Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 at 12:23 PM

Defining "free"

I'm going to try to define the Arminian interpretation of "free" as best as I am able, so here we go:

Merriam Webster states that "free will" is

"freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention"

Eric left the comment stating:

"Free from God ordering the universe such that it is (objectively, if not subjectively) determined which way we will choose when faced with a choice. "Free" less in the sense of "emancipated" as of "given free rein." Free to choose actions (or more precisely free to will), not free to choose consequences."

Arminius states:

“He has determined to save believers by grace; that is, by a mild and gentle suasion, convenient or adapted to their free-will, not by an omnipotent action or motion, which would be subject neither to their will, nor to their ability either of resistance or of will” (Jacob Arminius, An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins Concerning the Order and Mode of Predestination). In resistance or of will” (Jacob Arminius, An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins Concerning the Order and Mode of Predestination).

Another friend once stated that "God can make someone appear in the river with the priest about to perform the baptismal rights and everything, He can give them 99% faith, but that last 1% must come from them."

Now, apart from the idea of baptism = salvation, we have one unifying theme in all these definitions:

"free" (to the non-Calvinist) means not only the ability of choice, but the spark of ability uninfluenced by God (and for that matter, all of the natural world that has been put into place by God) that is able to make the decision for one thing or another.

I was going to use this point to launch into an explanation of why I don't believe this view is Biblical, but then I figured I probably won't be able to keep up with posting more on it.

I'll just quote one of many silver bullet verses and a logical argument why I would use this to deny free will.

John 6:44

44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

**edit got my sentence messed up here. Thanks Jeff for pointing that out**

"No one can come unless the Father draws him" logically implies:

"If he can come to me then the Father draws him"

But we cannot stop there, for there's a second half to this verse: "And I will raise him up on the last day." Now the question is, "who is 'him' ?" here.

1) Those that can come
2) Those that cannot come
3) the Father

2 and 3 are indefensible. Christ will not raise up those who cannot come. Nor is Christ raising up God on the last day (since the immediate context of the passage points to Christ raising up all believers).

Our only choice is to say "Those that can come will be raised up on the last day."

What does that leave us with?

A) If the person can come, then the Father draws him.
B) Those who can come will be raised up on the last day

Now, those who defend "free will" will claim that "all people can come." (that decision made apart from God) But this results in, from this verse, "all people will be raised up on the last day," which is indefensible from the rest of the Bible.

Logic and John 6:44 - Monergism.com

John 6 - James White.

For a response to those proposing "free grace" (once saved always saved), Evan May has done a treatment of John 6 as well.

We'll touch on compatabilist free will eventually too

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Blogger jefe said...

a short comment on the logical semantics of "unless". i think you may have things flipped around.

suppose i tell you, "we will have a picnic unless it rains." as i see it, the only situation in which you could complain that i had spoken falsely is if (a) it doesn't rain, and even so, (b) we don't have a picnic.

this suggests that "P unless Q" has the same truth-conditions as "if P is false, then Q is true" (check this against the example).

now go back to John 6.44. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." the analysis is more straightforward if we restate this as, "a person cannot come to me unless the Father draws him." (you agree that's equivalent?) following the picnic-rule to replace the "unless" with a standard if-then, we get:

"if it is false that a person cannot come to me, then it is true that the Father draws him"

or less wordily:

"if a person can come to me, then the Father draws him."

this statement isn't equivalent to your premise: in fact, it's the logical converse. that strikes me as a rather important distinction.  


Blogger mxu said...

You are absolutely right. I don't know what I did wrong. Edited with a note.  


Blogger Puritan Belief said...

No matter how you define it if there is but a 0.0000001% bit of free will in salvation then it may as well be 100% free will for this 0.0000001% was the defining factor.  


Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Let A be the set of those who come; and Let B be the set of those who are drawn by the Father. This verse is saying that you cannot be a member of A, ,unless you are a member of B.

Thus: If you are in B, then you are in A. This can mean that A is a subset of B.

Therefore, there is no room for those who can come, but are NOT drawn by the Father.

But can there be someone in B, but not in A? Other words, can you be drawn by the Father, but not come to Christ?

No, because context of John 6:44, is speaking of those who are given by the Father (v. 37, etc; see also John 10 discussion where the Jews not believing is due to them NOT belonging to the those given to Christ by the Father. Btw, John 10:30 ends with Christ saying, “I and the Father are one.”)

Therefore, if we show exegetically (which we can) that members is in A are also those members given by the Father, then this would mean that if you are in A, then you are also in B. And along with salvation accomplished in a way where Christ says, “I and the Father are one”, I think we can safely conclude that members in A are equivalent to the members in B.

But my point is not that John 6:44 is one logic, and John 6:37 is the converse. My point is that in view of John 6:37 (and other surrounding texts), to interpret John 6:44 to say that those drawn by the Father will come to Christ is not false. After all, granting that such logical converse exist leads to equality anyways.  


Blogger jefe said...

more logic and grammar (no rhetoric, though).

first thing, it's interesting that your (A) sentence no longer plays any part in your argument. so in fact the "unless" part of John 6.44 doesn't really have much of a part to play in the new version of the discussion (the same thing holds true in Bosse's more technical paper that you linked to). in fact the whole strength of this argument comes down to just one thing: resolving what the "him" refers to. that is, who will christ raise up on the last day?

you read it as "those who can come", and i agree that that's a reasonable reading. but i think it's hasty to suggest that it's the only reasonable reading.

here's one alternative. try this sentence on:
"no one can come to your party unless you reserve the roble parlor. and they will have a good time." i'm not trying to say the situation is parallel, but the grammar is parallel. in this case, though, who will have a good time? the people who can come? or the people who do come?  


Blogger mxu said...

Well ok, so now we return to theocentric's point:

Can we prove that the passage (and it's context) shows that all those drawn by God will come? If so, then irresistable grace is proven and free will (in the sense that we can resist God) is rejected.

I posted a brief examination of John 6 earlier, feel free to use the google search to pull it up and read it.  


Blogger jefe said...

more theologically,

you write:

"Now, those who defend 'free will' will claim that 'all people can come.' (that decision made apart from God)"

that's a strong claim about other people's positions, and one that i suspect is not usually true. i don't think that any arminian i've spoken to (who has thought it through) would say that anyone can come by a decision "made apart from God". now, many would say that god makes it possible for all to come--and that's the only claim you take up in your argument. but i think the misunderstanding is widespread enough that it's worth pointing out.

also, you say it's biblically "indefensible" to claim that "all people will be raised up on the last day." that also seems like a stronger claim than you want to make--for won't the strictest orthodoxy assert that in the last day god will raise all people--"those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned"? (john 5.28-29) that's not to say you can't make a case that jesus is talking about a different kind of raising here, a kind that perhaps doesn't apply to everyone. but i think it's worth being careful about these points. it does nobody any good to argue against caricatures.  


Blogger mxu said...

Fair enough. The issue isn't as much with straw men as with precisely defining my terms.

To restate and clarify:

Arminians claim that "all people can come." that all people have the ability to make a choice to come to Jesus. This ability may be limited by circumstances (or God's hand), but there remains a core that is done "of their own volition"

Jesus is talking about "raising up" in a salvrific sense. Thus what I mean is that it is biblically indefensible to say that Jesus will save all people (with all meaning every single person who has ever lived from all time).  


Blogger Eric said...

"Silver bullet" is a little insulting, brother.

Nobody is arguing that a person can "come" to Jesus without being "drawn." The question (as usual) is one of defining terms that Scripture doesn't bother to provide explicit definitions for. What precisely is comprehended by the term "come?" I don't see how John 6:44 speaks one way or another to the Arminian proposition that no person can be saved without a). being drawn to Jesus by the Father, b). coming to Jesus as a result of being drawn, c). the Father granting that person the ability to believe unto salvation or not, d). the Father granting that person the option to exercise that ability, and e). the person exercising it to believe unto salvation. The Reformed objection to the Arminian story of salvation, so far as I can tell, is with points c). through e). (especially d and e). John 6:44 only addresses points a). and b).  


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