Choke

Fortunately, the history of Christian thought attests the existence of another spiritual family, much more enlightened than the first one, and whose untiring efforts to blend religous faith with rational speculations have achieved really important results.  No less than those of the first group, the members of the second could find in the Bible texts to justify their own attitude. Not only had Saint Paul clearly stated that even pagans should be able to achieve a natural knowledge of the existence of God, ‘his eternal power also and divinity, so that they are inexcusable’ (Rom 1:20), but, in the first chapter of his Gospel, Saint John also had said that the Word of God ‘was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.’ (John 1:9) No wonder then that the greatest among the Greek Fathers of the ChurchJustin martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen-built up theological doctrines in which the fundamental agreement of natural and revealed knowledge was everywhere either stated or supposed. Yet, by far the most perfect representative of this group was, and is very likely to remain, a Latin Father-Saint Augustine.  For the sake of brevity, and using the name as a mere practical label, let us call the presentatives of this second tendency the Augustinian family.”

Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, pp. 15-16

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47 Responses to Choke

  1. David Richards says:

    What’s next – sputter?! 🙂

  2. Sophocles says:

    AAAAAACHOOO!!!!!!!!

  3. William B says:

    Cardiac Arrest!!!

  4. That observation by Gilson is both accurate and devestating, EXCEPT him thinking that Origen, Clement, and Justin the greatest of the greek fathers (holding myself from laughter). But given his Second European committments, we should not be surprised either. Notice how he draws a distinction between St. Augustine and “the Augustinian family.” Who does that sound like Perry? JPF? Oh but JPF didn’t know what he was talking about, now did he!! Extremely ironic.

    Photios

  5. acolyte says:

    Here are some things to notice. Notice that Gilson says “fortunately” as if this was a good thing.

    2nd, notice that to be “enlightened” amounts to endorsing dialectic and its synthesis with theology.

    3rd that doing so is what is “really” important. 4th. The Greatest among the “Greeks” is not Ireneaus, Athanasius, Cyril, Basil or either of the two Gregories, but Origen, Justin and Clement, all of which were hellenizers, and some to a gross degree.

    4th Think about what kind of heretical teachings and controversies came from these people. Subordinationism, Arianism, Universalism, etc. Gilson doesn’t seem to bat an eye.

    5th. The chief example is Augustine with the insertion of his novel speculations concerning the filioque and predestinarianism, both of which are clearly innovations. (See Rebecca Weaver’s work on the Grace and human agnency)

    6th. Augustine himself as a person isn’t really important. His children may grow up to subvert him. What is in important is that the fundamental principles allow for a variety of possible instantiations so that a refutation of one does not necessarily entail the refutation of the principles. Gee, kind of like…Valentinus.

  6. acolyte says:

    Photios,

    For all of the reasons you listed, I posted this citation. Notice this from the Catholic Ency.

    “Valentinus, the best known and most influential of the Gnostic heretics, was born according to Epiphanius (Haer., XXXI) on the coast of Egypt. He was trained in Hellenistic science in Alexandria. Like many other heretical teachers he went to Rome the better, perhaps to disseminate his views…Valentinus professed to have derived his ideas from Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul, but his system is obviously an attempt to amalgamate Greek and Oriental speculations of the most fantastic kind with Christian ideas. He was especially indebted to Plato. From him was derived the parallel between the ideal world (the pleroma) and the lower world of phenomena (the kenoma). Valentinus drew freely on some books of the New Testament, but used a strange system of interpretation by which the sacred authors were made responsible for his own cosmological and pantheistic views. In working out his system he was thoroughly dominated by dualistic fancies.”

    The ideal world and the lower world. Can we say nature and grace dialectic? A “strange” interpretation by which the authors of scripture were made responsible for his own philosophical views? Not like say Augustine, Origen or Clement! Say it ain’t so!

  7. Michael says:

    1. What is your take on that passage in Hebrews 8:4-5, in which Moses is given the plans for the Tabernacle, which was a “copy and shadow” of the Real Temple in Heaven? Granted it’s not Valentius, but it does sound as though there is a parallel reality involved between the heavenlies and the earthly.

    2. How right Orthodoxy is…we don’t need more intellect to be theologians; we need the experience of the Heart entering into Theosis.

  8. Interesting quote from Gilson. Here are two passages from Étienne Gilson’s _God and Philosophy_ regarding Augustine.

    >>>The first epoch-making contact between Greek philosophical speculation and Christian religious belief took place when, already a convert to Christianity, the young Augustine began to read the works of some Neo-Platonists, particularly the _Enneads_ of Plotinos.>>Here is a young convert to Christianity who, for the first time in his life, reads the _Enneads_ of Plotinos, and what he sees there at once is the Christian God himself, with all his essential attributes. … In short, as soon as Augustine read the _Enneads_, he found there the three essentially Christian notions of God the Father, of God the Word, and of the creation.

    That Augustine found them there is an incontrovertible fact. That they were not there is a hardly more controvertible fact. To go at once to the fundamental reason why they could not possibly be there, let us say that the world of Plotinos and the world of Christianity are strictly incomparable; no single point in the one can be matched with any single point in the other one, for the fundamental reason that their metaphysical structure is essentially different. Plotinos was living in the third century A.D.; yet his philosophical thought remained wholly foreign to Christianity.

  9. Wow, that got messed up in the formatting.

    The first quote begins with ‘The first epoch-making …’ and ends with ‘… _Enneads of Plotinos.’ and comes from page 44. The second quote begins with ‘Here is a young convert …’ and ends with ‘…foreign to Christianity’ and comes from pages 48-49. The paragraph break is in the original.

    Is there somewhere a list of tags that can be used?

    Thomas

  10. Thomas,

    did you get my email?

  11. Jim says:

    5th. The chief example is Augustine with the insertion of his novel speculations concerning the filioque and predestinarianism, both of which are clearly innovations. (See Rebecca Weaver’s work on the Grace and human agnency)

    The book is nearly $70. Can someone please explain how Orthodoxy understands the plethora of scriptural passages that clearly articulate the absolute sovereignty of God in the final outcome of all things, in conjunction with the equally clearly articulated passages that deal with man’s responsibility for it’s actions?

    It seems rather straightforward that this aspect of Augustinianism can be distilled to a simple tautology – “God is God,” and its simple corollary: “we are not” (pardon the dialectic) – can anything be a more straightforward understanding of Romans 9; where Paul is dealing with God’s *predestined* rejection of Israel?

    What is the Orthodox understanding of these things? Is there a good essay on the web somewhere?

    Jim

  12. Jim,

    Look at my paper Synergy in Christ. Determinism is located different categorically from an Orthodox Trinitarian and Christological perspective. Nature-determined, Person-free. But with the confusion of nature and person in the “Augustinian family,” they cannot handle key Christological passages, and result in an Arian christ.

    Photios

  13. Jim says:

    Found it,

    Thanks much.

  14. acolyte says:

    Jim,

    Try a library and make Franklin happy. Absolute sovereignty is rather vague. I know it is code for a specific idea, and even then with specific nuances. Scotus believes in absolute sovereignty but not Calvinism. Same with Aquinas or Molina. Surely there are lots of scriptural passages, some which you don’t accept as scripture, but the number of them that teach God’s kingship is not at issue. The issue is what they mean. I don’t think they mean what you think they do. And I don’t think you can show that they have the kind of causal theory in mind that is necessary to make Calvinism work either. I do maintain that God “wins” but I can’t see how that implies the lack of libertarian freedom from his creatures. In any case, there are a number of models on the table other than Calvinism and Arminianism and it is only through ignorance that people take them to be the only legitimate candidates. So spend some time with Molina, Scotus, Aquinas, et al.

    Obviously God is God, but man is made in his image, so there is no dialectical relationship. It doesn’t follow that if God is good, that man is evil. If God is free, man is a slave, etc. Such is the view of the world of Platonism where everything is predestined according to opposition.

    I certainly think that Romans 9 is straightforward. Paul is straightforwardly dealing with the question, if God elected Israel as the means to bring about Messiah, since Christ is the end or goal of the Law, why didn’t this entail the salvation of Israel, as Israel thought? God secures as his purpose through election regardless of the moral standing of the person. Jacob, Israel, Pharaoh or the Gentiles-all cases of election. God’s election doesn’t imply that agents do not freely perform their actions, but only that God orders them to specific ends other than the ones that they intended. But since that has to do with the consequences of their acts, rather than the acts themselves it is no bar to libertarian freedom. Joseph’s brothers intended to be rid of him, but God brought about a different consequence. So I don’t see how Romans 9 helps the Reformed case. As Augustine himself wrote, God causes only some things, but orders all things.

    I am sure it looks crystal clear to you and it did to me once too. But at one time, Daniel 9 “clearly” taught Dispensationalism too. The perspicuity of the text and the perspicuity of the reader are not the same. In any case, I’d argue that Calvinism makes things worse and not better. One has no plausible answer to explain the fall in a way that not only shows that God is not responsible but that God is completely innocent. (See Maritain, God and the Permission of Evil.) The kind of control that the Calvinist deity exercises seems to me to be identical with manipulation and manipulated agents aren’t responsible, even if they are manipulated to do the things that they have reasons or desires for the things they are doing. As to evil, it seems quite simple that the Calvinist god could have created a world in which agents were perfectly free and it was impossible for agents to sin and so we could have had a world in which there was no cancer, war and the suffering of small children. To say that God requires the punishment of the wicked in order to manifest his justice is tantamount to Origenism-In order to be Father and Lord, God required eternal subjects to be Lord over. Consequently it is no big surprise that like Calvinism, Origenism is quite predestinarian. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I don’t find the Reformed appeal to “mystery” to be anything other than an ad hoc defense as well as an indication that their view has run out of explanatory gas. God is perfectly just without the wicked and so they do not persist eternally because of the reqirement of some legal principle requiring punishment.

    Moreover, it raises deep problems about the Trinity and Christology in making God subject to necessity as a predestined man. You can see this and the resulting kind of monothelitism in Christology. Why is it that Christ was unable to sin? Because the divine will trumped the human. As Barth clearly saw Calvinistic predestinarianism is a Christological issue, which is why he accuses your Father, Calvin, of Arianism. Calvin has a purely functional Christology for a reason. Unitarianism, Universalism and Open theism popped out of Calvinism and not by chance. They are just two ends of the same set of Christological assumptions.

    All of the good essays, are here, if I can toot our own horn, or in print in various monographs and other professional texts. And I can say you won’t get really any help from modern analytic philosophers of religion either. They are all as of yet pretty ignorant of the Orthodox take on these matters.

  15. MG says:

    Jim

    Where do you see Calvinism in Romans 9? A lot of people claim it is there, so I would be interested in hearing your exegetical arguments. I have some degree of familiarity with the text and I’m an Orthodox who believes in libertarian freewill. It just seems that Reformed theology has radically misinterpreted Romans 9 to me.

  16. Jim says:

    MG,

    I tried a post but it didn’t seem to make it. If this one goes through maybe I’ll try posting it again.

    Jim

  17. Jim says:

    My post must contain a key phrase or something the Perry is filtering on. Since I’m not sure which word or words, I’m not sure how to post what I had written. I’ve tried about 5 or 6 times so far.

  18. Jim says:

    In any case – my blog works … 🙂

    http://jiminger.com/blog/?page_id=137

  19. Jim,

    Cool aid or champagne it makes no difference and I didn’t accuse you of either. The claim to perspicuity does no work. I only need deny that they are clear and we are done. I deny it. Done. They clearly do not teach what you claim. I know it seems so to you, and it did to me once too but I don’t think the passages clearly teach anything of the sort.

    If you don’t know what libertarian freedom amounts to then I’d suggest looking at https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2005/01/18/a-note-on-free-will/

    If that isn’t enough to give you a clear idea, I’d take a look at Robert Kane’s, The Significance of Free Will, Oxford. I know a number of people, especially since Pike that have thought that God’s knowledge eliminates libertarian freedom but I have yet to be convinced. And I am certainly not alone among contemporary philosophers and not a few historical figures. So, I’d need to see the argument. Foreknowledge of itself doesn’t rule out freedom and here is one reason why it doesn’t. Knowledge isn’t a cause. So God’s knowing my actions doesn’t cause them. God knows lots of things he didn’t cause. Secondly, most of those arguments turn on God either being temporal or eternality glossed as simultaneity (including Calvinism)-both positions I reject and I endorse God as completely timeless. So to be fair, there hasn’t yet been a philosophical argument constructed to show the incompatibility of divine knowledge and human action against my position. So forgive me for being skeptical, but, best of luck. The two conditions on Libertarian freedom are UR and AP-that is, that I a free if and only if I am the source of my actions and I have alternative possibilities open to me.

    This is the kind of freedom God has. I would be interested to know if you too affirm that God has this kind of freedom. If so, then is the concept incoherently only applied to humans, and if so, why? If not, then how do you square your denial with the practical endorsement of every major Christian tradition? Moreover, if you think God has libertarian freedom, what passages in the Bible teach it do you think?

    Open Theism and Calvinism turn on a set of problematic assumptions. Here are some of them. That the Good is simple and freedom entails a plurality of options, and hence they are, as they stand incompatible. Either people will be good but not free or free but not good. So the Calvinist sacrifices freedom to assimilate it to goodness, ala soft determinism, which is logically stronger than compatibilism mind you. The Open Theist sacrifices goodness for freedom, which is why they choke at the other end of the spectrum considering questions of whether God can sin. They are two sides of the same coin, which is why the resurgence in Calvinism is accompanied by a resurgence in Socinianism (Open Theism).

    My comments regarding manipulation are not a caricature. If you think I know Calvinism as well as you do or better than you should take my words as saying something significant. In the current literature the major objection against Compatibilism is how to distinguish responsible actions from manipulated ones. Ravizza and Fischer have written quite a bit on it, but I’d recommend Stump’s essay in Russ and Overton’s Contours of Agency to see the problems in their reasons-responsiveness account. So far, no one to my knowledge has come up with a plausible account that distinguishes responsible acts from manipulated ones. In any case, your comments do not constitute an answer of how to distinguish manipulated agents from free agents. Best of luck.

    No, that is not the kind of objection that Paul deals with in Romans 9.Paul is dealing with election to serve an end, not determined agents. The election is regardless of merit. God has mercy on whom he wills. There is nothing there about determined agents. So election does not depend on human effort, but this says nothing as to the etiology of the agents under discussion. Of course, while God can elect whom he likes, people can reject that election. Luke 7:30.

    With Pharaoh, I do not deny that God raised him up. Where does it say that God caused him in a deterministic way to do a specific act? I also do not deny that God can order actions to serve his purposes, such as a display of power, but that is far different than saying that God is necessitated to keep people in existence and punish them, lest he fail to be just. So your comments miss the mark.

    My complaint is not the one Paul is dealing with. I am not denying God has a right to order to specific ends the free acts of creatures. With Augustine, I agree. God causes some things but other things he orders. God does not cause free acts. I am denying that it would be good for God to determine someone to an end, specifically hell, apart from any motion of their will that wasn’t ultimately up to them. Do you think God would be responsible if he were determined? How about Jesus? Is he determined to go to the Cross? Is it not open to him to choose to save his life or would that be evil?

    Moreover, Paul’s comments are an analogy and hence to try and squeeze the analogy for a specific metaphysical theory of causation or an entire theological model seems a tad of a stretch.

    So if the appeal to mystery is legitimate, do you appeal to mystery as to why God predestined Adam to sin? If Adam performs acts because his nature determines his actions and his nature is good, do you just chalk up the inconsistency to mystery too? And why is it that Calvinist get to appeal to mystery at crucial points but Libertarians, when they reply (not that I necessarily do) that the ultimate explanation for an action is the agent and nothing else they get plastered with this answer being ad hoc? Seems like special pleading.

    And do you appeal to mystery in explaining the problem of evil too? Why not answer every theological and philosophical that way and save lots of time? It would certainly save lots of time though it would put a damper on your apologetic. Besides, an appeal to mystery is a nice way to say, I don’t know. Moreover, asserting over and over again that you believe both responsibility and determinism doesn’t show that they are in fact compatible. I don’t care what is asserted. I care what is demonstrated. Catholics assert things all day long. “We believe that God is simple and creation is free.” Sure, but are you consistent? No.

    Notice again that you slip from God raising Pharaoh up to God causing his actions. But the test only says that God has a purpose in making Pharaoh powerful. It doesn’t say that God caused his actions. Placing someone in a position of power isn’t the same as determining the use of that power. So I disagree that the entire point of the passage is the idea that God chose Israel to reject him. Rather the point is to explain how God’s election doesn’t entail salvation. The problem is that you confuse election with a specific Origenistic notion of personalistic predestination, which isn’t in the text. Besides, my questions about the problem of evil aren’t covered in you answer. Your answer at best is meant to cover the question, why does God choose these people for salvation and not others? My question is why God doesn’t determine everyone to salvation and save everyone a whole hell of a lot of needless suffering? The “just because” answer isn’t going to wash as an apologetic, let alone when your kids get leukemia.

  20. MG says:

    Jim–

    To add to Perry’s responses, I think there is a very important assumption that needs to be argued for by the Calvinist who claims his doctrines are in Romans 9: that Romans 9 is primarily about the eternal salvation of individuals. If you could present the Calvinist side from an exegetical standpoint, then I will be glad to respond by giving the non-Calvinist arguments. Specifically, I’m looking for examples where you can point to sections in the text of Romans 9 and infer “look, this is talking about the unconditional election and irresistable saving grace of God in relation to the eternal salvation of individuals”. Could you point us to the places where you see this?

  21. Jim says:

    Perry,

    You’ve given me a lot to chew on. I’m sure it will take some time.

    MG,

    I recognize the community nature (the covenant people) being handled in Romans 9 – I didn’t think I insinuated otherwise.

    Thanks for the lengthy responses from all. I’ll be reading them over several times this week.

    Jim

  22. MG says:

    Jim–

    I think it is crucial to a Calvinist understanding of Romans 9 to be able to argue that primarily individuals and eternal salvation are in view throught the whole of the chapter. Let me give you an example:

    Who is Jacob in verse 13? And what implications does this have for whether or not the chapter is teaching about eternal salvation?

  23. Jim says:

    MG,

    Again, I didn’t mean to insinuate that it dealt with anything other than God’s covenant people as a whole – it’s clearly an explanation for the Gentiles being under the Covenant.

    I also didn’t refer to it for anything related to eternal salvation (of the individual or otherwise) but simply as an example of what it means for God to make a choice (after all – free will vs God’s sovereignty was the topic of conversation). It therefore only relates to eternal salvation tangentially (that is, in as much as these topics relate to eternal salvation) – I acknowledge that (as do many other Calvinists – John Piper comes to mind).

    Jim

  24. Death Bredon says:

    Surely, Ettiene is a Cardinal or soon to be beatified, being a product that epitomizes Karl the Barbarian’s invention of the western “school system.”

  25. MG says:

    Jim–

    Thank you for clarifying–I didn’t mean to imply you had affirmed such things. If I did then please accept my apology.

    Its very important to realize that the idea of being chosen for a historical task is not *necessarily* identical to the idea of being elected to eternal salvation. It is at least possible that God’s sovereignty does not work in exactly the same way in reference to one as in reference to the other (in fact I think this is precisely the case).

    If you think that Romans 9 is primarily discussing the election to a historical task of a people group, then where do you draw Calvinist doctrines about the unconditinal election of particular individuals to eternal salvation from? Do you think Romans 9 also applies to individuals and their eternal destinies, or are your Reformed beliefs about this derived from some other text in Scripture?

    By the way, thanks for being willing to discuss this. Im having a similar discussion (we haven’t gotten to Romans 9 yet, though) on my blog under the entry “The REAL reasons why we should be Arminian”. Its always pleasant to have discussions on election and grace with pleasant Calvinists 🙂

  26. Inquirer says:

    Perry,

    How does one understand God’s hardening of Pharoah’s heart in an Orthodox manner so that it doesn’t amount to God causing (or, at least, greatly influencing) Pharoah to be contrary to Moses?

  27. Jack says:

    Perry,

    When you hear someone saying the divine essence is “simple” do you understand that assertion to be positive in content? Do some of the theologians you criticize so understand it? Also, would you claim that the divine activites are complex, i.e., distinguishable? Are divine attributes positive statements about the essence, negative statements about the essence, positive statements about activities, or something else?

  28. Inquirer,

    I don’t think that there is any kind of direct divine causation operative in Exodus. I do think that God knows what the king of Egypt will do. I think God knows his thoughts. I also think that God knows that he is prideful, thinking himself to be a god. I think that God hardens his heart by continually frustrating his actions, which is why I think that Exodus has the statments routinely after God through some display of power has essentially shown Pharoah to be inept and powerless and hence not a god. His pride drives him to continual defiance. Hence one can easily say that God hardened his heart and he hardened his own. God did it indirectly without any causal compromise of the Egyptian’s freedom. In fact, the account is a good example of a misuse of freedom and how God turns consequences to his own ends.

    The text serves to show the superiority of Yaweh to Egyptian or regional deities embodied in temporal kings. If you reflect on it, it is another assertion of the status of true divinity against the false claims of Adam in his sin. Such is a sketch of my thought. I hope it proves helpful to you.

  29. MG says:

    Inquirer–

    What Perry said about the hardening of Pharoh’s heart is actually almost exactly what Origen–the first Christian to give an account of the hardening of Pharoh’s heart–said. God indirectly hardened it because his actions brought about an angered response from Pharoh.

    Two other possible ways to deal with this question from a non-determinist standpoint are the following:

    1. Eleanore Stump’s Frankfurtian solution:
    http://www.jstor.org/view/0022362x/di973267/97p01202/0?frame=noframe&userID=ce72bc04@biola.edu/01cc99331600501b94cac&dpi=3&config=jstor
    Basically the hardening of the heart was a *restoration* of Pharoh’s free will, not a removal of it.

    2. You could also argue (along the lines vaguely traced out by John Cassian and others) that the hardening of the heart is a withdrawl of divine grace that had formerly kept Pharoh’s desires in check. Some people assert that this withdrawl of grace was a punishment that God gave because of Pharoh’s bad deeds. Thus it was just for God to withdraw grace and punish Pharoh this way, and the fact that he supposedly became more evil doesn’t implicate God.

    3. Some exegetes (I think) deny that the hardening of the heart has anything to do with moral tendencies and character as such. The people I’m thinking of are Robert Forster and V. Paul Marston in their book “God’s Strategy in Human History” which is one of the most detailed and high-quality defenses of a non-Calvinist view of providence. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly how they argued (or even if my representation of their stance is accurate).

  30. Rob Grano says:

    Jim — the Weaver book is very much worth reading; get it from Interlibrary Loan like I did a few years ago. Also definitely worth looking at is J. Pelikan’s discussion of the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies in his history of doctrine. Reading the latter along with some of the related primary literature (Cassian, Vincent of Lerins, etc.) is what made me steer away from Calvinism at a point when I was an Evangelical who was drawn to it. No matter how ‘logical’ it seems, its presuppositions just aren’t in the tradition.

    It’s also important to note the immediate philosophical roots of Reformed and Lutheran thought, i.e., nominalism and voluntarism. On these issues Louis Bouyer’s ‘Spirit and Forms of Protestantsism’ and Richard Weaver’s ‘Ideas Have Consequences’ are important. To paraphrase Bouyer, there’s no sentence that more sums up the tragedy of the Reformation than Luther’s statement that Occam was the only Scholastic who was any good.

  31. Jack,

    I think that when a person is speaking about the simplicity of the unknowable and superessential essence, he is in fact referring to an energy of God. Because the divine essence really is beyond any category of human thought or predication; and so, when one speaks about divine simplicity he is not really affirming anything about God’s essence, although simplicity is natural to God. Now, I believe that this is confirmed by what St. Gregory the Theologian said in Oration 38 (which is quoted by St. Gregory Palamas in his “Dialogue Between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite”): “. . . simplicity is not His nature,” which means that God is not reducible to a concept of simplicity, but at the same time simplicity is natural to God, because as Palamas explained, “[God] has the simplicity which belongs to Him by nature as an activity.” Thus, simplicity is natural to God as an energy, but His essence is not reducible to simplicity. In a sense God is both simple and complex, while He is also beyond these things. I hope this helps a little, but I will let Mr. Robinson correct or add to what I have said, since he has a deeper understanding of these things that I do.

    God bless,
    Todd

  32. Inquirer says:

    Perry,

    That did indeed prove helpful.

    MG,

    Thank you also for your responses. Good info.

  33. Jim says:

    Perry writes of Rom 9:

    I certainly think that Romans 9 is straightforward. Paul is straightforwardly dealing with the question, if God elected Israel as the means to bring about Messiah, since Christ is the end or goal of the Law, why didn’t this entail the salvation of Israel, as Israel thought?

    I do think that God knows what the king of Egypt will do. I think God knows his thoughts. I also think that God knows that he is prideful, thinking himself to be a god. I think that God hardens his heart by continually frustrating his actions, which is why I think that Exodus has the statments routinely after God through some display of power has essentially shown Pharoah to be inept and powerless and hence not a god. His pride drives him to continual defiance. Hence one can easily say that God hardened his heart and he hardened his own. God did it indirectly without any causal compromise of the Egyptian’s freedom. In fact, the account is a good example of a misuse of freedom and how God turns consequences to his own ends.

    All of this makes perfect sense – right up until the time of the objection Paul anticipates to his dissertation.

    Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

    Paul, it appears, certainly EXPECTS the reader to take his statements about Pharaoh, et al, as “God controlled the actions of individuals” for this is the VERY OBJECTION he anticipates. This objection is exactly that God cannot find fault if His will has determined the outcome. Which, by the way, appears to be your objection to Calvinism. It was THIS “anticipated objection” I was referring to (verse 19, NOT verse 14).

    Now. You might still be right. Though, if so, Paul must have either not known the answer or been too lazy to spell it out, because in the following verses his answer to this objection doesn’t look much like yours.

    I’m still reading on some of the other topics and preparing some comments.

    Jim

  34. Jim says:

    That was poorly worded (e.g. I expect that’s not your ONLY objection to Calvinism 😉 ) but I think my point comes across.

  35. Paul, it appears, certainly EXPECTS the reader to take his statements about Pharaoh, et al, as “God controlled the actions of individuals” for this is the VERY OBJECTION he anticipates.

    No, it isn’t, else the question would be sincere, not a charge against God. “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Rom. 9:19) is equivalent to “Why don’t you make me?” It’s actually a rebuke against God for allowing people (and specifically, Jewish people) to choose their own destruction. Paul’s rejoinder is that God is perfectly well entitled to allow this for the sake of those who love Him in faith. This is why God “has endured with much patience” (9:22) the vessels fitted for destruction, for the sake of those called and prepared beforehand for glory (9:23).

    The interpretation you are urging would also undermine Paul’s defense against the charge that doing evil is actually service to God’s will (3:5-8). If God did, in fact, cause it directly, then the interlocutor in Romans 3 would have been correct that the evil was actually God’s will.

  36. Jim says:

    Johnathan,

    Thanks for the response.

    I still don’t see it. I take it as a sincere objection (on the part of the hypothetical respondent). Is it possible you could rephrase the text somewhat, with a different emphasis, so that I can see it the way you do? I don’t see how it maps to “Why don’t you make me?”

    The example of the potter’s clay that follows is only more confirming for me with respect to understanding the original objection. And I see no issue with Rom 3. Paul claims that God reserves the right to hold men responsible for their sins (did I imply differently?) even if those sins result in God’s glory (i.e. “demonstrates the righteousness of God”). Is this what Perry means by “ordering?”

    As a matter of fact, it seems Rom 9 is simply a slightly different take on the same thing, and applied directly to the situation with Israel. Not only does God have the right to punish the ungodly, even if their acts resulted in a greater good (Rom 3) – God also has the right to punish the (same) ungodly, even if their acts were according to His plan (that is, His will). Now, I know what your thinking. If God has the right to punish evil even when it is according to His plan, then how could He still find fault, for who can resist His will? … 🙂

    I really would like to understand how you’re seeing it though – I was sincere in asking you to rephrase it.

    Thanks
    Jim

  37. MG says:

    Jim–

    Im not Perry of course but if you don’t mind, I’ll try to defend the non Calvinist interpretation. So, with respect to the section of Romans 9 you talk about below, I will give my responses:

    “Paul, it appears, certainly EXPECTS the reader to take his statements about Pharaoh, et al, as “God controlled the actions of individuals” for this is the VERY OBJECTION he anticipates. This objection is exactly that God cannot find fault if His will has determined the outcome. Which, by the way, appears to be your objection to Calvinism. It was THIS “anticipated objection” I was referring to (verse 19, NOT verse 14).

    Now. You might still be right. Though, if so, Paul must have either not known the answer or been too lazy to spell it out, because in the following verses his answer to this objection doesn’t look much like yours.”

    Regarding “shall the clay say to the potter…”:
    Paul is not talking about eternal salvation here, but rather historical destiny and how God orchestrates historical events to make salvation available. This feature of the text can be brought out by looking at what Paul is alluding to from the OT, specifically Isa 45:9. Would you like me to explain this more?

    In relation to the “who resists his will?”:
    As pointed out above (Johnathan P.), we have to look at the implications of Paul’s answers to previous questions, such as in Romans 3:5-8, which seem to imply that Paul doesn’t think evil is God’s will (in some sense). I suppose that this could be countered by asserting that God has a sovereign will and a moral will, but I would like to see evidence of this before I took such a notion that seems inherently implausible and ran with it.

    Also, in Romans 3:8 the question is given neither a direct answer nor an affirmative answer at all; rather Paul condemns people who ask such questions. This implies that some of the questions asked of Paul are simply irreverent (which Johnathan P pointed out above might be the case regarding 9:19). I’m not sure Johnathan P is quite right about it being a rebuke against God for allowing people to choose their own destruction; it seems more like it is a rebuke against God for using the chosen destruction of the Jews to accomplish a certain historical task.

  38. Jim says:

    Also, I’m somewhat puzzled by your statement here:

    the question would be sincere, not a charge against God. “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Rom. 9:19)

    The hypothetical Jewish interlocutor’s question is both sincere (in the mind of the hypothetical poser of the question), AND a charge against God; the implication of the question amounts to the accusation that God is unjust – another parallel with Rom 3.

    What am I missing?

    Jim

  39. Jim says:

    Open Theism and Calvinism turn on a set of problematic assumptions. Here are some of them. That the Good is simple and freedom entails a plurality of options, and hence they are, as they stand incompatible. …

    I know why you would say this; it has much less to do with Calvinism and much more to do with the mental framework you’ve decided to squeeze all east-west differences into (that of the evil dialectic). While the Neo-platonic influence on Augustine is straightforward and clear, the East has simply obscured its influence by nit-picking at the the particular details. Everything, from Maximus’ degradation of sensory perception and his conjoined necessity for the ascetic life, to extreme apophaticism, to the related insistence on viewing every detail of doctrine and life from the perspective of ‘being’ and metaphysics, all smack of Hellenism broadly construed. Why else does Lossky (for example) deride the attempt to understand the scripture in a Hebrew context and simultaneously uphold the framework and context provided by the Philosophers? This leads directly to statements like:

    I also do not deny that God can order actions to serve his purposes, such as a display of power, but that is far different than saying that God is necessitated to keep people in existence and punish them, lest he fail to be just. So your comments miss the mark. […] To say that God requires the punishment of the wicked in order to manifest his justice is tantamount to Origenism-In order to be Father and Lord, God required eternal subjects to be Lord over. […] God is perfectly just without the wicked and so they do not persist eternally because of the reqirement of some legal principle requiring punishment.

    Actually, my comments were never meant to address this. You stated this to emphasize the supposed dialectic that drives western (and Protestant) ways of thinking, however it highlights my point. Your accusation assumes a strictly ontological domain for all such disputes. The ‘necessity’ you see in Calvinism is the ‘necessity’ derived from a dialectic rooted in ‘being.’ Plotinus’ One (as well as Origen’s god) ‘necessarily’ creates due to some supposedly-western perceived dialectical necessity, which is (according to the supposed-views of those your critiquing) a defect of ‘being’ (BTW, your disciples, along with many others, accuse the Reformation of ‘nominalism’ – am I the only one that sees these two complaints as mutually contradictory?). So with a hint of bile you deride a decidedly non-ontological “eternal[…] legal principle” and flippantly discarding Hebrew (legal and fiduciary) context of the scripture.

    Also, long before Augustine, the particular scriptures we’ve been discussing engendered the same response in the early church – which people like Origen felt the need to refute:

    “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” The declarations, too, in other places, that “both to will and to do are of God;” “that God hath mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” “The persuasion is of Him that calleth, and not of us.” “Nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that hath formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” Now these passages are sufficient of themselves to trouble the multitude, as if man were not possessed of free-will, but as if it were God who saves and destroys whom He will.

    Other than the fact that this flatly contradicts your statement that “the chief example is Augustine with the insertion of his novel speculations concerning […] predestinarianism, […] which [is] clearly [an] innovation[],” the “perspicuity” of the text doesn’t seem to be the issue for (at least) this ancient, it’s the need to explain away what many felt was perspicuous – and interestingly, Origen is on your side, not mine. “With friends like that …” Note that his defense of free-will doesn’t start with an exposition of scripture (though he certainly adds that) but with a dissertation much more reminiscent of Aristotle than Paul.

    I am not denying God has a right to order to specific ends the free acts of creatures. With Augustine, I agree. God causes some things but other things he orders. God does not cause free acts. I am denying that it would be good for God to determine someone to an end, specifically hell, apart from any motion of their will that wasn’t ultimately up to them.

    I’m sure it’s because I’m not making proper distinctions but when I read statements like this I scratch my head wondering if we even disagree. Maybe it’s related to the fact that I’ve always considered “foreknowledge” and “predestination” in the case of God to be a distinction without a difference. I also construe ’cause’ much more broadly than the Aristotelian definitions you seem to.

    I’m still looking for the books and articles (I have a friend trying to get me a look at the JSTOR article).

    Jim

  40. Jim says:

    The first blockquote above was supposed to end after the first paragraph. The perils of not have a “preview” button.

  41. “Maybe it’s related to the fact that I’ve always considered “foreknowledge” and “predestination” in the case of God to be a distinction without a difference.” = because of Neo-Platonic simplicity.

    Photios

  42. Jim says:

    LOL!

    … and a better confirmation of the “ontological in all things” perspective I couldn’t have asked for.

    😀

  43. Thanks for the good spirits Jim.

    On another note, Origen is not on my side. Where did you get that idea from? Surely not from my writings. Anyways, Origen and Augustine are two sides of the same coin, see Perry’s Simplicity, Virtue, and the Problem of Evil Parts I and II on this blog. For both, Free-will ends up being a hoax. For Augustine, the telos of all acts gets scoped toward the simplicity of the Good. For Origen, this is the same, though the person always retains the power of self-determination even in the eschaton, BUT (and this is a huge BUT) it is INEVITABLE or rather it is a logical implication of his view that Persons fall from the Good and return again (in an eternal loop effect, which is why the soul is immortal and eternal for Origen and has the same status vis-a-vis the Good). This is so because 1) Persons retain the power of self-determination, 2) Free-will is construed as dialectically conditioned between the Good and evil, and 3) Persons must experience something new. Origen sacrifices integration in the Good, for self-determination and the ability to do something new. Both views on predestination and free-will (Origen and Augustine) are Hellenistic and have their point of departure in the Neo-Platonic divine simplicity. Enter the biblical and christological summation of Maximus the Confessor.

    Photios

  44. Jim says:

    Photios,

    , Origen is not on my side. Where did you get that idea from?

    Thanks for the clarification – and for more material to work through.

    I meant it only in the sense that he’s not much enamored with my particular take on the verses in question and he defends libertarian free-will.

    Jim

  45. Jim says:

    Photios,

    Origen is not on my side. Where did you get that idea from?

    Thanks for the clarification – and for more material to work through.

    I meant it only in the sense that he’s not much enamored with my particular take on the verses in question and he defends libertarian free-will.

    Jim

  46. Jim,

    Agreed, but if that liberarian free-will ends up being an eternal cycle of falls and returns, it doesn’t look very “free” anymore does it. You are ultimately determined by the Good, just like Augustine and Calvin.

    Photios

  47. Jim says:

    … so I’m sitting here at my desk eating lunch and listening to songs randomly selected from an MP3 collection of several hundred CDs while pondering ‘necessity’ in Calvin and Augustine and … as if it were predestined … Rush’s “Free Will” starts playing … 🙂

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