Archive for the ‘Free Will’ category

Christianity, Soul Liberty, and the American Experiment

August 23, 2013

Earlier this year I purchased a copy of “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty” by John M. Barry and I am very glad I did. In my lifetime there has been an almost non-stop erosion of liberty in the United States. This has caused me to think long and hard about the principles that the founding fathers based our country on. Feelings of impending doom tend to make people, such as myself, more reflective about such things.

I highly recommend John Barry’s book on Roger Williams even though I want to provide a caveat. Mr. Barry is definitely liberal politically (I use that term in its 21st century sense) and it comes through strongly in his biography of Williams. Rather than taking away from the book I actually think it enhances it. There were many sections where Mr. Barry is obviously shocked that a Christian would be arguing for liberty. Not only did Williams argue for “soul liberty” but he did so from scripture. It appears that Mr. Barry has never seen that happen before and his sense of surprise comes through. I blame this on the contemporary American church much more than I blame it on Mr. Barry. When was the last time any of you heard a pastor give a passionate and methodical defense of freedom? Oh my, how the mighty have fallen.

I have been noticing a general retreat on this front by Christians for some time now. My parents were listening to sermons by a mostly doctrinally solid pastor of a Bible church in Houston. As time went on he began to regularly rail against the “independent American” and ask “where did this come from?” He was implying that it didn’t come from the Bible but my parents, and I, think he is very wrong about this. Because of this, and some other issues, my parents moved on and have begun listening to another pastor-teacher.

This entire idea of bashing the “independent American” is also becoming common in American Calvinist circles (please see “New Calvinism’s Anti-American Propaganda”). All I can say about this is that my Calvinist contemporaries are listening to the wrong kind of Calvinist because Roger Williams was definitely a Calvinist and he would defend the “independent American.”

Before I go on and quote some of Roger Williams thinking on this topic I would like to add one thing. Roger Williams believed that the government was responsible only for enforcing the “right table” of the Ten Commandments. This went directly against the beliefs of his Calvinist contemporaries who believed that the state was responsible for enforcing all of the Ten Commandments. It also goes against the contemporary secular American belief that the state should not enforce any of the Ten Commandments. With that being said here are the “two tables” of the Ten Commandments:

Left Table of the Ten Commandments – Mankind’s Responsibilities Toward God:
1. Thou shall have no other gods but me.
2. Thou shall not bow before idols.
3. Thou shall not use my name in vain.
4. Thou shall remember the Sabbath day.

Right Table of the Ten Commandments – Mankind’s Responsibilities Toward People:
5. Honor you father and mother.
6. Thou shall not kill
7. Thou shall not commit adultery.
8. Thou shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor.
See Exodus 20:3-17

I will now provide two quotes regarding Roger Williams’s beliefs about persecution and the proper role of government: (more…)


Defining Free Will

July 30, 2013

I apologize for not having posted lately. I haven’t abandoned the blog but have decided to take it easy for a while until I build up some enthusiasm for writing again.

Last year I wrote some posts about Molinism which holds that God can be sovereign and mankind can have free will at the same time. Of course Christians seem to either love or hate this teaching and I happen to be one of those Christians who love it.

When I recently went back through my posts on Molinism I realized that I hadn’t defined what is meant by free will. Definitions are really handy things to have and I decided that I needed to remedy the situation and get a good definition posted to my blog. Believe it or not it isn’t easy to come up with a good definition because the topic is so heated (I once found a Calvinist blog that called a definition of “free will” like the one I am about to provide “heretical”).

Without further ado here is the definition courtesy of Dr. Bruce Little:

Free Will

This term carries baggage that proves unnecessarily confusing and requires too many qualifications in order to convey its exact meaning. Therefore, the term/phrase of choice here will be libertarian freedom. To affirm that the will is free is difficult to defend, if used in the absolute sense. In general, libertarian freedom as used here means that man has the power to choose to the contrary, and in so doing has the power to cause events. It acknowledges that antecedent choices and events may influence and/or limit present or future choices. In some cases, such choices may determine an unalterable course of events which cannot be reversed by another choice, such as jumping out of a window on the thirtieth floor of an apartment building. Libertarian freedom, however, maintains that man has the ability to make authentic choices from the options permitted within his circumstances and God’s providence. His choices may be limited, but not ability to choose. There are times when his choices are other than they would be under different circumstances (as when there is a gun to your head in conjunction with a command to give the gun-holder your wallet), or his choices may be limited, yet he still has the ability itself to choose. Even when there is a gun to your head, you still have a choice. Consider that Christians have often been called upon to choose the unnatural simply in obedience to Christ.

The word “choice” implies two things; in order for choice to be authentic, there must be at least two possibilities that are equal in possibility, but not necessarily in desirability or workability. For example, one may require more energy or sacrifice. Furthermore, there must be corollary consequences for each choice. When taken as a whole, libertarian freedom affirms that God has given man true ability to choose between two or more possibilities where man can refrain from one and choose the other. Authentic possibilities from which to choose require moral judgment, which is part of libertarian freedom. From each choice, certain consequences follow. The consequences may vary, may be direct or indirect, immediate or delayed, and may affect the individual as well as others, but consequences do follow. Man is morally accountable for those choices; that is, he bears moral responsibility.

God, Why This Evil?
Bruce A. Little
p 14

Recommended Blog Post: The Drawing of God

July 20, 2012

Kevin Lane, owner of the On My Walk blog, has been doing a chapter by chapter review of Dr. James R. White’s The Potter’s Freedom(TPF). Dr. White is a Calvinist and Kevin describes himself as a non-Calvinist non-Arminian so Kevin has an awful lot to write about. Kevin’s latest post in this series is titled “The Drawing of God” in which he provides one of the best non-Calvinist interpretations of what God’s drawing is that I have ever seen on the internet. If you are interested in this topic then by all means follow the link over to Kevin’s blog and read the article!

Free Will and the Angelic Conflict

January 22, 2010

Beliefs in both free will and the angelic conflict have been a gulf of difference between me and other Christians as long as I can remember. To hold to these two doctrines will cause anyone to view everything from the micro (other people) to the macro (world events) in a completely different manner.

I never interpret bad decisions by other people (or myself) as a “the devil made me do it” or even a “God made me do it” situation. I do believe that both God and the Devil do influence all of us, that we all know right from wrong and that we are allowed by God to make our own decisions. Does saying that God influences me, rather than God compels or decrees all my actions make me some kind of heretic? I don’t see how even though I have read as much implied by other Christians.

The following quote is from R.B. Thieme, Jr.’s teaching on free will and why it is necessary to resolve the angelic conflict: (more…)

My Free Grace Mea Culpa – Part 2

November 6, 2009

This is part two of two posts that I am writing on this topic, to read part one click here.

A few years ago I accidentally got myself involved in a rather heated debate with another Christian on a blog that we both frequented. I had begun to realize that we Christians used the same vocabulary but often meant different things by it. The topic involved the concept of grace and I wanted to make sure that the man I was exchanging ideas with understood where I was coming from. Now, I knew that his definition of grace went something like this:

Grace is unmerited favor.

That definition is fine as far as it goes but I had a more expansive idea of grace in mind so I gave him this definition:

Grace is God doing as much for us (the human race) out of His love as He can without compromising His justice.

In this way began the most intense internet debate I have had to date. His response was immediate and powerful; I could almost feel him spitting out his Coke as he read what I had written. I had unwittingly written something which had apparently impugned God’s sovereignty. (more…)

My Free Will Mea Culpa – Part 1

October 30, 2009

I keep coming up with ideas for future posts and have come to realize that the majority of them emphasize human choice. I was always taught that the Christian way of life centers around making good decisions from a position of strength (for the Christian, the more bible doctrine, or truth, you know the stronger you are spiritually). So, rather than beat around the bush, I have decided to declare my position on the subject and show my reasoning.

I am not really trying to win anyone over “to my side” with these posts (there will be at least two). If anyone reads this and disagrees with me then that is fine, you do not answer to me and I do not answer to you. As Christians we all answer to a higher authority. However, be forewarned. If you accuse me of advocating libertarian free will, semi-Pelagianism, or Arminianism do not expect me to crawl into a corner and assume a fetal position. I don’t accept that my beliefs are really consistent with any of these positions so I tend to ignore such stuff.

My plans for this are larger than a single post should be so I am going to break it up into at least two. In Part 1 I am going to briefly demonstrate my logic on a few well known passages of scripture. Of course, entire books have been written on the subject so I will not do justice to it. My hope is that you all will be able to see how I approach the subject and, at least, see that I am being consistent with my core beliefs.

In Part 2 I will briefly summarize my understanding of the some of the philosophical ideas about free will and why they leave me flat. Then I will briefly give my main reason for believing that the bible teaches free will. (more…)

%d bloggers like this: