Cornelius Van Til vs. Zacharias Ursinus

By Patrick McWilliams

Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who is well-known today for his apologetic method and his views on analogical knowledge and paradoxical theology. While many uphold Van Til as a bastion of orthodoxy in the Presbyterian church, his view of Scripture as paradoxical – appearing to be contradictory – was actually anti-Confessional.  Van Til argued:

Now since God is not fully comprehensible to us we are bound to come into what seems to be contradiction in all our knowledge. Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical. -Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 61.

… while we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory. Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 9.

All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.  Ibid., 142.

According to Van Til, God’s Word, all throughout Scripture, appears to our human minds to be logically contradictory. Indeed, he even made the claim that to even attempt to demonstrate the logical consistency of certain doctrines (e.g. divine sovereignty and human responsibility) was to fall prey to the error of “Rationalism.” (See The Text of a Complaint)

Is this true? Is this orthodox? Is this Confessional?

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God… (Westminster Confession of Faith, I.v)

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, all the parts of Holy Scripture, rather than being “apparently contradictory,” logically consent. In fact, the Confession takes this truth as being so obviously foundational that it actually claims it as an argument for Scripture being the Word of God. If “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory,” as Van Til claimed, how can “the consent of all the parts” be used to support it as being the Word of God? How would we, being finite creatures, even be able to see “the consent of all the parts,” if Scripture appears to our minds utterly contradictory?

Zacharias Ursinus

Zacharias Ursinus

Zacharias Ursinus, primary author and editor of the Heidelberg Catechism, had this to say in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism:

The harmony of the different parts of the doctrine of the church, is an evidence of its truth. That doctrine which contradicts itself can neither be true, nor from God, since truth is in perfect harmony with itself, and God cannot contradict himself (7).

Scripture does not contradict itself. Any apparent contradiction we perceive is merely a problem with our own thinking. With proper exegesis and the application of logic, and by God’s grace, we will see, along with Ursinus and the Westminster Divines, that each part of God’s Word perfectly consents in logical harmony with every other part. What cannot be resolved, however, is Van Til’s doctrine of Scripture and the correct view taught by Reformed orthodoxy.

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253 Comments on “Cornelius Van Til vs. Zacharias Ursinus”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thank you Patrick (& Sean) –

    In reading this gem: we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory, I recall with thanks how cogent the Reformers were.

    Though Calvin & Luther & Ursinus & Zwingli wore them some crazy headgear, they would never have dreamed to say anything as nutty as the CVT quotes above!

    Calling all you Van Til scholars: Did he ever give a list of “the really contradictory” and/ or “the apparently contradictory”?

    Did he ever tell us just HOW one is to differentiate between “the really contradictory” and “the apparently contradictory”?


  2. That’s a good question, Hugh. If certain doctrines cannot be logically explained by man’s “analogical knowledge,” why should we believe Scripture to be logically consistent at all? Perhaps God is illogical, after all! Would it then be virtuous to be unintelligible? It would seem some actually think so.

  3. Ron Says:

    “If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth… An analogical truth, except it contain a univoccal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all. In particular (and the most crushing reply of all) if the human mind were limited to analogical truths, it could never know the univocal truth that it was limted to analogies.” Gordon H. Clark

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Ron. Devastating quote. Of course, the problem of epistemology is not just theoretical. I simply cannot understand how or why followers, even marginal ones, can’t see the connection between the flourishing of the FV in the PCA and VT’s view of truth.

    Patrick linked Reymond’s Justification of Knowledge on FB recently and I was struck once again by Reymond’s critique of VT that included this:

    … if truth may appear to be contradictory, the detection of real falsehood is impossible! Consequently, better would it be to resolve the contradiction through further study, admitting until such resolution is achieved that one has not properly understood one(maybe both) of the scriptural statements, that is, admitting that the contradiction is due to human ignorance of some clarifying datum, than to imply that God, when revealing Himself to men in Scripture, actually teaches in the name of truth what, when properly understood,will appear to the rational mind as contradictory.

    Exceedingly strange it is that as ardent a foe of Barthian irrationalism as is Van Til,he comes nevertheless to the same conclusion concerning the nature of truth for man as does Barth. The only difference in this connection between Van Til and Barth is that Van Til insists that truth is objectively present in biblical propositions while for Barth truth is essentially existential. But for both religious truth can appear, at least at times, paradoxical.

    The solution to all of Van Til’s difficulties is to affirm, as Scripture teaches, that both God and man share the same concept of truth and the same theory of language.

  5. Denson Dube Says:

    “The solution to all of Van Til’s difficulties is to affirm, as Scripture teaches, that both God and man share the same concept of truth and the same theory of language.”

    Van Til’s epistemology, with its false humility and piety of purportedly preserving the creator-/creature distinction, in fact imposes on scripture a false and un-biblical view of man. It makes communication between God and man impossible. If man is the image of God, then per van Til, paradox would also be in the mind of God, which is impious and fiendish nonsense. Van Til,s epistemology is what the apostle calls doctrines of devils.

  6. Pht Says:

    Sean Gerety Says:

    October 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    … I simply cannot understand how or why followers, even marginal ones, can’t see the connection between the flourishing of the FV in the PCA and VT’s view of truth.

    How could it not be surprising when virtually nowhere is education (as the bible defines it) present…?

    We are, as a society, really never taught logic, and never taught how it applies to “how do I/We know” – and a theory of knowledge that’s consistent with the bible is … well, outside of TTM I haven’t seen it exegeted and taught anywhere else. Some people get right next door to teaching biblical epistemology, but they never seem to cross that barrier.

    In our society, it’s apparently either a type of mindless un-enlightened hedonism, or a type of arrogant utterly irrational skepticism.

    Patrick linked Reymond’s Justification of Knowledge on FB recently and I was struck once again by Reymond’s critique of VT that included this:

    … Exceedingly strange it is that as ardent a foe of Barthian irrationalism as is Van Til,he comes nevertheless to the same conclusion concerning the nature of truth for man as does Barth. The only difference in this connection between Van Til and Barth is that Van Til insists that truth is objectively present in biblical propositions while for Barth truth is essentially existential. But for both religious truth can appear, at least at times, paradoxical. …

    When everything is apparently contradictory to one’s mind, they can see things that simply don’t exist, and they can find them worth arguing over.

    However, I think it would have been too painful for CVT to have been consistent with his claims about “analogical truth” [sic] … it would have, if he had decided to have been logically consistent with it, required him to have quit his job. Why teach from a bible that can contain only falsehoods?

  7. Tim Harris Says:

    The knowledge we have of God is altogether unique. This knowledge may be called positive insofar as by it we recognize a being infinite and distinct from all finite creatures. On the other hand, it is negative because we cannot ascribe a single predicate to God as we conceive that predicate in relation to creatures. It is therefore an analogical knowledge: a knowledge of a being who is unknowable in himself, yet able to make something of himself known in the being he created.
    . Bavinck, vol. 2, p. 48

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    Crazy Dutchmen. But, I don’t think anyone said VT’s theory of analogy was particularly original. See John’s brief discussion of Bavinck here: http://tinyurl.com/nbo5yhj

  9. Tim Harris Says:

    Nevertheless Sean, I think it would be more honest if you would use Bavinck as your stalking-horse for this theme, rather than van Til. For, it would make it clear that what you are opposing is not unique to vT’s apologetic, but rather doctrinal statements that a broad swath of Christendom holds and has always held. Then people that are unsure of or even that are opposed to vT’s apologetic would realize that you are attacking something much wider than that, and maybe not be lured by the rhetorical equivocation into taking a stand that is not necessary.

    Bavinck would be a suitable stalking-horse, being arguably the greatest Christian theologian in the history of the church since Augustine.

    Also, saying that “the connection between the flourishing of the FV in the PCA and VT’s view of truth” is a real stretch. You might just as well blame ANY HERESY WHATSOEVER on poor old van Til. For starters, you should take note of the fact that FV has fared much more poorly in the van Til-dominated OPC than it has in the PCA, which by my anecdotal experience is largely evidentialist in its apologetic.


  10. Dear Tim:

    1. The idea of “analogical knowledge” may well be quite widely held, but some of the implications drawn from that idea are unique to Cornelius Van Til.

    One example quoted by Patrick is “[a]ll teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”.

    If all Biblical teachings all apparently contradictory, then how can one tell truth from falsehood?

    It is Van Til, and not Bavinck, who bear the brunt for any deviant theologies and heresies hiding behind “apparent contradictions”.

    2. Not to ignore your point, the relationship between Van Til’s theological influence and Federal Vision (and its cognates) deserves a full-scale study.

    Instead of anecdotal experiences, proper statistical sampling and hypothesis testing is in order.

    (I am impressed by how Rodney Stark used some elementary statistical techniques to settle some interesting historical hypotheses in his Cities of God (2006).)

    3. An item on my wish list:

    If someone can contrast how:

    (a) Scottish common sense realism affects Charles Hodge’s statements of Reformed theology in his Systematic Theology (3 vols.);

    (b) Platonism affects W.G.T.Shedd’s statements of Reformed theology in his Dogmatic Theology (3 vols.); and

    (c) Empiricism affects Herman Bavinck statements of Reformed theology in his Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols.).

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  11. Tim Harris Says:

    Benjamin,

    The quotes from van Til (without context) might lead one to believe that van Til thought every teaching of Scripture affirms P and ~P. But this is obviously not what he thought. He vigorously defended Calvinism against Arminianism, for example. vT believed truth had to be taken as a system, not piecemeal, and that the system accessible to finite thought will have some loose ends that cannot be reconciled by human reason — time and eternity, determinism and responsibility, etc. So you need to interpret “every” as “qua system” and “apparent contradiction” as “ultimate mysteries contained in the system” and so forth. That’s why screeds like this OP are not very helpful at all, and actually reflect ignorance and/or laziness in coming to understand another man’s thought.

    Your statement, “It is Van Til, and not Bavinck, who [must] bear the brunt for any deviant theologies and heresies hiding behind ‘apparent contradictions’,” is surely careless? Surely you don’t suggest that he must “bear the brunt” even for heresies hiding behind “apparent contradictions” whose proponents have never heard of van Til or his thought? This statement is exactly as absurd as people who claim the parallel, “Einstein must bear the brunt for any deviant ethical relativism hiding behind the ‘theory of relativity’.” Actually, many people did adopt relativism because of the STR, according to Paul Johnson, but this cannot be pinned on Einstein. The STR actually proposes rigid, absolute relationships that obtain between the space-time coordinates of events between inertial frames. It is not an “everything is relative” at all. Likewise, vT is not a stupid, “everything is contradictory,” despite what some sophomoric quote-mongers will try to make you think.

    To make even the FV charge (let alone “every deviant theology”) against van Til stick, you would need to show all of the following:

    1. The proponents of FV claim “apparent contradictions” to justify their view.
    2. They appeal to van Til to justify their belief in apparent contradictions.
    3. The manner of their appeal to van Til is accurate to what van Til meant.
    I have followed the controversy more than the average bear, yet have not seen any documentation that would establish any one of those points, let alone all three — and you need all three.

    More anecdotal evidence for you to chew on. Of the fifty or so OPC pastors I have known or known of, only two are anti-vantillians — and one of those two testified in Leithart’s defense. Likewise, of the score or two PCA pastors I have known or know of, only a couple are known to be vanTillian — and one of them testified for the prosecution. This shows that the prima facie case is non-existent.

    But no, please don’t set up “statistical sampling and hypothesis testing.” (You guys are killin’ me.) (And then they say that the results of induction are “always false”? Yet they can be pulled back out of the hat whenever desired?!) Just do a little basic research and get to know some of the players.


  12. Dear Tim:

    - I appreciate your reason responses and thanks for the interaction. : – )

    1. I agree that Van Til did not teach that every teaching of the Bible affirms p and not p.

    But that is not what is being claim here.

    The point is “logical / epistemological”, not “logical / ontological / metaphysical”.

    The epistemological aspect of the claim is emphasized by the “apparent” in “apparent contradiction”.

    If all Biblical teachings are “apparently” contradictory, then how can one “distinguish” truth and falsehood?

    2. As to Van Til’s concept of “system”, it is not a straightforward system in which one cannot epistemologically affirm p and not p.

    Please see: John Frame. 1976. Van Til: The Theologian. Chattanooga, Tennessee: Pilgrim Publishing Company.

    In this booklet, Frame’s exposition helpfully moves from “Proto-System” to “Anti-System” to “The Analogical System”.

    Whenever one refers to Van Til’s system, maybe we should refer to it as “an analogical system”.

    (By the way, Gordon H. Clark also emphasizes “system” in his writings.)

    3. I agree that by virtue of the fact that our minds are finite, human beings have epistemological limitations.

    But I do not believe that “analogical knowledge” and “analogical system” is a logical consequence of our mind’s being finite.

    The limitations lie elsewhere.

    Whether one agrees with Clark’s solution to determinism and responsibility, he did present a solution.

    Instead of ignoring it, maybe anyone who disagrees with Clark’s solution will criticize it?

    Time and eternity is among the topics explored by contemporary analytic philosophy and a lot of progress has been made on this topic in the last 40 years.

    4. In this particular about “apparent contradictions”, I do not believe there are any ignorance and/or laziness in understanding Van Til.

    I have just double check Van Til’s Common Grace and the Gospel ([1972] 1977), “ALL TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE IS APPARENTLY CONTRADICTORY” appears on page 142 as a paragraph heading in all capitals.

    If one properly understood the epistemological thrust of “apparent”, this is entirely in line with Van Til’s analogical system.

    5. I agree that Van Til should *not* be held responsible for “any and every” abuse of his teachings.

    But as a prominent and influential teacher of Christ’s church, Van Til should be held responsible for what he “did” teach.

    And Van Til did teach that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”. (All capitals in original.)

    6. In this point, I must emphasize that I only speak for myself.

    By virtue of Van Til’s influence in conservative Presbyterian and Reformed circles, many come under the influence of his teachings without knowing it.

    Those who come under Van Til’s influence need not even heard of his name.

    In this particular case, by teaching the idea of “apparent contradiction” and spreading it through his students and disciples, I think Van Til can and should be held responsible.

    The inability to distinguish truth from falsehood is an extremely serious matter.

    7. Take for example the idea that we are responsible for what we “can” do.

    Many thinks that we are responsible for what we “can” do; i.e. if we cannot do it, then we are not responsible it.

    This concept is Kantian in origin and I suppose many people do not realize that.

    If someone say I cannot help but commit adultery therefore I am “not” responsible for committing the adultery, would that holds any Biblical waters?

    Of course not.

    (The Bible’s teaching is that we are responsible for what we “ought” to do; i.e. we are responsible for what we ought to do, whether we can do it or not.)

    I think Kant should be held responsible for teaching this idea.

    8. By now I think it is clear that I disagree with your assessment that to be held partially responsible for Federal Vision (and no one is blaming all of Federal Vision on Van Til):

    “1. The proponents of FV claim “apparent contradictions” to justify their view.” and

    “2. They appeal to van Til to justify their belief in apparent contradictions.”

    But I agree with the gist of your assessment that:

    “3. The manner of their appeal to van Til is accurate to what van Til meant.”

    A teacher should be held responsible for his teachings, not the abuse and misrepresentations of them.

    9. I still think Van Til’s theological influence on Federal Visions deserves a full-scale statistical study.

    Reading Rodney Stark’s Cities of God (2006) was the first time I was exposed to the power of “quantitative” historical investigation.

    I think a “properly” conducted statistical investigation should be done If not for ourselves and then for posterities.

    Federal Vision will have a prominent page in future history of conservative Presbyterian and Reformed Christianity in North America of this period.

    Why not gather the appropriate data when it is available?

    Maybe someone looking for a Master or even PhD thesis topic will consider it?

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  13. Dear Tim:

    On re-reading my last response, I notice many grammatical mistakes and missing words.

    Although there are no distortion of meanings, please make allowances for them.

    I will correct only one (out of many) sentence.

    In paragraph 7,

    “Many thinks that we are responsible for what we “can” do; i.e. if we cannot do it, then we are not responsible it.”

    should be:

    “Many think that we are [only] responsible for what we “can” do; i.e. if we cannot do it, then we are not responsible [for] it.”

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  14. Tim,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my unhelpful, ignorant, lazy, sophomoric, quote-mongering screed.

    I did not intend to lead anyone to believe what you believe I believe CVT believed. I don’t think Van Til was an idiot, nor a heretic, either. I do, however, believe he represents a shift in Reformed thought between the era of Ursinus and the present day, a shift that owes a great deal to his work. I also didn’t use any abusive ad hominems like you did in your comment. Which one, my post or your comment, is the screed, exactly?

    No matter. I’m more interested in your take on the actual point of my sophomoric screed, which you failed to address. If even some parts of Scripture always must appear contradictory to the human mind (are you going to argue that Van Til didn’t teach that?) and cannot be reconciled by analogical human logic, then how can Ursinus and the WCF be wise in pointing out the logical consent of Scripture as a support of its divine origin? The proper response from an unbeliever would then be, “Uh, what about divine sovereignty and human responsibility? After all, even your own Reformed Van Til says they can’t be shown to logically harmonize.” If Van Til is correct, then Ursinus and the WCF are foolish.

    Don’t make it a personal issue. Respond to the argument and quit distracting. This lazy sophomore has other things to do.

  15. Steve M Says:

    Tim Harris: “The quotes from van Til (without context) might lead one to believe that van Til thought every teaching of Scripture affirms P and ~P. But this is obviously not what he thought.”

     Van Til: “All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”.

    Me: This quote leads me to believe that Van Til thought every (He said “All”) teaching of Scripture APPEARS to affirm P and not P. If I were to put it in “context”, I might find that in other places Van Til appeared to believe that not all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory. That would only mean that Van Til contradicts himself. He most certainly says “All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”. If somewhere else he says “Not all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory, this cannot be part of the same “system”.

    Patrick is right. You failed to respond to the main point of the post. Let’s hear your attempt.

  16. Tim Harris Says:

    Steve M — but I never claimed to be responding to the “main point of the post.” I was interacting, first, with a statement re FV by Sean, and second, to responses to that made by Benjamin. It seems fair to do that in a commbox discussion, even as your comment is addressed to points I made and not, directly, to the OP.

    Benjamin — the idea that ability limits responsibility certainly did not originate with Kant. Pelagius was operating under that assumption, and indeed, it seems to be a universal intuition that all ethicists struggle with in one form or another. So the idea that “Kant originated this idea and thus can be blamed whenever it crops up” is false at two levels.

    Jonathan Edwards made a real contribution to this question by showing that “ability” is ambiguous, and that two senses of the notion need to be distinguished.

    If the FV’ers claimed that Scripture contains apparent contradictions, it would be fair to ask them, “why do you say that?” If they said “because van Til said so,” that would be an indication, not that van Til did something blameworthy, but that the FV’ers are not only heretical, but lazy. One must appropriate a belief for oneself, and not simply say, “so-and-so says so.”

    The fact that you have found “a paragraph heading in all capitals” that asserts the offending statement shows you are still operating at the quote-mongering level. Van Til was not himself very systematic in his presentation, and his writings are often ad hoc and polemical. It would be better to interact with Bahnsen’s magnum opus, which presents the notions in terms of analytic philosophy, without some of the idealistic jargon that van Til trafficked in due to his form of education.

    Patrick and Steve — I did obliquely address the OP, by mentioning that van Til taught that truth can only be known as a system, not piecemeal; and that any system accessible to the human mind will contain mysteries and antinomies. However, that does not mean that at any point in the system one affirms P and ~P. As above, you should interact with Bahnsen or at least Frame, and not cherry pick van Til quotes with such a tone of triumphalism. “See, I found the smoking gun! Heretic!”


  17. Dear Tim:

    1. I do not want to entangle in secondary issues.

    So for the sake of argument only, let’s set aside who exactly originate the idea that we are only responsible for what we can do.

    Let’s name that unknown person X.

    Whoever X is, X can and should be held responsible for originating and advocating the idea that we are only responsible for what we can do.

    So I think this is still an effective counter-example to your claims that:

    “1. The proponents of FV claim “apparent contradictions” to justify their view” and

    “2. They appeal to van Til to justify their belief in apparent contradictions.”

    I do not need to know who X is or appeal to X in order to hold X responsible for originating and advocating the view that a person is only responsible for what he can do.

    2. For my part, I still think it is proper to hold Van Til responsible for teaching “apparent contradictions”.

    A teacher should be held responsible for what he teaches and Van Til did teach that “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”. (All capitals in original.)

    In teaching “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory”, Van Til help created a climate in which a person is unable to distinguish truth from falsehood.

    The inability to distinguish truth from falsehood seriously weakens a person’s ability to resist deviant and heretical theologies.

    (Matthew 18:7 ESV): “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”

    3. I am puzzled by your determination to absolve Van Til of all blames for his erroneous teachings.

    In quoting Van Til with his own words, why am I (or anyone else) “quote-mongering”?

    Did I misrepresent or misinterpret Van Til’s teaching on “apparent contradiction”?

    You have shown no such thing.

    If I attribute a teaching to Van Til and did not quote him to substantiate the attribution, would I then be charge with saddling Van Til with a view he did not teach?

    I am very puzzle why you consider me “quote-mongering”.

    Quoting Van Til with his own words to substantiate an attribution has been done by John Robbins, Sean Gerety, and now Patrick McWilliams.

    So far as I can see, this is the proper thing to do.

    4. In interpreting a writer, one always consults the primary sources before going to the secondary sources.

    I think this is standard academic procedure.

    So I find your suggestion to rely on Greg Bahnsen and to bypass Van Til’s own writings very puzzling.

    I have read about 15 books and pamphlets by Van Til, mostly in the 1980s when I was in college.

    I have also read John Frame’s Van Til: An Analysis of His Thoughts (1995) and Greg Bahnsen’ Van Til’s Apologetic: Reading and Analysis (1998).

    Greg Bahnsen’s exposition of Van Til seems smooth, but at some major points he modified Van Til to achieve the smoothness without letting this on to his readers.

    I find John Frame to be a more faithful expositor of Van Til.

    For an example, see some of my reading notes in the blog post “When Black becomes White”

    http://logosandreason.wordpress.com/

    I like to thank Sean again for kindly linking to it in his Blogroll.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  18. Tim, I don’t respond to slander and misrepresentation, especially when I’m being accused of the same.

  19. Tim Harris Says:

    Benjamin,

    1&2. Ideas are not like inventions. You don’t have to track down who came up with it first, as if to give the rights of royalties.
    Who gets credit for Calculus, Newton or Leibnitz? Do we need to figure out who did it first, then say that somehow or other, the other one copied it, even though he didn’t?
    When Johnny makes the error 2+2=5 on his math paper, should we speculate that some “person X” was the first one to make that mistake, and he must take the blame?
    So when you say, “For my part, I still think it is proper to hold Van Til responsible for teaching ‘apparent contradictions’” — yes, obviously, he is responsible for his own teaching. He’s gone now, so it’s beating a dead horse.
    What is at issue here is whether he “takes the blame” for anyone that believes in apparent contradictions — let alone, someone that may or may not believe in them, but which critics assume MUST believe in them. So the FV thesis.
    It’s pretty far-fetched. Indeed, irrational.

    3. Yes, quote-mongering misrepresents unless the idea behind the quotes, along with context etc., is grasped. Which I see no evidence that you or Patrick have done.

    4. If you prefer Frame’s exposition, he gave (as I remember) a half-dozen ways in which God’s thoughts are not identical to ours, even when pertaining to the “same proposition.” I suggest you go back and ponder those rather than dwelling on uninterpreted quotes.


  20. All I’ve said is that for Van Til, all of Scripture is apparently contradictory. I didn’t take that any farther than Van Til intended. I didn’t intend to misrepresent him. It’s a known fact that Van Til taught the existence of Scriptural paradox that could not be reconciled before the bar of human reason. I REPEAT I don’t think VT was a heretic, nor have I displayed the arrogant/ignorant attitude you’d like to paint me as having. Your apparent complete inability to address what I have said (ironic, no?) makes you look more and more like you’re just offended I picked on your pet philosopher.

    Please, in all seriousness, show me a CVT quote that explains “All of Scripture is apparently contradictory,” and shows I’ve actually misrepresented him, and I’ll take down the whole piece. Note that I never claimed CVT asserted the whole Bible was an irrational mess. I never said CVT said nothing in the Bible makes sense. All I said was what many Van Tilians themselves plainly teach: that there are some doctrines that always must remain paradoxical (that is, they appear contradictory) to the human mind. I then compared this view of biblical paradox with a quote from Ursinus, and demonstrated how CVT’s view undermines Ursinus’ (and the WCF’s) argument.

    If you don’t like it, sorry, but you haven’t done anything to actually show I’m wrong. Misrepresenting me is beneath Christian caliber.


  21. Dear Tim:

    1. Ideas have consequences.

    Whoever originates and advocates an idea must bear responsibility for that idea.

    Of course, we must also have a sense of proportion.

    Am I interested in whom first made the arithmetic mistake of 2 + 2 = 5?

    No, I am not interested.

    But am I interested in the mistakes refuted by the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15:1-35?

    I am very interested.

    In all things, we must have a sense of proportion.

    2. In this, again, I speak only for myself.

    In criticizing and disagreeing with Van Til, I am not putting down Van Til.

    In a way, I am praising him.

    I spend the time reading Van Til because I find his writings interesting.

    I disagree publicly with Van Til’s idea of “apparent contradiction” because I find the idea important and dangerous.

    I am holding Van Til responsible for the idea of “apparent contradiction” because the idea is influential and dangerous.

    3. In my college days, I was heavily influenced by Sir Karl Popper.

    One thing I learned from the Popperian school is that criticism is a sign of appreciation.

    The following quotation from Joseph Agassi is very dear to my heart (Agassi 1988, 6):

    “I never attack a person, only a doctrine, said Friedrich Nietzsche, meaning that his attacks were intellectual and not personal, not petty. But this is not good enough: criticism is a sign of appreciation, says Karl Popper. This is better: it is a sign of appreciation of ideas and thus of their bearers. Even when a critic chooses a target for no better reason than the target’s popularity, the choice bespeaks some appreciation, though regrettably more political-intellectual than strictly intellectual.”

    Reference: Joseph Agassi. 1988. The Gentle Art of Philosophical Polemics. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company.

    4. I enjoy exchange of ideas very much.

    If an exchange is interesting and fruitful, I have been known to take a lot of abuses to keep a conversation going.

    I am an adult and verbal abuses do not affect me much.

    But if an exchange has degenerated into just name calling, then I am really not that interested.

    I think I have infuriated some in the past in doing something similar, but nothing personal in intended: If there is nothing else substantial, this will be my last post in this thread.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  22. Steve M Says:

    Tim Harris: “It’s pretty far-fetched. Indeed, irrational.”

    Don’t tell me you are now finding fault with irrationality.

  23. Denson Dube Says:

    Tim,
    Speaking for myself, I do acknowledge that we all at one time or another may be faced with ideas and concepts that we find difficult to understand. The fault, is located in us and not in the word of God or calculus or whatever subject we may be contemplating. Gordon Clark called these “Charley horses between the ears, which can be removed through rational massage”.(Pardon the quote mongering.)

    If this is what van Til meant to say, then the historic saga now known as the “Clark-Van Til controversy” is hard to understand. Why did van Til say Clark had “fallen under the spell of rationalism”, for insisting on the solvability of the difficulties we may perceive in the word of God? Why did van Til oppose Clark’s ordination?

    van Til’s influence, through his publications and decades of classroom contact, and by proxy via his protégés, John Frame, Norman Shepherd, Dick Gaffin etc etc is quite pervasive, I would say. Their hapless victims are out there peddling van Til’s weird world of antinomies and paradoxes. I do not expect those who “embrace with passion, the apparently contradictory” to be particularly discerning, when it comes to fine points of doctrine.

    Tim, without meaning to demean you or any such, I think you are being dishonest, irresponsible if not downright immoral in trying to paint van Til as being just misunderstood and not responsible for the toxic influence of his views.

  24. Tim Harris Says:

    Well in making the charge of dishonesty, Denson, you actually only prove that you are dishonest — for you could not possibly know that I am not honest in my assertions about van Til, and thus you assert something as true that you don’t know to be true.

    However, for the sake of other readers, I will address your point:

    I agree with vT in the Clark controversy and agree with the seminarians (for it wasn’t just vT) that Clark should not have been ordained. I also know that vT has “influenced” people. These are the points:

    1. Every tub must rest on its own bottom. For example, suppose I was being examined by Presbytery for ordination and they decided that I was a closet Hegelian. Then I should be held responsible and denied ordination. What good does it do to write blogs about what a bad man Hegel was, to lament what “influence” he has had, to wish he had never been born, etc.? What does any of that have to do with my adopting hegelianism?

    It is almost like the pagans one has heard about that put the stone on trial that fell from a height and killed someone.

    2. Not every form of “affirming antinomies” can be pinned on vT even apart from the distraction explained in (1). Imagine some hick that never read a book telling his Session, “shucks, ahv jes’ larnd that life is full of contradictions, and I see no reason to make the Bible an exception.” Are you and Benjamin going to try to pin this on vT also? This is so mindless, I’m surprised you guys are digging in on it.

    3. As to the minor premise in application to FV, it seems to be ASSUMED that FV’ers are vantillian, but I know of no evidence that this is the case. I have read Wilson’s blog for years, yet I have no recollection of him even ever mentioning van Til. I could be wrong of course, I’m just saying.

    So then you would have to say that they somehow caught the virus without even knowing where it came from. Still, you would have to verify (1) do they understand it correctly? and (2) is their heresy a direct and necessary consequence of it?

    These are the same questions you would ask if, mirabile dictu, they came out of the closet as clarkians. Would you stop being a clarkian then? Would you write blog comments about “all the harm Clark has done, as evidenced in the FV heresy?” Of course not.

    Though I am vantillian, none of the points I am making here should not be shared by clarkians. They are procedural points orthogonal to that debate.


  25. I’ve decided to interpret Tim’s refusal to provide any non-ad-hominem response to my OP or comments as a concession.

  26. Steve M Says:

    Patrick

    I don’t believe it is a refusal. I believe it is an inability. An honest person would admit it.

  27. Tim Harris Says:

    Well Steve, you should be consistent and limit your beliefs to what you can deduce from Scripture.

    Sorry fellas, I won’t take the sucker punch. I’m wise to the Clarkian method — try to fluster your opponent by insults and haranguing, until he caves.

    As I pointed out several times already, all my comments on this thread have been directed to Sean’s comment re the relation of vT to FV. At no time have I had the intention of refuting the OP.

  28. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    Then you are saying you agree with the OP?


  29. Insults? You mean like lazy, ignorant, and the rest of those adjectives you leveled at the OP? So it’s okay for you to say those kinds of things about me and my post but without even attempting to provide evidence to refute it? Isn’t that, well, lazy?

  30. Steve M Says:

    Tim: “Well Steve, you should be consistent and limit your beliefs to what you can deduce from Scripture.”

    Well, Tim, I would love to take your advise, but because all teaching of Scripture appears to be contradictory and it is impossible for me to distinguish actual from merely apparent contradictions, I am unable to deduce anything. In order to deduce what is not explicitly set down, I must first be capable of understanding what has been set down. Since every teaching seems to conflict with every other teaching, I am unable to make heads or tails of what has been explicitly set down.

    Even if I were able to make heads or tails of Scripture and could somehow discern several analogical truths (if such things even exist). I would only be able to apply an analogy of the original logic, of which I know nothing, to those analogical truths, so I could never be certain that I had arrived at the same conclusion that would be reached using the original logic

  31. Tim Harris Says:

    Steve’s argument at 10:37 and 1:40 am
    1. if x does not write a rebuttal of a post, then either x agrees with it or x is unable to write a rebuttal
    2. TH does not write a rebuttal
    3. TH either agrees with the post (1:40 am) or is unable to rebut it (10:37 pm)

    Steve’s argument at 11:37 am

    1. if (all scripture is paradoxical) then (Steve can’t be consistent)
    2. It is not the case that (all scripture is paradoxical)
    3. Steve can’t be consistent

    Homework for all you young budding Clarkians. Figure out what is wrong with each argument.


  32. *crickets*

    Tim can talk trash, and that’s about it, apparently.


  33. Tim, in all seriousness, if you think I’m wrong, I’d really like to actually see why I’m wrong, and why my OP is ignorant, lazy quotemongering. I don’t want to misrepresent Van Til or anyone else. Frankly your hit-and-run comments seem beneath the character becoming a Christian brother. You’ve not interacted with my post at all, and in fact misrepresented it. How is iron to sharpen iron if that’s how you treat me? Is that your MO, to use abusive ad hominem and then clam up when you’re called out on it? What character traits do you see yourself displaying in this thread? Humility? Honesty? Charity? Logic? Love? Patience? Show a weaker brother what’s up, man. Truth first, opinions and loyalty to men second.

  34. Steve M Says:

    Tim: “That’s why screeds like this OP are not very helpful at all, and actually reflect ignorance and/or laziness in coming to understand another man’s thought.”

    “At no time have I had the intention of refuting the OP.”

    So, Tim, apparently your intention was just to declare that it reflects ignorance and then run and hide.

  35. Steve M Says:

    Tim
    You could easily prove me wrong regarding your inability to provide a rebuttal. Provide a rebuttal.

  36. James Says:

    Sorry to pop my head up, but,

    P: All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory
    infuriates me every time.
    (1) P is not apparently contradictory and thus is not a teaching of Scripture (undermines itself)
    (2) isn’t it amazing that Van Til could do what the omnipotent God could not? communicate to God’s people sanely and clearly without any apparent contradiction at all. Poor God.
    (3) P2: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
    is not in the least apparently contradictory and thus is not a teaching of Scripture – but wait…that actually is a teaching of Scripture. I take this as a reductio of P.
    Advice to VTers: Van Til was not infallible – just admit that VT made a huge error here and stop defending this as if it actually conveys anything but confusion. It would instantly free up valuable time wasted in the effort plus you could get on to more important things like finally finding the ever elusive TAG that actually did what you VTers have claimed it does.

    Head back into the ground….

  37. Steve M Says:

    James
    You are using merely human logic to reach your conclusion (and become infuriated). You should be aware that there are two logics. One is logic as we know it which is created. The second logic, the original logic of which ours is an analog and derivative, is the eternal logic which is part of the nature of God. We know nothing of this second logic and never will. While your comment may be valid according to mere human logic, we can’t be certain that it is valid according to the original logic.

  38. Hugh McCann Says:

    Man! Have I been missing a neato thread!
    I’ve got some great Fall reading here to catch up on…

    Steve M – 11/16/13 comment is golden! :P

  39. Ron Says:

    You should be aware that there are two logics. One is logic as we know it which is created.

    Steve M.,

    Who “created” this logic? Does this logic include laws that bind God? Does it include the law of contradiction?

    The second logic, the original logic of which ours is an analog and derivative, is the eternal logic which is part of the nature of God. We know nothing of this second logic and never will.

    If you know nothing of this logic, then how do you know it exists? Can it exist and not exist in the same way at the same time? Or is not subject to the supposed created, human-logic?


  40. Ron, I think Steve’s being sarcastic ;)

  41. Ron Says:

    Oops. That makes much more sense.

    Thanks, Patrick. (sorry Steve M.)

  42. Steve M Says:

    Yes, I was being sarcastic, but I believe that I fairly represented the arguments of those who attempt to defend the Van Tilian view of equivocal logic, which is relevant to the subject of the above post.

    Tim Harris has shown that he understands how to engage in abusive ad hominem , but he seems to be completely oblivious to ad hominem, thus missing the point of my argument.

    He hasn’t, won’t and can’t rebut the main point of the OP.

  43. Tim Harris Says:

    By saying “can’t” you assert something you don’t know to be true. I’ll start to take Propositionalism (aka Clarkism) more seriously when its proponents start to limit their own propositions to true ones (and known to be true), and eliminate the glib, cocky attitude, quite unwarranted by the underlying horsepower I might add.

    But Steve think about it: suppose I “tried” to “rebut” the OP, and succeeded? Would you become a vantillian? Or, suppose I failed, or cried uncle. Would that prove its veracity? Obviously not. So what’s your point? Are you just looking to put another notch on your belt? Don’t you already have a notch on your belt with my name on it? Only one notch per victim now!

    Tell you what: you have my permission to put the notch on your belt, if you haven’t already. Now go home.

    Patrick, in your penultimate post, there are little glimmers that you may still be human, i.e. you may not yet be ruined by Clarkism. So I’ll get back to you with some pointers on how the essay could be improved. Might take a few days, we’ll have to see.

  44. Hugh McCann Says:

    ~ Ruined by Clarkism ~
    I want that on my tombstone. :D


  45. “Patrick, in your penultimate post, there are little glimmers that you may still be human, i.e. you may not yet be ruined by Clarkism. So I’ll get back to you with some pointers on how the essay could be improved. Might take a few days, we’ll have to see.”

    “…eliminate the glib, cocky attitude…”


  46. I don’t want pointers on how to improve the essay. I want you to substantiate your ad hominems against me. Put up or shut up, hypocrite.

  47. Steve M Says:

    Tim: Blah, blah, blah……

  48. Tim Harris Says:

    Forget it, then, Patrick, I was wrong about you. Earlier you claimed to “like to actually see why I’m wrong.”
    There were no ad hominems against you, by the way. Read again more carefully.
    Clarkism IS ad hominem. That is the method. Steve and Sean admit it when pressed. And amply demonstrated in your and the others’ responses.


  49. I’m the author of the lazy, ignorant OP screed. I suppose those adjectives have nothing to do with me.


  50. My OP wasn’t even a Clark/VT issue; it was Ursinus & WCF. “Read again more carefully.”

  51. Hugh McCann Says:

    Why does Proverbs 26:4,5 keep coming to mind?

    Oops – maybe I’m just inveterately set on Abusive Ad Hominem. :(

    Or maybe someone’s just sounding TOO foolish…

  52. Steve M Says:

    Patrick
    Keep in mind that when a Van Tilian uses words like ignorant, lazy and screed, he (at the same time) means knowledgeable, industrious and interesting insightful critique. Any perceived contradiction in these terms is not real. It is just another example of the apparent contradictions (or paradoxes) that we should embrace with passion.

    I hope this helps.

  53. Hugh McCann Says:

    Touché, Steve M.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said at the seminary…

  54. Hugh McCann Says:

    “The question is,” said the Clarkian, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

  55. justbybelief Says:

    Great post Patrick!!! Ursinus speaks from the grave and rebukes Van Til and his offspring.

    Amazing, those, who rush to the defense of the indefensible.

  56. Steve M Says:

    “The methods of Christian apologetics may be divided into two parts, logical and rhetorical. The logical methods are sometimes stated, most often illustrated, by Jesus and Paul (and the other Biblical writers as well), as are the rhetorical methods. The logical methods include deduction in the forms of immediate inference, syllogism, and sorites; apagogic, sometimes called ad hominem, arguments (not to be confused with abusive ad hominem arguments) in which an opponent’s point of view is adopted for the purpose of demonstrating the logical absurdity of his view; dilemmas, and arguments a fortiori. The rhetorical devices include sarcasm, ridicule, kindness, courtesy, paradox, and questions.”
    – The Apologetics of Jesus and Paul (by John W. Robbins)

    Steve M: “Tim Harris has shown that he understands how to engage in abusive ad hominem , but he seems to be completely oblivious to ad hominem, thus missing the point of my argument.”

    When I refer to an ad hominem argument, I am referring to one in which I adopt my opponent’s point of view in order to lead him to a conclusion he will not accept. This type of argument is not a logical fallacy. An abusive ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy (and usually rude).

  57. Steve M Says:

    Tim Harris: “But Steve think about it: suppose I “tried” to “rebut” the OP, and succeeded?”

    I don’t believe that is possible, but you are welcome prove me wrong. You could, if you had any logical response.

    “Would you become a vantillian?”

    Yes and no. (answering as a Van Tilian)

  58. justbybelief Says:

    “Yes and no. (answering as a Van Tilian)” –Steve M.

    LOL!


  59. […] I was searching for citations from Van Til, I ran across this post at a website named “God’s Hammer”. It appears to be a great website full of […]

  60. Sean Gerety Says:

    I attempted to reply to the above blog link, but his blog has too many stupid hurdles in order to post I thought I would reply here instead:

    Concerning contradictions in Scripture you wrote: “By definition, the contradictions aren’t actual or real contradictions.” The question is, how do you know? Where I might say an apparent contradiction isn’t real is when you can logically demonstrate the harmony of seemingly contradictory propositions of Scripture (i.e., engage in genuine Christian apologetics), the Vantillian revels in incoherence and tension and mark it as a sign of Reformed piety. In fact, historically Vantillians have viciously attacked those who sought to harmonize apparent contradictions of Scripture (for example, attacking those who do not accept the idea that God desires the salvation of those He has determined not to save as “hyper-Calvinists”).

    And, FWIW, Clark left the OPC because VT and the WTS faction were unrepentant refusing to restore the peace after their failed attempt to block Clark’s ordination and went after Clark’s supporters instead. In fact, that attack has continued into the present day where we find men like John Muether attempting to block the transfer of the late Robert Reymond into the OPC because of his fidelity to Clark in the area of epistemology. John Robbins wrote:

    “The Westminster Seminary faculty picked the fight with Dr. Clark and chose the grounds on which they wished to oppose him. Dr. Clark did not initiate the controversy, and he did not choose those grounds. Hakkenberg’s characterization of the issues as unimportant implies that the Seminary faculty, unable to find any serious error with which to charge Dr. Clark, chose to raise “non-fundamental and highly technical” matters. Moreover, since the controversy lasted for years, Hakkenberg’s analysis implies that the Seminary faculty stubbornly refused to restore the peace of the church by dropping its “nonfundamental and highly technical” arguments against Dr. Clark. This was done, at least in part, for non-doctrinal reasons, according to Hakkenberg. I have already noted what those reasons were: fear that WTS would become subject to the oversight of the OPC, and that Dr. Clark might be named by the OPC to the faculty of the Seminary, were he ordained a Teaching Elder. Dr. Robert Rudolf reported that “Dr. Van Til said that Clark was probably the most effective teacher he knew and therefore he was afraid of the great influence he would have on students….” – see Can The OPC Be Saved? http://tinyurl.com/opk9rzp


  61. I’d like to see a Van Tilian actually deal with what I say instead of assuming what they think I meant. The irony is killing me. They miss the entire point in their scramble to keep Van Til’s pedestal from crumbling. I’ll respond to McCurry when he actually addresses my point instead of reading his own prejudice into everything I say.

  62. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick, I missed something/one.
    Who’s “McCurry”?


  63. Hugh, McCurry is the author of the post on Choosing Hats linked above.

  64. Hugh McCann Says:

    Oh, Justin McCurry & his “Stop! It’s Hammer Time” post.

    I had to Google “Choosing Hats.”

    Yeah, Mr Wong’s “When Black Becomes White” is a lot better! :)

    Is irrational the [not-so] new biblical at WTS?

  65. Hugh McCann Says:

    This is flippin’ stunning (thanks, McFly).

    CVT: If it is the self-contained ontological trinity that we need for the rationality of our interpretation of life, it is this same ontological trinity that requires us to hold to the apparently contradictory. This ontological trinity is, as the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Standards puts it, “incomprehensible.” God dwells in light that no man can approach unto.

    It follows that in everything with which we deal we are, in the last analysis, dealing with this infinite God, this God who hideth Himself, this mysterious God. In everything that we handle we deal finally with the incomprehensible God. Everything that we handle depends for what it is upon the counsel of the infinitely inexhaustible God. At every point we run into mystery.

    McFly: Van Til here notes that because all of our knowledge has the Incomprehensible God as final point of reference, because in Him we live and move, and have our being, it follows necessarily that all of our knowledge is eikonic, image-based, reflective, and therefore “analogous” and “paradoxical”. There is a reason that hymn writers commonly wrote the lyrics “How can it be?”.

    People buy this stuff? Yikes! McFly out-Van-Tils Van Til! Touché! Uncle, even!


  66. Too many “Mc”s in the mix to be namin’ nicks, Mr. McCann…

  67. Denson Dube Says:

    If the van Tilian or Mr McCurry wish to worship an unknowable or unknown God, very well then. Pagans have been doing that for millennia. The Apostle Paul met them at Athens. The God of scripture has made himself known. He wishes to be worshiped in the light of that revelation.The Westminster Confession has a section on the clarity(perspicuity) of scripture. The Bible is not go-bleddy-gook. God intends us to understand his thoughts which he communicates to us in the Bible. If something cannot be understood, then it cannot be communicated. If it can be communicated, then it can be understood. It is incredible arrogance for van Til and his disciples to ascribe their own confusion to scripture and so-called creature/creator distinction. They should speak for themselves.

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    Another disturbing paragraph from the “Choosing Hats” piece:

    As Van Til had already explained in the preceding heading (Proximate and Ultimate Cause), logic isn’t the final reference point in understanding God, but rather a proximate starting point. Even logic itself cannot penetrate or constrain the infinite God, and those of more rationalistic flavor in the history of the Church who tried doing so ended up with Anti-trinitarian views because they simply followed their reasoning to consistency (e.g. Arians, Socinians). Those in the orthodox realm (folks who agreed with Clark) who refer to logic and knowledge without any distinction (Eimi/eikon or Creator/creature) do so inconsistently. It is a verbal fiat to say that nothing in the Trinity isn’t paradoxical. It is verbal fiat to say that the Hypostatic Union isn’t contradictory on the face of it.

    Think about this for a second; “Even logic itself cannot penetrate or constrain the infinite God….” What can this mean other than the God of the Bible is not a rational God. It’s not the case that Logic is God (John 1), for if that were true it would be a “constraint” and logic cannot penetrate the infinite God. For the Vantillian God is beyond logic.

    This explains why they insist that the Trinity and a host of other doctrines are paradoxical and not just “on the face of it.” As VT maintained the Trinity is by definition contradictory for God is both one person and three persons. Yet, this author seems to think this is Reformed orthodoxy. It really is tragic that so many have bought into Van Til’s double-speak and that Reformed seminaries are dominated by men trained in nonsense.

  69. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick: Nix to us micks, eh?

    Denson: Amen to this: If the van Tilian or Mr McCurry wish[es] to worship an unknowable or unknown God, very well then. Pagans have been doing that for millennia. The Apostle Paul met them at Athens. The God of Scripture has made himself known.

    …God intends [for] us to understand his thoughts which he communicates to us in the Bible. If something cannot be understood, then it cannot be communicated. If it can be communicated, then it can be understood.

    Sean: Good catch. Logic needn’t “penetrate,” as it emanates from God.

    Lord, what fools these Van Tilians be!


  70. Dear Hugh:

    RE: December 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm and December 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    There really is no need for formality.

    Benjamin or Ben will do. : – )

    Regarding the English word ‘comprehensible’:

    In contemporary usage it seems to be a synonym for understandable and intelligible.

    So “incomprehensible” means, for many, “not understandable” and “not intelligible”.

    For some, God is incomprehensible means God is not understandable or not intelligible.

    That was how I understood the word too.

    It was later on I learned that “incomprehensible” is a technical term in theology and that it means God cannot be understood comprehensively, exhaustively, or fully.

    In theology, the claim that God is incomprehensible does not imply God cannot be known with understanding and intelligibility, and hence must be understood paradoxically.

    There is the alternative that God can be known truly but partially.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  71. Dear Sean:

    – Off topic.

    I am starting a Blog devoted to Gordon Clark.

    I hope to be able to make 2 to 3 posts a month to it.

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/p/home-page.html

    May I have your permission to make “The Complaint” and “The Answer” available in the Blog?

    Thank you. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  72. Dear Hugh:

    Merriam-Webster:

    Comprehensive

    1 : covering completely or broadly : inclusive
    2 : having or exhibiting wide mental grasp

    Comprehensible

    : capable of being comprehended : intelligible

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  73. Denson Dube Says:

    The number of geometrical points between two points on a line is innumerable. So is the number of reals or integers. They are “incomprehensible”. Can anyone know everything there is to know about the Mississippi River? There is nothing profound about incomprehensibility. Incomprehensibility in theology belongs to the so-called “negative theology” genre. John Robbins quotes from the introduction to Herman Bavinck’s “Dogmatic Theology”. It is as good an example as any, of nonsense. The word of God tells us that God created all things. Therefore he knows all things, since he knows what he created and there is nothing that does not owe its existence to him, and he certainly knows himself. This is positive theology.


  74. Dear Denson:

    RE: December 3, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I could not agree with you more. : – )

    I came across Van Til before Clark in the 1980s and must have read 3 to 4 books by Van Til before started reading Clark.

    Gordon Clark and John Robbins helped me see the futilities of many of Van Til’s theses.

    I still remembered with delight the first time I read Robbins’ “The Crisis of Our Time”: “We do not regard obscurity as a virtue, nor confusion as a sign of spirituality.”

    “The Crisis of Our Time” and many of Robbins’ prefaces to Clark’s books are masterpieces in polemics.

    I was also on The Trinity Review’s mailing list in the 1980s.

    There was no Internet then and every two months I received in the mail a copy of The Review.

    I might even have received The Review from its inception.

    As you know, I live in Canada and The Trinity Foundation has to paid international postage to send the Trinity Review to me.

    I was quite impressed.

    Dr. Robbins saw things very clearly and I still missed his teachings. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  75. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Benjamin – feel free to take both documents.


  76. Dear Sean:

    Thank you. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  77. Denson Dube Says:

    Thanks Ben.
    I read Bahnsen first, through whom I came into contact with van Til. I subsequently stumbled on John Robbins on the internet. The rest as they say is history.

  78. James Says:

    McCurry wrote,

    P1: all of our knowledge is eikonic, image-based, reflective, and therefore “analogous” and “paradoxical”

    P1 is not in the least paradoxical (read: apparently contradictory-appears as a contradiction) and thus by its own measure is not knowledge. We’ve seen this self-defeat before. A VTer may claim that

    P2: P1 is paradoxical

    which is of course false, but even so, by P1, P2 is not knowledge since it’s not paradoxical. Ad infinitum. And this goes for the other propositions put forward (all teaching of scripture is apparently contradictory; logic isn’t the final reference point; Logic cannot constrain God, etc…) – by P1, none of the propositions are known/knowledge.

    Of course the VTer can end all this by saying what he ought say, and what really his position entails. A good example is Van Til himself, viz,

    P3: God is a one-conscious being, and yet he is also a tri-conscious being.

    God is both one and three in exactly the same thing. Now this proposition (if one can call it that) – finally – meets the conditions of P1 – but unfortunately no knowledge comes from such irrational confusion. VT even implies that he is indeed asserting something irrational. “It is sometimes asserted that we can prove to men that we are not asserting anything that they ought to consider irrational, inasmuch as we say that God is one in essence and three in person. We therefore claim that we have not asserted unity and trinity of exactly the same thing. Yet this is not the whole truth of the matter. We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person.” – If we are rational then we will not assert unity and trinity of exactly the same thing, but we do assert unity and trinity of exactly the same thing (God is three persons and one person, one-conscious and tri-conscious), ergo…

    Finally, someone may say

    P4: P3 is not a real contradiction.

    but, again, P4 is non-paradoxical and, by P1, is not knowledge.
    The result: no knowledge is attained. Only confusion.

    yes, yes, I know another exercise in mere human logic. But it’s fun to watch them stumble over it again and again.

  79. Steve M Says:

    James

    Magnificent!.

  80. pht Says:

    Tim Harris Says:

    November 19, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    … suppose I “tried” to “rebut” the OP, and succeeded? Would you become a vantillian? Or, suppose I failed, or cried uncle. Would that prove its veracity? Obviously not.

    This, along with the comments about “ruined by clarkism” makes me wonder why TH even commented in this thread in the first place.

    Tim Harris Says:

    November 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Clarkism IS ad hominem. That is the method.

    … and here, we have the conflation of method with the whole of “clarkism” (whatever”clarkism” is to him).

    ————–

    To those who have access to original source writings by CVT – did CVT ever disown the “two circles” that don’t intersect, one containing… whatever it is that CVT said man could know… the other containing what he said that God knows? Did CVT at any time write on the topic of the extent of God’s knowledge? i.e., just exactly what did he put in the “god” circle… ?

    I’m also interested as to whether he ever defined what he called “analogical knowledge,” because every definition of “analogical” and “analogy” I’ve ever seen has always indicated that there is at least ONE point of actual knowable correspondance between the things compared; yet CVT’s “two circles” didn’t intersect… leading me to wonder what he meant by “analogical” knowledge, and where and by what process he got the idea from…

    I don’t see how CVT could have attempted ANY harmonization if he really seperated these two circles.

    Consistently, you need to harmonize just to do basic grammar in a single sentence.

    Hugh McCann Says:

    December 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Logic needn’t “penetrate,” as it emanates from God.

    Logic is simply an expression of the structure of God’s thinking.


  81. Dear Tim:

    1. In the entry (November 3, 2013 at 11:05 am) I claimed that Kant originated the idea that we are only responsible for what we can do.

    2. In the entry (November 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm) you corrected me: “the idea that ability limits responsibility certainly did not originate with Kant. Pelagius was operating under that assumption, and indeed, it seems to be a universal intuition that all ethicists struggle with in one form or another.”

    3. In the entry (November 10, 2013 at 7:17 am) I set aside who originated the idea that we are only responsible for what we can do and name the unknown person X.

    But I did not concede to you Kant being the originator of the idea.

    4. I am re-reading Gordon Clark’s Sanctification (1992) and come across the following paragraph (page 11):

    “One of Pelagius’s basic propositions, repeated in modern times by Immanuel Kant, was that ‘ability limits obligation.’ Man must have plenary ability to do whatever God righteously require of him. If God commands, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength,’ then every man has complete ability to obey the command perfectly. Man has free will. This theory of plenary ability was not only adopted by Immanuel Kant and many other secular thinkers; it was also the basis of John Wesley’s doctrine of sinless perfection. Neither God nor sin can limit free will.”

    5. You were right and I was wrong regarding the historical priority of the origination of the idea “ability limits obligation” or “we are only responsible for what we can do”.

    I stand corrected of this error. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  82. Tim Harris Says:

    Benjamin — no biggie, but big of you to own up. I guess the bigger point I would want to drive home is simply that the “first to express” an idea is not very important, except perhaps for writing a history of ideas. For example, the current landscape of ethical discourse is divided between “libertarians” and “compatibilists,” but I’m not aware of anyone on either side of that divide that does not accept the idea that “ability limits responsibility.” This is what I meant by suggesting that this is a primary intuition, not something that one catches like a virus and which can thus be “blamed” on the first one to let the virus out of the bottle as it were.


  83. Dear Tim:

    Thank you for your “no biggie”. : – )

    Maybe we are talking past each other.

    But I still think both are important:

    (a) Who originates an important idea.

    (b) The consequences of an important idea.

    As to (a), if not to express our debt, then at least appreciation and gratitude to our intellectual ancestors.

    As to (b), it maybe a holdover from my days as an economic student, but I suppose every student of economics will encounter this quote of John Maynard Keynes sometimes:

    “But apart from this contemporary mood, the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.”

    Within our context, maybe we can substitute “theologians” for “economists”.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  84. Hugh McCann Says:

    pht said on December 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Logic is simply an expression of the structure of God’s thinking.

    HEAR, HEAR!

  85. James Says:

    “For example, the current landscape of ethical discourse is divided between “libertarians” and “compatibilists,” but I’m not aware of anyone on either side of that divide that does not accept the idea that “ability limits responsibility.” This is what I meant by suggesting that this is a primary intuition”

    Interesting.
    Well other than what you mean by “current”, Clark was a theological determinist (“hard determinist” I suppose in the current banter) who accepted that if all ought than at least One (Jesus) can and did. Clark was not a compatibilist nor a libertarian. And, not any of us who agree with Clark are going to accept “ability limits responsibility” as a “primary intuition”. To be honest, I am not even convinced that Plantinga does so accept: moral significance in his famous FWD is “an action is morally significant for a given person is if would be wrong for that person to refrain from the action or vice versa.” Note that definition implies nothing about one’s ability (or freedom) to do the action – it implies whether an action is wrong or not. Ought? Yes. Freedom or ability? Nope. Clark goes one step further than Plantinga by defining responsibility as “being justly rewarded or punished for his deeds. This implies of course that he must be answerable to someone…Therefore responsibility is ultimately dependent on the power and authority of God.” So, ‘wrongness’ entails being accountable to a sovereign lawgiver and his law(ie God). Oughtness does not hinge on ability – it hinges on being accountable to God for your deeds.
    Call it the Determined Will Defense:
    Acts 4:27. Conspiracy to murder an innocent person. Certainly a morally significant action in which the actors went wrong n’est ce pas? Now verse 28. The act was predetermined by God’s causation (hand) and purpose (plan). A morally significant action, in which the actors go wrong and are justly held responsible by God, caused by God.

    Thanks! Have a great night,
    James

  86. Sean Gerety Says:

    Clark goes one step further than Plantinga by defining responsibility as “being justly rewarded or punished for his deeds. This implies of course that he must be answerable to someone…Therefore responsibility is ultimately dependent on the power and authority of God.” So, ‘wrongness’ entails being accountable to a sovereign lawgiver and his law(ie God). Oughtness does not hinge on ability – it hinges on being accountable to God for your deeds.

    Nice. The Pelagianism of the hidden premise exposed.

  87. Tim Harris Says:

    James — even the Reformed mainstream held to SOME connection between ability and responsibility. This was made explicit by Jonathan Edwards with the natural vs moral distinction; however, I think he was only clarifying a distinction that was already latent. No one, for example, would have said that God could have sovereignly decreed that whoever failed to jump from the earth to the moon would be sent to hell; those that could, to heaven.

  88. Ron Says:

    James,

    Clark was indeed a classical compatibilist, defined by determinism being compatible with man’s freedom to choose as he desires. Edwards was too.

    I posted thison my Blog a while back. I link to a primer on free will that Paul Manata wrote. He was kind enough to reference me at the end as one of several who read it…, though I think this latest version incorporates some subtle changes, not substantive I imagine.

  89. James Says:

    Tim – thanks for the reply –
    umm I just showed that Clark held to “some” connection too.
    Let me ask you – do the unregenerate have the ability to believe the gospel? What’s easier -jumping to the moon or resurrecting oneself from the dead? *My* reformed ‘mainstream’ taught me that the unregenerate are spiritually dead in their sins and completely unable to believe the Gospel – yet God holds them accountable and eternally punishes those who do not believe. So much for ought implies ability.

    Ron – define ‘freedom’ in your blurb please. Really can’t make heads or tails of it until you clarify – Thanks.

  90. Ron Says:

    Freedom for a traditional compatibilist is the ability to choose as one wants. It’s not LFW as you implied.

    So, with respect to your point that God punishes those who cannot believe – they would believe if they desired Christ, which nobody is preventing them from doing. It’s quite compatible with the divine decree. I suggest reading my post and the article I linked.

  91. James Says:

    Ron
    Judas betrayed Christ *willingly*. But Judas’ desires, choices, will,etc..were all predestined by God. Again, God certainly hardens unbelievers hearts thus preventing them from desiring to obey Him. And, 2 sides of the same coin, He withholds the grace requisite for such desiring.

    btw this:

    they would believe if they desired Christ, which nobody is preventing them from doing.

    actually means that they would desire/believe if they were resurrected, which nobody is preventing them from doing.

    Hey, what’s LFW?

  92. Ron Says:

    James,

    No problem with the Judas example. Of course I agree.

    Let’s review how we got there. You made several mistakes in your post regarding Clark, some of which I did not bother to point out. For instance, you’re not correct on his hard-determinism, for hard-determinism is akin to mechanized causality, like we find with machinery. It’s a caricature of Calvinism (hard-determinism) with respect to how the decree relates to human agency and choice. You don’t want to pin it on Clark. And has Tim pointed out, there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility – hence the natural ability distinction of Edwards.

    To your question, LFW is a metaphysical consideration that entails the power of contrary choice. Not sure why you would ask me that though because classical compatibilists like Clark and Edwards (myself too) don’t think in terms of that sort of freedom in their understanding that the divine decree is compatible with freedom. They have a different freedom in mind, that of liberty not metaphysical ability.

    Please note. I’m not challenging you on your view of Calvinism with respect to how the ability to choose relates to the decree. It might be no different than mine. I’m just challenging your taxonomy. (Reed my original post and the attachment.)

  93. James Says:

    Ron – thanks for the reply.

    Taxonomy aside*, yes, Clark does indeed accept natural liberty as outlined in the confession – but he also denies free will. The will is not determined by inanimate forces, or explainable in terms of mathematical equations, or physico-chemical laws. Free agency? Yes. Free will? No.

    But two things:
    “there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility”

    What is it? Does Clark’s “If all ought than One can and did” fit the bill here? Must a compatibilist accept the relationship you assert?

    and,

    do you accept that God holds persons responsible (and casts them into hell) for not obeying a command which was impossible for them to obey anyway? You said that ‘nobody was preventing them’ – but that actually means nobody was preventing them from doing what’s impossible for them to do – Would any of the ‘current’ ethics field so accept?

    Thanks,

    *What I wrote was that Clark was a theological determinist. Given that the context was the ‘current’ ethics field as Tim said, and given that, in context, Tim said that both compatibilists and libertarians accept “ability limits responsibility”, and given that I don’t think that either side would accept Clark’s ‘connection’ between ability and responsibility, and given that I think the only other category out there -currently – is ‘hard determinist’ I said I suppose Clark would fall into that camp. But I am content to jettison that – but then I am not yet convinced that ‘current’ field has a category for Clark.

  94. Ron Says:

    Taxonomy aside*, yes, Clark does indeed accept natural liberty as outlined in the confession – but he also denies free will.

    Yes, he denies LFW. Nonetheless, he’s a compatibilist. So, taxonomy not aside, you tagged Clark incorrectly. I was correcting your error.

    “there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility”

    What is it? Does Clark’s “If all ought than One can and did” fit the bill here? Must a compatibilist accept the relationship you assert?

    Compatibilists accept that freedom and responsibility are compatible with the decree. Third time, read the post and the essay. I republished it on my blog again as a current post because people in the Reformed camp throw around terms without a working knowledge of what they mean.

    do you accept that God holds persons responsible (and casts them into hell) for not obeying a command which was impossible for them to obey anyway? You said that ‘nobody was preventing them’ – but that actually means nobody was preventing them from doing what’s impossible for them to do – Would any of the ‘current’ ethics field so accept?

    James, God doesn’t throw men into hell for not believing in or even rejecting Christ. He throws men into hell for their sin, which might or might not include rejecting Christ. Regarding the particular sin of rejecting Christ, that presupposes the offer of Christ. It doesn’t apply to those who never heard of Christ. Regarding those who’ve heard yet rejected, they do so according to their will. Nobody is preventing them from coming to Christ AND no one is forcing them to reject Christ.

    This is getting nowhere I’m afraid. Read the post and the essay.

  95. James Says:

    Ron – Thanks for the reply

    I read your article and Manata’s Primer.

    Now perhaps you can answer my questions?

    You assert, “there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility”

    (1) What is that relationship?
    (2) Does Clark’s “If all ought than One can and did” fit the bill here?
    (3) Can one be a compatibilist without accepting “ability limits responsibility” or a “relationship” – or can one be a compatibilist while accepting and only accepting Clark’s as in (2) above?

    “God doesn’t throw men into hell for not believing in or even rejecting Christ. He throws men into hell for their sin, which might or might not include rejecting Christ. Regarding the particular sin of rejecting Christ”

    You seem confused – read John 3:18.

    (4) do you accept that God holds persons responsible (and casts them into hell) for not obeying a command which was impossible for them to obey anyway?
    (5) Can one be a compatibilist and accept (4)?

    “Nobody is preventing them from coming to Christ AND no one is forcing them to reject Christ.”

    Again, this resolves to nobody is preventing them/forcing them to do that which is impossible for them to do.

    (6) does your notion of freedom accept that nobody prevents or forces someone to do that which is impossible for them to do anyway?

    Thanks,
    James

  96. Tim Harris Says:

    The command is not to be regenerated, nor is the sin not-being-regenerated.

  97. James Says:

    Tim –
    The command is to believe on the Son – and that’s impossible for them to do precisely because what’s required for them in order to so believe is a resurrection which itself is impossible for them to do. Consequently, they don’t believe and are justly punished. Punished for not doing something that’s impossible for them to do anyway.

    Thanks,
    James

  98. James Says:

    Ron –
    two things about PM primer:

    (1)free will means she has a kind of power or ability to act in the kinds of ways for which she can be held morally responsible.

    this alleged definition of free will does not enlighten us as to what kind of power it is, does not say anything about how it is “free” (basically you can drop the irrelevant word ‘free’ and voila you have have something like a definition of ‘will’ here) but it, strangely enough, limits free will to moral actions, as if my eating cereal or eggs for breakfast is not “free will” because not moral.
    Also, to define free will by “morally responsible” is utter confusion. Free will is how an act is performed, morally responsible is the wrongness or rightness of a performed act in light of God’s Laws. This is why I prefer Clark and Plantinga – they don’t make these confusions in their definitions.

    (2)As has been established above, determinism is a
    hypothetical necessity.

    Clark denied hypo. Can a compatibilist hold to absolute necessity as did Clark?

    Thanks,

  99. Ron Says:

    You assert, “there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility”

    James,

    You take issue with this yet do you believe God may hold you responsible for not being in two places at one time so that you might glorify him more? You lack ability to do so but may you be condemned for that sort of lack of ability? Moreover, may God hold a father responsible for not running around the back yard with his child if the father is born without legs? Again, the man would lack ability. In both instances there’s a lack of ability but there is also a lack of liberty – he couldn’t do either even if he wanted! In the case of not trusting Christ, there is no lack of liberty – there’s just a lack of ability. The man is not prevented from trusting Christ, but he is prevented from running and being less than finite. For some reason this distinction escapes you. The personal will of man is not relevant given a lack of natural ability yet it is engaged in the rejection of Christ. Man willfully rejects Christ. Man doesn’t willfully refuse to be in two places at once.

    I wrote: “God doesn’t throw men into hell for not believing in or even rejecting Christ. He throws men into hell for their sin, which might or might not include rejecting Christ. Regarding the particular sin of rejecting Christ”

    You replied: “You seem confused – read John 3:18.”

    James, if your theology is correct then man is not condemned prior to rejecting Christ! He’d only be condemned for not believing. Again, man is condemned already – prior to being confronted with Christ. Rejection of Christ only compounds the sentence.

    It’s a waste of time to deal with the rest of what you wrote until you get a grasp of these rudimentary principles.

  100. Ron Says:

    (4) do you accept that God holds persons responsible (and casts them into hell) for not obeying a command which was impossible for them to obey anyway?

    Because man is condemned already, let me answer this question. “Ron, do you accept that God holds persons responsible (and gives them increase of punishment in hell) for not obeying a command which was impossible for them to obey anyway?”

    YES

    (5) Can one be a compatibilist and accept (4)?

    YES

  101. Ron Says:

    Can a compatibilist hold to absolute necessity as did Clark?

    I would say that “absolute necesssity” is atheistic. It takes God out of the equation. What happens would be purely naturalistic and not a matter of divine decree.

  102. Ron Says:

    Well, I suppose absolute necessity could be pantheistic, but I’d say it’s not Christian because the natural order of things would be more absolute or ultimate than God and his will. So, in that sense I’d call it “atheistic” allowing for only one form of theism, Christian theism. The point is, Clark would not have affirmed “absolute necessity” given the definition, just like he wasn’t a hard determinist.

    Where we are disagreeing is that to deny LFW does not make one not a compatibilist; nor does it make one a hard determinist let alone force him into absolute necessity.

  103. James Says:

    Ron
    is it possible or impossible for the unregenerate (in his unregenerate state) to believe on the Son of God?

    Thanks,

  104. Ron Says:

    Impossible. And for you to ask the question indicates you’re not understanding Tim, me, the terms or what this discussion is about. *shrug*

  105. James Says:

    Ron have you actually ever read Clark?

  106. James Says:

    Ron –
    Impossible. And for you to ask the question indicates you’re not understanding Tim, me, the terms or what this discussion is about. *shrug*

    Tim said ability limits responsibility. The unregenerate have no ability (it’s an impossibility) when it comes to believing the Son, how does God commanding them to do something that’s impossible for them comport with “ability limits responsibility”?

  107. Ron Says:

    Yes, I’ve devoured him and my Calvinism is his Calvinism. What your missing is that Calvinism – even high Calvinism, is not defined by incompatibilism or absolute necessity.

  108. Ron Says:

    No, Tim pointed out that not all p is q where you say all p is q. In other words, as he wrote, “even the Reformed mainstream held to SOME connection between ability and responsibility. This was made explicit by Jonathan Edwards with the natural vs moral distinction. No one, for example, [insert Clark here] would have said that God could have sovereignly decreed that whoever failed to jump from the earth to the moon would be sent to hell; those that could, to heaven.”

  109. James Says:

    Ron –

    so I take it that your notion of liberty is compatible with
    “nobody is preventing them doing that which is impossible for them to do.”
    why didn’t you just agree with that in the first place?

    now back to these:

    You assert, “there is at least some relationship between ability and responsibility”

    (1) What is that relationship?
    (2) Does Clark’s “If all ought than One can and did” fit the bill here?
    (3) Can one be a compatibilist without accepting “ability limits responsibility” or a “relationship” – or can one be a compatibilist while accepting and only accepting Clark’s as in (2) above?

    Thanks,

  110. James Says:

    Ron

    Tim wrote,
    For example, the current landscape of ethical discourse is divided between “libertarians” and “compatibilists,” but I’m not aware of anyone on either side of that divide that does not accept the idea that “ability limits responsibility.” This is what I meant by suggesting that this is a primary intuition,

    That’s what I was responding to. He then said there was “some” connection – and I said even Clark had “some” connection – but is Clark’s connection what a compatibilist or what you or Tim means?
    Thanks,

  111. Ron Says:

    James,

    Until you deal with taxonomy issue, how can this get anywhere? Until you are honest enough to admit a distinction between (i) willfully refusing to come to Christ when commanded to come to Christ and (ii) not jumping to the moon because of natural inability, what’s the use? Do you even think you articulate Tim’s basic point back to him to his satisfaction?

    The relationship once AGAIN is that there are certain inabilities that are not a matter of the will – like natural abilities – Tim’s point. Remember, jumping to the moon?! You then LEAPED to the grand and hasty conclusion that he and I think that one is not culpable for willfully rejecting Christ when it’s impossible to receive Christ. No, what we’ve said is that there are certain limits on responsibility as it pertains to ability – like natural ability. God cannot hold you accountable for not being in two places at once, remember?!

  112. Denson Dube Says:

    Ron,
    Does absolute necessity necessarily have to be atheistic or pantheistic? Why can’t absolute necessity be nuanced on God’s immutability? God thinks what he wills by necessity of his nature. I am who I am. God cannot be other than who he is.

  113. James Says:

    Ron -

    I made no such leap – I asked you a series of questions which looking back ought to have been easy enough for you to answer.

    I take it that both you and Tim agree that the impossibility that plagues the unregenerate doesn’t in the least “limit” their responsibility?

    Also, I take it that your notion of liberty is compatible with
    “nobody is preventing them doing that which is impossible for them to do.”?

    Thanks,

  114. Denson Dube Says:

    If we define responsibility as being held accountable to another, then indeed ability does not come into the definition. The list of possibilities of what one can be held accountable for is a different question altogether. And this is where Pelagians and Arminians miss the bus. Further, ability/inability cannot be logically deduced from a command.

  115. Ron Says:

    Dennis,

    There’s a lot in your statement that I’d have to tease out but let me just say this because I think it gets to your question. Something is absolutely necessary if it’s outside God’s determination. Clark did not believe that (and I suspect neither does Jim). The necessity of all that occurs is contingent upon the decree and consequently not “absolutely necessary.” Again, the theology that is trying to be conveyed might be correct but the term doesn’t adequately represent that theology; it denies it.

    Regarding other items of disagreement having to do with terms, as Frame notes in his new systematic theology after disagreeing with libertarian freedom, “Human beings do have compatibilist freedom, freedom to choose according to their desires…The term compatibilism indicates that such freedom is compatible with causation, even determinism.” 286 n9

    Now assuming Frame didn’t botch his terms too badly, we can see that the denial of libertarian freedom does not imply the denial of compatibilism. In fact, it comports with determinism. So, Clark denied libertarian freedom but understood that men are not robots and are indeed responsible for volitional actions, hence his soft-determinism and compatibilism. So again, the denial of LFW does not make one not a compatibilist; nor does it make one a hard determinist let alone force him into absolute necessity.”

  116. Ron Says:

    Excuse me, “Denson” not Dennis!

  117. Ron Says:

    James,

    We’re done.

  118. Ron Says:

    Further, ability/inability cannot be logically deduced from a command.

    Denson,

    Although true, how many Calvinists appreciate that culpability can’t be deduced from a command? All deductions need more premises than one. :)

  119. Denson Dube Says:

    If we misconstrue the issues, our search for answers will be no more than a wild goose chase and confusion. The command to repent is directed to the elect sinner and not the reprobate. The gospel is not God expressing an ardent desire for things he has not decreed to come to pass, ala Murray. The reprobate is not able to obey the command to repent because they have not been so predestinated and it is not directed at them anywhere. The reprobate is already a sinner under God’s judgment. Rejecting Christ is just another sin a sinner will do because they are already a sinner. God is under no obligation to save anyone. There is therefore no unfairness with God in holding the reprobate accountable for their sin.

  120. Ron Says:

    Denson,

    I’m sorry but the former days of ignorance are gone – God commands all men everywhere to repent. But that doesn’t imply he desires them to be saved. You can hold to the latter without denying the former.

  121. Ron Says:

    As well, John the Baptist commanded repentance as the axe was at the root of the tree. Again, this does not imply anything about God’s desire for their salvation.

  122. Denson Dube Says:

    Ron
    Thanks for your comments and clarification on absolute necessity. Of course it all depends on how one defines one’s terms, as the prophet Humpty Dumpty said. There is nothing above or beyond divine determination. Hence if one wishes to retain the term absolute necessity, it would have to be redefined or identified with God’s immutable will. However, it is I think more expedient and less obfuscating to speak of God’s sovereign will.


  123. Dear Ron:

    You wrote in (January 16, 2014 at 1:58 am):

    “Something is absolutely necessary if it’s outside God’s determination. Clark did not believe that (and I suspect neither does Jim). The necessity of all that occurs is contingent upon the decree and consequently not “absolutely necessary.” Again, the theology that is trying to be conveyed might be correct but the term doesn’t adequately represent that theology; it denies it.”

    But the Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1 characterizes the Divine Decrees this way: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Does not the “whatsoever” of the Westminster Confession implies there is nothing outside God’s determination?

    Does it follow that If something is “absolutlely necessary” if it’s outside God’s determination, then there is nothing absolutely necessary?

    Did you draw the wrong conclusion when you wrote: “The necessity of all that occurs is contingent upon the decree and consequently not ‘absolutely necessary.’ ”

    If the necessity of all the occurs is contingent upon the decree, then isn’t it true that that makes the Divine Decree the absolute necessary ground for “the necessity for all that occurs”?

    Puzzle by your comments.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  124. Denson Dube Says:

    Ron,
    Yes I agree, I do not have to confine the command to repent to the elect only as a command does not imply obedience.

  125. Denson Dube Says:

    Ron,
    I’ve just been wondering to myself and seeking to clarify this stuff in my mind. The sinner is under God’s judgment. The sinner must die, period(as Americans would say :-)) The law demands the death of the sinner.
    The law is not of grace. Hence the call to repentance is not of the law, but of grace. The command to repent need not be a general command to all and sundry, since grace, from which the command emanates, is not for all and sundry. The sinner therefore need not be accountable for the command to repent. The breaking of the command to repent adds nothing to the death sentence which the sinner already enjoys.
    Just wondering!

  126. Roger Says:

    The law is not of grace. Hence the call to repentance is not of the law, but of grace. The command to repent need not be a general command to all and sundry, since grace, from which the command emanates, is not for all and sundry. The sinner therefore need not be accountable for the command to repent.

    Since God “commands” all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and believe in His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23), it necessarily follows that the call to repent and believe the gospel is a legal requirement that all who hear are responsible to obey – whether elect or reprobate. That’s why the Lord will hold the reprobate accountable for disobeying His gospel: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”

    Of course, this is not to deny that the Lord is gracious to His elect when He freely “grants” them repentance and faith so that they comply with His commands. He most certainly is. But the “commands” to repent and believe themselves are not gracious. They are legal obligations that require obedience. And they certainly aren’t gracious to the reprobate, for the commands come to them as “the aroma of death leading to death”:

    “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

  127. Ron Says:

    Hi Benjamin,

    Thanks for the clarifying post.

    Yes, God decrees all that comes to pass and nothing is absolutely necessary that is decreed.

    Did you draw the wrong conclusion when you wrote: “The necessity of all that occurs is contingent upon the decree and consequently not ‘absolutely necessary.’ ”

    I don’t think I drew the wrong conclusion. That which occurs is contingently necessary ( i.e. predicated upon) but we wouldn’t want to call those things (plural but the decree is one) absolutely necessary. Reason being, had God not decreed what comes to pass it wouldn’t have come to pass. It didn’t become necessary until the logical moment it was decreed, but if it were necessary in an absolute sense then it would be ontologically necessary and logically prior to the decree. That something must occur by necessity because it’s decreed doesn’t make it absolutely necessary in the way I’m using the term. It just makes it necessary but not absolutely necessary. After all, “absolutely” must mean something, right? In other words, “absolutely” must bring something to the meaning of the term, right? What does it bring, or is it just redundant to the claim of necessity? You see the point. In the like manner, we have a will, but what’s “free” about it? The freedom that is presupposed by “fee will” is often radical freedom, LFW. Free is not redundant to “will,” it’s descriptive of the kind of will, isn’t it?

  128. Ron Says:

    The law is not of grace. Hence the call to repentance is not of the law, but of grace.

    Hi Denson,

    The law condemns and in that sense it’s not of grace. But I disagree that the law has no part with grace, like when it was a means of grace through the ceremonial system of law. I don’t pit law and grace against each other like the Escondido crowd with some radical, Lutheran dichotomy. I don’t think you’re using the term like them, but I don’t want to be misunderstood as advocating a false dichotomy without at least some qualification albeit minimal for this exchange. (See Frame on law and grace.)

    Although the words “repent” as drawn from Scripture might never reach someone’s ears, would not God through conscience be revealing repent or be more culpable? Doesn’t the sinner when he hardens his heart in refusing to repent bring upon himself more condemnation?

    The breaking of the command to repent adds nothing to the death sentence which the sinner already enjoys.

    Each time the sinner is called to repent from sin, either in conscience alone or by Word playing upon conscience, he is breaking God’s requirement of him to repent.

  129. Ron Says:

    Roger,

    I think I’m in general agreement, but when the elect do repent (and we all agree that repentance is an evangelical grace) then wouldn’t the command to repent be a means of grace to them given that it’s a means by which they come to repentance?


  130. Dear Ron:

    Thank you for your response. : – )

    The reason why I broach this subject with you is because I was recently engaged in an off-list discussion and one of the topics is in this neighbourhood.

    Some of the notes of the discussion are written up here:

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2014/01/notes-clarkian-epistemological-model.html

    I understand you are talking with more than one of us at the same time.

    But if you are willing, I like to seek more clarification of your views and in doing so my own views.

    1. I agree with you that the Divine Decree is one.

    I follow Gordon Clark in unpacking the Divine Decree as consisting of true propositions that God has determined to be true.

    By the claim that the Divine Decree is one, I understand that the Divine Decree is a system of consistent truths or true propositions.

    The term “Divine Decrees” is used to refer to a subset of the Divine Decree consisting of one or more true propositions.

    2. You wrote: “That which occurs is contingently necessary ( i.e. predicated upon) but we wouldn’t want to call those things (plural but the decree is one) absolutely necessary.”

    I follow common usage and refer to that which occurs as a state of affairs.

    I take states of affairs are brought about by God from the truths He has determined to be true (i.e. the Divine Decree).

    Since there is a duality between a proposition and its corresponding state of affairs, the terms “contingent” and “necessary” can predicate both propositions and states of affairs.

    In particular, the four combinations of these modal adjectives as applied to either propositions or states of affairs:

    (I vaguely remember reading somewhere that all iterations of modality can be reduced to these four.)

    (a) contingent-contingent;
    (b) contingent-necessary;
    (c) necessary-contingent;
    (d) necessary-necessary.

    3. My interest is in your claim that “that which occurs is contingently necessary.”

    Gordon Clark is a necessitarian. (See: (Clark [1985] 1990, 118-9))

    I understand necessitarianism to be the claim that:

    (a) A contingent proposition is true necessarily contingently.

    (b) A necessary proposition is true necessarily necessarily.

    Similarly,

    (c) A contingent state of affairs obtains, if it obtains, obtain necessarily contingently.

    (d) A necessary state of affairs obtains necessarily necessarily.

    I cannot conclude from your claim about “contingently necessary” that you would disagree with Gordon Clark’s necessitarianism.

    This is because you use the term “contingently” in the sense of “predicated upon”, which means differently than as use as modal adjectives.

    But your phrase “we wouldn’t want to call those things (plural but the decree is one) absolutely necessary” seems to indicate (a desire) to deny necessitarianism.

    I take “absolutely necessary” as a different formulation of the necessitarian claims that:

    (a) A contingent proposition is true necessarily contingently.

    (b) A necessary proposition is true necessarily necessarily.

    and the similar formulations for state of affairs.

    In fact, a necessitarian *would* wants to call all states of affairs “absolutely necessary”.

    4. There are at least two lines of reasoning that led Gordon Clark to necessitarianism:

    (a) the immutability of the mind of God and the eternity of truths ; and

    (b) the essential omniscience of God.

    God is omniscience is the claim that God knows all truths.

    God is essentially omniscience is either:

    (a) the de dicto claim that necessarily, God knows all truths; or

    (b) the de re claim that God knows all truths necessarily.

    If we accept the doctrine of the Divine Decree that all truths are true because God has determined or decreed them so, then it follows in conjunction with God’s essential omniscience that all truths are true necessarily whether they are necessary truths or contingent truths.

    Please see: (Clark 1980).

    5. (Clark [1985] 1990, 119): “Given then the immutability of God’s mind and the eternity of truth, so-called philosophical necessitarianism seems to be quite Scriptural and with respect to the creation of the world conflicts in no way with the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. Since God’s mind is immutable, since his decree is eternal, it follows that no other world than this is possible or imaginable.”

    Following Alvin Plantinga, I take a possible world to be maximally consistent states of affairs.

    For the actual world, the propositions that determine the actual world are all true and their corresponding states of affairs are all actual or obtain.

    Possible worlds other than the actual world are also maximally consistent states of affairs.

    Non-actual possible worlds are non-actual because at least one state of affairs in the set of states of affairs that constituted that world is non-actual or fails to obtain.

    Although the Bible describes counter-factual states of affairs, I think we can interpret Clark charitably and construct his not “imaginable” as not possible given the immutability of God’s mind and the eternity of truth.

    6. References:

    Gordon H. Clark. 1980. God and Logic. The Trinity Review (November-December):1-7.

    ———-. [1985] 1990. The Trinity, 2nd Edition. Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  131. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    There was really no reason to write so much. When I deny absolute necessity I’m affirming contingently necessary, not in the metaphysical sense, as you picked up on, but in the logical-sequantial manner hence the term predicated upon.

  132. Reformed Apologist Says:

    Anyone else having issues typing in the comments box when using IE. The problem I’m having is this appears in the middle of the box: Reformed Apologist: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. ( Log Out / Change

  133. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    I think you might find this relevant and interesting.

    Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will happen

    Molinists and Calvinists even agree that the following argument is fallacious as written:

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

    The fallacy in view is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. The Molinist will not accept, however, that the fallacy can be made to disappear a number of different ways. One way is by establishing that a necessary condition for God’s foreknowledge of x is the necessity of x, which even Open Theists (along with Calvinists) point out to Molinists. It’s interesting that Open Theists are very “Reformed” on this aspect of metaphysics.

    Another way of making the fallacy disappear is to argue that necessarily, God foreknows x.

    1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
    2. Necessarily, God foreknows x
    3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

    Do you suppose Clark would have joined me in such an argument? Did he affirm the necessity of the divine decree? Most Calvinists won’t go there, but if they don’t they end up attributing LFW to God I think; yet they’ll say they’re not.

    Also, there’s this, which I argue here.

    1. Choices are either caused or uncaused.
    2. If a choice is uncaused, then it comes from nothing and is, therefore, morally irrelevant.
    3. Choices are morally relevant.
    4. Therefore, choices are caused (and, therefore, necessary by definition).
    5. The causes of choices are chosen or not chosen.
    6. If causes of choices are chosen, then an infinite regress of choices and antecedent-causes precede any choice.
    7. An infinite regress of causes and choices is impossible, therefore, the causes of choices are not chosen.
    8. Choices are causally necessitated by something not chosen. (4 & 7)
    9. Creation is caused by choice.
    10. Creation is a caused by something causally necessitated and not chosen. (8 & 9)
    11. Something caused by something that is causally necessitated would itself be equally causally necessitated (and therefore could not be otherwise by definition).
    12. Creation is something
    13. Creation could not be otherwise. (10 – 12)

  134. James Says:

    Ron –
    Thanks for the dismissal.

    (1) In one of your illustrations the structure (body) was damaged from birth. So damaged that it could not even do a task that it could do if in order. Now you said that such damage prevented the structure from doing that which it could’ve done if in order. Now, the soul of the unregenerate from beginning of life is severely damaged. So damaged that it could not even do a task that it could do if in order. It follows that such damage prevented the structure from doing that which it could’ve done if in order. Just as the damage to the body(structure) prevents the man from running, so, too, the damage to the soul (structure) prevents the man from believing on the Son.

    (2) Matthew 13:7,22
    And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
    The man is prevented from believing (being fruitful)

    (3)John 12:26 , all the many places in Scripture where God hardens hearts, 2 Thess 2:11, etc…
    God prevents them from believing.

    (4)Matthew 13:10-17
    Jesus employs parables to prevent them from believing.

    I guess I could go on, but the point is established that many things prevent unbelievers from believing. It is false that unbelievers are not prevented from believing.

  135. Ron Says:

    Readers,

    I can only wonder how many Clarkians appreciate what’s going on here. James’s #1 is gibberish and his exegesis in #s 2 and 3 is deplorable. I can’t interact with gibberish but I can point out that his exegesis leaves him in contradiction.

    If the monergistic act of regeneration is necessary and sufficient for conversion, then those verses that speak of God “preventing” men from coming to Christ cannot mean what James implies, that if the prevention is lifted men will be converted. Yet that is the import of his exegetical argument (though I’m sure he doesn’t see that else he wouldn’t have said what he said.) He’s arguing that God is “preventing” men from coming to Christ – which implies if the prevention is lifted they’d come, otherwise what’s the relevance of his point? But how can unregenerate men come to Christ? Is non-hardening from God a sufficient condition for regeneration? Any takers on such exegesis? No, of course not. Accordingly, we must maintain, especially in the context in which I wrote, that man willfully rejects Christ, which makes him responsible for rejecting Christ – even though man cannot but reject Christ. Accordingly, nobody prevents man from coming to Christ but his own stubborn heart. That God “hardens” sinners is simply irrelevant to the question at hand. God hardening of sinners is punitive for their rejection. The hardening doesn’t “prevent” them from coming, for dead man can’t come to Christ to begin with! Moreover, building metaphysical doctrine on the parable of the sower is hazardous.

    My only question at this juncture is how many Clarkians on this site appreciate that James has been wrong on everything regarding compatibilism, determinism, necessity and Clark. And now he suggests,albeit unwittingly, that if men aren’t positively prevented from coming to Christ then men would come to Christ, which is akin to a Lutheran doctrine of non-resistance.

  136. James Says:

    Ron – in your argument,

    #2 is false
    moral relevancy has to do with an act’s relationship to God’s Laws. It has nothing to do with how an act is performed. And, flip side, how an act is performed doesn’t tell us that relationship.

    #3 is false *Some* choices are morally relevant (because of their relationship to God’s laws).

    You’d be better off just starting with 4 and asserting that all choices are caused. Or coming up with better premises.

  137. Sean Gerety Says:

    Anyone else having issues typing in the comments box when using IE

    Why would anyone use IE?

  138. Ron Says:

    James – I’m sure I can’t help you. My only question is whether Clarkians on this site understand the Calvinism of their hero.

  139. Ron Says:

    “Why would anyone use IE?”

    Good question!

  140. James Says:

    Ron did you actually read John 12:39-40?
    39For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40″He has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them”

    Ron I suppose it better to build a metaphysic not around the Bible, but around Paul Manata’s deficient definitions?

    it’s true that all “willing rejection” is not-to-believe – but it does not follow that all not-to-believe is “willing rejection”. That’s why John 3:18 says those who do not believe – it does not say those who willing reject. There is such a thing as withholding belief. And there is such a thing as self-deceit wherein persons believe they believe, do not necessarily “willingly reject”, but may be ignorant on some matter of crucial importance. Unbelief takes many forms, and “willingly reject” does not exhaust “do-not-believe”.

  141. Ron Says:

    James,

    You’ve demonstrated to me an inability, whether it’s natural or a matter of hardening I don’t know, to deal with arguments adequately and to truthfully. For instance and most recently, that you would impugn me of constructing a metaphysic based upon definitions rather than communicating a metaphysic according to definitions is just another demonstration of not being able to make rather basic distinctions. Whether this latest misguided arrow of yours was intentionally deceitful depends on the reason for this debilitating noetic condition, whether hardening or merely genetic. At the very least, you might wish to Google some terms like compatibilism and soft-determinism and think a a little harder about the distinction you think you had in mind between necessity and “absolute” necessity. I wouldn’t be surprised if you already have and that you’ve even made a mental note not to make those mistakes again. So, this hasn’t been a total waste of my time I suppose.

  142. Ron Says:

    James’ last paragraph in his post immediately above is riddled with logical binds and confusion. If anyone has been confused by this person and needs some help navigating through some things, just drop a note. Don’t take this as me thinking too highly of myself or too lowly of anyone else. There are many lurkers etc. that might have been led astray by this person.

  143. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, Per the “gibberish,” Prov. 26:4 & Matt. 7:6 come to mind.

    This “Clarkian” –for one– saw early on what a waste of time were your no-doubt-well-meant endeavors.

  144. Roger Says:

    I think I’m in general agreement, but when the elect do repent (and we all agree that repentance is an evangelical grace) then wouldn’t the command to repent be a means of grace to them given that it’s a means by which they come to repentance?

    Hi Ron,

    Yes. In fact, I would say that viewed in the light of God’s intention and providential design, the command to repent is a means of grace to the elect even before they repent and believe. And viewed in the light of God’s intention and providential design, the command to repent is a means of hardening to the reprobate even before they refuse to repent and believe. God simply has a different purpose in issuing the command to the elect and reprobate respectively. The one is gracious, the other is not. I was merely trying to emphasize that the command to repent itself (i.e., viewed apart from God’s intention toward the elect and reprobate) imposes a legal obligation that requires obedience from all who receive the outward call of the gospel.

  145. Roger Says:

    Do you suppose Clark would have joined me in such an argument? Did he affirm the necessity of the divine decree? Most Calvinists won’t go there, but if they don’t they end up attributing LFW to God I think; yet they’ll say they’re not.

    I’m not sure about Clark’s position on this, but what precisely do you mean by “affirming the necessity of the divine decree”? Are you saying that the actual divine decree is the only possible decree due to God’s immutable nature? Or am I way off base?

  146. Ron Says:

    Roger,

    1. Regarding your first reply – understood and that’s what I thought. Also, I agree with you that the command to repent is an intended means of hardening the reprobate even before the universal call to repentance is preached. I’ll comment more on that below in 1a.

    2. Regarding your other post, by affirm the necessity of the diving decree I mean did Clark ever teach, or is his position consonant with, the necessity of the divine decree? Did he affirm this doctrine in other words? My personal opinion is whether he taught it or not, his consistency would have led him to such a conclusion. No doubt he was conscious of the question. I see no other alternative than the necessity of the diving decree because the idea of contingency in the Godhead is a monstrosity. Also, the idea seems to contradict too many other doctrines that are bedrock.

    1a. God could decree that Richard the reprobate is present at a Billy Graham crusade because He wanted Billy’s wife to be holding Richard’s hand at the time of her conversion. Also, Richard being a Linguist was decreed to listen very intently both to Billy’s diction and eloquence. So, Richard the reprobate hears the gospel and although hardened by it, the divine intention, though surely intended, could be an intended-byproduct of the reason for God’s determination of Richard listening to the gospel and his subsequent hardening . In other words, the hearing of the gospel and the subsequent hardening that ensues from not repenting and appropriating Christ, although certainly intended, would in this case not be the reason God decreed Richard’s hearing the gospel that evening. The hardening and ensuing eternal penalty would be intended without the resultant hardening being the purpose of further eternal penalty. It could be merely a logical byproduct of the purpose. Similarly, if God intended my house to burn down while I am in it because He wanted me to build another house and become acutely sensitive to others who have gone through similar events, the heat I would feel from the fire, though surely intended, need not be the reason for the fire.

    So, things that are intended need not be a matter of telos (or purpose) but rather a logically unavoidable byproduct of what is “purposed.” There are different layers of intention, which is the biggest problem I have with supra-infra debate. Indeed, the infra position is an apology, no an outright denial(!) of Calvinism, but the supra position does not seem to take into account that final destiny need not be the ultimate purpose. The end game need not be the reason for what will be brought to pass. The telos could be the half-time report. That said, the intention of supra position,including that it uphold God’s election of reprobates etc. is indeed true Calvinism. Clark’s, Hoeksema’s and Reymond’s construct is the best one I think and if I’m to believe Reymond, Pisacator and possibly Zanchius can be added to the mix.

    Cheers

    Full circle, yes I believe God intends the hardening of the reprobate, for the alternative is that something happens that is not intended. However, we may no sooner conclude that God’s purpose for hardening is more punishment than we may conclude that commands imply ability.

  147. Ron Says:

    Ouch, Hugh.

  148. Hugh McCann Says:

    Here happily affirming the necessity of the divine decree! :)

    And rejoicing in saying that the actual divine decree is the only possible decree due to God’s immutable nature! :)

    Well said, Roger!

    Grass had to be green, the sky blue.
    Esau & Judas had to be hated,
    and Jacob & Peter beloved.
    Nothing could be other that it is.

    Or, to quote Smith in The Matrix: “That, Mr Anderson, is the sound of inevitability.”

  149. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sorry, Ron, but sometimes knocking off the dust is our best protocol.

  150. Ron Says:

    Sorry, Ron, but sometimes knocking off the dust is our best protocol.

    I agree.

  151. Roger Says:

    I see no other alternative than the necessity of the diving decree because the idea of contingency in the Godhead is a monstrosity. Also, the idea seems to contradict too many other doctrines that are bedrock.

    Understood, and I completely agree.

    Full circle, yes I believe God intends the hardening of the reprobate, for the alternative is that something happens that is not intended. However, we may no sooner conclude that God’s purpose for hardening is more punishment than we may conclude that commands imply ability.

    Again, I agree.

    But what about Romans 9:22-23? God endures the reprobates “with much longsuffering” in order to “make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.” Would God’s providential hardening of the reprobates fall under this general category of His longsuffering? If so, then wouldn’t His ultimate purpose for hardening them also be in order to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy? I’m simply throwing this out as food for thought, not dogmatically arguing a position…


  152. Dear Ron:

    – Before proceeding and since you invited it, let me say that I do not believe you treated James and his comments fairly.

    – A caveat: I only speak for myself.

    I do not speak for Gordon Clark or anyone else.

    So if we have any disagreement, please attribute the disagreement to me and not to Gordon Clark nor to “Clarkians”.

    – A methodological point.

    Your last entry addressed to me can be divided into two topics: some points regarding Molinists and Calvinists and a 13 lines argument.

    My preference is to discuss one topic at a time, so this entry will be begin with your first topic.

    1. You asked: “Do you suppose Clark would have joined me in such an argument? Did he affirm the necessity of the divine decree? Most Calvinists won’t go there, but if they don’t they end up attributing LFW to God I think; yet they’ll say they’re not.”

    My *guess* is that Gordon Clark will not join you in making such an argument.

    The reason is not because what you wrote was false, but because it was misleading.

    I have seen many times in the Web that people commented that when they read Clark, his writings change their perspective.

    In his biography [Steve Jobs], Walter Isaacson used the phrase “a reality distorting field” in connection with Job.

    It is as if the writings of Gordon Clark neutralize the “reality distorting field” that emanates from others.

    2. First, my guess is that Clark will not frame the problem as you do.

    There is no difference between what God knows and what God foreknows.

    God knows every truth by knowing what He has decreed.

    My understanding is that in Clark’s view, the only truth-bearer is proposition and the only truth-maker is the Divine Decree.

    (Clark 1980, 2): “This means that God is the source and determiner of all truth.”

    (Clark 1980, 2): “Therefore behind the act of creation there is an eternal decree.”

    (Clark 1980, 2): “Similarly in all other varieties of truth, God must be accounted sovereign. It is his decree that makes one proposition true and another false. Whether the proposition be physical, psychological, moral, or theological, it is God who made it that way. A proposition is true because God thinks it so.”

    (Clark 1980, 2): “A great deal of Charnock’s material has as its purpose the listing of the objects of God’s knowledge. Here, however, the quotations were made to point out that God’s knowledge depends on his will and on nothing external to him. Thus we may repeat with Philo that God is not to be ranked under the idea of unity, or of goodness, or of truth; but rather unity, goodness, and truth are to be ranked under the decree of God.”

    God did not “foreknow” the future by seeing into the future, as if the future exists apart from His Decree.

    God knows the future because He has determined all truths and He brings about all states of affairs from the truths He has determined to be true.

    The sequence is:

    God’s determination —> the Divine Decree —> truth (and falsity) of every proposition —> actual states of affairs

    Reference: Gordon H. Clark. 1980. God and Logic. The Trinity Review (November-December):1-7.

    3. It should be clear by now that your major premise, although true, is misleading:

    Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen.

    The reason being that x will happen not because God foreknows x, but that God has decreed that x be true.

    God brings about the state of affairs corresponding to x.

    As Clark puts it: “truth[s] are to be ranked under the decree of God.”

    Also, the “x” in the arguments, if interpreted within Clark’s philosophy, is a variable ranging over propositions.

    The object of knowledge is truth and all truths are propositional, therefore the object of knowledge is a proposition.

    4. You asked: “Did he [Clark] affirm the necessity of the divine decree?”

    I believe Gordon Clark affirmed the “necessity” of the Divine Decree.

    Although not widely known, I believe Clark is a necessitarian.

    I have quoted Clark from his [Trinity] in the last entry to this effect.

    I put “necessity” in scarce quote because the “necessity” in question is neither logical necessity, metaphysical necessity, nor physical necessity.

    I am not aware if there is name for the kind of “necessity” that is appropriate to Clark.

    I have some weak grasp of the nature of that “necessity”, but maybe for another entry if you are interested.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  153. Correction:

    In his biography [Steve Jobs], Walter Isaacson used the phrase “a reality distorting field” in connection with Job.

    should be:

    In his biography [Steve Jobs], Walter Isaacson used the phrase “a reality distorting field” in connection with *Jobs*.

    Benjamin

  154. Ron Says:

    My *guess* is that Gordon Clark will not join you in making such an argument.

    The reason is not because what you wrote was false, but because it was misleading.

    Benjamin,

    You are mistaken that I was misleading. Your mistake is probably due to assuming that if-then propositions imply causality, which they need not. They’re typically concerned with states of affairs and conditions, both sufficient and necessary.

    It should be clear by now that your major premise, although true, is misleading:
    Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen.

    The reason being that x will happen not because God foreknows x, but that God has decreed that x be true.

    “If God foreknows x, then x will happen” does not imply that x will happen because God foreknows x. So, finding my argument misleading is due to a faulty understand of the propositions within the premise. The antecedent of the consequent is a sufficient condition but need not be its cause. The state of affairs that includes God’s foreknowledge of x includes the future tense truth proposition of x occurring. That’s all the premise implies. In fact the means by which x occurs is irrelevant to if-then premise. Moreover, nowhere in the premise is the implication that knowledge is causal. Finally, God and foreknowledge can be eliminated from the syllogism, as logicians have known for quite some time

  155. Ron Says:

    Formatting blocks off Benjamin:

    Benjamin,

    You are mistaken that I was misleading. Your mistake is probably due to assuming that if-then propositions imply causality, which they need not. They’re typically concerned with states of affairs and conditions, both sufficient and necessary.

    It should be clear by now that your major premise, although true, is misleading:
    Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen.

    The reason being that x will happen not because God foreknows x, but that God has decreed that x be true.

    “If God foreknows x, then x will happen” does not imply that x will happen because God foreknows x. So, finding my argument misleading is due to a faulty understand of the propositions within the premise. The antecedent of the consequent is a sufficient condition but need not be its cause. The state of affairs that includes God’s foreknowledge of x includes the future tense truth proposition of x occurring. That’s all the premise implies. In fact the means by which x occurs is irrelevant to if-then premise. Moreover, nowhere in the premise is the implication that knowledge is causal. Finally, God and foreknowledge can be eliminated from the syllogism, as logicians have known for quite some time

  156. Ron Says:

    Would God’s providential hardening of the reprobates fall under this general category of His longsuffering?

    Roger,

    I see longsuffering as simply putting up with.I suppose He does that alongside hardening some but I don’t think he’s hardening some because he’s longsuffering with them, if that’s what you mean by under the general category. Not sure.

    If so, then wouldn’t His ultimate purpose for hardening them also be in order to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy?

    Yes, I think so, that when God hardens particular reprobates it’s to testify of the riches of His glory if not in this life in the life after.

    Them’s my thoughts anyway.

  157. Ron Says:

    I forgot to mention, Benjamin, this is a very esoteric position at best.

    There is no difference between what God knows and what God foreknows.

    God knows every truth by knowing what He has decreed.

    In common parlance, theology and philosophy God’s foreknowledge is a subset of his knowledge.The former having to do with things that will occur. Since so much of your disagreement was predicate upon that misunderstanding, I thought I’d mention it.


  158. Dear Ron:

    1. I agree with what you have written: ” ‘If God foreknows x, then x will happen” does not imply that x will happen because God foreknows x. So, finding my argument misleading is due to a faulty understand of the propositions within the premise. The antecedent of the consequent is a sufficient condition but need not be its cause. The state of affairs that includes God’s foreknowledge of x includes the future tense truth proposition of x occurring. That’s all the premise implies. In fact the means by which x occurs is irrelevant to if-then premise. Moreover, nowhere in the premise is the implication that knowledge is causal. Finally, God and foreknowledge can be eliminated from the syllogism, as logicians have known for quite some time.”

    2. But I do not believe I have misunderstood you.

    I find the major premise misleading not because the major premise *must* be interpreted as implying cause-and-effect, and I do not take it as such.

    I find the major premise misleading because it *can* be interpreted as implying cause-and-effect.

    If the major premise *must* be interpreted as implying cause-and-effect, then I would have written that it is “false and misleading”, not just “true but misleading”.

    The major premise is misleading because it is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation one of which is taken as implying cause-and-effect.

    Do you know the confusing it is to beginning students who do not know all the fine distinctions you know?

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  159. Dear Ron:

    1. You wrote: “In common parlance, theology and philosophy God’s foreknowledge is a subset of his knowledge.The former having to do with things that will occur. Since so much of your disagreement was predicate upon that misunderstanding, I thought I’d mention it.”

    2. Again, I do not disagree with your statement that “[i]n common parlance, theology and philosophy God’s foreknowledge is a subset of his knowledge.”

    But my point, following Gordon Clark, is not whether God’s foreknowledge is a subset of His total knowledge.

    The point pertains to *how* God knows *any* object of knowledge, including foreknowledge.

    The doctrine of the Divine Decree implies a specific way God knows.

    God decrees what is true and false and God knows by knowing His Decree.

    3. You wrote: “this is a very esoteric position at best.”

    If it is an esoteric position, let it be so.

    But it should be the default position of us Calvinist who confess Chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  160. Ron Says:

    I find the major premise misleading because it *can* be interpreted as implying cause-and-effect.

    Only by one not acquainted with these things. Secondly, the second and third arguments of the set of three arguments that precede the long proof employ “necessarily” when causality is relevant. The implication underscores that causality is not in view in p1 of those arguments, only states of affairs, because the consequent is not tagged as necessary, though its truth is implied virtue of the premise.

    Do you know the confusing it is to beginning students who do not know all the fine distinctions you know?

    If they don’t know the distinctions, they’re not going to have much luck following the argument, but I’ll give you the judgment of charity and believe you really had their interest at heart and that you were tracking all the way. Good man. :)

  161. Ron Says:

    The point pertains to *how* God knows *any* object of knowledge, including foreknowledge.

    The doctrine of the Divine Decree implies a specific way God knows.

    God decrees what is true and false and God knows by knowing His Decree.

    Ben,

    God knows what he can decree and then decrees from that set of vast knowledge. Then, indeed, God knows what will occur based upon his determination to decree what will occur. However, to read God’s knowledge of all things based upon the relationship of the decree to his knowledge of the decree will lead you to assert, which I I think you might have, that God knows all things by determination, but clearly God has knowledge of things that aren’t and can’t be a function of His will to determine, like his essence.

  162. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    Is this statement of your misleading or just wrong:

    There is no difference between what God knows and what God foreknows.

    God knows every truth by knowing what He has decreed.


  163. Dear Ron:

    1. You wrote: “God knows what he can decree and then decrees from that set of vast knowledge. Then, indeed, God knows what will occur based upon his determination to decree what will occur. However, to read God’s knowledge of all things based upon the relationship of the decree to his knowledge of the decree will lead you to assert, which I I think you might have, that God knows all things by determination, but clearly God has knowledge of things that aren’t and can’t be a function of His will to determine, like his essence.”

    2. I will attempt to respond to these statements of yours.

    The respond will be within the framework of Gordon Clark’s philosophy, as best as I understand it.

    An important caution in discussing God is that God exists in timeless eternity.

    You must excuse my previous discussions in using tense languages in discussing tenseless states of affairs.

    Unless the context requires it, one usually does not make this distinction.

    It is very tedious to continuously making the distinction and one usually relies on the sympathetic understanding of the reader to make allowances.

    One solution is to state everything about God in the present tense and ask the readers to construe the sentence tenselessly.

    But this will make atrocious English.

    Now that you are pressing the matter, I am forced to make distinctions I otherwise would not make.

    3. Since God exists in timeless eternity, if any of our reasoning about God presupposes and depends on temporal sequencing, then it is wrong.

    An example of a non-temporal sequence is an arithmetic sequence, whose formula is:

    a(n) = a + (n-1) d

    where “a(n)” is the nth term, “a” is the first term and “d” is the common difference.

    This is an example of a non-temporal sequence where order of the terms matters.

    Another example of a non-temporal sequence is the logical form for modus ponens:

    (p –> q, p) –> q

    where “p –> q” and “p” are the premises and “q” is the conclusion.

    This is an example of a non-temporal sequence where the order of terms in the premise does not matter but the order between the premise and conclusion matters.

    3. You wrote: “God knows what he can decree and then decrees from that set of vast knowledge.”

    (a) Did the “and then [than]” implies a temporal sequencing?

    If so, then I have made no such claims.

    My claim is for the truth of the non-temporal sequence:

    (a) God decrees the truth and falsity of propositions.

    (b) The propositions exist as objects of God’s belief or knowledge.

    (c) God believes or knows as true the proposition He decrees is true.

    This non-temporal sequence has three terms where the terms are propositions and the order of the terms in the sequence matters.

    (b) God does not decree from what he knows.

    The object of knowledge is truth and all truths are propositional.

    Propositions exist eternally and necessarily as objects of God’s conceptual thoughts.

    The act of God’s thinking about a proposition and decreeing the truth-value of that proposition constituted that proposition.

    (All these taken tenselessly, of course.)

    It is false that God knows what he can decree and then decrees from that set of vast knowledge.

    4. You wrote: “Then, indeed, God knows what will occur based upon his determination to decree what will occur.”

    “Then” should be understood logically.

    This should be translated as:

    “God knows x occurs bases upon [logically] His determination decreeing that x occurs”.

    where “x” is a variable ranging over states of affairs.

    5. You wrote: “However, to read God’s knowledge of all things based upon the relationship of the decree to his knowledge of the decree will lead you to assert, which I I think you might have, that God knows all things by determination.”

    God does not know “things” by determination.

    God knows “truths” or “true propositions” by knowing the propositions He has decreed to be true.

    It is very important that you keep in mind that the object of knowledge is “truth”, not “things”.

    I do claim that God knows all truths by His determination of the truth-value of each proposition.

    6. You wrote: “but clearly God has knowledge of things that aren’t and can’t be a function of His will to determine, like his essence.”

    This is a very perceptive observation.

    I might have an answer.

    Recall that Gordon Clark is a necessitarian and I construe necessitarianism as the claims that:

    (a) A contingent proposition is true necessarily contingently.

    (b) A necessary proposition is true necessarily necessarily.

    Similarly,

    (c) A contingent state of affairs obtains, if it obtains, obtain necessarily contingently.

    (d) A necessary state of affairs obtains necessarily necessarily.

    God’s decrees are comprehensive and consist of truths that refer to states of affairs that are both internal and external to the Trinity.

    States of affairs internal to the Trinity are on the Creator side of the Creator-creation ontological divide.

    States of affairs external to the Trinity are on the creation side of the Creator-creation ontological divide.

    My conjecture is that:

    (a) Truths about states of affairs internal to the Trinity (or are about God) are true necessarily necessarily.

    (b) Truths about states of affairs external to the Trinity (or are about creation) are true necessarily contingently.

    At this point I need the following definitions from Alvin Plantinga:

    Essential property: An object x has a property P essentially if x has P and X has P in every world in which x exists. (cf. Plantinga 1974. 56).

    Essence: A property is an essence of an object if the property is essential to the object and essentially unique to it. (cf. Plantinga 1974, v).

    Nature: The nature of an object is a conjunctive property including as conjuncts just those properties essential to the object. (cf. Plantinga 1980, 7 n1).

    I submit, following Clark, that if necessitarianism is true, then God could not have determined otherwise.

    (Clark: No other world than this is possible.)

    A contingent proposition is a proposition that is possibly true and possibly false.

    According to necessitarianism, a contingent truth is necessarily contingently true.

    According to necessitarianism, a contingent falsehood is necessarily contingently false.

    They could not have been otherwise.

    According to necessitarianism, a necessary truth is also necessarily necessary true.

    It could not have been otherwise.

    This extends to all other modal properties of propositions.

    An actual truth is necessarily actually true.

    An actual falsehood is necessarily actually false.

    A possible truth is necessarily possibly true.

    A possible falsehood is necessarily possibly false.

    A necessarily falsehood is necessarily necessary false.

    All these follows from the claim that no other world than this is possible, which in turn follows from (equivalent to?) the claim that God could not have determined otherwise.

    If necessitarianism is true, then there is no problem about God determining His own essences.

    This is because the propositions God has determined to be true or false individually and collectively are also essences of God.

    The Divine Decree is an essence of God.

    That is, for any proposition p, the property that God determines the truth-value of p as either true or false is a property that is essential to God and essentially unique to God.

    As long as one does not inject time into eternity, there is no inconsistency in the claim that God knows His essences by knowing His Divine Decree.

    This is because God could not have determined otherwise.

    But whether one can swallow necessitarianism is another matter.

    Necessiatrianism has many presuppositions and implications and I am still learning about them.

    7. References:

    Plantinga, Alvin. 1974. The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    ———-. 1980. Does God Have a Nature? Milwaukee, Marquette University Press.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  164. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    I really don’t have time for such nonsense. You’ve gotten so far afield from the basics and further tangled yourself in a mess. If you can’t agree on what I wrote, or think Clark doesn’t, then there’s much not hope for fruitful discussion. I think it’s obvious for most of us.

  165. Pht Says:

    First: Goodness sakes everyone … pretty please, tag the initials on so we know which “clark” you are referring to! :P

    Second: This posting is primarily in the pursuit of clarity:

    Ron Says:

    January 15, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    In the case of not trusting Christ, there is no lack of liberty – there’s just a lack of ability.

    I am proceeding on the presumption that you here mean by “liberty” that no force external to a man (that force being capable of stopping him) has come against him.

    However, man’s lack of ability to save himself is due to man’s nature, and man does not and can not determine his basic nature.

    In fact, it is God who ultimately decrees a man’s nature, (Romans ch 9, etc) and God’s decrees are utterly outside of our control (Dan. 4:35, etc).

    Thus, if liberty means not being stopped from doing something by an outside force beyond man’s control, than man has no liberty in relation to his justification; for God is the “outside force” who has stopped man from saving himself by being the ultimate determinant of his human nature (either alive to sin or alive to God – mutually exclusive categories).

    I suppose you have might mean by “liberty” that a man is not stopped from doing what, by his nature, he wants to do. If so, than the above doesn’t apply to your line of reasoning.

    In shorter form, we are “free” to do what our nature determines that we want to do out of any choices given to us – but we are not “free” to determine our basic nature.

    The man is not prevented from trusting Christ, but he is prevented from running and being less than finite.

    This statement is one of the reasons I believe you may be using the first definition of “liberty” I mentioned above. Man is clearly prevented from trusting Christ by his nature and his nature is out of his control… however, his nature IS controllable and controlled by God. In fact, it God also ultimately can and has controlled men such that they chose to do things they otherwise would not have done (CF pharoah, etc).

    We must be very careful to define what we mean unambiguously and than to consistently use those definitions.

    Ron Says:

    January 16, 2014 at 12:15 am

    God cannot hold you accountable for not being in two places at once, remember?!

    … and what, biblically, stops God from being able to hold man accountable for not being in two places at once? Is this exegetable anywhere from the bible?

    God quite clearly holds man responsible for what is impossible… and the same sense/meaning of impossible you use here. Man cannot logically jump to the moon – man also cannot logically do what his nature determines is impossible for him.

    For non-posters who may stumble upon this thread:

    All of which, of course, begs the question, than why is man responsible?

    I believe calvin has answered this question based off of sound exegesis of the biblical texts on the topic:

    Calvin, Institutes:

    “In the first place they inquire, by what right the Lord is angry with His creatures who had not provoked Him by any previous offence; for that to devote to destruction whom He pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge; that men have reason, therefore, to expostulate with God, if they are predestinated to eternal death without any demerit of their own, merely by His sovereign will. If such thoughts ever enter the minds of pious men, they will be sufficiently enabled to break their violence by this one consideration, how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will; which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of every thing that exists.

    (I believe calvin is speaking somewhat un-technically here. God’s will is not the cause of God’s existance; God is un-caused)

    … Calvin, contd:
    For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what He wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because He wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, because He would. But if you go further, and ask why He so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found.”

    In short: God’s “desk” is the ONLY desk on which belongs the sign “the buck stops here.”

    Really short: We’re responsible because God says we are.

    Ron Says:

    January 16, 2014 at 2:13 am

    …how many Calvinists appreciate that culpability can’t be deduced from a command? All deductions need more premises than one.

    Very true.

    Whatever God does is just;

    God holds man responsible;

    Therefore, man is justly held responsible by God.

    God has clearly in the bible held mankind responsible for not carrying out his command. Man’s ability to follow said command has, as far as I have read in the bible, nothing to do with his responsibility.

    Ron:

    Would you say the ultimate purpose of everything that God has created and everything he has done would be to give himself (God) all the glory?

  166. Ron Says:

    Pht,

    Liberty entails being able to do something that one wants to do. Accordingly, man has no liberty to be in two place at once (or fly like a bird, or run with no legs) since a sincere desire to do so would not enable one to do so. Whereas reprobates do have liberty to trust in Christ (even though they have no ability to trust in Christ) because if they truly wanted to trust in Christ they could (and would), hence the relative distinction between two impossibilities that relate to liberty.

    Yes, all things are for God’s glory.

  167. Ron Says:

    For what it’s worth, you said:

    >In shorter form, we are “free” to do what our nature determines that we want to do out of any choices given to us – but we are not “free” to determine our basic nature.

    Please note that nature doesn’t determine all that which we do. It determines the kind of things we do. There are classifications of necessity – nature determinism and act determinism. That man acts according to his nature is not even an argument against libertarian freedom. But your basic premise is correct, we are not free to change our nature.

  168. Pht Says:

    Ron Says:

    January 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Pht,

    Liberty entails being able to do something that one wants to do. Accordingly, man has no liberty to be in two place at once (or fly like a bird, or run with no legs) since a sincere desire to do so would not enable one to do so. Whereas reprobates do have liberty to trust in Christ (even though they have no ability to trust in Christ) because if they truly wanted to trust in Christ they could (and would), hence the relative distinction between two impossibilities that relate to liberty.

    I believe I see what you’re saying. You’re apparently saying that liberty is essentially the second definition I gave – that you can do what you want to do, out of the choices you have in any given situation. Therefore, the opposite of liberty = not being able to do what you desire to do in any given situation.

    Yes, all things are for God’s glory.

    Ok. I was just curious.

    Ron Says:

    January 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    For what it’s worth, you said:

    Pht says:

    In shorter form, we are “free” to do what our nature determines that we want to do out of any choices given to us – but we are not “free” to determine our basic nature.

    Please note that nature doesn’t determine all that which we do. It determines the kind of things we do. There are classifications of necessity – nature determinism and act determinism. That man acts according to his nature is not even an argument against libertarian freedom. But your basic premise is correct, we are not free to change our nature.

    I merely meant that our nature determines what we will want to do. I also meant to say that our nature will, excluding God’s direct intervention (thus the pharoah reference, but even there it might be that God didn’t make pharaoh’s choice directly, rather changed pharaoh’s nature somewhat), determine our choices. Whether we do anything we don’t chose to do, I am not sure about.

    “Libertarian Freedom / LFW” I have always seen/read/heard this as being defined as “the power to ALWAYS choose otherwise/contrary,” regardless of ANY conditions. Thus, if our basic nature always directs our choices, this would negate LF/LFW.

  169. Ron Says:

    “ Thus, if our basic nature always directs our choices, this would negate LF/LFW.

    Pht,

    No, I’m afraid that’s not quite right. That man always acts according to his nature is not an argument against libertarian freedom.Let’s assume that God must regenerate a dead sinner before he can make certain types of choices according to that new nature. Would that imply that the man cannot choose with equal ease between chocolate and vanilla independent? Now, of course, I do deny that man can choose contrary to how he will choose but such a refutation against “act compatibility” is not bolstered by arguments regarding “nature compatibility.” In other words, that we must choose / act according to our nature does mean that our choices are free in a libertarian sense. Libertarian freedom entails what’s called the principle of alternate possibilities, which means that man is free in choosing chocolate if and only if he could have not chosen chocolate. There are other libertarians out there that get into what is called Frankfurt counterexamples and will formation, but that only confuses matters for these purposes. For our purposes, that the monergistic work of regeneration precedes saving faith and creates our new nature does not imply that man doesn’t have libertarian freedom.

  170. Ron Says:

    Please ignore the last post – as there was a typo that changed the meaning… and another unclear remark. Try this…

    Pht,

    No, I’m afraid that’s not quite right. That man always acts according to his nature is not an argument against libertarian freedom.Let’s assume that God must regenerate a dead sinner before he can make certain types of choices according to that new nature. Would that imply that the man cannot choose with equal ease between chocolate and vanilla independent of his nature? Now, of course, I do deny that man can choose contrary to how he will choose but such a refutation against “act compatibility” is not bolstered by arguments regarding “nature compatibility.” In other words, that we must choose / act according to our nature does mean that our choices are not free in a libertarian sense. Don’t get me wrong. Our choices aren’t free in a libertarian sense, but our nature has nothing to do with that. Libertarian freedom entails what’s called the principle of alternate possibilities, which means that man is free in choosing chocolate if and only if he could have not chosen chocolate. (There are other libertarians out there that get into what is called Frankfurt counterexamples and will formation, but that only confuses matters for these purposes.) For our purposes, that the monergistic work of regeneration precedes saving faith and creates our new nature does not imply that man doesn’t have libertarian freedom. At most it can only imply that there is one choice that is not libertarian-free.

  171. James Says:

    ” For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

    I have the desire, but not the ability….sin taking me captive. Are we held culpable for our actions despite this? Yes. But if liberty is non-prevention then we cannot be held responsible for such acts.

    Compatibilist Responsibility:

    If I am to be held responsible for my actions then my actions must enjoy liberty(in some sense)
    Liberty (in some sense) is what allows God to hold me responsible and morally culpable
    to sum up,
    Without liberty there is no responsibility.

    Clarkian Responsibility:
    Clark defined responsibility in terms of God’s reward or punishment of our actions (in reference to His Law). As I said before, for Clark, oughtness does not involve ability/liberty.
    to sum up,
    Without God’s rewarding or punishing our actions, there would be no responsibility.

    Now Clark may entertain a notion of liberty (as we shall see) but he does not integrate that notion with responsibility such that he arrives at the compatibilist view. And otoh even if the the compatibilist certainly requires God for responsibility, the focus here is on the difference: the place of liberty (or lack thereof) in the notion of what it means to be responsible. Clearly there is a discrepancy here between Clark’s notion of responsibility and the compatibilist version.

    Compatibilist Liberty:
    we have a power or ability to avoid (decreed act) and there are no constraints keeping us from not doing (decreed act)
    in short, as per Ron, we are not prevented from doing otherwise – *nothing* prevents us from doing otherwise.

    I focus on this part since the compatibilist wants to meet the alleged intuition that the ability to do otherwise seemed to be an important requirement for freedom and responsibility and also, since this highlights the main difference from Clark.

    Clarkian Liberty:
    “the Liberty that the Westminster Confession ascribes to the will is a liberty from compulsion, coaction, or force of inanimate objects; it is not a liberty from the power of God”.

    Clark’s definition of liberty is narrow- it is a liberty such that we are not determined/forced by inanimate forces (ie forces describable by differential equations, etc..) Note that Clark says we don’t have a liberty from God’s power. So, as far as doing otherwise, this notion of liberty would say the we have liberty as long as no inanimate force prevents us – but note this is not the same as we have liberty as long as *nothing* prevents us from doing otherwise. The two definitions are not the same. One interesting result of Clark’s definition is that he can handle John 12:39-40 and all of the verses I have adduced previously (inluding Romans 7 above) where the persons are indeed described as being prevented from doing otherwise – for the simple reason that none of those forces are inanimate /describable by differential equations,etc.. God can prevent them from doing otherwise, and they still can be said to have liberty. God also holds them responsible – but, as we have seen, for Clark, this has not to do with liberty at all, but only with God rewarding or punishing them while holding them accountable to His Law.

    Compatibilist Sovereignty:
    This is a phase which might not have been broached yet – but I will do it anyway – my apologies if it already has been.

    Liberty allows for God to hold us morally responsible and morally culpable

    Note that liberty “allows” God; It turns out that liberty is of so great importance to the compatibilist that not even God can violate it if He is to hold us responsible. This smacks of, in Clarkian terms, a Platonic principle over and above/ independent to God’s Will.
    God cannot create a world where He chooses to hold beings morally responsible if the beings do not enjoy liberty (of the compatibilist type). God’s Will is constrained: liberty is a Platonic Principle that God must abide by if He chooses to hold his beings responsible.
    And what did Clark think of that kind of principle? He vehemently disagreed and denied it. I would love to quote to you the many places he dealt with this, but my fingers would fall off – but since the original topic of this thread is Zanchius, let me quote Clark who quotes Zanchius favorably: “For example, Jerome Zanchius, born just one year before Luther fired the shot heard round the world, author of learned treatises on the Nature Of God, on the Trinity, and on Predestination, remarks in the latter treatise that God’s “will, decree, and foreknowledge are no other than God himself willing, decreeing, and foreknowing.” Reflection will reveal that a statement such as this is a denial of Ideas superior to and independent of God…Plato of course had made Justice superior to the will of God. Zanchius and Bucer identify them…Zanchius declares “He did not therefore will such things because they were in themselves right and he was bound to will them; but they are therefore equitable and right because he wills them”.

    Clarkian Sovereignty holds that there is no principle superior to God constraining His Will.

    And for those who would reply that such a principle is not superior/independent of God, but is His Nature then Clark also disposes of that in his work entitled The Atonement in a chapter on the Sovereignty of God.

    In summary, if it is essential in being a compatibilist to hold to the ideas outlined previously, then, given the variance between Clark’s ideas and those, my own opinion is that Clark is not one. But isn’t Clark some type of compatibilist afterall? Doesn’t he retain responsibility, sovereignty, and liberty and are not all these compatible in his system? Just because there is logical compatibility, even Scriptural compatibility (as we’ve seen with John 12) – no that doesn’t mean he is a compatibilist if being a compatibilist means holding the ideas above.

    Thanks

  172. James Says:

    oops misread Zacharias as Zanchius

  173. James Says:

    Ron –

    this:
    James’ last paragraph in his post immediately above is riddled with logical binds and confusion. If anyone has been confused by this person and needs some help navigating through some things, just drop a note. Don’t take this as me thinking too highly of myself or too lowly of anyone else. There are many lurkers etc. that might have been led astray by this person.

    is not a reply – you well know that there are different doxastic attitudes in reference to belief – including withholding. And to withhold is to not believe even though it is not to reject willingly.

  174. Ron Says:

    I hope this post will clear up some misconceptions. That Clark indexed responsibility to our being creatures rather than to our ability to choose as we desire is not germane to the question of whether he was a compatibilist, whereby he thought man’s freedom is compatible with God’s determination of our choices.

    The compatibilist position is not that we are responsible because we are free, but rather the decree is compatible with creaturely freedom and responsibility. Indeed, compatiblists might argue that freedom makes us responsible, which Clark would not. But that is not the essence of compatiblism. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines it, “Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism.” Now obviously, because this encyclopedia recognizes that compatiblists deny libertarian freedom, the “free will” in view is not libertarian freedom but rather a freedom that is compatible with the determinism. Noteworthy is that this encyclopedia also recognizes that freedom is typically (therefore, not always) taken as a necessary condition for moral responsibility. Accordingly, that is why they say that “compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

    That said, Clark was a compatiblist because he believed that freedom and responsibility are compatible with the determinism. Or to put it another way, God’s determination of our acts does not undermine our responsibility for them.

    As Monergism notes, “Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is ‘compatible’ with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). It should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism – be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will. Our choices are only our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures. Compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most. The former view is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (Note: compatibilism denies that the will is free to choose otherwise, that is, free from the bondage of the corruption nature,for the unregenerate, and denies that the will is free from God’s eternal decree.)” Clark would agree.

    As John Frame has said, “The term compatibilism indicates that such freedom [freedom to choose according to desires] is compatible with causation, even determinism.” Clark would agree.

    As Beilby and Eddy define, compatibilism is “the idea that freedom is compatible with necessity…causal determination.” Clark would agree.

    Compatiblism does not mean that we are responsible because we are free, though most compatiblists believe that to be true as Stanford suggests.) Rather, compatiblism merely means that determinism (or for the Christian the divine decree) is compatible with our creaturely freedom (not to be confused with libertarian freedom) and accountability. Stated negatively, God’s determination of our actions does not undermine any freedom we have and our accountability to God. With that, Clark agreed, which made him a compatibilist by definition.

    Again, that Clark indexed responsibility to our being creatures rather than to our ability to choose as we desire is not germane to the question of whether he thought our freedom in this sense is compatible with God’s determination of our choices.

  175. James Says:

    Ron

    Thanks! Nice clarification. I get it – I think –

    so, just to make sure I am getting it, let me ask, and thanks for your patience,

    a compatibilist does not have to hold, can reject the following (jointly or all):

    If I am to be held responsible for my actions then my actions must enjoy liberty(in some sense)

    Liberty (in some sense) is what allows God to hold me responsible and morally culpable

    Without liberty (in some sense) there is no responsibility.

    Ability limits responsibility

    *nothing* prevents us from doing otherwise.

    God cannot create a world where He chooses to hold beings morally responsible if the beings do not enjoy liberty (in some sense).

    Thanks again,

  176. James Says:

    Tim -
    I wanted to get back to your question on a command to regenerate oneself

    Actually Clark in his book Predestination in the Old Testament deals with the Arminian “ability limits responsibility” on Is 1:16,17 and Jer 4:4 for example. Clark takes the former to be the washing of regeneration and the latter (circumcise your heart) may possibly (but not probably) refer to regeneration. Thus an Arminian would argue I must be able to regenerate myself if I am commanded to do it, etc… Argument aside, it’s just the notion that Is 1:16,17 could be taken that way that interests me in reference to your previous question

    Thanks,

  177. Ron Says:

    James,

    At least a few things need clarification, but at the very least, if one rejects that “nothing prevents us from doing otherwise” (including intention) then that person believes in libertarian freedom, in which case he couldn’t be a compatibilist since he would deny the necessity of determinism.

  178. Ron Says:

    James,

    It would seem that you have a problem with this sentiment as expressed by you: “If I am to be held responsible for my actions then my actions must enjoy liberty (in some sense).”

    Walk with me on this… In such a construct, liberty is a necessary condition for responsibility. What that means is whenever responsibility obtains, liberty is present in that state of affairs. That premise should be assumed true until one can show state of affairs in which one is responsible without having liberty. (Please, read all this slowly.) Moreover, because man is responsible because God says he is does not undermine the premise that man’s responsibility before God presupposes man’s liberty to act or refrain in those instances in which man is responsible (or that man himself didn’t impair his liberty).God is not capricious in his holding of man responsible.

    There are many illustrations in Scripture that show this principle, not the least of which is God holding each man more or less responsible depending upon his talents and maturity of understanding. One with a greater talent has greater liberty, all other things being equal, than one with a lesser degree of the same talent. Children compared to wiser adults don’t have the same degree of liberty to act in a biblically informed and prudent manner. Reason being, they couldn’t even if they wanted; yet a wiser man who wanted to could (even though the “wanting” would have to be effected by God’s grace). Accordingly, men are more accountable than children (and arguably, as a general rule, than women) on matters of wisdom. So again, that God holds man accountable on His say-so is not capricious, as Scripture points out over and over again.

    You make it sound as if God could hold the widow who gave only a mite responsible to give more than possible. You make it sound that God could hold a three month old responsible for not using the toilet. Yet we never see this sort of thing in Scripture. We only see the opposite in fact, no liberty no responsibility. Tell me, would you at least agree that God doesn’t hold people responsible for logical impossibilities? The point being in all this, you’re thinking in terms of false-disjunctive propositions. God holding people responsible on his say is not mutually exclusive to his say-so being informed by God’s understanding of the creature’s God given liberty. Again, God proves himself not to be capricious let alone all that mysterious about these things.

  179. Tim Harris Says:

    James — it wasn’t a question, it was an assertion. We are not commanded to regenerate ourselves, and on the Judgment Day, the judgment will not be “that you did not regenerate yourself,” nor even, “that you are unregenerate.”

  180. Ron Says:

    James,

    I need to correct something I wrote in the brief post at 2:49. Correction in BOLD… I should have written:

    At least a few things need clarification, but at the very least, if one ACCEPTS that “nothing prevents us from doing otherwise” (including intention) then that person believes in libertarian freedom, in which case he couldn’t be a compatibilist since he would deny the necessity of determinism.

    It is unclear to me whether you transitioned in your post given that the first several premises you put forth were starkly different than the this one. Why you put “nothing prevents us from doing otherwise” in your post is confusing to me as it doesn’t follow the flow of what you wrote previously regarding premises that may be rejected – premises in which you disagree. Yet you certainly do disagree with the premise that “nothing prevents us from doing otherwise.”

  181. Ron Says:

    … I should have added, the one you “certainly do disagree with” is not a point of contention, so your mentioning it confused me. I think I’m tracking now. You were just being comprehensive. My bad.

    So, at this juncture I’d say please consider my post at 3:35.

  182. Ron Says:

    Regardless of 3:35, though I’d like to hear you on this, compatibilism is believing that some form of freedom is compatible with determinism. So, in principle, yes, one can deny all those things and be a compatibilist. He’d be inconsistent with Scripture but a compatibilist just the same.

  183. James Says:

    Yes – I was confusing – sorry – didn’t get all of the words – I noticed that too –

    What I meant to write was, can reject

    liberty (somehow dependent on/defined) as nothing prevents me from doing otherwise

    that was the context of liberty in my longer reply- and I only half wrote of what I meant –

    deepest apologies

  184. Ron Says:

    James,

    If one rejects (i) a certain esoteric definition of liberty, (ii) libertarian freedom or (iii) whatever, yet affirms compatibility between voluntary choices and the determination of them, then that person is a compatibilist by definition.

    Hopefully with that aside, I would like your thoughts (or just ponder it maybe and don’t respond) on the 3:35 post – the one where I argue that God holding men responsible for their choices based upon His say-so does not undermine the notion that God’s say-so takes into account man’s liberty to choose. I won’t repeat here all what I wrote there, but please do consider that post.

    One thing I’m hoping to tease out is that although man is held accountable for willful acts of omission and commission in which he’s unable to do other than what God has decreed, man is not held accountable for his own actions when there is no liberty to do otherwise (unless a previous action for which he is deemed guilty by God has cost him his liberty. For example, a man in jail who has no liberty to work and pay child support is culpable for neglect when it is his own act of the will that put him in jail).

    The point is that man is responsible for acting and not acting according to his liberty to choose what he wants, but not according to his ability to act contrary to God’s decree. So, man is responsible for rejecting God even though he has no ability not to reject God. Notwithstanding, and here’s the rub, God does not make laws regarding what He requires of man without taking into account man’s liberty to act voluntarily. So, as I posted above, God has different standards based upon talents, maturity etc., which corroborates that God’s requirements and penalties are not merely based upon his say-so but rather His say so is informed by what He Himself knows man has the liberty to do.

    I’m fine to give this a rest.

  185. Jon Says:

    I think the only definition that can do justice to our responsiblity as free agents is libertarian freewill. That is the only definition that counts for anything.

  186. James Says:

    Ron

    If one rejects (i) a certain esoteric definition of liberty, (ii) libertarian freedom or (iii) whatever, yet affirms compatibility between voluntary choices and the determination of them, then that person is a compatibilist by definition.

    This is satisfactory – I like (iii) whatever – nice!

    I will ponder,

  187. Jon Says:

    Indeed, James. Yet I find compatibilism too philosophically problematic. Too troubling, I’m afraid, especially since I’ve read Roger Oleson on this.

  188. Ron Says:

    Jon,

    somewhere in the recent past you affirmed LFW on this site. Is that why you find problems with compatibilism?

  189. James Says:

    Tim –
    thanks for the reply.
    I believe that the command (Is 1:16 for example) to wash/cleanse oneself is figurative and indeed is a command to regenerate oneself and therefore God does hold us responsible. However, it’s impossible for us to wash/cleanse ourselves. But thankfully He gives what he commands (Titus 3:5)

  190. Ron Says:

    James,

    Come on, be reasonable. Regeneration is God taking up residence in man. How do you suppose that God commands us to do take out a heart of stone and give ourselves a heart of flesh. You need to abort your paradigm, it leads to too many silly notions. Creation and recreation is God’s work, not man’s.

  191. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, If I am understanding your hastily-typed sentence, “How do you suppose that God commands us to do take out a heart of stone and give ourselves a heart of flesh,” then the answer is in the likes of Deut. 10:16 ~ Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

    Or Ezekiel 18:31 ~ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

    And Zech. 7:12 relates that some actually harden their hearts: Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. This implies that they are under orders to do the opposite, doesn’t it? I.e., soften their hearts.

  192. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    Man repents. God regenerates. Regeneration does not involve man’s act of the will – even prior to the fall. It’s purely an act of God; whereas repentance (and faith), although always by effectual grace, is an act of man. God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do, but he does command man to do what man can only do if God grants it.

    Look at it this way. Can even God cause man to regenerate himself? Of course not. But God can cause man to repent.

  193. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    Are heart-circumcision,
    neck-softening,
    transgression-tossing,
    new heart/spirit-making, et. al., works man is capable of?

    Of course not.

    Then, God DOES/ DID “command man to do what only God has ever been able to do,” right?

    He does not merely “command man to do what man can only do if God grants it.”

    Good gracious! Repentance and faith no more “involve man’s act of the will” than does regeneration, or the above list of biblical commands.

    God regularly commands man to do what only God has ever been able to do. That’s why Jesus came.

  194. Roger Says:

    The point is that man is responsible for acting and not acting according to his liberty to choose what he wants, but not according to his ability to act contrary to God’s decree.

    Ron, I understand what you’re saying, but these types of distinctions seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. If we speak of freedom or liberty in relation to God (which is all that really matters), then we’re obviously not free in any relevant sense. We are not free from either God’s decree or His providential control over all things. To say that “man is responsible for acting and not acting according to his liberty to choose what he wants” is ultimately a distinction without a meaning, since it is God Himself who actively and directly causes our desires – whether good or evil. In other words, He completely determines every detail of our thoughts, motives, and willingness to act or not act in accordance with His moral law:

    “The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (Proverbs 16:4)

    “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

    “A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24)

    “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)

    Therefore, despite the fact that we choose according to our desires, we still do not have “freedom” or “liberty” in any relevant sense whatsoever.

    It would be much less confusing if we simply denied any sense of human freedom and denied any relationship between freedom and responsibility. I believe Vincent Cheung is absolutely correct when he writes:

    “Moral responsibility (or accountability) has to do with whether God has decided to judge us; it has no direct relationship with whether we are free. In fact, if we were free from God but not judged by God, then we would still not be morally responsible (or accountable). In other words, moral responsibility does not presuppose human freedom, but it presupposes divine sovereignty. We are responsible not because we are free, but we are responsible precisely because we are not free.

    Also, Calvinists often affirm that Adam was free before the Fall. But again, I always speak of freedom relative to God, and from this perspective, I would say that Adam had no freedom even before the Fall. To be ‘free’ from sin is irrelevant. The issue is whether Adam was free from God to choose to remain free from sin – he was not. In addition, I would not say that God permitted Adam to fall, but that God caused it…

    My position is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything. It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism. I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense.

    Libertarian freedom is indeed freedom, but it is unbiblical and impossible – there is no such freedom. On the other hand, compatibilist freedom is not ‘freedom’ at all, but it is only a description of what happens when God controls every aspect of our decisions and actions, usually according to a ‘nature’ that he has also created in us. Both the words ‘compatibilist’ and ‘freedom’ are misleading.”

  195. Roger Says:

    Ron, unless you can explain away verses such as “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16) and “make you a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31), then I fail to see how you can maintain that “God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do.” Unless we’re willing to become Pelagians, they certainly appear to command us to do what only God Himself can do.

  196. Ron Says:

    Ron, I understand what you’re saying, but these types of distinctions seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. If we speak of freedom or liberty in relation to God (which is all that really matters), then we’re obviously not free in any relevant sense.

    Roger,

    I sincerely hope you will keep your head about you and deal with this discussion in a spirit of Christian charity, in the bond of peace. I think you have and pray you continue. The same goes for me, double.

    All things are in “relation to God,” including man’s liberty as described by me above.

    The reason this distinction is not “more trouble than it’s worth” is because without it God can be impugned with requiring of man states of affairs that are (i) logically impossible (e.g. be in two places at once) and (ii) naturally impossible (e.g. fly unaided by wings). Those sorts of things even God cannot grant to man. Accordingly, without this distinction God ends up commanding man to do things that are impossible for even God to bring to pass. Whereas there is not a hint in Scripture that God holds man responsible for anything that God himself cannot effect in man; yet Scripture is replete that God judges man according to man’s liberty, even when he is without ability. I argued above that God will judge men according to their respective talents, which is only intelligible given this distinction of liberty. That premise you’ve chosen to dismiss as meaningless, irrelevant and more trouble than it’s worth, but apart from that premise you’re left with an arbitrary final judgment whereby God cannot distinguish between men regarding their transgressions. (More on that below.)

    We are not free from either God’s decree or His providential control over all things. To say that “man is responsible for acting and not acting according to his liberty to choose what he wants” is ultimately a distinction without a meaning, since it is God Himself who actively and directly causes our desires – whether good or evil.

    I’m sorry but that’s logically untenable. In sequential order you moved from a (i) metaphysical claim to (ii) an ethical conclusion (iii) based upon the reason for the metaphysical claim. Your metaphysical claim is that man does not have libertarian freedom. Your ethical conclusion is that man’s liberty is irrelevant to the question of accountability. You base this conclusion on the fact that God causes our desires. Points 1 and 3 are true but taken together or individually they don’t establish the conclusion that man’s responsibility is not predicated upon liberty, especially in light of man being accountable for the talents he possesses. You then went on to quote several verses all having to do with God’s determination of our actions, yet that is to argue by false disjunction since God’s determination of man’s acts of necessity is not mutually exclusive to man being judge according to the liberties God has granted him. You need to show that God’s determination of man’s actions precludes man from being responsible according to his God given liberty.

    Therefore, despite the fact that we choose according to our desires, we still do not have “freedom” or “liberty” in any relevant sense whatsoever.

    So, you’re saying that God might hold the widow who only gave a mite equally responsible as the selfish king who gave the same? In other words, all people who break the same laws are beaten with the same number of stripes regardless of their divinely appointed lot in life, irrespective of their liberty to do more or less?

    Regarding the rest of your post, it merely builds upon the same foundation so if I’ve toppled its base then all that followed fell along with it.

    Regarding your second post to me, you wrote:

    Ron, unless you can explain away verses such as “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16) and “make you a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31), then I fail to see how you can maintain that “God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do.” Unless we’re willing to become Pelagians, they certainly appear to command us to do what only God Himself can do.

    Roger, that you would leap to a conclusion of pelagianism is at least reckless. My metaphysic is no different than yours.

    God is not able to make a man regenerate himself. Whereas God is able to make man do things like believe, repent and do good works. Man believes, repents and does good works, but you are bound to agree that man does not regenerate (nor can God cause man to regenerate himself). The latter is something done to man, whereby man does the former things (believes, repents and does good works) by grace. Accordingly, man is not held responsible for not regenerating himself (!), but man is held responsible for not doing the good works that he can only do through regeneration. Please don’t miss this last part. Scripture holds man responsible before God for his works and not according to his lack of liberty to change his ontology. So, regardless how you choose to exegete “circumcise your heart,” not having a circumcised heart is not a violation of the law for which man is judged.

    Finally, it seems to be that you want to build a fence around the wall. Your goal, or so it seems, is to protect the truism that “ought does not imply can” and that God holds man responsible for things he is incapable of doing on his own, but that defense is not logically bolstered by denying the rational bases upon which God holds some more or less accountable than others.

  197. Ron Says:

    Then, God DOES/ DID “command man to do what only God has ever been able to do,” right?

    Hugh,

    Yes, God commands man to do what only God can do in man, but that misses the point since I’ve affirmed that all along.

    The command to circumcise one’s heart is a command not only to do external works but to do something else – namely repent and purify one’s ways, which man does by grace. The command to quit being stiff necked is of the same order – repent and no longer resist the Holy Spirit. These are not monergistic works of God done in man, i.e. in which man is utterly passive.

    In contrast, God does not command man to regenerate himself for in regeneration man is passive. God cannot cause man to effectually call himself. Regeneration is monergistic, unlike when man repents and / or mortifies the flesh. Indeed, man must be born again, but man does not perform the one time act of regeneration, which is why he’s not commanded to regenerate himself, let alone held accountable for not doing so. (More on this when I post something on misuse of Deuteronomy 10.)

    Good gracious! Repentance and faith no more “involve man’s act of the will” than does regeneration, or the above list of biblical commands.

    That is a very imprecise statement and doesn’t deal with the nuances of the point. In any case, faith and repentance are properly considered acts, but the point you’re not addressing is the properties of faith and repentance belong to man – and that they are the result of the monergistic act of regeneration, which is performed by God. Whereas God does not believe and repent for man, He does cause men to repent and believe – but never does He call men to give themselves second birth.

    God regularly commands man to do what only God has ever been able to do. That’s why Jesus came.

    Yup, that’s why the Savior came, to do what only he could do. But that doesn’t come close to touching the thesis that you think you find so repulsive.

  198. Ron Says:

    Roger,

    You wrote,

    Ron, unless you can explain away verses such as “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16) and “make you a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31), then I fail to see how you can maintain that “God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do.”

    If you don’t mind, I will only deal with Deuteronomy 10:16 for time sake.

    In the passage that contains verse 16 God delineates what he requires of man in verses 12 and 13. “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?”

    You say God “commands” man to circumcise his heart and hold him responsible for the command, but the passages explicitly states what is required of man. God raises the question and then answers it succinctly, “what does the Lord God require of you…” Every bit of what God requires of man is contained in the law: (i) walk in His ways, (ii) love and serve Him with our entire being and (iii) obey His commandments and statutes. According, either “circumcise your heart” is to be equated with the law keeping that God “requires” of man, for which man is accountable, or else it must be considered the necessary precondition that must be met so that man might obey the law (yet imperfectly). The latter is the preferable interpretation given the context and flow of the passage. In other words, “This is what I require, therefore, circumcise your heart so that you might do what I require, that being walk in my ways…”

    So, if the latter is the correct interpretation, then circumcising one’s heart is not what is “required” of us in the law-keeping sense for which man will be judged, but rather it becomes the means by which we are enabled to do those things that are “required from you.” But if “circumcise your heart” is to be equated with the law that is required of man, then it can only be just shorthand for those things that God had already explicitly spelled out just a few verses before (i.e. walk in His ways…love and serve Him… walk in obedience).

    The obvious import of the passage is that the call to quit being stiff necked and uncircumcised is a call to repentance and faith so that Israel might begin to obey what God “requires” in a true sense, not in an external sense. But even if you don’t like that interpretation, we can’t get around the fact that God explicitly spells out what is required of man, which does not include a change in ontology but rather the works that proceed from such a change in ontology. It’s no wonder that Revelation 20:11 ff informs that man will not be judged according to regeneration but the objective law.


  199. Dear Ron:

    1. Following-up your discussions with others above but looking at them at a slightly different angle, I like to pose the following questions to you:

    Is ability logically independent of obligation and responsibility?

    A proposition p is *independent* of a proposition q if neither p nor (not p) is deducible from q.

    For a human person:

    Is the ability to perform an act logically independent of the responsibility to perform the same act?

    Is the responsibility to perform an act logically independent of the ability to perform the same act?

    Since obligation is a different concept from responsibility, the same questions between ability and obligation:

    Is the ability to perform an act logically independent of the obligation to perform the same act?

    Is the obligation to perform an act logically independent of the ability to perform the same act?

    2. If I have not misread Gordon Clark’s “Determinism and Responsibility” (1932), Clark’s position is that a human person’s obligation and responsibility to perform an act *is* logically independent of the same person’s ability to perform that act.

    That is, the obligation a human person has to perform an act (e.g. the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments) is logically independent of the same person ability to perform that act (e.g. the ability to obey the Ten Commandments).

    The responsibility a human person has to perform an act (e.g. the responsibility to obey the Ten Commandments) is logically independent of the same person ability to perform that act (e.g. the ability to obey the Ten Commandments).

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  200. Amplification:

    “The responsibility a human person has to perform an act (e.g. the responsibility to obey the Ten Commandments) is logically independent of the same person ability to perform that act (e.g. the ability to obey the Ten Commandments).”

    of course includes the responsibility to refrain from performing certain acts.

    The same goes for the other statements.

    Benjamin


  201. Dear Ron:

    1. The issue for me, following Gordon Clark, is not whether ability is logically compatible (or consistent) with responsibility.

    The issue is logical independence:

    Is obligation and responsibility logically independent of ability?

    If it is true that they are logically independent, then it trivially follows that they are logically consistent.

    2. This might be another “esoteric” Clarkian position. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  202. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    Yes, we cannot properly derive ability from responsibility. It is also true that we cannot derive responsibility from ability, which I don’t think has been discussed in this thread but it’s an interesting topic.

    We must be careful here as we’re not speaking of metaphysical ability but rather natural ability. We never have metaphysical ability to do other than what we do. Moreover, the idea of natural ability can get very entwined with that of liberty but they can and should be distinguished. We’ve been talking all along about having liberty without ability, but there are instances in which man has ability without liberty.

  203. Ron Says:

    Is obligation and responsibility logically independent of ability?

    If it is true that they are logically independent, then it trivially follows that they are logically consistent.

    I just saw that now, Benjamin. I disagree with that sentiment. Liberty is not just trivially consistent with accountability. They’re inseparably consistent in that liberty is the seat of moral accountability, but that’s a matter of revelation and not strict derivation. Having said that, ability is not inexorably tied to responsibility, but given this quote of yours and your preceding two posts to that one, I’m not sure your distinguishing what I’m saying between ability and liberty for I can’t imagine why you’d be asking about ability after all this time.

  204. Tim Harris Says:

    Just a quick sidebar — notice that commands are not propositions. To go from a command to a proposition, a great deal of “work” must be done. That being so, I’m skeptical that such propositions can really be regarded as part of the “axiom.” (Note that the “proposition” can also not be derived logically from a command, since the latter is not a proposition. Something else is needed.) Just food for thought, I’m not trying to start a new tangent.

  205. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    If you don’t mind, I will only deal with bits for the sake of time.

    Better minds than mine are onto you here, so I’ll leave the heavy lifting to Roger and Benjamin (and Sean, when he cares to weigh in).

    This sounds atrocious: “The command to circumcise one’s heart is a command not only to do external works but to do something else – namely repent and purify one’s ways, which man does by grace. The command to quit being stiff necked is of the same order – repent and no longer resist the Holy Spirit. These are not monergistic works of God done in man, i.e. in which man is utterly passive.”

    Please tell me how this differs from the Romish or Federal Vision positions.

    You say, “but [God] never does He call men to give themselves second birth.”
    ~ Jesus said, “Ye must be born again,” a universal call to repentance and new birth along the lines of Dt. 10:16 & Ex. 18:31. God indeed did call the Israelites to a self-new-birth; what else does heart-circumcision, or making oneself a new heart & spirit mean?

    But you also say, “The obvious import of the passage [Dt. 10:16] is that the call to quit being stiff necked and uncircumcised is a call to repentance and faith…”
    ~ That’s precisely what I am trying to say. Plus, it’s more than that, as these require a new heart/ spirit. That’s what Moses and Ezekiel command the Jews. But are you are arguing against this when you earlier said, “God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do…”?

    I replied that the passages from Deut., Ezek., & Zech. show us that God DOES/ DID “command man to do what only God has ever been able to do,” right?

    In your response you appeared to agree: Yes, God commands man to do what only God can do in man, but that misses the point since I’ve affirmed that all along. The command to circumcise one’s heart is a command not only to do external works but to do something else – namely repent and purify one’s ways, which man does by grace.

    There are no “external works” in Dt. 10:16 or Ez. 18:31, so that’s irrelevant to my point. I am simply saying that God commands men to re-birth themselves. You’re saying yes and no. Which is it, please? Thanks.


  206. Dear Ron:

    1. Gordon Clark was born in 1902 and he was 30 years old when the seminal essay “Determinism and Responsibility” (1932) was published.

    I still marvel at the insights Clark has at that age in his life.

    2. You wrote: “but there are instances in which man has ability without liberty.”

    Reminds me of all the sins I have the ability to commit and did commit but not according to the new liberty in Christ.

    3. If indeed obligation and responsibility are logically independent of ability, then this obviously has implications for the relation between ability and liberty.

    I will let you and others explore this further if you so wish. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  207. Ron Says:

    Benjamin,

    Regarding 2, I had in mind being able to play the violin but being in jail and not having liberty to play (not being able to play even with the desire to play).

    Hugh,

    I’m going to pass on yours, if not also on others that might respond. To continue to make the same points is to deny by implication Calvinism which teaches that only God can grant understanding to an opposing view.

  208. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, I understand your pulling out.

    Benjamin, Roger, Sean, or ____: Can anyone else here who’s just as smart as Ron please help me out? I’m trying to understand and then if necessary, repent of my thinking.


  209. Dear Hugh:

    1. Thank you but I decline to be called smart. : – )

    In the past, if someone paid me an unwarranted compliment and if I do not decline it in my heart, it will eventually led and pride and downfall.

    2. I don’t think I can help out too much because many things in this discussion are unclear to me.

    No offence to Ron is intended,

    Ron wrote regarding liberty: “I had in mind being able to play the violin but being in jail and not having liberty to play (not being able to play even with the desire to play).”

    But this kind of liberty that is tie to external circumstances, although it is a kind of liberty, is much less interesting than the internal kind.

    The freedom and liberty in New Testament Romans involves the ideas of ability, secondary causation, action in accordance with one’s nature, action contrary to one’s nature, change in human nature (or character) and many more.

    The concept of freedom and liberty in Romans is a much more challenging and richer concept.

    I do not have a sufficient grasp of the inter-relations between most of these ideas.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  210. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Benjamin. I apologize for potentially stumbling you.

    I mean to say that you are more learned than I. Smarter, too [I think; but then, I am easily impressed].

    Amen & amen: “I do not have a sufficient grasp of the inter-relations between most of these ideas.” ! ! !

  211. Jon Says:

    Hugh, judging from your past remarks I’d say you do have a good understanding of the relationship between ideas generally.

  212. Roger Says:

    All things are in “relation to God,” including man’s liberty as described by me above.

    Ron, with all due respect, this doesn’t seem to line up with what you’ve been arguing for in your earlier posts. If I’ve understood you correctly, you’ve been saying that our “ability” to do what is commanded is in relation to God’s decree, while our “liberty” to do what is commanded is in relation to our internal wants or desires. Specifically, regarding our “liberty” you’ve been arguing that we may obey God’s commands as long as we want or desire to. So you haven’t been describing man’s “liberty” in relation to God during this discussion as you claim.

    However, as I said before, if we restrict our discussion of freedom and liberty as it relates to God, then the distinction you’re making is ultimately meaningless, since it is God Himself who actively and directly causes our desires – whether good or evil. Thus we don’t have any “freedom” or “liberty” from God’s decree or providential control over all things whatsoever.

    This is especially true when we consider the case of Adam prior to the Fall. Certainly Adam chose to disobey God’s command according to his desire to do so. But so what? Did he have any “liberty” in relation to God over whether he desired to obey the command or not? The answer is absolutely not. God not only decreed that Adam would violate His command, but He also providentially caused Adam’s desire to disobey the command and partake of the forbidden fruit. Adam had no “liberty” in relation to God’s sovereign control over his will. It was not a power unto itself. The Bible doesn’t teach any form of dualism.

    The reason this distinction is not “more trouble than it’s worth” is because without it God can be impugned with requiring of man states of affairs that are (i) logically impossible (e.g. be in two places at once) and (ii) naturally impossible (e.g. fly unaided by wings).

    God can also be impugned by man for requiring that he obey commands that God has ordained that he disobey, and for requiring him to desire things that God has caused him not to desire. But how does that argue against the truthfulness or falsity of a doctrine? “Indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Romans 9:20). God is sovereign. He makes the rules. If God wanted to hold man accountable for being in two places at once or flying unaided by wings, then He would certainly be just for doing so. For God Himself defines what is just and unjust – not sinful man.

    I’m sorry but that’s logically untenable. In sequential order you moved from a (i) metaphysical claim to (ii) an ethical conclusion (iii) based upon the reason for the metaphysical claim. Your metaphysical claim is that man does not have libertarian freedom. Your ethical conclusion is that man’s liberty is irrelevant to the question of accountability. You base this conclusion on the fact that God causes our desires. Points 1 and 3 are true but taken together or individually they don’t establish the conclusion that man’s responsibility is not predicated upon liberty, especially in light of man being accountable for the talents he possesses.

    You’re mistaken. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, but my metaphysical claim is that we have neither “libertarian freedom” nor “compatibilistic liberty” in relation to God’s decree and providential control over all things – to include causing our desires for good or evil. Thus my ethical conclusion “that man’s liberty is irrelevant to the question of accountability” logically follows. Moral responsibility has to do with whether God has decided to hold us accountable and judge us; it has no direct relationship with whether we have freedom or liberty period.

    Again, to say that we have “liberty” to choose (i) in relation to our desires is ultimately meaningless (ii) when it is God Himself who causes our desires. I’m not denying that (i) is true; only that it’s not freedom or liberty in any relevant sense in light of (ii).

    Roger, that you would leap to a conclusion of pelagianism is at least reckless. My metaphysic is no different than yours.

    I didn’t “leap to a conclusion of pelagianism.” I proposed a hypothetical: “Unless we’re willing to become Pelagians, they certainly appear to command us to do what only God Himself can do.” I included myself in that statement. My point was that unless we assume that whatsoever God commands we have the ability to do (as Pelagians), then these verses certainly appear to command us to do what only God Himself can do. I don’t believe you’re a Pelagian any more than I am. That’s why I challenged you to explain your interpretation of these verses more clearly. Because taken at face value (i.e., literally), they most certainly command us to do what only God can do.

  213. Roger Says:

    Again, to say that we have “liberty” to choose (i) in relation to our desires is ultimately meaningless (ii) when it is God Himself who causes our desires. I’m not denying that (i) is true; only that it’s not freedom or liberty in any relevant sense in light of (ii).

    After re-reading that statement I realize that it’s not precisely what I meant to say. I should have said: “I’m not denying that we choose according to our desires; only that it’s not “freedom” or “liberty” in any relevant sense in light of (ii).

  214. Roger Says:

    According, either “circumcise your heart” is to be equated with the law keeping that God “requires” of man, for which man is accountable, or else it must be considered the necessary precondition that must be met so that man might obey the law (yet imperfectly). The latter is the preferable interpretation given the context and flow of the passage. In other words, “This is what I require, therefore, circumcise your heart so that you might do what I require, that being walk in my ways…”

    Ron, the fact remains that God directly commands men to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (v. 16). That’s what the text plainly says. It’s an imperative. God requires men to do it, and holds them accountable if they don’t. You can’t legitimately exclude this command from the “commandments of the Lord” (given only moments earlier) which the Israelites were required to keep. We are required to obey all of God’s commandments, regardless of when they were given.

    You seem to assume a priori that God cannot command man to do only what He is able to do, and then impose this upon the text. The text itself says no such thing. It simply commands the Israelites to effect an internal change within their hearts – something that only God is capable of doing. Personally I don’t see any problem with that, because (as I’ve said before) moral responsibility has to do with whether God has decided to hold us accountable and judge us; it has no direct relationship with whether we have the freedom or liberty to obey His commands.

    Having said that, I agree that it’s possible this command is a metaphor for repentance; I just don’t believe such an interpretation is required by the text. It can easily mean precisely what it says. God commands us to circumcise our hearts (resulting in repentance), which only He is capable of doing, and holds us accountable if we don’t. If anyone objects, claiming that this makes God into an unjust tyrant, Scripture has a ready answer: “Indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Romans 9:20).

  215. Ron Says:

    Hi Roger,

    If you’d like to talk on the phone, I’d be happy to go over this again. There are way too many misunderstandings, frankly. So many in fact, it’s impossible for me to discern whether you would not actually agree with what I’m saying if you understood it.

  216. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ben: “…many things in this discussion are unclear to me.” Amen!

    Jon: Thank you.

    Roger: Amen to your posts today @ 5:07, 6:21, & 7:53.

    Ron: What Roger said.

    The best [most holy] post in this thread appears to be that from 24 hours ago (1/23/14 @ 5:59) from the Proverbs of Solomon:

    The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster. {16:4}

    In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. {v.9}

    A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way? {20:24}

    The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. {21:1}

    And of course the Psalms, But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased {115:3} and,

    Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places {135:6}.

  217. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    All those verses are consistent with what I’m saying. Thanks for posting them. :)

  218. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ironically, this article by McWilliams is about Van Tillian paradox.

    And here we get gems such as, “God doesn’t command man to do what only God has ever been able to do, but he does command man to do what man can only do if God grants it.”

    Alongside, “Yes, God commands man to do what only God can do in man, but that misses the point since I’ve affirmed that all along.”

    Aha…. I must have missed your repeated affirmation of this, Ron, as I was reading you saying the opposite.

    What I said above on January 23, 2014 at 3:46pm. I don’t know why I try to engage… :(

    “To continue to make the same points is to deny by implication Calvinism which teaches that only God can grant understanding to an opposing view.” I guess.

  219. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, You’re welcome. I pray that your phone conversation with Roger proves helpful.

  220. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    Two posts above, are you trying to point out a contradiction on my part? I hope not for none is there, but you might want to read those posts in context.

  221. Roger Says:

    If you’d like to talk on the phone, I’d be happy to go over this again. There are way too many misunderstandings, frankly. So many in fact, it’s impossible for me to discern whether you would not actually agree with what I’m saying if you understood it.

    Hi Ron,

    Thank you for the offer to talk over the phone, but I’ll have to pass on that for now. My schedule is simply too busy for the rest of the weekend. But I’ll try to take you up on your offer if we fail to gain any ground in our posts going forward.

    I honestly don’t believe that I’m misunderstanding your position. I simply disagree with it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be asserting two main points:

    First, you argue that we make our choices (or exercises our will) in accordance with our internal desires. We are in complete agreement on this point. In that sense our choices are certainly voluntary. However, where we disagree is in calling this a form of “liberty” or “free agency” (as others have labeled it). This only generates confusion (as can be seen by many of the responses on this thread). Only God Himself has genuine “liberty” or “free agency,” since all of His choices are self-determined. Man’s choices, on the other hand, are not self-determined but rather divinely determined. God directly causes both our desires and choices. Thus there’s no “liberty” or “freedom” in any relevant sense to our choices.

    Second, you argue that “Liberty is not just trivially consistent with accountability. They’re inseparably consistent in that liberty is the seat of moral accountability.” I totally disagree with that statement. The seat of moral accountability is grounded solely in God’s decision to hold us accountable and judge us; it has no direct relationship to whether we have the “liberty” to obey His commands or not. Our voluntary choices may be consistent with our accountability before God; but our moral accountability is grounded solely in God’s sovereignty not our so-called “liberty.” For example, Adam wasn’t responsible because he voluntarily chose to sin (which was ordained and directly caused by God Himself); he was responsible because God sovereignly decided to hold him accountable for violating His command. On the flip side, if God had not sovereignly decided to hold Adam accountable for violating His command, then he wouldn’t have been accountable despite the fact that he voluntarily chose to sin.

  222. Ron Says:

    Nope, you’re not getting it. Sorry, but your false disjunctions are way too many to discuss anymore, at least in this forum.

  223. Ron Says:

    BTW, your definition of “self-determined” is foreign to the field of philosophy. It’s just something you’ve made up because no philosopher defines self-determination this way.

  224. Ron Says:

    Even Calvin, though not an analytic philosopher, grasped that man’s choices are self-determined. The term does not refer to ultimate cause, but rather proximate cause and agency. Half your problem, Roger, is your terms are not philosophically precise. In fact, they’re down right esoteric, making them false. This root cause, I suspect, is probably because much of your complaint is the introduction of confusion due to slicing the bologna too thin, but what your missing is that thinkers (like Calvin, for instance) don’t shy away from distinctions. These distinctions I’m making are basic, not complex whatsoever. They’ve been around a long, long time.

    …we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.
    - John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

  225. Roger Says:

    Nope, you’re not getting it. Sorry, but your false disjunctions are way too many to discuss anymore, at least in this forum.

    Ron, that’s merely a cop out, plain and simple. I only raised two basic points in my last post, and you chose not to engage either one. Rather, you decided to arrogantly assert that my “false disjunctions are way too many to discuss anymore, at least in this forum.” Give me a break. Stop being so condescending and simply deal with the specific points that I’ve raised.

    Also, I’m well aware that Calvin and many other Reformed theologians and philosophers have used terms such as “liberty” and “free-agency” and “self-determination” to refer to man’s ability of voluntary choice. I’m not completely ignorant, no matter how superior it makes you feel to imagine that I am. My point is that when we’re referring to the relationship of man’s will as it relates to God, terms such as these add unnecessary confusion and should be dropped. Saying that our choices are “self-determined” yet “determined by God” adds no clarity to the discussion. The one refers to our choices in relation to our desires, while the other refers to our choices in relation to God’s sovereignty. I believe we should keep things clear and simply say that we make our choices according to our desires and therefore have voluntary choice. The same basic distinction is still being made, but there’s no apparent contradiction as there is when we say that our choices are “self-determined” yet “determined by God.” If you disagree, then fine. But stop pretending that I’m too stupid to grasp these types of distinctions.

    Now, I’ll further clarify the two points I made in my last post. Please engage these specific points in any follow-up response.

    (1) I believe that terms such as “liberty” and “free-agency” should be dropped in this type of discussion, because only God Himself has genuine liberty or free agency, since all of His choices are self-determined (i.e., self-generated). Man’s choices, on the other hand, are not self-determined (i.e., self-generated) but rather divinely determined (i.e., divinely-generated). God directly causes both our desires and choices. Thus there’s no “liberty” or “freedom” in any relevant sense to our choices as they relate to God’s absolute sovereignty over every aspect of our lives.

    (2) The seat of moral accountability is grounded solely in God’s decision to hold us accountable and judge us; it has no direct relationship to whether we have the “liberty” to obey His commands or not. In other words, the fact that we make our choices in accordance with our desires (what you refer to as “liberty”) has no direct relationship to our accountability before God. We are responsible solely because God has decided to hold us accountable for violating His commands period. If God had decided not to hold us accountable for violating His commands, then we would not be responsible – despite the fact that we voluntarily chose to sin or act in accordance with our desires. Therefore, while our voluntary choices may be consistent with our accountability before God, our moral accountability is grounded solely in God’s sovereignty and not in any so-called “liberty” to choose according to our desires.

  226. Reformed Apologist Says:

    Roger,

    Your latest post simply underscores your lack of understanding. And no, it gives me no gratification to say so. No cop out here; just cutting my losses.

  227. Hugh McCann Says:

    Roger, I for one am very grateful for your posts, charity, and tenacity for gospel truth here.

    I must controvert and diametrically oppose Ron (now in his alter ego, “Reformed Apologist”) in not only his erroneous interpretations, but also in his style of interacting with you and others here. It is sadly evasive, and proves him ultimately utterly unhelpful. Not only is the content poor, but his even poorer bedside manner as a didact does nothing to engender faith in his musings or respect for him.

    I am frustrated, ReformedApologistRon (RAR), that you refuse to answer my questions, and must say that your rude dismissiveness of everyone with whom you disagree, and who at all challenge your authority and intepretations is uncalled for and unbecoming one who has been called as an overseer of God’s people in his church.

    I have to concur with Roger that your arrogant and condescending ways (polite words with which our brother has gently tried to spur you to love and good works, i.e., answering him), coupled with your inscrutable erudition, tiresome pedantry, and forays into philosophies of men are not befitting a man of God.

    Please repent of (rethink) your positions and your pedantic style. Both are at best bothersome, brother.

    Sadly, this latest interaction shows me afresh your errors and your intemperance and impatience in dealing with those whose views you find incorrect and beneath your dignity.

    I should have learned from our first run-in. I pray God has mercy upon you.

  228. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    It’s remarkable to me that one who claims not to understand these things can render a judgment on these things. Sounds rather partisan.
    Also, let’s note some of these new ideas from Roger, shall we? I make comments in [brackets]

    Me: BTW, your definition of “self-determined” is foreign to the field of philosophy. It’s just something you’ve made up because no philosopher defines self-determination this way. Even Calvin, though not an analytic philosopher, grasped that man’s choices are self-determined. The term does not refer to ultimate cause, but rather proximate cause and agency. Calvin: “ …we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing….We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. “ John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

    Roger: Also, I’m well aware that Calvin and many other Reformed theologians and philosophers have used terms such as “liberty” and “free-agency” and “self-determination” to refer to man’s ability of voluntary choice. [So when Roger was denying self-determination he realized he was denying a formal definition of self-determination that he himself would agree with, which would make his denial of self-determination not a denial of the definition or theology behind the term but rather a denial of the appropriateness of term to describe that proposition. In any case, Roger went on to say…] I’m not completely ignorant, no matter how superior it makes you feel to imagine that I am…. I believe that terms such as “liberty” and “free-agency” should be dropped in this type of discussion [yet even though those terms are needed to make distinctions that are relevant to the discussion!], because only God Himself has genuine liberty or free agency, since all of His choices are self-determined (i.e., self-generated). Man’s choices, on the other hand, are not self-determined (i.e., self-generated) but rather divinely determined (i.e., divinely-generated). [Roger posits that the divine determination of creaturely choices is a sufficient condition to make them not self-determined, which only serves to compound problems. (1) Not only does he continue to employ terms contrary to formal taxonomy, making it difficult to interact with him, he now (2) fails to recognize that God’s choices are also divinely determined, hence logically speaking, divine determination cannot be a sufficient condition for the negation of self-determination lest God’s choices aren’t self-determined either. Finally, Roger goes on to say…] If God had decided not to hold us accountable for violating His commands, then we would not be responsible – despite the fact that we voluntarily chose to sin or act in accordance with our desires.[I believe Roger has reduced his own position (and yours Hugh) to absurdity. The logical trajectory of Roger’s position is that God is so arbitrary in his dealings that He may wink at sin (not punish it). As I pointed out earlier in the thread, Roger’s position denies that God must always take into account maturity and talents (i.e. components of liberty - NOT ability) when dealing with sinners. Yet to wink at sin and not treat men according to liberty is a logical contradiction given God’s character and holiness. Roger might dare, but I doubt he will as I do think he's honest, to maneuver out from under the weight of this more recent self-refuting argument by saying that God in fact does not punish all sinners due to the doctrine of penal substitution, but to introduce penal substitution as the grounds for God not accusing sinners would be to deny his original thesis, that man is accountable solely on God’s say so and that…] If God had decided not to hold us accountable for violating His commands, then we would not be responsible – despite the fact that we voluntarily chose to sin or act in accordance with our desires.

    The point in all this is God’s judgment is not arbitrary and his say-so is informed by His sense of justice. What I’m reading here is that you guys think that God’s say-so need not take into account liberty of creatures, even though liberty of creatures cannot be separated from God’s sense of justice. Taking this to the superlative, Roger has communicated his position clearly, that God may choose not to hold us accountable when we sin willfully. He says this because God’s choice is ultimate in this manner, which is to draw a false dichotomy between God’s sense of justice and his say-so. This distinction is a fine one, which is why I’m not sure that Roger actually disagrees, or maybe I’m just holding out hope against a forgone conclusion.

    Oh, btw, “Reformed Apologist” came up because I posted that one with my iPhone unlike my other posts here, which I did from a pc.

  229. Hugh McCann Says:

    The logical trajectory of Roger’s position is that God is so arbitrary in his dealings that He may wink at sin (not punish it)
    ~ Not arbitrary, of course, but obliterating of all the sins of all his elect.

    Roger’s position denies that God must always take into account maturity and talents (i.e. components of liberty – NOT ability) when dealing with sinners.
    ~ What account does God take (or, much less, HAVE TO take) of the “maturity and talents” sinners in his dealings with them?

    Yet to wink at sin and not treat men according to liberty is a logical contradiction given God’s character and holiness.
    ~ No, this is again, your say-so. Emphatically, no.
    ~ Unredeemed men have liberty (the Bible calls this “liberty” slavery to sin), but only to do evil.
    ~ Redeemed men have no record of sin left with which to accuse them. All the sins of all the elect were transferred (imputed) to and absorbed (cleansed) by the Son of God in his passion and death.
    ~ It’s more than a “wink,” actually; it’s an obliteration of all the sins of God’s elect. Men are pots, God the Potter. Not only manipulator of all men and diposer of their souls’ destinies, but Creator of the “clay” itself!

    you guys think that God’s say-so need not take into account liberty of creatures, even though liberty of creatures cannot be separated from God’s sense of justice.
    ~ Why? This is your say-so, not Scripture’s. Man has no liberty/ freedom in the ultimate sense. Natural ability fades and dissolves in the light of metaphysical inability.

    God may choose not to hold us accountable when we sin willfully.
    ~ A glorious gospel implication for God’s elect! Explicit, really in Eph. 1, Rom. 5, etc.

    He says this because God’s choice is ultimate in this manner
    ~ There is no other option, scripturally-speaking.

    which is to draw a false dichotomy between God’s sense of justice and his say-so
    ~ His “say-so” is justice.

    Oh, btw, “Reformed Apologist” came up because I posted that one with my iPhone unlike my other posts here, which I did from a pc.
    ~ Got it.

  230. Hugh McCann Says:

    one who claims not to understand these things…render[s] a judgment on these things

    What I understand, I don’t buy as being biblical.

  231. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    Your claim of understanding even some things would be more credible if you didn’t quote verses that corroborate the position you oppose.

  232. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, Example[s], please.

    I try to argue & understand using the Scriptures. Looking forward to your doing so as an OPC RE, teaching we whom you find so unworthy.

  233. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron the Reformed apologist has thrown down gauntlets ‘gainst Scripturalists: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2013/02/scripturalism-skepticism-and-knowledge.html

  234. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,
    Explain, please.

  235. Ron Says:

    Hugh,

    Explain what, that those verses don’t undermine my position? That God orders man’s steps and man cannot do other than that which God determines is part-and-parcel to my position. Determinism doesn’t undermine accountability as it relates to liberty. That’s why I said you were arguing by false disjunction.

  236. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    How are God’s ordering man’s steps and man’s inability to do other than that which God determines NOT part-and-parcel of Roger’s position?

    “Determinism doesn’t undermine accountability as it relates to liberty.”
    ~ OK, but so what? Why is this important to you?

  237. Ron Says:

    My Brother,

    It’s 100% consistent with his position. The point I made way above is that quoting those verses doesn’t advance his position nor undermine mine.

  238. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    [1] So, you & Roger are in agreement? ? ?

    [2] What are these, please: [a] God’s ‘treat[ing] men according to liberty’? And, [b] ‘God’s say-so need not take into account liberty of creatures, even though liberty of creatures cannot be separated from God’s sense of justice.’?

    [3] Roger posits that the divine determination of creaturely choices is a sufficient condition to make them not self-determined…

    But why isn’t it sufficient, Ron? If God determines creaturely choices, why are these necessarily NOT self- (creaturely) determined?

    [4] God’s choices are also divinely determined, hence logically speaking, divine determination cannot be a sufficient condition for the negation of self-determination lest God’s choices aren’t self-determined either.

    Right: Divine determination is not solely the condition for negation of self-determination, else, you’d be right about there being a contradiction.

    In man’s case, divine determination is necessarily the sufficient condition for the negation of our self-determination.

    But God’s choices are self-determined by the one true divinity; they’re divinely-self-determined. Thus, the logical necessity is that God’s self-determination HAS to be divine-determination! :)

  239. Ron Says:

    [2] What are these, please: [a] God’s ‘treat[ing] men according to liberty’? And, [b] ‘God’s say-so need not take into account liberty of creatures, even though liberty of creatures cannot be separated from God’s sense of justice.’?

    Your position allows for God not to hold men accountable when they sin according to liberty. Accordingly, liberty is not sufficient to hold man accountable – which means God may choose to compromise his justice by not holding men accountable for things they do according to their volition. Secondly, the position being espoused does not allow for the basis upon which men will be distinguished at the judgment according to their respective God given abilities, talents, understanding, maturity etc. etc. etc. Those two reductios should indicate that its a false dichotomy that pits God’s say-so against His rational basis that logically precedes his say-so.

    [3] Roger posits that the divine determination of creaturely choices is a sufficient condition to make them not self-determined…

    But why isn’t it sufficient, Ron?

    The reason it’s not sufficient is because if divine determination of any choice is sufficient to make it not self-determined then God’s choices would not be self-determined either because they too are divinely determined. I get that you would like to qualify the sufficient condition by virtue of whether the choice being divinely determined is God’s choice or man’s choice, but that’s to restate the sufficient condition, which in its original form was that God’s determination of a choice makes it not self-determined.

    If God determines creaturely choices, why are these necessarily NOT self- (creaturely) determined?

    “Self-determined” has a specific definition having to do with proximate cause, not ultimate cause. The formal definition actually is colloquial in origin.

  240. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    [1] Please show where Roger “pits God’s say-so against His rational basis that logically precedes his say-so.”

    [2] Please explain this one: Your position allows for God not to hold men accountable when they sin according to liberty. Accordingly, liberty is not sufficient to hold man accountable – which means God may choose to compromise his justice by not holding men accountable for things they do according to their volition.

    How do these follow?

    [3] Secondly, the position being espoused does not allow for the basis upon which men will be distinguished at the judgment according to their respective God given abilities, talents, understanding, maturity etc. etc. etc.

    Why, necessarily?

  241. Hugh McCann Says:

    Me: If God determines creaturely choices, why are these necessarily NOT self- (creaturely) determined?

    Ron: “Self-determined” has a specific definition having to do with proximate cause, not ultimate cause.

    So we’re all agreed that the ultimate cause/ determiner of all things (including man’s “free agency/ liberty” decisions & actions) is God?

  242. Hugh McCann Says:

    I haven’t time right now, but will go back and reread Roger’s two points (7:50am) & Ron’s reply (11:43am), today.

    Thanks, you guys.

  243. Jon Says:

    It’s very difficult to determine whether any of this is true or not since we’re introducing philosophic terminology and categories that are foreign to Scripture.

  244. Reformed Apologist Says:

    Jon,

    Like the philosophical import of terms like essence and procession as they apply to Scripture? :)

  245. Roger Says:

    Hugh, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I truly appreciate it. Nevertheless, I believe I’ve said more than enough on this topic for now, so I’ll bow out and let everyone else decide who’s right or wrong on this issue.

  246. James Says:

    “Come on be reasonable”
    Yes it is exceedingly hard to be reasonable. I have tried and will most likely continue to miss the mark. So, in what you have asked me to ponder, I will reply -with all the reasonableness I can presently muster – to two things which I think -at least for now – do not constrain me – but there is a third which needs careful attention.
    First, I have no problem regarding verses like Is 1:16, Jer 4:14, Ezekiel 18:31 as involving commands to be regenerated. As I said before Clark connects Is 1:16 with “washing of regeneration” in his refutation of “ability limits responsibility” in his work “Predestination in the Old Testament”. Again, Clark’s commentary on 1 Peter 3:18-22 discusses whether or not ‘water’ in John 3:5 is literal or not. In citing John 3:10, Clark makes the point that Nicodemus ought to have known what was meant by “born again of water and Spirit” out of the Old Testament. Clark then goes on to show that the OT connects water with regeneration and is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and in emphasizing Ez 36:25-27, “water symbolizes cleansing from sin, the giving of a new heart – regeneration, and this is what it means to be born of the spirit.” “The conclusion is that Jesus was talking about the cleansing from sin…” Note the idea of cleansing – washing and pouring of water all so symbolize. So, I believe that God not only commands us to show the fruit of regeneration, but regeneration itself (wash/cleanse). I find no good reason to think otherwise at this point.
    Second, on 3:35 you wrote,
    “That premise should be assumed true until one can show state of affairs in which one is responsible without having liberty.”
    This is actually QED: consider the over 55 million American infants destroyed in the womb by their own mothers just in the past 40 years. They all died. Clark, in dealing with federal headship in his work Atonement said this: “then also Pelagius cannot explain why death, the penalty of sin, is more extensive than the range of voluntary trangressions – infants die before having voluntary committed any transgression.” (AW Pink says something similar). Now the idea here is obvious – As Clark said, if justly punished then responsible. Clearly infants death before birth is an indication that God holds them responsible for sin – No liberty here- that is if liberty is as you have defined it.

    But, alas, that brings up the third issue – an issue which you rightly bring up – one which I must be as careful as possible: “liberty is a necessary condition for responsibility. What that means is whenever responsibility obtains, liberty is present in that state of affairs.”
    This is a difficult one – not because of your take on liberty – but precisely because of Clark’s take (which I have shown is not yours). If you think about Clark’s take, along with his refutation of behaviourism it follows that every act enjoys liberty – even those which I believe are constrained by God (John 10:12) – afterall no *inanimate* force constrains them. At this point this still has not met the comment on infants above. But what if someone were just to say God holds persons responsible for acts – but not necessarily their own acts (thus allowing for denying personal individual liberty when it comes to responsibility)- doesn’t it follow that He holds them responsible for acts that still enjoy liberty even if the acts he holds them accountable for are not their own, and even more so, as in the case of infants above, who die long before they commit any voluntary transgression on their own?
    I believe Clark does have an answer to this, but it requires great care and will, unfortunately, take me some time to think/write it out clearly,
    Thanks,

  247. James Says:

    Hmm after thinking over my last post, it turns out that the first point is a sufficient reply. God commands and holds us responsible for washing ourselves/making a new heart – washing of regeneration – something only God can do. This refutes the idea that creaturely liberty is a necessary condition of responsibility precisely because said command is not within our power/choice/liberty.

    John Gill,
    “and make you a new heart and a new spirit;
    which the Lord elsewhere promises to give, and he does give to his own elect; and if here to be understood of a regenerated heart and spirit, in which are new principles of light, life, and love, grace and holiness, it will not prove that it is in the power of man to make himself such a heart and spirit; since from God’s command, to man’s power, is no argument; and the design of the exhortation is to convince men of their want of such a heart; of the importance of it: and which, through the efficacious grace of God, may be a means of his people having it, seeing he has in covenant promised it to them.”

    So understood,
    Thanks,

  248. Pht Says:

    Apologies for the ellipses – I am trying to adapt to the comment box format.

    Ron Says:

    January 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    No, I’m afraid that’s not quite right. That man always acts according to his nature is not an argument against libertarian freedom.

    Libertarian freedom entails what’s called the principle of alternate possibilities, which means that man is free in choosing chocolate if and only if he could have not chosen chocolate. …[/quote]

    There appears to be a some confusion over the definition of “LFW” between us.

    I have always read and heard LFW discussed as boiling down to the core tenet that *no factor can affect the will* in making choices. Having to always make choices according to one’s nature necessarily, by definition rules out “LFW” as here defined, as “according to your nature” would mean an outside factor affecting the choice. The two are mutually exclusive.

    Quite literally, that “LFW” is always and ever must be a choice for no reason at all. The “LFW” choice simply “hangs there” in nothing; nothing has or could cause it. Every free-willist I have ever heard immediately gets their hackles up when any sort of condition is brought in.

    Witness W.L. Craig’s crazy illogical “having his cake and eating it too” in attempting to justify his molinism as a “fix” for the sovereignty “problem.” (It can be heard in the 2014-01-16 dividing line podcast, not sure on the dates of the original “unbelievable” podcast)

    You seem to be defining LFW here as “the freedom to choose what can not be chosen,” which is the proposed ability of LFW but not a definition of LFW itself.

    For our purposes, that the monergistic work of regeneration precedes saving faith and creates our new nature does not imply that man doesn’t have libertarian freedom. At most it can only imply that there is one choice that is not libertarian-free.

    LFW requires a “causeless” choice.

    We have quite clear biblical revelation that man always makes his choices due to reasons. CF the passages discussing man considering and choosing, etc.

    We also know that man has no ability to not sin before regeneration (“even the ploughing of the wicked is sin”), and that the cause of this is man’s sinful nature – aka, “not possible to not sin.”

    Romans 7:21ff also quite clearly indicates that even the regenerate believer, because of the incomplete sanctification of his nature, is in a state of war with sin. The regenerate cannot be anything otherwise.

    This is not ground that we are allowed to give up. There is no ability to “choose what cannot be chosen” for man. It is in man’s basic nature that he will always make his choices because of his nature. Man was this way before the fall when everything was “very good.”

    —————————————————————————-

    Jon Says:

    January 22, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I think the only definition that can do justice to our responsiblity as free agents is libertarian freewill.

    Why do you think this?

    Jon Says:

    January 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    … I find compatibilism too philosophically problematic.

    The problems you mention being … ?

  249. Pht Says:

    DOH’!

    … that’s what I get for using the wrong format to close a quote box!

  250. Tim Harris Says:

    Just a quick clarification for James of my January 7, 2014 at 5:44 pm comment, “the current landscape of ethical discourse is divided between ‘libertarians’ and ‘compatibilists,’ but I’m not aware of anyone on either side of that divide that does not accept the idea that ‘ability limits responsibility’”

    since it caused some confusion — I had in mind a cross-section of readings we studied in a recent Metaphysics course, including mostly secularists, though also some Christians such as van Inwagen. I didn’t mean everyone. It was a point addressed to Benjamin’s etiology, not a point to the subject per se.


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