Thursday, March 22, 2012

Negative Constructive


If you try to put a square peg in a round hole, you're asking for trouble.  Those two are not compatible shapes.  Their incompatibility can be seen just by looking at their shapes.  The incompatibility of things we can't see is often more difficult to determine.  For example, if we have a square peg and a hole that is "bread box" shaped, we don't know whether they are compatible, because we don't know what a "bread box" shape is.  How could we determine that they are compatible?  Well, if the assembly instructions say to put the square peg in the "bread box" shaped hole, that suggests that they are compatible.  There might be other ways to tell as well, such as if the instructions elsewhere say that a "bread box" shape is round.  We certainly could not just go through the assembly instructions and find all the places where it says the peg is square and stop there.

This is a debate about whether the Bible teaches libertarian free will.  My esteemed disputant alleges that the Bible does teach libertarian free will, and I maintain that the Bible teaches compatible free will.  In other words, I'm arguing that the Bible teaches compatible, not so-called "libertarian," free will.  That means that men choose what God has foreordained or determined that they will choose.  It's the kind of free will that Calvinists speak about, and it is the kind of free will that is referred to when the Scriptures speak about "Freewill offerings." (See, for example, Ezra 3:5 "And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.")

While technically the burden is on the affirmative to demonstrate that the Bible teaches libertarian free will, because of the way that the debate is framed, yet I will still provide good reasons and Biblical evidence for my own position, namely that the Bible teaches that men have wills that can be free, and that the exercise of their wills is foreordained by God.  Since the Bible teaches both, the two are compatible.

There will be seven parts of this speech, three main points for my own positive presentation and four soft spots in the affirmative case.

Since this is a negative speech, I will try to sharpen the focus of the debate by identifying the major areas of weakness in the affirmative case.  Unfortunately, the affirmative case has at least four serious deficiencies.

Main Argument
I. The first area of deficiency is the reliance on contemporary English dictionaries.
A. The first deficiency within this area is that not one of the dictionary definitions actually defines "choose" in such a way as to limit the term "choose" to libertarian freedom.
B. The second deficiency in this area is that if one has only the 20 definitions and nothing more, one should identify the semantic range of the term as encompassing the broadest range of the term, not the narrowest range.
C. The third deficiency in this area is that ultimately what matters when dealing with the usage of a word in an ancient writing is not the contemporary state of the English language but authorial intent of the original writing.
D. A fourth deficiency is that the wrong word has been looked up: instead of looking up just "choose," my esteemed disputant should have looked up "libertarian free will."  The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, edited by Robert Kane, explains that "libertarian theories of free will" are "those which affirm a free will that is incompatible with determinism."  This leads us to the second area of deficiency.

II. The second area of deficiency is that my esteemed disputant has not properly characterized libertarian free will.  He claims "The essence of Libertarian Free Will is the ability to choose something or not.  Imagine you’re in an ice cream shop.  The idea that you can choose chocolate or not is the core notion of  Libertarian Free Will."  The essence of Libertarian Free Will goes beyond merely the ability to choose (which compatibilists affirm as well) to the declaration of incompatibility with determinism.

III. The third area of deficiency is in the area of exegesis.  While the bulk of the verses cited are non-controversial verses that simply say that men deliberate and/or choose (which compatibilists affirm), there is the famous "what more could have been done" question.  One way of looking at this question is that God literally did everything that he could, but he could not have done more, and they still did not choose God.

But is that a credible interpretation?  No, for several reasons.
A. First, it is patently obvious that more could have been done.  Jesus could have personally come to them and raised the dead.  God could have sent even more dramatic signs and wonders.  God could have prolonged their lives like that of Methuselah. 
B. Second, it's not surprising that an inexact way of speaking is being employed, because of the genre.  This verse is found in a song. Songs can speak precisely, of course, but they are also places where poetic license can be more freely granted.
C. Third, it's a double whammy, because the song is recounting a parable.
D. Fourth, there is a far more plain sense of the expression.  The far more plain sense of the expression is that God had done a lot for them, more than they deserved, enough that they cannot complain that God was not generous with them.  That means interpreting the comment as hyperbole, but in this context, that is a reasonable conclusion to draw.

IV. The final area of deficiency is in the treatment of compatibility.  My esteemed disputant seems to refer to the Calvinist position as "compatibilist" up front but then puzzles in his conclusion over whether I will say that choosing is compatible with God's decree of providence, with literally no effort to establish the key point that distinguishes compatibilism from incompatibilism, namely whether choice is compatible with divine fore-ordination.

V. But (turning to my own positive points) choice is compatible with divine fore-ordination.  And here are some Scriptures that prove it.

Specifically the Scriptures show that God refers to himself as the cause of some human action, yet the action is still ascribed to humans.  Moreover in seven cases, the humans are blamed with the action, to wit:
  1. Pharaoh (Exodus 7:4 and 11:9); 
  2. Sihon, King of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:30); 
  3. Eli's sons (1 Samuel 2:25); 
  4. Absolom (2 Samuel 17:14); 
  5. Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:15); 
  6. Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:16 & 20); and
  7. The Third King (Daniel 11:36)
Perhaps the seventh item is the most illustrative:
Daniel 11:36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

On the one hand the king's actions are ascribed to his will, on the other it is alleged that these things are determined.  What would the Bible have to say more than that to establish that free will and determination are compatible?

VI. The fact of compatibility is confirmed from the teachings of exhaustive determination.

A. God takes credit even for random events.
Proverbs 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

B. God takes credit for the acts of animals, such as the ostrich.
Job 39:16-17
She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her's: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

C. God takes credit for the decisions of kings.
Proverbs 21:1
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

D. God takes credit for the decisions of armies/nations.
Amos 3:6
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

VII. The fact of compatibility is further shown from God's taking credit for free acts and ascribing divine purpose to them

A. God Said that He Intended the Selling of Joseph into Slavery
Genesis 50:20
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

B. Job Ascribes Satan's Temptation to God, and the Spirit Endorses Job's Description
Job 1:20-22
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,and said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 42:11
Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.

C. The Actions of the Sanhedrin are Ascribed to God's "Determinate Counsel"
Acts 2:23
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

We have seen that the Scriptures teach that God refers to himself as the cause of even bad and morally blameworthy acts of men, that God's determination of events is exhaustive, and that God takes credit for free acts and ascribes divine intent to them.  We have also seen that my esteemed disputant's reliance on contemporary English dictionaries is misplaced, that his characterization of libertarian free will is incomplete, that his exegesis is inaccurate, and that his treatment of compatibility vs. incompatibility is virtually non-existent.  He has provided a lot of evidence that the square peg is square, but not that the "bread box" shaped hole is round.  We, on the other hand, have identified several places in the instructions where they are put together.  So, we can conclude that free will as described by the Bible is compatible, not incompatible.



Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Wow. This is a tour-de-force post.

I wonder who your esteemed LFW disputant is.

Natamllc said...


Put the trumpet to thy mouth and blow!

Isa 18:1 Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush,
Isa 18:2 which sends ambassadors by the sea, in vessels of papyrus on the waters! Go, you swift messengers, to a nation, tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide.

Isa 18:7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.


Paul said...

The dictionaries Dan cites are ambiguous between ontic and epistemic 'possibilities;' ontic or epistemic indeterminacy for the agent.

The empirical facts disagree with Dan. It used to be that libertarians could speak up for what "common man" believes, and no one challenged them. However, the new field of x-phi has actually done several studies on the intuitions of "the folk." It turns out that in the vast majority of the studies (do a Google search of x-phi and determinism, compatibilism, libertarianism, moral responsibility), "the folk" have offered answers which show that they do not have libertarian intuitions and that they have compatibilist ones. In fact, in some of the studies, "the folk" gave answers which that showed they didn't think moral responsibility was incompatible with determinism upwards of 80%!

turretinfan said...

TU&D: There's a link to the affirmative case, which is at his website. I posted that a minute or two before delivering it in a debate that we just finished recording.

Paul: Yes, I agree. What's particularly disappointing about the debate is that Scripture ended up essentially being a pretext. There was no actual Biblical argument for incompatability, just a Biblical argument for choice (which compatibilists accept).

Russ said...

Thank you for your post. How do you harmonize Exodus 7:4 and 11:9 with Exodus chapter 1(whole chapter) and Chapter 3:19-21, here’s an excerpt

1Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.
8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10“Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.
In 8 and on we learn of the new pharaoh that came into office that hardened his heart towards God and his people write away.
Then in chapter 3 we read about God’s foreknowledge of Pharaoh and what it will take to let His people go. That’s a far cry from God ordaining it to happen apart from His foreknowledge. If God is ordaining regardless of foreknowledge, then why does he mention His foreknowledge in verse 19?
19“But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. 20“So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. 21“I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed.

Thanks, Russ

Natamllc said...

TF, don't know but it seems to me each time I listen to your voice in a debate it is clearer and crisper, more decisive and determined! Just got done listening to the debate between you and Dan Chapa a couple times now on compatibility and LFW.

I am saddened to listen to his voice and sense his own convictions and beliefs knowing there is a blindness in him as he adamantly holds to LFW!

It is sad because the fresh presence of the Holy Spirit confirming and convincing me in my spirit of the promises God has made to His Elect, us, isn't with him.

I was "made" a sinner. I didn't choose that.

I am being made His Righteousness even as I make these comments now, in Christ; and, so much of the Life of Christ in God, Our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit seems to be side lined by the folks who stand fully convinced with Dan that his perspective is the correct perspective on accepting the full blessings of God.

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Eph 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

My only hope for Dan or those holding to LFW is that I am coming into a spiritual understanding I am being made righteous in Christ, called into His Eternal Glory in Christ as Peter wrote in his epistle and I am being transformed by the enabling power of Christ into His glorious image being conjoined to Him by the power of God and all that without making a choice! He chose me. I did not choose Him!

It really saddens me to hear him and listen to his voice and realize time is waiting for no one, him, his wife or his two sons:

Ecc_9:11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

I did not choose to be born. And I cannot stop the day of my death!

Russ said...


You quoted Ephesians 1:3-6. Now the historical context of Ephesians is the church at Ephesus.
Also notice Paul goes on to use the word "us" and phrases like "in Christ" in verse 3 and " in Him" in verse 4, and "throught Christ Jesus" in verse 5, and " in the beloved" in verse 6. The pronoun " us is plural, signifying group of people. If you put that together with the historical context-the church at Ephesus, combined with all the "in Him, in Christ, etc" phrases we see the object of the predestination is the Church, not individuals. Paul states in Romans 9:6: "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;"
And the same applies to the church at Ephesus. So the object of the predestination is the church with the condition of the elect individual being them entering into union with Christ(in Him, in Christ, etc).


Joeff_imba said...

Here's a good question for Libertarianists.

Do you believe the Bible is God's Word? That every words and every grammatical ordering and syntax as originally written by God's holy servants are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit? Do you believe this?

Now if you affirm, as all true Christians do, that all Scripture is God-breathed, how on earth did the writers of the Bible come up with the exact grammatical construction intended by Holy Spirit if they have a freewill which is FREE from any divine predetermination?

Libertarian freewill affirms that if you have done something, you could have done otherwise and your choice is not predetermined by anything outside itself. Therefore, assuming this concept is true, the writers of the holy writ could have written otherwise than what they have actually written, right? If that's the case, how can we be absolutely sure that ALL (100%) of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit?

Two choices:

a) Is it that the writers were inspired by the HS, in the sense that what they actually wrote has been predetermined by God? (compatibilism)

b) Or that they truly have a libertarian freewill, and what they wrote were inspired in the sense that it LUCKILY ended up exactly as how God intended it to be?

Now choose.

Russ said...

c) LFW still has God decreeing things to come to pass, i.e. Scripture, and at the same time allows certain things to come to pass, permissive, i.e. the multitudes of wives David had.

Natamllc said...



Now what?

Russ said...

You stated
"My only hope for Dan or those holding to LFW is that I am coming into a spiritual understanding I am being made righteous in Christ, called into His Eternal Glory in Christ as Peter wrote in his epistle and I am being transformed by the enabling power of Christ into His glorious image being conjoined to Him by the power of God and all that without making a choice! He chose me. I did not choose Him! "

If election is corporate, how does one enter into the elected body(the church)?

turretinfan said...

Russ: Election is individual.

Russ said...

Can you give me some evidence of such

Joeff_imba said...

Then it is not Libertarian, but Compatibilist, since it gives way to the idea that the writers of the Bible actually wrote what God intended them to write while remaining free.

Natamllc said...

How often do you read your Bible Russ?

I would cite the twelve men who received the Holy Spirit and also those appointed to eternal life, believed and to the jailer who was guarding Paul and Silas and Timothy's mother, a Jew, who was a believer and also Timothy himself whom Paul dealt with particularly as an "individual" and then there is Lydia, one of the women at the riverside and, well, to mention myself, too, I happened to be all alone in a house trailer reading a Bible and when I came upon reading Matthew 1:21, my own eyes were opened to just how lost a human being I was and I immediately repented and began praying for the forgiveness of my sins. There wasn't one other soul in that place at that time. But afterwards some days later I came to a church fellowship was welcomed and embraced and prayed for as a new member of that fellowship. As TF has commented, salvation is individual. There are instances in the Word, the 3000 and then the 5000 or like Lydia or the Jailer, when God "opened" their hearts to hear and receive, they and all their household believed.

Just to quote one verse of the many referred to above and a question:

Act 16:15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Russ, just what is the point you are making and what is the defense for it, either as a matter of doctrine or Scripture?

Russ said...

Opened to the Word is one thing God decreeing that you be saved, would nullify by faith alone, because faith would become at best secondary(and quite frankly meaningless) if individual election is true.

Natamllc said...


ok, listening. How so: "...if individual election is true?"

Faith and Hope are secondary to Love. At the end of the day the only thing that remains is the communion between God and His Elect.

Faith and Hope are sisters that bake the cake of Heaven, God's Love.

I wax, I know. But, please go ahead and explain if individual election is true?

What do you mean and please refer to some verses for your complaint.

turretinfan said...

Yes, faith is secondary at best to God's grace. Turning faith into a human work is what nullifies faith alone - and more importantly nullifies grace alone. Salvation is all of God.

Godismyjudge said...


I am working on a transcript of the whole debate. May I have your permission to copy this post and use it as part of the transcript?

God be with you,

turretinfan said...

If it is helpful, sure. I didn't stick precisely to the script, but it should save a significant amount of typing.