Wow, a new argument against Calvinism!

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by ReformedWretch, Jul 12, 2005.

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  1. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    I am debating the doctrines of grace with a pastor whi insists that because we are created in God's image we must have total free will in regard to accepting Christ or rejecting him. He claims that if God predestined our choice we would then not be made in His image.

    Wow, this is a new one for me. Anyone else ever hear that?
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Smoke screen. Please tell the pastor to deal with the texts on election.
  3. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    So, what about God's free-will? Isn't He free (being that He IS God) to choose or not choose? Does Scripture reflect God's choices?



  4. daveb

    daveb Puritan Board Sophomore

    Never heard that one before.

    I would ask where he gets the idea that man has autonomous free will from Scripture. Do we have the same free will as Adam and Even before the Fall or did the Fall change things? How does he explain passages like John 6, Romans 9, etc which limit man's choosing to God's prior election?
  5. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    This is implying that being made in the image of God means sharing his attributes , which it does not mean. Are we omniscient and omnipresent as well?

    [Edited on 7-12-2005 by Rick Larson]
  6. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Exactly! Both of these two points expose the central errors in the pastor's thinking. He cannot biblically show that autonomy is one of the attributes of God that we possess due to being made in His image, and even if he could, he would then have to prove that it was not affected by the fall.
  7. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

  8. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Gulp! I guess it's time for me to convert...
  9. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    Adam: Your friend is partly right. Freedom was different at different stages of history. Joshua hit the nail on the head with the fall. Anyway, see how the WCF treats this:

    Of Free Will
    I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.[205]

    II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God;[206] but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.[207]

    III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation:[208] so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,[209] and dead in sin,[210] is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.[211]

    IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin;[212] and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;[213] yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.[214]

    V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.[215]

    Note especially paragraph 2. The proof texts for the footnote 206 includes Genesis 1:26 ("And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.")

    So, I think that you can agree with your friend that Adam did have a form of freedom that imaged God's freedom to some degree but this was lost with the Fall.

    As always in this debate, defining "freedom" is always the trick. Nobody, not even Adam, was free from God's overriding providence. Yet, Adam was morally free to do what is right. The natural man after the fall had a moral condition that produced only evil (as a poison tree produces only poison fruits). The redeemed man is in a position similar to Adam's in that he can do both right and wrong. The glorified man ceases to have freedom to do evil. He is free only to do good.

    [Edited on 7-12-2005 by Scott]
  10. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Most people who say this haven't even thought out what they mean by free-will. Are they saying that NOTHING influences a person's decision? No pre-existing conditions or ideas? Well then, they have destroyed free-will, for there is no WILL to be free. All "choices" are illusory, because they are random. Why? Because there is not a single influence!

    This man must admit this point or be reduced to absurdity. Once He has to admit preconditions and influences, then he's back to defendig the position "man is sick in trespasses and sins," if he will not admit that a man is not dead in sin. He has to explain how radical corruption can still produce a "good" choice. He has to explain this on some basis that allows no boasting by one guy for being "better" at choosing than some other poor sap. If he claims that the "better" chooser had "more grace" than the other guy, or he's just "lucky" then he's got to justify God's inequity of grace, providence, and gifts. But if God gives grace inequitably, then men aren't so free after all, and it's up to God who gets saved and who doesn't. Your debater has to choose between conceding his first position or absurdity, as I see it.

    As for being made in God's image, and therefore free to choose, since man in the garden was free to choose to disobey God (able to sin), does that mean that the pastor thinks God has ever "been able to sin" too?

    [Edited on 7-13-2005 by Contra_Mundum]
  11. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    Bruce is right. I think it is important to clarify kinds of freedom. In other words, whenever some says "free" we should ask "free from what." Here are the kinds of freedom that tend to get mixed into discussions about free will and people often equivocate.

    [1] Freedom to make genuinely good or evil decisions (or freedom from bondage to sin).

    In his estate of innocence Adam had this kind of freedom. His moral character was such that it could produce good or evil works. After the fall, the natural (unredeemed) man's moral character was such that it could produce only evil. The natural man is like a poison tree - all of his fruits are poison. He is a slave to sin, obeying his master. I have heard a helpful phrase to understand this: "Man is free to do what he wants, but not what he ought."

    After coming to faith in Christ, he is in a position similar to the original Adam (although not quite - a redeemed man still must war against a remnant of a body of sin that Adam did not have in his original state), in that he can do good or evil. After death and glorification, man will lose the freedom to do evil and will have a character that produces only good.

    [2] Natural liberty, or freedom from natural determinism.

    Some people argue that we are just cause-and-effect in the course of nature. We make choices because chemical reactions compel us to do things. We are like cogs in a machine. This is error. The WCF affirms that we, like God, have a sort of freedom that is not absolutely determine by nature. WCF 9.1: "God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil."

    You should be able to agree with your friend on this point.

    [3] Freedom from God's providence and eternal decree.

    Some people argue that God does not predestine people in any way. he simply looks down the corriders of time, which he does not plan out or control and see what people are going to do. This is error. God plans out and superintends over ever aspect of reality, including the actions of men.

    Now, it should be pointed out that this does not offend the natural liberty of man. He makes real choices. In its typical precision, WCF 3.1 summarizes like this: "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."

    Note that whatever mysterious mechanism God uses does not "offer violence to the will of the creatures."

    Arminians and others typically try and maintain people are free from God's eternal decrees, and the Arminians are wrong here. From a persuasion point, it is helpful to clearly state that you believe that it is performed by a mechanism that does not violate the wills of the creatures. The creatures make their own true choices. They are not robots. As I heard Bahnsen describe it, "God foreordains man's free choices" or something like that.

    Anyway, those three types of freedom are the ones I see most commonly. Allot of Calvinists ignore the strong affirmations of freedom in the WCF and other Reformed doctrines. Man makes true choices. Emphasis on these affirmations can help bridge gaps with and persuade Arminians.


    [Edited on 7-13-2005 by Scott]
  12. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks guys. I am sure this advice will help me discuss things with him more effectively.
  13. JKLeoPCA

    JKLeoPCA Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with all of the above.

    I'd just recommend for him to read "Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism" by Girardeau. He handles the topic from several angles.


    [Edited on 7-13-2005 by JKLeoPCA]
  14. Puritanhead

    Puritanhead Puritan Board Professor

    Well-- that incisive argument does it for me-- I repudiate my Calvinism.
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