On the free will issue, my personal opinion is that this is an insoluble
mystery, and I take the pragmatic approach of William James on this issue.
For several years, he went back and forth on the issue of whether he truly
had free will or whether his every action was determined as if he was a
puppet. He resolved the issue in his mind by simply acting as if he did
truly have free will. " My first act of free will shall be to believe that I
have free will". This is not very Biblical or even rigorously
philosophical. Many have deplored this free wheeling approach. But as
William James might have said, "It works for me".
The question of the inspiration and authority of the Bible is crucial for
Christians, and I will respond more fully in a later post. A brief summary
of my position is that the Bible is the human Word of the Almighty God-human
insofar as it is speech and words on paper coming from people of a
particular time and place, but also fully "of God". This means that we
should be realistic about its limitations as well as be submissive to its
authority. As has been stated in this listserv, the author of Genesis 1 did
not transcend the pre-scientific views of his time concerning cosmology.
However, he did speak of a transcendent God who created everything, and THAT
revelation is valid for all time.
More on the Bible later. I will let you have the last word on the free will
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
Behalf Of Terry M. Gray
Sent: Friday, May 31, 2002 2:23 AM
Subject: Scripture and Divine Sovereignty (was Brainlessness...)
At 2:04 PM -0700 5/30/02, Dr. Blake Nelson wrote:
>Jim, you cannot be serious (nor could any conservative
>theologian) in writing that "God wrote the Bible" as
>if He physically put pen to paper. That is really a
>huge definitional leap from the Bible consists of
>God-inspired writings, written by human beings.
>More fundamentally, where does the "Bible" say that
>all the books of the Bible are written by God? Most
>citations regarding the trustworthiness of scripture
>are absolutely inapposite to the New Testament since
>the books of the New Testament were not canonical
>(indeed nothing was canonical before the church
>councils) until well after the last document that is
>contained in the New Testament was written.
Blake (and Burgy and Shuan),
Here's where the doctrine of inspiration and God's sovereignty come
together. Conservative Calvinistic theologians would argue that even
though the human authors of scripture fully expressed their humanness
(their personalities, their personal histories, their unique
perspectives and purposes, etc.) in writing the Biblical documents
that God who is in full Providential control of all of their affairs
and histories, etc. sees to it that they write exactly what he wants.
This is why we would argue for plenary, verbal, divine inspiration of
Scripture. What Scripture says, God says! This is no dictation theory
because the authors of scripture were acting according to their own
wills, intellects, and purposes (full human). But the outcome is no
different than if "physically put pen to paper." Seriously!
The question of God limiting his omnipotence in order to provide for
free will has been asserted several times on this list. I don't see
why this is anything than a so-called "philosophical necessity"
rather than a Biblical argument. The Bible doesn't seem to suggest
this. The Bible puts God so fully in control so that whatever comes
to pass is an expression of his will (secret, decretive will to be
contrasted with his revealed moral will). The Bible also makes man
fully responsible for his actions and credits him with free will. Is
it not conceivable that God's control is such (in ways that perhaps
we can't even understand) that I do exactly what I always freely
choose to do and at the same time do what God from all eternity
purposed me to do? This is exactly what the "venerable" Westminster
Confession of Faith says is the teaching of scripture. I cite the
Confession here not on the weight of its own authority, but as my
tradition's systematic summary of the teachings of scripture. Fuller
expositions of the Westminister Confession can provide the
"proof-texts" and the Biblical argument. We can pursue that if you
want. This argument is the heart of Warfield and Hodge's defense of
inspiration and infallibility from the late 19th century.
[Quotes from the Westminster Confession of Faith]
III. I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel
of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to
pass: yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is
violence offered to the will of the creature; nor is the liberty or
contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
V. I. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct,
dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the
greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy, providence,
according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable
counsel of his own will, the praise of the glory of his wisdom,
power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
V. II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God,
the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly;
yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according
to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or
V. IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness
of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it
extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels
and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined
with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and other ordering, and
governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends;
yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature;
and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor
can be the author or approver of sin.
IX. I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty,
that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature,
determined to good, or evil.
IX. III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all
ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as,
a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in
sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to
prepare himself thereunto.
[End of Westminster Confession quotes.]
To summarize: God ordained and providentially executes whatever
happens (even the bad stuff). Those events occur necessarily (via
"laws of nature"), contingently ("by chance"), or freely (via the
activity of agents who have free wills). The Confession sees no
contradiction between a certain God-determined outcome and free
agents exercising their free will (no violence is offered to the will
of the creature (no coercion here!)).
One of the reasons that I think that Walter's programmer's image
fails, in the end, is because the programmer does not and cannot
control the totality of reality for the computer and the AI. Perhaps
this is close to what Blake? was saying about immanence. There is no
sense of the AI "living, moving, and having its being" in the
programmer, the way we "live, move, and have our being" in God.
Clark Pinnock (one of the architects of Open Theism) rejects the
doctrine of inerrancy and plenary, verbal inspiration precisely
because he rejects this Calvinistic understanding of the sovereignty
of God (see his argument in the book *The Scripture Principle*). In
Pinnock's view God doesn't have the kind of control over the lives,
circumstances, and thoughts of men that my view describes. (Open
Theism is simply a fuller expression of this limitation of God.)
Consequently, scripture cannot be the words of God in the sense that
I am describing.
I simply don't have the time to fully answer Blake's second
paragraph. Volumes have been written by "conservatives" discussing
this. Here's the very short answer:
The OT books are determined inspired and authoritative by virtue of
the authoritative teachings of Jesus and the apostles. e.g. 2 Timothy
The NT books are determined inspired and authoritative by virtue of
their authenticity and apostolicity. For an early internal
recognition of apostolic writings as scripture along side the OT see
2 Peter 3:16 (and yes, I believe that 2 Peter was written by the
apostle Peter and to be date prior to his death in the 60's).
Canonicity is not determined by church council but by scripture's own
self-attesting claims. (Westminster Confession of Faith, I. IV. The
authority of the Holy Scripture...dependeth not upon the testimony of
any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the
author thereof...) The NT documents were recognized as scripture and
used as such long before church councils that made lists of canonical
writings. They may not have been collected together in their present
form early, but that's not to say they were recognized or used as
scriptural before then.
Sounding very conservative here (not much difference between me and
"the fundamentalists" on this stuff),
-- _________________ Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist Chemistry Department, Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado 80523 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.chm.colostate.edu/~grayt/ phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801
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