Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Truth Value of Tensed Statements

December 21, 2010

I’ve heard certain philosophically inclined people suggest that the truth value of the statement:

(1) I will party like a rock star on January 1, 2011,

is dependent not only on whether or not I actually do party like a rock star on that date, but also on whether today (the day you are reading my statement) is before or after January 1, 2011. I don’t agree.

We do not evaluate the truth of statements in a changing context. Thus, we evaluate the truth of statement (1) keeping mind when it was said, as well as who it was said about. The statement does not become false simply because I die, nor does it become false when someone else reads it.

That’s probably more clearly seen from the use of past tense statements. The statement:

(2) I partied like a rock star,

is dependent (for its truth) on whether or not I had already so partied prior to making the statement. The statement does not become true on January 1, 2011, if I so party then (don’t worry, friends and family, I have no such plans). The statement was a lie when I made it, and it is evaluated in that context, not a changing context.

Let me add one point of clarification: we evaluate the statements within a fixed context, but the content of that context may evolve. For example, only God knows whether (1) is true (as of today), by January 2, 2011, a number of people will know whether it is true (hopefully, they will know it was false), but many of you who don’t know me personally may never know whether it is true. Likewise, you may not know whether (2) is true, and if you cared to find out you would investigate my past, which would involve (in theory) an increasing collection of information upon which you could make your judgment.

Who cares?

The issue is mostly interesting because God knows the future. He can make true statements about what will happen tomorrow, and it is impossible for anyone to intervene to make God’s statements false. This idea eliminates an “open” view of the future, and leaves Calvinism as the primary viable explanation for how human freedom and divine Providence are compatible (which is really a topic for another post).

Those statements that God could make (and on many occasions has made) are always true. God’s promise that a Messiah would come was true when God made it, and remains true now, even though the Messiah has already come, because we evaluate God’s statement from a single unchanging context.


Airport Philosophy and Sola Scriptura

December 14, 2008

“Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

Steve Ray (a Romanist) responds to the above airport signage, with the follow:

All of life is a profound journey but with very definite destinations: Heaven or Hell! If you’re on the travel through life ONLY for the thrill of the trip you’re in BIG trouble. You better set your sites on the ultimate destination — heaven! Nothing is more important. And remember that entrance gate to heaven is very narrow so plan well!


There’s a bit of irony in Steve’s comment, because Steve is leading folks on vacation/pilgrimage tours. Tours are really about the journey, since one’s destination is the same as one’s starting point: home (although obviously one could view a tour as made up of many little journeys to many little destinations).

There’s a more subtle and important layer of irony, though. Ray is right about life being a journey toward one of two destinations, Heaven or Hell. And Ray is right that we should be preparing in advance, and that the entrance to heaven is very narrow. But Ray has left out the most important part, the Guide!

Who shows us the way to Heaven? It is God in His Holy Word!

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

How do we understand the Word of God? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

God is more than just a cosmic tour-guide, of course. The gate is so narrow that a camel has a better chance of squeezing through the eye of a needle than even a rich man has of being saved.

Luke 18:25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (see also Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25, which say basically the same thing)

So then, how can anyone be saved? The answer is the grace of God, which gives life to the dead, which opens the eyes of the blind.

What is the way to heaven? The answer is Jesus, and him alone. Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Certainly men are an important mechanism to help in this journey:

Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

But not every preacher preaches the true gospel. There are many false teachers, blind guides of the blind. The scribes and Pharisees were such, with their human traditions:

Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

And that was not the end of such false teachers, as Simon Peter the fisherman/apostle declares:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Thus, the Apostle John likewise warns:

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

How then can we tell whether a teacher is from God? We can follow the advice that Jesus gave to the men of his day, regarding his own ministry:

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Any teacher, whether he calls himself a pope, a minister, a sunday-school teacher, or whatever title he may adopt, if he will not allow his doctrine to be examined from Scripture, he is not acting as Jesus’ disciple, because the disciple is not greater than his master. If Jesus was willing to be examined by Scripture, and if Luke declares of the Bereans:

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Then, we should have an enormous red flag rise in our minds when our spiritual leaders insist that we have not only no duty but no right to question their doctrines. So take courage and stand up for the Word of God:

1 Peter 3:13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?


Jonathan Edwards – Birthday and Works

October 5, 2008

Jonathan Edwards was born 305 years ago today. Arguably, he is the greatest genius in American philosophy and theology to date. He was also a very instrumental preacher. Perhaps today he is most well known for his work on Freedom of the Will (in theology and philosophy) and his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” His works, in 73 volumes, are now available on-line here (link).

Image by Matthew Lankford, (C) 2008, used by permission and with appreciation.


Deflating Assumptions Regarding Free Will – A Response to Ben Witherington

June 10, 2008

Ben Witherington has written an interesting post on the freedom of God. It actually meshes somewhat with my ongoing discussing with Godismyjudge (Dan) in other posts, and so it is fitting that I respond to some of the issues Ben raises in his article (link to article).

Ben writes: “I take it that the primary attribute of God is not God’s will but rather God’s love, which is a holy love.”

I respond:

The primary attribute of God is being. God is the I AM. All other attributes of God are predicated (logically) on his being. Foremost among God’s attributes are his primary attributes. Among God’s primary attributes are his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Love is not properly a primary attribute of God. God is Love, Scripture tells us, but Love is God acting. Love is transitive, it requires an object. Therefore, Love cannot be a primary attribute of God, with (perhaps) one exception. In God’s wisdom, God loves Himself with a perfect, eternal love. The persons of the Trinity love one another, and have always loved one another. God’s love can be viewed as a secondary attribute of God, proceeding from his wisdom, holiness, goodness, justice, and truth. God deserves His own love, and He properly loves Himself.

Ben states: “I say this because God’s will has primarily to do with his doing, but what is prior to that is God’s being or character, and in my view God’s willing is dependent on his character.”

I don’t have any particular problem with God’s will being viewed as subservient to his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. We can even say that, at least in some instances, God’s love logically precedes an act of God’s will. Thus, for example, our election is motivated by God’s love.

Ben states: “There are certain things which, while theoretically God might be able to do, God would never do because it would be ‘out of character’. For example God is light, and in God is no darkness at all. This I take to mean that God would never do evil nor commit sin. “

Again, this is not particularly objectionable, except for the underlying idea that “theoretically God might be able” to act out of character. I’m not sure what Ben’s trying to do there … perhaps he’s just trying to speak loosely.

Ben continues: “There is supposed to be a reflection of the divine character in us, and indeed in all of creation. This in turn means that God, having set up the universe in a particular way, is not free to be capricious and redefine the meaning of holy in the middle of the game.”

I think this is intended to simply be supporting proof for the idea that God’s nature is holy in a fixed way, and not in a “whatever I happen to do is holy” way. As such, it would not be objectionable. If Ben is trying to suggest that God is stuck with a free choice to create, and that he cannot change the rules of the created order mid-game, then Ben would seem to have a problem with special miracles.

Ben continues: “God has chosen to express the divine nature in a particular way and has chosen to limit himself such that God as well as all of his creation is subject to certain standards of truth, holiness, love, and so on.”

This claim seems to suggest that Ben believes God’s standard of truth, holiness, love, and so on is not intrinsic but voluntary. God chose to define “truth” this way, and now he is stuck with it. This is out of accord with conventional Christian thought on the matter. God’s primary attributes are intrinsic, not voluntary. God is true, because he is God, not because He chooses to be true, or because He has defined truth a certain way. That is not to suggest that there is a category of “truth” that is logically precedent to God, but rather that our very idea of truth comes from God’s own character.

Ben states: “This is a complicated matter, but the bottom line is that once God set up a universe with other free agents other than himself, God is not free to do just anything without violating his revealed character and will.”

Here Ben seems to assume that created agents are “free” in some similar sense to that in which God is free. There is no particular basis for that assumption. Man is (and angels and the animal creation are) “free” in some sense, but calling them “other free agents” raises a number of serious problems, foremost among them being: God is other. God is not a man. God is not part of creation, and although man bears the image of God, God is infinite where man is finite.

Ben states: “This is not an absolute limitation. I am assume God could set up a definition of sin and could violate it, but if God did, he would cease to be the good God of the Bible.”

Unless God’s character is voluntary, or God’s character is not holy, it is an absolute limitation. God cannot sin. That’s intrinsic to God. God would cease to exist if he sinned – therefore God absolutely cannot sin. Also, a just and truthful God cannot call sin good

Ben continues: “[I]t is terribly false to predicate of God sins that he prohibits us from doing, say for example destroying innocent human lives for no good or appropriate reason.”

Our relationship to other humans is necessarily different from God’s relationship to human beings. Thus, it is incorrect to make the comparison between God doing something to His creation and us doing something to God’s creation. God has an owner-chattel relationship to the world (the cattle on a thousand hills are his), whereas we have more of a fraternal relationship – our fellow man is not our creation, but God’s creation: he does not bear our image but God’s image (I am of course leaving out certain human relationships like father-son, master-slave, husband-wife, or king-subject).

Ben continues: “I assume that when human beings were created in the image of God this meant, among other things that Adam had libertarian freedom to either obey God or not.”

This assumption cannot be justified exegetically. Exegetically, the primary characteristic of man that is God’s image is dominion over God’s creation. One might argue that a will is necessary to that end, or even that a free will was part of the package (included with rational thought) that God’s image entails. There is, however, no Scriptural reason to step beyond that and make it a libertarian free will rather than a compatible free will.

Ben states: “It is not appropriate to judge this matter on the basis of the attributes of fallen human beings who indeed in various ways can be said to be in bondage to sin or addicted to sinful behaviors. No the question is, how did God make us in the first place, and how in Christ does God restore us in Christ as we are renewed in the image of Christ? Does grace restore the power of contrary choice in redemption or not?”

Ben here seems to be confused about his categories. The distinction between the will bound by sin and the will freed by grace is not the difference between no free will and free will. It is, instead, a change in the character of the man. A fallen man sins constantly, but freely. He sins in accordance with his fallen nature. A regenerate man does good freely.

Suggesting that the ability to do both good and evil is what characterizes free will creates some serious problems. First, it creates the problem that fallen man would not have a free will. This would tend to wreak havoc on libertarian views of the responsibility of fallen man. If man has no free will, he would seem to be unable to sin (if, as it is claimed, sin requires a free will). On the other hand, and secondly, God is unable to sin. Thus, if free will requires the ability both to sin and to do good, God does not have free will, in which case the “image of God ” assumption (made without warrant by Ben above) is logically inconsistent.

Ben: “Of course much depends on one’s view of grace. Some people think grace works rather like an escalator– it does all the heavy lifting and we are just along for the ride. I disagree with this. Grace is not irresistible, it is rather a form of enablement from a gracious God which gives us a further chance to freely love and obey God. In other words, we must indeed work out our salvation with fear and trembling, God’s grace does not do it all for us and in spite of us.”

Of course, we would reject the elevator analogy in favor of the Lazarus analogy. Grace is irresistible because, well, how is a dead man going to fight resuscitation? It’s irresistible because it circumvents man’s will – not because it drags man kicking and screaming up to heaven.

Ben: “Another of the major issues which affects this discussion is the nature of love. Now I understand love to be something that is the most personal act of either God or human beings.”

It is interesting that Hen here seems to acknowledge love is action. As such, it is not a primary attribute of God, just as “willing” (being an action) is not a primary attribute of God. I, of course, would not limit love to God and man, but extend it to other creatures at least including angels, and more than likely including animals. Numerous dog owners can testify to the apparent love of their pets. Furthermore, mother birds and bears are notorious for their love for their offspring and their zeal in sacrificing themselves for them. But that is tangential.

Calling something the “most personal act” is a bit vacuous. How does one compare the personality of actions? The words seem to be designed to laud love (and who but the strongest cynics among us could oppose the praise of love), but the words don’t seem to convey anything particular.

Furthermore, love can be totally impersonal. In fact, sadly, the love of God as portrayed in the popular media these days is mostly impersonal: “God loves you,” we read, and maybe even, “You are special to God,” but the same is true (according to these sources) of each and every person. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this converts to “God loves everybody,” and “you are as special to God as the next person.” This sort of promiscuous love is the kind of love we often have to our neighbors in the next country. We do not know any of them personally, but we love them all and wish them well.

Ben states: “And furthermore it is the most free and freeing act of all beings.”

If it is free in the sense of voluntary, then the will takes logical precedence over love, which seems contrary to Ben’s thesis. If it is free in some other sense, then the connection to the rest of the post doesn’t seem very clear.

Furthermore, we can say from experience and Scripture that human love is not free, in the sense of voluntary. Men and women fall in love – often without any apparent control over their love. Furthermore, trying to make oneself love something one detests is, at least for most, a hopeless task. Finally, getting back to Scripture, we find that human love has causes: for example, we love God because He first loved us.

Calling love “freeing” is also somewhat odd. Love unites. It united David and Jonathon. It united John and Jesus. Love unites us to Christ. It is binding. A man’s love for his wife binds him to a life of her service. A woman’s love for her husband binds her to a life of obedience. A dog’s love of his master binds him to the household more tightly than any chain.

Ben continues: “It must be freely given and freely received.”

As to “received” this is plainly wrong. We can love our enemies, and they will receive our love either passively or with hostility. If one imagines the non-Calvinist view of salvation, God’s love for mankind is likewise not always freely received, but received either passively or hostilely.

To suggest that love must be “freely” given is a bit misleading. One cannot coerce love – because that is not how love works. On the other hand, love can be obtained: it can be caused. Heroes like David earn the love of the nation. Young men attempt to perform their own heroics, whether it be flowers, poetry, or athletic feats of prowess to win the love of their heart’s desire.

Love has to come from the heart to be love, but the heart can be changed. God himself declares:

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.

Ben states: “It cannot be coerced, co-opted, manipulated, and it most certainly does not work in an impersonal manner, like say the way iron filings are attracted to a magnet.”

Ah, but – in some senses – love does work that way. One need only look to Holywood for examples. Physical beauty (found so abundantly there) is one of the principle causes for people falling in love. The number of beloved stars in Hollywood, drawing adorers like so many iron filings is numerous. That is not to say that it is mechanical – surely not. Each person reacts differently to different stars – and some are hardly influenced at all by a pretty face or well-developed musculature.

Now, again, love must come from the heart. Man has little ability to influence the heart. Nevertheless, the common wisdom: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” applies to love as well. That is one reason you see so many followers of preachers of joviality: preachers who do not present the uncomfortable truth of sin and coming judgment to their hearers. People have itching ears: scratch them and you will win their hearts.

Advertisers are well aware of this. Look at so many ad campaigns. Normally they will not tell you directly that men who refuse to wear their perfume du jour are simpleminded losers, but rather that those who use their products are sophisticated chick-magnets. They do not wish to offend but woo their listenres.

Those who love the products because of the advertising have been successfully manipulated, perhaps for their own good – but certainly for the financial benefit of the company who paid for the advertising.

Successful advertising, however, knows its limitations. It cannot directly change man’s hearts: it can only act on what exists there. Thus, knowledge of human nature is key to the success of advertising.

God is not limited to these crude tricks and external manipulations. God is able to change the heart. In regeneration, by grace God changes the character of man, from one who loves sin to one who loves God. This fundamental change in man’s nature produces his love of God and trust in Christ.

Ben: “God is not a magnet, and he does not treat his creatures in an impersonal way that makes their behavior inevitable, and if he did, it would cease to be personal and loving behavior on our part for sure.”

First, such a picture is a non-Calvinist picture we frequently see. We hear the verse about Jesus drawing all men to himself portrayed as though he drew each and every man to himself impersonally. We reject this as clearly improper.

Second, nevertheless God does draw men to himself. They are actually drawn. God draws certain men (by the work of Christ on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts) from all nations to himself. These surely come. That’s deeply personal: it’s targeted, individual, and done with the eternal good of the person in mind.

The idea that it ceases to be personal and loving behavior on our part “for sure” seems simply to be Ben’s own view, motivated by his philosophical assumptions. It would not be loving behavior if it did not come from the heart: but it does. It comes from a changed heart. Thus, we reject Ben’s criticism as unfounded.

Ben finally concludes with a point that is, intellectually speaking, suicide to his position:

Ethics in the Bible are largely what are called virtue ethics. … Now virtue ethics require that a person has the capacity to be virtuous, by which I mean, the person has the capacity to either freely behave in this way or not. Otherwise there is nothing virtuous about the behavior. The flight or flight pure instinct of a deer, for example, is not an example of making a conscious choice to “do the right thing”. I am utterly convinced that the Bible calls us to be virtuous beings, or as Paul suggests in Phil. 4 to be creatures who can not merely reflect on what is noble and excellent, but seek and attempt to do it. The commands to love as we are loved, to forgive as we are forgiven, and so on, presuppose that grace actually enables us to freely attempt to imitate Christ and do what he commands us to do, at least approximately. God is an ethical being and he wants Christians to reflect the highest and best behavior a human being can muster. Indeed, he commands us to do it, but as Augustine says, God gives what he commands, he enables us to believe and behave as we ought to do.

The intellectually suicidal aspect of this argument may not be immediately apparent. The problem is that if “virtue” required the ability to do the unvirtuous, then God’s sinless perfection is not virtuous, because it is impossible for God to lie, impossible for him to sin, and so forth. Furthermore, likewise assuming that Ben acknowledges that there will naturally be no sin in heaven, such sinless perfection again would not be “virtuous” because there would no longer be the ability to sin. This is enough to sink the “virtue ethics” battleship.

But not only is this absurd as to its consequence with respect to God, it is absurd in application. We view God as more virtuous than any of his creation, and he is the least able to sin. We view those in whose hearts God has greatly worked, who strongly hate sin, and yet who may nevertheless occasionally sin to be more virtuous than those who are relatively indifferent to God’s law, but do the same sins. Therefore, our intuition and common sense weigh in against the idea of “virtue” ethics as framed by the libertarian free will advocate. So, along with the battleship, a libertarian free will advocate loses his entire armada when he seeks to argue for “virtue ethics.”

The issue of whether a “conscious choice” is made to do right or wrong is certainly an aggravating factor, but perhaps it is not the only factor. Recall that Jesus said that lusting after a woman is sinful, and yet many will confess that such lust springs forth unconsciously.

Ben states: “I[n] short, the discussion of the freedom of human beings should never be undertaken in isolation from the discussion of the freedom of God, and the ways God has chosen to limit himself in order to allow us to be beings with a limited measure of freedom, and so a small reflection of the divine character.”

But recall above, that the idea that libertarian free will is a “reflection of the divine character” was simply Ben’s assumption above. One does not get that from the Creation account or from the banishment of Cain. One simply does not get that from Scripture. One brings it in eisegetically from one’s philosophical attachment to the idea.

It then displays a most turgescent attitude to demand that such an idea be constantly brought into the discussion of the freedom of human beings. Surely we would agree that man’s freedom must be understood in the context of God’s freedom, but we must not confuse the Potter with the clay. He does whatsoever He pleases: we must do as He pleases. We serve Him and exist at his whim, as it were. If God did not will our continued existence, we would vanish.

Ben claims: “Here we must return at the end of this discussion to the matter of God’s will and knowledge. Notice how in Rom. 9-11 God foreknows things that he did not will, for example the apostasy of Israel and the rejection of its savior by most early Jews. God not only did not will this, it breaks his heart in the same way it breaks Paul.”

But this claim is not exegetically supported. In that very passage God affirms that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. There is no mention of God being broken hearted, and not the least reason to suppose that the apostasy of Israel and rejection of the savior was not in God’s will. Indeed, to the contrary, Scripture explains that it was God’s will:

Romans 11:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

Ben concludes: “What this tells me is that Calvin was wrong about the relationship between God’s will and God’s knowledge. God does not merely know it because he wills it.”

Ben really hasn’t made a connection in his post to support that conclusion.

Ben continues: “There is some other relationship between knowing and willing in God and they are not inexorably linked.”

Again, Ben has not made the necessary connection to support this claim.

Ben states: “At the end of the day I believe whole heartedly in what John 3.16-17 says, God loves the whole fallen world, and Jesus died for the sins of all human beings as 1 Tim. 2 also says.”

Neither of those is actually what the verses say. John 3:16-17 displays God’s love for “the world” by pointing to his action for “all the believers” (John 3:16). In the unrelated passage of 1 Timothy 2, Paul exhorts Timothy to pray for “all men” (listing various categories of men) because this is agreeable with God’s will, which we understand to mean that men of all sorts (even politicians) will be saved.

Ben claims: “This in turn means there are other agents in play in the matter of redemption, human agents who can either positively or negatively respond to the Gospel, and the eternal lostness of some is in no way willed or destined by God.”

Ben’s argument, however, is contradicted by the plain assertion of God’s monergistic role in Scripture. God claims that salvation is of the Lord, and that those whom the Father has given to the Son will come to him. Furthermore, God declares that he will both have mercy on whom he will, but also that God will harden whom he will. God does not have to wait at man’s beck and call. Rather, the Shepherd calls his sheep, and the sheep hear his voice.

Furthermore, it should be plain that is only by converting the personal love of God into an impersonal love (by misapplication of John 3:16-17 and 1 Timothy 2) and by forcing his assumption of libertarian free will into the discussion that Ben arrives at this conclusion in the first place. Since he’s not obtained his conclusions from Scripture but by imposition on Scripture, we don’t have any reason to accept his conclusions. They are warrantless, and do not commend themselves to our belief.

Ben continues: “Were the matter otherwise, our God cease to be a good God, by God’s own definition of goodness.”

Ben makes that claim, but he has not given any reason for us to accept that claim. In fact, Scripture contradicts it. Doesn’t the potter have power over the clay to make of the lump a vessel for destruction? Can we really try to claim that a potter has that power, but God (our creator) does not have a similar power over us? If we do, we simply find ourselves arguing with Scripture: which is never a good place to be.

Ben wraps up with two parting sentences: “One final reminder– as the prophets told us God requires of us that we reflect the divine character– to do justice to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.”

This, of course, is a red herring. The verse says:

Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

We all accept this to be true. Furthermore, we acknowledge that in doing so we are being good, and goodness is a primary attribute of God. From none of that do the conclusions claimed above by Ben follow.

Ben finally states: “What God requires of us, he enables us to do, so that in small measure we may reflect the virtuous and free character of our God.”

It’s unclear whether Ben here refers to regenerated man or unregenerate man. Regardless, it is not a general proposition that God enables man to do as God requires of man. In fact, there is a clear and indisputable testimony to the contrary: Pharaoh. God commanded Pharaoh to let the people go, and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart

Exodus 7:13 And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

That should give us pause. God is just and God is merciful. God is not only just, and God is not only merciful. God is the Most Exalted, He is the Almighty.

As Scripture says:

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. (Psalm 115:3)

Let us praise him saying, “But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.” (Psalm 115:18)


Thoughts on the Will’s Freedom

May 24, 2008

I was listening to an interesting discussion on the will’s freedom, in which the compatibilist noted the following:

1) The standard contemporary definition for Libertarian Free Will is the ability to do otherwise, given all preceding causal factors.

2) Thus, to take an example, if we choose to pull a trigger – we could have chosen NOT to pull the trigger.

3) If we give any reason, or set of reasons, for why we pulled the trigger – it must be that if we had NOT chosen to pull the trigger, the reasons would be the same.

4) But this is absurd.

I hope I’ve summarized the argument well – but perhaps not. Here’s my source (link), which has some interesting further discussion on the topic.

I see some weaknesses with this argument – but exposing them actually demonstrates a slightly stronger argument.

As to (3), it’s rather absurd to imagine that our desire for venison would be BOTH a reason why we chose to pull the trigger and the reason why did not choose to pull the trigger. Instead, we’d probably filter our the “favorable” and “unfavorable” reasons. Perhaps our sympathies stirred up by the movie Bambi would be the reason why we did not choose to pull the trigger – but not our love of venison.

Ultimately, though, we have to realize that in doing so – in filtering the preceding causes based on the actual choice – we are not really giving an explanation for the choice at all. Our love of venison does not explain the choice – it simply relates favorably to the outcome. The goes for our love of Bambi if we do not choose to pull the trigger: we only pick it as a “reason” after the fact.

To think about it another way, if we did not love venison, would we not have chosen to pull the trigger? If the choice is explained by the love of venison, then the answer would seem to be yes. But then, it would appear that our love of venison in some sense determined the outcome. The consistent LFW advocate must say that if the preceding causes had been different, the choice still could have gone either way.

This seems to close any loophole for the person to claim that there are reasons for human choices.

But perhaps the LFW advocate will seek refuge in the idea that there is no reason or explanation for human choices. The choice just exists. There are two responses:

1) Our intuitions strongly oppose such an idea. Every young heart in (as yet) unrequited love has believed that it is possible to influence the decisions of love’s object. Every hyponist (and most of those watching) believe it is possible for the hypnotist to influence his subject’s decisions. Every advertiser thinks its a good investment to advertize, because it will influence human decisions. Every crook who has tried to bribe a judge has thought he could influence human decisions. Is all that collective intuition wrong? It certainly could be. I don’t mean to suggest that human intuition is always right – the fall has corrupted men’s minds. But isn’t it worthy of careful consideration?

2) And when we turn to a standard that we trust, Scripture, don’t ‘we see the same thing? Doesn’t Scripture explain human choices? Doesn’t Scripture specifically warn judges NOT to take bribes? If it does, can we reject that?

I suppose a third option is to insist on partial, or incomplete libertarianism. That is to say, choices are determined, but only partially. But what on earth does that mean? How is something being partially determined work? How’s partial determination different from no determination?

The argument here seems to be, give 10 judges a dollar and 9 out of 10 will render you a favorable decisions – but there is that 10th guy who still renders just judgment. Isn’t this more easily explained though as the gift having a different effect on different people – and not by the people’s choices being only partially determined?

In other words, isn’t it the case that we can more easily explain the matter as any given cause being only a partial explanation, but the sum of all the causes (including the condition of the preson’s own heart) being the full explanation? After all – that’s what we’d do with the case of a pharmaceutical. Ten people take, nine recover, but one does not. Does that mean that the recovery was not caused in the 9 cases? Or does that mean that somehow the body itself has free will to accept the effects of the drug? Surely not. It means that some people’s bodies (or diseases) are different. The drug has an effect, but the sum of the effects is different in different people, so the drug doesn’t always cure.

These arguments seem to leave no room for “Libertarian” Free Will. Nevertheless, I invite my firends who insist that men have the “ability to do otherwise” (regardless of all preceding causes) to consider the matter with a few questions:

1) Is it the LFW position that the sum (or product) of all preceding causes (including the state of man’s heart) does not determine the choice, but that given that same exact set of preceding causes (both external and internal) man could have chosen otherwise? This question is important, because otherwise the argument is just so much straw-man-defeating, in which we shouldn’t be investing any time.

2) Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?

3) If we can, how can we do so consistently with the concept of libertarian free will?

4) So why not just define Free Will as Calvinists typically do, as man choosing in accordance with his desires?


Do Dead Men Bleed?

April 3, 2008

Illustration – the “Dead” Man

Recently, I heard a radio message in which the speaker provided an illustration: whether it is true or not, I do not know. It’s believable, which is all that matters for my purposes.

This is the story. I young doctor is working for a large hospital, which includes a facility for those suffering from maladies of the mind. The young doctor is not very experienced, but he’s very idealistic and he hopes to make a difference.

One day, the young doctor meets a patient who swears that he is dead. In fact, he swears that he’s been dead for years. This poor patient is somewhat delusional, obviously, but the young doctor thinks that some cognitive therapy might help. Surely, he could talk this man out of his delusion.

So, he sits the man down and asks him, “You’re dead, eh?”

“Yes,” the young man replies, “been dead for years.”

“Tell me,” the doctor replied, “do dead men bleed?”

The young man answered, “No, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a dead man bleeding. That wouldn’t really seem possible.”

At this point, the young doctor recognizes he has found the solution. One can almost see the glimmer of hope in his eye as he pulls a sterile hypodermic needle from his kit, requests the man finger, and pricks it with the needle.

Imagine his face, however, when hears the man exclaim, “Well look at that! Dead men DO bleed.”

The story is amusing to most people, because it is so absurd, and yet conceivable. That made me ask why. I realized that the thinking ran this way:

Premise 1: I am a dead man.
Premise 2: Dead mean don’t bleed.

From those premises, the natural conclusion is that I don’t bleed. We might characterize that as the expected conclusion.

Expected Conclusion: I don’t bleed.

But along comes evidence intended to disprove Premise 1 (that was the doctor’s intent). We’ll call this evidence the falsifying datum.

Falsifying Datum: I bleed.

It was hoped that this would cause the “dead” man to recognize that premise (1) was false, but instead the “dead” man instead rejected premise (2).

Parallel – the Scotsman Porridge-Sugaring

Readers may recognize this as similar to what has been called the “No True Scotsman ‘fallacy’,” (“fallacy” gets an extra set of quotes, because it is not strictly speaking a fallacy) in which

Premise (1) Angus puts sugar on his porridge.
Premise (2) No true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.
Conclusion (1) Angus is not a true Scotsman.
Conclusion (2) Angus is not a counter-example to the claim that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

It has occurred to me that both of these examples, the “No Dead Man” and the “No True Scotsman” examples, are simply examples of attempts to falsify, in which something goes wrong.

We could rearrange the NTS example this way:

(P1) Angus is a Scotsman.
(P2) No true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.
(EC) Angus doesn’t put sugar on his porridge.
(FD) Angus puts sugar on his porridge.
Selection (by Gourmand): P1 is wrong.

There is a fundamental problem in both cases. In the first case, we’d like the dead man to select P1 as being wrong. In the second case, we’d like the Porridge gourmand to select P2 as wrong. In each case, we feel (intuitively) that the wrong selection has been made, but I respectfully submit to you, the reader, that the error made is not a strictly logical one. Instead, the error is epistemological. I’ll explain that in more detail shortly, but first let’s examine yet a third example (or actually a set of examples).

Roman Catholic Error Examples

(P1) Rome is the true church.
(P2) The true church cannot err.
(EC) Rome does not err.
(FD) Rome errs.
Selection: ?

Let’s knock out the non-Catholic answer right away. The non-Catholic simply says, I’m not surprised by the FD, because I never accepted either P1 or P2. That’s completely uninteresting.

Next, let’s turn to the reaction of someone like Gerry Matatics, who holds a “Traditionalist Catholic” to the point of being labeled by others a “Sedavacantist” and contrast that with the selection of mainstream conservative Catholic (presumably someone like Jimmy Akin or Scott Hahn).

Both of these folks would select not P1 or P2 as false, but would claim that the FD is incorrect. GM would argue that the FD is incorrect because while a mistake has been made, “Rome” is not a correct identification of the errant party. The MCC would argue that the FD is incorrect because, while Rome is the right party, “err” is an incorrect identification.

In other words, using the NDM example, it is as though the “dead” man says, “that’s not my blood” (GM case), or “that’s mine, but it’s not blood.” In the NTS example, it would be as though the gourmand says, “that’s not Angus putting sugar on the porridge” (GM case) or “Angus is putting SALT (or whatever) on his porridge” (MCC case).

As you can see, in the GM case, it is P1 that is – in essence – favored, whereas in the MCC case, it is P2 that is – in essence – favored. Perhaps “favored” could be alternatively expressed as “emphasized.” GM emphasizes that Rome is the true church, whereas the MCC emphasize that the true church does not err.

Explaining the Outcomes

What dictates the result? Aren’t any of those escapes as validly logically as any other? Apparent contradictions require resolution, and there are lots of ways to resolve them. One can deny one or another previously held premise, or one can reject the new datum, either favoring one premise or the other. There’s one other option, which we occasionally see from irrationalists, which is to accept all the data, but throw out reason (criticizing rational thought as an “either/or mentality”).

Each of these outcomes reject something:

NTS => reject first premise
NDM => reject second premise
GM => reject falsifier for first premise reason
MCC => reject falsifier for second premise reason
Irr => reject logic

The Irrationalist position is the oddball, but I think we’ll see that it can be fit within an overarching scheme. There are basically two intuitive ways to group the remaining four, either by which premise they favor (NTA and GM vs. NDM and MCC) or by whether they reject a premise or the falsifier (NTS and NDM vs. GM and MCC). Neither way is necessarily incorrect, as will be seen.

Ultimately, the answer to the question as to which outcome gets selected, is “what is the mostly tightly held view?” In other words, is it the first premise (the major premise), the second premise (the minor premise), premises as opposed to new data, or data as opposed to logic.

The Irrationalist falls in the last category. He holds logic the least strongly of all the items. Thus, he’s willing simply to accept contradiction, and throw out logic.

Those who favor the first premise simply interpret the FD in light of that premise, and vice versa for those who favor the second premise.

Finally, those who favor the premises over the FD are those who are not willing to be persuaded.

Judging the Processes

We intuitively recognize in the NTS and NDM examples that the person ought to accept the FD and ought to alter one of the premises. That’s partly because we know that one of the premises is suspect. In the NDM example, we’re pretty sure the guy is alive, and in the NTS example, we think that the broad claim about Scotsmen is too much.

We, Reformed Christians, view the GM and MCC situations as problematic for much the same reason: we believe that both the premises are false, and consequently we think that the FD should persuade those groups to reject the premises. Unfortunately, their minds prefer their premises over the new data.

We run that risk too. Any time something appears that facially contradicts an expected conclusion of our systems of thought, we need to ask ourselves how our premises are grounded. Indeed, that’s what we’d counsel the “dead” man and the gourmand.

“Why do you accept the premise that you are dead?” “Why are you so sure that Scotsmen don’t sugar their porridge?”

To the Catholics, we ask the same questions: “Why do you think that Rome is the true church, but more importantly, why do you think that the true church cannot err?”

Conclusion / Application

I respectfully submit that there is not a valid epistemological basis for the view that the true church cannot err. But trying to prove that to someone who tightly holds that as a premise is quite difficult, because mens minds seek to compromise that which they hold less tightly.

I sincerely think that there are many Catholics (and Orthodox and so forth) who hold to the premises that their church is the true church, and that the true church cannot err so tightly that when an error in the teaching of their church is presented to them they will either deny that it is an error (the majority reaction in the long run), or deny that it is a teaching of their church (the minority reaction in the long run, although sometimes the majority reaction in the short run).

That’s one reason that we need to be careful to limit our premises to things which cannot fail us. By God’s revelation, we are aware that this includes the Word of God in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. By keeping our presuppositional acceptance of Scripture as a minimal set of tightly held premises, we can avoid the various errors mentioned above.

Likewise, I hope that Catholics will consider whether an approach in which they presuppositionally accept the premise that Rome is the true church or (more importantly) the premise that the true church cannot err, is really the best hope for their discernment of the truth of the matter. I respectfully submit to them that they ought to reconsider those premises, as we have good reason to believe that both are incorrect.

May God give us grace to discern our errors,


Calvinistic Prayer and Combined Bets

March 10, 2008

I enjoy reading philosophical articles, and this one (link) about combining bets happened to crosspolinate with some thoughts I had been having regarding prayer. There are certainly differences, but there are some interesting similarities.

You see, before something occurs, we – like David when his son was dying – may pray passionately for a particular outcome to occur. Nevertheless, after the event, we accept God’s Providence as being for the best, despite the fact that it may that our prayers were answered (as David’s was) in the negative.

One nice thing about Calvinist prayers is that we qualify our prayers (either explicitly, or – oftentimes – implicitly) as being “if it by Thy will.” In other words, we do not pray for a particular outcome in the abstract. Furthermore, trusting in God, we are cognizant that the outcome God selects is the best outcome.

In a sense, therefore, we combine our bets. In the combining bets example, a person is given favorable odds of an event happening and favorable odds that it doesn’t from another guy. In such a situation, the “rational” choice is to take both bets (leaving other factors out of the equation), because you are sure to lose one, and sure to win the other one, yielding you a net gain. Professional gamblers look for these sorts of situations, and leap on them, which is why one does not normally see bookmakers with dramatically different odds from one another.

A Calvinists prayer is somewhat similar: we are guaranteed a win. The professional gambler may have a favorite dog in the race, but he realizes that by combining his bets, he’s assured himself of a good outcome. Likewise, by properly submitting ourselves and our perceptions to God’s sovereignty, we are assured of a good outcome.

You prayed that your dog would live, and yet God took him? You are still a winner, for God works all things together for the good of the elect. If you trust in Him, you are a winner, even when you are a loser. With immense faith evidencing enormous grace from God, you can even submit to God’s will to the extent that Job did, such that when:

– your enormous riches are reduced to ruin;
– your body is smitten with a horribly irritating and painful disease;
– your children all die at once; and
– your wife turns against God,

You can incredibly recognize that it is for the best, and praise God saying, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!

As with the combined bet, we don’t need to know what the outcome of our prayer will be, to pray in faith, nothing wavering, because we pray that God’s will will be done, while expressing our ofttimes-passionate preference for a particular outcome.

Blessed indeed be His name, whether He gives riches or poverty,


The Scriptural Epistemology of Dogmatism

June 12, 2007
The Scriptural Epistemology of Dogmatism
A response to quasi-rationalism

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10). This simple, thrice-repeated truth is the foundation of Scriptural Dogmatism. Throughout Scripture we seem the same epistemology of dogmatism. You can find the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” in over 400 verses in the Old Testament in the Authorized Version. Even in the garden, the question was “hath God said?”

Our epistemology is, consequently, dogmatic and revelational, not quasi-rational. We know the truth because it has been revealed to us by God, and that revelation from God is not open to debate.

When people mocked the resurrection of the dead, and others wanted to debate the issue, what did Paul do? Paul departed from among them (Acts 17:33).

There are legitimate debates, and there debates that can be taken on for the purpose of preaching the gospel. When a Reformed apologist debates a Muslim on the reality of the crucifixion, for example, the Reformed apologist is not leaving the question open. The Bible says Jesus Christ was crucified, and that settles it. Perhaps the Muslim will respond that the Koran says that Jesus (whom I suppose no consistent Muslim would acknowledge as Christ) was not crucified.

Why accept the dogmatic view of Christianity over that of Islam? Why believe the Bible rather than the Koran? Why is God God and not the “allah” of the Koran?

The response is that no one will believe the word of God, nor trust in the Son of God, without God revealing Himself to that person. As Jesus said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44)

It seems that the followers of Van Til stumble at this point in their epistemology stumble. They appear to be unsatisfied with the following epistemology, “I know the truth, because God has revealed it to me.”

They appear to want to be able to “prove” God’s existence and attributes to an unbeliever. They (at least usually) recognize the futility of appealing to evidence, but appear to believe that they can appeal to reason and the implanted awareness of God that exists in the minds of unbelievers. This is why their position has been referred to above as quasi-rationalism.

But let’s stop the critique here, for a moment. There a few a readers out there who are of a Van-Tillian mindset. Let’s just ask them:

What is wrong with an epistemology that begins with presuppositions.

God has revealed to me that He is, that He is True, and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Consequently I know that God is, that what God says is true, and that Scripture is an embodiment of that truth.

Based on Scripture, I know the validity and limits of the natural sciences, social sciences, and the like. I have a standard of absolute truth. I may think that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, but I KNOW that Christ has gone to prepare a place for me in His presence for all eternity. I think that the official just botched his first-down assessment, but I know that Solomon was the son of David. I think that all the dinosaurs are dead, but I know that all things were created by God in the space of six days and very good.

If all the world’s scientists were on one side disputing the Resurrection of Christ, the reversal of the sun in Hezekiah’s day, the calling down of fire from heaven by the prophet, the Great Flood, and/or the Creation, and I’ll I had on the other side was the Word of God, I would believe God rather than all the most learned men in the world.

Now, tell me, Van-Tillian, what is wrong with that dogmatism? Why instead of starting from the point raised above, does Van Til assert that He believes in God because if He did not, all would be chaos? Why do the followers of Van Til appear to believe that we can argue people into accepting that the God who created all things and rules all things by His right arm exists and has the attributes that He has?

Is there any answer? Is there any alternative for Dogmatism? Is quasi-rationalism Scripturally valid?


Thoughts on the Operation of the Will

March 1, 2007

Someone (I believe that it was an Internet poster with the handle “FreeGrace”) recently asked me the question:

Do you mean that the depraved heart CAN believe, or just doesn’t want

I respond:

The impasse we are at may be due to what you mean by “CAN” and what I mean be “CAN.”Let me see if I can find a mountain pass.

Men make choices. Choices are not random – they have a reason and a motive. We can see this in Scripture, even in God’s choices. This reason and motive is the cause of the choice. We know that motive is critical to people’s choices, and that’s why – if you’ve ever watched a crime show, or read a detective novel – you’ll see the detectives looking for the killer’s motive. We all know that people make choices based on motives and reasons. We accept that as a fact of life. If someone wants to defend himself from a crime, he can tell a jury “But what would my motive be for doing that?” If there is no motive, most people will be reluctant to say that the man in the dock was really the killer.

So, anyway, Scripture and common sense agree that choices have reasons, causes, and motives.
Furthermore, we can see that the way that man’s will works is that man chooses what seems best to him. Consider our mother Eve. She saw that the fruit of the tree was good to eat, and was desireable because it brought wisdom. That was the reason and motive for her eating the forbidden fruit. She was wrong in her assessment of what was best. She did not give appropriate weight to God’s command, and eating seemed best to her. So she chose to eat.
Why is that the motive and reason of wisdom-seeking and nutrition outweighed the motive and reason of obedience? Eve was foolish: the answer is Eve’s heart.

It is important to note, here, that Eve was not depraved, she was naive and gullible. Nevertheless, while man now has a depraved nature that provides a corrupt motive, his will works in much the same way – choosing according to motive.

For Scripture says:

Matthew 12:34-35

34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

And again:

Matthew 15:18-19

18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

And again:

Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

And again:

Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Some of those verses show the contrast between a good heart and and evil heart, but one more is helpful:

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Yet, as you recall:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

How does the heart change from desparately wicked to pure?

Scripture says that God changes, purifies, and cleanses the heart:

2 Chronicles 30:12 Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.

And again:

Jeremiah 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

And again:

Jeremiah 32:39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:

And again:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

And again:

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And again:

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

And again:

James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

And again, lest we think that James is saying that man can do this themselves:

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

And again:

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

And again:

1 Timothy 1:1-5

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; … 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

Thus, we see that man’s choices come from his heart: bad choices from a bad heart, and good choices from a good heart. How does a bad heart become good? By God doing something to it.
A lot of people cling to James 4, thinking that James’ command means that we can purify our own hearts. Of course, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that such is not the case. For we don’t just have Proverbs (quoted above), but indeed James himself states:

James 1:17-18

17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

James is saying that He conceived us “of his own will” and that everything good that we have came from him.

As Paul also said:

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?

Will you answer that you did not receive faith?

Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 5:22-23

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Likewise, Paul tells the Romans:

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

But I have digressed. As I note above, the heart determine’s man’s choices, just like a tree’s DNA determines its fruit. That’s the Biblical analogy. A wicked heart brings forth bad fruit. And it’s impossible for a wicked heart to stop being wicked on its own:

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

So, when you say “CAN” above, my answer is – their heart is so wicked, that it is impossible for them to do what is right. Do you call that God punishing them for having a wicked heart? I don’t think so … but why argue about that?

The point is that such people need salvation – they need a Savior. They need God to DO SOMETHING to rescue them.

David described it this way:

Psalm 40:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

God is, as David said, our deliverer:

Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

David also put it this way, speaking of the powerful Word of God:

Psalm 19:7-14

7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. 12Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. 13Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. 14Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Man cannot change his own heart.

But again, I have digressed. The point is that man’s choices, words, and acts, come from his heart. Man has a will that is free to choose what the heart desires. Thus, the heart determines the will. Depraved man has a depraved heart, which does not love God, neither can it. Paul explains:

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Does that excuse the wicked heart or the carnal mind from responsibility simply because such a heart or mind cannot bring forth “good fruit” or “subjection to the law of God”? Of course it is not an excuse.

So, what do we have at the bottom line? We have the fact that man has a will, but that will is not random. It is purposeful and motivated. It acts in accordance with the heart. If the heart is evil, what comes out of the heart will be evil.

If man’s heart were different could he choose to obey and to be subject to the law of God? Could he bring forth fruit? Of course – and man does when God converts that man.

That’s why we pray for men’s salvation: that God would change their heart. For that is what God does both to commoners and kings alike:

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.

And, though man makes choices, God is behind the scenes arranging things according to His Sovereign purposes, for Scripture says:

Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

And again:

Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

This is a difficult subject to study and understand.

Proverbs 20:5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

I pray that God will give you, dear reader, wisdom to understand about how man’s heart operates – and how God’s counsel far exceeds man’s. Pray for that wisdom, and if God will, you too will share in an understanding of the sovereignty and majesty of our Lord Jehovah!
“The righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.” Ecclesiastes 9:1

Praise be to our Merciful God!


%d bloggers like this: