“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Justin Taylor's Question about Sovereignty and Free Choice

Justin Taylor asked this question at his blog.

I commented:

"I lean towards a Reformed theology, but I think free will is essential to Christianity. Without sin Christianity crumbles, and it seems to me that sin must be a free choice, where by “free choice” a mean a choice that is not fully predetermined, not made “robotically.” But choices always take place in an environment, in the context of a set of circumstances with past events building up to it. And God is actively working in the world, responding to peoples’ free choices to bring about the best telling of his Story. He foreknew each and every free choice from eternity past, and, like a brilliant chessmaster, he set the world in motion in such a way that every (foreknown) free choice is already woven into his plan. When that choice is made, God has already foreknown it and made the world so the right things will happen in the aftermath of that choice. I also think molinism is onto something with the idea that God foreknows not only choices that do happen, but all possible theoretical choices – how anyone would respond given any set of circumstances.

It is clear from the text that God’s purpose was to prevent the king from sinning. Maybe “I kept you from sinning against me” means that God intervened and overruled what would have otherwise been the king’s free choice. Maybe it does mean that the king never made a free choice, but was steered by God on a fully predetermined path that did not end in sin. But I don’t think this is necessary. God is great enough to ensure that even free choices work towards his desired purposes. Since God knows from eternity how the king would respond in any theoretical circumstance, he is capable of ordaining a world where the king will be on a path of free choices that could have ended in sin but instead, because of the way God makes the world, ends in the king’s choice not to sin. God wanted to bring that freely chosen end about, so he ordained exactly the right events and circumstances in the king’s life so that, for every (free and foreknown) choice he made leading up to this event, subsequent things happened that directed him towards the final choice not to sin. (I suppose one could argue that the king could have been so stubborn that he would have sinned no matter what his circumstances were (and therein lies another discussion), but this isn’t necessarily the case.)

In the end, then, I think it is likely that the king’s choice was free. It was not predetermined, but it was foreknown by God in the context in which it occurred and, together with all other events, woven into a world in which the king did not sin.

In answer to the second question, I think it may be similar with each person’s salvation. If God wants to save a person, he doesn’t step in and overrule what would have been a choice against him with a totally predetermined salvation and sanctification (he doesn’t redeem us “robotically”). Rather, if God wants to save a person he will pursue that person so persistently and repeatedly with sets of circumstances that present the option of choosing Christ that in the end the person cannot go on resisting him forever. In other words, irresistible grace, but not at the expense of free will. The election is still unconditional, and the person cannot brag that he chose salvation. Technically he did choose it because he “gave in” to the offer, given repeatedly until accepted. But that’s hardly something to brag in – you can’t say, “I’m so great that I made the right choice after making the wrong choice a million times before.” Rather, God is great because he is able to save a person even though they resist him a million times.

In summary, then, God is fully capable of making a world where, in the end, a creature will make a certain desired free choice that was inevitable and certain to come to pass (but not predetermined!). Inevitability does not require predetermination."

1 comment:

  1. Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at http://christianityisdead.wordpress.com/ if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)

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