You are hereDeterminism and Responsibility

Determinism and Responsibility

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By Virgil - Posted on 02 June 2008

by Gordon H. Clark

Unless one has been recently disgusted by a surfeit of discussion on this sometimes barren topic, a religious thinker will almost invariably be carried away into a heated argument. This is better than to denominate the question barren, for such an attitude is agnostic, and to be disgusted is merely to be exhausted. Every Christian must face this problem squarely, and especially must the Calvinist so do, since he believes that much of the learned disrespect of Christianity is owing to the loose thinking of Catholics and Arminians.Yet for fear someone may expect too much from a paper with such a comprehensive title, it is necessary strictly to state the scope of this article. First of all it is not a discussion of the freedom of the will such as is found in Jonathan Edwards' well-known work. The arguments of that great man concern many details which, how ever important and interesting, may be omitted from the present subject. Naturally there is some overlapping but the direction of search is different. The investigation of innumerable intricacies runs the risk of losing all sense of proportion, of becoming entangled in a puzzling maze and so requires an exceptionally great mind such as Edwards' was. The direction of search here, on the contrary, will be away from intricacies toward very general outlines and thus must run the risk of being superficial. Nevertheless it has seemed worth the risk. Now to state exactly the scope of the matter. Recently in books and magazines of varying intellectual value there have appeared, in defence of Historic Christianity as opposed to modern wanderings, attacks on "mechanistic psychology," "determinism in all its forms," and other phrases of similar import. This writer fears that however much one may hold to the cardinal points of orthodoxy, it is not always clear which philosophic theories are or are not consistent with such orthodoxy. One would think that only a shallow magazine would indiscriminately condemn all forms of determinism; there might be more excuse for an attack on mechanistic psychology. The aim of this article is, then, to show that determinism is consistent with responsibility, indeed responsibility requires determinism.

The arguments on both sides are fairly well known. They so lack originality as to discourage new attempts, including this one. The determinist position is stated as well as anywhere in the article by George Stuart Fullerton, entitled "Freedom and Free Will." His aim was to show that on the basis of indeterminism moral conduct in general, in so far as free or indeterminate, would lose all ethical value. The indeterminist holds that certain actions are not adequately explained, i.e., determined by preceding causes. Then, if benevolence for example is a free action, it is not determined by a benevolent personality but happens ceaselessly. If the will were free absolutely, then a knowledge of one's own respectable character in the past brings neither hope nor consolation. Ordinarily we consider a determining factor, and a moral man does not be immoral except for some other determining factor.

But free will allows a man to become a criminal for no reason at all. Fullerton's illustration was little Tommy who stole his mother's jam. Punishment will not prevent a recurrence of the invasion of the pantry, neither will persuasion of a gentler sort. These can have no determining power on free actions. But on a deterministic theory, punishment, persuasion and praise are all justified. "It seems, then that Tommy's mother, and his aunts and all his spiritual pastors and masters have for years approached Tommy upon a strictly deterministic basis. They have thought it worth while to talk, and to talk a great deal. They have done what all pedagogues do – they have adjusted means to ends and have looked for results, taking no account of freedom at all."

On the other hand, if there is no responsibility for the free-willist, is there any for the determinist? This paper aims to harmonize determinism and responsibility on the basis of Calvinistic Christianity. And if it has not been done before the reason is that the Calvinists of today are but half-hearted followers of the prince of theologians, John Calvin.

If we must pass by many of the details in discussions of free will, it is all the more needful to avoid embarking on the general subject of theism. Although it is the necessary foundation of the view to be explained, no one could reasonably expect it to be treated here, even in brief. We might be permitted to suggest however that one reason, even if only confirmatory, for assuming the being of God is precisely the more unified world which results from applying the conception of sovereignty to such problems as these.

To recall the discussion to the title of the paper and to make the present position more intelligible even if by contrast, one passage from an ancient author relative to sovereignty and omnipotence serves admirably well. Plato, in the second book of the Republic, says, "God inasmuch as he is good, cannot be the cause of all things.… On the contrary, he is the author of only a small part of human affairs; of the larger part he is not the author. For our evil things far outnumber our good things: and the good things we must ascribe to no other than God, while we must seek elsewhere, and not in him, the causes of the evil things." And as Plato here denies God's omnipotence, denies that He is the first cause of all, so Aristotle denies His omniscience.

It might now be well to turn from antiquity to some contemporary literature, not because the more recent is either better or more original than the old but because these are the living defenders of what we attack.

Dr. Arthur Holmes' The Mind of St. Paul provides a typical paragraph. This work is partly a description of Paul's emotional nature, partly a criticism of various psychological explanations of Paul's conversion. Theories of the subconscious or unconscious and theories of multiple personality occupy a good portion of the chapters. While the book as a whole does not bear on the present subject, Dr. Holmes feels called upon briefly to mention freedom and responsibility. The paragraph presents a very familiar view.

"St Paul's system of morality avoids many pitfalls of manmade systems of ethics, but it does not eliminate one of the great problems involved in all morality and religion. This is the problem of freedom, the power of man to choose anything whatsoever. Such a liberty has been denied by predestination theologians and mechanistic scientists. Both contend that man's seeming freedom is illusory. Neither theory is based upon observed facts, but deduced from previous theories – the first, from the absolute sovereignty of an omnipotent God, the second from the assumed power of inductive science to predict the occurrence of future events. On the other hand, the common sense of mankind, bent on preserving the moral responsibility of men, has always favoured at least a freedom to choose between good and bad on man's part. St. Paul went thus far and no farther. He never changed from his position in this matter from the doctrine of the Pharisees (Rom. ix 14-18, 23). He seems clearly enough to insist upon the sovereignty of God and His perfect freedom to mould men as He will. Yet, at the same time men appear free to choose both ends and means, and the Evangelist exhorts men and women to do so without a single hint that they are unable to make such choices. In all probability he would have indignantly denied the modern doctrine of determinism or physical necessity."

Before quoting a second contemporary, it is well to note and emphasize that the reason – and has anyone found any other really basic reason? – for introducing the concept of freedom, either in its most extreme form of power of contrary choice or in some more modified form, is to hold man responsible. Could it be shown that man's responsibility does not necessarily depend upon freedom, theology would be freed from an annoying problem. Well can we imagine the groanings which cannot be uttered if generations of young theologues were to be summoned before us to describe the tortures they endured in trying to reconcile God's omniscience with free will? The Presbyterian and Reformed churches do not believe in free will. They substitute the concept of free agency, meaning that a man is a free moral agent when he acts in conformity to his own nature. Even so, some have stated that the reconciliation of man's free agency and God's sovereignty is an inscrutable mystery. Rather the mystery is – recognizing that God is the ultimate cause of the man's nature – how the Calvinistic solution could have been so long overlooked.

But before making the solution explicit, permit a final word from the opponents. Miss Harkness, Professor of Philosophy in Elmira College, in Conflict in Religious Thought, offers the following:

"Throughout the whole history of philosophy and theology people have wrangled over the question of free will. In general, the idealistic philosophies have asserted that the human spirit must be in some sense free, while materialistic philosophies have denied this freedom. Theology has clung tenaciously to the belief that man is a 'free moral agent' while at the same time often asserting a doctrine of predestination which, taken at its face value, would rigidly circumscribe man's acts. The problem, though complex, is too fundamental to be dodged.

"We have seen that the possibility of moral or immoral action depends upon the power of choice. If all one's acts are set and predetermined (either by the structure of the material world or by the will of God) in such fashion that it is impossible to act other than one does, quite obviously freedom disappears. With the power of voluntary choice goes moral responsibility. One cannot consciously choose to be good, nor choose to seek after God, unless he has the power to choose not to do so. No moral quality attaches to my failure to steal the million dollars that is outside my reach, but stealing becomes a moral question with me when I have to decide whether to tell the store clerk he has given me too much change. Likewise if I am 'foreordained' to be saved or damned there is not much use of my doing anything about my fate. If I have no freedom, I am not responsible for my acts.

"Theological determinism, or predestination, is a cardinal doctrine of Mohammedanism. Islam means 'submission' (to the will of Allah) and a Moslem is 'one who submits' – to the fatalistic decrees of an arbitrary deity. Christian theology in its earlier forms regarded God as equally peremptory (though more ethical) in His decrees. Through the influence of illustrious Christian theologians, notably Paul, Augustine and Calvin, the doctrine of predestination has profoundly influenced Christian thinking. While God's omnipotence has thus been emphasized, God's freedom has been exalted at the expense of man's, and the most inhuman acts have been glossed over as arising from the will of God. But happily the doctrine of predestination is disappearing, at least in its application to evils that are obviously preventable.

"Some still hold that when the typhoid victim dies from lack of proper sanitation, it happened because it was 'to be'. There is a good deal of illogical comfort in such a view. But not many, even of the most rigorous of Calvinists, would now say that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it is the will of God that he should do so!"

While forced to smile a bit as authors permit their animosities to give rise to disparaging circumlocutions instead of appropriate argument, one must confess to being a little irritated at innuendo. Whether absolute predestination is happily being forgotten or not is quite irrelevant. The present question is, can predestination and determinism be reconciled with and made the basis of moral distinctions and human responsibility? Miss Harkness thinks not.

First of all, she claims moral action requires choice and choice requires the ability to have done otherwise. This is the first thing to be denied. Choice is that mental act, that deliberate volition – I do not intend a comprehensive definition – which initiates a human action. The ability to have chosen otherwise is an irrelevant consideration and has no place in the definition. It is still a deliberate volition even if it could not have been different. True we are not always conscious of our limitation. Those who appeal to the consciousness of freedom and consider that such appeal closes the issue rely on cherry or apple pie as illustrations. If illustrations be necessary we can refer to Luther's sentiments: "Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other." The more important the decision, the less power of contrary choice we feel. And I venture to suppose that Luther's is a fairly common experience with serious, responsible persons.

But is there nothing in Kant's dictum, If I ought, I can? As stated by Kant and the Catholics it leads immediately to salvation by works. The motive which prompted this incorrect principle can, however, be better stated and so save what of truth it contains. If all ought, at least one can. If all ought to be honest, then some can and are. If all ought perfectly to satisfy divine justice, at least One has done so. At any rate we must remember that choice must be defined as a psychological function, distinct from desire or judgment for example, and nowhere in the definition can be found a place for the power to have chosen differently.

Likewise, Miss Harkness states, "If I am foreordained to be saved or damned there is not much use of my doing anything about my fate." It is strange that anyone but a novice should use this so-called "lazy argument" after the Stoics so long ago showed its fallaciousness. It is of use to do something precisely because it is the means to something else. The Mohammedan or fatalistic idea that the end is fixed independently of the means is but a caricature of Calvinism sometimes maliciously used. The end is foreordained to arrive by means of the means, and to obtain the end is the value of the means. But at any rate she well illustrates that the motive for asserting man's freedom is responsibility.

After relegating theological determinism to a benighted past, Miss Harkness dismisses mechanical or scientific determinism in a footnote on the quantum theory. This is mentioned here solely to point out that Calvinistic determinism may or may not be mechanical. The rationality of the mechanical ideal is aside from the present purpose. Theological determinism neither requires nor excludes it. All one needs to maintain is that every event is determined to occur as it does and cannot be otherwise. God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

The author last quoted seems in a previous page to have missed the main point. Discussing the question, Is God limited? she concludes that omnipotence is not inconsistent with freedom. God may freely limit Himself and omnipotently create persons endowed with free wills. This overlooks one essential factor, viz. God's omniscience. If God knows what will happen, what He knows will happen and nothing else. Calvinists believe God knows what will happen because He ordained it so. But aside from this, foreknowledge indicates that the future is certain. And if it is not God who made the future certain, we must return to the dualism of Plato. But let it pass; if there be an omniscient God, the future is certain. The professor in Elmira College overlooked the decisive factor.

Now then, if every event is certain, can man be responsible for deeds he could not have escaped doing? Or does determinism make good men "pious little automata" as Miss Harkness says? All that is required to define choice or volition is that necessary and sufficient combination of factors which distinguishes it from other psychological functions. The statement of Charles Hodge (op. cit., 285), will then be seen to be an invalid inference, for a necessary volition is as much a volition as an unnecessary one. Again neglecting to notice what is substituted for rational argument, one may very justly reply, it all depends on what is meant by automata, or more precisely, what responsibility means.

It seems strange that works on theology usually make no very energetic attempt to define responsibility. But if it is of such importance, one ought not to omit making it as precise as possible. Yet this attempt is noticeably lacking among determinists and free willists alike. Not all true statements are definitional. The Pythagorean theorem states a truth respecting a right triangle but it is not a definition of one. Now Charles Hodge makes certain statements about responsibility, but it is not clear whether he intended them as definitions or merely true statements. For example, "We are responsible for our feelings because they are right or wrong in their own nature." In the next paragraph he makes human nature the ground of responsibility. The following looks more like a definition: "Whenever reason and the power of self-determination or spontaneity are combined in an agent, he is free and responsible for his outward acts and for his volitions."

Definition is no easy task, and an incorrect one may deceive us frightfully. The caution of him who would not admit two plus two equals four until he knew how the admission was to be used is nothing short of exemplary. Yet those who have criticized the position to be offered at most say that the conception of responsibility involved is incomplete or restricted. Perhaps they are right; all that is needed is that the characteristics mentioned are essential elements of the definition. Let us call a man responsible, then, when he may be justly rewarded or punished for his deeds. That is, the man must be answerable to someone, to God, for responsibility implies a superior authority who punishes or rewards. Now since in theology the crux of the matter is in the eternal punishment of some sinners, we may disregard other elements in the definition and emphasize that by calling a man responsible we mean he maybe justly punished by God. For this definitional truth is the key to the explanation of why a man is responsible for the act God determined him to do.

More than one person, with caution born of experience, has replied at this point, that although they did not see the trap they could always escape the disagreeable Calvinistic conclusions by clinging to the saving adverb "justly." This of course is just what is desired. For whether the adverb is an escape from Calvinism or the very essence of Calvinism itself depends on the meaning of justice. For by the echoes of Plato's Republic we cannot continue until we have seized Justice herself.

This leads to an illustration in the writings of Leibniz, Descartes and Calvin. Leibniz held that this was the best of all possible worlds, thus provoking the remark he must have been a pessimist. He had said that God might have chosen any one of a number of possible worlds, each more or less good, but as a matter of fact God chose the best of them. He expressly denies that this world is best because God chose it This latter proposition, the world is good because God chose it, was Descartes' opinion.

It is at this point we must refer to and take issue with Jonathan Edwards. While he tries to avoid placing God under commands, he still seems to imply the Platonic dualism by representing God as influenced by inducements. Later, when he comes to our present subject, he calls the question which divided Descartes and Leibniz, absurdity and nonsense.

John Calvin was not of the same opinion. He anticipated Descartes' position, and in the Institutes has given the key to the solution:

"In the first place they inquire, by what right the Lord is angry with His creatures who had not provoked Him by any previous offence; for that to devote to destruction whom He pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge; that men have reason, therefore, to expostulate with God, if they are predestinated to eternal death without any demerit of their own, merely by His sovereign will. If such thoughts ever enter the minds of pious men, they will be sufficiently enabled to break their violence by this one consideration, how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will; which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of every thing that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what He wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because He wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, because He would. But if you go further, and ask why He so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found."

God is Sovereign; whatever He does is just, for this very reason, because He does it. If He punishes a man, the man is punished justly and hence the man is responsible. This answers the form of argument which runs: Whatever God does is just, eternal punishment is not just, therefore God does not so punish. If the objector means he has received a special revelation that there is no eternal punishment, we cannot deal with him here. If, however, he is not laying claim to a special revelation of future history, but to some philosophic principle which is intended to show that eternal punishment is unjust, the distinction between our positions becomes immediately obvious. Calvin has rejected that view of the universe which makes a law, whether of justice or of evolution, instead of the law-giver supreme. Such a view is the Platonic dualism which posits a World of Ideas superior to the Artificer. God in such a system is finite or limited, bound to follow or obey the pattern. But those who proclaim the Sovereignty of God determine what justice is by observing what God actually does. Whatever God does is just. What He commands men to do or not to do is similarly just or unjust.

This much is sufficient for our solution. Granted many other things remain to be said. The necessity of means or secondary, proximate causes might be further emphasized; sin as the judicial ground of divine punishment, because God so determined it should be, might be mentioned; further appendages and replies to objections could be tacked on. Only one need be examined. Does the view here proposed make God the Author of sin? Why the learned divines who formulated the various creeds so uniformly permitted such a metaphorical expression to becloud the issue is a puzzle. This view most certainly makes God the First and Ultimate Cause of everything. But very slight reflection on the definition of responsibility and its implication of a superior authority shows that God is not responsible for sin.

It follows from this that determinism is consistent with responsibility and that the concept of freedom which was introduced only to guarantee responsibility is useless. Of course man is still a "free agent" for that merely means, as Hodge says, that man has the power to make a decision. It is difficult to understand then, why so much effort should be wasted in the attempt to make the power of deciding consistent with the certainty of deciding. If there be any mystery about it, as the Brief Statement says, it is one of the theologian's own choosing. For God both gives the power and determines how it shall be used. God is Sovereign.

It seems to me that a great many objections to specific Christian doctrines, objections to the propitiatory atonement or the Incarnation, arise from a non-Christian view of God's nature. The modernists object to a vicarious sacrifice because they do not think God is that sort of a person. Theirs is not the God of the early Christians. And my sincere conviction is that if we are to retain the Satisfaction, if we are to promulgate a consistent Christianity, we must, among other things, reject and combat the semi-Arminianism prevailing in so-called Calvinistic churches, and return to predestination, the perseverance of the saints, the ninth chapter of Romans, and Paul's best interpreter, John Calvin.

Paige's picture

JL,

This is no joke...I had a dream last night and you were in it. I dreamed I met you in person for the first time, and you thought I was smart.

Now, after reading this, I must face the sad reality that it must have been a "pipe dream." ;)

Paige

Virgil's picture

Hahahah...that's one of the funniest comments I have read here in a long time! :) Thanks for sharing that Paige!

Sam's picture

The complete stupidity that I see here is done. I am done. It's a break.....

Sam

Jer's picture

Hi Sam:

I have already said this privately, but I wanted to add a note here:

I knew there was a problem some time ago. I wish I had tried to do more sooner. You have my apologies. I will still ask you to reconsider. I do love you guys, Sam. And you have a friend in me.

Jer

Sam's picture

as you know, Virgil and I had a wonderful phone conversation today. We are pretty much in agreement. As far as Jeff's continued crap, I can't deal with it. But, Jeff Vaughn does not represent Planet Preterist. He is just one ignorant voice. I have to keep that in perspective.

Sam

Jer's picture

I'm sure Jeff has a phone :)

JL's picture

After relegating theological determinism to a benighted past, Miss Harkness dismisses mechanical or scientific determinism in a footnote on the quantum theory. This is mentioned here solely to point out that Calvinistic determinism may or may not be mechanical. The rationality of the mechanical ideal is aside from the present purpose. Theological determinism neither requires nor excludes it. All one needs to maintain is that every event is determined to occur as it does and cannot be otherwise. God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Historically, theological determinism gave rise to mechanical determinism, mechanical determinism gave rise to deism and eventually philosophical materialism, "whatever comes to pass has been foreordained." Michael Servetus' murder at the hands of the Genevan government was foreordained from creation. The murder of "20 million" by Stalin's Russia was likewise foreordained.

But it is irrationallity to point out the obvious lineage of ideas. Yet those who will point out this irrationality can not prove their own lineage.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Virgil's picture

Jeff, the problem with that logic is that mankind has always passed things (good and bad) to the gods, so in essence, determinism is not really new; it's "the unexplainable being passed over" in essence.

It's not necessarily and exclusively a manifestation of the reformation, although as far as Christianity is concerned, that is when it exploded on the scene as a reaction to the catholic take on free will. The pendulum went to the other extreme.

JL's picture

Virgil,

You are quite correct. Determinism is at the root of numerous pagan religions. Animism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. Chaos worship is at the root of the rest, Mardi Gras, voodoo cults, and such.

I find it interesting that of the real life Calvinists I deal with in person all deny absolute determinism (as did Ed when he was a Calvinist), yet the preterists in that camp (specifically Ward and Sam) insist on absolute determinism and caricature any difference as absolute indeterminism.

Every person in Western culture acts and operates in a manner consistent with a constrained indeterminism. We are incapable of living consistently with absolute determinism or absolute indeterminism. I submit that as an empirical observation that proves the two extremes are false. If you can't live consistently with your belief or imagine how you could live consistently with your belief, then that belief is false.

We make real choices. We decide things that are (relatively) inconsequential and things that really matter. These choices are not preordained by God, but they are constrained by God.

This is the way every one of us acts. Any philosophy contrary to this is useless. Jason picks at everything I write because he thinks it matters. He thinks he'll persuade someone of the illogic of what I've written. If he truly believed in absolute determinism or in absolute chaos, there would be no point in trying.

My second objection to Calvinism is that it is rooted in Aristotelian cosmology. So is Arminianism/Open Theism. In both views, time is. And because time is, God is subject to time. Nowhere does Scripture tell us that time is uncreated. Nowhere does Scripture tell us that God is subject to time. Yet that assumption is at the root of Calvinism.

How can God know the future? The Calvinist requires it to be predetermined. Calvin's God can't see the future because he is stuck in time.

But a God who created time is not subject to time. Therefore, he has no need of absolute determinism. Quite the contrary. Constrained indeterminism fits such a God better. He can see the future because it is part of his creation, yet we can only see so far and no farther. God doesn't need to predict the future. God doesn't need to predetermine the future.

Clark's disparaging remarks about quantum mechanics demonstrates he did not understand the implications. He was thoroughly stuck in an Aristotelian concept of time and matter. He might as well have been a geocentrist. As a great philosopher, you would have thought he'd be at the forefront of thinking through such implications. But he spent those 40 years as a chair, thinking chair thoughts and contemplating chairness, I suppose.

At the time Clark wrote this article, the chairs of most philosophy departments were pushing chaos to the same outrageous extremes that Clark was pushing determinism. So maybe his strawman could have been justified at that time. But nothing I've seen from Clark (or Sam or Jason) addresses the constrained in determinism we all believe and act on.

Blessings,

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Ed's picture

I am no philosopher, but I do find the endless rant about JL's supposed reach on things like racism, genocide, etc. to be trying my soul.

First off, after Virgil made the comment about Calvin, Geneva and murder (which I will show in a second, was justified based on Clark's article), it was either Sam or Jason (sorry, I've forgotten now) who made the comment about Stalin, free-will, and genocide of 20 million. When JL pointed out that Marx (Stalin's lord) was a determinist; Jason wanted to know why JL was being so mean again and bringing up Marx...go figure.

Here's Clark's quote:

God is Sovereign; whatever He does is just, for this very reason, because He does it. If He punishes a man, the man is punished justly and hence the man is responsible.

This is why Virgil said what he said about the murder of Servetus. Calvin believed that God was a killer of heretics, and that the killing of heretics was just. So, in Calvin's mind, the killing of Servetus was determined and just, god-like. He was hating what God hated, and acting as God acts.

Because God sent people into slavery, and pronounced judgments of enslavement upon people, Calvinists in Europe and America justified the enslavement of blacks, believing that Cain was "marked," i.e., his skin was darkened. Other "theologians" believed that Adam was white, and that all other races evolved from apes...these were largely Southern "Christians" who were, by and large, English and Irish Calvinists that settled the South. Look at the heroes of the Calvinist American today - Dabney, Jackson, Lee - all Calvinists and slaveholders.

An Arminian's theory isn't much better: poor old God, not wanting to punish anyone, but He can't help it - they didn't choose what was right...bad theology, idiotic conclusions.

However, where most of us are: non-Arminian, non-Calvinist; we understand that man has free-will, God is sovereign, and God's purposes are worked out in history, doing what He does in order to bring forth the Messiah at the intended time, wrap up soteriological history, and place His kingdom squarely in the world of Mankind.

God has done what He has done. He did it for His purposes. He doesn't need us killing others for Him, nor does He need us hating anyone for Him. He told us to "love our enemies," "bless those who curse you," and "do good to those who spitefully use you." That's the heart of God. Servetus didn't deserve death. Calvin had no right to have him killed - but he thought he did, because he thought that God killed heretics. But God's purposes/ways are not our ways, and we have no right to act like God in judgment.

Agree or disagree, philosophy or no, that's the bottom line.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Virgil's picture

An Arminian's theory isn't much better: poor old God, not wanting to punish anyone, but He can't help it - they didn't choose what was right...bad theology, idiotic conclusions.

Ed, you nailed it man! To polarize this issue into determinism/non-determinism is missing the point of the Kingdom, the sovereign God and free will. Everything revolves about a Kingdom where we are both free and subjects to a "king" running his domain in a sovereign way.

KingNeb's picture

Supposed reach?

Ed, JL explicitly claimed over on Rod's site years ago that "Calvinism invented racism."

Those were his exact words. That was one of my first run-ins with JL. I did a double take. I asked him for clarification just to make sure and yes, that was his explicit claim.

There is no "supposed reach" about it.

Pointing out that there were Calvinists who owned slaves and then arguing based on that that Calvinists "INVENTED" racism is so ridiculous that i don't see how anyone with any sense at all could possibly run with such an argument.

Furthermore, "free-will" is not limited to Christian theology. "Calvinism", properly understand, is limited to a Christian theology. Again, nobody apart from some agenda could possibly turn Stalin into a "Calvinist".

It's just stupid stuff Ed...period.

thereignofchrist.com

Ed's picture

Jason wrote:
Furthermore, "free-will" is not limited to Christian theology. "Calvinism", properly understand, is limited to a Christian theology. Again, nobody apart from some agenda could possibly turn Stalin into a "Calvinist".

Sam wrote:
Stalin believed in "freewill" and killed 20 million, therefore, Freewill leads to murder....see how STUPID that sounds?

Which is it Jason - is it stupid to say that freewill leads to murder, or, as in your estimation, is freewill "not limited to Christian theology"?

JL was responding to Sam's "stupid" assertion - Stalin did NOT believe in freewill, but in determinism, as his Lord Marx believed. Indeed, to answer Sam's question, that did sound stupid, but for a reason other than purported by Sam. Sam seems to be unaware that the founders of Marxism and the Communist Bloc were determinists, as was Freud. As was Calvin.

As I pointed out, when a man believes that it is God's will to enslave, he enslaves. When a man believes that God made the "good guy" white, and the "bad guy" black, it leads to certain attitudes about blacks. When a man believes that God wants heretics executed, then he executes heretics.

Oh, btw, regarding "supposed reach." It was your claim that JL was taking liberty with facts; i.e., reaching, when it came to applying Calvinist theology to non-theology matters. You now make the claim, contra everything Sam shared in his presentation at TV2008, that Calvinism is limited to theological matters. Are we to then believe that all the Calvinist Rulers throughout the centuries, including Calvin, Kuyper, Cromwell, et al. were misguided? Applying the principles of Calvinist theology to politics (hell, Cromwell cut off the head of Charles I because he was Arminian/Catholic). Then the Presbyterians waged war against Cromwell in order to put a supposed Presbyterian sympathizer (Cromwell was a Calvinistic Anglican), who in actuality was a Catholic like his father and his father before him, back on the throne.

It's funny how all of these Calvinists, including Calvin himself, didn't realize that his views were limited to theology...that sure would have changed a lot of our history...yep yep yep.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

KingNeb's picture

" When a man believes that God made the "good guy" white, and the "bad guy" black'

You still have not proven an invention of this idea from Calvinism.

Try again.

thereignofchrist.com

Ed's picture

Prove? but I might equivocate!

ed
btw. that was a really fast post. I was barely done. way to go Jason.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

KingNeb's picture

So you don't have an answer.

Ok. Good day.

thereignofchrist.com

Jer's picture

Ed,

Michigan isn't too far away. Don't make me drive up there and beat you with a wet noodle ;)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Better get a BIG wet noodle...

Jer's picture

Hmm... I could just pelt him bricks of rahman noodles.

MiddleKnowledge's picture

You'll need a Ramon Noodles machine gun or something...

JL's picture

That's using your noodle Jer.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

JL's picture

Jason,

My comments were in response to an article on that site. That article set the context which you have conveniently ignored for years. The article claimed that South African Calvinism was an aberation. It certainly was not, or if it was, the aberation was in the opposite direction from which the author claimed. South African racism was considerably milder than the racism of any and every Calvinist government in previous history.

That is always your beef. You are always looking for a phrase that was spoken or written in a particular context and is true in that context but when removed from that context looks outrageous.

Prove that South African Calvism was an aberration. Prove that the other Calvinist governments were not inherently racist. History shows otherwise.

I'm not the one who brought Stalin into this conversation. Sam did. So Sam is the one with the agenda. But just like the Calvinism and racism issue, you are going to convienently ignore the context and rant about this for years.

The facts are, Marx was raised a Lutheran. Lutherans teach a similar version of predestination and determinism to Calvinism. Marx' predestination and determinism did not fall far from the tree.

Clark reduced everything to 3 distinct and exclusive catagories, Dogmatics (which you prefer to call logic), Empiricism, and Irrationality. You continually dismiss history as irrationality.

Then I'm irrational. Everytime Calvinism takes over a government, slavery and murder occur. Everytime it's atheistic offspring, philosophic materialism takes over a government, even more slavery and murder occur. I believe that anytime a government is run by determinists, my life is in danger. I'm not just irrational, I'm paranoid. I can't prove that belief in determinism leads to slavery and murder. It just does.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

KingNeb's picture

"I can't prove that belief in determinism leads to slavery and murder. It just does."

And there you go. That sums it up better than anything i could have said.

No need for me to say anymore. I trust others reading that will see the absurdity.

thereignofchrist.com

Sam's picture

and there you have it....can't prove it, but it is SO......

Sam

mazuur's picture

Sam,

Come now, you can't prove the Resurrection, yet it it SO.

-Rich

-Rich

JL's picture

Rich,

They assume the ressurrection. No proof neccessary.

But they deny the court-room standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Lee Strobel, in The Case for Christ, does an excellent job of developing a case for the resurrection for that standard.

As for the case against Calvinism, Sam and Jason won't take it seriously. So I'd win by default.

More to the point. Every Calvinist government in history has been racist to the core, enslaving and apartheid-ing blacks. Sam and Jason can not prove there is no logical connection. All they can do is make irrational denials.

I have a personal stake in the issue. I can not afford to take a chance that the next Calvinist government might be different. I will resist the next Knox, Cromwell, or de Zwijger.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

mazuur's picture

JL,

"But they deny the court-room standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Lee Strobel, in The Case for Christ, does an excellent job of developing a case for the resurrection for that standard."

Yes. I think Lee Strobel did an excellent job of proving the case for Christ in his book. If one piles up enough evidence, then it proves the fact.

Concerning Calvinism and government history. I can not say one way or another, as I do not have the historical knowledge. One would need to make the case in a book, like Strobel did. But, if someone did that (and the evidence is there), then I would either have to accept it, or live in denial.

Maybe you should write such a book. Seems Virgil made a good start with his paper "Right to Heresy".

"As for the case against Calvinism, Sam and Jason won't take it seriously."

Which is a serious problem (if true), which gets to Virgil's point. It seems (from what I witness here on PP through their statements, whether accurate or not), they hold Calvin (and Clark) to such a level of awe it verges on worship, and to even criticize the slightest fact concerning him results in....well, just look at this thread and the others when his name is brought up.

With that said, it is not like we all don't have men we hold up to higher levels (maybe not to the level they do with Calvin, but we do). Myself, when I read a review of Sam's book on the Resurrection, I felt a need to defend him, thus I contacted the person who wrote the review of his book and defended Sam's work. Because I hold the same view as Sam concerning the Resurrection, it had a personal feel to it; like the guy was attacking me, my belief. Of course, Sam doesn't kill people because they challenge his theology. I'm not sure I would even claim to know Sam if he did.

Same goes for Max King. When people attack his theology (as presented in CP), I seem to take it personal and run to his defense. Sam is merely doing the same for Calvin.

So, all in all. Lighten up on Sam concerning Calvin. You know your statements get under his skin, so don't make sure harsh ones. Like Sam pointed out, just show some respect (for Sam's sake not Calvin's).

-Rich

Virgil's picture

Just like the rest of us, Sam and Jason are probably emotionally and theologically attached to external people and doctrines, so a lot of times they probably take this stuff personally, just like I do too.

The problem is not even the disagreements - it's the impersonal internet-based communication. You cannot read people's tone, demeanor, humor, etc, so I would say a majority of the time we misinterpret what people are saying. On top of that, we often define terms differently.

For example I talked to Sam yesterday about the word "theology" which he defines in the broadest sense possible while I see it as the intellectual, impersonal study of religion. A combination of all these factors can have serious consequences when these conversations take place.

mazuur's picture

Well said Virgil. Sometimes I think this "Internet" thing provides us a bad service. But, at the same time is one of the most wonderful services to come about.

-Rich

-Rich

Sam's picture

Rich,

There is a difference between not proving the resurrection as empirical fact, and proving it as a biblical fact. I can prove the resurrection from scriptures. However, that is not saying the same thing as "I saw Rich murder another peron." Prove it. Oh, I don't have to - it is so.

And, please, don't psycho-analyze me.

Sam

Sam's picture

And another thing, I would like to know how an atheist can believe in "dterminism". Doesn't that strike anyone funny? Ed is actually comparing Stalin, an atheist (and Marx) to the determinism of Calvin.....I stand by my original words - the stupidity I see in here is amazing. Ed, please explain to me how an atheistic Determinism works....WHO determines it? Why did Stalin manipulate the masses with the cult of personality routine? Why did he propogandize them? Sheesh...

Sam

Sam's picture

Ed,

Engels wrote in the Preface the maxim of Florentine

Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti

"Pursue your own course, no matter what the people say." Is that Engel's idea of Calvinistic Determinism?

KingNeb's picture

Which is a serious problem (if true), which gets to Virgil's point. It seems (from what I witness here on PP through their statements, whether accurate or not), they hold Calvin (and Clark) to such a level of awe it verges on worship, and to even criticize the slightest fact concerning him results in....well, just look at this thread and the others when his name is brought up.

Wrong.

Just like the rest of us, Sam and Jason are probably emotionally and theologically attached to external people and doctrines, so a lot of times they probably take this stuff personally, just like I do too.

Wrong again.

It's very simple folks. Here, let's use an analogy a little close to home.

Terry Hall

Now, last i heard, Terry had some major personal stuff going on. Ok.....Let's say that someone posts his preterist exposition of Matthew 24 on the site. Should anyone's response to his exegetical work be something like, "Nope. Terry here is totally off. Mt 24 is about the future. He's wrong. Seriously, folks, how can you listen to this exposition to begin. Did ya'll not hear about his recent situation?"

Now i would hope Rich and Virgil that you would see the serious flaw in this criticism. You and I both would be asking, "What the heck does his personal life have to do with the claims he is making in a exposition of Mt 24?!? His exposition on Mt 24 stands or falls on its own and whether he is interpreting "this generation" correctly does not have JACK to do with his family life."

That is ALL that is going on here folks, yet you guys have distorted this thing beyond recognition.

There's no need to physco analyze why Sam and I got worked up, it is simply this. You guys are discussing everything BUT Clark's main point in the article. Clark wants to talk about the relationship between determinism and responsibility and Virgil wants to drag the history of Geneva into the discussion. That is no more relevant to the topic at hand then brining up Terry's personal deal is relevant to whether he correctly dealt with Mt 24 or not. That is ALL this is going on here.

And then on top of that, you accuse us of getting emotional and personal while in the same breath charging us with man worship. For crying out loud people, you don't expect me to get just a little worked up when you ignore the point of the article which was entirely a theological issue and then turn around and claim i "worship" Clark!?!

If a Scott Thompson criticizes Terry Halls Mt 24 work by pointing out that Terry Hall is having some marital issues and i get upset and point out how irrational that is and that his personal stuff has no bearing on his exegetical work of Mt 24, should i now be considered a "Hall worshipper"?!?

Seriously guys...you guys have so distorted the picture here...i just don't know what to say anymore. I was telling Sam earlier on the phone that i have NEVER seen this kind of stuff go on elsewhere. I have been on forums for years - made up of all types of christians (premills, arminians, you name it) and i have never see such distortions take place as i have seen here. I have had plenty disagree with me, sure. But to flip stuff around like this...this is insane.

Somehow a plead from us to deal strictly with the doctrinal issue at hand got turned into a pity party for ole' emotionally disturbed Jason and Sam who are on the verge of idol worship. For the love of pete sampras people.... I just don't get it.

thereignofchrist.com

JL's picture

Respect? Sam's falsehood comparing freewillers to Stalin deserves respect but Sam claims my correction of his falsehood is crap? Something is out of line here Rich. I'll freely admit, Sam has worked hard to destroy all respect I once had for him.

As for Calvinist governments. The Netherlands declared independence from Spain in 1581. They soon after started their African slave trade to Europe, supplying slaves to neighboring countries. During the 1600's, some 10,000 slave ships were registered to the port of Amsterdam. In 1619, they started their slave trade with the Americas which they soon dominated and continued to dominate it until William and Mary deposed James II (the last Roman Catholic king of England) and discovered the slave trade.

The Dutch also controlled the African slave trade in the Indian Ocean until the East India Company took it over in the middle 1700's.

As for slavery in the US after the revolution, it was dominated by Puritan shipping companies in the north and Protestants of Scottish descent in the south.

And then there is South African Apartheid which Roderick Edwards called an aberration. Apartheid didn't technically enslave anyone, so in that sense it was an aberration. That is not the sense Roderick meant. Roderick was ignorant of or in denial of Calvinist history. He clearly had given those other governments no thoughtful examination and assumed they were benign towards blacks.

I asked at the time why all examples of Calvinist governments were so harmful to the interests of Africans. Jason's reaction is still denial that the simple facts of history have any meaning or value.

Roderick's original question that sparked his article was, why are American Blacks so distrustful of Calvinism?

The answer is simple. Every Calvinist government has treated blacks as bad as South African Apartheid did or worse. Every Calvinist is in denial of that fact. No thinking black can trust a Calvinist who is in denial of his own racist history. If Calvinists want to convert blacks, then Calvinists must face their own history and answer why slavery is not a necessary outcome of Calvinism.

I mentioned some of these facts to a Presbyterian elder I knew back in 1998 or 99. He hated me for it then. But he eventually admitted I was correct and developed the reasons why. (So I used to know one honest, thoughtful Calvinist.) Jason has seen that argument and ignored it. Having a reason why Calvinism has historically been racist to the core defeats Jason's denial of Calvinism's racist history.

Blessings,

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Sam's picture

Jeff,

Stick to rocket science. 1. As a Calvinist, I aware that Presbyterians in the South owned slaves. 2. As a seminarian and historian, I also know that the Calvinists in the NORTH banned the southern presbyterians from the Lord's Table and largely LEAD in the cause of Abolitionism. (Even one Presbyterian black minister lead the cause in the south....what? A prebyterian black minister? Henry Garnet.) 3. It wasn't just the Calvinists that participated in the slave trade in America....you forgot the freewill Baptists....4. If this argument was not so lame, I would let people see it for itself, but I'll point out that the logic is flawed:

"Calvinists owned slaves - therefore Calvinism created racism." If you can't see the bad logic here, then there is no help.

Question: Calvin was born in the 17th century, therefore, racism and slavery did not exist prior to the 17th century. Ahem. Please, please find me a credible history book that would peddle this twaddle.

This is about as bad as your Ellen G. White created YEC. Man....stick to math and science projects like bending light...leave history and theology alone....

Sam

JL's picture

Yes, I should leave theology to professionals. People like you who distort and twist every word. You are still ignoring the context of the Calvinism and racism discussion. I am not the one who started it. And it is still a fact that by any measure, some 90% of the African slave trade in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries was by Calvinists.

John Calvin was born in 1509 (very early 16th century). Please leave the history to those who are capable of checking dates.

Gary North has a lengthy history of the Presbytrian Church. His claim is that the Presbyterian Church was dominant in the US before the Civil War. Their condemnation of slavery was too little, too late, and was directly responsible for their essentially complete loss of moral leadership of the US after 1865.

Albert Barnes of the New School Presbyterians led the Presbyterian Abolitionist movement. Barnes had undergone a heresy trial because of his Arminian views.

Your continued denial of Calvinist dominance in the African slave trade is noted.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

KingNeb's picture

* yawn *

It's the same ole' tired tactic over and over and over again.

We saw the exact same pattern with the YEC issue. JL claimed that Ellen G White and her gang INVENTED (please note the word) YEC. When it was easily shown that YEC existed prior to White, all that JL could do to save face was continually remind us that White was a YEC.

Well, duh! Nobody was denying that. It's the "invented" part we deny.

Likewise, its the "Calvinists invented racism" that we contest; NOT the fact that there have been Calvinist slave-owners.

JL has been pressed time and time again to prove that "Calvinism invented racism", yet notice his response:

"And it is still a fact that by any measure, some 90% of the African slave trade in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries was by Calvinists."

Let's just say, for sake of argument, that JL's percentage rate is correct. SO WHAT! That still does not prove that Calvinists INVENTED IT.

This is utterly insane. Here, let me try this line of thinking elsewhere:

- Many who live in the St Pete Beach area own bicycles, therefore, St Pete Beach citizens INVENTED BICYCLES!

- Jason, that's nuts. You guys didn't invent bikes.

- Oh, so do you deny then Jimmy that i and most of my neighbors own a bike?! Here, i'll send you a pic of my bike.

------------

This isn't about whether or not many premills are YEC or whether calvinists have owned slaves.

DUH.

JL claims that they "INVENTED" the racism. It is so stinking ridiculous that i can't believe anyone for even a second would entertain such a thought. And watch, all that JL is going to continue doing is reminding us that some calvinists owned slaves.

yeah, no kidding. Sheeshhh...

thereignofchrist.com

JL's picture

Yep, it's the same ole same ole.

Ellen G. White invented the modern version of YEC that was taught by Whitcomb and Morris and is the basis of the evangelical YEC movement today. You continue to ignore that little word "modern." We documented the history in Chapter 6 which is available on our website.

We are still waiting for a refutation. But we aren't holding our breath.

JL Vaughn
http://BeyondCreationScience.com

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

KingNeb's picture

I've already addressed it. Tim defined YEC. And the YEC he defined existed prior to White.

Already been hashed. And that's right around the same time Tim started ignoring my emails and invitation to the show.

Nice try though.

thereignofchrist.com

Virgil's picture

Jeff and Jason, you guys are not getting anywhere with this; if I can suggest something, maybe both of you can take a break from this for a while? It's becoming apparent that everyone is assigning things to each other and the majority of it is not true, so none of this stuff is really benefiting anyone.

Sam's picture

yo right massah, me gotta slave Negro in my own housa,,,,,yessir massah, me believe dem negroes are duh mark of Cain....

Jer's picture

There are an estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide--today. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 estimates that fifty-thousand women and children are smuggled into the United States each year to be sold into forced labor or sexual slavery. If anyone involved in this conversation would to find out more, visit:

http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

Sam's picture

Jer,

That's a tragedy. Us Calvinists must be really busy worldwide according to Jeff.

Sam

JL's picture

Yep Sam, you Calvinists are really busy twisting words and ignoring the past.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

KingNeb's picture

One of the State directors on that site runs an awareness class at a Calvinist church. If you notice the logo on that church's site, you'll see that it is a PCA church...who are currently running a petition from their headquarters to boycott any food establishments that refuse to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Those hypocrites....and so were John Newton and William Wilberforce. ( ;

thereignofchrist.com

Jer's picture

Thanks for checking out the site :)

extremestan's picture

This is true!

Determinism has little functional implication -- properly understood, it implies neither fatalism nor absolute assurance. It is transcendent commentary on the medium in which we act, not a proximal guideline of any sort.

The most it should do is help us be aware of the circumstantial fuzziness of responsibility.

More: "God's Goodness Defined and Predestination Solved"

I tell you the truth; if it were not so, I would have told you.

tom-g's picture

Oh woe is me. I am in the throes of a horrible dilemma.

Shall the enemies of my friend JL be my enemies? Or shall my enemy be the enemy of my friends Sam and Jason?

I think I shall follow the advice of President Washington's Farewell Address, neutrality and non alignment. (sometimes falsely characterized as isolationism)

Tom

Virgil's picture

I went ahead and reposted this article by Clark in order to refresh everyone on Clark's determinism so I can soon present another more reasonable (and more biblical in my opinion) possibility. If anyone has additional comments to make, feel free - I would greatly appreciate any input and additional points of view that can add to the conversation.

tom-g's picture

Virgil, based upon your comment, I would offer this input.

I do not recall offering any comment at the time this was first posted, (I tried to scan to see if I had and did not see any) because I consider the whole topic and discussion that followed as meaningless as it was presented.

By meaningless I mean that it is illogical due to the fact that the law of contradiction has no application to the argument as it has been presented by Clark. I find it is simply a Calvinist apology without establishing the truth of Calvinism. Until something is established as being an absolute truth, no argument can be presented for contradiction. The same holds true for "determinism" or "indeterminism", or for "responsibility or irresponsibility".

Jl's argument, of sometime but not always, would be the most acceptable of the rebuttals to the philosophy of determinism. But, how then can contradiction be determined? Accuse contradiction and the reply is this is the sometime that agrees with the accusation and the same would apply to the reverse.

One of the clearest expressions that rebuts determinism was made by the great philosopher/economist Ludwig von Mises in his treatise on praxeology "HUMAN ACTION". His explanation was: "All men act to improve their own situation from their own point of view." This as you probably know is the foundation of the "Utilitarian" philosophy and the economic theory of the "Free Market". Utilitarianism says that man acts to obtain pleasure and avoid pain. Free Market economics says that man acts because he values obtaining the utility of leisure more than suffering the disutility of labor. Both of these are obviously the philosophy of "Humanism" as is the the theory upon which they are based.

If the argument is to be biblicaly based then I don't see how it can be argued outside of Paul's extended verse by verse argument in Chapter 7 of Romans.

Just my attempted input, thanks Virgil.
Tom

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