Walk in the Light of the Lord!

I have been at both ends of the spectrum.

I have wallowed in the darkness of sin.

I have walked in the light of the Lord.

These are so distinct. They feel different. They end up different. They are different. Let me then say simply a few things about them in contrast.

First, the darkness of sin offers an easy, immediate release. Whatever the situation — be it pornographic lust, a fit of anger, or taking vengeance on another person — just sinning is an easy (and cowardly) way out. The light of the Lord, on the other hand, requires boldness, patience and perseverance, and is often difficult, and not-obviously immediately satisfying in all cases. But it is ultimately the most satisfying of all.

Second, the darkness of sin strips you of joy and peace as it destroys you. Its sweetness may last for a season. But the person who indulges in sin always disintegrate. The light of the Lord, however, slowly builds you up, giving you what you really need, and forming you in upstanding character, and grants enduring happiness to the believer.

Third and last, the darkness of sin kills. But the light of the Lord brings life. God is Love; God is Life; God is Light — and in Him there is no darkness at all. God’s agenda for us is a life-agenda. The Devil is a murderer. He brings only death. If we follow the Lord we will live. If we follow the Satan, we will die. It’s that simple. So let us walk in the light of the Lord, and live.

May the grace of God’s light that is brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ so illuminate our hearts that we may follow Him wholeheartedly and with boldness on this slow and oftentimes difficult journey with the zeal of the holy fire burning within us, toward maturity, making as pure and acceptable burnt sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord! 
Catch_the_fire___MEMC_by_edwtw4u

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Divine Sovereignty and Determinism: Response Series Part 2

Last time, we dealt with Blake’s first concern about my blogpost arguing for the thesis that a biblical understanding of divine sovereignty does not require the extra philosophical add-on of meticulous metaphysical causal predeterminism. 

This time, we’re going to deal with Blake’ second objection.

A. Complaint. Blake says:


2. Purposeful Confusion and Appeal to Mystery

As just mentioned, it appears that Brendan claims that scripture is simply not clear enough about divine determinism. Scripture is “undeterminative” about it. However, if scripture is not clear about it, then Brendan cannot properly deny determinism because scripture might actually teach it. Brendan cannot positively assert that determinism is not true, because apparently he cannot be sure about his opposing position either. Scriptural vagueness on this point only leaves us with uncertainty and the inability to affirm any position, including Brendan’s.


B. Response. 

Blake apparently doesn’t understand what I mean by “underdeterminative.” We do not mean by this term that it is vague whether or not the text teaches the relevant philosophical view. Rather, what I and others mean by this term is that the scripture simply doesn’t say anything to the effect that would establish some technical part in an analysis of the casual nature of human action that goes to showing that human activities are either metaphysically determined or libertarianly free in some relevant sense meant by modern metaphysics. At most, we can say that our extra-biblical philosophies are consistent with the text. We cannot say they are derived from the text, as if the author really had in mind to communicate some analysis of metaphysical philosophy about human action. So you cannot say that scripture might “teach” determinism or free will.

At best, what we can do is look at the text of scripture and formulate some philosophical analysis of human action that best makes sense of the kinds of teaching that we find there — such as God’s giving persons choices to make (e.g. Deu 30), there’s being other ways things could have been in this world (e.g. Jer. 18:7-10; 1 Samuel 23:9-13), and Gods real disappointment with the way things do work out (e.g. Gen. 6:5-8). In light of such things as these, (and there are more), anything talking about a divine foreordination, decree or determination should not be looked at as necessitating the thing to come about, or removing control from the creatures over their own actions. We have to formulate a philosophical theology that is at least consistent with what we see in biblical theology. And I think some form of free will best makes sense of such biblical revelations as these.

Divine Sovereignty and Determinism: Response Series Part 1

A little while ago I wrote a blogpost on whether or not we must believe in metaphysical causal predeterminism to believe in Divine Sovereignty. I argued that there is no necessary or logical connection between a biblical understanding of divine rule and authority and the philosophical thesis roughly that all events are causally necessitated by causal factors outside themselves (such as a god or gods) moving them irresistibly to do what they do. An American friend has taken issue with me on several key points, and I’d like to respond briefly to his blog over a new series of posts. 

My structure in this series will be: Quote my friend (‘Complaint’), then pick out two or three things to respond to (‘Reply’). I don’t have time to respond to everything in minute detail.

So let’s begin.

A. Complaint. Blake says:


1. Denial of Determinism ~ “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago?” ~ 2 Kings 19:25

It is unfortunate that free will theists often discuss these issues irrespective of Biblical revelation. Brendan’s blog post is no exception to this. Why should Calvinists deny determinism when no compelling evidence is offered demonstrating that Calvinist proof-texts do not teach what Calvinists say they teach? If “scripture is just undeterminative as to precisely just how to make sense of divine government over the world,” then Brendan ought to take the time to prove this from scripture. However, this claim that scripture is “undeterminative” and imprecise regarding these issues is almost more troubling than the denial of determinism.


B. Reply. Three discernible problems:

1. Take 2 Kings 19:25. This is illustrative of a big problem that always appears in Determinist proof-texting (more on that general method below). Note one select translation says God ‘determined’ something. (The Hebrew word has also been translated to (fore)ordain, to plan, or to do.) But how does Blake know this determination is the same kind of metaphysical, causal pre-determination of all events whatever espoused in Calvinist philosophy? There’s just no way to find out. Furthermore, what, exactly, did God determine? That King Sannacherib of Assyria might trample down cities. Was this uconditional? Was this irresistible? Not a word of mention. Maybe God raised him up so that he might freely march on Jerusalem–an event that may have been avoided, according to Jeremiah 18:1-10. Blake is guilty not only of inserting deterministic philosophy into the Bible, but also a hasty generalisation. He infers a whole, systematic, philosophical network into the word ‘determined’ when we can just as easily interpret it non-deterministically (in the philosophical sense). 

2. Blake thinks it’s a problem that I haven’t responded to various Calvinist “proof-texts” which teach metaphysical, causal predeterminism. Two things. First, the whole point of what I said is to try and undercut the philosophical insertion into scripture that metaphysical predeterminism really is. It is a philosophical network placed over texts trying to make sense of divine government of history. Secondly, I resolutely refuse to get into proof-texting — a useless eisegetical methodology which conflates contexts and disrespects the text, in my opinion. If something like proof-texting is being used to support the metaphysical causal predeterminists, I’d say that unsound methodology is a part of the problem.

3. Blake thinks my rather humble and modest claim that scripture is underdeterminative with respect to the specific philosophical way we make sense of meticulous divine government over the world is more troubling that determinism itself. Apart from the question-beggingness in favour of determinism inherent in that statement, I notice that Blake hasn’t offered us any reason to think that this kind of a statement by me is illegitimate. Consider the issue of God and time. Does divine eternity mean God exists timelessly eternally without time? Or does it mean that God is simply beginningless yet everlasting throughout time, existing at each moment of time? Christian philosophers agree that Scripture is underdeterminative about this; it simply does not state the precise philosophical conditions required to decide between cases. That is what I am suggesting with Divine Sovereignty. The metaphysical causal predeterminism folks need to realise that a whole lot more goes in to proving metaphysical causal predeterminism than one-off statements about God being in control and that he directs and is involved in specific historical events. Much more is included in that philosophical thesis, and thus much more is required than what scripture alone says. There is a whole blanket systematic theology required that goes beyond simple biblical theology. And my claim is that metaphysical causal predeterminism (nor free will, for that matter) is established by scripture alone.

Next time, we will walk through Blake’s second objection to my post.

‘I Go to the Rock’

by Dottie Rambo.

Where do I go when there’s nobody else to turn to?
Who do I turn to when nobody wants to listen?
Who do I lean on when there’s no foundation stable?
I go to the Rock, I know He’s able, I go to the Rock

I go to The Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock

Where do I hide till the storms have all passed over?
Who do I run to when the winds of sorrow threaten?
Is there a refuge in the time of tribulation?
When my soul needs consolation, I go to the Rock

I go to the Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock

I go to the Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me

When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to The Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to The Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to The Rock

I go to the Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to The Rock

I go to the Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me

When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock

I go to the Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock

I go to The Rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the Mountain and the Mountain stands by me

When the earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend, I go to the Rock

Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/dottie-rambo/i-go-to-the-rock-lyrics/#IiBcrO31qzbSb51D.99

Does Divine Sovereignty Require Determinism? Calvinists Seem to Think So.

If God is sovereign, then God can do whatever it pleases Him to do.

If God can do whatever it pleases him to do, then God is unrestricted in his activities in the world.

But it does not follow from this that God can do just anything, does it? Can God create a square-circle? Can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?

Not at all. God cannot do these things. But that’s not a problem.

But why cannot God do these things? Take our two questions. In the first place, the concept of being square is antithetical to the concept of being circular. It is a conceptual contradiction, like creating a married-bachelor. There are not nor could there ever possibly be square-circles.

Or take the second question. This question really boils down to asking us to consider whether God is so all-powerful, such that he can place himself in a situation that would render him power-less (like lifting an all-powerfully created rock). In other words, it’s really asking us to consider whether God can be both all-powerful and power-less at the same time. This is, of course, logically absurd and impossible.

What, then, about divine sovereignty and human freedom? Can God be sovereign, and humans be free in the Libertarian sense?

Imagine a third question: Is God so sovereign so as to be able to create (Libertarian) free will beings?

Oftentimes this sounds like the square-circle or married-bachelor question. Problem is that this is just not manifestly so! And simply saying that it is doesn’t make it so!

The statements “God is sovereign” and “humans have (Libertarian) free will” are not even remotely contradictory on the face of it. We just said that the concept of being square is antithetical to the concept of being circular; similarly, the concept of being married is antithetical to the concept of being a bachelor, which just is an unmarried male. But is the concept of being a “sovereign” really antithetical to the concept of somebody else’s being “free”?

Imagine a King in his Kingdom. The human king can still reign as sovereign over his people whilst allowing the people to go about their business freely under the sovereignly decreed constraints and laws of the land decided on by him. It’s not obvious that the King ceases to be a King just because he decides to allow the creatures to operate and to function by themselves within a realm of constraints decreed by himself. If they break the Law of the King, he can justly punish them. But usually they live out their lives freely under his benevolent eye.

What is it about divine sovereignty, then, which is supposed to make it so conceptually antithetical to (Libertarian) free will?

Well, freedom (in the Libertarian sense) roughly means to be the first un-caused cause of one’s own activities (agent causation) and by implication to be free and able to choose from a range of several alternatives (principle of alternative possibilities, or PAP).

What does divine sovereignty mean? Seems to me that on the straight-forward biblical teaching, to say “God is sovereign” and to call him “Sovereign LORD” means simply to confess the authority of God over the whole world: one’s own life included. God is the good, holy and loving Judge of all the earth, who alone is worthy of honour, worship, adoration, reverence and praise as our ruler and our sustainer. God is the good governor of our world working all things to the good ends for his Kingdom and his people. He is therefore ‘in control’ and so we give him glory.

But it seems to me that the Calvinists want to take the biblical concept of divine sovereignty one, extra, biblically unwarranted (philosophical) step further. This means that, for Calvinists, it is actually a conceptual contradiction to say “God is sovereign” and “man is free (in the Libertarian sense).” Therefore, God is not free to create (Libertarian) free creatures any more than he is free to create square-circles and married bachelors.

But what would it take for a concept like divine sovereignty to be antithetical to to Libertarian Free Will in the sense that I stated it above? Well, divine sovereignty would have to be such that its being the case (its existing, or being true) would make it false that both agent causation and PAP are realities in human life.

What would such a world look like? Just this: Human creatures would not be the first un-caused cause of their own actions, and it would not be possible for them to choose from different alternatives than what they, in fact, do. Humans would be rather pre-determined to do what they do. By whom or by what? By the Deity. God, in one way or another, would have to cause agents to do what they do, and would himself set each one on a sure and certain path of God’s own choosing.

(And then God would hold them responsible for what they do — despite the fact that they did not cause their own actions, and had no power to do other than what they did.)

It’s not my goal here to make a judgement about the truth or falsity of this view. I’m simply drawing out an assumption underlying Calvinist intuitions about the incompatibility of divine sovereignty and (Libertarian) human freedom: The Calvinists have an extra-biblical, philosophical-theological construct called ‘metaphysical pre-determinism’ which for them best explains how God governs the world world to his intended ends for the good of his Kingdom and people. For the Calvinist, it is therefore metaphysical pre-determinism which best explains how God best governs the world. Roughly, X metaphysically pre-determines Y to do A when X ‘sets’ the necessary and sufficient conditions required for Y to do A, where these conditions exclude the agent causality and PAP conditions for human free choice in the Libertarian sense.

Now of course, only if human freedom requires agent causation and PAP, and only if our concept of divine sovereignty requires metaphysical predeterminism, only then must we deny their compatibility. Only then is God not free to create creatures that are free in this way. Maybe we can craft a doctrine of freedom which is compatible with determinism. Many a respectable Christian gentlemen take their relationships to be a matter of holding two seemingly contradictory truths in tension. It’s just a mystery how they work together. Other accounts are more systematic and sophisticated.

But how do we prove the latter? How do we prove that the Bible teaches metaphysical predeterminism when it talks about divine sovereignty? How can we be sure we aren’t simply getting our extra-biblical secular philosophical presuppositions and explanatory framework and reading it into the texts about God’s sovereignty, purpose and interaction with humans in the world? Why not rather think that divine sovereignty does not require metaphysical predeterminism, and simply say that God has the freedom, the power, the right, the wisdom and (dare I say) the humility to create free creatures to reflect his own image and likeness? That is my inclination.

So I end with two simple thoughts:

1. Is metaphysical pre-determinism really derived exegetically from a close reading of the Scripture, or is it really just a systematic sense-making explanatory system for divine government of the world in the Bible?

2. If the answer to (1)’s former disjunct is No, and then the answer to the latter disjunct is Yes, then it seems to follow trivially that scripture is just underdeterminative as to precisely just how to make sense of divine government over the world. Why then so easily accept so radical a position as metaphysical pre-determinism to explain the biblical teaching about divine sovereignty? Why identify that radical position with ‘divine sovereignty’ itself? Why force divine sovereignty to be incompatible with (Libertarian) free will in this way? Maybe simply given the plain biblical text, there is no explicit contradiction between divine sovereignty and (Libertarian) free will after all — from the text. But if this is true, then the biblical teaching about divine sovereignty and (Libertarian) free will are not obviously incompatible after all. What are obviously incompatible are two conflicting, extra-biblical, philosophical explanatory constructs called determinism and (Libertarian) free will. But that has nothing to do with the biblical teaching about divine sovereignty per se. In that case, it is massively unfair for Calvinists to cast the debate as a “Divine Sovereignty vs Free Will” issue or something like that. That already assumes the debate about the meaning of “Sovereignty” has already been decided, when that is far from clear. Could you imagine a debate on “Divine Goodness vs Divine Love”? I can’t. And I don’t see a difference between the two.

* * *


See here for a good article explaining Free Will from an Arminian perspective.


See here for the first in a series responding to criticism of the above article you just read.

Meagre Thoughts on Providence: Arminianism, Calvinism, Open Theism

On a classic Christian understanding of divine providence God is most assuredly working everything for the good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Accordingly, God works all things according to his plan in conformity to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

Whatever view you take of it, you need to make most sense of human agency, sin and evil, and God’s holy and good character and nature.

On the Arminian view, we should not say that God is strictly the cause of everything that happens. But we also do not want to say God is surprised or could be thwarted by evil. In stark contrast both to Calvinism and to Open Theism, God on Arminianism is neither the cause of nor is He surprised by the evil that happens (or will happen) in the world. Rather, he simply concurs with and permits evil in the world.

In my opinion, Calvinist providence in terms of causal foreordination or metaphysical pre-determinism (a philosophical-explanatory construct not to be confused with the biblical teaching on the divine fore-ordination and predestination of events) makes God the author of sin, by which I mean source of sin, and a contributory factor to human evil. That is inconsistent with the goodness and the love of God.

The Open Theist view, however, I just don’t think to be grounded in scripture. I take it to be a form of Theological Revisionism which caves to the problem of freedom and foreknowledge as pressed by the Calvinists through their secular philosophy.

Only an Arminian view, then, which talks of God as permitting the free acts of the creatures that are foreknown by him is able to hold in tension the biblical teaching about God’s goodness and his love, and his sovereign government over all affairs without strictly causing them to happen. In my view, God doesn’t need to predetermine everything in order to be sovereign. Maybe creatures are free and are interacted with by God as free precisely because God is sovereign, and that is what he has sovereignly chosen to do.

I see no inconsistency in that.