Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chosen But Free Reviews - Part 4

I think this will be the last of the parts of my responses to reviews of "Chosen But Free." Thus, I think I have now completed my series of responses (part 1, part 2, part 3) to reviews of Chosen But Free, with a particular emphasis on how I think the students who prepared these reviews might benefit from the rebuttal provided in Dr. James White's book, "The Potter's Freedom." The numbering of the reviews picks up from the previous post.

31. THEO 202-003

This review seems to buy into the idea that Geisler has provided a "balanced" view of sovereignty and free will. As I have said many other times, I think the reviewer would be in a position to give a more balanced judgment, if he had also read Dr. White's rebuttal in "The Potter's Freedom."

32. Onomonopia

This review expresses a similar sentiment to many of the other reviews. By way of providing an example, here's how this review put it:
Ultimately, Geislers book is a great overview and relation of two opposing views that are normally seen to only be contradictory. He relates these views not just by his own knowledge but by pulling examples straight from the scripture itself.
As I have said many times, Geisler's book isn't balanced: it's one sided. Those who read it should really take the next step and read the other side.

33. Love God With All of Your Heart

This review had one surprising comment that I thought was worth addressing separately. The reviewer wrote:
I do agree with that. God does have a plan and a purpose for our life. I do agree that nothing that we do can change God mind. We not get there the way that is way that God wants us to get there. But one day we will get to the place that God wants us to be. It just may take longer.
This sounds curiously fatalistic. We can't change our destiny, but we can delay it. That's neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian view, technically speaking. We Calvinists don't hold that God simply has an end in mind for us that will somehow come to pass. We also believe that "all things work together for good" to those who are the called according to God's purposes.

34. My testimony

This review seems to reflect that the reviewer caught on to the fact that Geisler is basically promoting a version of Arminianism (the version that teaches "eternal security"). The reviewer also sets forth an argument against limited atonement. I'll respond to that argument:
1 peter 3:18 says For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”. In Titus 2:11 it says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men”. Lastly, in 2 Corinthians 5:15 it states “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf”. All these verses have the word ALL in them so I don’t really know how people can argue that God died for only the chosen when the verses say otherwise.
That emphasis is in the original review. A few responses:

Regarding 1 Peter 3:18, the "once for all" is actually just an idiom that means "once for all time." The KJV puts it this way:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

You will notice that "all" doesn't even appear in that translation. The point of the verse is just that Jesus suffered one time. This contrasts with often-repeated Old Testament sacrifices and the Roman Catholic mass that is repeated daily.

Regarding Titus 2:11, the "to all" there should be carefully considered. Recall that the verse as a whole is this (KJV):

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Notice that "to all men" refers to the fact that saving grace of God has appeared to all men. It doesn't mean literally ever last person, but to the fact that this is not limited to the Jews. The proclamation of the gospel is for everyone, even if it has not yet appeared to everyone. The "to all men" doesn't refer to "brings salvation." If it did, we would be universalists.

Regarding 2 Corinthians 5:15, the verse does say "all," but all of whom? All of the people in the world? Look at the context to find out (KJV):

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

As you can see from the context, the "all" refers to "us." One died for all of us.

35. honest to goodness thoughts

This review comments on the issue of free will and its relation to evil. The review argues thus:
Some, such as Jonathon Edwards might argue that sin comes from nature but Adam contradicts that because he fell in a perfect world and was created good in nature. (Geisler,39-40)
I found that interesting, because I heartily commend Jonathan Edwards' "Freedom of the Will" to everyone's reading. I am surprised to hear that the reviewer thinks that a world with a tempting serpent and a wife who has already given in to the temptation is a "perfect world," but even beyond that: doesn't the reviewer think that there will be free will and an absence of sin in heaven? The problem here is really that Edwards' position hasn't been accurately portrayed. While our fallen human nature is one reason we sin, Adam had an innocent but fallible nature. He was able to make an error and he did. He judged it better to follow his wife and the serpent than to follow God.

36. Lauren's blog

This review reflected a belief that Geisler had found a middle path between two extreme views. That's the impression that the book gives. But that impression is easily remedied by reading Dr. James White's response in "The Potter's Freedom."

37. Spit it Out

This review expresses the seemingly common (in the class) perception that the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is a waste of time that would be better spent evangelizing. Evangelism is important. On the other hand, theology matters. If we are not really ready to understand free will, God's sovereignty, and their interplay, we may face difficulty when we are asked those kinds of questions by the atheists and others we run into.

38. Nursing Student on a Mission

This review raises one of Geisler's arguments against Calvinism based on the nature of Love. As expressed by the reviewer:
I agree with what Geisler says on page 140 of his book. He basically argues that love is not and cannot be irresistible. He states “God is love, and true love never forces itself on anyone, either externally or internally. Forced love is a contradiction in terms” (Geisler, 140).
Isn't the answer a little obvious? Hell is coercion. There is a "turn or burn" aspect to the gospel call. If you don't love God, you will burn in Hell forever. That should be enough to demonstrate that Geisler's analogy is fundamentally flawed. What could be a worse threat than Hell? After all, we are not to fear those who can kill the body, but Him who can place both body and soul in Hell.

39. Joey Yapp

This review, one of the few that appears to be placed on a "real" blog (although some of the other folks have a "real" blog in addition to the class blog), seems to reflect an impression that the book was good and balanced. I hope that the reviewer will take the time to review Dr. White's response in "The Potter's Freedom."

40. Theology 202: Dr. Caner

This review presented two points that I'd like to address briefly:
God came to this world to save the entire world, all sinners, not just a select few that he had chosen.
There are plenty of verses that indicate the latter. But consider the implications of the former position. If God came to save each and every person, has God mostly failed? Or is God free to save whom God wants to save? That's one of the key points of "The Potter's Freedom." It explains God's freedom to save.
One thing that I was a little disappointed with in this book was the lack of in depth scripture usage. Geisler uses tons of scripture references all throughout the entire book, but I feel like they barely scratch the surface of each topic. I mean, any person can flood a book with scripture references to make it sound like they apply to the topic at hand, but it doesn’t always mean that it proves the point that you are trying to argue. I loved the scripture he used, but I feel like he could have gone a little bit deeper with his usages.
Here's where I think the reviewer might be especially thankful for "The Potter's Freedom." It goes in-depth in its exegesis of the Scripture text. In that regard, it stands in contrast to "Chosen But Free."

41. Katie's blog

This review is similar to many of the others in terms of buying into the idea that Geisler is presenting a balanced position. That idea is undermined if one reads the rebuttal to Geisler's work, "The Potter's Freedom."

There is one comment from this review that I feel I should address:
I believe that Christ died for ALL, and ALL have the same opportunity to receive God’s gift. I believe that Christ desires for ALL to go to Heaven.
I realize that the belief that Christ died for everyone is quite popular, even though when Christ described his own sacrifice he did not say "which is shed for all" but "which is shed for many." Nevertheless, even if you will not accept that Christ died for many (rather than all) at least you must acknowledge that not all have the same opportunity. Some are born into Christian families. They grow up in a church, being brought to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and so on. They have a lot of opportunity. Other children are born in communist China. Their opportunities are more limited. And the people of this century have more opportunities to hear the gospel than those of previous centuries. Think about the American Indians before the Europeans showed up, for example. Think about all the nations outside of Israel before Christ. These people do not all have the same opportunity, even though all have the same way of salvation: repentance and faith in Christ.

42. LU THEO 202-003 (subtitle for blog: My blog about what Dr. Caner tells me to blog about for THEO 202-003)

This review similarly accepted Geisler's claim to be taking a middle position. The review contained an interesting argument from Jonah:
God is in control but I don't think He forces people to do things. He tells us what He wants, but I've never thought He would force anyone to do it. Just look at the life of Jonah. God told Jonah that He wanted him to go to the Ninevites, but He did not force him to go. Jonah ran the other way and wound up in the belly of a big fish. Jonah had a choice to go or to run the opposite direction. Jonah then saw that God knew what He was talking about and ran to Nineveh after he was vomited out of the fish.
If I put a gun to your head, I'm "forcing" you to do what I say. God didn't put a gun to Jonah's head, but he did place Jonah in a position where Jonah had to be cast into the sea to avoid his death and the death of the men that were with him. Moreover, God threatened all of Nineveh with destruction. They repented and God spared them. But it is strange to say that God is not "forcing" them.

You can say that "they still have a choice," but I'm not sure what that gets you. Even if someone has a gun to your head, you still have a choice, yet at the same time you are being forced.

Moreover, God is able to change a person's heart. That's not at all like pointing a gun at someone, yet I suppose it would be considered "forcing" the person, according to the reviewer. What's wrong with that kind of "forcing" though?

43. mattlillis

This review was interesting for a variety of reasons. I will respond to it paragraph by paragraph:

Geisler’s discussion on whether faith is a gift only to the elect in his book, Chosen But Free, was a most intriguing section, which I found myself very much engaged. On page 237 Geisler states, “Nowhere does the Bible teach that saving faith is a special gift of God only to a select few,” and proceeds to give numerous versus such as John 11:40. Geisler makes another very pungent statement a littler further on page 240 where he is tackling the Arminian and Calvanist view of faith saying, “God is pleased with our faith, yet this is not because it adds to the work of Christ, which alone satisfies God’s justice. On the contrary, God is pleased with our faith because we know we cannot do anything to add to the work of Christ and must wholly and completely trust in Him and Him alone for our salvation.” These two extremely profound revisions of scripture seem to resonate between Calvin and Arminius’ arguments in a way that makes total sense and only validates what I have already come to know and experience about God. I totally agree with Geisler’s main argument here that we play no role in adding to the salvation that Christ offers, this being in regards to having a “faith.” His choice of words and just overall clarity of message simplified such a complex and ingenious conclusion, and created one of those take away messages that great minds seem to come up with.

Regarding the issue of saving faith being a gift of God for a select few:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Indeed, eternal life itself is the gift of God:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As for it being "for a select few," not everyone has saving faith. If they did, all would be saved. They would all have eternal life.

Geisler's point about God being pleased with our faith is not necessarily wrong in itself (I'm sure the reviewer mean "poignant" not "pungent"), but it misses the point. It's good that Geisler doesn't try to argue that faith is meritorious. Nevertheless, Geisler's argument about faith pleasing God seems almost to treat faith as though it were a work, rather than as it being the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.


Another example that Geisler gives from scripture that seems to resonate on the same frequency with his other arguments is on page 237, “Finally, the Bible describes faith as ours. It speaks of ‘your faith’, ‘his faith’, and ‘their faith’, but never of ‘God’s faith’ as a condition for receiving the gift of salvation.” This argument, although good, is not as good as the other two I previous quoted, I disagree with what he is trying to do here because he is describing what the Bible doesn’t say, over what it does say, and this can be a slippery slope into false teaching.

The faith is ours - but isn't that true of all gifts we are given? Is eternal life not ours, just because it is a gift of God? God is not the one who believes, we are. Nevertheless, faith - like life itself - is a gift of God. Surely Geisler would be willing to admit that life is a gift of God, yet God is not the one living our life.

Norman Geisler’s overall methodology of attacking this monumental debate of free will that has been raging for centuries was overall very well communicated and easy to follow, which made the book enjoyable to read. I was not getting lost in cross references and incoherent rhetoric. One concern that turned out not to be a problem with Geisler that I had before starting the book, was I did not want to read just a conglomeration of Straw Man arguments and misguided scripture references. But Norman Geisler seems to take great caution throughout the entire book to avoid such arguments and quote scripture in a historical and contextual way that seem to validate most if not all of his conclusions. The appendices in this book though were not constructed well and I thought they should have been included in the main text, because that is where I found most of the “meat” of the text and his arguments.
I think the reviewer would really enjoy the meat contained throughout "The Potter's Freedom." The reviewer may also be surprised to discover that some of the positions that Geisler presented may be criticized as being straw men. That's part of the value in reading a rebuttal: it casts further light on the quality of the original work.

44. Chosen But Free

This review is the only post on this particular blog. I have no idea of whether the author of the blog created a new blog for each of the blogging assignments, or only recently joined the class, or what. This review contained some similar comments to those already addressed above, as well as one comment that I'll address now:
Norman Geisler states, free choice in this life means, “the ability to do otherwise” (21).
This is interesting. Does that mean that God does not have free choice, because God is unable to sin? Does that mean that in the next life, we will not have free choice - or that the very definition of free choice will change? These questions seem to undermine Geisler's point.

On top of that, "the ability to do otherwise" is an ability that is never, ever used. It seemingly exists simply to make people feel better. It's not just unused, it's unprovable. One cannot prove that one had or has the ability to do otherwise than what one does.

45. Justine's Blog

This review focuses on chapter 4 of Geisler's book. The review makes one of the robot arguments that we are used to hearing:
I believe that we need to stop putting the blame on God and taking responsibility of own actions. I believe we have a free will to do what we want and I do not think that we are God’s robots just walking around on earth doing exactly what he tells us to do. If that were the case, we would live in a perfect world because God would not tell us to sin and do wrong. God loves us and wants us to always do right but He knows that we are not perfect and that we are going to fall short sometimes. We have a merciful, forgiving Savior who dies for our wicked sins and we need to be grateful that He has done for us. Also, if we did not have a free will then we would all be followers of Chirst and everyone would be on their way to heaven. But instead, we have people who love God with all their heart, people who are backslidden, people who don’t care about religion and even people who hate God. How can somebody say that they do not have a free will, after seeing the different levels of faith that there are? If we were all God’s ‘robots’ then we would all be on fire for God but that is unfortunately not the case.
The problem with the argument is the underlying the assumption that if God ran the show, there would be no sin. We are not robots, of course. No Calvinist says we are robots. Nevertheless, if one will concede that God is omniscient (he knows everything), omnipotent (he has all power), and interested (he cares what happens), then it follows that everything that happens is - in some sense - approved by God. God could (at least) prevent anything bad from occurring, and yet God does not.

God's sovereignty, then, is higher than this reviewer gives God credit for. I would encourage this reviewer to consider reading James White's "The Potter's Freedom" to get a better picture of the sovereignty of God.

46. Theo 202

This review indicated that "one of my favorite parts" was the way that Geisler used Scripture. Considering the much greater Scriptural depth of "The Potter's Freedom," I believe that this reviewer might really benefit from Dr. James White's rebuttal to Geisler's book. "The Potter's Freedom" also rebuts Geisler's insinuation that Calvinists and Calvin had divergent viewpoints. Nevertheless, the five points (as such) are really more associated with the Synod of Dordt than they are with Calvin himself.

47. dagment

This review is another of the reviews that concludes that Geisler provides a balanced position between Calvinism and Arminianism. In "The Potter's Freedom," Dr. James White explains how Geisler has essentially just proposed an Arminian position (with respect to most points), while demonstrating from the Scripture why the Calvinist position should be accepted by those who accept the authority of Scripture.

48. alexanapier

This review can probably be well summarized by one of the lines from the review: "I enjoyed Geisler’s ability to use logic and scripture to defend the balance between free will and God’s sovereignty. " While I can understand that one might get that impression from reading Geisler's book alone, one really will get a more balanced perspective by reading the rebuttal to the book, namely Dr. James White's "The Potter's Freedom."

49. Theology II

This review presented a few interesting points drawn from Geisler. I will respond to each:
Geisler makes a distinct difference though when he states “According to this view (Calvinism), God’s predetermination is done in spite of His foreknowledge of human free acts. God operates with such unapproachable sovereignty that His choices are made with total disregard for the choices of mortal men.” Here it is supposing that God knows what free choices we will make and plan accordingly.
This simply is not an accurate view of Calvinism. According to the Scriptures, God sovereignly ordains all things including men's free choices. God's decrees, therefore, are not "in spite of" man's free choices. Instead, God's decrees frame and give purpose to man's free choices. Man's free choices have a purpose in God's plan.

The view that God knows what man will do and plans accordingly makes God reactive. It places man's free will above that of God, since God is reduced to making the best of a mess.
For, as Geisler said, “If free choices were not considered at all when God made the list of the elect, then irresistible grace on the unwilling follows; that is, man would have no say in his own salvation. Accordingly, the fact that all men do not choose to love, worship, and serve God will make no difference whatsoever to God.” If it were not for this simple choice, then there would be no point in the creation of humans.
But Scripture says:

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Isn't that the point? Man does not have a say in his own salvation. It is all of God, it is all by grace.

Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

The point of God's creation of men was not to leave God eternally disappointed. The point of creation was for God to glorify himself.

Romans 9:21-24
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

50. Tim's Blog

This review focused on the question of who is in charge. One interesting passage from the review is as follows:
It is an incredible, comforting, and yet scary thought to know that the God that we serve knows our every action and our every thought. Having this is mind should change our actions and our thoughts. Luke 1:37 says that “Nothing is impossible with God.” This however brings up the question: Can God make a mountain big enough for him to move? This can easily be solved by clarifying that God can do anything that doesn’t contradict itself. In other words, God cannot lie because it is against his nature. Also, God cannot make a triangle with two sides because, by definition, a triangle is a three sided figure.
Hopefully, this reviewer realizes that man's free will is not a mountain too big for God to move. With such a realization, one must realize that all things, even the free actions of human beings, are within God's sovereignty and are ordered as God wishes. Only when God is in control is God's sovereignty a comforting thought.

51. My Mind as an Open Book

This review is another review that aims to adopt Geisler's position. The review even identifies the reviewer as a "moderate Calvinist" using Geisler's categories. The review states, among other things:
I want to focus on chapter four and briefly state my opinion. Geisler’s premise was this: if God knows everything we are going to do and our free will cannot change that, then the future cannot be changed. Therefore, the conclusion is, we are not responsible for any of our actions whether good or bad. This is an extreme view of God’s sovereignty and does not take into account man’s free will.
But we cannot change the future. If we could, then we could render God's prescience of the future wrong. But God actually knows what we will do - he's not just guessing. So, that will definitely happen. If God knows we will do X, there's not the slightest chance we will not do X. We may bring about the future, but we don't "change" it.

52. Kirstin!

This review indicated an appreciation for Geisler's use of Scripture. While it is good that Geisler attempted to support his position with Scripture, Dr. James White's book, "The Potter's Freedom," demonstrated that Geisler's attempted reliance on Scripture was mistaken. This review also included an argument that I thought it made sense to address here:
Geiesler also discusses the big topic of free will. In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve a choice, proving the fact that we are given a choice, and it is up to us to choose. We as humans have the free will to do what we want. Salvation is literally given to everyone and it is our human choice to decide whether we want to accept it or not. Here on earth, we are truly free. We are truly free because we are given a choice to do what we want, and are not bound to making a decision that we don’t want to make. I like the quote on page 21, “In heaven we will be free from evil; here we are free to do evil.” We are free to choose good or evil here on earth, but once we make our choice, we are bound to it when we die. God gave us the gift of salvation, not the gift of faith (pg. 229). Faith is what we have the freedom to choose. Basically, we all have salvation, it our choice whether we want it or not.
Has the reviewer really thought about the problem of heaven? Why is it ok for humans to be free from evil in heaven, but not ok for them to be free from evil (per Geisler)? Doesn't that seem to be simply a double standard? Is there no free will in heaven? Surely no one would assert that. Therefore, free will isn't really a sufficient answer to why we sin here.

Second, salvation is not given to everyone - it is offered to everyone. It's important to distinguish between those two things. The gospel offer is universal - but the gift of salvation is given to those who believe.

Moreover, faith itself is a gift. After all the Scripture tell us:

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

A consistent Arminian would have to answer the question with "faith." But Paul's point is to make a rhetorical question: God is the one who makes one person to differ from another. We have nothing - not even faith - that we did not receive from God. Therefore, we cannot glory even in our faith.


Randall van der Sterren said...

So why did you decide to critique 52 different book reviews?

I've never seen anything like this and it makes me curious.

Lockheed said...

It's an examination of how Dr. Caner was teaching his apologetics class.