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 Post subject: Theology: Free Will and Predestination
PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:28 pm 
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We toyed with the idea of opening this thread earlier, because it's cool to talk about and has lots of implications, but it's on the edge of what we can think and explore. The basic question: how can man's free-will be reconciled to predestination?

The reasons I won't consider an exclusive "either/or" answer is because neither holds water very well. If there is no free will and all is predestined (by God or by electron spins, it makes no difference here) then this discussion is meaningless (as is everything else) and we just type what we type because we must... there is no consciousness, we only think there is, and there is no "I" to be typing and reading, it's just moving particles forced to be in this configuration. On the other hand, people who say that the future is not determined at all have not only unbiblical theology (e,g, "openness theology") but also demonstrate a pre-1850 knowledge of the physics of time.

So, how are the two reconciled? On what lines do we look for answers? What verses, references, and principles apply? While non-Christians are welcome to participate, this will mostly be of interest to people who hold a personal philosophy comparable to Christianity, or can intelligently discuss one.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:36 am 
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Here's the problem with free will. As a philosophical term, it is applied to mean that humans have complete control over their thoughts and actions. If a person is presented with choice A or B, it is entirely up to the person to choose either A or B.

The Bible does not address free will as such an absolute. In fact, Scripture seems to indicate that humans do not have free will but are bound by sin.

To the outsider, this statement seems to indicate that God created human beings as mere puppets or dolls. This is not the case. Humans were created originally with free will, but when mankind rebelled against God, God turned them over to sin (Rom 1). This means that we are no longer in control of our actions: when presented with the choices "Love God" or "Sin against God", our nature will incline us toward sin rather than love. As Scripture says, we are dead in our transgressions, haters of God, sick in our souls, and blind to our fallen condition. Only by the Holy Spirit are we at all enabled to overcome this fallen state. The Holy Spirit therefore raises us from the dead (through Holy Baptism, Rom 6), reconsiles us to God (Rom 5, 2 Cor 5), heals our sickness, and enables us to see the truth about ourselves and about God's grace.

I used to be a Baptist. As a Baptist, I was always taught that the human-divine relationship always started with the sinner confessing his sins to God. However, if humans are unable to recognize their need of God apart from God's grace, then the only conclusion is that this relationship must begin with God. If God does not act upon a person, then that person is unable to respond in faith to God. This He does through the Incarnation (taking our fallen human nature upon Himself), Passion (suffering for our transgressions), Crucifixion (purchasing us with His own precious blood), and Resurrection (through which He gives us the promise of eternal life, and raises us from our spiritual death).

There was a controversy in the Calvinist church long ago that revolved around whether God did what is known as double-predestination, i.e., that He had already chosen who would be saved and who would be lost. In effect, this approach to predestination places the responsibility of those individuals' damnation on God. As a rule, Calvinists tend to believe that Christ died only for the elect (those He has chosen already to save). However, the Bible says that Christ died for the whole world, not just part of it. If you approach the subject from the position that humanity is in need of redemption, and that God graciously provided that redemption apart from human initiative, then it leads to the conclusion that humans are responsible for their sin, but God alone for their salvation. This is my own theory.

So if God chooses who is saved, and He died for the whole world, then why is it that some people are not saved? I don't know. It is one of those complex mysteries of the faith that seem to defy our logic.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:56 am 
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The way I figure it there is both free will and predestination in our lives. There are a few things that are already laid out in our lives, such as marriage, deaths, and the important things. The rest is free will, what happens happens. That's what I think anyways.

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 Post subject: Double Deuceblemint Gum
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 3:52 am 
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Didymus wrote:
Here's the problem with free will. As a philosophical term, it is applied to mean that humans have complete control over their thoughts and actions. If a person is presented with choice A or B, it is entirely up to the person to choose either A or B.

Let us also temper free will by possibilities: I can not choose to disobey gravity today by my free will. There are billions of things we can not choose for a myriad of reasons.

Didymus wrote:
...humans do not have free will but are bound by sin.

Sin binds like a slave-master in Biblical metaphor. Can it theoretically be disobeyed in one instance (not sin nature, but the man choosing to do an individual good deed) by the reprobate?

Didymus wrote:
Humans were created originally with free will,

This is an Arminian point of view, or at best, an infralapsarian point of view. Supralapsarian Calvinists (and many of my friends) believe that man did not have free will enough to avoid the fall, that the fall itself was predestined. And only an "Open Theist" would think for a moment that God didn't forsee the first sin! So, given that God knew man was going to sin, where does that put this consideration? I ask because I want to hear your answer, not out of disagreement... I get this kind of question and would like to know how it is answered.

Didymus wrote:
...when presented with the choices ... our nature will incline us toward sin rather than love.

You say, "incline," an interesting choice of words. An inclination connotates a trend, but by no means a fatalistic predetermination for all actions. Do you believe that the sin nature, in its level of binding the unsaved, is only "the devil on the other shoulder?"

Didymus wrote:
I used to be a Baptist. As a Baptist, I was always taught that the human-divine relationship always started with the sinner confessing his sins to God.

That's actually heresy in orthodox Baptist doctrine: Baptists are fundamentally Reformed in their theology. While there is a sect I've heard called "Free-Will Baptists" (one of my most Calvinist friend's father is a pastor at such a church), it's the exception rather than the rule. However, some of the more traditionalist (read: legalistic) Baptist individuals try to enforce action on the parishoner's part by threats of hell for disobedience.

Didymus wrote:
...the only conclusion is that this relationship must begin with God. If God does not act upon a person, then that person is unable to respond in faith to God.

Acknowledged: this is the T in T.U.L.I.P., "Total Depravity." That a sinner can not come to God on his own. Except by gracious intervention initiated by God, a feature of the U (Unconditional Grace).

Didymus wrote:
There was a controversy in the Calvinist church long ago that revolved around whether God did what is known as double-predestination, i.e., that He had already chosen who would be saved and who would be lost.

This part of the is the L in TULIP, "Limited Atonement." That the atonement is only effective for a portion of humaity, and that portion is predestined.

Didymus wrote:
In effect, this approach to predestination places the responsibility of those individuals' damnation on God.

More authority than responsibility. No one has an excuse for refusing God (Roman 1:20), and has no case in blaming God for committing him to reprobation (Isaiah 45:9).

Didymus wrote:
As a rule, Calvinists tend to believe that Christ died only for the elect (those He has chosen already to save). However, the Bible says that Christ died for the whole world, not just part of it.

Careful! Misuse of those concepts won my Heresy of the Week for July 4 of this year.

Didymus wrote:
...humans are responsible for their sin, but God alone for their salvation. This is my own theory.

You and Paul the Epistle guy. But is God responsible for humans being responsible for their sin? I'm not just multiplying words, God's opponents (and some of his friends) accuse him of wrongdoing for even allowing humanity to sin!

Didymus wrote:
So if God chooses who is saved, and He died for the whole world, then why is it that some people are not saved? I don't know. It is one of those complex mysteries of the faith that seem to defy our logic.

Mystery in the modern definition (hidden or confusing issue), or mystery in the Ancient Greek denotation (truths revealed to adherents of a religion)? If it is unrevealed truth, then you're right that we won't know until the age to come. But if it is revealed truth, then we would be silly to simply allow it to go uninvestigated.

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 Post subject: Both/and
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 3:57 am 
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ramrod wrote:
The way I figure it there is both free will and predestination in our lives.

Well, sure: the premise of this thread is that it's a "both/and" rather than an "either/or" issue.

ramrod wrote:
There are a few things that are already laid out in our lives, such as marriage, deaths, and the important things. The rest is free will, what happens happens. That's what I think anyways.

What if there's something I think is unimportant, but God thinks it's important? Or vice-versa? If death is predestined, why do we call murder a sin? What about bad marriages? Your thoughts are genuine, but lead me to more questions than answers :)

Thank you for sharing, and please do continue to hash this out... I didn't start this thread to argue my side (I don't really have one completely chosen except that both must be true to a certain extent), I want to see discussion and introspection!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 4:33 am 
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This is an Arminian point of view, or at best, an infralapsarian point of view.

I'm Lutheran. Luther preceded both Calvin and Arminius.

Quote:
Do you believe that the sin nature, in its level of binding the unsaved, is only "the devil on the other shoulder?"

Let me clarify by pointing out that for Luther (and for me) the question of fw/p centers around one topic: soteriology, whether man can choose to be saved, or whether God alone can do that for him. Luther did allow that fallen man, under either the conscious or unconscious guidance of law (whether divine, natural, or civil) will occasionally do good. Even a complete heathen can help an old lady across the street, and even that from a good will. However, the good work itself is not redemptive in nature. No one can work for his salvation; he can only receive it as a gift from God.

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Didymus wrote:
As a rule, Calvinists tend to believe that Christ died only for the elect (those He has chosen already to save). However, the Bible says that Christ died for the whole world, not just part of it.

Careful! Misuse of those concepts won my Heresy of the Week for July 4 of this year.

Except that I did not say that this meant that everyone would be saved, only that Christ died for the whole world (which is scriptural). We Lutherans do not believe in Limited Atonement, but neither are we universalists.

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Mystery in the modern definition (hidden or confusing issue), or mystery in the Ancient Greek denotation (truths revealed to adherents of a religion)? If it is unrevealed truth, then you're right that we won't know until the age to come. But if it is revealed truth, then we would be silly to simply allow it to go uninvestigated.

I meant this word in the contemporary connotation, a thing beyond immediate comprehension. I would point out, however, that according to the New Testament usage of musterion, it does mean "secret" or "something too profound for human wisdom." A mystery, then, is a truth that Christians can rejoice in knowing--yes, even proclaiming--but which we cannot claim to fully understand. For example, how is it that Christ's blood forgives my sins? I don't know; I can only know that it does.

One thing I would say: we Lutherans tend not to like either/or answers either. In fact, if someone around Concordia Seminary asks a theological either/or question, the answer he receives is most likely to be "Yes".

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 Post subject: Greek
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 4:57 am 
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Didymus wrote:
I'm Lutheran. Luther preceded both Calvin and Arminius.

Well, OK, granted. But the point of view attributed to modern adherents of (one of) those philosophies is shared by you, as opposed to agreeing with supralapsarianism?

Didymus wrote:
Let me clarify by pointing out that for Luther (and for me) the question of fw/p centers around one topic: soteriology, whether man can choose to be saved, or whether God alone can do that for him.

This is of course the most important application of free will and predestination! To reach a conclusion in the specific case of salvation without making any statement about the broader case of all actions opens you up to later conclusions in the broader case having implications in the specific case. You see, the specific case you mention may be an application of restrictions on free will (as I mentioned above about gravity) even though the broad case is free will. Of course, if the specific case is free will, then it necessarily implies free will in the general case by logic.

Didymus wrote:
Luther did allow that fallen man, under either the conscious or unconscious guidance of law (whether divine, natural, or civil) will occasionally do good. Even a complete heathen can help an old lady across the street, and even that from a good will. However, the good work itself is not redemptive in nature.

Romans 14:23b implies that a pagan helping a lady across the street may even be sinning.

Didymus wrote:
No one can work for his salvation; he can only receive it as a gift from God.

Glorious! The heart of my argument with my long-time Bible study leader and close friend Bruce stemmed from this: he would say "coming to the Lord" is a work, so since we can't work our way into heaven, we can't come to the Lord. I would say that coming to the Lord was not a "work," but a response or choice, so it could imply salvation. It was more than semantics, it came down to what actions, choices, and responses are considered in the spiritual realm: is every choice a "work?" We could never come to terms in that discussion because he never gave me a solid answer to my question... but I learned so much from him in so many other areas.

Didymus wrote:
I meant this word in the contemporary connotation, a thing beyond immediate comprehension. I would point out, however, that according to the New Testament usage of musterion, it does mean "secret" or "something too profound for human wisdom." A mystery, then, is a truth that Christians can rejoice in knowing--yes, even proclaiming--but which we cannot claim to fully understand. For example, how is it that Christ's blood forgives my sins? I don't know; I can only know that it does.

This is why I love having you on the forum: I don't know Greek. I actually lost my Goodrich/Kohlenberger somehow, so I can't do a word study nearly as easily anymore. Can you shoot me a few of the references that have that word translated across the range of meanings, or at least point me to an online Strong's or G/K? I've never found one.

I based my classical evaluation on my knowledge of the ancient Gnostics and modern Free Masons; both mystery cults in which hidden knowledge was (is) increasingly revealed to followers as they progressed in rank and commitment.

Ach, you changed your post! Not I must add to mine :)
Didymus wrote:
...if someone around Concordia Seminary asks a theological either/or question, the answer he receives is most likely to be "Yes".


"Never ask an elf a question, for they will answer both yes and no."

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 6:08 am 
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I PM'd you a reference from the Bauer lexicon. It was rather long, so I decided not to post it here.

Your approach from the mystery cult definition is not far off, though. As insiders, we do have an advantage in this matter over those who do not begin with the presupposition of faith.

Quote:
Romans 14:23b implies that a pagan helping a lady across the street may even be sinning.

Which is why I said that the act is not redemptive in nature. On one level, the deed is good; it benefited the old lady. However, it's not the good deed that earns favor with God. God's favor (grace, or "favor Dei" as we would say), is not something that can be earned, but only freely given by God. Think about it like this: you go out to your mailbox and find that someone sent you a million dollars. You didn't do anything to earn it. However, with the check in your hand, you then make a response: either to cash it or not. The same is with God's grace: you receive it and then respond to it. The response may be yours, but the salvation is still God's doing.

The analogy is simplified, and unfortunately still implies an act of free will, but I think you get the idea.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 3:29 am 
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Hope you guys don't mind if another person joins in. For a long time I just wouldn't let myself think about this, because it would always give me a headache. Literally.

I guess I just couldn't get rid of the idea that if God knows what we will do, that that must mean that everthing is a set-up in some way, which I'm sure isn't actually true. It just reminded me of trying to play checkers with yourself: Subconciously you will favor one side or the other and plan the less favored side's moves accordingly, so there is no way it can win.

OK, weak analogy, but I hope you get the picture. :rolleyes: And it certainly doesn't help (or does it?) when The Matrix and other pop culture influences try to work in a bunch of garbled symbolism in the hope that people will take it seriously. On the one hand, at least it gets people thinking about it, but does it not perhaps also allow us to take the subject too lightly?

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