Sola Fide in the Parable of Pharisee and Tax Collector?

Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Catholicism, Exegesis, Featured, Gospel, Justification, Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, Sola Fide | 218 comments

Protestants often claim that the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector from Luke 18:9-14 is proof that Jesus taught Justification by Faith Alone. In this brief post I will show that this Protestant claim has no Biblical merit at all. If you need a refresher, here’s what the parable says:

9 Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The first key detail to note is that there is no mention “faith” at all, so there is really no reason to think “faith alone” is even the point! From what the text does say, the point of the story is explicitly given: pride ruins but humility saves. Thus, if we can say anything about this text, it’s that man is justified by humility, which is fine for Catholics, but isn’t something Protestants are going to be comfortable affirming.

The second key detail to note is that isn’t a story about ‘hearing the Gospel preached and accepting the Good News’. Rather, both of these men were already believers and ‘church-goers’. The phrase “went up to the temple to pray” indicates they were two Jews going to do the prescribed daily prayers, just as the Apostles were said to do: “now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1). Even the phrase “standing to pray” indicates a ‘liturgical prayer posture’, which other texts also touch upon: “whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mk 11:25). This verse from Mark goes directly against the Protestant idea of “once saved, always saved,” because it indicates we must regularly pray for forgiveness and that we are not forgiven of future sins, only past ones. Recognizing this implied ‘background information’ can really only signify that both of these men had fallen into grave sin somewhere in their past, causing broken fellowship with God – a loss of justification – which had to be restored upon humble repentance.

The third detail to note is how similar this parable is to James 4:6-10, especially the last sentence: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts. Let your laughter be turned to mourning. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Considering the prior two details, it isn’t a stretch to say James is also talking about Believers who turned to sin and needed to humble themselves to become justified again (just as Jesus taught the Tax Collector was exalted, i.e. justified, due to humbling himself).

But what about the fact the Pharisee is explicitly said to have been doing good works, shouldn’t that be understood to mean that that good works play no role in salvation? The short answer is “No,” because, again, that’s not the point of the parable. Jesus is clearly saying the Pharisee was entangled in pride and “treated others with contempt.” So even if the Pharisee was doing good works, he certainly was doing evil works right along with them, which certainly isn’t going to justify anyone: “You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup, but inside you are full of wickedness. But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. Woe to you Pharisees, for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Lk 11:39-42). Jesus says the Pharisees should continue to do good works like tithing, but that this is ultimately of no avail if they’re going to do it for the wrong reasons and neglect the more important commands, such as loving their neighbor.

In fact, Jesus using a Pharisee as his example is a strong indication that pride is the real problem, for throughout the Gospels Jesus is calling out the Pharisees on their prideful behavior which was geared towards praise from men rather than from God. (See Matthew 6 for the distinction between doing good for the sake of God versus doing good for the sake of praises of men.)

In conclusion, I believe it has been shown that this parable goes against Justification by Faith Alone. And I know some Protestants will try to spin this into some nonsense such as ‘Catholics try to save themselves by their works’ and ‘Catholics don’t believe we need Jesus’, but that’s just false and silly. Nothing here suggests Catholics don’t need Jesus or are trusting in ourselves for salvation, so any such “rebuttals” are unworthy of a Catholic response and are desperate attempts to derail authentic exegesis and genuine discussion.

218 Comments

  1. Comment to get onto the comments e-mail list.

  2. Nick–

    Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith. The concept could just as easily be abbreviated as “grace alone” or “Christ alone” or “conversion alone” or “regeneration alone” or “repentance alone.” The principal point is that WORKS play no part.

    Do “works” show up as the source of the Pharisee’s pride? You better believe it.

    Do “works” show up in any sense in the Publican’s prayer? Not on your life.

    All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide.

  3. Eric,

    I don’t think humility and repentance point to Sola Fide. The point of the Pharisee isn’t that he’s doing “works.” He’s thinking that his works justify him when in actuality, he is not justified.

    Note that he fasts “twice a week” (I think the requirement was once per week) and that he gives tithes of all (again not thre requirement). So, he’s DOING more than what’s required.

    The problem with the Pharisee is not what he’s doing. I’m not a big fan of the translation that Nick chose. I’ll use the RSV which I think translates v. 11 better, The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself. He’s not praying TO GOD. He’s praying to himself and holding himself up as a model.

    Worse, look at his prayer. He’s not focusing on “love of God.” His prayer is “God, I thank you that I am not like the other men…”.

    Compare that to the tax collector who looks to God and asks for mercy.

    Thus the model is not to be like the Pharisee who appears holy on the outside but lacks charity in his heart for his fellow man but rather to be like the tax collector who realizes his actions are sinful and seeks forgiveness.

    Note, although Christ doesn’t say this, it should be assumed that the tax collector in order to have true conversion of the heart needs to turn away from his sins and become a “good tax collector” who is not screwing over his fellow man by taking more than what is owed.

    i.e. His inward charity of heart reflects in his outward works.

  4. Dennis–

    The Publican “went home justified” before performing any of these outward works. True repentance will inevitably produce inward charity of heart. But that’s not the point. And whenever it becomes the point…when “charity” becomes a synonym for works accomplished…quite often, the orientation toward self displayed by the Pharisee is the result.

  5. Eric,

    “Do “works” show up in any sense in the Publican’s prayer? Not on your life.
    All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide.”

    Was his prayer a work? Why is conversion or displays of repentance or abject humility not works, but charity is?

  6. Nick,

    I like the way the Pharisee doesn’t take credit for his righteousness but thanks God for his superior state. This is so Calvinist to feign humility all the while being smug in their being elect favorites.

  7. Eric,

    “The Publican “went home justified” before performing any of these outward works.”

    Of course. Before justification, one can do natural good works like feeding your own children but they are not meritorious.
    After all this time, you still don’t believe Trent when it says neither Faith nor works before Baptism merit justification?

  8. Nick,
    One more thing. You mention that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
    So much for grace=”unmerited favor”. Sounds like humility merits grace.

  9. Nick–
    “Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith. The concept could just as easily be abbreviated as “grace alone” or “Christ alone” or “conversion alone” or “regeneration alone” or “repentance alone.” The principal point is that WORKS play no part.

    Do “works” show up as the source of the Pharisee’s pride? You better believe it.
    Do “works” show up in any sense in the Publican’s prayer? Not on your life.
    All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide.”

    When it comes to knowing the bible, I’m a toddler. But as I’ve been reading along in this site there are just some people who’d insist on something which would make me wonder how in the world did they get that idea.

    Like this one:
    “Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith.”
    Then he pointed out that the concept of “Faith alone” could also be (abbreviated?) also expressed as “grace alone” or “Christ alone”… or “repentance alone.” The principal point is that WORKS play no part.
    How could he miss the point by a mile when the bible already said it from the very beginning of the parable that this is about ” some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”
    The key things are quite obvious: those who proclaim themselves before God of their righteousness should not do it since proclamation of anyone’s righteousness only belongs to God (Abraham did not proclaim himself righteous, it was God who proclaimed his righteousness). The parable did not say whether the Pharisee’s works were acceptable or not since it has nothing to do with the gist of the story.
    The point of the parable is, it’s bad to proclaim your own righteousness before God and even worse if you are not even satisfied with it and proclaim others as unrighteous, which is not quite unfamiliar among some Christians nowadays.
    What’s this statement got to mean? – “All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide”.
    The parable obviously is not presenting a repentant sinner, beating his breast, and begging for forgiveness to show how faithful to God he is, but simply to acknowledge that he has no right facing God when what he does for his living is contrary to God’s will. His acknowledgement of his sinfulness certainly has something to do about his BAD WORKS, but, again, the parable is not a contrast between faith and good works but arrogance and humility before God. The Pharisee and the tax collector are already believers. Both actions were expressions of their faith, in two opposite ways, and God favors a repentant sinner than a self righteous sinner (all are sinners, even those who are evangelizing people, even our pope acknowledges his sinfulness).
    To teach this parable as a proof for the sola fide is just like banging a square peg with a hammer to make it fit into a round hole. It’s a roundabout style going nowhere.

  10. Rene–

    This verse is also about arrogance and humility before God:

    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    It likewise decries our works’ involvement in justification, lest anyone should boast.

    Round hole, round peg. Clear as day.

  11. Jim–

    Humility merits grace.

    Now, we’re getting somewhere. You’re on the right track! Very, very close, in fact.

    A good number of Catholic churches include these lyrics in their hymnals:

    Not the labor of my hands
    Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
    Could my zeal no respite know,
    Could my tears forever flow,
    All for sin could not atone;
    Thou must save, and Thou alone.

    Nothing in my hand I bring,
    Simply to Thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to Thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

  12. Jim–

    For most of the Calvinists I know it is difficult to mention Sola Fide without their breaking down and weeping. Where do you get this notion of smugness in us? It is the farthest thing from the truth with genuine Calvinists.

    For you all, your good works, your progressive sanctification, your inherent righteousness is involved in your justification. If that were true, I would be tempted to bow down in worship before you. Talk about incredible! Talk about “special”!

    I’d be asking things like, “Are you for real?” and “Can I touch you?”

    I’d probably react like the people of Lystra reacted to the preaching of Paul and Barnabas, treating them as if they were veritable “gods”:

    “But when this came to the ears of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas, they went running out among the people, parting their clothing, and crying out, Good people, why are you doing these things? We are men with the same feelings as you, and we give you the good news so that you may be turned away from these foolish things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all things in them!”

  13. Eric,

    Sola fide is all about faith. We all know sola fide means faith alone. Faith alone means that one justified by faith alone.

    This excludes repentance, and not only good works. It excludes humility if by humility is meant *a* virtue. That is to say, justification by faith means that we are not justified by our feelings of faith or feelings of repentance and repentance itself or feelings of humility. These are the fruits of faith.

    Faith simply means to trust or *stand* fast in the word and work of God upon us — despite opposition and contradictory experience. We are simply to “stay where we are just as God had found us.”

    Faith is trust in the external word of the gospel — whether in baptism, the Lord’s Supper or absolution.

    This means that there is nothing to do at all but to simply suffer the word and work of God on us. Faith is synonymous with hearing. Justification by faith means justification by hearing alone. In faith, we are entirely passive — truly, really and totally.

  14. The publican was justified not because he was repentant but he was repentant because he was already justified.

    This is evident in that whilst the Pharisee sought justification, i.e. his reputation and works as a condition of justification, the publican did not seek justification at all but rather God’s mercy.

    That is, whilst the Pharisee thought that justification was to be preceded by condition, the publican thought that there was nothing he could do in order to be justified. As a publican, i.e. as someone who *remained* a publican, he must have experienced the mercy of God.

    For otherwise the parable would not have gone on to say that he went *home* justified. Home is one the estates of life. This implied that the publican remained in his secular vocation. We know in the gospels, that to be sent home by Jesus after forgiveness of sin is simply to be serve anew in newness of life in one’s secular vocation.

    This mean that, therefore, justification is not dependant on anything in the publican but entirely the mercy of God. Humility is simply the result of the publican experiencing the mercy of God.

  15. Jason,

    This means that there is nothing to do at all but to simply suffer the word and work of God on us. Faith is synonymous with hearing. Justification by faith means justification by hearing alone. In faith, we are entirely passive — truly, really and totally.

    This would have to be qualified. Is it possible to have faith without repentance? I think not.

  16. The fault of the Pharisee was that he did not fess up to his sins. His approach was to boast to God about good qualities, but he failed to admit his ” paraptoma “. He is a demonstration in unrepentance.

    Repentance would have been something like, ” O God, have mercy on me, a selfish, self-centered, judgemental phoney. Help me to stop being a fake. I must change and become more like that authentic repentant back there.”

    Repentance illustrates one of the deficiencies of sola fide – – – the prospect of being in bad faith, of being an lmmoral believer. Furthermore, this parable contradicts the Reformed idea of divinely guaranteed perfection of repentance of the believer. It tells a story of free choice, a necessary ingredient of repentance.

  17. Eric,

    As I have never spoken to you other than through this computer, maybe I was irresponsible to apply the word “smug” to all Calvinists.
    But all one has to do is click onto a John MacArthur, Matt Slick or James White video to see a smug Calvinist.

    As for bowing down before a person in a state of grace, on two occasions now I have told you of the case of Origin’s father worshiping the Holy Ghost within his newly baptized baby son. Don’t you remember?

  18. Calvin,

    Furthermore, this parable contradicts the Reformed idea of divinely guaranteed perfection of repentance of the believer.

    Where is the evidence that the Reformed have an idea of divinely guaranteed perfection of repentance of the believer?

  19. Eric, you had said: Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith. … The principal point is that WORKS play no part. … All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide.

    It seems like you’re playing around with terminology. The parable isn’t anti-works, and logically speaking anti-works doesn’t necessitate faith alone. Also, I’ve never seen any famous Reformed theologians suggest humility and repentance is a synonym for Sola Fide, nor do I see how it even makes sense. In fact, I’ve seen Protestant theologians who say repentance and humility aren’t part of Sola Fide, but rather are more in the ‘regeneration’ category which takes place prior to Receiving Christ by Faith in ‘justification’.

    You later said: “when charity becomes a synonym for works accomplished”

    That’s actually not the Catholic definition of the Theological Virtue of Charity, but in fact a distortion of it. Charity is a disposition, not about how many works were accomplished, hence why Jesus said the poor widow who gave only 2 coins was said to have given more than the richest donors in the room.

    You also said: “Do works show up as the source of the Pharisee’s pride? You better believe it.”

    Here’s where you’re not actually doing exegesis. If the ‘works’ in question were the self-centered works to gain praises of men (e.g. Matthew 6), then he was deluded and thus good works weren’t really in view. How is Jesus going to give a lesson that good works don’t save and yet use as His star example a person doing bad works? It doesn’t make sense. Now if the works in question were good works, which we can assume they were, then the point is that good works aren’t enough if one is breaking other commandments on the side.

    —————–
    Jim, you said: “I like the way the Pharisee doesn’t take credit for his righteousness but thanks God for his superior state.”

    That’s a good point. Often times people miss the important fact that the Jews, and especially the upper class, considered themselves especially blessed by God. They held to an ‘unconditional election’ in a sense.

    You also said: “You mention that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
    So much for grace=unmerited favor. Sounds like humility merits grace.”

    Yeah, which is why I often find such discussions frustrating, because my exegesis isn’t actually interacted with. Instead, it’s too often surface level tit-for-tat claims and refusing to objectively look at the facts and especially one’s own assumptions.

    Exegesis is about letting the text speak, whereas there’s far too many (Protestants especially) speaking for the text.
    ——————

    Rene: Good points.

    ———————
    Jason, you said: “The publican was justified not because he was repentant but he was repentant because he was already justified.”

    This is fascinating: so really what you’re saying is that the Tax Collector went up to the Temple justified, and as a result he had humility and repentance. “Lord, be merciful to me, an (already) justified man.” That sounds totally backwards.

    You’ve turned the parable on it’s head, for what you’re saying is that the lesson Jesus was trying to get across is ‘what is the fruit of a truly already justified person’.

  20. Jim–

    There’s no question about it. There are some smug “Calvinists.” I wish they would go away. They’re kind of like peacemakers who are saddled with a hair-trigger temper.

  21. Nick–

    Sola Fide is short for “justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone for the glory of God alone.” It basically includes everything up to justification in the “ordo salutis.” That would cover effectual calling, regeneration, and conversion (the last component being made up of both faith and repentance).

    If you don’t know this, perhaps it’s because you haven’t read enough Reformed materials or you have read them without discernment.

    The parable is not anti-works, but it does run counter to works being involved in justification.

    The reason so many Protestants dismissed B16’s statement that “Luther was right” about Sola Fide as long as Charity is not excluded…is that they saw it as a smuggling in of works (which it almost certainly was). Regeneration automatically renews the heart, so a disposition of charity is no threat to Sola Fide and NEED NOT HAVE BEEN MENTIONED.

    We see Catholicism as intrinsically legalistic in practice . Such is a direct consequence of not keeping justification and works separate. You pretty much always end up with some version of the proud Pharisee.

  22. Jim–

    You mistake me. I would not be bowing to the indwelling Holy Spirit or your infused sanctifying grace, but to your self-merited justification, the stuff of deity.

    I will start carving a statue of you forthwith. Kindly send a flattering photo. I’ll plant an ornamental garden to place it in. It’ll be a lovely place. Intensely spiritual. I’m sure there will be a plethora of pilgrims.

  23. Eric,

    You just can’t resist, can you? First day of a brand new article and you are quick with your sarcasm to Nick.

    “If you don’t know this, perhaps it’s because you haven’t read enough Reformed materials or you have read them without discernment.”

    And you used the word “smuggle”. Now who used to use that word ?

    Lots of heat and no light.

  24. Eric,

    ” the stuff of deity.”

    What does it mean to become a partaking of the divine nature?

    It doesn’t mean we become self existent, that our essence is one with its existence. It doesn’t mean we can create ex nihilo.

    So what does it mean for you, a Lone Ranger? What does it mean for an authentic Calvinist?

  25. Eric,
    ” Kindly send a flattering photo. I’ll plant an ornamental garden …”

    Have it your way. Choose the one you like best.

    http://fitnes.lv/en/en_photos/best-bodybuilders-from-latvia/best-bodybuilders-in-latvia-mens.html

  26. Nick–

    What are your criteria for works being “good”? Were the flawless works of the “rich, young ruler” good…in spite of a lack of self-acrifice? Are the superior works of this “solipsistic Pharisee” good…in spite of his obvious arrogance and insensitivity?

    You have a very warped view of what good works even are, making it unsurprising that you have a warped view of inherent righteousness.

  27. Jim–

    One doesn’t become a partaker of the divine nature by winning a spot in the lineup through a stellar tryout or by finagling one’s way in with smooth rhetoric and flattery or by working one’s fingers to the bone to earn it.

  28. Jim–

    Sorry, but quite frankly it galls me how superficial you all’s research into Reformed thought is. I don’t see why I need to be overly respectful in light of such sloth. You want respect? Does Nick want respect? Earn it.

    ******************************************************************************

    Pope Benedict XVI was clearly disingenuous in this instance. Even you don’t think he was honestly speaking well of JBFA. I would say that justifies the use of the verb “to smuggle.”

  29. Eric,

    Interact with my actual arguments and exegesis, otherwise I simply don’t have the time for rabbit trails.

    I know from lots of experience that I have to include certain phrases in my concluding paragraphs because I know the tendency of many Protestants to rush to get off topic to keep the spotlight off of the problematic issues. When exegesis fails them, which it so often does, they run elsewhere.

    The logic of my claims is pretty simple and straighforward:

    (1) Is faith mentioned? No. Then exegetically speaking, it’s not an obvious proof text for ‘justification by faith alone’, even if some pieces are present.

    (2) Is there any indication this was about coming to faith for the first time after hearing the Gospel? No. Then exegetically speaking we shouldn’t assume the Protestant notion of justification upon hearing and embracing the Gospel is in view.

    (3) What do other similar texts say? The principle of Scripture-interprets-Scripture would demand we at least look at sections of text using nearly identical language. A text like James is speaking of Christians who fell into sin and needed to turn from their sin and humble themselves, again not mentioning faith or initial conversion.

    (4) Regardless of how ‘good works’ is being defined, you have only two logical options: the ‘good works’ of the Pharisee weren’t really that good, indicating good works do save but the Pharisee wasn’t actually doing them (e.g. Mat 6:1); or else the ‘good works’ were truly good in some sense but were not enough (e.g. negated by other sins, Lk 11:42). In neither case is Faith Alone a warranted conclusion.

    If you cannot directly interact with these points, then it’s you that’s running from the Word, not me.

  30. Nick–

    1. No, faith is not mentioned, but repentance is. Faith and repentance go hand in hand (kind of like love and marriage). How egregious was the Publican’s sin? Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Either he is a newly convicted believer, or he is a believer caught in mortal sin.

    2. Therefore, if he were a Catholic, he would be renewing his faith through Reconciliation. Even Calvinists might speak of him as returning to the faith. What it is not is a simple daily confession.

    3. Funny. I was reminded more of the new believer who cries, “I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” But certainly James speaks of exalting the humble and humbling the proud. James, however, seems to be speaking of the saving of souls, not of sanctification.

    4. Well, we’re certainly not limited to your two options, not by a long shot. Perhaps he should do what he does except with love and humility. Perhaps he needs to do more good works, or even more likely, different kinds of works in service to his neighbor. A new heart, a new attitude, that which he would get through Sola Fide, would provide him with the necessary love and humility. Plus, one is more likely to perform works in love and humility when they are motivated by no other purpose.

    You mentioned Matthew 6. In verse 3, we learn that we ought not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. In other words, our works should flow out of us naturally, spontaneously…the default fruit of our transformed characters. This practically screams Sola Fide.

    You seem to think we are sorely lacking biblical evidence for Sola Fide. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To us as we read through the gospels and the epistles, it fairly well shouts from the rooftops. It is utterly pervasive. It is your works-oriented paradigm we have trouble seeing anywhere.

    We have absolutely NO reason to even comtemplate running from the Word!

  31. ERIC October 23, 2014 at 7:05 pm
    Nick–
    Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith. The concept could just as easily be abbreviated as “grace alone” or “Christ alone” or “conversion alone” or “regeneration alone” or “repentance alone.” The principal point is that WORKS play no part.
    Do “works” show up as the source of the Pharisee’s pride? You better believe it.
    Do “works” show up in any sense in the Publican’s prayer? Not on your life.
    All he displays are abject humility and repentance: Sola Fide.

    What’s wrong with that picture?

    Who goes to Church and beats his breast and says, “I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault….”?

    And who goes everywhere and proclaims that he is saved by his faith alone? Looking around at the rest of humanity and saying, “I’m glad I’m not like them. I have saved myself by my own faith. And I can continue sinning with impenitence since I am always saved.”

    Yeah, the Catholic is like the Publican in that parable. Displaying humility and repentance for his sins.

    And yeah, his vaunted faith alone is the source of the Protestant’s pride. He rejects the works which God wills he should do and proclaims himself saved without God.

  32. ERIC October 24, 2014 at 3:19 am
    Rene–
    This verse is also about arrogance and humility before God:
    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
    It likewise decries our works’ involvement in justification, lest anyone should boast.
    Round hole, round peg. Clear as day.

    Yes, it is. But it doesn’t say what you claim it says. Because you are reading that verse apart from the context of Christianity.

    First, Jesus Christ did not write that verse. St. Paul did. And St. Paul was teaching the Doctrine of Jesus Christ.
    Second, The Doctrines of Jesus Christ include the Sacraments. Works of God through which we receive grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

    So, let’s go through it.

    But God, being rich in mercy,

    God is rich in mercy. And Scripture tells us that God shows His mercy to those who do His will:

    Exodus 20:6King James Version (KJV)

    6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

    because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

    This is a reference to Baptism. Because Scripture says elsewhere:

    Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    If it is not a reference to Baptism, it proves too much, because unrepentant sinners who do not believe in Christ were not also saved. But only those who turned to Christ:

    2 Corinthians 5:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

    (by grace you have been saved),

    Another reference to the Sacraments. Especially to Baptism, through which the sanctifying grace of our Lord is poured into our hearts:

    Mark 16:16King James Version (KJV)

    16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    And washes away our sins:

    Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

    and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    Again, a reference to the salvation received through the Sacraments. Heb 12:18-24 also mentions that those of us who have become Christians, now walk amongst the Saints.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith,

    A clear reference to the Sacraments, because it is in the Sacraments that we come before God in an attitude of faith, believing His promises. And He, sees our faith and counts it to us as righteousness. And then, keeping His promise, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which washes us and regenerates us, making us born again children of God.

    and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

    Amen! It is a gift of God. As the Scripture says:

    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    not of works, lest anyone should boast.

    Because we can’t wash our souls. Only God can do that. But does not do that for everyone. Only for those who do the works of the Law:

    Romans 2:13King James Version (KJV)

    13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,

    When were we created in Christ Jesus? According to Scripture, from the time we were conceived:

    John 1:3King James Version (KJV)

    3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    Colossians 1:16King James Version (KJV)

    16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

    which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    What are these works which God prepared for us from the beginning? They are the Ten Commandments.

    It likewise decries our works’ involvement in justification, lest anyone should boast.

    Our works don’t justify us. But God does not justify anyone who does not work.

    Matthew 25:31-46King James Version (KJV)

    31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

    32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

    33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

    35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

    37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

    38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

    39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

    40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

    42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

    43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

    46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

  33. ERIC October 24, 2014 at 4:09 pm
    Nick–
    1. No, faith is not mentioned, but repentance is. Faith and repentance go hand in hand (kind of like love and marriage).

    But they are not the same thing, as you had previously implied. So, you are no longer talking about faith alone, but about faith and repentance. And repentance produces good works:

    2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

    How egregious was the Publican’s sin? Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Either he is a newly convicted believer, or he is a believer caught in mortal sin.

    Regardless, his pleading for God’s mercy shows that he does not believe in absolute assurance of salvation. And lest we forget, this is Jesus recounting the story, and Jesus says that the man who does not consider himself saved is the man who goes home justified.

    2. Therefore, if he were a Catholic, he would be renewing his faith through Reconciliation.

    Ok.

    Even Calvinists might speak of him as returning to the faith. What it is not is a simple daily confession.

    What difference does that make? It is a man repenting of his sins. Whether it be daily or not.

    3. Funny. I was reminded more of the new believer who cries, “I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” But certainly James speaks of exalting the humble and humbling the proud. James, however, seems to be speaking of the saving of souls, not of sanctification.

    James is speaking of humility before God. Something which Protestants rarely show. As they habitually boast of their saving themselves by their faith alone.

    4. Well, we’re certainly not limited to your two options, not by a long shot. Perhaps he should do what he does except with love and humility. Perhaps he needs to do more good works, or even more likely, different kinds of works in service to his neighbor. A new heart, a new attitude, that which he would get through Sola Fide, would provide him with the necessary love and humility.

    that is a contradiction. If faith were accompanied by love and humility, it couldn’t be described as “sola fide”.

    Plus, one is more likely to perform works in love and humility when they are motivated by no other purpose.

    Which further contradicts faith alone.

    You mentioned Matthew 6. In verse 3, we learn that we ought not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. In other words, our works should flow out of us naturally, spontaneously…the default fruit of our transformed characters. This practically screams Sola Fide.

    Wrong. If works flow out of faith, then that is faith plus works. Not faith alone. You do know what “sola fide” means, right? It is the Latin for “faith alone”.

    You seem to think we are sorely lacking biblical evidence for Sola Fide.

    Not only that, but you contradict Scripture with your doctrine of justification by faith alone:

    James 2:24King James Version (KJV)

    24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth. To us as we read through the gospels and the epistles, it fairly well shouts from the rooftops. It is utterly pervasive. It is your works-oriented paradigm we have trouble seeing anywhere.

    Apparently, you have poor reading comprehension:

    Matthew 7:21-25King James Version (KJV)

    21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

    25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

    Romans 2:7-13King James Version (KJV)

    7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

    8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

    9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

    10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

    11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

    12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

    13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

    We have absolutely NO reason to even comtemplate running from the Word!

    That’s because you are twisting the Word to your own destruction. The Word of God is clear. Without good works, you are doomed:

    Galatians 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

  34. Eric,

    I asked you what you think the phrase, “partake of the divine nature” means.
    You answered with,

    “One doesn’t become a partaker of the divine nature by winning a spot in the lineup through a stellar tryout or by finagling one’s way in with smooth rhetoric and flattery or by working one’s fingers to the bone to earn it.”

    Thank you. All is perfectly clear now. Just as I suspected, you haven’t the foggiest.

  35. Robert,

    You are right. I should have made my argument without resorting to hyperbole about what I suppose falls into the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace.

    Now, I refer you to the comment which you made on this website on Oct. 20 @ 6:53 pm, ” The elect will not commit the damnable sin and fail to repent.” The ensuing dialogue was quite instructive. I was simply trying to make the point that the Pharisee / Tax Collector Parable is a Biblical example of a failure to repent – – – perhaps even permanent maybe.

  36. Eric,

    You said:

    1. No, faith is not mentioned, but repentance is. Faith and repentance go hand in hand.

    You have to make an exegetical case that faith necessarily goes with repentance and that the absence of faith was the Pharisees real problem.

    2. Therefore, if he were a Catholic, he would be renewing his faith through Reconciliation. Even Calvinists might speak of him as returning to the faith. What it is not is a simple daily confession.

    It wasn’t about him hearing the Gospel and converting for the first time. That’s the problem the Sola Fide reading has to face and cannot answer.

    3. James, however, seems to be speaking of the saving of souls, not of sanctification.

    LOL, exactly my point! James is talking to Christians who have gone off track to repent, humble themselves, to get back into God’s favor. That’s what saving souls is. James is not talking about preaching the Gospel to those who have never heard it.

    4. Well, we’re certainly not limited to your two options, not by a long shot.

    What are the two other options? I said the only options are (a) his good works weren’t truly good, or (b) his good works needed to be accompanied with other good works.

    You mentioned Matthew 6. In verse 3, we learn that we ought not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. In other words, our works should flow out of us naturally, spontaneously…the default fruit of our transformed characters. This practically screams Sola Fide.

    Irrelevant to my point and to the parable. The only point that matters is whether the Pharisee’s “good works” were done for the praises of men rather than for God, in which case they wouldn’t really be “good works” – and thus the point of the parable couldn’t be that “good works don’t save” because the point would actually be that “works that aren’t really good don’t save”.

    You seem to think we are sorely lacking biblical evidence for Sola Fide.

    As far as this parable goes, you’ve not presented even a partial exegetical case for Sola Fide. Your argument has basically been Sola Fide is true, so we must read this parable in a way that conforms to Sola Fide. But that’s not exegesis.

    You seemed to have “answered” my 4 exegetical points simply by offering your own personal reflection on what I said. You didn’t really deny what I said nor did you provide a case for the Sola Fide reading.

  37. No, Jim, that is not what you asked me.

    You asked, “What does it mean to become a partaking of the divine nature?” And you asked it in the context of my phrase, that by being directly involved in (and partly responsible for) one’s own justification, one has become the “stuff of deity.” And I didn’t mean by that “divinization” in the Catholic sense, but an actual crossing of the creator-creature divide.

    Sometimes, Catholics will speak in analogical terms between the hypostatic union of Christ in the Incarnation, and our mystical union with Christ in the process of divinization. This would definitely appear to cross the uncrossable divide.

    If I don’t appear to have the “foggiest” notion concerning the actual makeup of Catholic divinization, perhaps it is because it seems incoherent to me. So, enlighten me, O, great guru deluxe! Your humble disciple intently listeneth, yea, hangs on every word….

  38. Nick–

    1. The relation between faith and repentance ought to be self-evident. Faith without works is dead. Faith and compassion have a similar relationship. (The only thing that matters is faith working through love.) I think it is clear that this Pharisee is not a genuine believer. He doesn’t love his neighbor, and therefore cannot love God.

    Scriptures relating repentance and faith (from Mark and Acts):

    “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

    “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentant toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  39. Nick–

    2. There is absolutely nothing in this passage which infers that the Publican has gone to Temple regularly, and nothing that infers he was a believer prior to this episode. You’re simply reading into the parable what you wish to be there.

    3. In terms of James speaking of salvation, you are again assuming your own paradigm in positing that these are a restoration of lost justification rather than the gaining of justification for a first time.

    4. Sorry, I didn’t word this one well. One other interpretation, consonant with JBFA, is that good works aren’t involved in justification at all. Like Zacchaeus, the Publican’s acceptance before God comes prior to any acts of restitution on his part. His “justification” is declared irrespective of good works.

    5. The point of this parable has nothing to do with good works. It has to do with presumption/arrogance vs. hope/humility. It also has to do with compassion as a validation of genuine faith. The Publican does not represent someone who does quiet acts of obedience, for which he does not blow his own horn. He relies merely on the mercy of God and brings nothing of his own in grade. Here is a quote from H.F. Weiss, taken from Kittel’s TDNT: “Here the whole, subjectively honest concern of Pharisaic Judaism to fulfill the law correctly, and thereby to contribute to the coming of God’s Kingdom, is radically set aside in favor of the attitude of those who expect nothing of themselves and their works, but everything from God.”

    6. I don’t believe an exegetical case can be made for Sola Fide from this text. All that can be said is that it is consonant with JBFA. On the other hand, this parable is not particularly relevant to the Catholic paradigm. It say nothing about it whatsoever.

  40. Calvin,

    The ensuing dialogue was quite instructive. I was simply trying to make the point that the Pharisee / Tax Collector Parable is a Biblical example of a failure to repent – – – perhaps even permanent maybe.

    But that ‘s only relevant to that discussion if the tax collector is elect. There’s no evidence in this parable that the tax collector is elect or has saving faith. The parable doesn’t actually deal with that specific matter at all.

  41. Eric said:

    The relation between faith and repentance ought to be self-evident. Faith without works is dead.

    But then ‘faith alone’ doesn’t save – which is, after all, what James says.

    jj

  42. JJ–

    Well, of course, so what else is new?

    We are saved by GRACE alone through the means of a brand-spanking-new living faith, sans any accomplished good works, accompanied by repentance.

    How could one be regenerated and NOT repent? It’s like the newborn taking its first breath. Instinct. Survival. Nature. Part of the gift of life.

    When James talks about faith alone, he is not speaking of a living faith. But then, of course, you already knew that.

    Paul, in Romans 3:28, speaks of a living faith when he proclaims that faith apart from works JUSTIFIES. But then, of course, you already knew that, too.

    Just trying to be the fly in the ointment, aren’t you?

  43. Eric:

    We are saved by GRACE alone through the means of a brand-spanking-new living faith…

    With which any Catholic could agree. So not sola fide after all?

    …sans any accomplished good works, accompanied by repentance.

    Except then you seem to take it away. Faith without repentance? Doesn’t that sound like:

    When James talks about faith alone, he is not speaking of a living faith.

    Not:

    Just trying to be the fly in the ointment, aren’t you?

    but gadfly, yes. You see, when I became a Catholic (from 25 years Reformed and Calvinist), part of the change was the realisation that, speaking phaenomenologically – about what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste – I could see no difference in the ‘saved by living faith’ of the sane Calvinist (I say ‘sane’ because there was one person who called himself a Calvinist who claimed that ‘faith’ meant ‘believing you would be saved’ and that you could continue to live in gross sin without worrying about salvation) – the ‘living faith’ of the sane Calvinist is indistinguishable from the ‘faith working through love’ of the Catholic.

    The Catholic-Protestant issue is not, in my opinion, about faith; it is about authority.

    jj

  44. JJ–

    1. So, we agree on its being nothing but grace…does this mean you have embraced Sola Fide?

    2. My grammar was probably somewhat off. I was speaking of a living faith ACCOMPANIED by repentance but UNACCOMPANIED by works. There’s no question that it’s somewhat contrived. But there’s also no question that it keeps things in the proper perspective.

    3. Authority is not the issue. If there were an infallible aurhority, I would joyfully follow it. But there isn’t one. So, fantasizing that there is one…that’s an issue. But, as I have said here many times, the issue between us soteriologically is not so much sola gratia/sola fide…but rather, the gifts of assurance and perseverance, which Catholics more or less deny.

    By the way, what are you doing over here? Is C2C kinda slow these days?

  45. ERIC October 23, 2014 at 7:05 pm
    Nick–
    Sola Fide doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with faith…..

    Just thinking about what you said there. That is absolutely devastating to Protestant soteriology. Because Scripture says:

    Hebrews 11:6 [Full Chapter]
    But without faith it is impossible to please him: ….

  46. ERIC October 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm
    JJ–
    1. So, we agree on its being nothing but grace…does this mean you have embraced Sola Fide?

    We are saved by grace through faith. That is a Sacramental Teaching. It is in the Sacraments that we present ourselves with faith in God’s promises and He, seeing our faith, washes us in His grace.

    2. My grammar was probably somewhat off.

    No kidding.

    I was speaking of a living faith ACCOMPANIED by repentance but UNACCOMPANIED by works.

    Repentance is the turning away from sin. The only way to turn away from sin is to perform good works. As the Scripture says:

    Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

    There’s no question that it’s somewhat contrived.

    Somewhat?

    But there’s also no question that it keeps things in the proper perspective.

    The proper perspective is the perspective which the Catholic Church Teaches. We are not saved by faith or by works. We are saved by God, if we do His will. This is reflected in the first Catechism the Church ever wrote, the New Testament:

    Matthew 7:21-25King James Version (KJV)

    21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

    25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

    3. Authority is not the issue.

    Yea, it is. You have admitted that faith alone is dead. But you refuse to submit to the Catholic Church, therefore you keep contriving doctrines which justify your refusal to submit to the authority of Christ through His Church.

    If there were an infallible aurhority, I would joyfully follow it.

    Welcome to the Catholic Church. The only infallible institution in the world.

    But there isn’t one. So, fantasizing that there is one…that’s an issue. But, as I have said here many times, the issue between us soteriologically is not so much sola gratia/sola fide…but rather, the gifts of assurance and perseverance, which Catholics more or less deny.

    We deny absolute assurance of salvation because it contradicts Scripture:

    Hebrews 6:4-6King James Version (KJV)

    4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

    5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

    6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

    But you don’t seem interested in what Scripture says.

  47. Eric:

    So, we agree on its being nothing but grace…does this mean you have embraced Sola Fide?

    No. My point is that you don’t either, if you insist on ‘living faith.’ You might say ‘sola fide vivente.’

    If there were an infallible aurhority, I would joyfully follow it. But there isn’t one. So, fantasizing that there is one

    That’s a factual question. Your denial doesn’t make it so.

    By the way, what are you doing over here? Is C2C kinda slow these days?

    The Web has room for us all.

    jj

  48. Eric,

    “So, enlighten me, O, great guru deluxe! Your humble disciple intently listeneth, yea, hangs on every word….”

    Now that is the proper attitude!
    Eric, I have told you in great detail what Catholics mean by the phrase, “Partake of the Divine Nature”.
    Remember my long dissertations on the soul and its faculties?
    Do you recall me explaining how an animal can be “imputed” as righteous but only a rational being can be “made” righteous? That only a man ( or angel ) has a capacity for divinization due to the intellects inability to be satisfied by any created being? I said the soul has an inexhaustible capacity for knowledge and the will can never love too much?
    In a series of posts over about a week I elaborated on the work of the Holy Spirit, the bond of love within the Trinity, unite us in seed form in this life and will blossom into the Beatific Vision in the next?

    You sneezed me off as a joke. At least you now admit that you don’t understand what the phrase means. That is a beginning.

    And I do appreciate the title you accord me. I extend my hand to you through cyberspace for you to kiss my ring.

  49. JJ,

    Since we are lofting praise on one another, let me say I have enjoyed your postings on C2C and am glad you are here. But I am not going to call you, ” O Guru Deluxe” as Eric does me, not yet anyway.

  50. JIM October 26, 2014 at 8:40 am
    JJ,
    Since we are lofting praise on one another, let me say I have enjoyed your postings on C2C and am glad you are here. But I am not going to call you, ” O Guru Deluxe” as Eric does me, not yet anyway.

    You called?

  51. DeMaria,
    What? Don’t tell me Eric is calling you his Guru Deluxe too!
    I thought he was finally being sincere and giving me the long overdue respect he owes me.
    I think he was making fun of me again. I don’t believe he really has a statue of me in his garden either.

  52. Jim:

    JJ,
    Since we are lofting praise on one another, let me say I have enjoyed your postings on C2C and am glad you are here. But I am not going to call you, ” O Guru Deluxe” as Eric does me, not yet anyway.

    See thou do it not!! 🙂

    I am not very active on either. The reason for that is, mostly, because I have very little free time; but, also, because, whilst I think it helpful to point out what seem to me anomalies in another’s views, and, often, simple misunderstandings (e.g. on the part of Protestants of what the Catholic Church is and teaches, and on the part of Catholics about what most Protestants believe – for there is not a single position one could call unequivocally Protestant), I think the most useful thing that I can do is to explain, rather than to argue or defend. But explanations are best made to those who seem genuinely to desire them.

    There definitely is a place for argument and defence; it is just that I don’t think I have the gift for that.

    So mostly I lurk 🙂

    jj

  53. JOHN THAYER JENSEN October 26, 2014 at 11:53 am
    Jim:
    I am not very active on either. The reason for that is, mostly, because I have very little free time; but, also, because, whilst I think it helpful to point out what seem to me anomalies in another’s views, and, often, simple misunderstandings (e.g. on the part of Protestants of what the Catholic Church is and teaches, and on the part of Catholics about what most Protestants believe – for there is not a single position one could call unequivocally Protestant), I think the most useful thing that I can do is to explain, rather than to argue or defend. But explanations are best made to those who seem genuinely to desire them.

    True. But, I always assume that there are people lurking who are searching for answers. So, although I might address someone who doesn’t desire my explanations, I am doing so for the benefit of those who will read the exchange later.

    There definitely is a place for argument and defence; it is just that I don’t think I have the gift for that.
    So mostly I lurk 🙂

    You definitely have a gift for explanation. And that is as good as any argument and defense I’ve ever seen.

    Hope you speak up more often.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  54. JIM October 26, 2014 at 11:36 am
    DeMaria,
    What? Don’t tell me Eric is calling you his Guru Deluxe too!
    I thought he was finally being sincere and giving me the long overdue respect he owes me.
    I think he was making fun of me again. I don’t believe he really has a statue of me in his garden either.

    Its bigger than life. With a moat of white roses surrounding it which he waters daily.

  55. JJ–

    1. For shame! Surely you knew that Sola Fide posits a faith that is both genuine and living. But justification is gratuitous…purely gift…purely grace. Nothing attributed to us can be credited without nullifying the utter graciousness of God’s actions and declarations on our part. If one wanted to include our works in a sense wholly unattributable to ourselves, there would be little objection. Good works quite naturally flow from regeneration/justification. Earlier I said the distinction, the somewhat unnatural divide of faith and works, seems a bit contrived. From outside the paradigm, that might be so. From inside the paradigm, the split makes perfect sense.

    2. True, my denial doesn’t make it so. But the Roman claim to authority is so over-the-top ludicrous that my denial is quite unnecessary to falsify it.

    3. There is room indeed. I have always known you as a consummate gentleman. You are more than welcome here…we could greatly profit from your civil tongue.

  56. Jim–

    O, princely Master. O, great Dark Lord! Not only do I have a statue, but a tower, emblazoned at the top with a magnificent fiery eye, which can be clearly seen from every nook and cranny of town.

    One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them!
    One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them!
    In then land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie….

    And yet there have been troubling reports reaching my ears…concerning the fate of your ring.

    That foul fiend, Gandolf Hooknose, has even predicted your demise:

    “If the ring is destroyed, then he will fall, and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.”

    But have no fear. I am still devoted to you, O, mighty one! (By the way, are you more powerful than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? I have a c-note riding on the answer.)

  57. Jim–

    To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I care what “usurping the role of deity” means in Catholic-speak.

    😉

  58. Eric:

    Surely you knew that Sola Fide posits a faith that is both genuine and living.

    If, by ‘living,’ you mean ‘accompanied by works of love,’ then it is no longer sola fide.

    But justification is gratuitous…purely gift…purely grace.

    Which is what the Catholic faith teaches.

    Earlier I said the distinction, the somewhat unnatural divide of faith and works, seems a bit contrived.

    I agree. This is why I said that, in reality, the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism is not here. It is in the question of authority.

    …the Roman claim to authority is so over-the-top ludicrous that my denial is quite unnecessary to falsify it.

    Then there is no way for us to discuss it.

    I have always known you as a consummate gentleman. You are more than welcome here…we could greatly profit from your civil tongue.

    Thank you for the compliment 🙂

    jj

  59. The parable teaches us to trust in God alone who justifies. We should, with that trust, treat ourselves with contempt by a sinner’s confession. Boasting is excluded by this law of faith (trust).

  60. JJ–

    1. Aw, c’mon! Babies are living and breathing long before they crawl or feed themselves or learn to obey. “Living” in no way requires immediate good works, nor does it require that we take credit for those works once they come.

    2. Justification is NOT gratuitous if it requires our maintenance of it (after all, nothing but final justification really means anything of enduring value). I have asked and asked the Catholics here whether their own efforts of cooperation with cooperative grace are also of grace, and they will hem and haw and keep saying, “Yes, but then again, no. Well, in one way yes, but in another way no. Um, I guess so. No, no not really. Uh, it’s complicated.”

    But it’s really not complicated. When it comes right down to it, you guys do NOT believe in grace alone. I’m sorry, but that’s the God’s honest truth.

    3. You seem to have ignored the fact that I “took back” the whole “contrived” comment. You all don’t receive vulnerable honesty well. I keep forgetting that fact. It’s not contrived in the way you took it,

    4. Actually, unless you bother to do a far better job than most Catholics, there’s no NEED to discuss it. There doesn’t appear to be much evidence on your side, or at least very little has been brought forward.

    You deserve the compliments for civility. I myself have trouble reining in my sharp tongue from time to time. I’m working on it though! In the meantime, kudos to you and your ilk.

  61. Eric:

    Babies are living and breathing long before they crawl or feed themselves or learn to obey.

    And if the newly-baptised (whether by water or by desire) die at that point, they are in the presence of God.

    …nor does it require that we take credit for those works once they come.

    Nor does the Christian take credit for his good works as if they were wrought by him. Our good works are the work of God in us.

    Justification is NOT gratuitous if it requires our maintenance of it …

    Unless that ‘maintenance’ is itself the gift of God – which it is.

    Justification is NOT gratuitous if it requires our maintenance of it (after all, nothing but final justification really means anything of enduring value). I have asked and asked the Catholics here whether their own efforts of cooperation with cooperative grace are also of grace, and they will hem and haw and keep saying, “Yes, but then again, no. Well, in one way yes, but in another way no. Um, I guess so. No, no not really. Uh, it’s complicated.”
    But it’s really not complicated. When it comes right down to it, you guys do NOT believe in grace alone. I’m sorry, but that’s the God’s honest truth.

    Not sure about what any other Catholic may have replied, but it is certainly not complicated – and the Catholic Church certainly teaches (and I, therefore, believe) in salvation by grace alone. Not one good action of mine is mine except by the gift of God’s grace in me.

    You seem to have ignored the fact that I “took back” the whole “contrived” comment. You all don’t receive vulnerable honesty well. I keep forgetting that fact. It’s not contrived in the way you took it,

    Not sure what this is about. I only ventured in here – it being a holiday today in New Zealand (Labour Day) and I having a little free time – to comment that if sola fide has to be (as James says) living faith, then it isn’t sola fide – it’s sola fide vivente – which is what the Catholic believes.

    jj

  62. ERIC October 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm
    JJ–
    1. For shame! Surely you knew that Sola Fide posits a faith that is both genuine and living.

    That directly contradicts Scripture:

    James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

    But justification is gratuitous…purely gift…purely grace.

    If we do the works of the law. Justification is free to those who obey God:

    Romans 2:13….but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    Nothing attributed to us can be credited without nullifying the utter graciousness of God’s actions and declarations on our part.

    That’s what you say. But Scripture says:

    Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name,….

    If one wanted to include our works in a sense wholly unattributable to ourselves, there would be little objection. Good works quite naturally flow from regeneration/justification.

    They flow from a living faith:
    Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

    But not from a dead faith alone, as noted earlier (James 2:17).

    Earlier I said the distinction, the somewhat unnatural divide of faith and works, seems a bit contrived. From outside the paradigm, that might be so. From inside the paradigm, the split makes perfect sense.

    To those who want to twist the Word of God and search out those who will tickle their ears.

    2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

    2. True, my denial doesn’t make it so. But the Roman claim to authority is so over-the-top ludicrous that my denial is quite unnecessary to falsify it.

    And yet, Scripture says:

    Matthew 28:19-20King James Version (KJV)

    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Which reveals that Christ commanded the Church to make disciples of the world, with all that entails.

    3. There is room indeed. I have always known you as a consummate gentleman. You are more than welcome here…we could greatly profit from your civil tongue.

    In complete agreement with that point. Very good.

  63. ERIC W October 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm
    The parable teaches us to trust in God alone who justifies. We should, with that trust, treat ourselves with contempt by a sinner’s confession. Boasting is excluded by this law of faith (trust).

    Should one boast of being saved by faith alone?

  64. JTJ,

    Unless that ‘maintenance’ is itself the gift of God – which it is.

    Does God give all the justified the gift of maintenance?

  65. Robert:

    Does God give all the justified the gift of maintenance?

    God gives all the justified the gift of grace, which is to say the gift of the Holy Spirit, by Whom they are enabled to obey Him.

    jj

  66. JJ–

    All fine and good.

    If “all is grace” for you, then we are on the same page. But if you do so, you cannot come back later, insisting that your works are actively involved in your justification. Also, realize that few if any of your compatriots can resist coming to the defense of the significance of their works. As soon as they do so, they have reneged on the totally gratuitous nature of salvation.

    For us, Christ grants us great seats in the mezzanine with back stage passes for the concert of the century. For Catholics, or so it has seemed to me, he gets you on the list for no-show seats and gives you a discount on tickets as they come open. Those who lose heart and walk away are not exhorted to stay; there is no guarantee he’ll come through for them anyway.

    He helps you every step of the way. (Your version of grace.) You wouldn’t make it in without him. But he still expects you to pull your own weight in some sense of the word. He makes it all possible, and then it is up to you. You must make the effort. You must be patient. You must persevere.

    But you are telling me I have it all wrong. Well, you’re the only Catholic who has ventured onto this site to say so. All the others firmly believe in the essential character of works for salvation.

  67. ROBERT October 26, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Does God give all the justified the gift of maintenance?

    What does the Scripture say?

    1 Corinthians 10:13King James Version (KJV)

    13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

  68. Eric:

    If “all is grace” for you, then we are on the same page. But if you do so, you cannot come back later, insisting that your works are actively involved in your justification.

    Why can I not? My works are works of grace.

    But he still expects you to pull your own weight in some sense of the word.

    I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.

    But you are telling me I have it all wrong.

    No, I am only saying that we are looking at the same thing from different perspectives.

    All the others firmly believe in the essential character of works for salvation.

    As do I; as do you.

    jj

  69. ERIC October 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm
    ….Well, you’re the only Catholic who has ventured onto this site to say so. All the others firmly believe in the essential character of works for salvation.

    On the contrary, all the Catholics are telling you the same that that JJ is saying. But you refuse to understand the difference between:

    “All is grace” and “grace alone”.

    Just as you won’t admit the difference between “God justifies those who do the works of the law” and “justified by works”.

    You would rather contrive straw men and knock them down than to face the truth.

  70. Eric, you write:

    If “all is grace” for you, then we are on the same page. But if you do so, you cannot come back later, insisting that your works are actively involved in your justification.

    Eric, you are begging the question by insisting that orthodox Christians accept a Calvinist’s heretical definition of the word “justification”.

    Justification and Justice come from the same root word. For the Calvinist, justification is a violation of justice – an unjust act whereby the omniscient God declares the a man to be righteous when God knows with infallible certainty that this man is NOT righteous.

    The Calvinist confessions explicitly teach teach that even the best works of a Calvinist are so corrupted and defiled with sin so vile, so heinous, that any work that a Calvinist would do deserves nothing less than a just punishment of the everlasting flames of hell. Which pretty much explains why a Calvinist is always going to object that any work can have anything to do with justification.

    But all orthodox Christians reject that Calvinist definition of justification because it is nonsensical contradiction. In God there is no potency, because God is pure act. Which means that God is Justice. The Calvinist definition of justification is nonsense because Perfect Justice cannot be both just and unjust. That is an impossible contradiction, and, unfortunately, Calvinism is a religion riddled with impossible contradictions.

    Orthodox Christians accept the scriptures that speak about justification in the past, present and future senses, and not in the way Calvinists speak about justification as an act in the past for a member of the “elect” – an action whereby God violated Himself to declare an unrighteous man to be righteous knowing full well the so-called “righteous” man would do nothing but commit sin worth of damnation for the rest of his life.

    Eric, you need to let go of the nonsensical definition that Calvinists have given to the word “justification” and accept Christian orthodoxy. Once you do that, you might be able to comprehend the Apostles Paul and James who say:

    St. Paul – “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
    .
    St. James-“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

    Calvinism isn’t Christianity, Calvinism is a corruption of Christianity.

  71. Eric,

    You are a dad, right? I seem to recall you saying you have triplets, yes?
    You are so blessed!
    Have you ever gathered the little ones around and told them the good news? Have you told them just how much God might love them? And that he may even want one of them in heaven?
    Have you taught them the “Doctrines of Grace?
    Say, I have an idea. This Halloween. tuck the nippers in by reading a few pages of
    “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.
    If you and the wife take them out to trick or treat, maybe they can dress like Calvin, Luther and Zwingli.

    ( Okay. Go for it. I am braced for your comeback. )

  72. JJ–

    I could accept that if you acknowledged assurance and perseverance. Anything that God decides to do cannot be thwarted, must be accomplished…unless part of the process RELIES on human effort. If the believer can back away and no longer believe or no longer obey, then more than grace is operative.

  73. Eric:

    Anything that God decides to do cannot be thwarted, must be accomplished…

    One of the things that God decided to do is to give His spiritual creatures (men and angels) real wills. Either something depends on our choices or nothing depends on them. Just as God ordains sub-spiritual causes to be real – if I cast myself off the parapet of the temple, I must expect to die when I reach the ground – so He ordains spiritual causes – the will of spiritual creatures – to be real.

    Without grace, I cannot will the good; with grace, I can. I am not guaranteed not to reject grace. You have no grounds for assuming that God intends me to be with Him in Heaven regardless of my will.

    jj

  74. Eric you write:

    Anything that God decides to do cannot be thwarted …

    God has decided to give you a free will that gives you the power to choose to commit sin that will sent you to the everlasting fires of hell. There is nothing that you can do to thwart God’s decision to let you make your own choices for either life or death.

    I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life …
    Deut. 30:19

    Both heaven and earth witnesses against the heresies of Calvinism.

  75. De Maria, you asked:
    Should one boast of being saved by faith alone?

    Yes

    Heb.11:1
    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    Heb.3:6
    but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

  76. Jim–

    I don’t get your point. Since Catholic and Calvinist alike reject presumption, I cannot presume a blessed fate for my kids and you cannot for yours. But I will pray like mad all the same.

    At least my prayers stand a chance of being answered since the Calvinist God has control over people’s lives. The Catholic God sits and wrings his hands and hopes against hope that your kids, left to their own devices, might somehow choose the right path. Good luck with that. Everyone who prays for the salvation of another, prays like a Calvinist without even realizing it.

    I’ll probably dress my kids up like Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, Chistian IV of Denmark, and Christian the Younger, Duke of Brunswick, who valiantly fought against Catholic aggression and genocide during the Thirty Years’ War.

  77. JJ/Mateo–

    If God truly regenerates us as new creatures in Christ and protects us by his Holy Spirit, it trivializes his power for you all to insinuate he cannot overcome the power of sin in our lives. It has nothing whatever to do with OUR free will; it has to do with the Providence of God and his loving will to preserve us. You are positing that God has his hands tied…that HE has no free will as concerns the fate of his children.

  78. JJ/Mateo–

    Furthermore, since we are “born anew” as spiritual beings with a built in affinity for God, it would prove contrary to the true nature of our wills for us finally and successfully to rebel against the most loving Father imaginable. For our Lord to protect us against such a perverse overthrow of our regenerate wills does nothing to suppress our real wills. Just the opposite, it frees of “free” will to be free indeed.

  79. Eric,

    At least my prayers stand a chance of being answered since the Calvinist God has control over people’s lives. The Catholic God sits and wrings his hands and hopes against hope that your kids, left to their own devices, might somehow choose the right path.

    I, for one, wonder what a consistent non-Calvinistic view of praying for the salvation of others looks like:

    “Dear God, please try really really hard to convince Joe that you are God and that he can be saved if he exercises his free will to trust in in you and then keeps on doing so. But please, do not override his precious free will. Please love him as much as you can, but not enough that you alone guarantee his perseverance. I am glad that you are a gentleman and I would rather go to hell than for you to permanently change my heart so that I cannot fall away. I would rather for Joe to go to hell than for you to do that to him because free will is the highest good in the universe. Please continue to glorify free will by making salvation possible for all and giving us the responsibility to finish the work by the exercise of our own free will that nobody understands, not even you.”

  80. “I’ll probably dress my kids up like Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, Chistian IV of Denmark, and Christian the Younger, Duke of Brunswick, who valiantly fought against Catholic aggression and genocide during the Thirty Years’ War.”

    Hahaha …! Sounds great, Eric! … maybe we can throw in some miniatures to do some wargaming too …! 😀

  81. At the end of the day, how can we not talk about predestination and election?

    We just can’t — since to insist on free-will is still to imply the inevitable, namely that we are *predestined* or *fated* to be free in our use of the will. Of course to be predestined or fated as such is not true freedom. This is so since the possibility of sinning remains. The possibility of sinning is coupled with the fact of original sin. If one is not free from sin, one is not free.

    It is therefore a *contradiction* to insist that since we are free to choose therefore we are free for this presupposes and implies that act determines being. It should be the other way round. Christology teaches us that person determines nature; not the other way round for otherwise it would have meant that in the incarnation, Our Lord would have been sinful (leaving aside the joyous exchange for a moment).

  82. The nature is free only because the person is free (and not nature). It is not the other way round, namely the person is free because the nature is free (= the faculty of the will is “free”). How can it be since the person is the “ultimate reality”?

    If the person is not free from sinning and yet predestined to free will, then free will becomes a burden, becomes law, becomes bondage … this is no different than karma. As a Lutheran, karma is useful in this old world (civil righteousness) but utterly useless when it comes to the kingdom of heaven.

    We are as Sartre famously said, CONDEMNED to be free …

    Free-will in this sense is sentence of bondage, not freedom …

  83. Eric,

    You are going to pray that God change His eternal decree?
    If Baptism is worthless for a non-elect child, as I think you have said , how is prayer any different?

    You had better click onto John Piper’s ghoulish sermon on this very issue. One of you dudes represents the Calvinist position.

    The other one doesn’t. He is just being a dad reflecting the Fatherhood of God who wants all of His children saved.

  84. Perhaps the only consistent alternative for free-will is actually is Open Theism …

  85. Author: Eric W
    Comment:
    De Maria, you asked:
    Should one boast of being saved by faith alone?

    Yes

    Heb.11:1
    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    You might want to read that whole chapter. Because the folks who had faith and hoped for their salvation, did not receive it. Look again:

    39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

    Heb.3:6
    but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

    This says we boast IN OUR HOPE. Not that we boast in our having been already saved by faith alone.

    And if you read it with a bit more context and discernment, it says that we will live with Christ, that is to say, we will be saved, IF we do not fall away as some did in the desert. Let’s read:

    6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

    So, when read in context, this verse says exactly the opposite of what Protestants teach. It says that we are not absolutely assured of salvation.

  86. Jason,

    Perhaps the only consistent alternative for free-will is actually is Open Theism …

    Open Theism is the only way one can consistently embrace a non-determined will, which is one of many reasons that the idea of a non-determined will should be rejected.

  87. @Robert:
    That’s pretty much your entire problem in a nutshell. Determinism itself is not true even in physics. If even an electron needn’t be determined, then why should the will?

    You’re putting an artificial constraint on God’s knowledge by assuming He loses control of what isn’t determined. The open theists commit the reverse error. It’s like Calvinism and Arminianism; you’re both wrong.

  88. @Eric:
    Calvinist prayer is futile, because the divine will is immutable and fixed in the past. That’s why I’ve been pointing out that thinking of “foreknowledge” or “predestination” in a creaturely sense, as being literally “ahead of time,” is false with respect to God. The reason that prayers make sense is that God doesn’t operate temporally and isn’t confined to time, it’s not the same.

  89. Jonathan,

    That’s pretty much your entire problem in a nutshell. Determinism itself is not true even in physics. If even an electron needn’t be determined, then why should the will?

    Just because finite creatures have not yet been able to figure out how to determine the movement of an electron doesn’t mean God hasn’t determined it. But speaking of open theists, this is exactly the same argument they use to prove indeterminism. “Since quantum mechanics…therefore indeterminism.”

    You’re putting an artificial constraint on God’s knowledge by assuming He loses control of what isn’t determined. The open theists commit the reverse error. It’s like Calvinism and Arminianism; you’re both wrong.

    It isn’t as much that he “loses control” is that if he doesn’t determine all things, he operates by bare permission.

    If the will is undetermined, there is no moral accountability. We’re just walking down the street and WOOPS, there goes my will acting apart from my character’s influence on it. Officer, I can’t help that I just pulled out the gun. It was an undetermined event. Whoops.

    And if God’s character doesn’t determine his will, then he can do evil.

    Quite honestly, there is no difference between what you have said about libertarianism and Arminian theology. You guys are from the same mold.

  90. Jonathan,

    <i.Calvinist prayer is futile, because the divine will is immutable and fixed in the past. That’s why I’ve been pointing out that thinking of “foreknowledge” or “predestination” in a creaturely sense, as being literally “ahead of time,” is false with respect to God. The reason that prayers make sense is that God doesn’t operate temporally and isn’t confined to time, it’s not the same.

    So prayer changes God’s mind and He has no fixed purposes?

  91. ERIC October 27, 2014 at 4:43 am
    Jim–
    I don’t get your point. Since Catholic and Calvinist alike reject presumption, I cannot presume a blessed fate for my kids and you cannot for yours.

    But you presume one for yourself? How does that make sense?

    But I will pray like mad all the same.

    To what end? If your kids are predestined to hell, your prayers will make no difference. If they are predestined to heaven, they don’t need them. So, what sense does it make for you to pray in the Calvinist system?

    At least my prayers stand a chance of being answered since the Calvinist God has control over people’s lives.

    In Calvin’s system, prayers don’t make sense. You’re either predestined to hell or you’re not. There’s nothing you can do for yourself or your children. Eat and drink, for tomorrow you die.

    The Catholic God sits and wrings his hands and hopes against hope that your kids, left to their own devices, might somehow choose the right path.

    On the contrary, the Catholic God receives our prayers for our children and even for our loved ones who have died. The Scripture tells us:

    Luke 8:48-50King James Version (KJV)

    48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

    49 While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.

    50 But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.

    Good luck with that. Everyone who prays for the salvation of another, prays like a Calvinist without even realizing it.

    On the contrary, when Calvinists pray, they contradict their own beliefs and confirm the truth of Catholic Theology.

    I’ll probably dress my kids up like Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, Chistian IV of Denmark, and Christian the Younger, Duke of Brunswick, who valiantly fought against Catholic aggression and genocide during the Thirty Years’ War.

    And hope they have not been predestined to destruction. If you had free will, you could lead them up in the right way, showing how to cooperate with the grace of God which would have been poured into them in Baptism and you could pray and hope for their salvation.

  92. Eric,

    I am going to go dressed as a nightmarish mixture of Cromwell, Cranmer, Titus Oates Calvin and Catherine von Bora.

  93. De Maria,

    In Calvin’s system, prayers don’t make sense. You’re either predestined to hell or you’re not. There’s nothing you can do for yourself or your children. Eat and drink, for tomorrow you die.

    Well, since in RCism God knows with certainty who will be in heaven and who won’t (at least in the version of Romanism promoted around here), praying for the salvation of your children isn’t going to have any greater effect. Unless of course God’s knowledge can be falsified, and in that case there is no divine omniscience.

    You can pray as hard as you want, but since God doesn’t act monergistically and since he knows who won’t ever respond, your prayers are just as “useless.” This is an issue you don’t get out of by rejecting Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on predestination.

  94. De Maria,

    Or Molina’s teaching for that matter.

  95. Jonathan–

    Get your mind out of the philosophical gutter. If God can speak of foreknowledge and predestination in explaining his actions in a creaturely sense, then so can I.

  96. Jim–

    Baptism and prayer are futile for the non-elect…in Catholicism as well as in Protestantism. But they are not futile for the unregenerate, and we can have little to no clue who the non-elect are. In point of fact, no one need be treated as non-elect. Even excommunication is enacted with the goal of restoring someone to community.

    You’ll have to give me a link to the Piper sermon. I looked but couldn’t find it.

    God’s relationship with us is dynamic because he has already ordained some of our prayers as the means by which his sovereign will is worked out. He doesn’t change his mind. He has already made up his mind before hand in answer to our coming prayers. From our limited perspective, it may look like he changes his mind in accordance with the desires of our hearts. He repents; he relents; he gives second chances.

  97. Jim–

    So you’re going out trick-or-treating just in what you normally wear? Where’s the originality in that?

  98. @Eric:
    I am talking about the *limits* of human reason with respect to God, not exalting human reason. You are the one with the complicated philosophical concepts that you are reading into those terms. We think that God uses those terms in only a limited sense, and we are careful not to read impious and false senses into them.

    Literally speaking, they aren’t true, but we have guidance in Tradition for how to understand them even though we know they can’t be literally true. That’s been true from the earliest days of Christianity, until some late medieval philosophers came up with this idea that concepts could apply to God in the same way they applied to creation.

    We know that God doesn’t actually “foreknow” or “predestine” any more than He has hands or feet in His divinity. We use these words not as philosophical terms, but as the opposite, showing our inability to understand them. It is this philosophical idea that revelation makes God accessible to human reason that produces errors.

  99. Jonathan,

    It is this philosophical idea that revelation makes God accessible to human reason that produces errors.

    Kinda like that error of yours that says if God ordains evil, that means he must be morally responsible for it. An error based on your application of human reason to divine revelation in a rationalistic and univocal sense.

  100. @Robert:
    The point is that we’re communicating with a being in Whom there is no before and after. That’s what it means for God to be unchanging. So it’s not really a problem for Him to interact with everything at once, even though we experience it as sequential from our side.

    In a genuinely atemporal (B-theory) understanding of God’s transcendence, which Aquinas had, prayer is effective precisely because of God’s eternal nature. God never *needs* to change His mind, because He tenselessly knows and wills.

    The open theist equally denies God’s transcendence in this manner. He takes passages about God relenting (such as from the destruction of Nineveh) literally. But just as we shouldn’t take predestination “before all ages” literally, so we shouldn’t take those passages literally. Rather, we say that God’s knowledge exists in a radically different manner than we do, so that it doesn’t even make sense to talk about it “changing” in response to what happens in time.

  101. @Robert:
    PS, on evil, the same problem applies. Unless you formulate God’s transcendence correctly, it’s impossible to articulate a distinction that prevents moral responsibility in God. In other words, it is your application of creaturely concepts to God that creates the problem in the first place, and you can’t then choose to bail out on them at the end without being completely unprincipled (or violating the law of non-contradiction). The causality of evil simply illustrates that your time-bound concepts of predestination and determinism are wrong.

  102. Eric said:

    1. The relation between faith and repentance ought to be self-evident. Faith without works is dead. I think it is clear that this Pharisee is not a genuine believer. He doesn’t love his neighbor, and therefore cannot love God.

    I don’t deny faith and repentance and love ‘go together’, but that doesn’t mean they go together in such a sense that the absence of one means the absence of the others. That’s a huge assumption you build your theology around, but it’s not Biblically based. The idea that the Pharisee isn’t a genuine believer – that he doesn’t really have faith – is reading a major claim into the text, which really isn’t there at all. The Pharisee is thanking God for the gifts God has bestowed upon him. That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t really have faith. All through the Bible we see Believers who do sinful things, yet we know repentance isn’t always right there to correct it. Unless you’re going to conflate love and faith, you really cannot say the absence of love necessitates not true belief. The problem is, as I keep bringing up, is that Protestants approach such texts assuming what they need to prove, and thus they read such texts as a ‘clear proof’ when in fact it wouldn’t be by a long shot if their presuppositions were not granted (which is why I don’t grant them).

    2. There is absolutely nothing in this passage which infers that the Publican has gone to Temple regularly, and nothing that infers he was a believer prior to this episode. You’re simply reading into the parable what you wish to be there.

    So the Publican randomly went up to a Temple of an Unknown Deity to get into proper prayer posture and repent just because he felt like it? Sorry, but that’s a pretty desperate and failed attempt to get around the more than plausible ‘alternative’ which I’m advocating.

    3. In terms of James speaking of salvation, you are again assuming your own paradigm in positing that these are a restoration of lost justification rather than the gaining of justification for a first time.

    More desperation on your part. The Epistle of James is addressed to believers who turned to sin. That’s beyond question. Every paragraph of the Epistle is of James sternly rebuking his flock and telling them to correct their behavior. Nowhere does he suggest your dogma that ‘ye who sinneth is because ye hath never truly believeth’.

    4. One other interpretation, consonant with JBFA, is that good works aren’t involved in justification at all.

    Sorry, you cannot say that. The truth is, JBFA is 100% caught up in the fact only good works justify. Period. JBFA is 100% about the fact justification only comes by Jesus doing the good works (in your place) which you were supposed to have done but didn’t do. The idea that we have a JBFA proof text because ‘**GOOD** works never justify’ is to undermine the whole Reformation. Protestants regularly appeal to this parable to say the Pharisee wasn’t truly doing good works, which is why he wasn’t justified.

    5. The point of this parable has nothing to do with good works. It has to do with presumption/arrogance vs. hope/humility. Here is a quote from H.F. Weiss, taken from Kittel’s TDNT: “Here the whole, subjectively honest concern of Pharisaic Judaism to fulfill the law correctly, and thereby to contribute to the coming of God’s Kingdom, is radically set aside in favor of the attitude of those who expect nothing of themselves and their works, but everything from God.”

    To say the parable has nothing to do with good works is to undermine any of the traditional Protestant appeal to JBFA of this passage. Even the very quote you give here, in the last sentence, contradicts your first sentence. For you to say the theme is arrogance versus humility is to confirm what I’ve said all along!

    6. I don’t believe an exegetical case can be made for Sola Fide from this text.

    Wow, Eric. Wow. I’m truly at a loss for words.

  103. Jonathan,

    PS, on evil, the same problem applies. Unless you formulate God’s transcendence correctly, it’s impossible to articulate a distinction that prevents moral responsibility in God. In other words, it is your application of creaturely concepts to God that creates the problem in the first place, and you can’t then choose to bail out on them at the end without being completely unprincipled (or violating the law of non-contradiction). The causality of evil simply illustrates that your time-bound concepts of predestination and determinism are wrong.

    I’m sorry, you’re just wrong. It’s not unprincipled or a violation of the law of non-contradiction to say that God’s decree governs both good and evil but not in the same sense. A and B are at the same time, but not in the same sense. It’s univocal predication to insist that because the Calvinist says evil is part of God’s decree, he must therefore be morally responsible for it.

    In short, you completely miss what Westminster and every other Calvinistic confession says about the matter, ignore the fact that it is not substantially different that Aquinas’ view, and more.

    The point is that we’re communicating with a being in Whom there is no before and after. That’s what it means for God to be unchanging. So it’s not really a problem for Him to interact with everything at once, even though we experience it as sequential from our side.

    And there’s not one orthodox Calvinist or Calvinistic confession that denies this, so you can quit whining about it until you can prove otherwise.

    In a genuinely atemporal (B-theory) understanding of God’s transcendence, which Aquinas had, prayer is effective precisely because of God’s eternal nature. God never *needs* to change His mind, because He tenselessly knows and wills.

    Again, where does the Calvinsit deny this. Because we say “eternal decree” and “predestination.”

    The open theist equally denies God’s transcendence in this manner. He takes passages about God relenting (such as from the destruction of Nineveh) literally. But just as we shouldn’t take predestination “before all ages” literally, so we shouldn’t take those passages literally. Rather, we say that God’s knowledge exists in a radically different manner than we do, so that it doesn’t even make sense to talk about it “changing” in response to what happens in time.

    But the problem is that from our perspective as time-bound creatures, one can speak of things happening “before time” even if God does not experience it that way. And the fact that it is our experiencing it doesn’t make it less true. So I don’t really know what your problem is except that you’ll throw biblical terms under the bus to preserve the incoherent an impossible concept of libertarian free will.

    Nobody is saying that God experiences the passage of time like we do. Eric hasn’t said it, and I haven’t said it either. But you can’t talk about these concepts as a time-bound creature except with the words “before” and “after.” It’s impossible, and what’s more it’s not advisable because God’s actual revelation uses those terms. God didn’t reveal Himself via Aristotelian philosophy.

  104. ROBERT October 27, 2014 at 10:13 am
    De Maria,

    Well, since in RCism God knows with certainty who will be in heaven and who won’t (at least in the version of Romanism promoted around here), praying for the salvation of your children isn’t going to have any greater effect.

    You have misunderstood Catholicism.

    Lets look at Scripture for the answer. Although, I have never met a more anti-Scriptural Protestant than you. But, I’ll try again.

    Exodus 17:9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. 10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
    13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

    When we pray, we are like Moses holding up his hands. God knew that the Israelites would prevail, if Moses held up his hands. But if Moses did not hold up his hands, the Israelites would fall.

    Notice how the battle went back and forth.

    The same with our prayers. If we pray, God will answer our prayers and we and our children will be saved. But if we don’t pray, we will be lost.

    But Calvinism makes no sense. Because with or without prayer, you are predestined to hell or to heaven. You have no free will to raise your hands in supplication. Your fate was decided before you were conceived.

    Unless of course God’s knowledge can be falsified, and in that case there is no divine omniscience.

    God knows all. But we don’t. God knows whether who will persevere in good works and prayer until the end. But we don’t. Therefore, do good with patience and that you too may be saved.

    You can pray as hard as you want, but since God doesn’t act monergistically and since he knows who won’t ever respond, your prayers are just as “useless.” This is an issue you don’t get out of by rejecting Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on predestination.

    You’ve got it twisted. You are the one whose fate has already been decided. Therefore, prayer is of no use to you.

  105. ROBERT October 27, 2014 at 10:14 am
    De Maria,
    Or Molina’s teaching for that matter.

    Prayer is one of the means by which we accept God’s grace. Therefore, Molina’s teaching is completely in line with Catholicism and Thomism.

  106. Eric:

    If God truly regenerates us as new creatures in Christ and protects us by his Holy Spirit, it trivializes his power for you all to insinuate he cannot overcome the power of sin in our lives.

    He can, and will.

    It has nothing whatever to do with OUR free will; it has to do with the Providence of God and his loving will to preserve us.

    He lovingly wills to preserve us through our not rejecting Him.

    You are positing that God has his hands tied…that HE has no free will as concerns the fate of his children.

    Not at all. God’s free will wishes us to love Him.

    Furthermore, since we are “born anew” as spiritual beings with a built in affinity for God, it would prove contrary to the true nature of our wills for us finally and successfully to rebel against the most loving Father imaginable.

    Correct – as it was contrary to the true nature of the will of Adam, who had been created with a built-in affinity for God, to reject God.

    For our Lord to protect us against such a perverse overthrow of our regenerate wills does nothing to suppress our real wills. Just the opposite, it frees of “free” will to be free indeed.

    Indeed. And He does protect us – but not at the expense of making us unable to rebel against His loving protection.

    I remember, when considering becoming a Catholic, whether I would then live in constant fear of rejecting Him. I have found my experience to be the opposite. When I was a Calvinist i did at times worry whether my faith was real and living. I became a Catholic despite this concern, because I believed, and believe, it to be the truth. My experience as a Catholic – perhaps because of the strengthening effect of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation – has been far otherwise. I could not conceive of rejecting the love of my loving Father.

    But that has just been my experience. I only wish to point out that there is nothing either compellingly reasonable or compellingly Scriptural in your idea that God would be somehow less than loving if He did not make it impossible for me to reject Him.

    jj

  107. De Maria,

    The same with our prayers. If we pray, God will answer our prayers and we and our children will be saved. But if we don’t pray, we will be lost.

    So every RC parent who prays for the salvation of their children is guaranteed to see their child in heaven. What happened to the child’s free will?

    But Calvinism makes no sense. Because with or without prayer, you are predestined to hell or to heaven. You have no free will to raise your hands in supplication. Your fate was decided before you were conceived.

    So you believe prayer changes God’s mind about whom He has chosen for salvation. Well, at least that makes what you are saying coherent.

    Aquinas said that the elect are chosen irrespective of their merits, just like Calvinism. Aquinas also said that predestination does not vitiate the presence and usefulness of prayer, just like Calvinism.

  108. De Maria,

    Should one boast of being saved by hope (Rom.8:24) ?

  109. ERIC W October 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm
    De Maria,
    Should one boast of being saved by hope (Rom.8:24) ?

    Romans 8:24King James Version (KJV)

    24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

    If you read that with discernment, St. Paul is saying that we hope in our salvation. Not that we have been saved because we hope. That is what it means when he says, “hope that is seen is not hope”….

  110. ROBERT October 27, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    So every RC parent who prays for the salvation of their children is guaranteed to see their child in heaven.

    If they pray and continue in good works til the end:

    Romans 2:7King James Version (KJV)

    7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

    What happened to the child’s free will?

    They must choose to do righteously:

    Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

    So you believe prayer changes God’s mind about whom He has chosen for salvation.

    Did God change His mind when Moses raised and lowered his hands?

    Well, at least that makes what you are saying coherent.

    Catholic Doctrine is coherent.

    Aquinas said that the elect are chosen irrespective of their merits, just like Calvinism.

    1. No. Not like Calvinism.

    2. Besides, I don’t think you understand enough about religion of any kind to know what this means.

    3. Let’s look at St. Paul. Notice what he says about the nation of Israel:

    Romans 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

    The entire nation of Israel was chosen, irrespective of merits. He refers to the entire nation of Israel as elect.

    But look again, did they all get saved?

    Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

    That is why, St. Peter says:

    2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

    Because unless they make their election sure, even the elect may fall.

    4. The same holds true for Christianity. God’s call to conversion is given regardless of merits.

    CCC#2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.

    Aquinas also said that predestination does not vitiate the presence and usefulness of prayer, just like Calvinism.

    That is Catholic Teaching. But neither St. Thomas Aquinas nor the Catholic Church teach double predestination. Calvin is a man who established an illogical framework and set it over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his framework, it makes no sense to pray, regardless of what he says.

  111. Nick wrote:
    The first key detail to note is that there is no mention “faith” at all, so there is really no reason to think “faith alone” is even the point!

    Trust is mentioned.

    9 Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

  112. De Maria, you wrote:
    If you read that with discernment, St. Paul is saying that we hope in our salvation.

    After reading it with discernment, should one boast that we hope in our salvation ?

  113. De Maria,

    Historically, Calvinism has taught the same view of predestination as Aquinas—Election unto salvation, passing over in reprobation.

    In his framework, it makes no sense to pray, regardless of what he says.

    If God knows for certain who will be saved and who will not receive His grace, then prayer for those who will not receive His grace makes no more sense in Roman Catholicism. At least if you want your prayer to actually work towards saving that person.

    If they pray and continue in good works til the end:

    So all parents who pray and keep on doing good works without fail are guaranteed to see their child saved?

    If the salvation depends finally on the individual’s maintenance of their state of grace, and God won’t guarantee that anyone will maintain their state of grace, asking God to maintain their state of grace is incoherent. You’re asking God to do something He has already said he won’t do under any circumstances.

  114. ERIC W October 27, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    After reading it with discernment, should one boast that we hope in our salvation ?

    Yes.

  115. ROBERT October 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm
    De Maria,
    Historically, Calvinism has taught the same view of predestination as Aquinas—Election unto salvation, passing over in reprobation.

    No, Robert, Calvinism is totally different from that which St. Thomas taught.

    Question 23:
    Article 3. Whether God reprobates any man?

    Reply to Objection 2. Reprobation differs in its causality from predestination. This latter is the cause both of what is expected in the future life by the predestined–namely, glory–and of what is received in this life–namely, grace. Reprobation, however, is not the cause of what is in the present–namely, sin; but it is the cause of abandonment by God. It is the cause, however, of what is assigned in the future–namely, eternal punishment. But guilt proceeds from the free-will of the person who is reprobated and deserted by grace. In this way, the word of the prophet is true–namely, “Destruction is thy own, O Israel.”

    Note how a man is not reprobated until he turns away from God. That is clearly demonstrated in Scripture. When the Pharao turned away from God, God hardened his heart and he was condemned. Again, the Scripture says:

    2 Thessalonians 2:10-11King James Version (KJV)

    10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

    11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

  116. Robert,

    “preserve the incoherent an impossible concept of libertarian free will.”

    Do the following have LFW or necessitated/determined choices:
    – God in his acts of creation, redemption, etc.
    – pre-Fall in Adam in disobeying
    – Angels in rebelling/obeying
    – Saints in heaven

    And no, choosing consistent with nature is not determinism, LFW simply posits a plurality of choices/goods. If any of the above have LFW, then it is not an incoherent or impossible concept obviously.

    And if you’re going to go all-in on monergism and determinism, you still need to explain why/how the regenerate’s acts of sin are not attributable to God in the same manner that their salvation and good (tainted) works are.

    “Open Theism is the only way one can consistently embrace a non-determined will, which is one of many reasons that the idea of a non-determined will should be rejected.”

    That you think OT is the only way to consistently embrace a non-determined will shows that you are stuck in bringing down God to the creaturely level and placing His causal activities in our plane of existence and in the field of interacting causalities, rather than viewing Him as the transcendent cause of humans’ free actions. You’re just thinking of him as some super-duper link in the causal chain.

    “If the will is undetermined, there is no moral accountability. We’re just walking down the street and WOOPS, there goes my will acting apart from my character’s influence on it. Officer, I can’t help that I just pulled out the gun. It was an undetermined event. Whoops.”

    This is a caricature – LFW does not deny our choices are influenced so your “apart from my character’s influence” is a misrepresentation – we do not make choices independent of intent formation and motives. Influence does not equate to determinism/necessity though. If our acts were necessitated, then there is no moral accountability. Officer, I can’t help I just pulled out the gun – it was God who determined my brainwaves and biochemistry and character and every link in the causal chain leading up to and necessitating this act. Praise and blame become meaningless – Maximilian Kolbe is no more praiseworthy than the serial murderer. “The devil made me do it” is not acceptable in any court, nor is “god made me do it”.

    Eric,

    “Everyone who prays for the salvation of another, prays like a Calvinist without even realizing it.”

    Daniel Whedon, a Methodist from the 19th century:
    “[Calvinists] pray, as the result often shows, that God would do contrary to his own sovereign election. Their prayer, though itself decreed, is often against God’s decrees. They pray that God would act contrary to the strongest motive; which they say God has no moral power to do. That is, they commit these contradictions unless all prayer is considered as offered under the proviso that what is asked for be consistent with the Divine Will, and is in fact asked for so far only as allowable by the fundamental laws of God’s administration. Not my will, but thine be done, tacitly or expressly limits and underlies every true prayer.
    And such a proviso as fully explains the prayer of the Arminian as of the Calvinist. When an Arminian prays that God would awaken the public mind to repentance, or convert an individual, or spread the Gospel through the world, and turn all men’s hearts to righteousness, he thereby expresses his earnest desire that such things be accomplished in accordance with fundamental laws. Just as when he prays that a temporal blessing may be bestowed, as health restored, or life preserved, he usually expects no unequivocal miracle, but trusts that it may be done in such way as Infinite Wisdom may devise in accordance with the constitution of things; and that on the condition of his prayer it may be ordered otherwise than if such prayer were not offered. We know not how far the prayer of the saints is a condition to the goings forth or putting forth of God, nor how fully he requires the co-operation of his Church, in order to render possible such displays of his truth as will convince the unbelieving, and such impressions by his Spirit as the free wills of men in process of time will, it is foreseen, accept and obey. ”

    Arminian scholar Brian Abasciano:
    “It is all a matter of what is meant by such prayer. We use such language in everyday life all the time of resistible action. What corroboration is there for such language naturally implying a request for irresistible action? The evidence of actual language usage counters the automatic assumption of irresistible action. If I ask my son to take a visitor in our home to the bathroom, that does not mean to overpower them and force them into the bathroom. It means something like, “show them where the bathroom is and lead them there as long as they *willingly follow you*. Similarly, if I say to my son, “Please bring your mother here,” I certainly don’t mean, “get your mother here at all costs; overpower her and drag her here if necessary.” I simply mean something like, “let your mother know I want her to come here.” Or if I ask my friend to pick up my wife from the doctor’s office, that does not mean “force her into the car and drive her back to my home.” Such examples could be multiplied. One more. If a morally upright store owner tells his salesman to sell an item to a customer, he does not mean to do whatever is necessary to make the sale, including drugging the person and coercing them to buy the item, or overpowering them, taking their checkbook, and writing the check out himself, or kidnapping their family and holding them hostage in exchange for buying the item, or anything of the kind. “Sell them this item” or “make the sale”, simply means, “do all you can do that is not coercive or in violation of their free will to persuade them to buy the item.”

    Similarly, when we ask God to save someone, we do not mean, “Take over their will and irresistibly cause them to believe and so be saved.” We mean something like, “Take action to lead them resistibly and willingly to believe in Jesus,” which would include any number of actions God might take. Olson mentions God bringing circumstances into their lives that will increase their awareness of their need of God and of his love and power to save them. Yes, that. But there are so many more things God might do that would work toward leading people toward faith in Christ. Be that as it may, I would argue that in a context in which there is the assumption of the honoring of free will, then such language implies a request for resistible action rather than irresistible action.”

  117. Nick–

    1. Faith in the Greek translates closer to trust than belief. One cannot trust God without submitting to his will and wisdom, which is predicated on his love. One cannot love God unless he loves his neighbor. The Pharisee therefore cannot love God. If he doesn’t love God, any trust he possesses in God is superficial and disingenuous. These concepts are clearly interdependent, which you would see were you not paradigm blind.

    2. It is the Pharisee who assumes a proper prayer position–standing–in the proper place, with the proper tone of voice (out loud, but quietly…or as the text says, to himself). The Pharisee is the model of decorum, whereas the Publican, prostrate and at some distance, yelling and crying and beating his chest…most certainly is not. That is one of the clear points of this passage, which, evidently, you haven’t bothered to study.

    3. It is an act of desperation to accuse your opponent of desperation. What’s the matter, don’t you have any cogent arguments? Clearly, a letter can be addressed to “believers” without being addressed to the regenerate/elect.

    4. You still don’t have a clue as to the meaning of JBFA.

    5. Sorry, but the point is of the parable is indeed arrogance (e.g., the Catholic soteriological paradigm) vs. humility (e.g., the Reformed soteriological paradigm). It doesn’t directly back up either paradigm, but is much more consonant with the latter.

    6. Wow, yourself. do your homework next time.

    4.

  118. Eric,

    “4. One other interpretation, consonant with JBFA, is that good works aren’t involved in justification at all.
    Sorry, you cannot say that. The truth is, JBFA is 100% caught up in the fact only good works justify. Period. JBFA is 100% about the fact justification only comes by Jesus doing the good works (in your place) which you were supposed to have done but didn’t do. The idea that we have a JBFA proof text because ‘**GOOD** works never justify’ is to undermine the whole Reformation. Protestants regularly appeal to this parable to say the Pharisee wasn’t truly doing good works, which is why he wasn’t justified.

    4. You still don’t have a clue as to the meaning of JBFA.”

    Did Christ live in obedience to the Covenant of Works or not? If yes – which of course then directly impacts jbfa – then I fail to see how Nick is misunderstanding anything.

  119. JJ–

    1. There is no scriptural evidence that Adam rejected God. He disobeyed.

    2. My experience has been 180° opposite yours. Raised Arminian and Sacramental (as a liberal Lutheran), I was filled with doubt, almost painfully so. Evangelicalism provided a slight improvement. That all went away when I became Reformed.

    3. Well, I find it more compelling than anything else I have encountered in life…and consummately Scriptural. Exactly what would it take, in your mind, for the Good Shepherd NOT to leave the 99 and go back after the one lost sheep? Quite honestly, I cannot for the life of me find this God of yours in Scripture, the One who doesn’t–of necessity–seek and save the lost of his flock.

  120. ERIC October 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm
    JJ–
    1. There is no scriptural evidence that Adam rejected God. He disobeyed.

    When he chose to obey the Serpent and to disobey God, he rejected God.

    2. My experience has been 180° opposite yours. Raised Arminian and Sacramental (as a liberal Lutheran), I was filled with doubt, almost painfully so. Evangelicalism provided a slight improvement. That all went away when I became Reformed.
    3. Well, I find it more compelling than anything else I have encountered in life…and consummately Scriptural. Exactly what would it take, in your mind, for the Good Shepherd NOT to leave the 99 and go back after the one lost sheep? Quite honestly, I cannot for the life of me find this God of yours in Scripture, the One who doesn’t–of necessity–seek and save the lost of his flock.

    And yet you live your life in complete contradiction to what you claim to believe.

    You claim to accept the necessity of works, but at the same time preach “justification by faith alone”.
    You claim to believe in double predestination, and yet you pray for some to be saved. Even though your prayers make not one iota of a difference.
    Now, you claim that God must seek the sheep which He will save. Yet, if double predestination is true, they were saved before they were conceived.

    Self contradiction thy name is Eric.

  121. Eric:

    There is no scriptural evidence that Adam rejected God. He disobeyed.

    He died from that disobedience. This is what Catholics mean by mortal sin. It means disobedience that amounts to a rejection of God.

    My experience has been 180° opposite yours. Raised Arminian and Sacramental (as a liberal Lutheran), I was filled with doubt, almost painfully so. Evangelicalism provided a slight improvement. That all went away when I became Reformed.

    Good! I only meant to bring my experience in to say that becoming a Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean less assurance.

    Well, I find it more compelling than anything else I have encountered in life…and consummately Scriptural. Exactly what would it take, in your mind, for the Good Shepherd NOT to leave the 99 and go back after the one lost sheep? Quite honestly, I cannot for the life of me find this God of yours in Scripture, the One who doesn’t–of necessity–seek and save the lost of his flock.

    This begs the question, whether the one who ultimately rejects God was the one lost one, or was never a sheep (to use Calvinist language). I do think that, from the point of view of phaenomenology, the difference between the Reformed and Catholic view on whether the elect can be lost is a matter of language:

    Catholic: this man was baptised, lived a good life, but eventually decided that his sin was more important than God. He committed mortal sin and the regenerate life in him died.

    Reformed: this man was converted, lived a good life in appearance but in the event went off the deep end, became a total unbeliever – this just means that his conversion and his faith were only apparent; they were not true, living faith.

    jj

  122. James,

    And no, choosing consistent with nature is not determinism, LFW simply posits a plurality of choices/goods. If any of the above have LFW, then it is not an incoherent or impossible concept obviously.

    If you want to define libertarianism that way, then fine and I agree. But almost every discussion of libertarian free will I have heard is about the ability to choose otherwise. That is exactly what God does not have. He simply cannot choose to do evil. That’s exactly what the saints in heaven have. Their character determines their choices, though there may be a multitude of competing goods to choose from.

    Same thing with fallen human beings. They simply cannot choose what is truly good until God changes their hearts.

    And if you’re going to go all-in on monergism and determinism, you still need to explain why/how the regenerate’s acts of sin are not attributable to God in the same manner that their salvation and good (tainted) works are.

    Monergism applies only to regeneration in the Calvinist scheme. Further, God does not work evil in anyone’s heart. This is my entire point to Jonathan. God’s causation of good and his “causation” of evil, if you want to call it that, are fundamentally different. That doesn’t mean both are not decreed.

    That you think OT is the only way to consistently embrace a non-determined will shows that you are stuck in bringing down God to the creaturely level and placing His causal activities in our plane of existence and in the field of interacting causalities, rather than viewing Him as the transcendent cause of humans’ free actions. You’re just thinking of him as some super-duper link in the causal chain.

    If transcendent cause means he is just sustaining them and letting them do whatever passively—which is what you guys affirm—then God is not the transcendent cause. Since I don’t believe in bare permission like you guys do, then something else has to be the case.

    By saying that God must be guilty of sin if He decrees sin, then you are bringing Him down to the creaturely level.

    God’s decree establishes the causal chain. Without His decree, nothing takes place. If things take place apart from His decree, then you end up finally with dualism. If God merely knows that we will do evil and does not decree it, how does He know this? If He knows it by knowing Himself, then you still have a big problem because you’ve actually located evil inside of God Himself. If He just knows it passively and God’s knowledge is eternal, then you have something independent of God with an eternal existence—evil. Thus, dualism.

    What you guys essentially posit is that God gives creatures causal power and then steps back and watches it go. It’s rather deistic, and it means God operates by bare permission. Plus, according to Jonathan, God doesn’t even know why evil happens. It is inherently purposeless, and God’s just doing the best he can with something he doesn’t understand. It’s the mad scientist God.

  123. James,

    This is a caricature – LFW does not deny our choices are influenced so your “apart from my character’s influence” is a misrepresentation – we do not make choices independent of intent formation and motives. Influence does not equate to determinism/necessity though.

    Determinism does not say we don’t choose from a variety of options. The will is not determined absolutely; it is determined freely and contingently. The traditional Calvinist position on this is not substantially different than what Aquinas has to say about evil being an accidental result of God’s decreeing the good. God decreed the crucifixion, for example, but as a consequence of that decree there is evil intent on the part of the authorities. It falls out inevitably but accidentally as a result of His decree. What God means for good, man meant for evil. But man does not have the evil intent unless God first decrees the good. IOW, God doesn’t look into the future, see what evil men will do, and then decrees what good will come. He decrees the good, and by doing so His decree establishes the evil that will take place.

    If our acts were necessitated, then there is no moral accountability. Officer, I can’t help I just pulled out the gun – it was God who determined my brainwaves and biochemistry and character and every link in the causal chain leading up to and necessitating this act. Praise and blame become meaningless – Maximilian Kolbe is no more praiseworthy than the serial murderer. “The devil made me do it” is not acceptable in any court, nor is “god made me do it”.

    God doesn’t make anyone do anything. No murderer is saying to himself, “I really don’t want to do this but God is forcing my hand.” God’s decree determines that sinners will freely choose to sin—freely in the sense that they will do what the want to do. The fact that you are raising this objection shows that you are assuming the necessity of libertarian free will in the sense of the ability to do otherwise, which is precisely what I am denying. You need to pick which definition you are going to go with.

  124. Robert,

    “If you want to define libertarianism that way, then fine and I agree. But almost every discussion of libertarian free will I have heard is about the ability to choose otherwise. That is exactly what God does not have. He simply cannot choose to do evil. That’s exactly what the saints in heaven have. Their character determines their choices, though there may be a multitude of competing goods to choose from.”

    One can have the ability to choose otherwise and still have the sphere of choice be limited. Humans cannot choose to fly – that does not mean they must not have LFW. God did not have to create or redeem, so such acts were not necessitated. Just because he cannot sin or choose non-existence does not mean His acts are determined. Just like saints in heaven can truly choose from multiple goods but not sin does not mean their acts are necessitated. That is perfectly consistent with LFW (and not an idiosyncratic definition), and so it cannot be an incoherent impossible concept.

    “Monergism applies only to regeneration in the Calvinist scheme.”

    So acts in sanctification are not determined/caused by God?

    “Further, God does not work evil in anyone’s heart. This is my entire point to Jonathan. God’s causation of good and his “causation” of evil, if you want to call it that, are fundamentally different. That doesn’t mean both are not decreed.”

    So both good and evil are decreed by God – any good is determined and caused by God but any evil is undetermined and caused by LFW? This cannot be right since you hold LFW is incoherent so perhaps you can clarify my misunderstanding.
    Secondly, if everything is decreed and determined, how is God’s causation of evil different? If we have rube golderg machines operating in all aspects of life resulting in both evil and good, I fail to see how God’s causation of evil is fundamentally different than his causation of good or why Judas’ betrayal is no less properly caused by God than Paul’s vocation.

    “God’s decree establishes the causal chain. ”

    God establishes and is the cause of humans’ free actions (that’s why they don’t compete). You again are just thinking of him as some super-duper link in the causal chain (or as Jonathan was pointing out thinking of the eternal decree as not actually being outside of time). We are timebound limited creatures which is why it is so tempting to do that, but such should be avoided – the insurmountable problem is as soon as we start mulling over the relationship between divine and human agency/causality, we immediately bring God’s transcendent causality into the field of interacting causalities because that’s the only way we can conceive of it.
    As Austin Farrar writes:

    “We may say of the Hebrews, that they commonly saw divine effects as having creaturely agents, but found it needless to enquire how the divine hand wielded its instruments; they were content to use the simplest pictures. And the modern Christian is really in no worse or better case. He begins with the assumption that certain events, within himself or without, are divine effects. He does not doubt that they are the immediate act of natural agents, for if they were not, how would they be in this world of ours? If he speculates on the way in which the divine control takes effect, he probably goes no further than to tell himself that there is room for it to act; for the grid of causal uniformity does not (to any evidence) fit so tight upon natural processes as to bar the influence of an over-riding divine persuasion. If asked what on earth he can mean by ‘persuasion’ or ‘influence’ in such a connexion, he may simply refuse the challenge. What sense is there in demanding an exact account of an action which, by hypothesis, is outside our knowledge?

    If he is up on traditional philosophy he can elaborate his refusal by an appeal to the doctrine of analogy. According to this doctrine, we believe that God’s way of acting is the infinitely higher analogue of our way, but we cannot conceive it otherwise than in terms of our own. God’s agency must actually be such as to work omnipotently on, in, or through creaturely agencies without either forcing them or competing with them. But as soon as we try to conceive it in action, we degrade it to the creaturely level and place it in the field of interacting causalities. The result can only be (if we take it literally) monstrosity and confusion.”

    And Herbert McCabe:
    “The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all.”

    “So neither motives nor dispositions are causes of action; it remains that a free action is one which I cause and which is not caused by anything else. It is caused by God. From what we were saying last time it will, I hope, be clear that this is not the paradox that it seems at first sight, for God is not anything else. God is not a separate and rival agent within the universe. The creative causal power of God does not operate on me from outside, as an alternative to me; it is the creative causal power of God that makes me me.
    ….It is, of course, our image-making that deceives us here. However hard we try, we cannot help picturing God as an individual existent, even an individual person, making the world or controlling it like the potter making a pot or as an artist making a statue. But the pot is in the same world as the potter, the statue shares a studio with the sculptor. They interact with each other. To, to put it the other way, the potter is outside the pot he makes, the sculptor is outside the statue. But when we come to the creator of everything that has existence, none of that could be true. God cannot share a world with us—if he did he would have created himself. God cannot be outside, or alongside, what he has made. Everything only exists by being constantly held in being by him.”

  125. Robert,

    “Determinism does not say we don’t choose from a variety of options.”

    No but it does say that you could not have chosen otherwise than you did.

    “But man does not have the evil intent unless God first decrees the good. IOW, God doesn’t look into the future, see what evil men will do, and then decrees what good will come. He decrees the good, and by doing so His decree establishes the evil that will take place.”

    Of course God doesn’t look into the future – that’s again putting him onto the creaturely plane.

    “God doesn’t make anyone do anything. No murderer is saying to himself, “I really don’t want to do this but God is forcing my hand.” God’s decree determines that sinners will freely choose to sin—freely in the sense that they will do what the want to do.”

    So man has evil intent decreed by God – so God caused this evil intent but because the men truly want to commit the evil, God is not morally responsible or the “author” of evil. If I have a rube goldberg machine I created and trigger that in the end zaps a persons brain to make them willingly commit evil and blow up a building (or instead of zapping, say bombards them with circumstances that will exploit their vices), am I morally responsible for the explosion or not?

    “The fact that you are raising this objection shows that you are assuming the necessity of libertarian free will in the sense of the ability to do otherwise, which is precisely what I am denying. You need to pick which definition you are going to go with.”

    The ability to do otherwise is perfectly consistent with my definition that our sphere of choices are limited. So I’ll stick with my original definition. I’m still wondering why a citizen drowning saving some stranger’s kids is any more praiseworthy or less blameworthy than the serial killer given determinism.

  126. @Eric:

    humility (e.g., the Reformed soteriological paradigm).

    That may well have been the most hilarious piece of unintentional comedy I have seen.

  127. And by the way, Eric…

    Exactly what would it take, in your mind, for the Good Shepherd NOT to leave the 99 and go back after the one lost sheep? Quite honestly, I cannot for the life of me find this God of yours in Scripture, the One who doesn’t–of necessity–seek and save the lost of his flock.

    Exactly right. And His flock is every human being He creates; we all lost sheep. If you get that in your head … elect, non-elect, we’re all the same in that regard … then you’ll get it. To think that God doesn’t love everyone this way is the supreme arrogance.

  128. @Robert:

    Further, God does not work evil in anyone’s heart. This is my entire point to Jonathan. God’s causation of good and his “causation” of evil, if you want to call it that, are fundamentally different. That doesn’t mean both are not decreed.

    If the decree is deterministic, then it’s a distinction without a difference. The point of what Aquinas says is that it’s literally impossible for a created will to be determined to evil. To determine a will to evil, there would have to be a determining principle of evil, and that would either have to be God (blasphemy) or something else (Manichaeism).

    So the only way that you can say God’s will doesn’t cause evil is if you say that God’s will doesn’t determine the created will to evil. But you obviously think that God’s will does determine the created will to evil. You quoted those Scriptural passages saying that same thing, that it was by the will of God that evil takes the same place.

    If you think that God’s will determines created wills to evil, then you haven’t avoided the problem. That would mean that God does work evil in their hearts. The same is true if you believe that God creates them with evil desires that determine their will. In the first place, as I said, there’s literally no such thing that could exist, because it would require a principle of evil. But even assuming such a thing could exist (per impossibile), then God Himself would be the source of evil for creating it.

    There’s no way around this. If you believe that God’s will determines created wills to evil, either by direct determination OR by determination by a created desire, then you’ve made God the author of evil.

  129. Jonathan–

    “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
    when you’re perfect in every way.
    I can’t wait to look in the mirror
    cause I get better looking each day.
    To know me is to love me
    I must be a hell of a man.
    Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
    but I’m doing the best that I can.”

    –Mac Davis

    Now, the man Moses was very humble, more than any man on the face of the earth.”

    — The Fourth Book of Moses 12:3

    “To think that God doesn’t love everyone with the same regard (i.e., Calvinism) is supreme arrogance.”

    –Jonathan

    In other words, by inference, the Catholic paradigm is one of supreme humility.

    *****************

    So, who again now was unintentionally hilarious?

  130. JJ–

    1. Adam’s sin brought about his physical death. No Scripture I know of directly states that he was reprobate. No Scripture really even hints at it. Eve exhibits faith in God in her declarations of thanksgiving following the births of her sons.

    2. Becoming Catholic shouldn’t necessarily bring about less assurance or less chance for the gift of perseverance. But plenty of Catholics on this site and elsewhere will call you a heretic for saying so. They will accuse you of the sin of presumption.

    3. Exactly, we simply interpret the parable of the soils in different terminology. Those plants which at first spring up only to be choked or parched by the cares of life are categorized as regenerate by Catholics and as only “apparently” (or as “inauthentically”) regenerate by the Reformed. In both systems, these “believers” can fall away. In fact, for the Reformed, they invariably WILL fall away. This is the crux of the problem. Calvinists hold that we can tell what kind of soil someone is planted in, and Catholics say we cannot tell one “living” plant from another. (You assume you are planted in good soil. Why is that? It’s not very Catholic of you!)

  131. Jonathan–

    By the by, you have a very strange way of interpreting Scripture. If all are sheep, then who are the wolves? (Are all likewise wheat, and no one tares?)

    What on earth does Christ mean by “My sheep hear my voice”?

  132. Eric:

    Adam’s sin brought about his physical death. No Scripture I know of directly states that he was reprobate. No Scripture really even hints at it. Eve exhibits faith in God in her declarations of thanksgiving following the births of her sons.

    If the Catholic paradigm is correct, it can mean that Adam repented and was restored to divine life. This seems consistent with the fact that he did not physically die immediately. The only point was that though Adam had an affinity with God, this didn’t protect him from serious sin.

    Becoming Catholic shouldn’t necessarily bring about less assurance or less chance for the gift of perseverance. But plenty of Catholics on this site and elsewhere will call you a heretic for saying so. They will accuse you of the sin of presumption.

    Only if I think that I cannot be lost. But I don’t think that.

    Exactly, we simply interpret the parable of the soils in different terminology. Those plants which at first spring up only to be choked or parched by the cares of life are categorized as regenerate by Catholics and as only “apparently” (or as “inauthentically”) regenerate by the Reformed. In both systems, these “believers” can fall away. In fact, for the Reformed, they invariably WILL fall away. This is the crux of the problem. Calvinists hold that we can tell what kind of soil someone is planted in, and Catholics say we cannot tell one “living” plant from another. (You assume you are planted in good soil. Why is that? It’s not very Catholic of you!)

    Don’t think this is what we are talking about. I don’t assume any such thing. The end of my life will demonstrate – “Hail, Mary … pray for [me] now and at the hour of [my] death.”

    jj

  133. Eric,

    “Faith in the Greek translates closer to trust than belief. One cannot trust God without submitting to his will and wisdom, which is predicated on his love. One cannot love God unless he loves his neighbor.”

    I disagree. You can trust some one you absolutely hate. The Islamic terrorist hate us. Yet they have absolute assurance that our liberal mindset won’t suppress them in Europe and maybe even America.
    They trust us and hate us. Faith must be formed by love or it is dead.

  134. Jonathan,

    If the decree is deterministic, then it’s a distinction without a difference.

    Kinda like saying God wills to permit evil is a distinction without a difference.

    You’re accusing us of bringing God down to our level because we say he decrees evil, but you’re the one who can’t conceive of the possibility of God being able to decree something without being morally responsible for it. You can only do that by placing God on the same footing as human beings.

    You quoted those Scriptural passages saying that same thing, that it was by the will of God that evil takes the same place.

    Yes, and you ignore them by interpreting them exclusively in a manner that means “well, that just means evil can’t defeat God.” When your doctrine of God’s relationship to evil can harmonize James 1 with Romans 9, those passages I quoted, and the tons of other passages that talk about God ordaining evil then your exegesis will be worth considering. Until then, you’re just spouting off garden-variety Arminianism.

  135. Eric,

    By the by, you have a very strange way of interpreting Scripture. If all are sheep, then who are the wolves? (Are all likewise wheat, and no one tares?)
    What on earth does Christ mean by “My sheep hear my voice”?

    Well, the problem is that the poor Apostles did not have the benefit of Aristotle and the “Tradition” (minus Augustine’s teaching on double predestination because that just HAS to be wrong). If they had, they would have been able to provide us better guidance. Don’t worry. The RCs around here will show you the way. 😉

  136. @Eric:

    In other words, by inference, the Catholic paradigm is one of supreme humility.

    No, I am explicitly stating that Calvinism is worse than all Christian paradigms that affirm God’s universal salvific love. In other words, your progress from liberal Lutheranism to Evangelicalism to Calvinism has been, at least in one respect degradation. Among the Christian heresies, Calvinism is one of the worst doctrinally, although many Calvinists are better than their doctrine.

    By the by, you have a very strange way of interpreting Scripture. If all are sheep, then who are the wolves? (Are all likewise wheat, and no one tares?)

    Different parable; different point. One of the drawbacks to sola scriptura is the need to have Scripture interpret Scripture, like asserting that every time a Biblical author uses “sheep,” he must necessarily mean to invoke all of the other Biblical authors use of sheep. It’s not true. In the parable of the lost sheep, fallen humanity is analogized to lost sheep from a flock. But one common feature of these parables is that sheep, wolves, wheat, tares and the like refer to how people are acting. This is illustrated in the obvious example of Matthew separating people into sheep and goats.

    You are taking these parables as if they refer literally to people being different kinds, different species. But the analogy doesn’t say that sheep can’t become goats or that wheat can’t become tares, because the point of disanalogy is that human wills can change their orientation and kinds can’t. Anybody who thinks that someone who is saved is literally a different species of humanity than people who aren’t saved is arrogant. God regenerating you doesn’t make you into a different species, as if you were literally turned from a goat to a sheep. If you are made a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, but you behave like a beast, your legal status won’t save you. The regenerate can become goats in that respect (i.e., the sense of Matthew’s parable), even though they have been sheep in another (e.g., John’s parable of the Good Shepherd).

    But all of this requires you to be humble before Scripture and listen to it, not to use it to serve your own needs (for removing doubt) and purposes (to make you feel like God loves you more than the non-elect).

  137. test

  138. Jonathan,

    No, I am explicitly stating that Calvinism is worse than all Christian paradigms that affirm God’s universal salvific love. I

    Too bad those paradigms end up having God say:

    “I can’t always get what I really, really want.”

    Different parable; different point. One of the drawbacks to sola scriptura is the need to have Scripture interpret Scripture, like asserting that every time a Biblical author uses “sheep,” he must necessarily mean to invoke all of the other Biblical authors use of sheep.

    Which, of course, is precisely what sola Scripture DENIES. Unlike Roman Catholicism, which sees every use of the word justification as referring to the same thing.

    It’s not true. In the parable of the lost sheep, fallen humanity is analogized to lost sheep from a flock. But one common feature of these parables is that sheep, wolves, wheat, tares and the like refer to how people are acting. This is illustrated in the obvious example of Matthew separating people into sheep and goats.

    Of course this parable says nothing about wolves, wheat, tares, etc. Its not even in the surrounding context. There’s no notion in this parable itself that Jesus is referring to all of humanity. It’s read into it by a desire to have God eternally frustrated by our free will.

    You are taking these parables as if they refer literally to people being different kinds, different species. But the analogy doesn’t say that sheep can’t become goats or that wheat can’t become tares, because the point of disanalogy is that human wills can change their orientation and kinds can’t. Anybody who thinks that someone who is saved is literally a different species of humanity than people who aren’t saved is arrogant. God regenerating you doesn’t make you into a different species, as if you were literally turned from a goat to a sheep.

    Except that the point of regeneration isn’t a change in species. The sheep are sheep before they are regenerated, they just don’t know it or are rejecting their true identity. There’s nothing in these parables about wills changing their orientation. And of course, there’s nothing about changing species because species can’t change. Jesus has no notion of sheep becoming goats because that is impossible. You’re either a sheep or a goat. And if you’re a sheep, you’ve either been changed so that you listen to Christ or you haven’t yet been changed.

    If you are made a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, but you behave like a beast, your legal status won’t save you. The regenerate can become goats in that respect (i.e., the sense of Matthew’s parable), even though they have been sheep in another (e.g., John’s parable of the Good Shepherd).

    Creative. Except that everyone in John’s parable is a sheep and remains a sheep:

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 (A)A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

    And in Matthew’s parable there is no notion of people once being sheep and then becoming goats. It’s absolutely not there. You aren’t reading it in context.

    But all of this requires you to be humble before Scripture and listen to it, not to use it to serve your own needs (for removing doubt) and purposes (to make you feel like God loves you more than the non-elect).

    This is absolutely insane. Everyone who I have ever known who has become a Calvinist comes kicking and screaming into it. They finally realize that they can’t keep twisting the Scriptures to suit their own needs to paint God as some kind of “let’s play fair everybody” dottering grandfather who tries his best but just can’t redeem all whom he wants to save (Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, etc.)

    I guess Aquinas wasn’t humble before Scripture and was trying to serve His own purposes when he said that God loves all men in some ways but only some men in all ways.

  139. Eric,

    If and when I find Piper himself uttering the horrendous statement I mentioned, I will post it to you.

    Until then, listen to this,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eQKu3_9pgk

    Also, clicking around I did see at least 2 pieces by Roger Olson on Piper’s feelings on the election of his children.

  140. Eric,

    You wrote to a fellow blogger whom you disagree with,

    “Get your mind out of the philosophical gutter”.

    Oh you golden tongued, honey mouthed cajoler! You do have a winning way with words, don’t you, you charmer, you?

  141. @Robert:
    Kinda like saying God wills to permit evil is a distinction without a difference.

    That’s saying that there is no real distinction in the object between good and evil, which is exactly what James has been telling you. If you believe that the distinction between good and evil is a distinction without a difference, that isn’t a Christian belief.

    You’re accusing us of bringing God down to our level because we say he decrees evil, but you’re the one who can’t conceive of the possibility of God being able to decree something without being morally responsible for it.

    Because that doesn’t pertain to any distinction in God; it only pertains to a distinction in the object. For example, I know that God can’t will a square circle or a rock heavier than He can lift, because those are properties in the thing created, rather than something in God. I am not saying anything derogatory about God to say that He can’t do this thing. But God willing evil directly is the same kind of problem; it would contradict the definition of what it means for a created thing to be good. It’s not a question of assigning “moral responsibility” as if we were trying to subject God to some certain judgment. It is simply saying that for God to will evil directly would contradict the definition of what it would mean for created things to be good.

    To say that God can will evil directly, as opposed to by permission, is to affirm that God has the power even to will the irrational. There are religions that believe this sort of thing. Muslim philosophers believe in the absolute power of God’s will, and Calvin’s divine voluntarism seems to be of the same species. But you can hardly accuse Catholics of sophisticated philosophy for saying that God cannot will what is definitionally impossible.

    Yes, and you ignore them by interpreting them exclusively in a manner that means “well, that just means evil can’t defeat God.”

    Interpreting them isn’t ignoring them. It’s interpreting them. James 1 and Romans 9 requires a separate post.

    Too bad those paradigms end up having God say:

    “I can’t always get what I really, really want.”

    No, He gets what He really, really wants. We’re just saying that He genuinely wants the other as well, but not at the cost of something else.

    Which, of course, is precisely what sola Scripture DENIES. Unlike Roman Catholicism, which sees every use of the word justification as referring to the same thing.

    Then letting Scripture interpret Scripture should exclude other authors. Each author should stand on his own without reference to others. And it’s not that Catholicism sees the word “justification” as being used the same; it’s that the concepts are related. For example, the parables I mentioned are teaching different concepts, even though the word is the same.

    Of course this parable says nothing about wolves, wheat, tares, etc. Its not even in the surrounding context. There’s no notion in this parable itself that Jesus is referring to all of humanity. It’s read into it by a desire to have God eternally frustrated by our free will.

    You’re reading qualifiers in that aren’t there. The concept “lost” means “lost in sin.” It doesn’t say anything about “sheep represent only believers in this passage.” You’re assuming that, but the parable doesn’t include anything like that in its context. The passage (and the joy of the angels) talks about “sinners.” It doesn’t say anything about “sinners who used to be believers.” You’re the one reading into Luke something that isn’t there.

    Except that the point of regeneration isn’t a change in species. The sheep are sheep before they are regenerated, they just don’t know it or are rejecting their true identity. There’s nothing in these parables about wills changing their orientation.

    On the contrary, Matthew says that sheep and goats are judged by what they do. That’s mapping the categories onto what people do, not what they are. Since the quality to which the species are analogized (righteous or evil conduct) is mutable, it follows that the analogical categories must likewise be mutable. As Augustine said, “be ye sheep.” That injunction makes no sense if being sheep or goats isn’t a matter of will.

    Jesus has no notion of sheep becoming goats because that is impossible. You’re either a sheep or a goat. And if you’re a sheep, you’ve either been changed so that you listen to Christ or you haven’t yet been changed.

    That’s silly. You’re just taking the analogy way too literally. Matthew calls people sheep and goats based on their conduct, not based on their essential nature. “Sheep” isn’t an actual thing that somebody is or isn’t. It’s what the person is acting like. Do you not know what a metaphor is?

    Creative.

    Exactly the opposite. It’s what Tradition says about the passage.

    Except that everyone in John’s parable is a sheep and remains a sheep

    Except that the parable doesn’t say that. It just says what sheep do. It doesn’t say that actual people can’t become sheep-like or goat-like. That’s just something that you’re assuming.

    And in Matthew’s parable there is no notion of people once being sheep and then becoming goats. It’s absolutely not there. You aren’t reading it in context.

    No, it says that they are sheep or goats based on conduct, which is obviously something that can change. After the judgment, conduct can’t change, but before they get to the judgment, assuredly, it can.

    This is absolutely insane. Everyone who I have ever known who has become a Calvinist comes kicking and screaming into it.

    You’re confusing the objective with the subjective. Yes, they come kicking and screaming into it, because it fights against their natural conscience. But the reason that people can overthrow their conscience and believe falsehood is that it appeals to a deeper (and worse) desire. What you’re describing is exactly a more evil desire (pride, in this case) overcoming the natural tendency to love and compassion.

    They finally realize that they can’t keep twisting the Scriptures to suit their own needs to paint God as some kind of “let’s play fair everybody” dottering grandfather who tries his best but just can’t redeem all whom he wants to save (Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, etc.)

    On the contrary, God unquestionably redeems whomever He wants to save. The point is simply that the reason for that salvation is not so that He can pick out a group of elect for Himself. In other words, He doesn’t have a need or purpose to pick out a select group of people. He has other, higher purposes, and the fact that some people end up elect as a result of those other, higher purposes doesn’t mean that those people are somehow more important to His plan. That’s what Aquinas means by God showing greater love, not that He has some sort of interior disposition that makes Him like them more, but that He has given them more as a result of working out His own purposes. And that is generally a true principle with respect to the existence of all evil, not merely salvation and reprobation.

  142. Jonathan–

    Yes, I can see where interpreting different KINDS of animals as different KINDS of people would be a sharp TWISTING of Scripture. Especially when we have a multitude of scriptural examples of good and bad sheep, good and bad wheat, etc.

    In fact, the only three examples I can come up with are good and bad shepherds, molded clay as either vessels for destruction or vessels for glory, and salty and unsalty salt. Salt is a rather stable compound, and the loss of its saltiness is really only theoretical (or perhaps through dilution). Vessels for glory and destruction, turned on the wheel of the Almighty, who does not make mistakes, smacks of Calvinism through and through. Bad shepherds are basically imposters, wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are not good shepherds acting badly.

    Cite Tradition for me. Don’t just assert it. Augustine uses “sheep and goats” to denounce the Donatist schism (after all, wheat and tares grow up together in the same ground…they are not separated until the judgment).

    Show me a single ECF who speaks of a transformation from goat to sheep or tare to wheat. Scripturally, transformation runs from sickness into health, death into life, darkness into light. It’s never, that I know of, from bad “x” into good “x.”

  143. Jonathan–

    Augustine appears to say that there are apparent sheep who leave the fold (or remain, as wolves in sheep’s clothing) and that there are outside the church, those who appear to be wolves, who will shed their false skins and become the sheep of the flock they have been all along:

    “Therefore the Lord knows them that are His; they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knows them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so says also the apostle, According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! And how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! How many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! How many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! How many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers. In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated—of those whom the Lord knows that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.”

  144. Jim–

    Just call me “Chrysostom” (minus the crass antisemitism, of course). I wouldn’t want to sink to the depths of depravity of those infallibly recognized as saints!

  145. Robert writes:

    God does not work evil in anyone’s heart. … God’s causation of good and his “causation” of evil, if you want to call it that, are fundamentally different. That doesn’t mean both are not decreed.

    Robert, I note that you put quotes around the word “causation”, as if there can be two different kinds of causation. God either causes evil, or He does not.

    Jonathan responds to your double talk with:

    If the decree is deterministic, then it’s a distinction without a difference.

    Yes, indeed, a distinction without a difference is what we are discussing.

    I found the latest National Geographic to be interesting because of the article on zombies in the natural world of parasites. This article gives, what is to me, a near perfect analogy for the god of Calvinism.

    Mindsuckers, Real Zombies – The Strange Science of the Living Dead, National Geographic, November 2014:

    … scientists are finally opening the black box of parasite mind control. Frederic Libersat of Ben-Gurion University and his colleagues, for example, are dissecting the sinister attacks of the jewel wasp, Amulex compressa. The wasp stings a cockroach, transforming it into a passive zombie. The wasp can then walk its drugged victim into a burrow by the roach’s antenna, like a dog on a leash. The roach is perfectly capable of movement. It just lacks any motivation to move on its own behalf. The wasp lays an egg on the roach’s underside, and the roach simply stands there as the wasp larva emerges from the egg and digs into its abdomen.
    .
    What is the secret hold that the wasp has over its victim? Libersat and his colleagues have found the wasp delicately snakes its stinger into the roach’s brain, sensing its way into the regions the initiate movements. The wasp douses the neurons with a cocktail of neurotransmitters, which work like psychoactive drugs. Libersat’s experiments suggest that they tamp down the activity of neurons that normally respond to danger by prompting the cockroach to escape.

    The Calvinist Confessions insist that all men are born as totally depraved hunan beings with an absolute and implacable hatred of God. If humans had their way, they would never respond to the grace of God. But God takes some of these human God haters, and, by forcing irresitible grace upon them, transforms them into holy zombies that “inevitably” will do the will of God.

    It is not just Catholics and the Orthodox that are repulsed by what Calvinism is teaching about their god. Other Protestants can clearly see the same defects within Calvinism:

    A Puppet theology – Calvinist denial of Free Will
    .
    Under Calvinism people are essentially puppets.  Calvinism teaches, “Total Depravity without free will permanently due to divine.” It’s a hard form of theological determinism.  …
    .
    To the Calvinist for people to do anything from their free will takes away God’s sovereignty, and thus they deny free will. Their “god” is incapable of creating free will creatures. He just doesn’t have the capacity to do so. Now because their “god” is unjust, they of course have no problem with the idea of god imputing guilt to these puppets and throwing them into hell. Truly the god of Calvinism is a sadistic monster. Under Calvinism people cannot but sin. They have no choice but to sin. And where there is only one choice that is the same as saying there is no choice
    .

    The god of Calvinism is rather peculiar. He speaks in the imperative, giving lots of commands to his puppets who apparently have no ability with which to act upon such commands. And then he holds them accountable for what they have done or failed to do. The god of Calvinism is pretty much nuts. But it would seem the Calvinist is likewise nuts. Have they taken any thought to the implications of their doctrines? Are they just a bunch of mindless denominational zombies (or might I say “puppets”?) so indoctrinated into their heresies? Consider, if people are just puppets as the Calvinists propose, then who is doing the sinning? Would the Calvinists deny their god’s sovereignty in that realm? 
    .
    Ref: Heresies of Calvinism, http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/calvinism_heresy.html

  146. @Eric:
    This need not be so hard. If one is making an analogy to describe something that is mutable, then one would not assume that the points of disanalogy (such as being immutable) are carried over. That’s just ordinary language.

    If I say someone is a lion in battle, then obviously, unlike an actual lion, he can change that characteristic. Who in their right mind would say “well, that obviously means that he can never be cowardly, because he was analogized to a lion, and lions can’t be anything else?” That’s not the point of the analogy.

    The Fathers are clear that people can change in response to grace as a matter of free will and that they can likewise choose evil even after receiving grace.

    Augustine is saying the same thing I am. He is saying that there are those who “keep right,” “listen to the voice of Christ” and “hear,” meaning that they are sheep now, because (according to John), only sheep can do those things. They aren’t apparent sheep, but actual sheep. But according to predestination, they will not be sheep, i.e., they are not sheep in the end.

    Likewise, they aren’t apparent wolves outside, but actual wolves, because they follow the voice of the stranger, which sheep don’t do. It’s not a false skin, which is an artifice put on to deceive others; they are really wolves or sheep to the bone.

    Augustine genuinely affirms divine transcendence, so when he says that they are sheep according to predestination, He means according to God’s timeless knowledge. This isn’t a contradiction with the present reality, *not* according to predestination, in which people are whatever they are.

  147. Mateo–

    Can we stay away from low-brow, anti-intellectual “stupid stuff” and thoughtless, disrespectful accusations?

    What purpose do they serve anyway?

    I no longer read De Maria because he refuses to lift his rhetoric. Jim, bless his heart, has been doing much better. Lord knows, I’m probably a lost cause, but at least I’m trying to keep it civil.

    Can’t we all just get along?

  148. Jonathan–

    Again, you are over-philosphizing.

    You are also (purposefully?) grossly misreading Augustine.

  149. Eric,

    Not purposefully. The Rome-colored glasses block out honest exegesis. Which is why we keep getting philosophical tomes.

  150. Mateo,

    But it’s fine because people who sin want to sin so God is not the author of evil (even though he actively implants that desire for them to inexorably choose to sin). So apparently sin in the unregenerate is of the same kind and type as sin in the regenerate.

    It seems the two approaches are coming from different starting points. RCism and non-Calvinist views say God permits evil and that it is a privation of good – not some eternal necessary “thing” that must exist for good to exist – but He is not actively fostering it, thus Trent’s statement on judas and paul (and the countless biblical passages that could be adduced regarding temptation, God’s goodness and no darkness, hatred of lawlessness, etc) – and is content with not probing further.
    If Calvinism wants to assert that as well, fine, but then the typical shift happens when talking about sovereignty and zero-sum games and determinism where they end up essentially reducing God to author of evil again. But as I attempted to point out above, the sovereignty and zero-sum game/determinism is not an unavoidable problem – Calvinists are making a problem as foundational to their theology (which then informs their view of evil) that need not be a problem in the first place if one simply reorients their thinking of the intersection of divine and creaturely causation or how LFW does not threaten sovereignty. If one is going to choose to appeal to mystery or tension, why *unnecessarily* fall on the side that is a hairs-breadth from having God culpable for evil?

  151. Mateo,

    When you can actually bother to read and understand either the WCF or Calvin, or both, you’re statements will be worth entertaining. Since you don’t even have a rudimentary grasp of compatibilism, whether you agree with it or not, I can ‘t help you.

    Yes, apart from God’s grace people are born with a hatred of God. If not, they don’t need grace or regeneration. They’ll just find God on their own. Of course, I know Romanism has a place for that with all the Trinity-hating Muslims who supposedly respond to God’s offer, but Scripture doesn’t.

  152. James,

    When God willed to permit Adam’s fall, was there any actual possibility that Adam wouldn’t fall?

    If God had willed not to permit Adam’s fall, would there have been there any actual possibility that Adam would fall?

  153. @Eric:
    Augustine distinguishes between sheep at present and sheep according to predestination (elect to grace and elect to glory) routinely.

    See, e.g.:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701048.htm

    Not my fault you don’t know him well enough to read him right. Truth be told, I’ve rarely heard a Protestant who knew what he was talking about when it came to Augustine, so it’s not your fault.

  154. Robert,

    Did pre-Fall Adam have LFW or not?

  155. James,

    If by that you mean the power to do otherwise, yes. If by that you mean he had the freedom to operate outside of God’s decree, then no.

    Now answer my questions

  156. @Robert:
    This is just as silly as your “can the elect to glory fall away?” question.

    Your answer is a non-answer. If God decrees that Adam will sin, then how does he have the power to do otherwise?

  157. Robert,

    If Adam had LFW and that did not threaten God’s sovereignty, then your entire line of criticism of RCism and non-Calvinist views above doesn’t fly.
    God’s decree includes being the transcendent cause of our causal powers/free activity, so of course we can’t operate outside of it – we wouldn’t even exist outside of it (part of the point McCabe was making). You’re still stuck in the “no-answer-to-causation-but-determinism” thing.

  158. Jonathan,

    If God wills to permit Adam to sin and gives Him the LFW that He knows with certainty Adam will abuse, then how does Adam have the power to do otherwise except in mere theory?

    You don’t escape the problem. From any ordinarily human way of reckoning, God is just as guilty of bringing about evil in a morally blameworthy sense under your view as he is under mine. That’s why you need to stop viewing God from a ordinarily human way of reckoning, or at least accept that the Calvinists are not viewing God in human terms when they talk about God decreeing evil.

  159. James,

    If Adam had LFW and that did not threaten God’s sovereignty, then your entire line of criticism of RCism and non-Calvinist views above doesn’t fly.
    God’s decree includes being the transcendent cause of our causal powers/free activity, so of course we can’t operate outside of it – we wouldn’t even exist outside of it (part of the point McCabe was making). You’re still stuck in the “no-answer-to-causation-but-determinism” thing.

    The problem is that for Roman Catholicism, God doesn’t have a decree that governs all things. So when I say decree, I don’t mean it in the way you do of God just simply standing back. Actually, I have no problem with God standing back as long as you admit that by standing back, God guarantees the outcome—even an evil outcome. God doesn’t operate by bare permission. But this is what you all end up with. God’s will to bring good out of evil logically follows His knowledge that evil will occur. He’s being passive with respect to His knowledge of the evil and then responding. It’s a passive God.

    And in any case, If God gives causal powers to Adam knowing with certainty that Adam will misuse those causal powers, He is no less guilty of evil under a mere human reckoning of things than He is if He decrees the evil itself. This is what none of you will acknowledge. All you can say at the end of the day is that God is not guilty of evil in your system even though he gives creatures the power that he knows they will certainly misuses because He is God and can’t be viewed in a merely human way. We can actually move the discussion forward if you admit that Calvinists are doing the same thing. Then it comes down to what Scripture actually says.

  160. Robert,

    “The problem is that for Roman Catholicism, God doesn’t have a decree that governs all things.”

    Of course RCism holds God governs all things – he works good out of evil for his purposes. God can govern all things without determinism. You think that’s impossible – why? Because you keep conceiving of God’s causation in human terms.

    “God’s will to bring good out of evil logically follows His knowledge that evil will occur. He’s being passive with respect to His knowledge of the evil and then responding. It’s a passive God.”

    God does not look down the future and then respond. Again more pulling God’s causation into the creaturely plane – hence the false dichotomy between either determinism or cosmic anarchy.

    “And in any case, If God gives causal powers to Adam knowing with certainty that Adam will misuse those causal powers, He is no less guilty of evil under a mere human reckoning of things than He is if He decrees the evil itself. This is what none of you will acknowledge. ”

    If LFW and determinism end up with exactly the same view of evil in relation to God, then the distinction between the two is meaningless. But of course neither side believes that.

    “Then it comes down to what Scripture actually says.”

    Agreed – Scripture does have much to say about God not being the author of evil. That’s where RCism and non-Calvinist views take their cue from. You apparently think that because Scripture says a lot about God’s sovereignty, that must mean it says a lot about determinism. But as pointed out above, that does not follow if one simply reorients their thinking about human/divine causality, and more obviously does not apply if pre-fall Adam, God (in whose image we are created), angels, and saints in heaven all have LFW.

  161. @Robert:
    So long as the decree does not deterministically cause the outcome, then Adam still has a legitimate power that he uses wrongly.

    I’ve given you the analogy of a sting operation many times. The cop orchestrating the sting not only allows the crime but also orchestrates circumstances in which the criminal will surely commit the crime, which allows the person’s evil intent to be made manifest and judged. The cop is not morally responsible for the crime; on the contrary, he is serving justice. And he is not passive about it either; he is actively eliciting the bad behavior. I don’t judge the cop evil, even under ordinary human standards.

    On the other hand, if the cop were forcing the person to do wrong (say, by threatening the criminal’s family), then the cop would be responsible. This would be analogous to God determining the will to evil.

  162. James,

    God does not look down the future and then respond. Again more pulling God’s causation into the creaturely plane – hence the false dichotomy between either determinism or cosmic anarchy.

    Fine. God doesn’t look into the future. But if God doesn’t decree evil, the only way He can know it is by knowing it passively. He sees that creatures misuse their freedom and then He responds. He knows what they will do passively.

    If LFW and determinism end up with exactly the same view of evil in relation to God, then the distinction between the two is meaningless. But of course neither side believes that.

    It’s not exactly the same. The fact that neither side can explain how God is not morally culpable is the same. Saying that God gives people the ability to make a free choice while knowing full well that they will certainly make the evil choice doesn’t get God off the hook for responsibility in evil. Which is what you guys don’t realize.

    Of course RCism holds God governs all things – he works good out of evil for his purposes. God can govern all things without determinism. You think that’s impossible – why? Because you keep conceiving of God’s causation in human terms.

    God doesn’t govern evil in Roman Catholicism. He makes no determination with respect to the evil itself. He simply knows—passively—that it will happen and then responds. He ain’t pure act at the point of evil. He’s entirely passive.

    Agreed – Scripture does have much to say about God not being the author of evil. That’s where RCism and non-Calvinist views take their cue from. You apparently think that because Scripture says a lot about God’s sovereignty, that must mean it says a lot about determinism. But as pointed out above, that does not follow if one simply reorients their thinking about human/divine causality, and more obviously does not apply if pre-fall Adam, God (in whose image we are created), angels, and saints in heaven all have LFW.

    But the issue is what does Scripture mean by “author.” Authorship in Scripture has to do with moral responsibility. It’s why Scripture can say that both God and Satan incited David to sin, for example.

    God’s sovereignty in Scripture simply isn’t that of human rulers who passively permit lots of things. The God of Scripture works all things according to the counsel of His will. But in Romanism and Arminianism, His will follows His knowledge of evil. He has no will for evil itself. His purpose for it is after the fact. He passively responds.

    When God’s decree does not logically precede His knowledge, you have the most moved mover of Open Theism, which is the only logical way to hold to God’s knowledge of evil and not make him the author of it in the sense that you mean author. You and the Arminians are just inconsistently biblical on this point, but that’s better than being consistently unbiblical as the Open Theists are.

  163. Jonathan,

    I’ve given you the analogy of a sting operation many times. The cop orchestrating the sting not only allows the crime but also orchestrates circumstances in which the criminal will surely commit the crime, which allows the person’s evil intent to be made manifest and judged. The cop is not morally responsible for the crime; on the contrary, he is serving justice. And he is not passive about it either; he is actively eliciting the bad behavior. I don’t judge the cop evil, even under ordinary human standards.

    And the sting operation is a bad one because the cop doesn’t have the assured knowledge that the criminal will commit the crime, but God does. Moreover, the cop to some degree acts to prevent the crime from coming to full fruition. God doesn’t.

    If in a sting operation, a cop sets up things so that a mass murderer who is not supposed to be able to procure a gun actually procures a gun and then goes out and kills somebody with it—and the cop does absolutely nothing to stop it when he most certainly has it in his power to do so—then the cop is culpable.

    The sting operation is only necessary in order to gather proof when none exists. The problem is, God has all the proof he needs.

    So the analogy does not get God “off the hook”—and neither does a paradigm in which God sets up all the conditions and then twiddles his thumbs while the sin is committed.

  164. Jonathan,

    ve given you the analogy of a sting operation many times. The cop orchestrating the sting not only allows the crime but also orchestrates circumstances in which the criminal will surely commit the crime, which allows the person’s evil intent to be made manifest and judged. The cop is not morally responsible for the crime; on the contrary, he is serving justice. And he is not passive about it either; he is actively eliciting the bad behavior. I don’t judge the cop evil, even under ordinary human standards.

    I just noticed that you might want to rephrase this. In a sting, the cop doesn’t orchestrate the circumstances in which the criminal will surely commit the crime, and the cop can’t do that. He orchestrates the circumstances under which, based on his knowledge of the criminal, there is an extremely high probability that the criminal will commit the crime. But the cop isn’t omniscient. The criminal might back out even though it is unexpected.

    This is why the analogy is bad. God isn’t dealing with knowledge of mere probabilities.

  165. Jonathan,

    Further, lets consider a sting involving a hit man.

    A cop has a reasonable suspicion that Joe will hire a hit man, so he sets up a sting in which Sam will pretend to be a hit man, and captures Joe. In that case, he isn’t morally culpable because he stops Joe.

    What if the cop sets up a sting, Joe hires the hit man, and then the cop stands back and watches as both Joehires Sam and then Sam actually goes and kills the person. The cop knows this will happen, and what’s more he can stop it but refuses. The cop is therefore morally culpable.

    The second scenario corresponds to what actually happens in reality under your view. God doesn’t just set up a sting. He sets up a sting and then sits back and watches it happen in every case where he doesn’t intervene to stop the evil. This is why your view or divine ordination does not absolve God of moral culpability.

  166. 1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    The Pharisee lacked love.

    Sola Fides, Spes, et Caritas!

  167. Robert,

    “But if God doesn’t decree evil, the only way He can know it is by knowing it passively. He sees that creatures misuse their freedom and then He responds. He knows what they will do passively.”

    So God actively determines evil in the will by his decree then according to your objection. How is He not the author of evil then given your definition of author?

    “The fact that neither side can explain how God is not morally culpable is the same. Saying that God gives people the ability to make a free choice while knowing full well that they will certainly make the evil choice doesn’t get God off the hook for responsibility in evil. Which is what you guys don’t realize.”

    See above. Non-calvinism posits God permits evil, not actively determines/fosters it. That’s the difference. Why he permits it is inscrutable – that’s the actual mystery – not “God actively determines all but God somehow isn’t the author of evil” – you’re creating a mystery that borders if not entails blasphemy unnecessarily because you keep thinking sovereignty must entail determinism.

    “But the issue is what does Scripture mean by “author.” Authorship in Scripture has to do with moral responsibility. It’s why Scripture can say that both God and Satan incited David to sin, for example.”

    Yes which is why God permitted the evil that Satan actively and culpably worked and in doing so He worked that evil to His own purposes – he did not actively foster it.

    “You and the Arminians are just inconsistently biblical on this point, but that’s better than being consistently unbiblical as the Open Theists are.”

    As said above, Open Theism and Calvinism both stem from the same error in bringing the intersection of divine and human causality down into creaturely plane. Saying the words that God is outside of time and the transcendent cause does not resolve anything when you turn around and apply doctrine and thinking that blatantly ignores and contradicts that.

    And I’m going to continue to bring this up every response – if pre-fall Adam, God (in whose image we are created), angels, and saints in heaven all have LFW, then LFW does not threaten God’s sovereignty and determinism is not required – Calvinism is a solution looking for a problem.

  168. @Robert:
    There’s a difference in actively planning with knowledge of what people will do and passively responding to what people will do. The cop in the sting operation and God in creation are doing the former, not the latter.

    In sting operations, in many cases, the actual crime is the offer, the purchase, or what have you. So the actual crime happens. And the point there is the same; even if you know a crime will happen, it’s not just to punish someone until it does happen. So omniscience isn’t the issue; people have to do something wrong before they are justly punished for it.

    Yes, we don’t do murder stings, because it’s impossible for us to undo the harm to the third party victims. But God has the power to make up for all of those consequences in the end; moreover, He uses what these victims suffer as an opportunity for greater good. But that isn’t a question of moral complicity with the criminal; rather, it is a question of the substantive duty to protect innocents. God is not morally evil for allowing suffering for entirely separate reasons, so God’s permission of suffering as part of a cosmic sting operation is no more morally culpable. That is legitimately a difference with God, but not one relevant to moral permission of evil acts.

    In short, your distinctions from the case of a human sting operation don’t change the analysis at all. In both cases, knowingly and deliberately arranging circumstances to produce an evil choice by the criminal does not create moral culpability for the criminal’s acts.

  169. Robert,

    As a Calvinist you seem to be saying God is ultimately the author of both good and evil.
    You know, just yesterday I read an article about Jonathan Edwards being a sort of pantheist or at least an emanationist.
    At first I couldn’t understand how someone who speaks of creation as he did could be a borderline pantheist but after reading your comments today, it is all coming together.
    You seem to believe there is really only one will in the universe, yes?

  170. Jim,

    There’s only one AUTONOMOUS will in the universe—God’s. The fall in the garden was the result in people thinking they could be autonomous.

  171. James,

    There’s a difference in actively planning with knowledge of what people will do and passively responding to what people will do. The cop in the sting operation and God in creation are doing the former, not the latter.

    Actually, the cop is planning based on a probability of what he thinks the potential offender will do. If God’s knowledge is not falsifiable, then God is planning based on the certainty of what He knows the person will do. And God is not doing this based on His past experience with the offender. He’s doing this based on the fact that He has eternally known what the offender will do even though His decree doesn’t determine that. Which means you have eternally autonomous creatures and effective dualism.

    In sting operations, in many cases, the actual crime is the offer, the purchase, or what have you. So the actual crime happens. And the point there is the same; even if you know a crime will happen, it’s not just to punish someone until it does happen. So omniscience isn’t the issue; people have to do something wrong before they are justly punished for it.

    Of course. But God knows they will certainly do wrong. What’s more, unless He orchestrates the circumstances, they won’t do wrong. This is most UNLIKE the cop in the sting operations. The cop doesn’t have that much control. He could do nothing and the criminal could still sin. If God doesn’t arrange the circumstances of sin, particularly the circumstances of the fall of Satan and Adam, they never would have fallen. If He didn’t allow those circumstances, they never would have fallen. So at the end of the day, despite all your qualifications, you have God enticing people to sin by ordaining/allowing the circumstances that will lead them certainly to sin. Of course, the Calvinist denies that God entices people to sin. Why then are you now embracing it?

    Of course, you could say that god is just eternally permitting the circumstances that will entice people to sin. But then He’s not actively planning the circumstances. He’s responding based on passive knowledge of what creatures will do.

    What God does absolutely guarantees that the person in question will sin. The cop doesn’t have that much power. This is the problem with your analogy.

    Yes, we don’t do murder stings, because it’s impossible for us to undo the harm to the third party victims. But God has the power to make up for all of those consequences in the end; moreover, He uses what these victims suffer as an opportunity for greater good. But that isn’t a question of moral complicity with the criminal; rather, it is a question of the substantive duty to protect innocents. God is not morally evil for allowing suffering for entirely separate reasons, so God’s permission of suffering as part of a cosmic sting operation is no more morally culpable. That is legitimately a difference with God, but not one relevant to moral permission of evil acts.

    So if we had the power to make up for all the abuse that a woman would endure at the hands of an abuser at the end, we could do an abuse sting operation?

    God’s higher good is so glorious that in the end it will make all the evil worth it, is what you appear to be saying. Which is EXACTLY what I am saying.

    I agree that God is not guilty for morally allowing evil, but to use your sting analogy, if the cop engages in a sting and makes no attempt to protect innocents who might be inadvertently harmed, then he’s going to be held accountable. So to make the analogy fit, you have to have God unable to execute a cosmic sting without hurting a whole lot of innocent people in the process. Or you have a God who is no better than a cop who tries his darndest to protect the innocents but is just incapable of doing so. So now you are effectively denying omnipotence. Or, you could say it is not logically possible for God to create the kind of world he wants in which suffering is impossible, but the Calvinist can say something very similar.

    In short, your distinctions from the case of a human sting operation don’t change the analysis at all. In both cases, knowingly and deliberately arranging circumstances to produce an evil choice by the criminal does not create moral culpability for the criminal’s acts.

    You MIGHT be able to get away with this for every act subsequent to the fall, but you can’t get away with it in respect to the fall. God acted in such a way that would guarantee that creatures who would ordinarily have no inclination to do evil actually end up doing evil.

    IOW, you haven’t solved the problem you think the Calvinist has but that you don’t. You have the same question that is unanswerable.

  172. Jim, you wrote to Robert:
    You know, just yesterday I read an article about Jonathan Edwards being a sort of pantheist or at least an emanationist.

    Be careful where you sweep. A strong scholastic doctrine of Sustentation is challenged by a charge of pantheism.

  173. James,

    So God actively determines evil in the will by his decree then according to your objection. How is He not the author of evil then given your definition of author?

    God’s decree establishes that a creature will choose evil. As to how that does not make Him morally responsible, I cannot answer except to say “Because the Bible says He isn’t.” The answer Paul gives in Romans 9 to those who ask how God can be just for condemning to hell those who He has chosen to do evil is “Who are you o man?” That’s the only answer I can give you. The answer of the Job is the same.

    See above. Non-calvinism posits God permits evil, not actively determines/fosters it. That’s the difference. Why he permits it is inscrutable – that’s the actual mystery – not “God actively determines all but God somehow isn’t the author of evil” – you’re creating a mystery that borders if not entails blasphemy unnecessarily because you keep thinking sovereignty must entail determinism.

    And again you are making a distinction that ultimately has no difference morally because God’s permission guarantees that the evil will take place. If it doesn’t, its mere passivity or as Calvin said, bare permission.

    I’m not creating a mystery. Its exactly what Paul talks about in Romans 9, and its exactly what the whole book of Job is about. Its also a mystery raised by episodes such as the one in which God is explicitly said to incite evil in David’s heart. The problem is the twisting and contorting that has to be done to evade what Romans 9 is teaching. I’ve done the twisting and contorting. It doesn’t work. The reason why I’m a Calvinist is because the twisting and contorting doesn’t work.

    Yes which is why God permitted the evil that Satan actively and culpably worked and in doing so He worked that evil to His own purposes – he did not actively foster it.

    Where does the text say that? The problem is that the Hebrew text in Chronicles and in Samuel both use the exact same Hebrew term and the exact same verbal form of that term when speaking of Satan and God inciting David to sin. Both are equally responsible for the act. God is not blameworthy, however, precisely because Scripture says He isn’t and not because somebody can come up with a gabillion qualifications that don’t amount to a hill of beans at the end of the day.

    As said above, Open Theism and Calvinism both stem from the same error in bringing the intersection of divine and human causality down into creaturely plane. Saying the words that God is outside of time and the transcendent cause does not resolve anything when you turn around and apply doctrine and thinking that blatantly ignores and contradicts that.

    Kinda of like saying “it’s all of grace” and “it’s all of my choice” aren’t mutually exclusive terms. But you RCs keep doing it.

    The driving force behind Open Theism is the desire to absolve God of moral blame for evil and to preserve some notion of Libertarian free will. They are correct that if God knows what will happen, the power to choose otherwise is in some ultimate sense theoretical, at least by human reckoning. Simply by saying that God’s causation doesn’t operate on the creature plane doesn’t get you out of it. In some ultimate sense, if God knows all, the power to do otherwise is theoretical.

    Transcendent cause doesn’t make God passive, but that is what you all continue to do.

    And I’m going to continue to bring this up every response – if pre-fall Adam, God (in whose image we are created), angels, and saints in heaven all have LFW, then LFW does not threaten God’s sovereignty and determinism is not required – Calvinism is a solution looking for a problem.

    If you define LFW as the ability to choose among several different options, then LFW does not threaten God’s sovereignty. Calvinism says that we have that free will.

    Pre-fall Adam had the power and ability to choose between good and evil. God and the saints do not. They simply cannot choose evil. And in any case Even pre-fall Adam chose according to what God decreed.

  174. @Robert:
    Again, as James keeps saying, you need to distinguish between determination and causality. God isn’t planning based on the certainty of what people will do. God is planning based on the hypothesis of what He will do. In other words, God knows that if He creates hypothetical entity Satan in hypothetical universe X then Satan will make Y decision at Z time. But unless God decides to actualize that particular form of creation, hypothetical Satan will never actually exist to do anything. So God isn’t planning based on what Satan will do, because hypothetical Satan won’t exist unless God makes Him exist. There’s no eternal existence, and therefore, no co-existing principle. That’s true of all contingent beings.

    As to the sting analogy, again, there are plenty of stings in which a crime is committed where no harm actually take place. So for purposes of illustration, let’s assume that these are the only evils allowed by God. God wouldn’t be complicit in any of those harmless evils by executing a sting.

    So does allowing harm to bystanders change the principle? Not with respect to the perpetrator. God has done no injustice to the perpetrator by allowing him to commit a crime, nor has God become complicit with the crimr. The suffering of innocents is certainly an example of the “problem of evil,” but it doesn’t change the fundamental question of whether allowing someone to commit evil entails moral complicity with the perpetrator’s actions.

    Lastly, you speak of God “guaranteeing” that the creature does evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creature’s own will is the only thing that guarantees his own action. Nothing in the circumstances determines that decision; the free-willed being makes it. God simply provides the opportunity, infallibly knowing what the free-willed creature does with it.

    Your account of the Fall is actually backwards. God would be on the hook for creating creatures with evil inclinations, at least if you mean that this inclination determines them to sin. It is the fact that Satan and Adam sinned for literally no reason, that God did nothing to guarantee or even to prompt the outcome, that is the reason God isn’t responsible.

  175. Jonathan–

    Yes, and Augustine clearly says that some “sheep at present” aren’t really sheep…and some “wolves at present” aren’t really wolves.

    I’m sorry if you don’t know how to read, and instead lean on a RC tradition of misinterpretation.

  176. @Eric:

    Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers.

    What does Scripture say? Can sheep hear the voice of strangers?

    And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are

    What does Scripture say? Do those who are not sheep hear the voice of Christ?

    Augustine is clearly saying that people who are in the opposite class “at present” who are nonetheless in the other class “according to predestination.” There is no other way to read that passage. If they were merely apparent sheep, then they would only appear to hear the stranger or the shepherd, but Augustine says instead that they hear the stranger or the shepherd. Not apparently, but actually.

    I don’t even see how you can possibly have any other reading. There’s nothing here about apparent sheep or apparent wolves. He is saying that people who are sheep according to predestination are wolves now and vice versa. That is completely inconsistent with the idea that there is a one-to-one correspondence between sheep on earth and sheep according to predestination.

  177. Jonathan,

    God is planning based on the hypothesis of what He will do. In other words, God knows that if He creates hypothetical entity Satan in hypothetical universe X then Satan will make Y decision at Z time.

    So God knows that if He creates Satan in our universe then Satan will certainly make an evil decision at Z time. However, He could choose to create Satan in a different universe where he would make a good choice at Z time. Or he could choose not to create Satan at all.

    So tell me again how this doesn’t determine what Satan will do? And how does God know what Satan will do if He hasn’t created him yet unless He decrees what Satan will do? Passive observation of potentialities?

    Lastly, you speak of God “guaranteeing” that the creature does evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. The creature’s own will is the only thing that guarantees his own action. Nothing in the circumstances determines that decision; the free-willed being makes it. God simply provides the opportunity, infallibly knowing what the free-willed creature does with it.

    In the case of the fall when you have creatures with no preexisting inclination to evil, the circumstances end up providing the temptation. So you have God creating the temptation, or actually doing the temptation. Tell me how this solves the problem again? God knows that Satan will fall if He creates a being like Satan and if He puts Satan in x circumstances. He also knows that Satan won’t fall if He doesn’t put Satan in x circumstances. But he puts Satan in x circumstances anyway.

    Your account of the Fall is actually backwards. God would be on the hook for creating creatures with evil inclinations, at least if you mean that this inclination determines them to sin. It is the fact that Satan and Adam sinned for literally no reason, that God did nothing to guarantee or even to prompt the outcome, that is the reason God isn’t responsible.

    But the problem is that the Bible doesn’t say that Adam and Eve sinned for no reason. It explicitly says that Eve saw that the fruit was good and that it would make here wise.

  178. @Robert:

    And how does God know what Satan will do if He hasn’t created him yet unless He decrees what Satan will do? Passive observation of potentialities?

    No, because the potentialities don’t exist either. He’s omniscient and omnipotent. Once you start asking the hows and whys of omniscience and omnipotence, then you really are in Job or Romans territory. As James said, we don’t (and can’t) know why God creates some thing or not another or allows evil at all. We only know what He has done.

    In the case of the fall when you have creatures with no preexisting inclination to evil, the circumstances end up providing the temptation. So you have God creating the temptation, or actually doing the temptation.

    Try again. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one, but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (Jas. 1:13-14).

    Tell me how this solves the problem again?

    As James’s comment pointed out, your view is a solution in need of a problem. God not causing evil directly is a fact, not a problem.

    God knows that Satan will fall if He creates a being like Satan and if He puts Satan in x circumstances. He also knows that Satan won’t fall if He doesn’t put Satan in x circumstances. But he puts Satan in x circumstances anyway.

    Yes, and I’ve pointed out at great length, that does not make Satan’s fall God’s fault. It makes Satan’s fall Satan’s fault. Knowing is not determining. The part God does, creating the circumstance, does not determine Satan’s will, even though God knows what Satan is going to do.

    But the problem is that the Bible doesn’t say that Adam and Eve sinned for no reason. It explicitly says that Eve saw that the fruit was good and that it would make here wise.

    But acting on that desire was not a reasonable choice; giving in to that desire was sin. Those desires don’t make the choice for Eve. The temptation comes from her desire, which she can choose to indulge or not. Indulging that desire was a bad, irrational choice. Scripture gives Satan’s motive as well: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isa. 14:14). The temptation came from His desire to be like God, and the decision to be lured by that desire was a bad, irrational choice. Motives aren’t sufficient reasons to determine the choice.

  179. Robert,

    “God’s decree establishes that a creature will choose evil.”

    Establish is vague. Do you distinguish between certainty and necessity?

    “As to how that does not make Him morally responsible, I cannot answer…The answer of the Job is the same.”

    The problem is the answer in Job is perfectly consistent with asking why God permits evil which I said above was the mystery. The mystery does not have to be “How are you not morally responsible for the evil you are directly actively causing” – the mystery does not have to skirt blasphemy (if it does, that might be a sign it’s not biblical mystery)

    “And again you are making a distinction that ultimately has no difference morally because God’s permission guarantees that the evil will take place. If it doesn’t, its mere passivity or as Calvin said, bare permission.”

    God’s permission does not determine evil – that would make it…not permission but deterministic. That does not mean God is passive – his permission is part of his plan, not emergency backup.

    “I’m not creating a mystery.”

    Because you are presupposing determinism in how you interpret things. I agree there is a mystery touching on what we are discussing. I don’t agree that both appeals to mystery are equally valid – one skirts if not entails blasphemy, the other doesn’t. So why I should then pick the former when it is only required if I assume determinism is beyond me.

    “Where does the text say that?”

    Scripture interprets Scripture right. So we need to harmonize the countless passages affirming God’s holiness, justice, goodness, hatred of sin/temptation/etc. with what we see with episodes like Job. One way is to say God permits evil that originates from the agent – thus preserving all those attributes we have ample Scriptural witness for. Another is your way and just say “well somehow God’s character is still preserved”. That’s why it certainly does amount to a hill of beans at the end of the day.

    “Simply by saying that God’s causation doesn’t operate on the creature plane doesn’t get you out of it.”

    I disagree – the source of all your objections to LFW, synergism, etc. stems from that.

    “If you define LFW as the ability to choose among several different options, then LFW does not threaten God’s sovereignty. Calvinism says that we have that free will.”

    LFW is the ability to choose among several different options but more importantly without necessity/determinism. If you want to say such LFW does not threaten God’s sovereignty, then wonderful but I’m pessimistic.

    “Pre-fall Adam had the power and ability to choose between good and evil. God and the saints do not. They simply cannot choose evil. And in any case Even pre-fall Adam chose according to what God decreed.”

    God and the saints have LFW even if they cannot sin. This has been gone over. The saints have a multitude of goods in heaven to choose from – that does not make their choices necessitated. God’s acts of creation, redemption, etc. were not necessitated even though He cannot sin. The angels act of rebellion/obedience was not necessitated, even though they can’t choose to become human. Adam’s ability to choose between good and evil was free, even though he could not choose to fly.

    So I’m not sure what you mean with your first and last sentence. Adam had the power and ability to choose between good and evil, but Adam could only choose according to what God decreed, so Adam could only choose evil – that would mean Adam did not have the power and ability to choose between good and evil.

    You seem to be stuck on what is grounding God’s foreknowledge/omniscience – that it can only be grounded in the decree, otherwise He is merely passive or subject to externalities. So God cannot know free choices/contingencies but only necessitated acts. This seems unwarranted. Why is it impossible for God to know what will happen without determinism? Why must His foreknowledge render all choices as necessary vs all choices as certain? You might ask well how can God have knowledge of free choices – well, how did God create ex nihilio? How is God eternal and self-existent? There may be mystery with how God’s knowledge works, but it is not different than the mystery that surrounds any of God’s attributes – trying to resolve that mystery with determinism (because of how humans conceive causality) is not justified.
    And if foreknowledge entails not only certainty, but also necessity, then that runs into more issues – God foreknew eternally every act He would perform so that would mean all of God’s acts are of necessity or imposed by externalities. So, touching again on what was said above, if God’s foreknowledge of His own acts does not necessitate them, I fail to see why his foreknowledge of man’s acts necessitates them or prohibits LFW in principle.

  180. James, you write:

    RCism and non-Calvinist views say God permits evil and that it is a privation of good – not some eternal necessary “thing” that must exist for good to exist – but He is not actively fostering it, thus Trent’s statement on judas and paul (and the countless biblical passages that could be adduced regarding temptation, God’s goodness and no darkness, hatred of lawlessness, etc) – and is content with not probing further.
    .
    If Calvinism wants to assert that as well, fine, but then the typical shift happens when talking about sovereignty and zero-sum games and determinism where they end up essentially reducing God to author of evil again.

    The problem with Calvinism is that it asserts that God causes everything, but not evil. Which is just a bunch of incoherent double talk. The WCF is riddled with double talk on this matter. Take, for example, this piece of theological flatulence:

    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.

  181. James,

    Establish is vague. Do you distinguish between certainty and necessity?

    Establish=render certain.

    The problem is the answer in Job is perfectly consistent with asking why God permits evil which I said above was the mystery. The mystery does not have to be “How are you not morally responsible for the evil you are directly actively causing” – the mystery does not have to skirt blasphemy (if it does, that might be a sign it’s not biblical mystery)

    Well that’s great because I specifically deny that God directly and actively causes evil.

    God’s permission does not determine evil – that would make it…not permission but deterministic. That does not mean God is passive – his permission is part of his plan, not emergency backup.

    It makes it bare permission.

    Because you are presupposing determinism in how you interpret things. I agree there is a mystery touching on what we are discussing. I don’t agree that both appeals to mystery are equally valid – one skirts if not entails blasphemy, the other doesn’t. So why I should then pick the former when it is only required if I assume determinism is beyond me.

    Because Scripture assumes determinism.

    Scripture interprets Scripture right. So we need to harmonize the countless passages affirming God’s holiness, justice, goodness, hatred of sin/temptation/etc. with what we see with episodes like Job. One way is to say God permits evil that originates from the agent – thus preserving all those attributes we have ample Scriptural witness for. Another is your way and just say “well somehow God’s character is still preserved”. That’s why it certainly does amount to a hill of beans at the end of the day.

    But the problem is that when you say evil is not decreed by God, you end up with dualism. God has eternally known that Satan would fall even though God’s decree has nothing to do with Satan’s fall. Thus, evil has an eternal existence not grounded in God’s decree. It is an eternal competitive power. I guess the only thing that prevents it from being full on dualism is that you all have some notion that God will destroy it in the end.

    And the problem is also that your answer of bare permission does not take into account Romans 9 or even Job. Your answer is not the answer God gives to Job. Your answer of “well, God just steps back and lets people do what they will then he condemns them” isn’t what Paul is talking about. Nobody complains about the injustice of that. This discussion is a case in point. You’re presenting a view that doesn’t generate the objections that Paul and Job anticipate, and least it doesn’t do so readily.

    We have ample biblical witness for determinism

    God and the saints have LFW even if they cannot sin. This has been gone over. The saints have a multitude of goods in heaven to choose from – that does not make their choices necessitated.

    What is necessitated is that good is the only thing they can choose.

    God’s acts of creation, redemption, etc. were not necessitated even though He cannot sin.

    What is necessitated is that the only thing God can choose to do is a good option. So creation, redemption, etc. themselves were not necessitated. What is necessitated by God’s character is that it is impossible for Him to do evil.

    The angels act of rebellion/obedience was not necessitated, even though they can’t choose to become human. Adam’s ability to choose between good and evil was free, even though he could not choose to fly.

    The WCF says that God decrees some things necessarily, some things freely, and some thing contingently. The choice of evil falls under the case of freely and contingently.

    So I’m not sure what you mean with your first and last sentence. Adam had the power and ability to choose between good and evil, but Adam could only choose according to what God decreed, so Adam could only choose evil – that would mean Adam did not have the power and ability to choose between good and evil.

    The difficulty is the use of the word “could.” We’re hemming and hawing over what Adam could have done, but if God’s knowledge is not falsifiable, in what ultimate sense COULD Adam have done otherwise? Could Adam have acted in a way contrary to what God knew He would do in any real sense?

    What you are presenting you are presenting in order to preserve creaturely autonomy. But creaturely autonomy is the primal sin. And in any case, you aren’t consistently preserving autonomy because what you give with one hand you take back with the other. So its good that you are being inconsistent, because it is better to be inconsistent than to go with the only options that preserve creaturely autonomy, i.e., Open Theism, Process Theology, and the like.

    You seem to be stuck on what is grounding God’s foreknowledge/omniscience – that it can only be grounded in the decree, otherwise He is merely passive or subject to externalities. So God cannot know free choices/contingencies but only necessitated acts. This seems unwarranted. Why is it impossible for God to know what will happen without determinism? Why must His foreknowledge render all choices as necessary vs all choices as certain?

    His foreknowledge renders all choices as certain, not necessary. But foreknowledge in Scripture is active, not passive.

    You might ask well how can God have knowledge of free choices – well, how did God create ex nihilio? How is God eternal and self-existent? There may be mystery with how God’s knowledge works, but it is not different than the mystery that surrounds any of God’s attributes – trying to resolve that mystery with determinism (because of how humans conceive causality) is not justified.?And if foreknowledge entails not only certainty, but also necessity, then that runs into more issues – God foreknew eternally every act He would perform so that would mean all of God’s acts are of necessity or imposed by externalities. So, touching again on what was said above, if God’s foreknowledge of His own acts does not necessitate them, I fail to see why his foreknowledge of man’s acts necessitates them or prohibits LFW in principle.

    God’s foreknowledge renders future acts certain. God’s knowledge that Adam would sin guaranteed that Adam would sin, otherwise God’s knowledge is falsifiable.

    I agree that evil originates in the creature. What I deny is that this origination happens apart from God’s decree. If it happens apart from God’s decree, then evil has an eternal and independent existence. You have dualism.

  182. @Robert:
    Let’s start drawing some distinctions, because you’re spinning your wheels at this point. Specifically, you aren’t distinguishing between God’s will and God’s foreknowledge, even though you are speaking about them differently. Now it is true that technically God’s will and God’s foreknowledge are not really distinct in God, due to divine simplicity, so there will be some mystery around this. But we can at least distinguish them conceptually in understanding what God has done.

    You say:

    The WCF says that God decrees some things necessarily, some things freely, and some thing contingently. The choice of evil falls under the case of freely and contingently.

    That’s well and good. Unfortunately, if the decree and divine foreknowledge then render the outcome necessary, then *how* God decrees it becomes irrelevant. In other words, even if you say that God wills creatures to behave freely, you contradict it by saying that God’s foreknowledge necessitates what you’re going to do.

    You say, for example, the following:
    Establish=render certain.

    His foreknowledge renders all choices as certain, not necessary. But foreknowledge in Scripture is active, not passive.

    God’s foreknowledge renders future acts certain. God’s knowledge that Adam would sin guaranteed that Adam would sin, otherwise God’s knowledge is falsifiable.

    That’s all failing to distinguish will and knowledge. The fact that God’s knowledge isn’t falsifiable doesn’t mean that God’s knowledge needs to cause anything. Indeed, that is the distinction between foreknowledge and will; will causes things, and foreknowledge knows what is caused. Only the will renders, guarantees, or does anything, and God’s knowledge is in turn grounded in His self-knowledge. If foreknowledge caused what it knew, then the fact that God knew that evil took place in the future would mean that His foreknowledge directly and actively caused it. Because of God’s foreknowledge, they *are* certain, but they are not *rendered* certain. They are rendered certain by the proximate causes, and God knows certainly what those proximate causes will do.

    That’s the problem with the same WCF section that you quoted:

    Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

    The problem is the “in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly.” That collapses the necessary distinction between knowledge and will, without which the following distinctions are erased. Effectively, this statement takes the form “although X, not X.” It’s a direct contradiction. If you say that all things come to pass immutably and infallibly by the foreknowledge and decree, you are denying even the possibility that anything can be ordered to fall out according to the nature of second causes. In fact, you rule out the existence of secondary causes.

    God’s foreknowledge doesn’t *do* anything. Rather, because of God’s foreknowledge, He always knows the eventual results of everything He wills. You’re simply assuming that God’s foreknowledge must determine the outcome in order to be certain, which is why you assume that the Bible teaching on the foreknowledge of God must require that the foreknowledge of God is somehow active. But that simply isn’t true; God can infallibly know what will happen without His knowledge determining what will happen.

    This would only be *bare* permission if what God wills would exist whether or not God willed it to exist. But the will is engaged and active, not indifferent or passive. God wills to create; He doesn’t give permission for the things to spring into existence. They don’t exist without His will. So it’s impossible for anything to exist “apart from” His decree, which makes dualism impossible. Dualism requires entities that exist besides the decree of creation, not entities that result from the decree of creation.

    In short, you’re hung up on the same philosophical error in the WCF: that God’s foreknowledge can only be infallible if God’s foreknowledge is determinative, and that otherwise God must be passive. That is based on confusion of foreknowledge and will, and it is the basis for your assumption that the Bible teaches determinism. Once that assumption is gone (as it is in orthodox Christianity), then one can meaningfully distinguish between how God wills something as an object versus how creatures will it as an object, and the Biblical language about God willing evil makes sense.

  183. Jonathan–

    You are calling certain people “sheep” whom Augustine goes to great lengths to identify as wolves. What matters to Augustine is their DNA–their identity before God–and not what they appear to be “at present.” If they are sheep “according to predestination,” if they will be sheep in glory, then according to Augustine they are sheep indeed.

    “In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated—of those whom the Lord knows that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.”

    Sheep who are really sheep in the beginning…are sheep at the end. Wolves who are really wolves at the beginning…are wolves at the end. In the meantime, for a time, sheep may appear as wolves and not hear the Shepherd’s voice. Likewise, actual wolves may invest themselves in the activities of the church and listen to the teachings of Christ…but they are only “apparent” sheep (and Augustine clearly identifies them as “wolves within”).

  184. Debbie–

    The problem with works is not the works themselves. We are justified apart from works lest anyone should boast . The Publican could just as easily have been the one who was proud: “I thank God that I’m not like that sanctimonious Pharisee who does everything nice and neat and by the book. My “testimony” is much more intriguing with all these heinous sins on my resume; my confession is far more compelling with its theatricality and gut-wrenching emotion; my abasement is far more abject…see how far I stand off in the back, see how humiliatingly I beat my breast…I’m probably as humble as humble has ever been. Why, I probably deserve a medal for my humility!”

    We are in some sense justified by “faith, hope, and love,” all three, complete and utter gifts from Christ. It is hardest to see our good works as total gift. We cooperate in their undertaking. It is not an imaginary cooperation. It is real. Here at last is something that is ours in justification. Something we can do well. Surely, we can take some credit. Surely, we can take pride in our accomplishments.

    But whenever we do, the Pharisee in us is lurking. Trust me. Others see it only too clearly in Catholicism. It’s not pretty. You all would be so much better off without it.

  185. Jonathan,

    This would only be *bare* permission if what God wills would exist whether or not God willed it to exist. But the will is engaged and active, not indifferent or passive. God wills to create; He doesn’t give permission for the things to spring into existence. They don’t exist without His will. So it’s impossible for anything to exist “apart from” His decree, which makes dualism impossible. Dualism requires entities that exist besides the decree of creation, not entities that result from the decree of creation.

    You still have bare permission of evil. God’s decree doesn’t establish that evil will take place. God is just creating and whoops, evil comes in.

    And if nothing exists apart from His decree, you have to have evil being a part of that decree. If not, then you don’t have a decree that governs whatsoever comes to pass. Which is the essence of all non-Calvinist positions.

    If God has eternally known that evil will take place but He has not eternally decreed it, then evil has an eternal existence apart from God’s will. And if He knows that creatures will certainly do evil simply by knowing Himself, I don’t see how you get around evil being His eternal idea and desire.

    What strikes me in your presentation is how much it boils down not to a divine sting operation but divine entrapment. God makes beings that under circumstance y would not sin but under circumstance x do sin. So He ordains circumstance x anyway. It’s quite Molinistic, unless of course you posit that a good creature such as Satan would eventually fall no matter what circumstances he is placed in. Of course, then that only becomes possible if God makes Satan with an inherent tendency to go bad, which is what the RC position on pre-fall creatures seems to boil down to in the end.

    That’s all failing to distinguish will and knowledge. The fact that God’s knowledge isn’t falsifiable doesn’t mean that God’s knowledge needs to cause anything. Indeed, that is the distinction between foreknowledge and will; will causes things, and foreknowledge knows what is caused. Only the will renders, guarantees, or does anything, and God’s knowledge is in turn grounded in His self-knowledge. If foreknowledge caused what it knew, then the fact that God knew that evil took place in the future would mean that His foreknowledge directly and actively caused it. Because of God’s foreknowledge, they *are* certain, but they are not *rendered* certain. They are rendered certain by the proximate causes, and God knows certainly what those proximate causes will do.

    The problem is that in Scripture foreknowledge and will are equally active. That’s why foreknow in Romans and other predestinarian texts does not mean “God knew what people would decide.” It means God wills to love that person. I admit that saying foreknowledge renders something certain is a bit clumsy, but that’s because you are imputing to it a non-biblical meaning. God’s foreknowledge in election renders salvation certain because it essentially means that God has willed that person x will be loved by Him eternally and effectually. God’s foreknowledge in evil renders evil certain because it means that person x will do evil. Thus the complaint in Romans 9 about reprobation, the complaint that Paul doesn’t answer by saying “God reprobates based on his knowledge that Pharaoh would sin.”

    In short, you’re hung up on the same philosophical error in the WCF: that God’s foreknowledge can only be infallible if God’s foreknowledge is determinative, and that otherwise God must be passive. That is based on confusion of foreknowledge and will, and it is the basis for your assumption that the Bible teaches determinism. Once that assumption is gone (as it is in orthodox Christianity), then one can meaningfully distinguish between how God wills something as an object versus how creatures will it as an object, and the Biblical language about God willing evil makes sense.

    Don’t confuse orthodox Christianity with Roman Catholicism and other non-Deterministic systems. Orthodox Christianity is biblically determined; it’s not philosophically determined.

  186. ROBERT October 29, 2014 at 7:15 am

    You still have bare permission of evil. God’s decree doesn’t establish that evil will take place. God is just creating and whoops, evil comes in.

    That is the greatest of all mysteries. Why does a God who is all good permit the existence of evil?

    I think this verse answers a part of that question:

    1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

    And so, evil must exist in order that good may be made manifest.

    Do you believe that God is all good? Or not?

    And if nothing exists apart from His decree, you have to have evil being a part of that decree.

    No. Decree means “command”.

    de·cree
    d??kr?/
    noun
    1.
    an official order issued by a legal authority.
    synonyms: order, edict, command, commandment, mandate, proclamation, dictum, fiat;

    God created all things to be good and decreed all things to be good. But God gave sentient creatures, free will. Some of those creatures, in exercise of their free will, decided to disobey God’s decree.

    In so doing, they made themselves evil.

    If not, then you don’t have a decree that governs whatsoever comes to pass.

    A decree doesn’t govern. It states what should be. Government is something else. And God decreed that His sentient creatures could elect to be self-governed.

    Which is the essence of all non-Calvinist positions.

    What you are there saying is that the Calvinist god is not all good. Therefore, the Calvinist god is not the Christian God.

    If God has eternally known that evil will take place but He has not eternally decreed it, then evil has an eternal existence apart from God’s will.

    That logic follows if you don’t believe that God is all good. But we do, therefore, in the Christian paradigm, that is a non-sequitur.

    The Christian paradigm is such.

    God is all good.
    God created all things to be good.
    God gave His creatures free will.
    Some of God’s creatures, exercised their free will in disobedience to God’s command.
    Those creatures who disobeyed God, made themselves evil.

    And if He knows that creatures will certainly do evil simply by knowing Himself, I don’t see how you get around evil being His eternal idea and desire.

    The key words there are “I don’t know”. Just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

    But, in answer to your question, it becomes a matter of love. God programmed us to love Him and at the same time to love ourselves. Now, love has to be given freely. Therefore, in order to be capable of loving, God had to give us the ability to deny and reject love. So, therefore, we can love Him and deny ourselves or we can love ourselves and deny Him. The paradox is that if we love Him, we benefit ourselves all the more.

    What strikes me in your presentation is how much it boils down not to a divine sting operation but divine entrapment. God makes beings that under circumstance y would not sin but under circumstance x do sin. So He ordains circumstance x anyway. It’s quite Molinistic, unless of course you posit that a good creature such as Satan would eventually fall no matter what circumstances he is placed in. Of course, then that only becomes possible if God makes Satan with an inherent tendency to go bad, which is what the RC position on pre-fall creatures seems to boil down to in the end.

    You’re reading Calvinism into Catholicism. You do quite a bit of that.

    No. God created Lucifer to be good. But gave him the will to choose whom to love the most. Lucifer chose self love over love of God.

  187. De Maria,

    In general, it’s a fundamental hermeneutical error to import the definition of terms used outside of theology into theology.

    No. God created Lucifer to be good. But gave him the will to choose whom to love the most. Lucifer chose self love over love of God.

    Yes, and in Romanist theology God gave the will to Satan knowing that Satan would certainly misuse it. How that gets God “off the hook” for Satan’s choice still hasn’t been answered except by way of “well God didn’t do anything to the will.” That’s like trying to get the arms dealer off the hook for mass murder when he sells a gun to somebody whom he knows will most certainly use it to slaughter innocent people. “Sure officer, I did the background check and saw that I shouldn’t sell him the gun, but I sold it to him anyway.”

    Yes, he just stood back and watched it all happen. How deistic.

  188. Eric,

    “… the Pharisee in us is lurking. Trust me. ”

    I 100% agree.

  189. @Eric:
    Do you really mean for me to believe that “we speak of those who were predestinated” and “according to predestination” mean nothing? That they are not intended to qualify and limit the sense in which the terms “sheep” and “wolves” are being used? Why would I possibly accept the premise that Augustine is just spouting words that are completely meaningless and redundant?

  190. Robert,

    “Well that’s great because I specifically deny that God directly and actively causes evil.”

    Yes part of the point of this discussion is how that denial does not actually wash when the implications of your position are brought out. You say because God is not actually performing the evil Himself, that means He’s exonerated – even if he places and necessitates the sinful intent, desire, motives, will, character, thought process, act itself, etc in the agent that leads to them inexorably choosing to sin, He is still somehow exonerated and not culpable. But the point remains even if modified – the mystery in Job does not have to be “How are you not morally responsible for the evil you are necessitating directly through intermediate means” – the mystery does not have to skirt blasphemy (if it does, that might be a sign it’s not biblical mystery). Which we saw in part above with the following when you said: “So you have God creating the temptation, or actually doing the temptation.” which Jonathan rightly countered with: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one, but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire”

    “It makes it bare permission.”

    What do you mean by bare permission as opposed to permission? Permission without purpose? Permission that escapes God’s plans or is unknown to Him? No non-determinist holds to such.

    “Because Scripture assumes determinism.”

    So Scripture assumes something that leads to corruption/denial of God’s character. I don’t think that’s possible.

    “But the problem is that when you say evil is not decreed by God, you end up with dualism. God has eternally known that Satan would fall even though God’s decree has nothing to do with Satan’s fall. Thus, evil has an eternal existence not grounded in God’s decree. ”

    This does not follow. God’s permission of evil is part of his plan and knowledge. Evil is not eternal – how could it be if it cannot exist outside of creation?

    “Nobody complains about the injustice of that.”

    Nobody complains “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power”? Nobody complains why children are cut down and virtuous heroes suffer while the wicked live long prosperous lives as unjust? Of course they do – and such complaints are perfectly consistent with asking why God permits such things and God responding as He does, such complaints do not require one ask why God determines and authors evil.

    “What is necessitated is that good is the only thing they can choose. What is necessitated is that the only thing God can choose to do is a good option. So creation, redemption, etc. themselves were not necessitated. What is necessitated by God’s character is that it is impossible for Him to do evil.”

    Yes good is the only thing God and the saints can choose. That does not mean their acts are necessitated. So creation, redemption, etc. themselves were not necessitated as you agree. Great – so bye bye “LFW is incoherent or inconsistent with God’s decree/foreknowledge” and foreknowledge implies causation or determinism.

    “The WCF says that God decrees some things necessarily, some things freely, and some thing contingently. The choice of evil falls under the case of freely and contingently.”

    Jonathan addressed this already – I don’t see how this gets you anywhere. If God’s decree is deterministic in all ways and grounds his knowledge, then I have no idea how “necessarily, freely, contingently” distinctions buys you anything – the causal line is one shot through to God’s decree in all cases.

    “but if God’s knowledge is not falsifiable, in what ultimate sense COULD Adam have done otherwise? Could Adam have acted in a way contrary to what God knew He would do in any real sense?”

    Adam could’ve acted differently in which case God’s foreknowledge would be different by definition. Foreknowledge implies certainty, not necessity. That’s why Adam was still free and yet could not falsify God’s knowledge as you try to posit later below. That’s why him and Eve, the angels, saints, and God can all have LFW and not create absurdity or contradictions. And if that’s granted, there’s no reason in principle to deny it to us.

    “And in any case, you aren’t consistently preserving autonomy because what you give with one hand you take back with the other. So its good that you are being inconsistent”

    I’d like to know where the inconsistency is. I think it’s been demonstrated the inconsistency and ad hoc exemptions on your side in trying to salvage God’s character/nature from determinism.

    “I agree that evil originates in the creature. What I deny is that this origination happens apart from God’s decree.”

    So does God permit the evil that originates in the creature, or does he necessitate and determine it? If the latter, how did it originate in the creature?

  191. Johnathan, you write:

    … if the decree and divine foreknowledge then render the outcome necessary, then *how* God decrees it becomes irrelevant. In other words, even if you say that God wills creatures to behave freely, you contradict it by saying that God’s foreknowledge necessitates what you’re going to do.

    Contradiction – exactly right. The essense of Calvinism is irrational contradiction – saying one thing is true and then saying the opposite thing is also true. Which is why you can’t get anywhere arguing with a Calvinist, because the Calvinist will constantly flip-flop in his argumentation, first asserting one thing is true, and then in the next sentence asserting that exact opposite thing is also true.

    If one focuses on one aspect of Calvinism, the places where Calvinism teaches hard determinism, and then draw the logical inferences flow from this hard determinism, one will be accused by the Calvinist of “not understanding Calvinism”. To prove their point, the Calvinist will then trot out the parts of the Calvinist confessions that teach the exact opposite of the parts of the confessions that logically infer that God is the source and cause of all evil. But irrationality itself is a mark of evil, and that is why the contradictions of the Calvinist confessions are not coming from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, but, rather, from the author of confusion. When men argue in an irrational manner it is proof that they are not being guided by the Holy Spirit, and it is pointless to argue with men that have no love of the truth.

    If foreknowledge caused what it knew, then the fact that God knew that evil took place in the future would mean that His foreknowledge directly and actively caused it.

    Which is exactly what Calvinism asserts. But Calvinism also asserts the exact opposite is true too. Calvinism, at its core, is an irrational religion, and because of that, no one can really believe the contradictory absurdities embedded in the Calvinist confessions. It is not possible for a human being to “believe” a contradiction, since the human nature that God gave to us prevents us from believing in contradictions. Neither Robert nor Eric believe in the contradictions of the Calvinist confessions, since that is humanly impossible. In reality, no one takes seriously the Calvinist confessions, not even the Calvinists.

  192. Robert you write:

    “Well that’s great because I specifically deny that God directly and actively causes evil.”

    And we can all see that you are flip-flopping and blathering in double talk.

  193. ROBERT October 29, 2014 at 9:52 am
    De Maria,
    In general, it’s a fundamental hermeneutical error to import the definition of terms used outside of theology into theology.

    You’ll have to be more precise. Hone in on the term which I used which you can’t understand, I’ll explain it to you.

    Yes, and in Romanist theology God gave the will to Satan knowing that Satan would certainly misuse it. How that gets God “off the hook”….How deistic.

    That’s ok Robert. I just want everyone to notice that Calvinists do not believe that God is all good. That is a great point of contrast with Catholicism. It explains how you guys can believe that your god hates his son. It explains how you can believe that your god the son is guilty of sin. Your Calvinist god is not the God of Abraham and Jesus Christ. He is a man-made god which you created to explain away mysteries which your theology can’t handle.

    Calvinism per Robert – God is not all good.
    Catholicism – God is all good.

  194. @Robert:
    I’m not confused; I saying that Calvinism is heresy, and I’m explaining why. I am also explaining to you is why you are confused in thinking that Augustine and Aquinas were teaching the same thing, when they weren’t. And that is because you aren’t using the terms “will” and “foreknowledge” in the same conceptual way *they* were. I am using “orthodox Christianity” historically, and regardless of what you think of the theological merits, what Calvin believed the Bible taught on this subject cannot be found in any author before the Reformation.

    You complain about De Maria’s quite ordinary usage of the term “decree,” but when I point out that we need to be equally careful when parsing terms like “predestination” and “foreknowledge,” then I’m supposedly relying on philosophy. But then you say that the Biblical term “foreknowledge” means something different in “predestinarian” texts, and that it really means predestine. That’s more than just “a bit clumsy”; it’s completely rewriting the text!

    All of this stems from your philosophical belief that unless there is a “decree that governs whatsoever comes to pass” that the universe spins out of God’s control. In other words, it is your belief is that anything other than determinism from above is chaos or that there must be some higher determining principle (hence, your accusation of dualism). That philosophical error is the same one that leads to dualism; you’ve just made the opposite error (imputing determination of evil to God). Absent that belief, there’s no reason to accept your claim about “predestinarian” texts.

    As an example, your proof-text about Pharaoh says that God hardens his heart. It doesn’t say “God worked His will through deterministic means to render certain that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” and St. Paul certainly could have said that if that’s what he meant. Necessity (ananke) was a philosophical concept that Paul knew and used. So there’s nothing in this text to say that God didn’t utilize Pharaoh’s own evil will in this hardening, just like He does with any evil.

    Here’s the solution to your pseudo-problem: God doesn’t need to determine what is going to happen as long as He knows what will hypothetically happen in every possible exercise of His will. But once the pseudo-problem is solved, all of your proof-texts about the causation cease to be proof-texts, because they no longer require deterministic causation.

    The distinction between knowledge and determination is key to understanding the sting analogy. As long as the circumstances provide an opportunity for the wrong choice without determining it, then it is a sting, not entrapment. It would only be if the circumstances created a desire that was not in the person that it would be entrapment. Here, the desire is elicited by the circumstances, but only by the choice of the wrongdoer, exactly as James says.

  195. Jonathan,

    You complain about De Maria’s quite ordinary usage of the term “decree,” but when I point out that we need to be equally careful when parsing terms like “predestination” and “foreknowledge,” then I’m supposedly relying on philosophy. But then you say that the Biblical term “foreknowledge” means something different in “predestinarian” texts, and that it really means predestine. That’s more than just “a bit clumsy”; it’s completely rewriting the text!

    Give me biblical a text where foreknowledge when applied to God means “knows in advance what will happen” or “knows what will happen without determining it” and your point will have merit.

    I’m not confused; I saying that Calvinism is heresy, and I’m explaining why. I am also explaining to you is why you are confused in thinking that Augustine and Aquinas were teaching the same thing, when they weren’t. And that is because you aren’t using the terms “will” and “foreknowledge” in the same conceptual way *they* were. I am using “orthodox Christianity” historically, and regardless of what you think of the theological merits, what Calvin believed the Bible taught on this subject cannot be found in any author before the Reformation.

    All of this stems from your philosophical belief that unless there is a “decree that governs whatsoever comes to pass” that the universe spins out of God’s control. In other words, it is your belief is that anything other than determinism from above is chaos or that there must be some higher determining principle (hence, your accusation of dualism). That philosophical error is the same one that leads to dualism; you’ve just made the opposite error (imputing determination of evil to God). Absent that belief, there’s no reason to accept your claim about “predestinarian” texts.

    Neither I nor Calvin are saying anything different than what Augustine said in the Enchiridion about the nature of God’s will and man’s will with respect to the death of a man’s father. But in any case, you don’t determine the crucifixion without also determining that those who will carry it out will have an evil will to do so unless, of course, you determine in some abstract way that somebody, somewhere will kill Christ and then step back to watch.

    truly in this city there were gathered together against your (AJ)holy servant Jesus, (AK)whom you anointed, both (AL)Herod and (AM)Pontius Pilate, along (AN)with the Gentiles and (AO)the peoples of Israel, 28 (AP)to do whatever your hand and (AQ)your plan had predestined to take place.

    The Apostles explicitly say that God ordained all of the actors involved in this most heinous sin to do what they did. And you don’t ordain that without also in some way ordaining the intent because without the intent there is no action.

    As an example, your proof-text about Pharaoh says that God hardens his heart. It doesn’t say “God worked His will through deterministic means to render certain that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” and St. Paul certainly could have said that if that’s what he meant. Necessity (ananke) was a philosophical concept that Paul knew and used. So there’s nothing in this text to say that God didn’t utilize Pharaoh’s own evil will in this hardening, just like He does with any evil.

    What Paul expects is an objection to his position that your position cannot generate. That in itself proves that your position is not what Paul held. It does not in itself prove that Paul was a Calvinist, but it certainly proves He wasn’t a Jonathanist on this matter.

    Here’s the solution to your pseudo-problem: God doesn’t need to determine what is going to happen as long as He knows what will hypothetically happen in every possible exercise of His will. But once the pseudo-problem is solved, all of your proof-texts about the causation cease to be proof-texts, because they no longer require deterministic causation.

    God doesn’t need to determine what will happen as long as he passively knows what autonomous creatures will do in any given situation. Got it.

    The distinction between knowledge and determination is key to understanding the sting analogy. As long as the circumstances provide an opportunity for the wrong choice without determining it, then it is a sting, not entrapment. It would only be if the circumstances created a desire that was not in the person that it would be entrapment. Here, the desire is elicited by the circumstances, but only by the choice of the wrongdoer, exactly as James says.

    I think you missed a not somewhere in your last sentence. If creatures are truly made very good, then they have no occasion to have the desire until it is introduced to them from the outside. Unless, of course, you posit that mankind has an inherent propensity to go bad even in good circumstances by virtue of combining good spirit with bad flesh, which is the essence of the Romanist pre-fall position.

    The issue is that Adam and Eve have no desire to sin prior to the temptation. In fact, the notion that they were created very good precludes it. So in trying to say God doesn’t decree evil, you end up having him elicit it by orchestrating circumstances that orchestrate a desire that never would have been in there in the first place—unless God had already created an unstable creature.

    Or you could just say that God is not the agent of temptation and has no evil intent when temptation takes place (which is what James meant) and that He decrees evil without being morally responsible for it because He’s the Creator and can do such things. Which has the advantage of reconciling all the biblical material and not emphasizing some of it at the expense of others.

  196. Jonathan–

    I expect you to be able to interpret context and realize that sheep “according to predestination” are the only authentic sheep Augustine is discussing.

  197. Jonathan, you write:

    Here’s the solution to your pseudo-problem: God doesn’t need to determine what is going to happen as long as He knows what will hypothetically happen in every possible exercise of His will. But once the pseudo-problem is solved, all of your proof-texts about the causation cease to be proof-texts, because they no longer require deterministic causation.

    Robert keeps obstinately insisting that foreknowledge implies determinism, and that no one can think otherwise. But that is bunk. It is easy for humans to grasp that foreknowledge does not imply causality, and that can be seen by watching the Back to the Future movies.

    In Back to the Future III, Biff Tannen uses Doc’s DeLorean time machine to give Biff’s younger self a copy of Grays Sports Almanac. Biff has foreknowledge by having a copy of Grays Sports Almanac that came from the future. But no one watching Back to the Future III ever thinks that because Biff has foreknowledge of the future, that Biff is causing certain teams to win the World Series, the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl.

    Human beings can easily grasp the concept that an omniscient God that has foreknowledge does not imply that God causes evil. Calvinists deny what all human beings can understand to be true.

  198. Mateo,

    Robert keeps obstinately insisting that foreknowledge implies determinism, and that no one can think otherwise. But that is bunk. It is easy for humans to grasp that foreknowledge does not imply causality, and that can be seen by watching the Back to the Future movies.
    In Back to the Future III, Biff Tannen uses Doc’s DeLorean time machine to give Biff’s younger self a copy of Grays Sports Almanac. Biff has foreknowledge by having a copy of Grays Sports Almanac that came from the future. But no one watching Back to the Future III ever thinks that because Biff has foreknowledge of the future, that Biff is causing certain teams to win the World Series, the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl.
    Human beings can easily grasp the concept that an omniscient God that has foreknowledge does not imply that God causes evil. Calvinists deny what all human beings can understand to be true.

    The problem is that when the Bible uses the term foreknowledge, it’s not passive knowledge of the future, which is what you have just described. You all complain about us bringing God down to our level? Give me one Bible verse that talks about God’s foreknowledge where foreknowledge means “knows without determining.”

    The Calvinist arguments are primarily exegetical. Until you guys can actual work on an exegetical level before you do your philosophy, you will never get it.

  199. Robert,

    First, you’re kidding yourself if you think Calvinism is some pristine ideal of exegesis that is untainted by philosophy.

    Can you give one Bible verse that talks about God’s foreknowledge where foreknowledge *must* mean “knows by determining.” ? It’s not enough to have such a reading just be plausible – you need to exclude “knows without determining” clearly and fully – otherwise it seems you would be just as guilty of importing philosophical biases in your exegesis as you claim non-determinists are. You also have a greater burden in doing so because of the host of issues and problems the assumption of determinism causes with Scripture’s teaching on related topics that have been continually raised here you just shrug off.

  200. James,

    First, you’re kidding yourself if you think Calvinism is some pristine ideal of exegesis that is untainted by philosophy.

    Of course its not. But because we admit our fallibility and attempt to deal with our presuppositions, we can do a better job. I’ve yet to see any evidence from you Romanists that you are aware of the presuppositions you bring to the text. Presuppositions such as an undetermined will, for example.

    Can you give one Bible verse that talks about God’s foreknowledge where foreknowledge *must* mean “knows by determining.” ? It’s not enough to have such a reading just be plausible – you need to exclude “knows without determining” clearly and fully – otherwise it seems you would be just as guilty of importing philosophical biases in your exegesis as you claim non-determinists are. You also have a greater burden in doing so because of the host of issues and problems the assumption of determinism causes with Scripture’s teaching on related topics that have been continually raised here you just shrug off.

    Determinism doesn’t cause the problems you think it does unless you are assuming that moral responsibility inheres to God in the exact same way it does to the creature. That’s the assumption that runs throughout. It occurs in Jonathan’s sting example, for instance.

    I get a lecture from Jonathan on how it is wrong to let Scripture interpret Scripture but then when individual passages are taken in context the answer is immediately: But James 1 says God doesn’t tempt anyone (with the unspoken assumption on his part that this means God’ doesn’t ordain temptation). Then when that doesn’t work and he has God enticing people to sin directly by creating the circumstances in which they will sin it’s “but Augustine said x (while ignoring where he says y).”

    At least he tries to offer some kind of rudimentary exegesis on some points. Then’s there’s Mateo who shows no evidence of any understanding of any of the philosophical discussions about compatibilism, and unfortunately my friend Cletus, you aren’t much better.

    What I’ve yet to see is any exegetical argument that foreknowledge means “know without determining.” It’s just assumed that God can’t ordain sin without being the morally responsible cause of sin because, well, there’s no reason ever given.

    As far as foreknowledge, the specific verb proginosko is applied to God three times that I know of in the NT:

    Rom. 8:29; Rom. 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20 and none of them have the notion of God knowing without determining. All of them have to do with God knowing the person, not simply knowing the person’s actions.

    Rom. 11:2 clearly has foreknowledge being used in the sense of God setting His love on Israel. And it is an effectual love because Paul uses Himself as an example that God’s love for Israel continues to bear fruit for Israel.

    Rom. 8:29 is the famous foreknowledge predestination justification ordo salutes passage. Here again there is nothing about God knowing what people will do. It is God knowing and setting His love on the person. It’s active. It’s him doing something. It’s him determining what the person will be, namely the believed object that He will predestine to glory.

    1 Peter 1:20 is about Christ known from before the foundation of the world. It’s not talking about knowledge of what Christ will do.

    Then we go to Romans 9, and our entire discussion is proving my point: You, Mateo, and Jonathan are all offering the same objection that the assumed interlocutor offers to Paul. But Paul doesn’t answer the objection with “well, God knows evil but He doesn’t determine that evil will take place.” And he actually speaks far more deterministically than I have.

  201. James/Mateo–

    What is your proposed mechanism whereby God might know the future? “Back to the Future’s” Biff knows the future by sci-fi magic. In other words, he doesn’t really.

    We can memorize details of the past because they are set in stone. The future is only knowable to the extent that it is determined. (Weather forecasts, for example, are based on meteorological constants.) So, unless you all can think of another way that would work, drop the argument. (Good luck in coming up with one!!)

  202. @Robert:

    Give me biblical a text where foreknowledge when applied to God means “knows in advance what will happen” or “knows what will happen without determining it” and your point will have merit.

    Romans 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”

    If foreknowledge is the same thing as predestination, this is redundant. If we assume that Paul isn’t using language for no reason, then we would presume that the terms don’t mean the same thing. That means that there must in principle be a conceptual distinction between foreknowing and predestining, even leaving aside the fact that we differ on what predestination actually means.

    Neither I nor Calvin are saying anything different than what Augustine said in the Enchiridion about the nature of God’s will and man’s will with respect to the death of a man’s father.

    Of course you are. In that example, God and the created being are willing different objects, but God’s will and man’s will can be disharmonious. For example, the evil man wills the same thing (in terms of object), yet has a different will from God in doing it. It’s actually an example of how God can predestine (plan) outcomes without directing the evil man’s intent. Essentially, Augustine is saying exactly the opposite of what you and Calvin are saying; He is saying that He can accomplish His end without needing to determine the evil intent.

    But in any case, you don’t determine the crucifixion without also determining that those who will carry it out will have an evil will to do so unless, of course, you determine in some abstract way that somebody, somewhere will kill Christ and then step back to watch.

    Obviously, the point that we are making is that the crucifixion wasn’t “determined” by the divine will either. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t planned or that there was any possibility that it wouldn’t happen. So you’re just restating your bad philosophical assumption that something cannot certainly happen unless it is determined.

    You’ve even tipped your hand by using the word “you.” Yes, finite human beings can’t be certain of an outcome unless we determine it. That is because we aren’t omniscient and because we have limited causal power, so we have to “make sure” or “guarantee” or “render certain” the outcome. You’re holding God to a creaturely limitation that He simply doesn’t have. God doesn’t need to determine the situation to know exactly, with certainty, what will come out of it.

    The Apostles explicitly say that God ordained all of the actors involved in this most heinous sin to do what they did. And you don’t ordain that without also in some way ordaining the intent because without the intent there is no action.

    No, all they say is that it took place according to God’s plan and predestination, which isn’t the same thing as “ordaining” anything. God doesn’t need to “ordain” in order to plan or predestine anything. He simply needs to be certain of the activity of what He creates, i.e., omniscient. If He knows certainly what is going to happen, then He doesn’t need to *do* anything else other than to create what He creates in order for everything to happen according to plan. Finite humans need to plan and then do something else, just because we are finite and not omniscient. That is not a constraint God faces; He doesn’t need to plan and then make sure that the plan works. His plans just always go off exactly as planned.

    What Paul expects is an objection to his position that your position cannot generate. That in itself proves that your position is not what Paul held. It does not in itself prove that Paul was a Calvinist, but it certainly proves He wasn’t a Jonathanist on this matter.

    The correct term isn’t “Jonathanist.” It’s “Christian.” And I believe Paul was Christian. By your argument, anyone who is not a Calvinist would face the same problem, meaning that Calvinism is the only honest reading, so your false modesty isn’t really convincing anyone. You believe that only Calvinists are reading Paul honestly, because only Calvinists would produce the question. That’s not true.

    The question that Paul’s interlocutor asks actually assumes the existence of free will. It says “who can resist His will?” That implies God is forcing someone to do something, not causing them to want to do it. If it were a case of irresistible grace, then the interlocutor wouldn’t be asking about resistance, because there would be no resistance. So far from proving the Calvinist position on irresistible grace, it’s actually a question that assumes the interlocutor doesn’t see Paul as teaching irresistible grace. If he did, then he wouldn’t be asking “who can resist His will?”

    This carries on to the following verses, and it makes sense of the following verses. What the interlocutor is essentially saying is “if God wants us to be different, then why doesn’t He force us to do what He wants?” And Paul’s response is “who are you to tell God how to deal with you? What if He is only putting up with your bad behavior for the sake of others?” That makes perfect sense if the query is “well, if God wanted us to be better, why didn’t He just force us?” Paul replies that God is enduring them with long-suffering patience for the sake of others.

    You’ve been reading the passage backwards your whole life. You’re welcome.

    God doesn’t need to determine what will happen as long as he passively knows what autonomous creatures will do in any given situation. Got it.

    Just think for a minute exactly how stupid what you’re saying is. How can God passively know something that doesn’t even exist? What God knows is what a specific person that He could create (or not) will do in any surrounding case. He doesn’t have to create that person, but if He does create that person, then this will happen. He could create a different person or a similar person in different circumstances, but the only source of God’s knowledge is God’s own idea. There’s nothing passive about it; it is God generating God’s own knowledge.

    Again, you’re assuming that God gets His knowledge passively like creatures do, but we know that God is not subject to that limitation.

    I think you missed a not somewhere in your last sentence. If creatures are truly made very good, then they have no occasion to have the desire until it is introduced to them from the outside. Unless, of course, you posit that mankind has an inherent propensity to go bad even in good circumstances by virtue of combining good spirit with bad flesh, which is the essence of the Romanist pre-fall position.

    I didn’t miss anything; you’re the one missing the point. I suppose Lucifer must have fallen because he had good spirit combined with bad flesh. Oh, wait, here’s a new flash, genius: Lucifer didn’t have flesh. Do you see how idiotic this objection is? If your reasoning were right, then an angel who is created absolutely good with perfect intellect in the heavens had something “introduced to [him] from the outside” while regarding God. And where does that come from, o wise sage? From God in Heaven? And you’re accusing *me* of being a dualist? This idea that evil has to come from somewhere is a pagan belief, not a Christian belief. Christians don’t believe evil has a principle.

    And yes, humans are *more* vulnerable to this happening than angels. But it doesn’t mean that they are “born bad.” It’s not automatic. But it’s this dumber-than-dirt idea that God must determine everything including evil that puts you on a hunt for some deterministic, necessitating cause for something that can’t possibly have one. It’s not about God’s moral responsibility for evil; it’s about God being the deterministic source of evil, which is just wrong.

    The issue is that Adam and Eve have no desire to sin prior to the temptation. In fact, the notion that they were created very good precludes it. So in trying to say God doesn’t decree evil, you end up having him elicit it by orchestrating circumstances that orchestrate a desire that never would have been in there in the first place—unless God had already created an unstable creature.

    So the fallen angels weren’t created very good? Then what made them bad? Or were they just unstable? I’m just dying to hear your story about how a “good” God created demons. You’re three quarters Gnostic already, might as well take it all the way.

    Or you could just say that God is not the agent of temptation and has no evil intent when temptation takes place (which is what James meant) and that He decrees evil without being morally responsible for it because He’s the Creator and can do such things. Which has the advantage of reconciling all the biblical material and not emphasizing some of it at the expense of others.

    Or you could say that because the Creator He doesn’t need to determine things in order to be certain of the outcome, which is entirely logical because that is a limitation of finite beings that God should not logically face. On the other hand, the problem with making God the deterministic cause of evil is not that He would be “morally responsible” for evil, but that He would actually be evil from the ontological perspective, because He Himself would be the source of evil. It’s not about moral responsibility, but about preserving God’s omnibenevolence.

    And once we discard this ridiculous need for God to determine everything, even evil, then we have a principle that we can use to interpret both James and Paul harmoniously. We can also take James at his word.

    What you say James “meant”: “God is not the agent of temptation and has no evil intent when temptation takes place”

    What James actually said: “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one, but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire”

    In other words, God is explaining that God doesn’t tempt men in that He is not the source of their desire. But you say that He ordained the evil intent of the men who crucified Jesus, for example. Those two things cannot be reconciled; either you or James is wrong. Any reason you can think of why we should listen to you instead? Because, determinism? Because, God is the source of Lucifer’s evil intent?

    See, the real problem here is bad exegesis. But the problem is that you’ve been doing exegesis so badly for so long that you can’t even see the bias. James and I can see exactly the bias toward determinist philosophy that you are bringing in, while your accusations about our need to defend “creaturely autonomy” or God’s “moral responsibility” completely miss the mark. In other words, it’s not that we are relying on these things without knowing it; it’s just that you’re completely wrong about what our principles are. In the meantime, we’ve got you dead to rights on determinism.

    If you’ve read many works on competing paradigms, you can see what’s happening here. The superior paradigm will generally understand the internal workings of the inferior paradigm, but the inferior paradigm can’t handle the superior paradigm. Eventually, the inferior paradigm breaks due to cognitive dissonance. If you’re honest, you’ll break eventually. And I’ve got plenty of time.

  203. @Eric:

    I expect you to be able to interpret context and realize that sheep “according to predestination” are the only authentic sheep Augustine is discussing.

    Here’s the context:
    “And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not, and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.”

    So Augustine’s saying here that they only apparently hear? That they act like they’re hearing? They’re putting on a show for the hoi polloi? Ridiculous! Only sheep hear; therefore, right now, they are sheep. Yet, according to predestination, they are not.

    For that matter, what do you think Augustine means by within and without, inside and outside? It’s the flock! There are people who are wolves according to predestination who are really inside the flock now.

    Augustine doesn’t say a word about the sheep at present not being “authentic.” He just says that they aren’t sheep “according to predestination,” which you, for reasons that aren’t exactly unclear, interpret to mean “authentic.”

    What is your proposed mechanism whereby God might know the future? “Back to the Future’s” Biff knows the future by sci-fi magic. In other words, he doesn’t really.

    We can memorize details of the past because they are set in stone. The future is only knowable to the extent that it is determined. (Weather forecasts, for example, are based on meteorological constants.) So, unless you all can think of another way that would work, drop the argument. (Good luck in coming up with one!!)

    Good grief. That’s what omniscience is. When we are saying that God is omniscient, the exact purpose of saying this is that God depends on no causal mechanism for His knowledge but possesses it inherently. Mateo’s point was that we can imagine this being the case even for humans with our limited creative ability, and you use this as an excuse for denying the possibility of a basic divine attribute that every non-atheist agrees that God possesses?

    Sweet Christmas. I’ve got one Calvinist saying that God had to turn Satan evil and another one saying that God depends on causal mechanisms to know things. Does it never occur to you that there might be good reasons to suspect that you might not have thought everything through?

  204. Jonathan to Robert:
    “So the fallen angels weren’t created very good? Then what made them bad? Or were they just unstable? I’m just dying to hear your story about how a “good” God created demons. You’re three quarters Gnostic already, might as well take it all the way.”

    Colossians 1:

    16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL THINGS have been created through Him and for Him.

    17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.

    19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,

    20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

  205. Eric, you write:

    So, unless you all can think of another way that would work, drop the argument.

    You are so arrogant! Unless I make the same logical mistakes as you make, I must “drop the argument”. Sheesh!

    You haven’t even addressed my argument, an argument that is perfectly obvious, and carries more weight than you realize. Both you and Robert are claiming that human beings don’t have the capacity to conceive that foreknowledge does not imply causation, which my Back to the Future III example proves that both of you are wrong. Humans do indeed have the capacity to conceive of the concept that foreknowledge does not imply causation. Before I explain why this carries weight – the capacity to conceive of what you and Robert are claiming is inconceivable – I want to step back and make the point that there are indeed some things that human beings are incapable of believing. Human beings cannot believe in a contradiction.

    To illustrate, suppose that a man claimed that he believed the following proposition:

    This sentence is false.

    The man’s claim to believe this proposition reveals that he is either ignorant and has not thought things through, or he has no ability to reason. If the proposition is false, as it claims to be, then the proposition is telling the truth, so that isn’t possible. But if the proposition is true, then the proposition cannot be false, so that isn’t possible either. The proposition is neither true, nor false, it is a contradictory absurdity, and human beings have no capacity to believe in contradictory absurdities.

    What a human being does have the capacity to do is to recognize a contradictory absurdity if he uses his God given reasoning ability. But why can a human being do that? Humans can do that because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and our ability to reason is a reflection of who God is.

    God, unlike human beings, doesn’t have to think about the proposition to know it is a contradiction. God, knows the proposition is absurd without having to think about it. In the same way, God knows all the contradictory absurdities within Calvinism without having to think about them. God also knows whether or not the Calvinist that claims to believe in the Calvinist absurdities is doing so out or sheer ignorance, or if the Calvinist is using his free will to chose to commit the sin of acting irrationally. In either case, God knows that no one really believes in the Calvinist absurdities, because God created men without that capacity.

    The incapacity of humans to believe in contradictory absurdities (which the Calvinist confessions are riddled with) comes from having a human nature. The human nature that we have also gives us the intuition that there is a God, that God is omnipotent, omni-benevolent, and omniscient. We also have, because of our human nature, an intuition to back off any assertion that claims that God is the source and cause of all evil, because our consciences, if they aren’t completely dead, inform us that to accuse God of being the source of evil is to commit the terrible sin of blasphemy.

    Our human nature gives us the intuition that God has foreknowledge, and that God is NOT the source and cause of evil. Which is why human beings have no problem at all of believing that God has foreknowledge because of his omniscience, and at the same time, believing that God does not cause the evil that he has foreknowledge of.

    You, like every other human being, knows that you are not a robot controlled by a puppet master. When you sin, you know that is you that chose to commit sin, and you also know that it blasphemy to accuse God of making you sin. But as a Calvinist that claims to believe in the Calvinist absurdities, (absurdities such as men have no free will), you and Robert continually brush off all the arguments that are raised against the Calvinist absurdities. Neither you nor Robert actually address the arguments that are being given, but instead, the both of you go into autobot mode and just endlessly repeat variations of the contradictory absurdities embedded in the Calvinist confessions.

  206. MATEO October 30, 2014 at 12:49 pm
    Eric,
    So, unless you all can think of another way that would work, drop the argument.

    Its a simple fact. Knowing that something will happen does not imply that we caused it to happen. We know the sun will rise in the morning. That doesn’t mean that we cause it to do so.

  207. Eric,

    “This verse is also about arrogance and humility before God.”

    With all due respect, sir.

    You have constructed a paradigm that you want this story to fit into, you’re not reading it as it is and get the story teller’s point of view. The story is not to be said, “…is also about arrogance and humility…,” (also?) since the main point of the parable is about our attitude in facing God in our prayers. We cannot beat God in His goodness, so let us not be boastful of what we can do to please Him, and that not to be satisfied of lifting our self before God, we even justify our meager deeds by judging others, which what makes it even more displeasing to God. The emphasis is on the ‘boasting’ and the ‘judging’ not on ‘believing’ and ‘doing’

    What makes your arguments to be round about?

    “But God being rich in mercy…made us alive together with Christ”, is not the main point of the story, but it could be its secondary theme. Who would, in his right mind, disagree with this? That’s exactly what’s to be found in the whole Gospel.

    “For by grace you’ve been saved through faith…” again, who would disagree to this? It’s the general theme of the whole Gospel.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith…not of yourselves.” Again, the secondary point of the Gospel which we do not disagree, but you want us to agree as its main point, which obviously is not, which what makes it a square peg trying to be fitted in a round hole.

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” A connotation of predestination, which is highly debatable and what makes your understanding of the story even more muddled. This is a statement that could have a thousand and one meaning.

    “It (the story) likewise decries our works’ involvement in justification, lest anyone should boast” You know what, Eric? Leave out all what you’ve said above, and just let this statement remain, and I agree with you.

    “Round hole, round peg. Clear as day.” No, not really.

    (Been a long trail, sorry, got works to do. Couldn’t catch up)

  208. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…not of yourselves.” Again, the secondary point of the Gospel which we do not disagree, but you want us to agree as its main point, which obviously is not, which what makes it a square peg trying to be fitted in a round hole.

    Ren, this idea of main and secondary themes (and using them at inappropriate times) has been great for me to think about – I couldn’t put my finger on what was driving me nuts with these posts, thanks for a fresh voice!

  209. Debbie-

    “I couldn’t put my finger on what was driving me nuts with these posts, thanks for a fresh voice!”
    Oh, but thanks, I thought it was only me. I would read the posts at the beginning and I could keep up but not for long. Somehow along the way I would have to check my mind, “Am I now reading Chinese?”

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith… not of yourselves.” Again the secondary point of the Gospel…this idea of main and secondary themes… has been great for me to think about…”

    Thank you. But I should have said, “…of this Gospel story…” Anyway, I think I am now obliged to tell you something about that idea about themes (since I could sense that you are not Catholic).

    It’s really not true that the bible is alien to us, Catholics, and I mean active Catholics. Only that we have a different way of understanding its contents. We are not trained to read it as a proof text to our faith. I believe our Church officials’ attitude have been, “We really have nothing to prove, we have the truth.” Our way of ‘knowing’ the bible is through listening and we understand it in a way that is more contemplative or meditative.

    In our ordinary daily services (Masses) we have three bible readings: the first is from the Old Testament, then the reading from the book of Psalms where we respond by singing or reciting its acclamation, and lastly the reading from one of the four Gospels.

    During Sundays we have four readings: From the Old Testament, followed by a reading from the Acts of the Apostles or from the Epistles, the responsorial Psalm and then again a reading from one of the four Gospels. We call that part of the Mass, The Liturgy of the Word, which is the first part. The second part is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but this is not about the second part.

    The readings were well prepared in advance for the entire year of the liturgical season by Vatican’s Liturgical Commission. So each Mass has the same theme for the entire universal Church. The themes are appropriately selected for the feast day’s celebration or special season (like lent or advent). For non-feast days or ordinary times, there are also themes decided by the same commission. Our priests would say their homily, usually based on this theme.

    The main theme of a particular Mass may not necessarily be the main topic of the Gospel reading (our readings in the Old Testament, the Epistles, the Psalm and Gospel have interrelated themes), it could be its secondary theme. That’s why if you’ll not meditate on it you might not be able to easily see the point of the theme relative to what have just been read.

  210. Rene,

    Loved your comments, and yes, I am a devout Catholic and am truly humbled to be able to experience our Lord in the source and summit of worship in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    I have been down the Evangelical road as a lapsed Catholic (still going to Mass) and was quite comfortable there. Although, deep down I knew there was so much more I could be experiencing, but life was good and I could explain easily to others with WORDS that God sent His only begotten Son to save us.

    But my life didn’t completely reflect this truth AND was actually bleeding me dry and I didn’t know why. A person who begins to truly love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind can’t possibly keep up (even with their understanding) without the beautiful grace that comes to us through the Sacraments. It was then that I decided to start ‘cooperating’ with the grace in the Sacraments and I have to say, my life hasn’t been the same since.

    Immeasurable strength, devotion and spiritual gifts have been given to me with nothing on my part except a little response in love. My purpose here on this blog is only to be a witness to my brothers and sisters in Christ that there truly is a FULLNESS of salvation that can be ours only within the Catholic Church. My real suffering lies in not being a good steward. It is crazy, this economy of love in the kingdom – the more you give away the more you get and it just keeps coming, . . the fire of unfathomable Divine Mercy! Being humble and giving your gifts all away is crucial, which is what the Pharisee WASN’T willing to do. We all have this temptation and it takes work and self discipline to not want to ‘keep the consolations of faith’ instead of giving it to others.

    Peace and thank you for your witness, especially on Sacred Scripture, I love the Divine Office.

  211. Jonathan–

    Sorry I’m so late with a reply. I’ve been laid up for a spell.

    Augustine, in Tractate XLV from his Homilies on the Gospel of John which we have been discussing, very clearly rejects the notion that one can be a wolf and then be transformed into a sheep (or conversely, that sheep can switch sides and become a wolf).

    Wolves within are sheep in wolves’ clothing. I myself would call that an inauthentic sheep. Sheep without are what he calls wandering sheep (taken from a passage in Ezekiel).

    As regards your objection that those “sheep” presently within the flock (but not predestinate) are actually said to hear the Shepherd’s voice, the argument that Augustine gives is that there are different senses of “hearing.” True sheep are the only ones who hear, listen, and FOLLOW to the bitter end…till they come at last to the final sheepfold gate into glory. So, wandering sheep, earlier in their lives, may actually listen to strangers’ voices and follow for a spell. Wolves dressed up in little fluffy sheepy outfits may actually hear the words of the Shepherd and even outwardly obey. But they never hear and respond to the Shepherd’s voice as an authentic sheep would, instinctually, as it were, coming home to a place they’ve never been before.

    I can demonstrate each of these things to you from the text. Or you can go back and reread the tractate, be honest, and withdraw your contentions. You have no necessary loyalty to Augustine in this case. You can dismiss his conceptions on sheep without being disloyal to Rome.

    But do it now before you’re made to look silly.

  212. @Eric:
    Sorry I’m so late with a reply. I’ve been laid up for a spell.

    It’s no worry, so don’t trouble yourself at all about it. You’re a volunteer, after all.

    Augustine, in Tractate XLV from his Homilies on the Gospel of John which we have been discussing, very clearly rejects the notion that one can be a wolf and then be transformed into a sheep (or conversely, that sheep can switch sides and become a wolf).

    I take exactly the opposite sense from that series of Tractates. Here’s what Augustine says to that point:
    “Now, how is this question to be solved? They that are not sheep do hear, and they that are sheep do not hear. Some, who are wolves, follow the Shepherd’s voice; and some, that are sheep, contradict it. Last of all, the sheep slay the Shepherd. The point is solved; for some one in reply says, But when they did not hear, as yet they were not sheep, they were then wolves: the voice, when it was heard, changed them, and out of wolves transformed them into sheep; and so, when they became sheep, they heard, and found the Shepherd, and followed Him. They built their hopes on the Shepherd’s promises, because they obeyed His precepts.

    That question has been solved in a way, and perhaps satisfies every one.”

    Augustine’s not rejecting that answer; he wonders whether there might be a different (or better) one. So the question then becomes whether the passage is talking about predestination in the ultimate sense, in which it means the entire life and that the rejection or acceptance at any time of life is essentially meaningless, or whether it instead refers to the present sense. So he points to Ezekiel using the term in a separate sense. But this isn’t to remove the sense in which the term “sheep” can be used to refer to those in the flock, in the Church, only to say that this is not what the passage is intended to convey.

    Thus, he says in Tractate 46, “The Lord Jesus is speaking to His sheep— to those already so, and to those yet to become such— who were then present; for in the place where they were, there were those who were already His sheep, as well as those who were afterwards to become so: and He likewise shows to those then present and those to come, both to them and to us, and to as many also after us as shall yet be His sheep, who it is that had been sent to them.”

    Likewise in Tractate 48:
    “Listen: “Jesus answered them, I tell you, and you believe not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me: but you believe not; because you are not of my sheep.” You have already learned above (in Lecture XLV.) who the sheep are: be ye sheep. They are sheep through believing, sheep in following the Shepherd, sheep in not despising their Redeemer, sheep in entering by the door, sheep in going out and finding pasture, sheep in the enjoyment of eternal life. What did He mean, then, in saying to them, “You are not of my sheep”? That He saw them predestined to everlasting destruction, not won to eternal life by the price of His own blood.

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life.” This is the pasture. If you recollect, He had said before, “And he shall go in and out, and find pasture.” We have entered by believing— we go out at death. But as we have entered by the door of faith, so, as believers, we quit the body; for it is in going out by that same door that we are able to find pasture. The good pasture is called eternal life; there no blade withers— all is green and flourishing. There is a plant commonly said to be ever-living; there only is it found to live. “I will give,” He says, “unto them,” unto my sheep, “eternal life.” You are on the search for calumnies, just because your only thoughts are of the life that is present.

    Now if the passage were about regeneration, then Augustine would say that the former answer applied, i.e., that people transform from sheep into wolves. This is because he views everyone who is baptized as regenerate. Hence, he gives credence to the point of sheep without and wolves within, talks about people “yet to become” sheep, and exhorts his audience to be sheep. He is not dismissing the real efforts that people make and the real regeneration that takes place even in those who are ultimately predestined to suffer damnation. His point about Ezekiel is that it suggests to him that this passage may only be about the entire lifetime, as opposed to any point within, meaning that people aren’t wolves clothed as sheep or sheep clothed as wolves, like Judas was, but they simply aren’t going to live the full life required of predestination.

    The point is that this can’t possibly serve as a prooftext for the Protestant belief that everyone who is truly regenerate (comes to faith) must inevitably be saved. For Augustine’s very point is that if this interpretation be taken, then we must rightly concede that there are people who become sheep from wolves and vice versa, although there are also some (like Judas) who are simply insincere, faking the entire thing. But if this refers to predestination, then there is no sure correlation between these things and eternal life, meaning that the fact that someone believes at some time doesn’t really mean anything about their eternal destiny.

    Now, I personally think that Augustine was overreaching, and that the simplest explanation of the passage is the one that he gave first. I don’t think the fact that Ezekiel (or Luke) uses the example of wandering sheep really has any bearing to St. John’s point here, particularly in view of John 6. But if you accept Augustine’s view instead, then you would have to admit, with him, that there really isn’t any correlation between being regenerate at one point and being ultimately saved. In other words, they aren’t sheep clothed as wolves or wolves clothed as sheep; rather, their behavior at any particular point in time simply does not show what they are at all, so the issue of clothing never enters into it. If instead the passage simply means that anyone who truly comes to faith is a sheep, then both Augustine and I would say that it must mean that people can transform into (and out of) being sheep.

    In other words, your assertion that “they never hear and respond to the Shepherd’s voice as an authentic sheep would, instinctually, as it were, coming home to a place they’ve never been before” finds no support in Augustine. The people who are faithful but fall away hear Christ’s voice in exactly the same way as the other sheep while they are hearing it, but they stop following it at some point, meaning that they do not hear the voice in the same way taken as a whole. In other words, Augustine entirely rejects this punctiliar reading of “hearing,” as it it were something that happened at one particular moment. Augustine’s interpretation of the passage views “hearing” in terms of obedience to commandments to the end of one’s entire life, consistent with his interpretation of the passage generally.

    I see what you’re reading, but if you think this refers to Protestantism, then your reading is superficial. Augustine says nothing here that a Catholic couldn’t accept, although I do think that Augustine’s speculative interpretation is probably going too far as exegesis does. But the similarities to Protestantism are only superficial, because he clearly affirms the real conversion of those who later fall away.

  213. Debbie-

    Thank you for your appreciation and thank goodness you’re Catholic (with a capital C), we can easily relate to each other.

    “…Am truly humbled to be able to experience our Lord in the source and summit of worship in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

    True, and we cannot receive him worthily if we would not first shed ourselves of this life’s excesses through the confession. A truly humbling process to the core. God, you really are smart!

    If you have not yet tried reading the Gospels and meditating on it from its main theme towards finding the underlying theme or themes, you can try it. Just beware that it is not to be in the process of creating our own scenario and try to fit the Gospel story into it. That could give you a funny outcome unless the Gospel story really fits it by analogy.

    Analyze it as one of the listeners and trying to find out what the Lord or the author is trying to say. It would be of great help if you already have an idea on the whole salvation story in the Old Testament and familiar with the Gospels. Making you more or less a ‘Jew’ during the Lord’s time. well, at least.

    This is good for Catholics, but somehow dangerous for Protestants. They might come to appreciate ‘free will’ and ‘good works.’

    For a starter, take this gospel story. Meditate on it. Since the story is a comparison of two characters and their actions:

    What are the common things about the two characters:

    1. Both are Jews, belong to the chosen race.
    2. Both believe in one and the same God, have faith in God.
    3. Both are sinners, for sure.

    What are the differences:

    1. The Pharisee was thanking God since he could boast he is righteous, self-assured that God’s on his side while
    while the tax collector couldn’t even dare to look up even to an invisible God, beating his breast to shows his
    deep sorrow for himself, afraid of being punished for his ‘dirty’ work, and didn’t even dare to say ‘but’ whatever
    good deed he might have done even for his relatives to justify himself.

    2. The Pharisee’s arrogance was to the max, not just satisfied with, “Thank you that I AM not an extortioner…”
    but with “Thank you that I am not LIKE OTHER MEN…” while the tax collector’s admission of guilt was also
    to the max, “BE MERCIFUL TO ME…”, not just seeking God’s goodness but God’s mercy, acknowledging his
    helplessness before God.

    3. The Pharisee a sinner, boasts that only others are sinners, not him, and that is A BIG FAT LIE ( he was trying
    to pull God’s invisible legs), while the tax collector just acknowledged his sinfulness wholeheartedly and begs
    for God’s mercy, and he got it.

    From the above meditation we could derive the secondary or underlying themes, I can think of two: “Faith
    and Repentance” and “God’s Mercy and Pardon”

    How about: “By Faith and Not of Good Works?” Mmm…wwweeeell, if you insist.

    Do you want a good biblical meditation on the Sacraments? Read the Gospel of John slowly having in mind
    the Church’s teachings on the Sacraments and you’ll be amazed of what you will discover.

  214. Jonathan–

    You’ll have to clue me in as to the “volunteer” crack. I’m a little slow. Just got home from surgery.

    We, of course, are dealing with sheep who are not sheep yet but who are biblically termed errant sheep because they will one day either (temporarily) do a stint or two as a sheep or will (on a permanent basis) end up sheep “according to election.”

    You seem to prefer to call them “nothing at all” until they make up their own minds on which side of the fence they will run: with the hirelings and robbers and thieves and bloodthirsty wolves or with the true sheep following the Good Shepherd. I don’t get the sense from you that Judas-type true wolves can ever transform into sheep, Wolves are instinctually duplicitous and disguise themselves as sheep to do damage to the flock.

    In the end, I don’t get the impression you’re honestly arguing Augustine with me. You just put forward your own take on things using Augustine’s analogy. There’s no way to come up with some nebulous “neither sheep nor wolf” personal existence, employing Austin’s actual words. That’s just you.

    Either of us, within our paradigms, could speak of a wolf to sheep transformation. But Augustine is not doing so. He is quite certainly rejecting the adequacy of “his” first argument. In God’s eyes, sheep are those who will come home to rest eventually: those already sheep (who will remain so) or those yet to become permanent sheep in the future, There is no sense of an on-again, off-again status as “maybe” sheep.

    Predestination, for Augustine, is God’s foreknowledge of the good he will cause in our wills. In the last decade of his life, he no longer extended the notion of free will to the ability to change one’s moral character. God either does or he doesn’t. He knows his sheep. He doesn’t have to guess which ones will come. He doesn’t merely look down the corridors of time to see which (lasting) decision we will make. (Yes, you sound like a Methodist!)

    Obviously, Augustine doesn’t equate baptismal regeneration with election. No one does (which to my mind makes it a spiritually insignificant concept). It’s basically irrelevant.

    But you say he affirms the potential impermanence of genuine conversion, as well. I’ll have to see quotations and contexts for that. Please provide some.

  215. @Eric:
    No crack intensed; just an appreciation that you are here of your own free choice for whatever you choose to give.

    I think you’re just overthinking this. Augustine is essentially saying that the passage is referring to eternal predestination, so its purpose is only to tell the Pharisees that their interpretation is wrong. God elects Gentiles and doesn’t elect Jews, and the proper standard for election is Christ, not being Jewish or Gentile.

    If that’s right, then the passage is simply irrelevant as a pastoral issue. All it’s saying is that the elect and non-elect come from all types and that salvation isn’t limited to Jews (basically, the same thing that lots of other passages say). It’s not an exhortation to follow or to do anything, except to give Gentiles an assurance that they aren’t off the list, which wasn’t really an issue by Augustine’s time.

    Personally, I think the “change” interpretation that Augustine gives is more plausible and that it is an exhortation to believe. I am skeptical that the passage is limited to Augustine’s point, i.e., to condemn the Pharisees as non-elect and to exclude them from salvation. I think he adopts that reading because of pervasive anti-Semitism at the time, which was a common failing that caused them to read a more anti-Jewish message in Scripture than I think is there.

    Ironically, I think the “lost sheep” metaphor that he cites from Ezekiel is actually a positive portrayal of Israel, so its use by Augustine here to make the passage explicitly anti-Judaic seems particularly unjustified. But people make mistakes; Augustine might be wrong, and I might be wrong, and I guess I’ll know one way or the other before too long.

    Anyway, the point is that, if Augustine is right, the sheep metaphor was intended to say that God’s elect can be any kind of people but that the Pharisees are doomed. In that case, it completely severs the connection between present behavior and future salvation, except for the damned Pharisees, of course, who are receiving a prophecy of doom. Maybe he’s right, but that seems extreme. It seems more sensible to me as a rebuke and exhortation than a prophecy, consistent with how similar prophetic warnings were given in the Old Testament (I have foreseen your doom, but if you listen, I will repent).

    In any case, I think the point is definitely *not* to say that there are two different natures of people that determine salvation or damnation. That is clearly not the case.

  216. PS, for an example of how Augustine uses sheep and goats differently than he does in his exegesis of John 1 (and one much more similar to the alternative interpretation), see this homily to the “just regenerated”:
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/160396.htm

  217. Jonathan–

    There certainly is an intended admonition against ethnocentric philosemitism in the passage, as well as an inherent antisemitism in many of the Gentile ECF’s. I looked at this once long ago, and as I recall, Augustine was much tamer than most. Whereas Jerome saw the destruction of the Temple as the punishment of a dispossessed people, Augustine saw it more as a warning to whatever subsequent group might find itself presumptuous. (The Temple Mount itself, when in Christian hands early on, was allowed to grow over with weeds and brambles as a sign of God’s displeasure against the Jews.)

    By Augustine’s time the antisemitism was fairly established, but very early on there may have been a general acceptance of the Pharisees converting into Christian circles. We have the one Jewish pope (besides Peter), St. Evaristus, selected right around 100 C.E.

    Richard John Neuhaus theorized, based on some historic Roman Imperial demographics, that there may have been as many as a million Pharisees assimilated into Christianity in the early days (evidently, about that many Jews went completely unaccounted for).

    It is interesting to note that, in Sermon 96 on the NT to which you linked me, Augustine exhorts his new sheep to follow the flock which comports to “the mirror of divine Scripture,” rather than one which merely holds to the correct title.

  218. If it hasn’t been mentioned already, seek out Robert Farrar Capon’s sermon on the Pharisee and the Publican. Wonderful.

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