowledge and libertarian free will, even though by his own admission he hasn’t read any one who has made a worthwhile attempt to do so (even though now he has read people like Plantinga and Craig). And on top of this he says he is a new believer and on top of this he sounds just like (uses the same phrases as) a certain . . . at a certain blog run by some calvinists we both know.

”You seem to be hung up on the idea that if God knows something in advance then we cannot do otherwise, but I think I have shown that is not the case. God's foreknowledge does not speak to the nature of our choices.”

He is not only hung up on it, he is strongly committed to the **impossibility** of foreknowledge and libertarian free will coexisting. It should be noted that atheists, open theists and calvinists are united in this commitment.

”Why can't God transcend time in such a way that He can see choices that have not yet been actualized (from our perspective) as if they have (from His perspective)? Will you really try to limit God in such a way?”

This is something that is really sad about calvinists. Like open theists, they believe that it is impossible for God to foreknow libertarian free will choices. Both groups are limiting God in this claim. The common sense notion is that if God knows everything (and He reveals that He does), then that “everything” will include libertarian free will choices if and when they occur. Unless of course it is impossible for people to ever have libertarian free will. And when have the determinists ever **proved** that libertarian free will is impossible? They haven’t and they can’t! :-)

”There is much that I don't understand about God that I accept by faith because He is beyond my finite comprehension, so why is it so hard to believe that God can perfectly know the future in a way that our free choices are no less free? It seems to me that your view limits God's ability.”

Again, they do limit God’s ability, just as open theists do so. According to open theists and calvinists it is **impossible** for God to know the future choices of people if libertarian free will is involved.

”Yet, you affirm things that are even harder to make sense of in my opinion. You seem to believe that God causes every event that takes place and can only know these events because He causes them. Sin is an event. Therefore, God causes sin, does He not? You have God causing confusion when the Bible says He is not the author of confusion. You have God judging and condemning people for perfectly fulfilling God's will, for even the reprobate can do nothing but what God wills and God supposedly created the reprobate in order to bring glory to Himself in destroying Him. So God condemns the reprobate to an eternal hell for doing just as God decreed for the purpose of bringing ultimate glory to Him?”

Yea, bring these things up and the calvinist does not want to talk about it or claims that you are misrepresenting his views. Anything but admit what their view logically entails some serious, serious problems. But then we know that it entails these problems which is why the vast majority of Christians have always and continue to reject this false system of theology.

”I could go on and on. The point is that your view creates far bigger problems IMO by trying to force God into a box in which He cannot know something that He does not cause Himself. I guess you just have a smaller view of God than I do.”

Their view does cause bigger problems, problems they do not adequately address and they get very upset when these problems are brought out into the open (especially reprobation).

”Then you have not read much. Ben, correct me if I am wrong, but didn't you say that you are new to the faith? Just how new are you? Should I be surprised that you have not read any major work that reconciles free will with exhaustive foreknowledge? Are you being straight with me Ben? Much of what you have said so far does not comport very well with what you have so far revealed about yourself.”

Ben how do you know he is really “Ben”?

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Dawn,

You wrote:

”Then it seems to me that you do not believe God to be omniscient. To the contrary, God is omniscient and He knows everything given every possible circumstance. He knows how we will react to His intervention in our lives and how we will pray and how we will react to His answers to our prayers, etc.”

Yea, the calvinist really does not believe that God has exhaustive foreknowledge as most Christians conceive of it. Most of us believe that if God reveals that he knows everything then he knows everything. Included in that “everything” is the events that make up the actual future (events that actually will occur) even if those events include libertarian free will choices. But the calvinist (and the open theist and atheist) cannot believe that, they find it impossible for God to know the future events that involve libertarian free will choices. The calvinist believes that God only can foreknow events if he has predetermined for those events to occur. They choose to place this limitation on God based on their system not on who God is (who God is, is the one who knows all things including the future libertarian choices of men).

“Just because He foreknows doesn't mean that we cannot change our minds up until the nano-second that we perform an action.”

Very good observation Dawn. Say that I am facing a choice involving two possibilities (let’s limit it to keep it simple and manageable). Say that I choose to respond to your post or that I choose not to respond to your post. So here I am deliberating in the present about these two possibilities. If I have libertarian free will then I really can actualize both of these possibilities (not at the same time, but I can actualize one possibility while excluding the other possibility, or vice versa).
During my deliberation either option is open to me (since I can actualize either one, whichever one that I choose). Up until the moment when I make a choice (actualizing one possibility and not the other) what you describe as “up until the nano-second that we perform an action,” I am facing a choice. Once I make a choice, then whichever possibility that I actualize becomes the actual event (while the other unactualized possibility becomes a possibility that was possible but not actualized).

”LFW doesn't take away one iota of the sovereignty of God because that is the way that HE planned it and decreed it. It was His pleasure and His will to allow His creatures a limited free-will. We WILL NOT do anything He doesn't allow.”

The definition of the sovereignty of God according to the bible is that “He does as He pleases.” The bible does not define His sovereignty as “he hath ordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Confession). Part of the biblical meaning of sovereignty is that since He does as He pleases, He creates us as He pleases (and the indications in both scripture and our own daily experience is that he created us to be capable of doing our own actions and having libertarian free will). It is also part of His sovereignty to design the plan of salvation that He wants and that includes whom He wants to save (and He says explicitly in His revelation which He was also pleased to give us, that He desires that all men be saved, that He gives Jesus for the World, that through the cross all men will be drawn, etc. etc.).

Could God have created a world where every event is predetermined and we are like puppets having our strings pulled or robots being preprogrammed or dominoes lines up and set up to fall? Yes, he could have done that if that had pleased Him. But it pleases Him to have genuine relationships with human persons who freely choose to trust and love Him, so that is how he set things up. The issue is not what he could have but what did He actually do.

It is interesting that you speak of God allowing or permitting events to occur. It seems that if God allows or permits, then He also has the ability to intervene and prevent. And this reality that he chooses if he will intervene and prevent or not intervene and allow is again part of His sovereignty.

Robert

Ben said...

Perhaps you are not realizing this because you are caught up in the moment, but all your talk of fairness, love, respect and all of that is just that… talk. Look at what you guys are doing, you’re insinuating that I am a liar, that I am someone that I am not, you say that I’m ignorant since I am new in the faith, you label me as scornful and mocking, etc. The hypocrisy shown is just too much, you guys are HYPOCRITES!!!

Robert claims that he responded ‘rationally’ to my post when in fact he did not address it at all. He just said that I could come up with all kinds of what ifs, but that it was just a fact that he is right. Nice, if that is responding ‘rationally’ then I would hate to see the flip side of that. At least Kangaroodort made an attempt to interact with my post, granted in a futile manner, but he at least tried. When I use standard LFW definition and terms I get accused of being a Calvinistic hack, when it is you guys that fail to truthfully interact with the standard works in the field.

When I point out that just because I am new to the faith does not mean that I have not read on the subject I get accused again of lying. WOW!!! You guys are too much, I even said that you could come over and we fix you some coffee and still get branded as being not real. Yikes!!! If this is the spirit that you guys interact with then no thanks.

I will not subject myself to this abuse any longer and be “mocked” and “scorned”, for this I will no longer come to your blog.

wrecks said...

". At least Kangaroodort made an attempt to interact with my post, granted in a futile manner, but he at least tried."

-- i think kangaroodorth has answered ben's arguments.

ben just seems to be holding on to what he knows regardless.

example this answer:

"I already answered this multiple times. Again you limit God by trying to box Him in to what your finite mind thinks He can and cannot do."

-- in response to this:

"Given this the only thing that God can do with certainty is skip ahead to see how you will respond to his influence,"

-- The only thing God can do? This is not the necessary conclusion. Only what Calvinists conclude i guess for wanting to keep thinking that their theology is correct.

Me im not new to this debate(since 2002), even here in our country, Calvinists do the same exact thing.

That thing?:

Insist their unbiblical assertion, regardless.

*this is still rex of http://joehigashi.wordpress.com

Dawn said...

Robert, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

You said, "It seems that if God allows or permits, then He also has the ability to intervene and prevent. And this reality that he chooses if he will intervene and prevent or not intervene and allow is again part of His sovereignty."

Exactly, and that is why I "chose" ;-) to use the word "limited" versus "libertarian" free will. I wanted to make sure that it was understood by Ben that I believe we ARE limited by God though He does give us much liberty.

BTW, I love In Living Color, too! Among my favorites are: Anton the homeless guy, Men on Film and The Brothers Tom. I remember the skit Nick spoke of earlier about the guy who used all the big words. One of my favorite lines: "Homey don't play dat!" ;-)

kangaroodort said...

Hey Ben,

I don’t know if you will come back but I wanted to apologize since you seem to think I have been rude to you. I am fully aware that I can be a real jerk and I need to constantly guard myself against that. That is why I do not want to dialogue with the Triablogue guys because I can easily get sucked into that kind of inappropriate behavior.

I hope you will understand that it is a little difficult for me to fully trust you based some of the issues I have had with Paul. That may be unfair for you but I hope you can at least see where I am coming from and that Paul, if he has used sock puppets on this blog, is just as much to blame for the uneasiness I sometimes feel while dialoguing with you.

I know you have invited me for coffee but I live in PA so such a meeting will almost certainly never happen. It is no proof to me that you are who you say you are because you offered to have me over to your home. However, I should still take you at your word because I have no solid reason to doubt you, only some suspicions which could be wrong. I would rather err on the side of caution because I realize how frustrating it would be to be accused of not being someone you are not, so again I apologize for that.

You have made a declaration that you are not Paul and not any of the Triabloguers and I should have left it there. However, some of the things you were saying seemed inconsistent and so I began to wonder and wondered out loud. I should have just kept it to myself.

Let me ask you something since you are obviously a fan of Triablogue. If Paul posed as a sock puppet on this blog in order to try to make his arguments look strong, or to try to make me look bad, what would you have to say about that kind of behavior? Wouldn’t you find that very frustrating? If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you find it hard to trust people you are not very sure about? Would you call Paul out as dishonest if he was indeed using sock puppets in such a way?

If Paul refuses to deny using sock puppets on my blog will you still maintain that Triablogue is operating in a Christian manner and that I am just a hypocrite for being frustrated by their conduct? I am just wondering what your thoughts are on that.

I want you to feel the freedom to post comments without being attacked here at AP. I hope you will accept my apology and feel like you can continue to post here if any topic interests you and you want to get some insight on it or give your opinion on it.

Please understand that you may be challenged in the same manner that you challenge. I reserve the right to give my opinion of what you write as well even if it is “futile” in your opinion, but I will strive to not be insulting in the way that I disagree with you, and I personally promise not to question your identity.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Hello Dawn,

“Robert, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.”

You made some good points that should be acknowledged.

”Exactly, and that is why I "chose" ;-) to use the word "limited" versus "libertarian" free will.”

I don’t like the phrase “libertarian free will” as most Christians that I know do not speak about “libertarian” anything. Rather, they speak of choices they have, choices they are facing, choices they are dealing with. If people hear you say the phrase “libertarian” they may not understand what you are talking about (or confuse it with a certain political view). But when you talk about having and making choices everybody with normal understanding understands exactly what you are referring to.

Of course exhaustive determinists do not like to talk about free will as **having choices** as their view does not allow for having choices (in exhaustive determinism you make choices but never have choices).

It is interesting that here you humorously refer to why you **choose** to use the word “limited”. I believe you were joking about the fact that you freely chose to do so, but behind your joke is a very important reality and very important support of the reality of having choices/having free will. That reality which **absolutely** demands having choices is ***ordinary language use***. I have always had an interest in linguistics and believe our language capacity is an awesome ability that we have as human persons. This ability/capacity also absolutely presupposes the reality of having choices, having free will. And this is true because when engaging in ordinary language expressions we are constantly making choices from available and accessible alternatives.

We are constantly having and making choices when engaging in ordinary languages. The reality of having choices is so pervasive that we **cannot** engage in any language use without making choices. The humorous thing is to see and hear the proponent of exhaustive determinism arguing against the reality of choices by means of words. This is funny because in the very act of choosing the words that he/she will use to express his arguments or belief in determinism, he necessarily, unavoidably engages in the very reality that he seeks to disprove (having and making choices). He “shoots himself in the foot” over and over and over again ***every time*** that he chooses to say something or writes a word.

“I wanted to make sure that it was understood by Ben that I believe we ARE limited by God though He does give us much liberty.”

As finite and created beings we naturally have limitations. A common error made by determinists is to think or claim that if someone believes in "libertarian "free will, that we believe the human persons become "Gods" capable of choosing to do anything. This is confusing having and making choices with omnipotence. And in fact no person can choose to do just anything (e.g., God himself cannot choose to lie). Every person is limited in this sense and the range of choices available will be limited for each person and will vary from person to person and even with individual persons (e.g. a three year old does not drive a car now but someday will; and a ninety three year old who used to drive may not be capable of driving now).

”BTW, I love In Living Color, too! Among my favorites are: Anton the homeless guy, Men on Film and The Brothers Tom. I remember the skit Nick spoke of earlier about the guy who used all the big words. One of my favorite lines: "Homey don't play dat!" ;-)”

Yeh, that was a great show. It’s too bad we don’t have cutting edge comedy shows like that available to us now (so we have to content ourselves with reruns of In living Color, Lucy, Seinfeld). “No soup for you!” :-)

Robert

Dawn said...

Robert, it's great to see another Seinfeld fan in the crowd! I love the Soup Nazi episode and recently bought that season (#7) of Seinfeld.

A. Friend said...

Then the opposite of Calvinism is Open Theism on the same spectrum; because they both make the same assumptions. That is that God cannot both know the future and allow man to have free will.

So the Calvinists say that for God to be sovereign, man cannot have free will and the Open Theists say that God cannot really know the future except in possibilities.
I thought this was an impasse, but the light has come on for me here.
Who is to say that God "cannot" outside of what He says in the scriptures (i.e. lie and change)?

This is a false and unbiblical limitation placed on God's power by human "logic". It is born out of "philosophy" and retro-fitted to the Bible with a mountain of hubris.
I too have hit the wall with Calvinist believers who believe that it is an "argument" to simply state that "No. We do not believe that men are simply robots." That is the logical--an only conclusion to their deterministic world view.
And yes, one common refrain is a brash, loud, ridiculing, crusading sort of demeanor and tone--especially on the web. It is rare to find a humble Calvinist--in general--not just on the issue of predestination.

But this is finally clear to me.
Man has a limited free will granted to Him by a sovereign God; whose knowledge of the future and influence in it is not limited to time and space. He can both work with and manipulate/change the facts of the future and does both at various times and circumstances of His choosing.

God is sovereign by default and is not neurotic and insecure about it--such that He must control every outcome possible.

Calvinism by default implies that God is playing some large game with Himself to amuse Himself. I thought such things only existed on Mount Olympus. Few sane people feel pleased when the ATM tells them to "Have a nice day!". That is not a genuine salutation because it is programmed.
Similarly "glory" is useless to talk about without free will.
"pleasure" maybe, but not "glory".

The God of the Bible is interested in a genuine relationship with us--not just amusing Himself by making and destroying things and people for esoteric reasons known only to Him.

And like others here I have not yet gotten to the sham "predestination" makes of the judgment. Why get angry at actions you predetermined someone to do? How can a car be "guilty" of an accident? Or a gun "guilty" of murder?

Now I see!

How can Calvinism be on the rise again?

Sweet One said...

My initial objection to Calivinsim was that if some of the Calvinsit doctirnes are true, God is not just. Since God IS fair and just, calvinism cannot be true. I am talking manily about the doctrine of Eternal Security.

What do you think about Eternal Security? I noticed there's not much on this sitr that speciifally addresses this problem. I started my own blog where I discuss this not too long ago:

http://atheismvsfaith.blogspot.com/2010/03/to-least-of-these.html

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