Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Calling All Calvinists...(or one or two)

While participating in a recent discussion on the foreknowledge of God and free will, I wondered how a Calvinist, who believes that everything in the future is already predestined and fixed, makes sense of the idea of real “free will”.

Sincere question: Are there any Calvinists out there that could fill me in on this from the Calvinist perspective?


Clean Cut said...

While he's not a Calvinist, he's discussed these things with Calvinists, so I'm including this from Geoff J:

"[Calvinists] don’t emphasize free will and they, of necessity, reject libertarian free will. They basically go for the compatibilist version of free will which is also referred to as “hypothetical free will” where while we are all predestined we have the illusion of open choices and that is good enough. Obviously that should not be good enough for Mormons."

I'm aware Calvinists don't emphasize it, since they emphasize God's sovereignty and God's overall greatness compared to our overall nothingness. Who needs to worry about personal free will when God is in complete control? But at the same time, I was under the impression that they still believe in some sense of free will. I'm wondering how (and if someone can describe it). Is it really just an "illusion" of free will, since in their perspective God has already made all the moves?

Mark D. said...

A belief in compatibilist free will is a perfectly viable option for Calvinists, provided one maintains that God wound up the clock to the degree that every human action good, bad, or otherwise follows like clockwork in a way that God pre-determined.

One really ought to read the Westminster Confession of Faith, at least the first part of it, to get an idea of the fundamentals of classical Calvinism.

Clean Cut said...

Interesting. Thanks Mark. Now I'll get to work studying out compatibilist free will versus libertarian free will, etc.

Clark Goble said...

Most Calvinists I've discussed the issue with adopt the position that to be free is merely to be able to do what one wills but that ones will was given one by God.

So if my will wants to have a million dollars but I am poor then obviously I'm not free with respect to that desire. But if I will to walk across the room and I'm physically able then I am free to walk across the room.

The problem the Calvinist faces is the problem of evil since God is responsible for every will he created. Thus God is responsible for the rapist. This implies God is evil. I've never seen an adequate Calvinist response to the problem of evil. Other Christians can say God made people authentically free and thus is not responsible for the evils they commit. They just have to establish why it is good to give free will of that sort rather than have a system like the Calvinist but with everyone having a good will. But there are reasonably strong arguments for that.

Obviously this just addresses the logical form of the problem of evil and not other forms such as why God doesn't reduce suffering.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks to aquinas for sharing the link: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “FREE WILL”

NM said...

Clark Goble,

On the problem of evil: Calvinists would probably point you to Jesus' death. His death is the epitome of evil men - an insurrection against their Creator. Who, ultimately, killed Jesus? =)


Clean Cut said...

NM, I think that's exactly what Clark was getting at. It would seem that since Calvinists believe that God predestined everything, that when you get right down to it, God murdered Jesus Christ.

(And I don't believe that by the way, because I'm not a Calvinist).

NM said...

I don't know that I'm a Calvinist either; more a Lutheran perhaps.

Hmm, Calvinists would probably point you to Acts 4: 27-28.

"For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.".

Or prophetically speaking, they would point to Isaiah 53:5.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

Or even further back in time (revealed in Revelations 13:8).

"All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain."

What are we to do with these verses? It certainly reveals something of a Sovereign God.

If we were to move away from the subject of Jesus' death on the cross: what are we to do with Paul's letter to the churches in Rome (chapters 9-11)? Where Paul deals with God's sovereignty in electing those who will inherit mercy and grace and those who are vessels of His wrath?

It hurts my head and I wish such things were not in the Bible =(

..but what are we to do with them? You can't just ignore them, as if they weren't there, right?

The Bible, it seems, presents a world-view totally and utterly opposed to our man-centered understanding of who-we-are; it presents a God-centered God.


NM said...

One of the most challenging messages I heard on this subject of Jesus' death is from Mr. Piper himself. He says things in this talk, which for me, are difficult to chew on - let alone swallow:

(audio link to 'Judas Iscariot, the Suicide of Satan, and the Salvation of the World'

Clean Cut said...

NM, I'm not advocating ignoring a single passage in the Bible, including Romans 8-9 and Ephesians 1 which speak of "predestination". It's not the word of God I disagree with, but the extent of the interpretation that a Calvinist would place on those verses.

NM said...

A shameful plug to a DVD, deemed by Calvinists one of the best at presenting what it is and why Calvinists believe in the doctrines of grace: Lane Chaplin's resource-of-the-month (youtube video).


Anonymous said...

What would you make of Isaiah 53 where it says that it was the LORD's will/desire to kill the servant. Or Acts chapter 2 where Peter says that it was God's predetermined plan.

As to free will, Who hardened pharoah's heart? God or Pharoah? the answer is both but not for the same reason. God Bless, Stephen