Dangerous Assumptions: An Evaluation of the Free Will Defence to the Problem of Evil – Part 2a: Objections to the Free Will Defence – Scriptural

Part 2: Objections to the Free Will Defence

Objections: Scriptural Objections to Free Will

 

Objection 1: God’s Omniscience

 

In the latter half of the 20th century, controversy arose over the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. Out of this controversy was born the heterodox idea of Open Theism. Open Theists realized that there was a significant issue for those who claim that God has absolute knowledge of future contingent[40] events and that mankind possesses incompatibilist freedom.  If, as an incompatibilist believes, free human choices cannot be determined, they cannot be decided in advance, how can God know what a free human will do?[41] The problem they realized was this; if God knows infallibly what I am going to choose to do in a specific circumstance, then I am unable to do otherwise; this compromises the freedom that Incompatibilism requires.[42] To put the matter another way: if God knows infallibly that person P will choose to go to the supermarket on March 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm and person P does not go, God’s knowledge was wrong. Because God cannot be wrong, it is clear that person P has to go to the supermarket at that time. Now, God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of person P’s choice, but it does render it certain, it shows that it is determined.[43] The problem can be reduced to the grounds for God’s foreknowledge; can He even know future contingent events? If God can know future contingent events, such as free human decisions, is His knowledge caused by the decision made? If not, how can God know it? In response to the issues raised by this seeming contradiction, three major positions have emerged that attempt to explain how God can foreknew future free contingent choices.

 

The first response was mentioned earlier, Open Theism. Instead of jettisoning Libertarian free will, Open Theists altered the traditional doctrine of omniscience. Because future choices are contingent, they cannot be known before they happen; therefore, God does not know any future free human choices.[44] The objection made by many evangelicals is that this betrays the Biblical doctrine of God’s omniscience. Open Theists have an answer; they are not changing anything about the traditional doctrine, just removing its inherent inconsistencies. God has been understood to know all true propositions, not knowing any false propositions as true.[45] For the Open Theist, God knows all true propositions that are possible to be known; because free future contingent choices have not yet been made, they have no truth value, so God cannot know them as true or false.[46]

For the open theist then, God must be a risk taker. They suggest that He is able to guess with a fair amount of certainty what free men will do, but He cannot know infallibly.[47] God would then learn alongside of us and err as we do. Evangelicals object that the open theist has here contradicted the Scriptures which he claims as his guide. The idea that God can know with some level of certainty is not itself free from criticism, for contingency implies randomness to human choices and undermines any ability to know what will come to pass. Alongside of serious criticisms about the possibility of true prophecy, like those that we see in Scripture, and the doubts raised about God’s final victory, two simple arguments against this position should suffice for the purposes of this paper.

The first is that this position contradicts the explicit testimony of Scripture. In Isaiah 46, God speaks to Judah through Isaiah, asserting His superiority over the idols of Babylon. In contrast with these lifeless gods, God is the one,

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done,Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure,[48]

God here describes himself as one who knows from ancient times what has not yet been done, exactly what Open Theists claim he does not know, and says that His good pleasure will not be foiled, unlike the conclusion that Open Theism would have us believe.[49]

There is also a powerful argument to be made from God’s providence. In Eph. 1, Paul speaks of the saints in Ephesus as those “having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will”.[50] For God to predestine these to salvation, God must have had at least knowledge of their existence, and for Him to work all things after the counsel of His will infallibly, must He not be able to ensure some success in His relationship with His creation? Scripture also speaks of those who have had their name “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev.  13:8).[51] God must not only have known of the existence of these men and women, but He must also have either known that they would be saved or have chosen to intervene and save them.[52] Either option leaves the Open Theist on thin ice, God also must have known that mankind would fall and that He would send His Son to die for them.

Boyd and Rice have suggested that God’s knowledge is both definite and indefinite like ours, but because God has a perfect grasp of the past, His vision of the future will not be hazy like ours, but vividly clear.[53] The biggest problem with this response is that all of the above passages require God to know the choices of men and women before their creation, even before creation at all. God would have had nothing to grasp to predict their actions, and therefore would have no grounds for His knowledge of their free actions. Because of these issues and many others, Open Theism is not seen as an acceptable reconciliation of God’s foreknowledge and libertarian freedom.

The second answer suggested is the traditional doctrine of God’s timelessness. Since early in Church History, it has been thought that God’s eternity is a state of timelessness: He is free from the passage of time and sees our timeline as if it were present before Him. The answer of Timelessness is to say God does not really have “foreknowledge.” Instead, He knows all free human actions because all of human history is spread out before His timeless perspective; our actions are what ground His knowledge.[54] Ronald Nash describes the key analogy that lies at the heart of this response,

The analogy between God’s vision of future human actions and a human being’s present perception is crucial to this argument. When Mr. Brown sees Mr. Smith scratching his ear, Brown’s perception of what Smith does obviously cannot have any causal influence on Smith’s action. What any person perceives in the present is simple vision, a vision that cannot cause or make necessary that which is being perceived.[55]

In this same way, God’s knowledge of our actions exerts no causal force, nor would seem to require any sort of determinism. Though this position on God’s relation to time has come under critique in recent years,[56] there are good reasons to accept that God is atemporal in some respect.[57] We will assume the truth of divine atemporality for the sake of this paper, interested readers are directed to references in the footnotes for further research, but, even accepting the doctrine, it does not seem to answer the problem it is used to address.

It has been suggested that timelessness re-frames the question, but does not actually provide an answer. What has been known from all eternity would seem to be just as set in stone as if it was infallibly known 100 hundred years ago.[58] This problem can be elucidated a little more by re-framing their answer for ourselves. Because God is active in human history, He must know what will happen next from our perspective. God would have known 1000 years ago that it would be true today that desperate, time-strapped, apologetics student would be struggling to finish their paper within double page limit and by their extension date. From God’s perspective, the student’s choice may have been what caused His knowledge, but from man’s temporally bound perspective, the student could not have done other than he did because God, in His interaction with time, knew the outcome of my decision before I made it and choosing otherwise would show Him to be wrong, which is impossible. If this was known to be true by God 1000 years ago, then we are left back at square 1; the timelessness answer is really no answer at all.[59]

A last challenge that may be raised is slightly more serious. For the timelessness answer to be true, it must furnish God with foreknowledge of free human choices before creation. This is a problem, for if free human choices made in time are what cause God’s eternal knowledge, the human timeline must be set before God as long as He possesses this knowledge. This makes God’s knowledge of creation eternally dependent on creation and makes creation co-eternal with God, or at least co-existent as long as God has knowledge of human choices within creation. If one says that God’s knowledge of our timeline comes only after He created, we are left with an understanding of God’s omniscience that says He did not know what would happen in this timeline until He created it.[60]

 

The last answer given to the supposed contradiction between God’s foreknowledge and Incompatibilism is an appeal to God’s middle knowledge. Because of the use of middle knowledge in the FWD, we will give it a thorough evaluation below. After God’s omniscience, the next objection offered from Scripture to the FWD’s Incompatibilist presupposition is the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture.

Objection 2: Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of Scripture

 

The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, a summary of the Evangelical understanding of Inerrancy, affirms that Scripture in the original autographa was inspired by God down to the very words,[61] yet in inspiration He “utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.”[62] The Statement also affirms that though working through fallen writers, every word of the autographa is guaranteed to be a true and trustworthy “utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.”[63] Some writers have argued that Evangelicals who want to affirm the Biblical doctrine of Inerrancy as summarized in these articles, while also adhering to Incompatibilist freedom as required by the FWD, are in trouble.

What is suggested is that only Compatibilism,[64] the opposing position to Incompatibilism, allows for a full doctrine of inerrancy.[65] The defender of a view of inerrancy that allows for the personality of the authors must accept this proposition;[66] “Human activities (such as penning a book) can be totally controlled by God without violating human freedom.”[67] Only Compatibilism can affirm this proposition, and it is suggested that to reject this leads to a rejection of inerrancy. The argument made is a reductio ad absurdum. How an Incompatibilist must justify their doctrine of inerrancy is to say that God influenced the writing of the Biblical authors, but this influence was not a sufficient condition to guarantee exactly what they wrote. Their next move would be to point out that it is logically possible for the authors to happen to get every word correctly, to write exactly what God wanted and achieve full inerrancy.[68]

In response, this is true, but is a mere possibility strong enough to ground our trust in Scripture? It must be acknowledged that though this is possible, it seems highly improbable! “For without an infallible guarantee, given the diversity of the biblical authors and the nature of the content of Scripture, the probability that the biblical authors just happened to get everything correct, thus resulting in an infallible and inerrant text, is indeed very, very low.”[69] The last move made against Incompatibilism in this argument should sound its death knell.

First, what motivation do we have to seek resolutions for apparent contradictions in Scripture? If we have only the assurance of a miniscule possibility, how can we know that these apparent contradictions are not true contradictions? If we muster up a conviction that there must be a resolution, where does it come from? If God cannot guarantee that Scripture is fully inerrant, isn’t our conviction arbitrary?[70]

On this note, what happens if we if we find a true error in Scripture? If this happens we are left to wonder just how much of what we have thought to be correct is actually false, we are left with an eviscerated inerrancy and no grounds for trusting the rest of Scripture. Anything we would want to affirm in Scripture would require external support; no longer would it be a self-authenticating witness.[71] The grim tatters that Incompatibilism renders inerrancy provides a strong warning of the costs of accepting it uncritically; without it, the FWD is on dangerous grounds.  The next argument against this Incompatibilist presupposition from Scripture comes from Scripture’s strong view of providence and of God’s role in salvation.

 

Objection 3: God’s Sovereign Providence, Perseverance, and Effectual Call

 

The picture of God’s relationship with man implied by Incompatibilism has been challenged because it requires one to make significant renovations to the Scriptural doctrines of Providence, Perseverance, and Effectual Calling. According to the FWD’s incompatibilist presupposition, God can express an influence on human actions but this influence cannot be a sufficient condition for an action. If it can be shown that these Scriptural doctrines imply or explicitly teach that God exercises a causal influence on His creation, an influence that renders certain man’s actions, then these doctrines will provide a formidable challenge to the FWD’s presupposition. Because space prevents us from providing a full delineation of these doctrines, we will instead explore 2 Scriptural case studies that teach these doctrines and refute Incompatibilism.

 

The first of the Scriptures we will examine is Rom. 8:28-30. This Scripture has been used by various theologians to argue for all of these doctrines, and presents a significant difficulty for the incompatibilist.  There are 2 primary implications in these verses that contradict the FWD’s libertarian assumption. In v. 28 Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” At this point Paul is speaking of the assurance that results from justification by faith through the redemption Christ provided on the Cross. Paul writes that in addition to all that he has already written, the Christians in Rome, who love God, can also know that “all things” that they encounter in their life are worked together by God for their good. Good in this verse refers to a believer’s conformity to Christ, his sanctification (v. 29).

This implies that a believer doesn’t have the ability to choose contrary to his ultimate good. This has 2 implications; first, contrary to Open Theism, God is in ultimate control and has the ability to assure us that nothing will catch Him off guard.

 

This first implication of this passage shows how the Incompatibilist is in trouble; an example will explicate this implication. Imagine a believer, let us call him Tim, is faced with a terrible situation; he develops cancer. In response to this suffering, he hypothetically has two categories of responses. He could not grow closer to God and do any number of things to drive himself away from Him (seek solace in sin, deny His existence, blame Him, etc.), or Tim could do any number of things to draw closer to Him (he could have faith, pray for healing, spend his last days serving Him, etc.). The promise in v. 28 means that, though possible, he will never choose the first group; Tim will certainly choose the second.

It might be objected that this promise doesn’t ensure this, for it only says that in the big picture this will happen; Tim could deny God for a while. Unfortunately, for the Libertarian, this only delays the above conclusion, for if the promise is to be true, then Tim will have to choose in the end the latter Group—even if it is the last choice he makes. If Tim can ultimately freely choose to reject his faith, we are left with two options.

Either Hell is ultimately for the good of those who are there, which contradicts the entire Biblical picture painted of eternal retributive punishment, or God’s promise failed. Because neither of these is an acceptable option for someone interested in Biblical fidelity, it must be concluded that God’s sovereign providence in Tim’s life is a sufficient condition for His sanctification and final glorification. This conclusion is strengthened by the very foundation Paul gives for this promise in vv. 29-30. In these verse Paul draws an unbreakable chain between those foreknown and those glorified; the reason the Romans could be assured that God would indeed work all things for their good is because He who foreknew them would also ensure that they were glorified in the final day.[72]

 

The second primary implication of this passage comes from the chain in v. 30. In v. 30 we are told that all these foreknown and predestined for conformity to Christ (v. 29) will receive a call, and these who are called will be justified. The text is explicit—using the near demonstrative οὑτος (houtos, this, here “these”)—that everyone who is predestined is called, and every one of these whom God has called will assuredly be justified.[73] Every proposition in the chain encompasses each and every person referred to in the previous proposition.[74] That Paul writes that every one called will respond positively shows that this call is effectual; it ensures that he who receives it will respond in a specific way. All who are called respond affirmatively. This is a problem for the incompatibilist because it denies freedom of alternate choice. Their response is assured; while the rest of Scripture clearly shows that it is a free choice to express faith, it is clearly not an incompatibilist free choice.

The incompatibilist may object that those whom God foreknew were those who would respond and those who would endure; this does not teach that all who are called are justified, but all who are foreknown are justified and glorified.[75] The problem with this response is that it is lacking any evidence in the context. The direct objects of the word we translate “foreknow,” προγινώσκω (proginōskō, to know beforehand),[76] are people and there is no clarifying statements indicating that it was anything about them that He foreknew. The natural reading is to understand this word as referring to God knowing these men and women in a selective and relational way; in light of the LXX usage, Baugh describes this use of προγινώσκω as meaning in context “God initiated a committed relationship from eternity with certain individuals whom he predestined for grace.”[77] Context makes clear that these whom are foreknown are not everyone but a specific group. This usage seems to parallel the Septuagint’s use of γινώσκω (ginōskō) in Amos 3:2 for God’s unique choice to know and love Israel.[78] Whether this reading is accepted or not, it is clear that there is no contextual reason to accept this objection; foreknowledge is seen as the cause of the chain, not vice versa. The burden of proof is on those who claim that foreknow used here, with a personal object and God as the subject, refers to God cognitively knowing something about “the ones whom” and not knowing them.

A second reply to this objection is to point out that this interpretation would nullify the reason for these verses in relation to v. 28. For these verses are the content of the Roman’s assurance that all things work together for good to those who love God. We would have to say that someone who fell away did not fit into this category, that is, that he was never a lover of God. If he was never a lover of God, he was never a believer. Therefore, this verse has to be saying that those whom God foreknew were not just the ones who believe and endure but everyone who loves God at some point, and all these will believe and endure. This objection fails to avoid the implications of Romans 8:28-30 against the FWD’s presupposition of Incompatibilism.

 

Alongside of Romans 8:30, John 6:44 provides further evidence for an effectual call, which eliminates the possibility of incompatibilist freedom. According to the Incompatibilism that the FWD requires, God cannot provide the sufficient condition for human action; we must be free to choose either choice A or not-A, never guaranteed in that choice. Unfortunately, this passage teaches that God renders certain the human response of faith. Here in John, Jesus has recently fed the 5000 thousand (6:1-14) and then walked on the sea to come to Capernaum with His disciples (6:15-25). The crowds, which He fed, followed Jesus to other side because of the physical benefits they received from Him (6:26-27). In response to their desire for the material idea of the Kingdom of God which they held,[79] Jesus told the crowds that He was the bread of life which came from heaven (6:26-58). During this discourse many of the Jews are rejecting what He says and are grumbling among themselves (6:41-43) and Jesus responds to this grumbling and lack of belief with his words in v. 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Jesus here is explaining the Jewish unbelief; they don’t believe because God hasn’t drawn them, this is made explicit by Jesus in v. 65—see the context.

To come to Jesus is to come in saving faith, to believe, those who do so will receive eternal life (vv. 35, 37, 40).  In verse 40, Jesus makes it clear that it is the responsibility of men and women to behold the Son and believe, but here He says that only those whom the Father draws to Himself can do this. This drawing is clarified in v. 45 to be the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit promised to the Jews under the old covenant,[80] and in this verse everyone who receives this drawing—who are taught and learn from the Father—will respond with faith. This idea of assured result is echoed in v. 44, Jesus says that all who are drawn will be raised up on the last day; they will most assuredly respond and endure. The idea of endurance is also guaranteed by v. 37, Jesus words “I will certainly not cast out” have the effect of “I will most certainly keep in.”[81]

This passage obliterates the hope for Incompatibilism, for it denies the freedom of alternate choice on two fronts. First, those who are drawn will freely respond (v. 40) but will definitely respond, the cause of this responding is God’s effectual call; therefore human free choice must in some way be compatible with Divine interference bringing about a certain result (i.e. determination). Secondly, these who do respond will also be kept from falling away in order that they might be raised up on the last day (vv. 37, 44). One last word from Scripture and its doctrine should suffice to weigh in Scripture’s testimony against Incompatibilism.

 

Objection 4: Total Depravity and Responsibility

 

One of the greatest challenges to Incompatibilism is a doctrine that is under frequent attack nowadays, Total Depravity. The doctrine of man’s depravity says that every human being is born into this world with such an inclination to sin that they are unable to do anything good in the sight of God;[82] all their actions are tainted by a corrupted heart, and cannot come to God apart from His grace.[83] The late Clark Pinnock, a strong proponent of Open Theism, saw the consequences of this doctrine on Incompatibilist free will; instead of jettisoning his philosophical presupposition of what it means to be free,[84] he rejected the Biblical doctrine of the depravity of man and eventually God’s knowledge of the future. The problem for Incompatibilism is not depravity in general, for many incompatibilists acknowledge that mankind does not have unlimited freedom, men have freedom within limitations.[85] The problem for the incompatibilist is that for a man to be held responsible for an action, he has to be able to do otherwise. It would be a gross injustice for a man to be held responsible for his failure to come to God unless he were able to do so, or to be judged according to God’s standard if he was unable to keep it.

Unfortunately, this would seem to be exactly what the Bible teaches. The entirety of humankind fell in Adam and as a result became sinners, not just in action, but also in very nature. Scripture paints a very vivid picture of man’s state apart from God’s mercy shown to the underserving. It is made clear that the entirety of man’s faculties is given over to sin (Genesis 6:5, 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9), from birth he is inclined to sin (Psalm 51:5). More so, every man hates God; knowing that God exists from His self-revelation in nature, mankind rejected Him in their unrighteousness to pursue created things, in doing so they became idolaters and haters of God, indulging in every sort of sin (Rom. 1:18-32). Every man apart from God, Jew or Gentile, is without the fear of God, none can be found who are righteous, not even one does good, no one seeks God (Rom. 3:10-20). Paul in Romans describes this condition as slavery to sin, to unrighteousness and lawlessness. Under the law—both that of Israel and that written on the hearts of Gentiles, Rom. 2:14-16—man finds himself enslaved under sin (Rom. 6:14, 7:4-5, Gal. 3:21-24), shut up in need of the faith revealed in Jesus Christ. The Romans were freed from their slavery to sin to be slaves of God, but before that they were slaves to their unrighteousness (Rom. 6:15-23). Later Paul writes that those who are of the flesh, in bondage to it, set their minds on the things of the flesh and are hostile towards God (Rom. 8:2-8). More so, the mind set on the flesh is not even able to subject itself to the law of God (v. 7) and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8). These affirmations of a radically negative view of human anthropology must be universal,[86]  or else the whole argument of Paul, among other things meant to equalize and level all men before the wrath of God and show them to be needing the Cross, is rendered moot. The unnamed author of Hebrews goes so far as to say, in his recount of the triumphs of the heroes of the faith, “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6). The picture painted in Scripture is not of men who are able to do righteous acts, but of men inclined towards sin with all their being. They are not just slaves to sin, but dead in it (Eph. 2:1-3). They will not do all the evil they could, nor will every action look evil, but everything they do is stained with sin as it stems out of a corrupt and writhing heart of darkness.

This depravity or inability goes beyond just men’s ability to do righteous acts; it also precludes men coming to God by their own will. We have already seen this in John 6:44, which says that only by Gods act of drawing can men come to Him, and it is also found elsewhere. We have already seen from Rom. 1 and 3 that men don’t desire to come to God and actually suppress knowledge of Him in unrighteous, this would lead us to believe that, apart from grace, they would never actually desire to come to God. Another example is found in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. In these verses, Paul explains that the natural man, men apart from the Spirit, does not understand the things of the Spirit. To understand the things of the Spirit, to grasp the Gospel and be able to respond to it, one first needs the Spirit.[87]

Together these two facets of depravity provide an immense challenge for someone who wants to hold to Incompatibilism. God holds us accountable for the sins we commit, He has set out a moral standard but we are so caught up in our on depravity that it is impossible for us to meet it. If to be held responsible for what I do, I have to be able to do otherwise, to be able to do righteous acts, then the Scriptural doctrines of Depravity and God’s just wrath against human sin are contradictory. If one gives up Incompatibilism, the doctrine of Compatibilism gives an explanation—namely that humans perform evil acts purely out the evil desires of their hearts but have the natural ability to do otherwise.[88] However, to accept this puts an end to the Free Will Defence. The second facet of depravity also provides an immense challenge; how can we be held responsible for rejecting God? How can God send people to Hell without having a chance? God says that everyone who believes will be saved (John 3:16,[89] Rom. 10:8-11), and other views can reconcile this with man’s inability to respond, but for the Libertarian, for this to be true, God had to have enabled everyone to believe.

The only objection that can be made against the first facet of depravity is to say that it is not Scriptural, but to do so brings one outside of the bounds of protestant orthodoxy.[90] Some incompatibilists have suggested a doctrine of prevenient grace to circumvent the second facet, it is said that God gives a resistible grace to all men in order that they may all respond with libertarian free will to the free offer of the Gospel. With Sproul we must say, “[the] $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”[91] The truth is that this author has yet to find a convincing Scriptural argument in any work to show this doctrine.[92] In response to this objection, we must agree with Pinnock “that the Bible has no developed doctrine of universal prevenient grace, however convenient it would be for us if it did.”[93]

 

Drawing together 4 different Scriptural objections—from God’s omniscience; inspiration; providence, perseverance, and effectual calling; and total depravity—we have seen that the FWD’s presupposition of Incompatibilist free will is denied by the testimony of Scripture. This leaves the FWD as a less than satisfactory answer to the problem of evil; can we really use a response that is not based in Scripture?

Some may argue that all the above arguments presuppose Incompatibilism as wrong, that if Incompatibilism is the reality of free will we must interpret these Scriptures with this reality in mind. While this author does not see this as a strong argument, because of its implicit or explicit reality[94] we must go further to show that in fact, the Incompatibilist presupposition is philosophically untenable. To do this we will address direct philosophical objections that have been raised against Incompatibilism, we will then evaluate its supposed savior “scientia media,” or “middle knowledge,” and finally we will conclude with a summary evaluation of the FWD.

 


[40] A contingent event is one that is neither necessary nor necessitated; there is no sufficient condition for its occurrence. Human freedom in the Incompatibilist model is contingent freedom.

[41]Scott A. Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” in Reason for the Hope Within, ed. Michael J. Murray (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999), 228.

[42]Richard Taylor, “Determinism,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972), 362.

[43]Ibid., 363; Feinberg, “God Ordains All Things,” 32.  “Determine” in this context means to render certain, to secure infallibly a result. If an action is determined, then it is caused, but if it is said that foreknowledge “determines” an action, it merely means that the fact of the action is rendered certain because God knows what causal events will bring about a circumstance. God’s relation to causal events is an area of further investigation. The Reformed position, towards which this author’s sympathies lie, understands God’s foreknowledge to stem out of His decrees. All things happen according to the eternal plan that God has decreed to unfold; this does not mean that God micromanages all circumstances, but that all circumstances and meaningful human choices unfold according to the plan that He set forth from before the foundations of creation. As White describes active divine determination in contrast with Geisler’s weak “passive” determination; “[God’s active determination is] the sovereign decree that the action would take place through  the instrumentality of creatures.”James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, New Revised. (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), 59.

[44]Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” 229.

[45]Ronald H. Nash, The Concept of God, Contemporary evangelical perspectives (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1983), 51.

[46]Ibid., 55.

[47]Wellum, “Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience,” 264.

[48] All Scripture references are from the NASB unless otherwise stated; New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Is 46:10.

[49] Other Scriptures saying similar things about God’s foreknowledge are Ps. 139:4 and Psalm 139:16.

[50] Eph. 1:11

[51] In context, John is speaking of those who have not had their names written in this book, but the inference is that there are those who have had their names written.

[52] This latter position would refute the presupposition in question, incompatibilism.

[53]Wellum, “Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience,” 264.

[54]Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” 230–231. Because God is viewing all human history from a timeless perspective, it is thought that the issue of backwards causality is avoided.

[55]Nash, The Concept of God, 52.

[56]Ibid., 83; Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” 231.

[57] See the helpful discussion in Frame’s chapter on the Lord of  Time in John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Pub, 2002). A differing perspective can be found in William Lane Craig, Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2001).

[58]Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” 231.

[59]Feinberg, “God Ordains All Things,” 33.

[60] Is this a false dichotomy? As far as the discussion at hand is concerned and this author can tell, it is not. A third option would undermine the whole purpose of invoking timelessness as an answer to the foreknowledge-freedom debate. If the knowledge of our actions existed in the mind of God before He created us, then it is not our actual action being viewed by God (see Nash’s illustration above) that determines His knowledge. This means that either our free choice is eternally co-existent with God, such as in Molinism which we will look at below, or something God can discern provides the sufficient cause for the action I will eventually take and is the ground of God’s knowledge, which undermines the Incompatibilist presupposition at hand.

[61]“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, n.d.), Article VI, accessed April 16, 2014, http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf.

[62]Ibid., Article VIII.

[63]Ibid., Article IX.

[64] Compatibilism covers various positions that agree in the compatibility of determinism and human responsibility. Responsibility is not assigned on the basis of being able to do other than you did, but doing what you desire to do at the time you do something.

[65]Feinberg, “God Ordains All Things,” 34–35.

[66] If someone is willing to accept dictation theory, he will avoid this issue. Few will accept this out, for it is very difficult to defend a dictation theory for the entirety of Scripture.

[67] Basinger and Basinger quoted in Wellum, “Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience,” 265.

[68]Ibid., 268.

[69]Ibid.

[70]Ibid.

[71]Ibid.

[72] The Greek conjunction οτι (hoti, for) in v. 29 signals this relationship, translated for in the NASB, it here gives the ground or reason for that which preceded it. Another Scripture that reinforces this argument in is 1 Peter 1:1-13, esp. vv. 5-7. Here Peter writes that his readers are protected by God’s power working through their faith for the consummation of their salvation ready to be revealed in the final day.

[73] An example of the inability to provide any evidence against this unbreakable chain can be seen in how Arminian commentator Leroy F. Forlines does not address the text itself or the textual evidence Calvinist’s provide for the unbreakable chain in v. 29-30. He simply cites Wesley and claims to affirm this position. F. Leroy Forlines, Romans, ed. Robert E.Editor Picirilli, First Edition., The Randall House Bible Commentary (Randall House Publications, 1987), 240–241.

[74] “οτι ους προέγνω, και προωρισεν συμμορφουςτης εικονοςτου υιου αυτου, εις το ειναι αυτον πρωτοτκονεν πολλοις αδελφοις· 30ους δε προωρισεν, τουτους και εκαλεσεν· και ους εκαλεσεν, τουτους και εδικαιωσεν· ους δε εδικαιωσεν, τουτους και εδοξασεν.” “Because the ones whom He foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and the ones whom He predestined, these also He called; and the ones whom He called, these also He justified; and the ones whom He justified, these also He glorified.” This is the Author’s translation.

[75] This could be suggested within a Molinist framework where God uses His middle knowledge to know who will freely respond to His call and endure, and then predestines these.

[76]Προγινώσκω is a cognate of γινωσκω, unlike many Greek words it actually retains the meanings of its individual parts, it refers to the act of knowing (γινωσκω) before (προ). It means to know beforehand, or select in advance. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997); Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 866. Thayer rejects the second meaning, Joseph Henry Thayer, Carl Ludwig Wilibald Grimm, and Christian Gottlob Wilke, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996), 538.

[77] Relevant to his conclusion, see the OT personal use of “to know” in Jeremiah 1:5, Genesis 18:19, Exod. 33:17, 1 Sam. 2:12, Ps. 18:43, Prov. 9:10, Hos. 13:5. S. M. Baugh, “The Meaning of Foreknowledge,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge & Grace, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2000), 195.

[78] For similar conclusions see John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1995), 315–317; Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996), 532–533; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament 6 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1998), 451–453; F. F Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans : An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1963), 176–177.

[79] Cf. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 284.

[80] The quote is from Isaiah 54:13, it refers to the time of God’s New Covenant where the people would receive new hearts with God’s law written on them, they would no longer be unable to follow God but would be equipped by God for obedience and faith. This passage parallels the same promise of Jer. 31:27-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-28, Deut. 30:6. This promise is fulfilled in the New Covenant instituted by Christ’s blood on the Cross and is what the New Testament calls Regeneration or New Birth (cf. Luke 22:20, Heb. 8, John 3:1-21).

[81]Carson, The Gospel According to John, 290.

[82] This does not mean that they will do every evil intent of their heart, nor that they may never do actions that seem good; just that, as Romans 8:8 and Hebrews 11:6 teach, they are unable to please God with anything they do, for they are living by sinful hearts giving glory to themselves and not to God in all they do.

[83] Calvin writes: “Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling, but voluntarily, by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion, or external force, but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. If this is true, the thing not obscurely expressed is, that he is under a necessity of sinning.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 181.

[84]Clark H. Pinnock, The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Academie Books, 1989), 22.

[85] Forlines speaks of freedom within a framework of possibilities and Davison similarly, F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salavation (Nashville, Tenn.: Randall House, 2011), 20–23; Davison, “Divine Providence and Human Freedom,” 221.

[86] Eg. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 202–204.

[87]D. A Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2003), 56–61.

[88] Within Compatibilism there is distinction made between natural and moral ability. We are held responsible for what we are naturally able to do. A natural ability describes what we are physically able to do; a bird has the natural ability to fly, so he can be held responsible if he refuses to fly. A fish has the natural ability to breathe underwater. Moral ability describes what we desire to do. If we desire to do something, we have the moral ability to do it. If our desires are only ever against something, we are said to be morally unable to do it. We can be morally unable at a point in time, because our personality and other factors at that time render our choice to be something else. We can also be morally unable to do something because of habit or permanent inclination. We all have some moral inability of both kinds. All humans since Adam and Eve have the natural ability to do right or wrong, but only the moral ability to do wrong. Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will (Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2012), 21–23.

[89] Many translations translate the adjective πας (pas, every) and the participle πιστεύων (pisteuōn, believing) here as “whoever believes” (NKJV, ESV, NASB, RSV). Some take this to mean “whosoever;” that everyone is able to believe. This is not what is said, it means that everyone who does come in faith will be saved; it does not say who can come, but it does say that everyone who does come will be saved.

[90] Following the Pelagian controversy, the rejection of the depravity of man has been rejected since the council of Orange in 529 AD, in canon 5-6. “The Canons of Orange”, n.d., Canon 5–6, accessed May 18, 2013, http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_orange.html.

[91]R.C. Sproul, What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2012), 226.

[92] The most frequently cited verses in favor are John 1:9, John 6:44 with John 12:32, and Rom. 5. John 1:9, says nothing about a universal grace leading to salvation, but divine revelation through Christ for all men. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 121–123.. We have already seen that John 6:44 teaches nothing of the sort and its use of ἑλκω (helkō, draw) must influence our understanding of 12:32. In context, this verse refers to Christ through His crucifixion drawing all men without distinction, that is Jews and Gentiles to Himself irresistibly (John 12:19-26). This does not mean every single man and woman, but an indefinite number of men from all tribes, nations and tongues (cf. Rev. 5:9). The “free gift” in Rom. 5 in context clearly refers to is Christ’s righteous work that brings us justification and eternal life. For discussions and defences of prevenient grace, see: W.T. Purkiser, Exploring Our Christian Faith (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill, 1960), 272, 280; H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology, n.d., chap. 26, accessed May 18, 2013, http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-26; W.B. Pope, A Compendium of Christian Theology: Being Analytical Outlines of a Course of Theological Study, Biblical, Dogmatic, Historical., vol. 2 (Hunt & Eaton, 1889), 361–362, http://books.google.ca/books?id=w9s4AAAAMAAJ; Forlines, Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salavation, 16, 132; Roger E. Olson, Against Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2011), 66–67, 169–171; Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2006), 35–36, 66, 76, 159; John Hendryx, “A Short Response to the Arminian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace,” Monergism, accessed May 24, 2013, http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/prevenient.html; Steve Witzki, “A Preliminary Defense of Prevenient Grace.,” IMARC, accessed May 19, 2013, http://www.imarc.cc/pregrace/v18n2witzki.html.

[93]Pinnock, The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, 22.

[94] Clark Pinnock is an example of someone who argues this more or less explicitly, eg. Ibid.

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