Friday, June 06, 2008

From Russia With Love


Here are a series of pictures from my time in Russia the land of golden domes and beautiful icons of Christ and the saints.













Above you will see the picture of Moscow Evangelical Seminary where I teach from time to time, and a picture of Natasha and Sasha Tsutserov the latter being the head of the seminary, and my former student and a graduate of St. Andrews University doctoral program. I have been teaching a course all week on Christology, hence the image of Sasha's favorite icon of Christ-- Christ the Golden Hair which I like as well. On Sunday we will travel to the historic city of Vladimir to see the beautiful old churches and icons including the very famous Our Lady of Vladimir.
The students here are both engaging and fully engaged with many good questions about Christology. What is especially of note is that they are overwhelmingly Arminian not Calvinist in character as is true all over Russia's Protestant Churches as also is the case with the Orthodox Church. Having lived so long under 'determinism' of a Communist sort, they like their freedom both in society and in their theology as well. For them if Christ has set us free, part of what he set us free from is things being pre-determined by anyone, including God. God's Son did not come to announce that God had pre-determined all things from before the creation of the world, instead he came to set the captives free and "if the Son has set you free, you are truly free indeed". It is an odd paradox indeed that in the land of liberty (America) Calvinism plays better than in a land of limited freedom like Russia. Think on these things.

25 comments:

TBE said...

Ben,

You go to a lot of pains in this post (and in several others lately) to argue that if God predetermines human choices and actions, then these choices and actions cannot be "free."

Could you please explain where you find such an idea in Scripture?

Ben Witherington said...

You would need to do a study of all the many places where the Scripture talks about God's chosen people choosing freely to disobey God and commit apostasy for one thing, including in Rom. 9-11. See my commentary on Romans. In addition, the idea of freedom found in Jonathan Edwards Freedom of the Will is not a Biblical one. He says it means simply not feeling compelled to do something, not feeling coerced etc. This is not what the Bible means by freedom, which involves clearly enough the power of contrary choice. For example, go back and look at the "choose this day whom you will serve" passages in the OT. They could choose either way, and God had not predeterimined the outcome before hand. It is a major problem to suggest that God has predetermined people to sin, or do evil, or commit apostasy and so on.

Blessings,

Ben W.

TBE said...

You would need to do a study of all the many places where the Scripture talks about God's chosen people choosing freely to disobey God and commit apostasy for one thing, including in Rom. 9-11....In addition, the idea of freedom found in Jonathan Edwards Freedom of the Will is not a Biblical one. He says it means simply not feeling compelled to do something, not feeling coerced etc.

Okay, first things first. That's not really Edwards' point at all--Edwards is concerned only to show that the will is the thing that actuates the choice that the mind says is good. To disprove Edwards, you'd have to demonstrate an instance in which a human being willingly chooses something s/he has already decided is NOT the best choice. Frankly, I find that completely counterintuitive, and I see no example of it in Scripture.

I also think Edwards speaks very clearly to all the passages you mentioned about what people choose (i.e., whether to obey or disobey God)--Edwards contends rather forcefully that EVERY human being (redeemed or otherwise) is ALWAYS free, but ONLY free to make the choice they think is best. So instances like those you've mentioned from Scripture actually don't do anything to defeat a compatibilist understanding of the free will at all. Sinners are free to turn to Christ for salvation, but to do so the choice of Christ must be seen in the sinner's mind as the best of all possible choices.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what Paul says unredeemed sinners CAN'T do (and indeed would not do even if they COULD)--see, for example, Rom. 1:18ff; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:2-6; Gal. 5:16-17ff; Eph. 4:17-19, etc., etc.).

Basically, Ben, what I'm getting at is that you've constructed a viciously circular argument: I asked you where Scripture teaches that God's predestination would make human choices "unfree," and you've responded by pointing me to Scriptures that ask human beings to make a choice. Your implicit assertion is that since God asks them to make choices and holds them responsible for their choices, He cannot have predestined them. You've begged the question, in other words.

So I'll put it forward again: where does Scripture explicitly teach that divine predestination would negate human moral responsibility?

e-Mom said...

A marvellous post. We will think on these things...

Blessings, e-Mom @ Chrysalis

Daniel said...

Thanks for your insight. This anti-Calvinist stance is found throughout the old Soviet (and communist) states in Eastern Europe.

Another excellent passage to consider is God's desire for all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-5.) If this is God's desire then why would he go against his own desire by choosing to keep some people from salvation?

Josh said...

Hey Ben,

How is Methodism doing in this part of the world (or is it doing anything at all)?

You also noted that dispensationalism is prevalent in Asia's Christians. What was the prevalent eschatological view in Moscow?

Keep up the good work!

daniel said...

tbe,

If God predetermines human choices, no matter how well intentioned they are, that isn't true freedom!

They are "free" for God, but not for us.

The story of the Old Testament is Israel "freely" disobeying God and God's continual pursuit of them.

I actually love Dr. Witherington's posts! Keep them coming sir.

Grace&Peace,
-dan

omakase said...

sorry this has nothing to do with your post, but i thought you might fine this interesting...

exegeting an american pie.. it goes through it verse by verse much like a commentary.

http://www.understandingamericanpie.com/vs1.htm

Ben Witherington said...

Dear TBE:

I can hardly count the number of times I have made choices which I knew were not the best, but I made them anyway. Edwards nice little logical schema of things does not fit human beings with emotions who often make irrational choices, choices they just flat know are not for the best... but they say C'est la vie and do it anyway.

Blessings

BW3

P.S. Methodism is alive and well in both the Orient and in Russia.

Derrick said...

"...Edwards is concerned only to show that the will is the thing that actuates the choice that the mind says is good. To disprove Edwards, you'd have to demonstrate an instance in which a human being willingly chooses something s/he has already decided is NOT the best choice. Frankly, I find that completely counterintuitive, and I see no example of it in Scripture."

I've been thinking about this recently, and I've noticed a few problems with Edwards' theory. First, the claim that we always act in accordance with what we believe to be our greatest good doesn't entail that these beliefs determine our actions. At best, it proves correlation, not causation.
Another obvious problem with this view is that it doesn't make any room for what the Greeks called "akrasia," or loosely translated, weakness of will. (Aristotle writes about this at length in "The Nicomachean Ethics"). A good example of akrasia would be someone with an addiction, or simply one that gives into extreme peer pressure and act against their better judgment. It doesn't seem too counter-intuitive to say that a person knows it would be better for them overall to eat healthy and exercise (and even be motivated to do so to some degree), but through their weakness end up acting against their better judgment.
To write this counter-example off by saying that the individual is simply decieved about his or her values is problematic for two reasons:
a) to simply assert that is false due to your agreement with Edwards is begging the question against Edwards' opponents, (It strikes me as problematic to think that humans are capable of being so radically self-decieved about our motivations, especially when you start to go this route, your theory starts to become unfalsifiable)
and
b)secondly, to do so is to say that there is no such thing as weakness of will, but rather all supposed instances of akrasia are actually cases of self-deception, which strikes me as implausible.
While Edwards' theory has some plausibility, it only does so when it applies to totally rational creatures. Humans, for whatever reason (it being a part of our natural design or from the Fall), are not fully rational beings, and as such, act in ways that are not fully rational. Because of this, it's plausible that creatures may act knowingly against their better judgment.

TBE said...

Ben,

Without getting too personal, might I ask why you made the choice that you did, knowing that it wasn't the best choice?

You see, what Edwards is getting at is not that human beings always make the choice that they know to be objectively the best, but rather they always make the choice they most want to make. In other words, to defeat Edwards' claim, you'd have to show that a person (A) knew of a better choice that s/he was physically, emotionally, financially capable of making; (B) chose instead to make a choice that s/he knew to be inferior; and (C) did so without having any real REASON for doing the inferior choice. In short, Edwards' claim, as far as I can see, holds fast the second we ask any human being WHY s/he made the choice that s/he made; the second that a reason for the choice was given, the person is shown to be acting in accordance with a compatibilist free will.

Even emotional human beings fit within this schema; a betrayed husband who shoots his wife's lover knowing the consequences can be said to have made an irrational choice only by an outsider--to the man himself the choice was eminently rational: he was more inclined to satisfy a personal desire for revenge than a commitment to obey the law.

In short, I don't think anything I've seen so far serves to disqualify Edwards' understanding of the will: the will is ALWAYS free, but it is ONLY free to obey a person's strongest inclinations ("affections" would be Edwards' word). And, according to the apostle Paul in the passages I've cited above, the strongest inclinations of any unredeemed sinner are to reject God at all points. So my last objection remains unanswered: you can't rule out a classically Calvinist understanding of divine predestination by simply showing instances in Scripture where people make free choices; classical Calvinism acknowledges human moral responsibility and human free will. The question at hand is where EXACTLY Scripture shows us that divine predestination negates human responsibility, and so far every attempt to answer that problem I've seen in this thread is an example of viciously circular reasoning.

daniel:

If God predetermines human choices, no matter how well intentioned they are, that isn't true freedom!

They are "free" for God, but not for us. The story of the Old Testament is Israel "freely" disobeying God and God's continual pursuit of them.


Daniel, your "argument" amounts to this:

"Divine predestination of human choices negates human responsibility because human beings can't be responsible for choices divinely preordained."

You've constructed a brute tautology here--and, by the way, haven't bothered to support it with Scripture.

Is there a Scriptural point that teaches this?

Brigitte said...

OK, I love Dr. Witherington's posts, too. I do pray for you quite spontaneously. Thanks for letting us argue.

Finally,I have now made through the entire "Bondage of the Will". It would point out immediately that a phrase like: "Choose now...", is an imperative which in no way implies the ability to do it. There are commands and imperatives throughout the OT, which all go to show that a Savior from sin was most desperately needed.

"Ought to" does not necessarily mean "can". And the assumption must not automatically made that the ability is implied.

(It reminds me of my children's rooms--how often do I say: "clean that up, or..." and it never, never happens. If I want clean rooms, I'd have to throw them out of the house. Anybody been through that, or can't keep a room clean, themselves?). :)

Derrick said...

"Is there a Scriptural point that teaches this?"

I'm curious about something. Many calvinists that I've talked to about this subject have put this challenge to me several times. By that, I mean just about EVERY Calvinist I've ever talked to about this has asked me this. But, I have to wonder what force it really has if I can't find a place in scripture that shows me to be in control of my actions.
What motivates this question? Where does its force come from? Is it motivated by the belief that we can only believe things about ourselves and the world that Scripture tells us to believe? In order to be charitable, I'm going to say that this can't be what Calvinists think, since they themselves are like the rest of us in believing things that aren't told to us by scripture in order to function (e.g. my senses are generally reliable, and I can trust what they tell me, or the laws of gravitation will hold in the future).
Is it motivated by the claim that we can only believe THEOLOGICAL claims that are implicitly or explicitly taught to us in scripture? That doesn't seem right, either, since there are many things in theology that are commonly believed apart from scripture within the Calvinist community. For example, nothing in scripture gives us reason to think that God is outside of time (in fact, a literal reading of scripture might incline us to think he isn't). Yet this is something that a great deal of Calvinists since Calvin have believed (Wayne Grudem and Paul Helm are modern examples of this). This may be shown to be the case through other kinds of arguments, but that's my point. No one holds the temporality issue to such a standard of Biblical proof, so, a fortiori, the idea that we're free in the libertarian sense shouldn't be subjected to a higher standard of justification.
Perhaps Calvinists ask this out of the belief that we shouldn't believe what is contrary to scripture. To this sentiment, I can't object. If God clearly says X, we should not deny that X is the case. However, to be charitable, that can't be what motivates this challenge either. The reason that I think this is that it seems beg the question against the Arminian/Molinist, in that it would assume that Calvinism is established as what scripture teaches. Despite what the Calvinist might be subjectively convinced of, that is exactly what is at question in this conversation.
So, in conclusion, what force is supposed to be behind the Calvinist challenge to find libertarianism within the Bible? I, for one, don't see it. If it is implicitly or explicitly in scripture, awesome. If not, what does the Calvinist actually gain in the debate?

Derrick said...

"You see, what Edwards is getting at is not that human beings always make the choice that they know to be objectively the best, but rather they always make the choice they most want to make. In other words, to defeat Edwards' claim, you'd have to show that a person (A) knew of a better choice that s/he was physically, emotionally, financially capable of making; (B) chose instead to make a choice that s/he knew to be inferior; and (C) did so without having any real REASON for doing the inferior choice. In short, Edwards' claim, as far as I can see, holds fast the second we ask any human being WHY s/he made the choice that s/he made; the second that a reason for the choice was given, the person is shown to be acting in accordance with a compatibilist free will."

First, even if Edwards is right in that we only act with what we truly want to do the most, it still doesn't prove compatiblism. Again, correlations, even one for one correlations, are insufficient to prove causation. The claim that we only end up acting in accordance with what we really want to do is completely compatible with a libertarian solution to the problem of free will.
Secondly, what is meant when we say that we only do what we really want to do? If you mean only what we phenomenolgically experience as our greatest desire, that claim is just false. Just today I forced myself out of bed earlier than I wanted to, while my desire to stay in bed felt like my greatest desire at the time. If you deny that its what we experience as our greatest desire, it seems again that the theory has become unfalsifiable, since we can never check it against reality. Furthermore, the theory verges on claiming a tautology, since it then reduces to the claim that what we really want to do is whatever we actually do.

Derrick said...

"Finally,I have now made through the entire "Bondage of the Will". It would point out immediately that a phrase like: "Choose now...", is an imperative which in no way implies the ability to do it. There are commands and imperatives throughout the OT, which all go to show that a Savior from sin was most desperately needed."
Could you elaborate on why you think that this is the case? I'm not sure that I completely understand the motivation for this position.
""Ought to" does not necessarily mean "can". And the assumption must not automatically made that the ability is implied."
It seems to me that there has to be some level of ability implied by the claim that I ought to do something. For example, it seems absurd to claim that someone ought to be able to leap tall buildings in a single (or multiple) bounds, or hold back the tide from coming in with a broom. The reason why we take this not just to be false, but also odd is, that there isn't an ought about these things because human beings simply can't do such things. Intuitively, we'd think that if God commanded us to do things that we can't do at all, and THEN decided to condemn us to suffer when we don't do them, we'd be inclined to wonder if God is either being unreasonable or simply setting us up to take a fall, so to speak. Do you see where I'm coming from? Doesn't that seem to imply that there is some level of "can" implied by the "ought?"

daniel said...

TBE wrote:

"Daniel, your "argument" amounts to this:

"Divine predestination of human choices negates human responsibility because human beings can't be responsible for choices divinely preordained."

You've constructed a brute tautology here--and, by the way, haven't bothered to support it with Scripture.

Is there a Scriptural point that teaches this?"

TBE...

My argument wasn't based on Scripture. It was based on your statement on freedom which you didn't support with Scripture btw.

You contradicted yourself and I just wanted to point out the flaws in your reasoning.

If God created us with free will, then leave it at that. However, to try to mix God's predetermination with human freedom seems to be a bit forced. Maybe we don't need to make too much sense of how things work.

Scripture says, God wants for all to be saved! (I Tim 2:4)

Yet, it also says many enter the wide gate which leads to destruction. (Matt 7:13)

We all know much of the world do not believe.

If God wanted for all to be saved and many are not, we can assume that either (a)God's intentions are not genuine, (b)God is not all powerful, or (c)He limits His power so that people will choose to come to Him freely.

I prefer to believe that God decided not to force people to salvation but He offered it by grace(c).

I would not like to get too personal here with you TBE for you seem to be a genuine brother in Christ.

God bless,
-dan

James W Lung said...

Ben: Beautiful pictures and nice post. However:

It is absolutely mystifying to me why we need to discuss theology in terms of Calvinism vs Arminianism. Western categories are useless and indeed virtually useless in understanding the Eastern Christianity.

We have much to learn from our brothers from the East. The first lesson is that post-reformation debates are, as is unfortunately illustrated above, absolutely useless.

Well, not entirely usless. Eastern Christianity views truth in a more wholistic sense than we protestants. Calvinists vs. Arminians is illustrative of the (inadequate) Western, philosphical notion of truth as non-contradiction. If truth cannot admit contradiction, then we are condemned to slay eachother with words until Jesus comes back.

From the East, and from the Fathers, who receive it from Holy Scripture, we learn that truth is contradiction. All of the essentials of our faith are irreconcilable contradictions:

God is one. One does not equal three. Therefore, God cannot be three.

To be God is to be not man. To be man is not to be God. Jesus cannot be.

God is sovereign. Man is free. Two 'true' statements that are absolute contradictions.

In Heaven, Truth is in truth's fullness. In our time, everything, including truth as we see it, is fragmented.

Guys (and Gals): Love eachother and accept the antinomy.

Peace

Ben Witherington said...

Hi James: Unfortunately you and the Orthodox mystical tradition are dead wrong about this. It is the Orthodox tradtion that is out of sync with Ancient Near Eastern thinking including Jewish thinking about such subjects. Clearly enough Biblical thought involves some inherent tensions and antinomies but not flat contradictions. Truth and flat contradictions are incompatible and indeed incoherency results. At the end of the day truth is not honored with such ideas, it is denigrated.

Blessings

BW3

Kyle said...

One verse is sufficient to show that we have libertarian freedom, 1 Cor 10:13:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

In other words, we do not *have to* sin, it is not *necessary* that we sin. There is a way out that we *can* take.

Harper said...

Hi Dr. Witherington,

There's one point that James raised that I think is valid though: I don't think Eastern Orthodoxy should be discussed in terms of the Calvinist/Arminian debate. I just read Daniel Clendenin's stuff, and from his representation of Eastern Orthodoxy, the East uses completely different categories of thought, especially when it relates to salvation i.e. salvation = theosis. Wouldn't it be inaccurate then to discuss the East using these terms that are so foreign to it?

Adam Gonnerman said...

Excellent post. I'm thinking....

Michael Gilley said...

I agree that we should be careful with anachronistic cases made from the West when trying to interpret the Scriptures. (E.g., are we reading Scripture in light of how its authors and original audiences would have understood things or are we using it to back the philosophical claims of a theologian in the eighteenth century?) The truth is, many of these post-Reformation arguments need to be seriously reevaluated since more anthropological and archeological studies have been conducted within the past century than in the past millennium. We know so much more now about what many of the Jewish groups in the first century believed. And I would call these "inconsistencies" paradoxes of the faith. If things lined up perfectly what faith would remain? Or as one church father put it, "If it can be explained, it is not of God."

Mike Taylor said...

I'm no scholar but here's how I've always reconciled the Lord's election with free will. We do not, of ourselves, have free will. Rather the Lord gives each of us a true opportunity to accept or reject Him.

Now, as I said, I'm not a scholar on the theology of this subject but we know, via imperical experiment, that free will is (in normal life) an illusion. We know, for example, that decisions are made for non-rational reasons. The brain then automatically creates a story that makes logical sense to us. We are unaware of the process, however, many, many closely controlled experiments have proven this beyond anything close to reasonable doubt.

I believe, however that the choice to follow Christ is not a natural choice. It is a miracle from the Lord. So we accept Christ as a free choice and, once saved, we are, via the miraculous work of the Lord, free to follow or not follow Him. The Lord, of course, works constantly to bring us into conformity. Sometimes, in my experience, He does this to one's great discomfort - ie harsh discipline.

Question then - what does it mean to be "sealed"? What does it mean to be pre-ordained to be "conformed to Christ's image"? What is freedom in the presence of the Lord's persistant intervention (and periodic harsh discipline)? My point is that the discussion is moving away from the real world. For example, my oldest normally chooses the right way to behave. But, had we raised her differently, had we not persistly interveened in her behavior, including periodic very unpleasant consequences (not just explaining right from wrong and setting a good example) I guarantee you she would be a horrible person. My wife sees exactly these kinds of kids from this type of family every day. Behavior, whether forced, voluntary (via trickery or otherwise), or random/accidental, has been shown to produce thinking and habits that conform to and perpetuate behavior. The behavior will continue until an outside force acts upon it.

Freedom to choose is constrained.
That should be obvious. Now, my guess is that the option of salvation isn't the only thing the Lord offers. He also offers security of salvation. (My Baptist background coming out.) He offers security that we who have chosen Him (via His gift) have the continuing gift of being able to choose Him AND He has already worked out the way of our salvation to its end. Or as Paul said, faith is a gift. He also said it is one of the three things that remain, which I take to mean it isn't lost, doesn't end and doesn't fail.

Of course, this conclusion could just be my emotional reaction (fear) that my continuing salvation is DEPENDENT on MY continuing faithfullness. Empowerd by the Lord, though it is, I do not take comfort it my salvation being DEPENDENT on anything in ME. But, I don't THINK (at least I hope I think freely about this) this conclusion is a defense mechanism. I believe Love abounds all the more and we are remade to be and live as a new creation.

Derrick said...

"Now, as I said, I'm not a scholar on the theology of this subject but we know, via imperical experiment, that free will is (in normal life) an illusion. We know, for example, that decisions are made for non-rational reasons. The brain then automatically creates a story that makes logical sense to us. We are unaware of the process, however, many, many closely controlled experiments have proven this beyond anything close to reasonable doubt."

I don't mean to be rude, but it seems to me that you're overstating your case. What these experiments have shown is that confabulation does happen a lot more than we realize, that we at times do unwittingly act irrationally, and that biological and chemical factors INCREASE THE PROBABILITY of our performing some action, but that this proves that they DETERMINE our actions is actually far from obvious. Also if I'm not mistaken, these individuals themselves believe that we are able to refrain from acting in most circumstances.(For a good critique of the conclusions drawn by these experimenters see Tim O'Connor's "Freedom with a Human Face" at http://www.indiana.edu/~scotus/articles.html and also Alex Pruss'"Prediction of Choices" at http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2008/04/prediction-of-choices.html).
As for the theological issues, determinism and deception of this kind creates some rather bizarre issues. First, you have to wonder about why God would put us through such an elaborate farce. Why would he determine us through biological means, but at the same time give us internal mechanisms that force us to believe that we're in control of our actions? What purpose would it serve? Secondly, on what basis does God judge us for our actions? We don't really act for reasons on this view, since we're forced to act because of brain chemistry (among other things), so, it's not clear that we have REAL motives behind our actions. Does God then judge us for things we are not just unaware of, but completely unable to be aware of and can't control? Again, something seems wrong with this picture.

Robert said...

Someone posting as TBE has repeatedly brought up a common calvinist argument against free will. The argument goes like this: the calvinist asks **where** in the bible does it say that we have libertarian free will? Since the bible never defines free will or uses the words “libertarian free will” it is then concluded that the reality to which this term refers must not exist. I have seen this argument many times and each time I have corrected it, the calvinists just keep using this argument. Note how TBE states it:

“You go to a lot of pains in this post (and in several others lately) to argue that if God predetermines human choices and actions, then these choices and actions cannot be "free."

Could you please explain where you find such an idea in Scripture?”

Later TBE wrote:

“I asked you where Scripture teaches that God's predestination would make human choices "unfree," and you've responded by pointing me to Scriptures that ask human beings to make a choice. Your implicit assertion is that since God asks them to make choices and holds them responsible for their choices, He cannot have predestined them. You've begged the question, in other words.”

TBE asks where is free will taught or present in scripture? Ben replies by appealing to places in scripture in which there appear to be choices present (e.g., “choose this day whom you will serve . . .”). TBE says this is inadequate as a response, and that it “begs the question.”

An analogy from science may help here. Scientists when attempting to explain a phenomena will speak in terms of “models” and which model seems to **best explain the phenomena** (i.e. abductive reasoning/the best available explanation). So let’s do the same thing here. We are considering two models. The one TBE advocates, the model of calvinists claims that every event that occurs is predetermined by God (cf. Westminster confession = “he ordains whatsoever comes to pass”). The one Ben advocates, the model of noncalvinists claims that some events involve what is called libertarian free will (i.e., to keep it simple, I mean that in a specific situation we have both the ability and opportunity to actualize at least two different possibilities, we can do this or we can do that).

We also need to distinguish between **having** a choice and **making** a choice. We make a choice when we commit to a certain course of action. We have a choice when we are able to actualize different possibilities and it is us to us which possibility of these different possibilities we actualize (cf., put simply I could order steak at the restaurant or order chicken, either possibility is an available and accessible possibility, and I choose which of the two possibilities I will actualize; there could be more than two possibilities but in order to **have** a choice there must be at least two different and mutually exclusive possibilities which I could actualize/if I choose to raise my hand I cannot simultaneously be keeping that same hand down).

Concerning our two models with respect to the issue of **having** and **making** a choice, there is a major and very significant difference between the two models. If everything is predetermined by God, then this means that while we certainly make choices, ****WE NEVER HAVE CHOICES**** (at the restaurant I will order what God predetermined for me to order and it is impossible for me to do otherwise and order something else; if it is predetermined that I order steak then it is impossible for me in that situation to order anything other than steak). If everything is predetermined by God that also means that our belief that we can actualize either of two possibilities in any particular situation is always false (we cannot pick the steak or pick the chicken, we can only make the choice we were predetermined to make).

Exhaustive predetermination of all events excludes or eliminates our **ever** having a choice.

According to the other model, though God may sovereignly intervene so that some things will happen, at least in some situations we not only make choices we also have choices. So according to this model when at the restaurant I really can choose the steak or the chicken and either choice is available to me, and it is up to me which possibility will become actual. According to this model, we do in fact face situations where we **have** a choice.

Now with these basic understandings of the two models in place, we need to see which of these models best fits what the bible says in terms of having and making choices. Or put another way, if we examine the biblical evidence, does the bible suggest that WE NEVER HAVE A CHOICE? Does the bible present every situation as being one which was predetermined in all of its facets so that people are making choices but never **have** choices? I believe that if we examine each model and see which best fits the biblical evidence the superior model is clear. The bible presupposes the noncalvinist model. The bible presents situations where people not only make choices, they have a choice.

So when TBE challenges Ben or any other noncalvinist to “show me where “free will” (in the libertarian sense) is in the bible.” The answer to that challenge is precisely what Ben in fact did: to present evidence or situations in the bible where people HAVE CHOICES. If people ever HAVE A CHOICE in the bible, then exhaustive predeterminism of all events is necessarily false, calvinism is false. The evidence is readily available, just look at the bible and see if it presents the reality of us ever **having** choices.

Derrick stated one of the problems with exhaustive predeterminism very clearly when he wrote:

“First, you have to wonder about why God would put us through such an elaborate farce. Why would he determine us through biological means, but at the same time give us internal mechanisms that force us to believe that we're in control of our actions? What purpose would it serve?”

Derrick’s point is a good one: if everything is predetermined as the calvinist claims, then we are living in a world of illusion in which every time we think we have a choice we do not, we can only do the one thing God predetermined for us to do and it is impossible for us to do otherwise. Why would God “put us through such an elaborate farce?” And why would God speak in scripture as if we do in fact have choices when He knows that in reality we never ever have a choice? I do not believe that God is misleading us in scripture when He speaks of choices, or when Jesus speaks of having choices that Jesus knew he had no choice but said that he did. God’s character would not allow him to mislead to us and lie to us and play games with us as would be true if everything were predetermined and we never have a choice (and yet God spoke to us as if we have choices). God is not misleading or playing games with us in His Word: if He presents us with a choice that we have, then we have that choice.

Robert