Russ Manion is a great friend of mine. When I was 15 or so and was reading Josh McDowell stuff, he more or less tutorted me in apologetics. He had a very long running apologetics discussion group out of his home. It ran for more than 20 years.
Russ always had a knack at balancing participation with leading a discussion. He used to say that he would bring back wounded kill for the cubs to practice on. He’d toss some poor villiage atheist into the shark tank and let us go at it.
Recently I have been having a polite conversation with John Hendryx of Monergism.com about Molinism, Augustine, grace and free will. You can read the exchange here. In any case, below is my most recent response. In paragraph 16, there is some new material to consider.
1. I think that on Monergism, it is the case that God wills alone since human volitional activity is a consequence rather than an activity with God’s volitional activity. That is what monergism means-one will is active. Which will is that, God’s or mine?2. John 6, per D.A. Carson and others, has a play between the individual and the collective. Consequently one has to be careful. V. 39 emphasizes the collection since it includes all those who are raised up. Unless you deny the General Resurrection or you specify another reason, other than Christ’s work and resurrection as a basis for the resurrection of all, v. 39 will not help you. This is why it says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all **that** He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise **it** up on the last day.” Consequently, Jesus is the source of life for all and he loses nothing of human nature, which was given him by the Father but raises it all up. From my perspective, the problem is that you view persons and nature as the same thing. John 6 on the other hand distinguishes the ways in which all come to him. Some come with faith and some not, but all come for all are raised. If not all come, then not all are raised. Vv. 39 and 40 cash out the ways of coming from v.37, naturally and personally. Those who come with faith, personally, receive a more abundant measure of life. (Jn 10:10) 3. I could agree that Jn 6 forms a syllogism and the conclusion still doesn’t follow for this reason. You are defining redemption exclusively in personal terms, but the Bible does not (2 pet 2:1, 1 Tim 4:10, Romans 8:20-23, Eph 1:10, Matt 19:28) Redemption therefore has a wider usage in the bible both conceptually and linguistically, which is why all are saved from annihilation in the General Resurrection. Christ died for all because all were dead. If Christ died for some, either some weren’t dead or salvation is only personal, making it difficult to explain why the cosmos is redeemed from corruption and the wicked receive eternal existence. This will also imply that the will is exclusively personal implying the heresy of Monothelitism since in Christ there is only one divine person.
4. Furthermore, when the bible speaks of a new or rather a renewed nature I don’t believe it contrasts a “sinful” nature with a good one. First the biblical usage is of the flesh, not an intrinsically evil substance. Second, the desires of the flesh per se, food, sleep, etc. aren’t bad but the use of them as an end in themselves apart from God is. Grace enhances and re-directs our desires it doesn’t eliminate them. Sin is in the use and not the nature, which is why sin is personal and not natural. If you think that there is an intrinsically evil substance, then either God is the author of it or God’s creation is more powerful than he is since it could alter what he willed to be a different way. You seem to make a lot of hay out of verses concerning God’s giving us a new heart but seem to ignore passages like Jeremiah 4:14, “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?”
5. If you think that my philosophical background, which includes logic, is causing me to misread the text, then you need to show that John. Do you honestly propose that I put logic aside? Why appeal to a syllogism then? In fact, I would argue that it is the Hellenistic notions of nature, determinism and lacking a concept of personhood that are driving your exegesis. This is why I asked about the good tree. Does it mean person or nature? Are natures and persons the same thing? If not, what are these passages referring to, persons or natures? Or how about this. Eph 1:10-11 says that all of creation is predestined in Christ. Does that include the wicked too? If so, predestination can’t be personal in the way you think.
6. I agree that no one comes to God unless the Father grants it. This is why ALL are raised up. I agree THAT the conclusion is inescapable, but the conclusion that either all are saved or salvation is only applicable to persons and not natures isn’t, since it depends on a pagan conception of humanity and the relationship, if any between persons and natures. This is why Universalism came out of Calvinism. If natures are persons then either only some persons are saved or all persons are.
7. I agree that people are dead in sin but we interpret that differently. They are dead in sin because setting your mind on sinful things produces death. That doesn’t answer or address the question of whether we are determined to be set that way. Augustine and the Lutherans and practically everyone else think that there are people who are regenerate who aren’t saved in the end. Plenty of Reformation folk have disagreed on that point and still do. Man has never lost his eyes or ears as he has never lost the imago dei since God wills man to be a specific way. If humans could change their nature by the personal use of their will, then John, wouldn’t human nature change and be different for every human person? But this isn’t so. Why do you think humans can frustrate God’s will when it comes to the imago dei?
8. Man has and continues to choose to use his faculties in a sinful way. And even if he turns from sinning he is still going to die. This is why a mere forgiveness of sins is inadequate. We must become partakers of the divine nature to be made immortal as Scripture says (2 Pet 1:4). If I thought that a person could believe before they understand, I would be in line with Augustine on that point, since he believed in order to understand. On the contrary though, humility, love, reason, will, etc. are all natural to humans and humans have never lost these. Why do men differ then in respect to virtue? Because persons do not use their faculties and powers in the same way. If humility were not natural, then grace could never perfect nature to have it. Grace is not foreign to nature but appropriate to it. In fact, it seems odd to me that you don’t recognize that your view is Pelagian at this point since you seem to think that nature and grace are the same thing so that when Adam lost grace he lost his nature as well.
9. On the Reformed view, Adam prior to the fall is intrinsically righteous. That is not Augustine’s view. That is the Pelagian view. Augustine thinks that grace is added to nature, so I am quite in line with Orange and Augustine on that score. Moreover, grace is the power to enable one to use their natural faculties to hit the mark, to please God. That is Augustine’s view. The fact that on my view God is a necessary condition and my personal actions are a sufficient condition in no way implies that I have room to boast. Without Christ I can do nothing. It doesn’t follow that with Christ my actions are but effects and I am a conduit or tool as the Platonists, Monothelites and Nestorians thought. This is why Augustine cites Paul, of what do you have that you did not receive? God is the ground of my believing, but I still do the believing and am a genuine cause of it because I am made in God’s image.
10. God does give grace to all in the Incarnation for all are united to him, which is why all are then raised. Some do not make use of the power God gives them because they choose not to. Why does God choose to create? If you are looking for some sufficient causal antecedent state to explain why persons perform actions, then you are treating persons like natures for that which occurs of nature is necessary. You are therefore making a category mistake in applying the explanatory model for natures to persons. This is because persons are the sufficient causal terminus or end for their actions. If it is incoherent to say that “I just did” and there was no sufficient cause other than me, than is it also incoherent to say, God willed to create and wasn’t determined by his nature to do so, and the only thing that explains why God willed to create is the fact that he choose to? If we take your analysis and apply it to theology, we end up in paganism.
11. Augustine says we are saved by Christ alone. I agree. Augustine also thinks that we merit God’s favor through the power of grace. I agree. The problem is that you are thinking that the human faculties and powers of nature are “something else” apart from and opposed to grace. They aren’t for human nature is not alien to God-it is not opposed to him. That is, you are implicitly affirming that the image of God was destroyed by man. Secondly, I don’t think the Bible teaches a Penal model of the atonement so I view the cross differently than you and I think that the Incarnation is the primary saving event in the Bible. In Christ, all things are gathered, recapitulated, predestined and restored, even death becomes a captive of Christ. (Eph 1:10-11)
12. I also think that you confuse sufficient with efficient. The Cross may be sufficient without meeting some conditions for being efficient. It may only be so in the presence of faith or some other virtue, such as love, which fulfills the law. (Rom 13:8-10) So why might this be the case? Because God gives man a freedom like his own, because he is made in God’s image and even man’s sin can’t alter his own nature, otherwise man would be more powerful than God. And if God determined human agents, he would be going against his own will to grant that intrinsic freedom to humanity.
13. Let me put the synergism another way. In Christ, is there monergism, one will working, or two? I don’t think that a person calling out and such is a proper analogy for someone coming to faith. I think God gives us the power in the renewal of human nature in the incarnation to believe. Christ like Neo in the Matrix heals humanity from the inside out, making it immortal, which is why even the wicked never die. Secondly on my schema, I never said and in fact denied that all depends on what man does. Synergism denies this.
14. I can agree that we believe the gospel because we are quickened, but that depends on what you mean. The regeneration of the nature doesn’t imply a regeneration of the person, it only extends the effect of his actions. This is why Paul says that those who sin fall short of *glory.* Because in sin we are deficient of power. It is not that we can’t shoot, it is that we can’t shoot far enough. We have the image, but not the likeness.
Both Paul and Jesus indicate that even evil persons can will the good. Even the good I will to do, that I do not do and Jesus speaks of those being evil giving good gifts to their children. I acknowledge that apart from grace he will not will the good in the proper way, I never claimed he would never choose the good. Moreover, human nature never falls short of anything since nature doesn’t do anything. Persons do. Why do you keep reducing persons to nature and confusing the two? Persons sin, natures don’t.
If you took aside the philosophy that you have been given unknowingly and the exegetical tradition that gave it to you, you’d recognize that things aren’t as simple as you seem to think. I agree with Jn 6:63 but not your interpretation of it. The flesh profits or produces nothing profitable apart from divine power. It doesn’t say that it profits nothing with divine power, and in fact Jesus teaches the opposite, that thru him all things are possible. Augustine teaches that the use of our will is made good by grace, not that the will as a faculty was evil. If Augustine thought that, he would agree with Fautus the Manichean. In fact, human nature can’t determine personal actions in a fallen state anyhow because it is unstable and weak. It is causally too ineffective to determine agents to sin. So for Augustine, whatever the relation is between the person and their weakened nature, it isn’t one of causal determinism.
15. Augustine thinks that God doesn’t do all the work in regeneration. He thinks that God transcendentally moves first, but first doesn’t necessarily mean first in temporal order but in the order of importance. On your view God regenerates you determining you to believe. On Augustine’s model, God enables you to believe and you may or may not. Monergism means there is only one will working, which means that nature has nothing to offer to grace to be perfected and this could only be because nature is supposed to be evil or sinful and that is Manichean. Consequently the citation from Ezekiel does no work for your critique since I fully accept it. (I’d recommend reading say Stump’s article on Augustine in the Cambridge Companion to Augustine.)
16. If Adam is able not to sin prior to the fall, how is this compatible with your Edwardian gloss on natures determining actions? How can Adam be able not to sin if he is determined to sin by the absolute decree of God? Second, if Adam was intrinsically and naturally righteous, as the Reformed claim, what should Adam’s actions have been? If you have a good nature, then that determines only good actions, right? Where did Adam get this ability to act contrary to his nature from, especially in light of God’s predestinating him to sin? If Adam could act contrary to his nature, on your Edwardian gloss it could only be because Adam’s nature was morally and metaphysically neutral, which is worse than Pelagianism. Augustine’s distinction doesn’t help you because you are not mapping it on to the same anthropology. Consequently, you face a double explanatory whammy. If God determines Adam to sin, how is it the case that he is able not to sin? Second, if natures determine actions, then Adam should have been determined to do only good, thereby placing in opposition two inevitable ends. Adam is determined to sin and determined not to sin-one by God and the other by nature-Gnosticism, Manicheanism, etc. Here the pagan dialectic underlying your thinking becomes obvious.
17. If God acts alone in regeneration then certainly God makes choices for us. Isn’t that the whole point of predestination on the Calvinistic schema? I don’t view grace as extrinsic to human nature, as coming from without, because God’s grace isn’t alien to human nature for humans never lose the image of God. If they did, they wouldn’t be human and a substitutionary atonement would not be possible. I agree that God removes the heart of stone, but is the heart a person or something else? Is a will a person? How about a mind or intellect? How many of each of those does Jesus have?
18. I grant that in Calvinism choices are voluntary, but that doesn’t imply that they are free choices. Consequently appealing to the fact that we still make choices, prior to or after the fall determined by God doesn’t show that they are free choices. And lots of deterministic systems like Scotism and Thomism have just as hard a view of predestination and the necessity of grace as Calvinism. Why then be a Calvinist and not a Scotist?
I see your quote from Calvin and will raise you a quote from Saint John Cassian.
“For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: “Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil?” For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: “God made man upright,” i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, “But they have sought out many imaginations,” for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men.” And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: “Hear ye deaf, and ye blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? and blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers?” And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: “Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears;” and again: “having eyes, but ye see not; and ears, but ye hear not.” The Lord also says in the gospel: “Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand.” And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing ye shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them.” Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: “But why of your own selves do ye not judge what is right?” And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair. Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: “And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas thou hast thought in thine heart to build a house to My name, thou hast well done in having this same thing in thy mind. Nevertheless thou shall not build a house to My name.” This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: “Neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor, where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.” And therefore he warns Timothy and says: “Neglect not the grace of God which is in thee;” and again: “For which cause I exhort thee to stir up the grace of God which is in thee.” Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: “And we helping, exhort you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain:” for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: “Repent of thine iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity.” It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said: “My God will prevent me with His mercy;” and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: “And in the morning my prayer shall prevent Thee;” and again: “I prevented the dawning of the day and cried;” and: “Mine eyes have prevented the morning.” For He calls and invites us, when He says: “All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people;” and He is invited by us when we say to Him: “All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee” He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: “Wherefore the Lord waiteth to have compassion upon us;” and He is waited for by us, when we say: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me;” and: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” He strengthens us when He says: “And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me;” and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees.” Jesus cries: “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink;” the prophet also cries to Him: “I have laboured with crying, my jaws are become hoarse: mine eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God.” The Lord seeks us, when He says: “I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer;” and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: “I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer.”
Now, was David’s choice evil or good? If Good and from God, why didn’t God give David the go-ahead? If evil, why did God approve of it?
19. How do I know that God’s nature doesn’t determine his choices? Uhm because Scripture teaches that God is free. I wouldn’t think I would have to crack out any good Calvinist systematic theology to prove to a Calvinist that God is the most free. God, being free and possessing aseity is not required in any way to create. The idea that creation was a free act of God is taught in Scriptures as well as being a core teaching of every Christian tradition that I can think it. It was a basic mark that distinguished Christianity from paganism. Do you really mean to question the doctrine of a free creation? Do you think that it was necessary for God to create? In any case, here is Charles Hodge,
20. “The will of God is free in the highest sense of the word. An agent is said to be free (1.) When he is at liberty to act or not to act, according to his good pleasure. This is the liberty in acting. (2.) He is free as to his volitions, when they are determined by his own sense of what is wise, right or desirable. Freedom is more than spontaneity. The affections are spontaneous but are not free. Loving and hating, delighting in and abhorring, do not depend on the will. God is free in acting, as in creating and preserving, because these acts do not arise from the necessity of his nature. He was free to create or not create; to continue the universe in existence or to cause it to cease to be.” Systematic Theology, Vol. 1., p. 403
21. It matters not if Adam and Eve weren’t sealed in righteousness. On your Edwardian philosophical thesis, natures determine actions. So if their nature was good and righteous, then their actions should have been. A good tree can’t bear bad fruit, right? And where do you get the idea that the saints in heaven and God can’t do otherwise because of what they were? Where is the proof text for that?! As I noted before, just so long as there is a plurality of good things to choose between, people can have libertarian freedom.
22. In John 6, the questions are these. Is this Jesus’ human will or divine will? Or do you think Jesus has only one will? If the human will, is the divine person of the Son determined in the use of his human power of choice or not? The question is not whether he submitted but whether it was free or not? Is the divine person of the Son a predestined tool in his humanity or is he free? Jn 6:37 says only that all will come to the Son and won’t be cast out or lost. I believe that. Even the wicked are not lost for they are not annihilated as the devil wished. Rather not even they can escape the power of Christ and his resurrection, which is why they are raised and exist forever. This is why he is their Lord.
23. As for Don’s comments, the doctrines he mentions, Dyothelitism, the Hypostatic Union, Mary as theotokos, are all scriptural doctrines-at least affirmed by the Reformed and the Lutherans. Just because Don didn’t give proof texts doesn’t make them speculation. And I find it very strange that you retreat to a kind of anti-intellectualism. But of course given the latent Manicheanism, it is no surprise. If human nature is intrinsically evil as you seem to think, then reason has not positive value.
24. But what I don’t understand most of all is your inconsistency at using philosophical arguments of contrastive explanations (what explains a choice for X and opposed to Y?) and then your denying me the same appeal to reason. Moreover, it is not that I disagree with Scripture, it is that I disagree with your interpretation of it. In fact, where does Scripture spell out the concept of a cause that you are working with? Not all concepts of causation are deterministic. I think there is far more philosophy in your own thinking than you are aware of. In any case, a retreat into anti-intellectualism won’t help. Logic is logic. An argument isn’t bad because it is given by an unbeliever. It is bad because it is not truth preserving. Besides, do you mean to say that you aren’t using logic when you argue from Scripture?