Re: Coercion

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Thu Apr 08 2004 - 13:03:39 EDT


I'm dying to jump into this "Coercion" thread (as it seems to be
waning), but with my daughter's wedding last weekend and Easter
worship preparations this weekend, I'm swamped.

I do want to make a reference to my paper presented at the ASA
meeting on Hodge, providence, concurrance, and "non-coercion". It can
be found at (Yes,
Howard, I know I still owe you a response!) I think the paper also
addresses some of the issues raised in the recent "Hodge" thread.

Then, a separate thought on this matter:

In the Reformed (and not necessarily exclusively Reformed) doctrine
of regeneration God takes a human will that is dead to Him and in
bondage to sin and gives the individual a new (or renewed) will that
is not dead to Him--one that now is able to respond with faith to His
saving work. The Westminster Confession (X,I) puts it like this:
"...taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of
flesh; renewing their wills...effectually drawing them to Jesus
Christ" and then it's quick to add "yet so, as they come most freely,
being made willing by his grace".

Perhaps bringing this conversion business into the picture is
inappropriate since we might regard this activity to be outside the
categories of God's ordinary governance. But it seems to me that the
theological formulations here speak of a decisive act of God (removal
of heart of stone, giving a new heart of flesh, renewing wills,
enlightening, etc.) but really tries to avoid the spectre of coercion
and divine puppeteering. Now in the Reformed view, God always has his
way (irresistible grace), but it's a caricature of the Reformed view
to say that God has coerced the individual or has made him/her do
something contrary to his/her nature (contrary to the sin nature,

Perhaps similarly we should view God interaction with the world. God
always gets His way, i.e. He is fully in control, but
creaturely-actions are authentic, according to their created
natures/properties. All language of coercion or overpowering or
puppetering is inappropriate.

While I know that Howard disagrees with me here, in my view there's
no need to "choke on RFEP" at the place where Don did. God's
orchestrating our lives (which I believe He does) does not
necessarily stand against RFEP or the authenticity of my own choices
and the happenstance circumstances that surround me. This, of course,
is the age-old debate between divine sovereignty and human
(creaturely) responsibility. Reformed orthodoxy has always affirmed
both. Both hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (in the Reformed debates)
and Pelagianism (in the Augustinian debates) have forced a choice
between the two. Process theology and open theism in the modern scene
do the same thing.

Hopefully this is not a hit-and-run post, but I may not be able to
reply until after the weekend.


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801
Received on Thu Apr 8 13:04:18 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Apr 08 2004 - 13:04:19 EDT