For a long time I have been haunted by the thought, demanded by common explanations of salvation, that one freely choses his annihilation (or ECT). Troubled, because there seems an inherent absurdity to using the language of freedom to explain choices which are so thoroughly against ones self interest.
For when one engages in patently self destructive behavior, is it freedom that brings him there – or is it the very opposite; bondage?
This is crucial to understand I think, not only because it paves the way to properly understand the nature of our salvation, but also because it paves the way to understanding freedom as the pathway to ultimate reconciliation with God. (Yes, UR)
Recall that Jesus got into big trouble when He declared that in Him, Isaiah 61:1 was fulfilled. “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” His mission was to bring freedom to the captives. And guess who the captives are …
Picture then the mission of the Messiah as one of bringing freedom (Ransom imagery fits nicely here I think…) which, by all biblical witness and evidence, was successful.
Jesus talks many times about truth; (have you ever counted how many times Jesus asserts “I tell you the truth!”) He insists that He IS truth in John 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Further, Jesus explicitly links truth to freedom in John 8:32. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And it gets even better because when He is about to leave His disciples, He comforts them with these words “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)
Paul is was certainly not silent on the topic of freedom either saying “You have been set free from sin…” (Romans 6:18) and “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) And yet Paul warns in Gal 5:1 that it’s possible to somehow relinquish this precious gift of freedom won for us by Christ. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
So, what does it mean to be free?
Can we not say that when one is not compelled, or forced, or coerced by outside influences this is, at least in part, freedom? Another aspect of freedom, it seems to me, is not only the ability to decide and act without outside coercion, but one must also be properly informed; that is, one must not be acting on a delusion. (Isn’t that what the release from darkness for the prisoners is all about in Is 61?) In other words, one must grasp what is true; about God, about himself, about the nature of his condition. Which is why God’s Spirit of Truth, as promised by the soon to ascend Christ, is so crucial to our freedom. To help convict us of truth which might be another way of saying to rid us of our delusions and our illusions about God’s realities.
Two great aspects of freedom then, it seems to me, are these:
– the ability to perceive correctly and
– the power to act upon those correct perceptions
Thus, we must have knowledge of the True God – being properly informed as to His nature of love – and we must be rid of any inner constraints to act upon these calls to truth brought, as promised, by the Holy Spirit.
Now this is where it gets even more interesting. For when these conditions are fulfilled in a man, (and my premise is that in Christ, they both are and will be fulfilled) he will always make the choice which pleases God – for he knows that God’s will for him is exactly what his will for himself should be; that what is best for us is also what is best for God. For God only wants what is best for His children.
When one is truly free, He choses God. No exceptions. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness!” is how Paul says it in Romans 6:18. And I especially love the way the hymn writer George Matheson put it in 1890: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free!” (OK, I got carried away and inserted the exclamation points myself) A free person is one who makes the righteous choice!
It is my conviction that God simply will not rest until the mission of Christ is completed in all of us, and all are truly free. That’s Isaiah 61 - which Christ explicitly embraced as describing His mission. And when truly free, we chose Christ.
Hi new friend! Please know that in my answers here, my use of CAPS, boldings or colors, are used for emphasis, not intended as shouting or provoking…
I believe that – John 8:32 – actually notes that the CREATION of FREEDOM takes place in the one exposed to, and REVEALED by …the WORD of GOD… for the WORD “makes” everything that is “MADE” – John 1:3 – therefore when FREEDOM is found LIBERATING the “Hearer” of the WORD, then the WORD has created LIBERATION in the Hearer… rather than just “unlocked” the chains of his bondage.
Though it is possible (meaning that it can occur that one can misstep upon the pathway of “freedom”), it remains FOREORDAINED… for those who continue in the walk within the liberated steps of “Freedom”, were foreordained to do so – Eph 2:10 – and it is CHRIST which KEEPS these steps aligned in that freedom – Jude 24 – These verses exemplify that though Many are called (upon the pathway), only FEW are chosen (to continue upon the pathway)…
How may a man “grasp” what is true TV? Only by the lifting of the veil according to and by YHVH – Eph 1:11 – can ANY man “see”…
Men NEVER decide to be “free”… this “doing” is exclusive of GOD… for Man of his own inherent [fleshly] nature is of a heart which is DECIETFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS – Jer 17:9 – Rom 3:10 – Psalm 14:1-3
Only CHRIST is able to avail TRUTH to the “hearer” – Matt 11:27 – and it is of HIS CHOOSING and work that anyone shall find and remain upon the pathway of FREEDOM.
I fully agree with this portion of your post brother…
Again, I take exception to the word “set”… which is the very same WORD#G1659 – ELEUTHEROO] found in – Rom 6:18 – as is translated in – John 8:32 – which the KJV (IMO correctly) translates as “made”… for we are MADE in the image of GOD, and CHRIST… and that “image” is FREE.
FREEDOM is a part of the shapings done of CREATION, …not just an “UNIMPRISONMENT” which takes place… It is part of the IMAGE of the Father… in which we are …MADE… CHRISTIS that “image” – Heb 1:3
When one is MADE FREE… then one IS FREE, and “choosing” ceases to be a factor… for one LIVES FREEDOM in every instance of LIVING… rather than “chooses” the “right thing”… CHRIST …lived… His life IN that FREEDOM… He did not “choose” this or that… He LIVED Righteousness in every moment…
“Choosing CHRIST” is a common and Unbiblical precept in the Christian community…
We do NOT “choose” Him… as He said so: John 15:16 – He is the one “doing the choosing”… by REVEALING the Father to us, which creates FREEDOM in that which was previously shaped within SLAVERY and bondage – Isaiah 45:9 – Rom 9:20 – Jer 18:4 – Jer 29:14
I enjoyed your post and was in agreement with your conclusions. When Christ and Paul spoke of “freedom” and of our being “free” it is definitely not the kind of freedom that believers in LFW deem so worthwhile and necessary for our existence as beings capable of loving, interpersonal relationships (and just to be clear, I don’t think libertarians would argue for this, either). The freedom that Christ brings us is the freedom from false perceptions and patterns of thinking that keep us from living in a way that glorifies God and promotes the highest interests of all. It’s not merely the freedom to love God and our neighbor; it’s the freedom from whatever was keeping us from loving God and our neighbor.
I must be getting easy, but your exposition is in harmony with my own reflections on these challenging questions as well. I also appreciate Aaron’s note. With all our variations, it seems that our consensus on the universal victory of God’s saving love tends to push a number of us toward some of the same interpretations and assumptions.
First, thanks WillieH
I just discovered that you have made some extensive comments on the Tom Talbott thread on Free will – so I need to read those to get up to speed on your position on this topic. Give me a couple days – if you will.
I like lots of what you are saying. However, I don’t want to leave with the notion that our choosing Christ somehow negates His choosing of us. Christ is our creator and of course He has chosen us… But freedom must mean we reciprocate – respond – ie we won’t be forced to learn/grow/choose. We really can resist, but eventually we must learn – because eventually God WILL see that we act fully informed and apart from delusions – that God really is the best friend any sentient being can have.
So let me read your stuff over on Tom’s corner…
Aaron: I really like the idea of Freedom to, and freedom from… That encapsulates these twin dynamics I’m contemplating…
Am wondering the difference in this regard, between delusions and illusions. My son thinks that delusions are those false ideas our own minds create (create in attempts to avoid facing the truth of our inner evils…) while illusions are false impressions (again to avoid facing the truths of God’s real nature) created by outer forces… I’m thinking he’s right…
A friend complains that I’ve defined the reality of UR into my definition of Freedom. He thinks it’s circular to assert that defining freedom as that thing, or force, which facilitates my ability to choose – always choose – what is best for myself. He’s a lawyer, and agrees with me that those who make choices which are ultimately against their own interests, are most likely under the influence of delusions and wrong thinking… At the same time, he likes the notion as told by CS Lewis, that the gates of hell are locked from the INside.
So I don’t yet have the prefect answer for him…
And wondering if any are aware of Tom T or GM or others making an argument for UR from the notion of Freedom??
Hi willieH – have finally gotten around to reading your comments on Talbots corner.
I can’t shake the impression that there is more agreement between you and Tom, and between you and I, than it might seem.
I do find it curious that you appear to deny the notion of “free will”. For example, you say
Since I find it difficult, if not impossible, to envision any meaningful life if determinism is the rule, (as it seems to be if choice is not real) I’m thinking this is your way of giving proper emphasis to the truths of God’s sovereignty and to the fact that God takes the initiative; Jesus chooses us as you say.
Curious too that you find the distinction between “set free” and “made free” to be so important. I see them as essentially the same concept; moving from bondage to freedom.
Further, I’m not sure what you mean to speak of freedom being a realized fact – when scripture is full of the descriptions of the struggles we undergo to remain faithful. Paul talks about dying daily (isn’t that a choice?) and of the struggle in Romans 7 where he does what he does not want to do and is unable to do what he wants to do. Yes, our freedom is provided for, but no, somehow we do not experience it’s full potential yet.
I’m not sure how you can assert that (““Choosing CHRIST” is a common and Unbiblical precept in the Christian community…”) choosing is unbiblical. What, for example did Joshua mean then when he exhorts “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve” – and what about all the admonishments to die daily and finish the race and keep up the good fight and so on?? All choices. Since we wrestle not against flesh and blood etc etc it seems the battle is to be engaged; we are to join it and persist. The option would be to give up and succumb. That’s choice isn’t it?
I must admit that I am troubled by another thing as well. As I’m seeing things, Adam and Eve were not entirely free as I’m defining the term. And that makes me a little bit uncomfortable I guess. Specifically, I wonder if they yet had adequate perceptions as to the true nature of God and His genuine good will towards them. (Why else would such a challenge as the tree/serpent even hold any appeal to them?) Did they have full awareness of God as their own origins? Further, what was their capacity for self delusion; the hallmark of all sin?
What I do like about your words on this topic Willie is the certainty you share of the reality of our freedom in Christ. I share that certainty and find it a very compelling argument for Universal Reconciliation.
Thanks for your reply… Please know that my use of CAPS, italics and/or colors, is just for emphasis… not intended to be offensive or overbearing… I always colorize Scriptural references, as well as the names of both YHVH and CHRIST… or associations with them such as PEACE…
The best way I can describe to you how my perception works is this… (I need to ask you a few questions)
(1) You have a HEAD within your body which is IN CHARGE of the 'doings" of the body, correct? … Does your body ever “choose” what it does, or does the Head choose, and the body respond?
Even though the members of the body, do as ordered by the directing of the “HEAD”, not only are they NOT ROBOTS or PUPPETS, they are not FORCED to do as my Head decides they, are in perfect cooperation with my Head and its decisions…
The truth is that the members of the body are come into HARMONY with the HEAD, and are necessary and pivotal in the accomplishments of the HEAD, enjoined in SERVICE to the HEAD for the good of the WHOLE BODY… The HEAD knows what the body needs, and instructs its members into an agenda which, in the end, benefits ALL members of the body…
It always works best when ONE is leading out, and the rest cooperate with that leadership. If several are shouting commands from a leadership perspective, CONFUSION soon entails.
I am a pro musician (guitarist) of over 45 years… and have observed music to be as recognizeable a “signature” of God, as are the Stars in the heavens…
In all my 45 years, not once have my fingers ever played ONE note of themselves. Yet… though my “HEAD” learns the music, and then “directs” the fingers… in performance, the members of my fingers actually JOIN the HEAD in the performance, neither of them actually “directing”, rather BOTH UNITED and LIVING together WITHIN the music as ONE, …together. In that 45 yrs I have done many guitar solos which were recorded, that I could not duplicate afterwards… and I believe it is because the enjoining of the FINGERS to the HEAD, could not be accomplished by the HEAD alone. It was a special, “GOD merging” that took place within the memberships of my body, which made them ONE, not 2 separate members, one doing “this”, the other doing “that”…
it is said in Scripture – Eph 3:19 – that the LOVE of CHRIST “passes” knowledge… so LOVE goes beyond any information available, moving into a state within its depths to a state which exceeds “information”… even exceeding “experience”… for KNOWLEDGE is truly the application of Information to Experience…
(2) If we are the “Body” of CHRIST… and He is the HEAD… what makes you think things work any differently in this scenario then in the one I just suggested in #1?
I see it this way… The WILL of GOD shall be done in ALL THINGS, in the Eternal. So, that which you percieve as “free will” (which many suppose, chooses apart from God’s direction) is pretty much, …headed for ETERNAL IMPRISONMENT…
For that “will” that you presently percieve as FREE in this realm… once entered into the Heavenly realm, shall ONLY “choose” according to the WILL of God…
The ironic and humorous thing about this, is that unbeknownst or unacknowledged, …this process is already going on!! Most, …just because of the naturally adverse condition of the human heart, think it to be otherwise. (i.e. that indeed THEY are initiating the choices which are made BY THEM, utilizing that which they percieve as “free will”… which is an UNBIBLICAL premise)
Also, one must ignore many Scriptures which note that THE WAY of MAN, and the DIRECTION of the steps he takes… is NOT manifest or even KNOWN by him – Prov 20:24 – Prov 16:9 – Jer 10:23 – Prov 21:1 – Not to mention – Eph 1:11 – which notes that ALL THINGS are WORKED by GOD (not man), according to the advisements of HIS WILL (not of the choosings of man, directed by his percieved “self”/“free” will.)
It is hard to put into words, and though I feel much stronger than these words shall express, here is my best attempt:
SET FREE — is a much weaker proposal (IMO) that implies an action which is a release from something that remains existent… When one is released from a “prison”, the “prison” continues to exist. Let’s say the “prisons” of addiction or misbehavior which ISOLATE… or as more commonly thought, a “prison” which is an institution of ISOLATION.
MADE FREE — implies the creation of FREEDOM, which has no EXISTENT potential ISOLATION… When one is CREATED FREE, …“prisons” in any form or perception, cease to exist… for FREEDOM from potential imprisonment, is CREATED in the one which now LIVES the WAY of FREEDOM — naturally… enjoining the one in which FREEDOM is CREATED unto ALL others… exempting forever, …ISOLATION and CONFINEMENT, …which is what a “prison” represents.
CHRIST is the creator, not just a warden that opens a “gate” for us.
If one aspires to view the ETERNAL WORD, then in order to comprehend it in the SPIRIT of TRUTH, one must submit to looking upon the WORD, though the eyes of the ETERNAL… Instead of through ones own eyes, and according to the parameters of ones own FINITE boundaries…
In the ETERNAL… The entirety of this realm was declared and realized the moment GOD’s WORD noted it to be.
Not according to its manifestation in time, rather according to the WORD which had declared the END from the BEGINNING… When you observe “FREEDOM” in this way, then it already IS, even though you battle through the FINITE aspects (time) of that which is already CONCLUDED (eternal). — i.e. --> The entire MOVIE remains on the DVD, even though you may have only viewed the first 5 minutes of it.
The ADVENT of the speaking of the WORD by YHVH, makes that which is SPOKEN – the same yesterday, today and forever – Heb 13:8 – for what has been SPOKEN by YHVH has emerged from His heart, and entered into the REALITY of the spoken WORD, which is an ETERNAL unchanging notation.
Again brother TV… if you view the ETERNAL WORD, and then attempt to bind what you endeavor to view, …to your own FINITE parameters, then you shall not gain ETERNAL insights.
Because you have bound your view …of something (the WORD) that has no bounds… (is FREE from limitation)
All “choosing” which was “not yet done” in the course of this realm – Isaiah 46:10 – was already in place before ANY of the choices were made in this realm… Yes we choose, but only as the DECLARATION of GOD has called them to BE.
They (Adam & Eve) had no more “qualms” or “anxiety” than does a baby of its mother. Which is WHY we must become AS CHILDREN in order to enter into the Kingdom… for a CHILD just simply TRUSTS (employing the nature of TRUST), …the parent.
They gravitated to the “tree”…
(1) Because it was already DECLARED that they would, and IS noted in the WORD of YHVH that they DID, which is an UNCHANGING entity (the WORD and is the same in all instances of NOW, …those “instances” taking place yesterday, today and forever – past, present and future are all “NOW” which is simply “in MOTION”)
(2) Because it was PURPOSED that they “KNOW” as did GOD, the SINGLE KNOWLEDGE of GOOD and EVIL. This was/is/will be …YHVH, sharing Himself and that which IS in His HEART, …WITH His Children …that in EVERY way, His Children would be conformed to the IMAGE of Himself… KNOWING Good and Evil – Gen 3:22
I recently did not “KNOW” many of the things that I shall share on this forum… Basically, as I have come to see it, …there are 4 NECESSARY requirements for Spiritual comprehension of TRUTH:
(1) It must be within the DECLARATION of YHVH, that you shall “know” any given portion of Spiritual TRUTH. (2) It must be diligently sought with the whole heart, which is an investment over a lifetime, not just an “all at once” proposal. (3) One must remain OPEN to NEW revelation that shall change what one has been taught. (4) REASON must be present in the observation, in order for it to BE TRUTH – Isaiah 1:18
If even ONE of these is missing, then the TRUTH shall not be known by the seeker.
The place where my journey began to become enlightened is the day that I asked GOD to “see” [observe] Humanity, as did HE, not as did I… for it was through this type of vision, that I noticed that MEN (such as CHRIST, Paul, John, Peter) have been blessed with TRUTH, even unto DEATH of the FLESH in which they lived… for IT is a “prize” worth DYING for, …as are EACH of the Children of YHVH.
Since most all the Christians I interact with are far and away Arminian in their thinking (in fact, not sure I even know a devout Calv) the way they get around the classic impasse that Talbott speaks about (the impasse being the incompatibility of these three biblical ideas; 1) God loves all and therefore wills the salvation of all 2) God’s purposes and will are not thwarted, but are fulfilled in Christ 3) Some will be lost- via ECT or annihilation) is to say that man, through his free will, can deny God His purpose for their lives and can permanently and irrevocably reject Him.
This thinking imposes a rather daunting challenge then for the Arminian who is drawn to the notion of UR. For me, Talbott more than adequately rises to that challenge. I’ve copied these words below directly from his book that I’ve found to be helpful to me as I ponder the nature of freedom and free will and thought others might be likewise helped and blessed…
[size=150]Quotes from The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott, p.184-189[/size]
If someone does something in the absence of any motive for doing it and in the presence of an exceedingly strong motive for not doing it, then he or she displays the kind of irrationality that is itself incompatible with free choice. A necessary condition of free choice, in other words, is a minimal degree of rationality on the part of the one who acts freely.
…a free choice implies not only indeterminism of a certain kind, but a minimal degree of rationality as well.
But if God is our loving Creator, then he wills for us exactly what, at the most fundamental level, we want for ourselves; he wills that we should experience supreme happiness, that our deepest yearnings should be satisfied, and that all of our needs should be met. So if that is true, if God wills for us the very thing we really want for ourselves, whether we know it or not, how then are we to understand human disobedience and opposition to God?
Now no one, I take it, would deny the possibility of someone’s making a less than fully informed decision to reject God…
But what might qualify as a motive for someone’s making a fully informed decision to reject God? Once one has learned, perhaps through bitter experience, that evil is always destructive, always contrary to one’s own interest as well as to the interest of others, and once one sees clearly that God is the ultimate source of human happiness and that rebellion can bring only greater and greater misery into one’s own life as well as into the lives of others, an intelligible motive for such rebellion no longer seems even possible. The strongest conceivable motive would seen to exist, moreover, for uniting with God. So if a fully informed person should reject God nonetheless, then that person, like the boy in our story above, would seem to display the kind of irrationality that is itself incompatible with free choice.
[Footnote:] 4… Milton’s artistic challenge was to portray Satan both as the Arch Fiend and as a free and morally responsible agent.
[Satan has so many] illusions yet to be shattered… illusion… illusion… illusion…
…nor has he [Satan] yet come to terms with the fact that his willful opposition to God, his desire for revenge, is in reality an attack upon himself.
…and had Milton’s art not been the slave of his theology, I have no doubt that the more pitiful (and even human) character of Book IV would have repented.
…Milton’s Satan in fact illustrates the essential role that ignorance, deception, and bondage to unhealthy desires must play in any intelligible decision to reject God.
If I am ignorant of, or deceived about, the true consequences of my choices, then I am in no position to embrace those consequences freely; and similarly, if I suffer from an illusion that conceals from me the true nature of God, or the true import of union with God, then I am again in no position to reject God freely.
Accordingly, the very conditions that render a less than fully informed decision to reject God intelligible also render it less than fully free; hence, God should be able to remove these conditions- the ignorance, the illusions, the bondage to unhealthy desires- without in any way interfering with human freedom.
But if Craig is right about that, then the very idea of someone freely rejecting the true God is simply incoherent. If both ignorance and the removal of ignorance are incompatible with the relevant kind of freedom, then there can be no freedom of the relevant kind.
…according to Paul, we do not choose our own destiny, which “depends not upon human will or exertion, but upon God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16).
…the consequences of sin are themselves a means of revelation; they reveal the true meaning of separation and enable us to see through the very self-deception that makes evil choices possible in the first place.
Because our choice of paths in the present is genuinely free, we are morally responsible for that choice; but because no illusion can endure forever, the end is foreordained.
[Paul put it like this:] We are all predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29); that part is a matter of grace, not human will or effort.
[The issue concerns] the limits of permissible freedom.
As the sole libertarian around here (or perhaps one of a very few), I’ll just say that there’s nothing problematic for libertarians in the notion of freedom entailing a certain perception of truth and then the capacity to act, within the scope of one’s perception. On the contrary, as a libertarian, that expresses just my view. As you know, I’ve often argued (with TomT too) about epistemic distance (Hick’s terms I think) and it’s importance to libertarian freedom (on the one hand), and then the ultimate goal of human becoming being the solidification of the will in righteousness when we truly become compatibilistically loving.
But I believed you opened up by asking about the possibility of rationally choosing to annihilate one’s self/existence. I’m not sure if you meant to question the possibility of such a choice per se OR the rationality of such a choice. I know Tom T argues that it’s impossible to conceive of rationally and freely choosing self-annihilation. I tend to agree, though I recently thought suicide might come close to being a counter-argument. Consider a person who a) doesn’t believe in any form of life after death and who b) commits suicide. What did they believe they were doing? Well, as far as they were concerned, they were choosing to self-annihilate, to end their existence absolutely. They may be wrong about whether their existence really ended, but that doesn’t matter. At the time of their choice, they were knowingly choosing to end their existence. So as far as that goes, people can and do choose to end their existence. The question is whether such a choice is a) rational, and b) free. Do people who do not believe in life after death and who commit suicide act a) rationally, and b) freely?
Now, compatibilists with respect to freedom might argue that such a choice IS free since all our choices are essentially determined by antecedent causes (physical or whatever), and that such determinism is ‘compatible’ with our acting freely and responsibly. If our actions are governed in this way one might wonder whether their being ‘rational’ matters at all, or what ‘rationality’ really matters. But never mind that.
I tend to agree with Tom T that the choice to self-annihilate is an irrational choice and therefore not free. I think that brings his notion of compatibilistic freedom into confict with the notion of rationality, but never mind that either.
I think you and I would agree that God, being love, is under no obligation to honor the choice of an irrational mind to self-annihilate any more than we are under an obligation to let those we love commit suicide.
Aaron: When Christ and Paul spoke of “freedom” and of our being “free” it is definitely not the kind of freedom that believers in LFW deem so worthwhile and necessary for our existence as beings capable of loving, interpersonal relationships (and just to be clear, I don’t think libertarians would argue for this, either).
Tom: Hi Aaron. Just a point of clarification. Actually, I think what you suppose libertarians wouldn’t argue regarding libertarian freedom and the capacity for interpersonal, loving relations is precisely what libertarians do argue. If I thought such relations were possible for human beings apart from libertarian freedom, I don’t suppose I or any libertarian would have much interest in libertarian freedom at all. Apart from the necessity of such freedom for such relations, why do you think libertarians insist upon such freedom?
TGB: Now, compatibilists with respect to freedom might argue that such a choice IS free since all our choices are essentially determined by antecedent causes (physical or whatever), and that such determinism is ‘compatible’ with our acting freely and responsibly. If our actions are governed in this way one might wonder whether their being ‘rational’ matters at all, or what ‘rationality’ really matters.
kkj: I wonder about that… The ultimate causation that stands behind the proximal causation determines all that will obtain. This is pretty much a conversation stopper for me.
If you (rhetorical) can’t grant LFW, I can’t make sense of talking about the shape of “freedom.” The arguments end of folding in on themselves.
I don’t think Aaron was saying that libs don’t affirm that stuff Tom. I think Aaron was saying that Paul and Jesus’ language of “freedom” isn’t them making a case for LFW. They had other things in mind beside abstract concepts like LFW. I guess Aaron can speak for himself, but I thought the connection was between Paul/Jesus and LFW, not, LFW and love relationships.
As far UR goes… I’m not sure whether or not “the other side” will be free of irrationality? I can’t see much guarantee that it will be. Now, can irrationality sustain forever? mmm… don’t know… still working on that.
What fascinates me about all this (talk of Freedom) is that it seems freedom is not an “all-or-nothing” phenomenon; there seem to be degrees, and limits to freedom. Total determinism seems utterly unworkable, (ie it eliminates personal responsibility…) and yet total freedom seems to deny all those things which subtly mold and form our every “free” decision; things which we have perhaps long “forgotten”.
I’ve long been intrigued with the question re: God’s existence “Why isn’t it more obvious?” – which is to say, if such a basic thing as God’s existence is seemingly in doubt, why doesn’t God simply step forth with overwhelming evidence? The sort of evidence by which we all can agree, say, that there is such a thing as night and day…
Yet God seems to restrain Himself from overwhelming us this way; why is that?? Why is it necessary for doubts to be so “reasonable”??
But the kicker is that UR, at least the versions I hear in Tom Talbotts writings for example, seem to insist that we will never be allowed to follow our deceptions forever; which means in essence that God really does at some point step in and “overwhelm” us. (In so doing, does God make me more free? – or less??) It simply will not do for God to forever honor our delusions as to His existence and His nature… Then of course I am left with this dilemma: If God was ultimately willing to overwhelm me with evidence, why does He not provide that evidence sooner, rather than later?
TV: “…there seem to be degrees, and limits to freedom.”
kkj: right. Our (free will theists- FWT) understanding of LFW doesn’t exclude degrees or limitations.
TV: …yet total freedom seems to deny all those things which subtly mold and form our every “free” decision…
kkj: If ‘total freedom’ is freedom independent of ‘those things which subtly mold and form’ then, LFW is not this ‘total freedom’ you describe. FWT simply don’t think that these influences account for ALL that goes into choices, we think there is a degree of self-determination in all (or most) choice.
TV: …in Tom Talbotts writings for example, seem to insist that we will never be allowed to follow our deceptions forever; which means in essence that God really does at some point step in and “overwhelm” us.
kkj: I’m more convinced of LFW and Open View than I am UR, but if I was going to support UR, it would have to be an ‘eventual UR’ whereby God allows beings to self-determine their way into that loving relationship.
TV: …“overwhelm” us. (In so doing, does God make me more free? – or less??) It simply will not do for God to forever honor our delusions as to His existence and His nature…
kkj: I’m assuming that maybe you think that we would be more free if God overwhelmed us. (?) We might be crossing wires over how we are using “free”. When FWT talk about LFW, we are talking about self-determination irrespective of what would lead to well-being. So, if God overwhelmed, it would lead to a forced resignation and that would be a better existence than the previous, and we would be more “free” in one sense, BUT we would not be what God wants (voluntary lovers) so, God waits patiently for us, even hedges us in, but doesn’t overwhelm us.
Keep in mind, that God overwhelming us with evidence of His existence is no guarantee that we will respond rightly. I think Israel in the wilderness proved that point. A right response to God is contingent upon the receptor.
It’s not that we want to guard LFW for LFW sake. It’s that our vision of love relationships is a voluntary one, and this REQUIRES LFW in the form of voluntary love.
My thoughts around the concept of freedom primarily are centered on the origins of sin, and the doctrine of original sin. Can someone help me out here?
I know this has been touched upon already is this thread, but I can’t help but keep coming back to Adam and Eve and exactly what kind of freedom they had prior to the fall. As TV mentioned, it seems that their perceptions of God were not adequate, because why else would the challenge of the serpent even hold any appeal to them? Willie seems to think that God had ordained their fall. I’m curious to hear more about these ideas, and if there are any others?
Also, I feel that the Bible supports the idea that in relation to sin, we are not free… we are slaves to the law of sin and death, and that God plunged all of humanity into this inherent sinful state, seemingly whether we like it or not. Romans 11:32 is key here, isn’t it? – that God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
So all this leaves me wondering, in relation to sin, how really free are we? Did we ever really have a freedom of choice in this regard? Also, what is God punishing us for exactly? A sinful state that He Himself put us in? The individual sins that we commit? The rejection of the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ?
If it is indeed true that we never had any choice about our sinful state (although we may have freedom in terms of committing individual sins), than this possibility would balance the promise of universal restoration of all things, at least in my mind. Thoughts?
Please bear with me folks, and I apologize if this throws off the direction of the thread…
I think that you are asking perceptive (and coherent) questions. I wish that I was brilliant enough to perceive the answers (the nature of our will has long seemed mysterious to me). I look forward to more discussion.
I’m very much with Bob Wilson here: your’s are exactly the sort of pertinent and relevant questions that find me seeking.
While I agree that there is a sense in which we seem NOT free to not sin (ie we are somehow bound in this state) we are also encouraged to strive and fight and die daily and die to self and be crucified with Christ and all the other warlike metaphors Paul infers.
And of course earlier in Romans Paul says that we are without excuse; which seems an absurd thing to say if we really were bound and compelled by sin. Certainly civil and criminal law doesn’t recognize as a legal defense the fact that “the devil made me do it” – unless in the form of an insanity plea.
Therefore I’m seeing freedom in this thread as the growing ability to see things as they really are (that is, being stripped of the delusions that life comes from other than God; that I can go it alone apart from God; that God does not have my best at heart, and so on…) and further as not being bound by those inner forces of the mind which prevent me from doing what is in my own ultimate best interest. (I’m thinking here of the throat cancer patient who has had his larynx removed due to cancer from smoking, yet remains compelled to smoke; even through his tracheostomy… That person does not seem to me “free” to quit smoking…)
So where it gets interesting for me is this idea that God brings, and promises freedom. That what Jesus did was to free us…
HSMom: I know this has been touched upon already is this thread, but I can’t help but keep coming back to Adam and Eve and exactly what kind of freedom they had prior to the fall.
Tom: Do you think they EVER had what libertarians call libertarian freedom? In other words, do you think such freedom is coherent/possible? Most non-libertarians (well, all of them that I’m familiar with) argue that libertarian freedom is impossible because it’s a meaningless notion.
If you do agree that it’s possible, or even that it was the sort of freedom Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall, that would help me understand a bit what you’re after.
HSMom: As TV mentioned, it seems that their perceptions of God were not adequate, because why else would the challenge of the serpent even hold any appeal to them?
Tom: Werent’ adequate for what? A libertarian would say their understanding of God WAS adequate for both options—either obeying or not obeying. They could have obeyed, as they obviously could have disobeyed. That’s what we mean by epistemic distance—perceiving enough to make obeying possible and within reach (thus adequate for success) but also not perceiving enough to make disobeying possible and within reach (thus adequate for failure). They knew enough to obey and love God. But they stood within enough ambiguity to reason their way to saying ‘no’ to God. So the serpent’s challenge can “appeal” to them without “necessitating” their fall.
God gives us enough light to find our way but not so much light that we can’t rationalize our way into rejecting him. The question is WHY would God do that if such freedom and risk were NOT necessary for human beings to become what God intended? This gets back to Aaron’s comment about why libertarians hold to libertarian freedom at all. We hold to it because we don’t see any other way to ground moral responsibility and becoming a personal, loving being.
HSMom: Also, I feel that the Bible supports the idea that in relation to sin, we are not free… we are slaves to the law of sin and death, and that God plunged all of humanity into this inherent sinful state, seemingly whether we like it or not.
Tom: Then what’s your interest in freedom? I mean, you wanted to know what kind of freedom Adam and Eve had prior to their fall. Why is that important IF it’s the case that God gave them a nature that necessitated their sinning, if God plunged them into sin? It seems to me that the question of what kind of freedom they had prior to falling is only important if we entertain a libertarian notion of responsibility/accountability. But if God is running the show and determining/deciding everything, even to the extent of creating our sinful natures and making us inherently sinful, then that IS our nature, in which case wouldn’t the desire to be free from our sin be a violation of the nature God gave us? But surely that gets things backwards.
HSMom: Romans 11:32 is key here, isn’t it? – that God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Tom: I think this just describes the role of law in God working out our salvation. God’s “committing all to disobedience” isn’t a reference to his original creation of our natures. It’s a reference to his establishment of law and its function in exposing us as sinners.
HSMom: So all this leaves me wondering, in relation to sin, how really free are we? Did we ever really have a freedom of choice in this regard? Also, what is God punishing us for exactly? A sinful state that He Himself put us in? The individual sins that we commit? The rejection of the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ?
Tom: Good questions. If God himself plunged us, by virtue of endowing us with a sinful nature, into the choices for which he condemns us, then what sort of journey are we set upon and what sort of God is God?
HSMom: If it is indeed true that we never had any choice about our sinful state (although we may have freedom in terms of committing individual sins), than this possibility would balance the promise of universal restoration of all things, at least in my mind. Thoughts?
Tom: OR…we might want to ask ourselves…if God is the sort of being who would essentially determine all the evil our world has known and suffered, what makes us think he’s the sort of God who would WANT to save everyone, or who would keep his promise to do so even if he’s actually said he would do so? It’s a question of trusting God. God doesn’t deserve to be trusted because he’s got all the power in the universe or just because he’s the great first-cause of the universe. So why DO we trust him? I think we trust him because of his character, his predictable goodness and love demonstrated in his acts. Personally, I can’t square the love that motivates God’s self-sacrificial love on Calvary with the idea that God creates us with a sinful nature that cannot but sin and then holds us accountable for our sins (including sending people to hell for them for however long a time until HE decides to act—deterministically again—and have us cry out to him). Two different characters—one I can trust, one I cannot.
Ditto Tom’s appeal for LFW… (pay more attention to his post than mine, I just wanted to add a couple comments.)
**Just for the record: **I think Adam and Eve were the two original human beings, from which we all find our common descent. Just wanted to throw that out there. There is a lot of liberal scholarship out there that attempts to obscure the historicity of all of that, and I’m not buying.
OK, a couple comments on the scriptures HSMom referenced…
HSMom, you reference Rom8 “law of sin and death”… I don’t know if you read this like I do, but I think Paul has the Mosaic Law in mind nearly, if not everytime “law” is mentioned, including here. Vs.3 makes that clear for me. He’s contrasting it within the ‘internal’ Law of the Spirit (think Jer31) (for Jew + Gentile), and not so much a universal law, like the gravity or something.
HSMom: “God plunged all of humanity into this inherent sinful state…”
kkj: wow, that’s a loaded statement. Uh, I think the ‘fall’ was the EFFECT of sin, and the fracture of covenant (&divine government) and of the Imago Dei in original man and not so much the judgment of God. Maybe that’s spitting hairs? but I don’t think God ‘imputed unrighteousness’ as it were, as judgment for disobedience. Sin puts distance between God (the life giver) and us.
HSMom: “inherent sinful state”
kkj: I think there IS something to this. After all, it’s not like we’re born a completely blank canvas, and babies are obviously not born in glorified bodies. We’ve inherited something but I’m not sure if I like all the language that Aug/Calvs use to describe “total depravity.” I think I’m a “half-point Calvinist”
On Rom11.32: Contra TTalbott, I don’t see universalism in view, at all, in Rom9-11. Rom11 is about a reconstituted Israel (Jew + Gentile). God consigning all (Jew and Gentile) to disobedience so that He can have mercy on all (Jew and Gentile). It fits right in with the flow of Paul’s arguments. It thinks it a stretch, to say ALL Jews and Gentiles are in view here.
I’ll be honest here Tom, I’m very new to all of this, and I am scrambling to keep up with your train of thought here. Had to do a bit of research to make sure I really understood Libertarian vs. Compatibilist views of free will… so to answer your first question, I guess that I believe libertarian freedom is possible, in that man has free will, and his decisions are influenced but not caused. And yes it’s possible that this was the kind of freedom they had prior to the Fall.
However, I am unconvinced that this was indeed the case. My question to you would be, how could we ever be sure of what kind of freedom Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall? Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 32:39 through a real wrench into this kind of thinking, at least for me. But at this point, I can at least concede that libertarian freedom prior to the Fall was possible. Clear as mud probably, huh?
It does certainly seem that God himself placed man in a very specific situation in which to force the choice one way or the other (Genesis 2:8-9). God also gave them a clear command and consequence of disobedience (2:16). And because God brought creatures to the man (to see what he would name them), He therefore had complete control of which creatures were in the garden (2:19). I suppose I would then deduce that God purposely placed the serpent in the garden, and I can’t imagine that God was unaware of the serpent’s craftiness, and its desire to deceive God’s people.
So even if Adam and Eve were perfectly free to choose obedience, their ultimate choice was certainly not uninfluenced. I suppose this fits in with my present understanding of libertarian freedom.
Taking one thing at a time, if that’s OK. I don’t have time to tackle your entire post in one sitting, but would sure like to consider your points over the next few days, as I’m able to do so. I appreciate the opportunity to dialog with all of you! KKJ, I’ll try to get back to you as well.