Ok, look. I don’t want to become one of those people who writes about Calvinism all of the time. The ONLY REASON I’m doing this is because I love you guys, and I want to save you a huge amount of time. I watched NINE HOURS of John Piper so I could explain TULIP to you. Now I’m going to tackle one of the strangest parts of Calvinism that I only discovered recently: Devine Determinism.
Devine Determinism teaches that EVERYTHING that EVER HAPPENS is DETERMINED by God. Not merely allowed and then used by his Wisdom to bring about His good plans, but DETERMINED. God is the great puppet master, and we are his puppets (But don’t say that to a Calvinist because they hate it even though, technically, they agree with it). In short, they have decided that we do not have free will.
I wrote to a Calvinist who calls himself the Consistent Calvinist to ask about this whole lack of free will thing. What I wrote was a lot longer and more detailed than this, but the summation was:
1. Calvinism rejects free will. Is this merely because Calvinism defines “Free” will as “Completely unobstructed by sin” as Mark Driscol seems to think (i.e Free Will= Free from the influence of Sin), or because Calvinism claims that EVERYTHING that ever happens is ALWAYS determined by God, as James White seems to say?
And if the latter, how do you ignore your own constant, daily experience of making free will choices in order to hold onto a doctrine that teaches that you cannot make those choices you make? Is this not like trying to convince yourself that the color blue does not exist even though you have an unobstructed view of the sky?
2. If determinism, how are we not robots? And how is God not directly responsible for all evil? I’ve heard a lot of Calvinists mock this metaphor, but I’ve yet to hear one answer it. So, let me clarify: if our choices are determined by our nature, and our nature is determined by God, and the Calvinist system admits freely that we are not making free will choices but merely obeying our desires/nature and we can do no other, then how are we different from robots? And how does this system not NECESSARILY give the blame to God for evil?
In reply, he sent me the names of several of his podcasts, the first of which (Abandoning Our Free Will Intuitions) was 3 1/2 hours long. I suppose he expected that I have a LOT of time on my hands. Which is true, but he doesn’t know that, so who does he think he is? The nerve.
I listened to the first podcast on while I was playing video games.
This was actually very helpful, and faster than I thought it would be after I saw that 3 1/2 hour runtime on the first video. I actually got most of my questions cleared up in the first 12 minutes (even though I listened to most of the first two hours). It came when the Consistent Calvinist equated “Free Will” with “Freedom FROM God,” even using those phrases interchangeably. Once I realized this, the little cartoon lightbulb over my head went on.
Free Will Vs. Freedom FROM God
Free Will is NOT Freedom FROM God, just as God’s Sovereignty is NOT a practiced control of everything that ever happens, but rather the position of authority and power to control everything- including the power and position of authority to grant real choices to those under your authority. I have the freedom to walk into the bank because they choose to unlock the front door. I don’t HAVE to go to the bank, but I can if I choose because they have given me the choice. I do not have the freedom to walk into the vault and swim through the money like Scrooge McDuck. This makes me sad, but it is what it is. The bank has decided which choices I have to make. I then get to make them. God similarly uses his position of divine authority to decide what decisions I get to choose for myself and what choices will be made for me. God can do that BECAUSE He is both powerful and sovereign.
Freedom to make real choices, NOT Freedom FROM God. Once you have those two ideas distinguished, The Consistent Calvinist and Leighton Flowers have very little to disagree about. But let me show it to you from my Calvinist friend’s own words:
9min 46 sec in he says
“If every particle of your existence relies upon the sustaining power of God at all moments, then by definition, the very definition of your existence as a finite being reliant upon God, freedom from God is impossible.”
No one is arguing that we have freedom FROM God, as if free will somehow puts us in an Atheistic bubble where God does not exist or act. Free will is not an ability to make God powerless. Free Will is not a literal separation from God where we must make choices because He is powerless to act in those instances.
In fact, this is not a response to those arguing for Free Will. This is, with all due respect, a textbook example of a Straw Man. He SAYS he is replying to Free Will, but is in fact replying to the idea of being Free FROM God.
Do you see the clear distinction between those two ideas?
Obviously being free FROM God would necessitate either free will or a puppet master other than God, but it is NOT true that free will necessitates freedom FROM God. It only necessitates that God has the character, power and ability to give us free will, and that the choices we make are chosen by us. That I can choose whether or not to go to the bank doesn’t somehow put me in a position of authority over the bank, but merely over myself. I don’t take away the bank’s control over itself when I make that choice, but rather, I have that choice because they have given it to me to make.
God can influence our free choices. He can even completely override our free will if He chooses. But FREE will doesn’t mean uninfluenced, but merely that an actual choice was made.
Of Men and Toasters
If you stimulate a person’s brain so that their arm moves, they will say, “I didn’t do that. YOU did that.” This has actually been done in medical experiments. And I’m not for a moment suggesting that you try this at home.
We innately distinguish between what WE choose to do and what happens to us, even if what happens involves part of our own bodies. This is a real distinction, and one which we all naturally accept. It is self evident.
When I set my toaster to medium and put in bread and push down the little handle, I have determined the outcome. The toaster CANNOT make any choices, and so the result is entirely determined by what I have decided. If the toast is burnt, I have only myself to blame, even though it was the toaster which did the burning. If I sin because God determines that I will sin, then I am merely His toaster. If he doesn’t like the toast, he needs to change the settings, but it would be unjust to punish me for what he decided I would do. God’s justice only makes sense if we are capable of making real choices- if we are not toasters.
If I give in to peer pressure and join some friends to see an Adam Sandler film, I may whine that I was forced to see that movie, but the fact is, I chose of my own free will to allow myself to be influenced. I COULD HAVE gone home and played video games. I had the ability and opportunity to do otherwise, but I chose to let the crowd pressure me. I made a free choice, although an influenced choice. But even if they put a gun to my head and said “Watch Jack and Jill or die,” I can choose to die. And from what I can tell, it would be the more enjoyable experience. Again, even a strongly influenced decision is made freely, because only I can make MY choices. FREE choices only mean that I am not a toaster. Gravity is constantly pulling me down, but I can choose to stand.
And if my friends want me to watch Adam Sandler films, I need new friends.
In short, my Calvinist friend is not responding to the actual claim of free will, but rather he is dramatically changing the subject to talk about a completely different matter (can we be free FROM God?), which may be why he thinks non-Calvinists are being unbiblical.
CC Says the Quiet Part Out Loud
He actually proves that he agrees with the existence of free will in his very next statement. 10 min in, he says,
“So you see how, I can start with the intuition that I have free will, that I’m free from God, but when I go to the Bible and I find out that I’m not, I have a choice to make. Do I abandon my false intuition and adapt it to what the Bible says? Or do I try to hold onto that intuition, and basically, interpret it through my lens which I am refusing to let go of?”
Wait, let me highlight a few parts of that statement:
“I HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE.”
So we are in agreement. That was easy!
And let me make some clarification to what follows;
“Do I CHOOSE to abandon my false intuition and adapt it to what the Bible says? Or do I CHOOSE to try to hold onto that intuition, and basically, interpret it through my lens which I am refusing to let go of (i.e CHOOSING to hold onto).”
What he says here is correct, but what it seems he doesn’t understand is that he is affirming Free will choices. We are in agreement. He also affirms our ability to make free will choices, by which of course I mean he affirms our free will.
With that cleared up, I suspect the rest of my questions become answered by association. This has been very helpful. And now I guess it is up to him to consider whether he can be a Consistent Calvinist now that he realizes that he also believes in free will.