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Dialogue on Free Will & Determinism

Webmaster Note: What follows is an email exchange between Father John and a few Calvinist  Protestants:

FJ: It has been asserted that foreknowledge of a choice, necessarily determines that choice, and eliminates other possibilities as possibilities.

Let's take the godless world of Star Trek, just to test whether this logic holds up. At the most, the Trek universe has some sort of personless force behind it... certainly no being who governs the affairs of men.

Now suppose that a person in this godless universe discovers a way to go back into the past, but can only go back into the past as an invisible, passive observer. They go back 10 years, and happen to be at a location and time which they well recall—thus they know what will happen, and thus what choices will be made. How would such a passive observer's knowledge change the nature of the choices that were made, which previously were absolutely free choices?

Calvinists typically make the point that God's foreknowledge cannot be based on his simply knowing the future, because he knew it prior to these future events, and thus could only know it because he decreed that it would be so. Thus God's foreknowledge rest entirely in his own purposes, and is not in the least bit contingent upon man's actions — but on the contrary, it is God's foreknowledge that determines what man's actions will be.

Thus, we are left with to logically conclude that man's sinful actions originate entirely with God, and are not in the least bit contingent upon any choice of man — including Adam's sin, because his fall was also foreknown "before" there was anything to foreknow other than God's eternal purpose. If this view were true, God would be without a doubt the source of sin; and man's actions being completely predetermined by God, to speak of free will is meaningless, because God's will is completely determinative.

Any Calvinist willing to own up to these conclusions? If not, explain why. You can argue that your view is correct based on Scripture—but you should at least just come out and admit that you believe God is the author of sin. If you cannot admit that, then you must explain foreknowledge in terms in which God is not the only active participant, simply playing out in history what he alone had decided to do.

CP: I wonder if you might provided the biblical texts for you statement that God works all things according to His eternal purpose and foreknowledge?

FJ:

(Acts 2:23) Him, being delivered by [1] the determined purpose and [2] foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands , have crucified, and put to death.

(Romans 8:29) For whom He Foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn of many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also Glorified.

Thus, we see four stages, laid out in a chain like sequence—and what is the first link in the chain? Foreknowledge.

Just for good measure, 1st Peter 1:2:

..elect according to the foreknowledge of God the father....

If God is in absolute control of men's hearts, why does he then command men to make for themselves a new heart (signifying a new disposition of the will)? It would be as senseless as a puppeteer commanding his puppet to get up. How does God cause men to do evil?

CP: Not being privy to the counsel of the Almighty, I do not know the details of the mechanism(s) that God uses to predetermine the free choices men make.

FJ: And yet you are sure that God determines every choice, not because he foreknows them, but because he decreed them? Who filled you in on that counsel of the Almighty? But the haughty Assyrians were not sisters of charity before they invaded Israel my friend. They were already proud.

CP: As predetermined to be so by God, yes.

FJ: So God decreed that the Assyrians would choose evil, not because he foreknew that they would choose evil, but simply because he decreed that it would be so? If so, then God is the author of sin, and the Assyrians are completely passive. And Foreknowledge — you left that part out. That's the problem here. Too much focus on one aspect of verses like this, and too little to the parts that don't fit your views.

CP: According to my Greek sources, the word prognosis used here and elsewhere in the NT carries with it a sense of predetermination, of prior choice, and not just mere perception (cf. Rom 8:29). In 1 Pet. 1:20, the word is used in relation to none other than Jesus Christ. Surely God our Father did something a little more active than just perceiving the death of His Son?

FJ: Here is what my Greek source says on the subject (Kittle's TDNT, abridged):

Proginosko, prognosis. The verb means "to know in advance," and in the NT it refers to God's foreknowledge as election of His people (Rome 8:29; 11:2) or of Christ (1st Peter 1:20), or to the advance knowledge that believers have by prophesy (2nd Peter 3:17). Another possible meaning is "to know before the time of speaking," as in acts 26:5. The noun is used in the LXX in Jdt. 9:6 for God's predeterminitive foreknowledge and in Jdt 11:19 for prophetic foreknowledge; Justin uses it similiarly in "Dialogue with Trypho 92.5, 39.5"

Just to aid you Protestants, here are the quotes from Judith:

(9:6) the things you decide on come forward ad say, "Here we are!" All your ways are in readiness, and your judgement is made with foreknowledge.

(11:19) I will lead you through Judea, till you come to Jerusalem, and there I will set up your judgement seat. You will drive them like sheep that have no shepherd, and not even a dog will growl at you. This was told me, and announced to me in advance, and I in turn have been sent to tell you.

As for 1st Peter 1:20, let's look at it:

He indeed was foreknown before before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

The contrast in this verse is clear, God knew beforehand, what was revealed to us in Christ in these last times. Two other examples of how the Petrine epistles use this term have been cited—and both of them are clearly in reference to knowledge that is prior to something. In this case, the knowledge is prior to the manifestation of Christ in time.

CP: Surely your view demands that the foreknowledge of God is a passive thing, mere intellectual perception of something happening - to which God then reacts to. The universe is a series of random events that God somehow molds to His purpose.

FJ: God is not passive, but neither is he the mover behind all choices or actions. He gives no man strength for lies, says Sirach. In your view, he determines those lies and decrees them from the foundation of the world, and only foreknows them because he determines them, not the other way around. Thus your view would make God the author of sin.

CP: God doesn't do anything until man does something first.

FJ: God does plenty prior to man's doing something—but in your view, God is the only active participant. All others are passive, doing only what God has decreed. I have not said that God has no influence on men—in fact, if you wish to discuss it, we can talk about the doctrine of synergy.

CP: OK, but if you're thinking about this in terms of God "persuading" or "influencing", this sounds an awful lot like semi-Pelagianism.

FJ: Could you define what you mean by Pelagianism, and then by Semi-Pelagianism?

Even St. Augustine said that Adam's will was neither inclined towards evil or good, but as as such,

a neutral power, as can either incline toward faith, or turn towards unbelief... (NPNF2, Vol 5, p 109).

He also says:

God no doubt wishes all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the Truth; but yet not so as to take away from them free will... (Ibid, p.109)

...if he had willed by his own free will to continue in this state of uprightness and freedom from sin, assuredly without any experience of death and unhappiness he would have received by the merit of that continuance the fulness of blessing with which the holy Angels are also blessed; that is the impossibility of falling any more, and the knowledge of this with absolute certainty.

(On Rebuke and Grace, ch 28, NPNF2 5:483)

The first man had not that grace by which he should never will to be evil, but assuredly he had that in which if he willed to abide he would never be evil, and without which, moreover, he could not by free will be good, but which, nevertheless, by free will he could forsake. God therefore, did not will even him to be without his grace, which he left in his free will: because free will is sufficient for evil but is too little for good, unless it is aided by omnipotent good. And if that man had not forsaken that assistance of his free will, he would always have been good; but he forsook it, and he was forsaken. (Ibid., 484)

St. Augustine is as close to a patristic basis for the Calvinist idea of free will and predestination as one can find, and yet where does he say that the fall was unavoidable? Where does he say anything about God withdrawing his grace—but on the contrary, we have God's grace available to a man who could either cooperate with it, or reject it.

Thus, as wrong as St. Augustine was on other points in this regard, he clearly did not hold to the idea that God determined that Adam would fall, irregardless of how he would respond to God.

CP: Either it's (a) you or (b) God who is ultimately responsible for your salvation. Pick one. If (a), then you're a Pelagian heretic. If (b), then either you're a closet Calvinist, or you don't really mean what you say about the grace of God.

FJ: How about God is responsible for my salvation, and I am responsible for my response to his offer of salvation? God holds those responsible who reject the gospel, which would be senseless, if they were not in fact responsible for their response.

CP: But if you say that you are "influenced" by the grace of God to the point where the grace is salvific, then what has happened to your "free will?" Methinks that grace has somehow overriden your free will without becoming externally coercive, and if so, then welcome to the Wonderful World o' Calvinism and glad to have you aboard.

FJ: How about God reveals himself to men, and they must choose to either accept his grace or reject it. If they accept it, they are saved, are being saved, and will be saved. You claim that I add to my salvation by my response. I say you are looking at it wrongly to begin with.

It is not God's Grace (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) + my response (1) = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,001. Rather it is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000 (God's grace) x 1 (my response) which only = 1,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000. Thus God gets all the credit. But if my response is no (0), it is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 x 0 = 0.

There is no being beyond the Law of God, and so in that sense, no one is autonomous. That does not mean that there are no other beings which freely rebel against the Law of God, and thus bring upon themselves His wrath. Furthermore, there is no reason to conclude from any of this that God predestines anyone to sin or rebel.

My understanding of foreknowledge is based entirely on your three points. God (alone) is not circumscribed by time, and thus he can know from all eternity what occurs in time (immediately). He does not need to cause something to happen in time in order to know it from all eternity.

Thus my position is that God knows certainly what we will do within time, within the context of what He will do. Obviously God can and does limit our behavior by his active intervention in the affairs of men, but he does not limit our choices within time — though he knows from all eternity what they will be. He neither has to guess, nor cause anything to know what it will be, because to Him there are no limits.

By the way, St. John of Damascus deals with this whole issue quite thoroughly in his "Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith".

For example, someone asked how it is that the Bible speaks of events in Heaven, such as Satan appearing before him in Job. St. John points out that even Angels are circumscribed in time and space, though they are spirits. They are not everywhere present, spacially or in terms of time. God is.

+ + +

FJ: Are you asserting that it might be God's eternal purpose to damn Joseph Blow simply because he wishes to damn Mr. Blow?

CP: I'm assering that if God saves Mr. Blow, it will be solely because this is God's good pleasure, and not because of anything in Mr. Blow that sets him apart from the rest of humanity or merits God's goodness to him. In other words, our salvation does not depend on us, or on anything we do. Scripture expressly teaches this: "It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Rom. 9:16)

FJ: If this verse means what you say it means then it expressly contradicts the bulk of Scripture. Yes, it is God who has mercy—we cannot will his mercy upon us, just because we will it to be so.

You react as if it were blasphemy to say that our salvation is at all contingent upon our accepting it—but this is a contingency that the Bible clearly states to be the case. Check out all the "if"s in Ezekiel chapter 18. The oft cited text, 2nd Thessalonians 2:11, is contingent upon the rejection of the people in question of the love of Truth.

Let us not add contingencies that God does not declare—but let's not set them aside when He does either. The Scriptures do not say that God works out all things according to his eternal purpose—it says God works out all things according to his eternal purpse and his foreknowledge.

CP: Really? So you're saying His foreknowledge is something extraneous to His eternal purpose?

FJ: No, it is something that is distinctly different, and yet works synergistically with God's eternal purpose. You state they are one and the same... which if true, we should wonder why different words are used at all.

CP: In other words, you suggest there were things God needed to discover through His foreknowledge before He could finalize His eternal plan.

FJ: In other words you persist in viewing this question as if God were acting in sequence of time—and yet you have not explained how you understand the eternal begotteness of the Son. Was there a sequence in eternity in which the Son was not? If so, there are infinite sequences prior to that one, since we are after all talking about eternity. The problem is, you see God's eternal existence as endless time in both directions—not as something transcending time.

CP: That's not how I read Eph. 1:11 and Isaiah 46:9-10.

FJ: Your reading of these verses are not in accordance with the way the Church has always understood them either.

I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.

The problem here is that you read these words wrongly—you read them as "My Counsel shall stand, and all that is done or will be done is my pleasure to have done or do." You are making assumptions about the text that are not in the text. Ezekiel 18 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and so obviously, their death is not simply the result of God doing his pleasure. In your view, foreknowledge is meaningless, because it is simply a synonym for God's eternal purpose.

CP: How does that make it meaningess? I'd say it becomes more meaningful.

FJ: Do you concede that you use it synonymously with God's eternal purpose?

CP: Your notion of foreknowledge has God peering into the future to discover how things are going to turn out. But such a notion of foreknowledge is a de facto denial of God's omniscience.

FJ: Your notion of foreknowledge is that God knows what will be only because he has determined that it will be so. Your notion of eternity is that it is endless time, rather than a transcending of time. Thus, you must logically believe that God, at one point in eternity had not yet begotten the Son. My view is that God foreknows all things because he is not circumscribed by time or distance, but is everywhere present.

Sin is not God's eternal purpose—is it? No!

CP: What is it, then? Something that He couldn't avert? Something He was powerless to halt? Your God is too small.

FJ: To roughly use St. Augustines words, it was his will that man not sin, but rather that all be saved, however not so as to take away man's free will. Yet it occurs. It occurs and it is foreknown. It occurs because there is more at work than just God's eternal purpose.

CP: See? Read that last sentence. Then page up and re-read Isaiah 46:9-10, which I quoted above. Your view has God being victimized by something outside His eternal plan.

FJ: The verse in Isaiah simply does not support the contention you cite it to support.

As for whether or not Joe Blow is decreed to burn in hell for all eternity, or to spend eternity in heavenly glory—that is dependant on two things: God's eternal purpose, and his foreknowledge of whether or not Joe Blow would respond in faith and repentance to His grace. So the variable here is Joe Blow's response to God's grace.

CP: What a tragic view of divine justice! Joe Blow, a sinner, deserves to burn in hell.

FJ: What a tragic view of Divine Justice—you believe that Joe Blow deserved to burn in hell before he had ever sinned. In fact, you would have us believe that God decided that Joe Blow would be sinner, and then will send him to hell for it.

The Scriptures say that Joe Blow was not born responsible for the guilt of his father's sin, but would stand or fall on the basis of his own rejection or acceptance of God's provision for him (Ezek 18).

CP: If God's eternal, sovereign purpose is to show Joe mercy, who are you to question the equity of this? See the whole of Romans 9. Unless it is God's eternal purpose to save him, Joe Blow will burn in hell, not because God is a monster, but because Joe is a sinner.

FJ: In your view of foreknowledge, God only foreknows what he has decided will be. Since you see this in sequence of time, and thus this was prior to anything that Jow Blow would have done, or could actually have been foreknown to have done (apart from God's decreeing it to be) how was Joe Blow already deserving of hell before even Adam had sinned?

CP: Your view makes God's saving purposes subject to the whims of sinners. But Scripture teaches us that if your view is right, and if God does make salvation contingent only on the response of the sinner, we all are doomed (Rom. 8:7-9; Jn. 6:44,65). Fortunately, salvation depends not on the one who runs or the one who wills, but on God who shows mercy.

FJ: Again, you quote Scripture out of context, and totally ignore the bulk of it. The Scriptures say that God has made provision for us, and give us the ability to accept it; however we can also reject it. God makes this contigent upon our response—see Ezekiel 18, just for starters.

CP: I say again: Your actual position is that God's eternal decree is conditional on something He did not "cause," but merely foresaw.

FJ: My position is that God's eternal decrees with respect to the salvation of individuals, is conditioned upon their either accepting his provision for them, or their rejection of same. The Bible says it is conditional. You say it is not. I'll go with the Bible. I challenge you to show me one Father of the Church who believed that Adam's fall was not conditional upon his obedience to God. I challenge you to find a Father prior to St. Augustine who denied that men cooperate with God's grace, and that their salvation is conditional upon their acceptance or rejection of God's grace.

If you can't, you are in no better shape historically than the Jehovah's Witnesses, and their ahistorical version of Christianity—at least they have Arius.

+ + +

FJ: Can you cite one Scripture that says that men do not believe because God chooses to not cause them to believe?

CP: See how you have twisted the issues? I raised the question of why some believe; you accuse me of making God the cause of unbelief.

FJ: The problem here is that you wish to have your cake and eat it too. You insist that God is "absolutely" sovereign over all things, such that He decreed that Adam would fall, that he decrees who will repent and who will not, and yet you want to duck from the charge that this view clearly makes God equally as responsable for the evil in the world and the damnation of the wicked, as it does for all the good things. God can't be the only free moral agent, who is free from Edwardian determinism of the will, without also being the only responsible moral agent for all the evil that occurs. If God is the only variable in the Universe, then only God gets the credit, and only God gets the blame.

CP: The fact is that _everyone_ refuses to believe because they love sin and hate God (Rom. 8:7-8). God does not force anyone to reject Him. All He has to do is withhold His grace, and we are doomed by our own sinfulness.

FJ: If God decreed the fall, having made Adam's will such that he could only give in to the strongest motive, and having set before him stronger motives to sin than to obey, and then God makes the bulk of his descendants "vessels of wrath" whom he has no intention of trying to redeem, then only the God of your theology could be responsible for the fact that they "love sin and hate God."

CP: So the correct question is, How do unbelieving, God-hating sinners come to faith? The answer: God draws them.

FJ: But the Scriptures teach that Christ is the true light which enlightens every man that comes into the world. That all do not come to the light can only be because they reject the light, not because the light is not provided.

CP: Now (and this is the question I think you might be aiming at), who ultimately chooses those who will receive this grace? Citing "one Scripture" to answer this is no challenge at all; the problem is knowing when to stop. Scripture everywhere says it is God who makes this choice. Here's a sampling: (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:11, 16; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; Jn. 1:13; Jas. 1:18).

FJ: But unless you assert that the Scriptures can err, you must understand these Scriptures in the light of all other Scriptures which show that Grace is resistible (Acts 7:51), and that grace is available to all (John 1:9; 3:16).

And what breaks the deadlock of tossing Scriptures back and forth is the fact that the view I hold to is the Faith of the Fathers of the Church, as can clearly be seen by any who wish to read them. The view you present is only partially supported by St. Augustine — and by no one prior to him.

CP: So God actively grants faith to the elect (Eph. 2). But He does not actively cause unbelief in the same way.

FJ: If I threw two people into a lake, and then saved only one—would I be guiltless of the death of the one I did not actively save?

CP: Nevertheless, God's choice to pass over the non-elect does in a sense mean they are sovereignly appointed unto wrath. Scripture itself uses such language:

CP: First Peter 2:8 says Christ is a "stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."

Jude 4 says there were certain false teachers "who were before of old ordained to ... condemnation."

Romans 9 calls the non-elect "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."

FJ: Yes, predestined according to foreknowledge and God's eternal purpose. That does not mean that God makes people vessels of wrath because he takes pleasure in the death of the wicked—because Ezekiel 18 makes it clear that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. The wicked die only because they reject God's efforts to save them. Thus God asks them "Why will ye die?" If they died only because God did not wish to save them, this would be utter nonsense.

CP: In an earlier post, I cited Paul's words:

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)

CP: You now reply:

FJ: How does this prove that Man does not have to choose to respond to what God offers him?

CP: ?!!!? Whoever said that man "does not have to choose to respond"? The gospel calls all sinners to repent and believe in Christ. Those who refuse are held responsible for their sinful unbelief, precisely because it is willful rebellion. God is righteous to judge them.

FJ: But what you call "willful" cannot be taken as a responsible act, any more than a baby can be said to willfully starve to death if no one feds him. In your view, even Adam only sinned because he was presented with stronger motives to sin than to not sin, and thus according to your definition of the will, he was powerless to choose anything but to sin.

The alternative is to posit that people reject God's grace because God decides that they will reject God's grace. Which puts God in the uncomfortable position of damning people for what he makes them do.

CP: Not so. Again, God does not force anyone into unbelief. We are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).

FJ: But again, you wish to have your cake and eat it too. Who makes men "by nature" children of wrath in your view? God does. Thus God makes most men such that they cannot believe, and lifts not a finger to help them to believe.

CP: Where do you get the notion He coerces people into unbelief? (Certainly not from me or any other Calvinist. God's dealings with us involve no coercion and no violence to the human will. The fact that you keep coming back to this baseless accusation only serves to show how bankrupt your objections to Calvinism really are.)

FJ: The fact that you continually insist on a position, the consequences of which you also insist on disowning, shows the bankruptcy of your position.

CP: You ask:

FJ: How is it that God's grace is denigrated because people can reject it? And how does God come out the better if the reason they reject it is in fact that he never intended that they respond to it in the first place—but only held the ball, like Lucy, and then pulled it out of the way just as poor Charlie Brown was about to kick off?

CP: John, I think it's positively sinful to speak (or even think) of God in the sort of evil-caricature terms you are using. You are saying (as you have said before) that if God is truly sovereign, He is evil. It ought to make you tremble to say such things.

FJ: I am saying that if God is the one that "creates evil," and if He decrees whatsoever comes to pass, and if he ensured Adam's fall by making his nature and circumstances such that he could not but sin, then in this view God would be the author of sin. If that is blasphemous, the blasphemy is yours—since this is your position.

Furthermore, if God calls all men to repent, but knows that they cannot repent, and will only repent if he gives them irresistible grace to do so, but chooses not to give it to most men, then such would be like holding out the ball, with no intention of allowing the kicker to kick it. Again, if that is blasphemous, it is your position, not mine. It is also a novel position, contrary to the Faith of Church. Even St. Augustine did not believe that Adam fell by any necessity, but that he was free to choose the good, or the evil.

If you can show me that your interpretation was the interpretation of the Early Church, then I will scratch my head and go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, I take your position with the same seriousness that I do any other novel teaching that has come along well after the Apostolic era—only serious enough to seek to refute it for the sake of those who believe it, not because I consider it to be even remotely possibly true.

But Scripture teaches that apart from grace, no one would—or could—come to Christ in faith (Jn. 6:65). That point is granted.

CP: But you don't really grant it, because 1) you describe "grace" as something God owes everyone and is unrighteous if He withholds (the very opposite of true grace);

FJ: If Adam fell of his own accord, and apart from any necessity, then it is conceivable that all men could be justly damned without any hope of mercy, if one posits a corporate personality. They would be justly condemned on the basis of Adam's sin. They would not justly be condemned for failure to repent, if future repentance was not possible. But in any case, it is God Himself who says "whosoever will", and so we know that he does extend his grace to "whosoever will." In your view, however, even Adam had no more free will than we do—and so his damnation would indeed make God unjust. This is one point that St. Augustine managed to steer clear of error on.

CP: and 2) you don't see this "grace" as really efficacious. Rather, you think "grace" awaits the consent of the sinner before it can begin to operate on her behalf. I'm glad that's not what grace is—else no one would ever be saved.

FJ: If my kid does something wrong, and I offer her forgiveness on certain conditions of repentance and future obedience—how is it that my forgiveness is not efficacious? However, it will do no good for the child that chooses to continue in disobedience.

CP: OK, so take John 6:37,45 in context. What do those verses mean? Or even Romans 8:30, which states that all who are "called" are justified. Again, you are denying that grace is efficacious, and thus you deny the very concept of grace.

FJ: OK, this is from St. John Chrysostom's commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, verse 27:

But perhaps some one will say, "If all that the Father giveth, and whomsoever He shall draw, cometh unto Thee, if none can come unto Thee except it be given him from above, then those to whom the Father giveth not are free from any blame or charges." These are mere words and pretenses. For we require our own deliberate choice also, because whether we will be taught is a matter of choice, and also whether we will believe. And in this place, by the" which the Father giveth Me," He declareth nothing else than that "the believing on Me is no ordinary thing, nor one that cometh of human reasonings, but needeth a revelation from above, and a well-ordered soul to receive that revelation." And the, "He that cometh to Me shall be saved," meaneth that he shall be greatly cared for. "For on account of these," He saith, "I came, and took upon Me the flesh, and entered into(5) the form of a servant."

Verses 44 and 45:

Ver. 44. "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him."

The Manichaeans spring upon these words, saying, "that nothing lies in our own power"; yet the expression showeth that we are masters of our will. "For if a man cometh to Him," saith some one, "what need is there of drawing?" But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implieth not an unwilling(2) comer, but one enjoying much succor. Then He showeth also the manner in which He draweth; for that men may not, again, form any material idea of God, He addeth,

Ver. 46. "Not that any man hath seen God,(3) save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father."

"How then," saith some one, "doth the Father draw?" This the Prophet explained of old, when he proclaimed beforehand, and said,

Ver. 45. "They shall all be taught of God." (Isa. 54:13.)

Seest thou the dignity of faith, and that not of men nor by man, but by God Himself they shall(4) learn this? And to make this assertion credible, He referred them to their prophets. "If then 'all shall be taught of God,' how is it that some shah not believe?" Because the words are spoken of the greater number. Besides, the prophecy meaneth not absolutely all, but all that have the will. For the teacher sitteth ready to impart what he hath to all, and pouring forth his instruction unto all.

As for Romans 8:30, you have reached conclusions which the passage does not support.

I refer you to St. John Chrysostom's Homilies 15 and 16 on the Book of Romans, which can be found online at Wheaton's Early Church Fathers site.

The problem is you would have us believe that the contingencies are a mere playing pretend. God tells sinners to repent, but he really does not mean it—since they will only repent if he makes them repent, and if he does not, they cannot.

CP: Who ever said He doesn't mean it? The point you're missing is that all sinners refuse to obey (Rom. 8:7-8; Jn. 6:44, 65). But in the case of the elect, He intervenes to assure their salvation. That's grace. He is not obligated to show the same grace to all.

FJ: How can a call to repentance have any meaning without the means to respond being provided? God knows what man is capable of. If man cannot repent unless he provides them with the irresistible impulse to do so, how can God command those to repent whom he has no intention of seeing repent?

CP: In fact, as I have suggested before, your objection works more effectively against your own view than against mine. After all, whether we are Calvinist or Arminian (or EO), we will affirm that God does command all men to believe. Yet you yourself acknowledge that He declines to do what He could do—He does not intervene to give unbelieving sinners new hearts of faith.

FJ: I say that he makes no one believe, though he would enable all men to believe and repent if only they would accept what He freely offers.

CP: So how does the Arminian god escape the charge that He either doesn't mean what He says, or else is impotent?

FJ: Your conclusions have not been demonstrated to have any validity.

CP: Again we return to the real issue: the objection you have raised is tantamount to a denial of either the omnipotence or the goodness of God.

FJ: It is only a denial of omnipotence if one assumes that to be omnipotent, one must do all that one possibly could do. But as you know, the root word in omnipotent, is the same as in the word "potential."

CP: I'm particularly interested in how you believe foreknowledge absolves God from the charge that He is responsible for evil. If Calvinism makes God responsible for evil (as you have repeatedly suggested), how does your view rescue the Almighty from a similar blame? If He knew evil would occur and permitted it anyway—even though he could have avoided it—how is He exculpated from responsibility in your view?

FJ: God predestines according to foreknowledge and His eternal purposes. Part of His eternal purpose is that Man would love Him of his own free will, and not by any necessity. Those that respond to God's grace are foreknown and predestined to be heirs of Salvation, according to God's eternal purposes. Those that reject God's grace, are foreknown, and are accordingly appointed unto damnation. Those that reject God's grace are therefore, justly condemned.

For some reason, you think that this cooperation would mean that man merits his salvation. But if some ransomed prisoners choose to stay with their captors, while other choose to be free, no one would say that those thus freed had merited their release.