Debate on Calvinistic Compatibilism Part 8: Matt Responds

Hi Derek,

Again thanks for trying to clarify your views further. I do appreciate it. I’m not trying to be sarcastic when I say you are doing a good job of showing any reader who is toying with compatibilism the mental hurdles he must jump through in order to affirm it. With that said I must be bluntly honest and say you have done little else but confirm my worst fears: Calvinism is madness—and must be opposed at all costs for the sake of the gospel and humanity 🙂 Lol.

Well…maybe that is a bit much ☺ but let me explain. I don’t think the “problem is we are speaking two very different philosophical languages” as you suggest. Rather one of us is using philosophical language in a valid manner and the other isn’t. There is only one philosophical “language” and we either use words and logic rightly or wrongly. More on that later.

My greatest concern after reading your response is that you have a unique…if not unnerving talent to embrace unambiguous, clear contradictions but not see them as such. You are doing this by an act of sheer will, Derek. Surely you must see this. Only a will as resolved and self-determined as yours can so consistently circumvent the obvious, obscure the meaning of key terms (like free), be so dismissive of logical implications and ultimately embrace a deluded, incoherent philosophy that says we freely choose what we are causally determined to choose via a divine, irresistible decree.

I’m not trying to attack you or disparage you, Derek. Nor am I saying you are not intelligent. You obviously have a gifted intelligence (me not so much) but to adopt your point of view one must literally embrace a mindset of confusing, incoherent absurdity and do so without losing one’s mind. I saw a clip of Piper in which he concedes that God determined all our besetting sins, but when challenged to explain how this could be he said something along the lines of, “Don’t think about it too much—you will go crazy. People that try to understand it can literally go crazy.”

This is the price one must ultimately pay to be a Calvinist of the Edwards, Piper stripe. One must discharge all rationality and embrace a delusion—not a mystery, not a paradox but a delusion. What you are proposing is not a mystery—or even a paradox. It is as clear a contradiction as if I were to argue for the existence of a married bachelor. The Trinity—now that has aspects of legitimate mystery but there is nothing inherently contradictory about the Godhead being 3 distinct persons in 1 substance. However what you propose is no mystery.

You are trying to propose the following:

1) All our thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires and choices are causally predetermined for us through God’s decretive will, such that we are not FREE to think, desire or choose against God’s decree.

2) Whatever we think, desire and choose to do we do so freely.

You haven’t bothered to explain how this ISN’T a blatant contradiction. You just say it is isn’t. But that’s just not good enough–especially if we are going around telling people that God determined all their sins.

You write:

“So you see, we may well be talking about different concepts but using the same words. Do you agree that this may be the case?”

Sorry Derek, that just isn’t accurate. Rather we are using the same words but you are consigning different meanings to them. If a choice is determined through an irresistible decree, thus making the choice necessary, then the choice is not FREE. You however don’t seem to grasp this pivotal point at all, which is why we are using the same words, but you are obscuring their true meanings.

You asked: “Do you think it is remotely possible that predestination and freedom are not mutually exclusive?”

Derek, let’s get honest for a sec. When you use the word “predestination” you have in mind an act of divine determinism that makes the EFFECT of the determinative decree necessary, and thus not free. The divine decree is the ultimate cause for everything that occurs. No one is free to act contrary to God’s divine decree. Our wills are just instrumental, secondary causes to bring about the divine will—no different than if I were to use the instrument of a stick to move a stone. The stick causes the stone to move, but I caused the stick to move in such a way that it moved the stone. That is the compatibilistic notion of secondary causation. In other words your definition of predestination ultimately means causal determinism. Why don’t you just accept this rather than fudge the issue?

With that said the answer is “No”— causal determinism and genuine freedom are, and will always be, intrinsically mutually exclusive.

Now– are biblical election, salvation and predestination mutually exclusive to freedom? Not at all. They compliment each other very well when one drops the special interpretations of Calvinism.

You write:

“So I don’t see how compatibilism can ever “collapse” into mere determinism. It involves determinism, yes, certainly. But if you define determinism in a way that automatically rules out the possibility of genuine freedom, I can only say that my compatibilism does not involve that kind of determinism.”

Here Derek you are saying nothing more than:

“If you define determinism the way it is philosophically and logically understood, then, yes, it would rule out the possibility of genuine freedom. But when I speak of “determinism” and when I speak of “freedom” I am rejecting the accepted, normal usages and definitions of such terms and consigning my own special, private interpretations to them, such that my compatibilism doesn’t involve the incoherent, logical problems it normally would if I were to adopt the proper, long-standing definitions.”

Lastly Derek, my major concern is the effect your view has on foreign missions. Do we really want to go around telling people that God has predetermined all their sins through an irresistible sovereign decree? Just think about the implications of such a view: Jesus admonished us to pray, “Father who is in heaven…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” BUT in Calvinism it would read “lead us not into the temptation you decreed for us to be tempted by and deliver us also from the evil you decreed for us.” Come on man–just think about what nonsense your view collapses into! You would need to temporarily surpress or suspend your Calvinism to get anything of worth out of such verses. Yet not everyone has your special talent to be so “flexible” in not seeing both the logical and moral complications and contradictions of such a theological worldview. Is it fair for you to expect 3rd world people, untrained in “sophisticated thinking” to have some strained and heightened sense of philosophical thought that can explain away apparent contradictions by dwelling in a world of paradox?

Though his posts may be lengthy, Robert rightly points out, your definition of freedom is doing what we were preprogrammed deterministically to do–down to every one of your key strokes and spelling mistakes. I just don’t see God’s sovereignty as being as insecure as your view appears to suggest. I don’t think God is scared of libertarian freedom, and from the beginning He knew He could reach his sovereign purposes without programming all of our thoughts and actions.

Moreover Robert’s analysis is correct when he says that Calvinism acts like a Trojan Horse. This really is my biggest problem with Calvinism. They are not upfront and forthcoming with how they use terms! “God is sovereign for the sake of His glory!” the Calvinist says and the people agree. But under the guise of “sovereignty” a host of hidden assumptions and special definitions are smuggled in and not revealed until the “convert” has swallowed the hook down so deep he won’t spit it out when they tell him or her, “Oh—by the way God also decreed every one of your relationship destroying sins and temptations for His glory. If that seems to contradict a lot of the Bible, don’t worry about it. I don’t understand it either–It’s a mystery.”

There is a reason Calvinism has resulted in untold division and confusion. Calvinism makes God’s moral nature morally ambiguous.

That leads me to my last point. You seem to have great respect for the Bible and it appears that you really do believe certain scriptural passages require you to interpret them in a manner that extols God’s meticulous, causal determination of all things through irresistible, hidden decrees. But really Derek, it’s not as if the “other side” hasn’t dealt with these passages. Have you really plumbed the depths of how Arminians interpret the classic, Calvinist proof-texts? Have you truly read from the “horse’s mouth?” The very passages you have cited are quite easy to explain without affirming a divine determinism that causally controls your every thought and choice.

Hopefully I will be able to post on many such verses soon–because if that really is where it all starts for some Calvinists– it is unfortunate and unnecessary.

A big SHALOM to you,

About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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