God’s Kingly Freedom: A Response to Dr. Braxton Hunter

Before beginning, I would like to affirm that I believe Dr. Braxton Hunter is my brother in Christ. We share foundational beliefs such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of God’s Word the Bible, and so on. However, with that being stated, we share a foundational disagreement over our exegesis of the texts of Scripture and in our philosophizing in regards to the issue of free will, or libertarian free will as opposed to compatibilist free will. As a Calvinist, I am bound to first do systematic theology (using the guardrails of sola scriptura and tota scriptura) and then philosophy, rather than philosophy and then systematic theology. I assume that Dr. Hunter would agree with me in my citation of Dr. James White’s statement that “theology matters.” My argumentation will be twofold: first there will be an examination of creaturely will from a Biblical perspective and secondly there will be a philosophical analysis of Dr. Hunter’s position.

  • Theological Critique: Doctrine of God

To begin our theological critique of Dr. Hunter, it will be necessary to substantiate the Calvinist’s claims about the nature of God. Certain attributes are not in question. Those would include:

  • Holiness
  • Wrathfulness/Justice
  • Goodness
  • Lovingkindness
  • Omnipotence
  • Omniscience
  • Omnipresence

However, the point of contention lies in the nature of God’s sovereignty and kingly freedom. For the Calvinist, God’s will reigns supreme. God, in creation, decrees all events in time, including the means and the ends to establishing His purpose. On the Calvinist’s view, God frustrates and directs the will of man to act in the way that God desires. For the Arminian, God does no such thing. He will guide, direct, or put people in certain circumstances to attempt to influence man’s will; however, theoretically, there is no guarantee that man will cooperate (here Arminians will appeal to God’s foreknowledge and make God out to be like a master chess player, able to outsmart His “opponents”). Let us look at the Biblical data concerning God’s sovereign will.

To begin with, we must note the strength of Isaiah 46:10. Here, the prophet states [1]:

 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’

Here YHWH makes direct reference to what Calvinists would call the doctrine of the decrees of God. In creation, God decrees all events in time that will eventually come to pass. For what purpose? To accomplish “all My good pleasure.” In vs 11, God demonstrates what elsewhere I have called “meticulous providence,” or:

MP: a being x exercises MP iff that being freely and sovereignly chooses to ordain and primarily cause all events in time through a creative decree

In vs 11, YHWH states:

Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.

Here we have a word of prophecy. The broader context for these verses is Isaiah 40-8 termed “the trial of the false gods.” YHWH’s challenge, among the many others issued, is for the idols to tell the future or state the events of the past. The idols cannot do these things; however, YHWH can, and the reason for this is that God has decreed, from the beginning, all things that are to take place. Let us examine our next text.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

To quote from the Pulpit Commentary:

The word rendered “deviseth” implies, by its spectra, intensity of thought and care. Man meditates and prepares his plans with the utmost solicitude, but it rests with God whether he shall carry them to completion or not, and whether, if they are to be accomplished, it be done with ease or with painful labour (comp. Genesis 24:12, etc.).

Here we see a duality. There is the creaturely will of man and the sovereign direction of God. Compatibilists have an advantage here as the compatibilist claim is not that man does not have a will, but that his willing flows from his desires and from the decree of God. Arminians are left wondering how God can decide whether “[man] shall carry them to completion or not” if man possesses libertarian free will. Our next text is Daniel 4:35

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

After the recovery of his sanity, Nebuchadnezzar recognized this fundamental truth about the sovereign will of God. He does all things according to His will and no man may frustrate the desire of God. Let us look at one final text, this time from the New Testament. Paul states:

also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11)

Here we see the appearance of two key phrases: “works all things” and “predestined according.” Predestined according to what? According to His purpose. Works all things after what? After the counsel of His will. God works all things, which is fairly inclusive if you ask me, according to His divine and kingly freedom to do whatever He pleases. As the psalmist says, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)” Let us now turn to our doctrine of man.

  • Theological Critique: Doctrine of Man

 

Here the Reformed, or Calvinist, person appeals to the doctrine of Total Depravity. As Calvin stated:

 

For this reason, I have said that all parts of the soul were possessed by sin after Adam deserted the fountain of righteousness. For not only did a lower appetite seduce him, but unspeakable impiety occupied the very citadel of his mind, and pride penetrated to the depths of his heart…Paul removes all doubt when he teaches that corruption subsists not in one part only, but that none of the soul remains pure or untouched by that mortal disease. For in his discussion of a corrupt nature Paul not only condemns the inordinate impulses of the appetites that are seen, but especially contends the mind is given over to blindness and the heart to depravity. (Institutes 2.1.9)

Here then is where my main contention with Dr. Hunter lies. Does the Bible teach that man has sufficient ability to make libertarian free choices when it comes, to say, doing something pleasing to God? Let us examine the Scriptural evidence. Our first series of texts is from John 6.

            All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. (vs 37)

In this sermon to the multitude, Christ makes a stunning statement. He says that only those whom the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son. This is the only possible reading as the giving to the Son logically and causally precedes the coming to the Son in the text. Jesus goes on to say:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (vs 44)

This is consistent with what has just been previously stated, except now we have the direct mention of ability. “No one,” Christ says, “can come to me.” That means no unregenerate person can come unto the Son to receive salvation prior to the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life and the drawing of the sinner to the Son. Later on, we see the same theme repeated. Jesus says:

            And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (vs 65)

What has been said of vs 44 also applies to vs 65. No one can come to Christ through a libertarian free decision. It must first be granted by the Father, and then the sinner will come. There is no libertarian choice in these texts. Let us continue on though so that we may get the full Biblical testimony concerning the doctrine of man in sin. Now we move to Paul. Paul states in Romans 8:7-8:

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Here we have four assertions on the part of the apostle.

  1. The carnal mind is hostile toward God
  2. The carnal mind does not subject itself to the law of God
  3. The carnal mind is not able to subject itself to the law of God
  4. The carnal mind cannot please God

Each of these statements shows the depth of man’s corruption in sin. Not only is man God’s enemy, but he is even unable to please God and submit himself to His holy law. Paul commonly uses the imagery of a corpse to demonstrate man’s nature and his bondage to sin. In Ephesians 2 he states:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (vs 1)

And

made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved (vs 5)

And

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (4:18)

The imagery of the corpse should make the issue of ability clear. Dead people cannot do anything, or, in other words, they can only do what their nature permits them to do. If someone is dead in trespasses and sins then they can do nothing else but sin. Even our supposedly righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God says the prophet Isaiah. And as Christ says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. (John 8:34)”

  • Theological Critique: Choice of Man or the Sovereignty of God?

 

In his first footnote, Dr. Hunter states:

 

Just to name a few – Genesis 6:5,6; Deuteronomy 30:19; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 36:3; Acts 17:30; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1; – determinists would certainly argue that these passages can be explained via compatibilism, but these are not listed as a “slam dunk” in favor of biblical libertarianism, but merely to establish the reasons that libertarians think that their view arises from Scripture itself. The story of the Bible seems to be one of choice.

Is this really the case? Let us go through each of these passages of Scripture and examine them to see whether or not they teach what Dr. Hunter says they teach, namely the idea of libertarian choice.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)

It is not clear how this passage teaches libertarian choice. If anything this is generally taken to be a proof text for either Total Depravity (every intent was evil continually) or Open Theism (God was sorry/was grieved in His heart). I will leave it up to Dr. Hunter to explain this one.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The key phrase for Dr. Hunter in this passage is “so choose life;” however, does this teach libertarian free choice? Hardly. As Calvin explains:

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you. Though the verb is in the past tense, it indicates a present act. It is in order to deal with them with greater urgency that he calls heaven and earth to witness the vengeance of God. In these words he does not address men and angels, as some tamely expound it, but in amplification attributes sense to things inanimate. I pass this over briefly, because I have [288] treated it more fully before; as also what soon afterwards follows about life and death. For the Law, as respects its doctrine, contains in it life and death; for the reward of eternal life is not promised in it in vain; but since no one is found worthy of the promised reward, Paul justly teaches that the Law ministers death. Still this is accidental, and proceeds not from any fault in the doctrine, but from the corruption of men. Nevertheless, it is asked how, if the corruption of our nature causes that the Law should engender nothing but death, Moses commands us to “choose life,” which the sinner cannot attain to by it? Thence the Papists uplift their crests, both to extol free-will and to boast of merits; as if Moses did not also testify and proclaim the gratuitous mercy of God, and direct his disciples to Christ in order to seek salvation from Him. When, therefore, he speaks of keeping the Commandments, he does not exclude the two-fold grace of Christ, that believers, being regenerated by the Spirit, [289] should aspire to the obedience of righteousness, and at the same time should be reconciled freely to God through the forgiveness of their sins. And assuredly, since the same covenant is common to us and to the ancient people, it is not to be doubted but that they “chose life” who of old embraced the doctrine of Moses. At the same time, in so far as his legation was different from the Gospel, he rather insists on the office peculiarly entrusted to him, so that the distinction between Christ and himself might more clearly appear. This is the reason why he more sparingly touches upon justification by faith, whilst he enlarges fully on loving and serving God and fulfilling His Commandments.

 

“They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind. (Jeremiah 7:31)

It is unclear what relevance this has to the debate over libertarian free will. I will leave it to Dr. Hunter to explain why he thinks it is relevant.

“Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)

Here again I defer to Calvin to make my point. He states in his commentary on this particular Scripture:

Here God explains the object he had in view, even to make another trial whether the Jews were healable, so that the teaching of the Prophet might be conducive to their salvation. But he uses the particle ‘vly auli, “it may be,” which implies a doubt; because they had so often, and for so long a time, and in such various ways, shewed themselves to be so obstinate that hardly a hope could be entertained of their repentance. God, however, shews that he was not wearied, provided there remained in them still the smallest particle of religion. It may be then, he says, that the house of Judah will hear all the evil, etc.

We have seen how the Prophet labored, not only to terrify his own nation by threatenings, but also sweetly to allure them to the service of God; but God speaks here of them as of perverse men, who were almost intractable, according to what is said in Psalm 18:26, that God would be severe towards the perverse; for God deals with men according to their disposition. As the Jews then were unworthy that God should, according to his gentleness, teach them as children, this only remained for them, to repent under the influence of fear. It may be, he says, that they will bear all the evil, etc. We now see why God touches only on threatenings, for this alone remained for men so obstinate.

He says, The evil which I think to do, etc. God here transfers to himself what belongs to men; for he does not think or deliberate with himself; but as we cannot comprehend his incomprehensible counsel, he sometimes assumes the person of man; and this is what is common in Scripture. But he says, that he thinks of what he pronounces in his word; for as long as God exhorts men to repent, he holds, as it were, his hand suspended, and allows an opportunity to repent. He then says, that he is, as it were, in the midst of his deliberations: as when one wants to know whether an offender will submit, so God transforms himself, in a manner, into what man is, when he says, I think; that is, let them know that vengeance is not in vain denounced in my word; for I will perform whatever I now threaten, except they repent.

He says, That they may turn every one from his evil way This is to hear, previously mentioned, even when men become seriously touched, so as to be displeased with their vices, and to desire from the heart to surrender themselves to God. He joins a promise, for without the hope of pardon it cannot be, that men will repent, as it has been often said; but it must be repeated, because few understand that faith cannot be separated from repentance; and a sinner can never be induced to return truly to God, unless he entertains a hope of pardon, for this is a main truth, according to what is said in Psalm 130:4,

“With thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared.”

Then, according to what is commonly done, the Prophet says, that if the Jews turned to God, he would be propitious to them, as though he had said, that men would not be disappointed, if they repent, because God would readily meet them, and be reconciled to them: for this one thing alone, as I have said, is what can encourage us to repent, that is, when we are convinced that God is ready to give us pardon. He mentions iniquity and sin. The Prophet, no doubt, referred to these two words, in order to shew that we ought by no means to despair, though sins be heaped on sins.

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, (Acts 17:30)

Calvinists here make a distinction between the general and the specific call of the Gospel. The Lord declares to all people that they should repent; however, the call is only effacious for the elect of God (see Romans 8:28-30).

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

It is unclear what relevance this has to the debate over libertarian free will. I will leave it to Dr. Hunter to explain why he thinks it is relevant.

who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

“Wants all people to be saved” seems to be the key phrase here that Dr. Hunter is appealing too. What does the word all refer to? People. But what defines all people? Contextually speaking all people, Calvinists say, refers to all kinds of people. To demonstrate this, let us look at the syntactic parallel to 1 Timothy 2:4 in 1 Timothy 2:1. It states, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” and the Scriptures, in verse 2, defines all men as kinds of men when the apostle continues, “for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” As Calvin states:

Here follows a confirmation of the second argument; and what is more reasonable than that all our prayers should be in conformity with this decree of God?

And may come to the acknowledgment of the truth. Lastly, he demonstrates that God has at heart the salvation of all, because he invites all to the acknowledgment of his truth. This belongs to that kind of argument in which the cause is proved from the effect; for, if

“the gospel is the power of God for salvation to every one that believeth,” (Romans 1:16,)

it is certain that all those to whom the gospel is addressed are invited to the hope of eternal life. In short, as the calling is a proof of the secret election, so they whom God makes partakers of his gospel are admitted by him to possess salvation; because the gospel reveals to us the righteousness of God, which is a sure entrance into life.

Hence we see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. “If God” say they, “wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by his eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.” They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men; although even then we should not have wanted the means of replying to their argument; for, although the will of God ought not to be judged from his secret decrees, when he reveals them to us by outward signs, yet it does not therefore follow that he has not determined with himself what he intends to do as to every individual man.

But I say nothing on that subject, because it has nothing to do with this passage; for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations. That God wishes the doctrine of salvation to be enjoyed by them as well as others, is evident from the passages already quoted, and from other passages of a similar nature. Not without good reason was it said, “Now, kings, understand,” and again, in the same Psalm,

“I will give thee the Gentiles for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for a possession.” (Psalm 2:8-10.)

In a word, Paul intended to shew that it is our duty to consider, not what kind of persons the princes at that time were, but what God wished them to be. Now the duty arising out of that love which we owe to our neighbor is, to be solicitous and to do our endeavor for the salvation of all whom God includes in his calling, and to testify this by godly prayers.

With the same view does he call God our Savior; for whence do we obtain salvation but from the undeserved kindness of God? Now the same God who has already made us partakers of salvation may sometime extend his grace to them also. He who hath already drawn us to him may draw them along with us. The Apostle takes for granted that God will do so, because it had been thus foretold by the predictions of the prophets, concerning all ranks and all nations.

Another objection can be made here based on verse 5, which says, “for there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” If God desires the salvation of all men, then that means that Christ Jesus is the mediator for all men. This means that universalism is true as it is the mediatorial work of Christ that allows Him to save to the uttermost those for whom he mediates (see Hebrews 7:26). However, Dr. Hunter would affirm that Universalism is false, and he would do so with good reason. Therefore, the Calvinistic interpretation of this passage is the correct one.

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men (Titus 2:11)

Here I will appeal to the Go Share Your Faith blog as I find the response there to be quite good at establishing why the Reformed, or Calvinistic, interpretation of this text is the most plausible [2].

Preceding Context

First notice the presence of the word “for” (γaρ) at the beginning of the verse. Why is it there? Clearly it is pointing us back to the immediately preceding context. This isn’t some systematic theological proof text thrown into the letter in isolation. It’s a supporting statement for the argument developed in the preceding paragraph and continuing at least to the end of the chapter. Let’s take a look at it.

In 2:1 Paul establishes a contrast (Σv δe)3 between the “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (1:10), who are “upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (1:11), and Titus, who is to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). He is to teach

older men “to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (2:2);

 

older women “to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine,” but “to teach what is good, and so train the young women” (2:3-4);

 

younger women4 “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (2:4-5);

 

younger men “to be self-controlled” (2:6);

 

slaves “to be submissive to their own masters in everything,” and “to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:9-10).

 

Elders (Perhaps we could even include here a sixth category of instruction to leaders in the church to “teach what accords with sound doctrine ” (2:1), and to “show [themselves] in all respects to be a model of good works, and in [their] teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”)

 

 

Notice now the connection with 2:11ff. Paul commands Titus to instruct all these different groups of people to live this way, for the saving grace of God has appeared to all of them, and it teaches them to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, as they wait for Jesus to come from heaven, who died to make them His own pure and fruitful people. Then verse 15 recaps verse 1: “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” So the whole chapter has a single message: instructing all groups of believing people on how they are to live and how they can live as they ought (i.e., God’s saving grace that has appeared to all groups of people of which the church is composed).

It’s also worth highlighting at this point that the function of “saving” or “salvation” in 2:11 seems to have more than conversion in view. Rather, it targets progressive sanctification, or perhaps it is being used to focus on God’s saving work from conversion to glorification. In either case, the emphasis on the progressive, life-transforming aspect of salvation is in the fore, which 2:12ff make clear, as does chapter 3.

Following Context

Another indication that this is the proper interpretation comes from a couple points at the beginning of chapter 3.

Paul recaps chapter 2 with a statement to remind them to be submissive and obedient, etc. The “them” no doubt refers to all the groups that he has previously mentioned, the people to whom the grace of God has appeared. Part of that instruction includes this statement: “to show perfect courtesy toward all people (πρὸς πάντας ἀνθρώπους).” It is doubtful that Paul intends this instruction to lay an obligation on everyone in the church to search out and show courtesy to every single individual alive on the planet.

The idea is clearly not “all people without exception,”but

“all people without distinction,”

all those with whom you come in contact, which roughly equates all kinds or groups of people regardless of class, race, gender, etc. This supports the reading of “all people” (πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις) offered above.

A second consideration comes in 3:4ff, where Paul further explicates the meaning of “appeared” (ἐπεφάνη), the exact word used in 2:11. Paul says that God saved them when the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, so that the appearing is necessarily accompanied by or entails the saving. The implications that this has for understanding 2:11 are clear. The “all people” (πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις) must necessarily refer to the saved, so that the meaning is “all groups or categories of people within the church.”

Conclusion

So rather than being some statement about God’s desire or intent to save all people without exception or an affirmation of an Arminian prevenient grace, Paul’s argument, then, is that all people within the church regardless of age, gender, status, etc. are to pursue their sanctification with diligence because God’s saving grace has come to all of us, and it teaches us to deny ungodliness and pursue to live godly lives as we wait for Jesus, who died to make us His own holy and fruit-bearing people.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

“For everyone” is the operative phrase here; however, does “for everyone” literally mean “for every single person.” Unless you are a universalist, the answer has to be no. Why? Look at what Hebrews 2 says the atonement accomplishes.

  1. It brings many sons to glory (vs 10)
  2. Free those whom were afraid of death and under slavery to death (vs 15)
  3. Gives help (vs 16)
  4. Come to the aid of (vs 18)

All of this can be done because the death of Christ was a “propitiation  (vs 17).” A propitiatory death means that the wrath of God and the reason for the wrath of God against the sinner has been removed. Here we may cite John Owen’s double jeopardy argument. The argument goes as follows:

P1. Christ’s death is a propitiatory sacrifice (Scripturally true)

P2. A propitiatory sacrifice removes wrath and the reason for wrath (definitionally true)

P3. Christ died for all people (Arminian assertion)

C1. All people receive the benefits of Christ’s death which include the removal of God’s wrath (P1,P2, P3)

P4. Some people will be in Hell (Scripturally true)

C2. There will be people in Hell for whom the reason for God’s wrath has been removed (C1,P4)

P5. This is a case of double jeopardy and is morally unjust

C3. God is morally unjust

P3*. Christ died only for the elect, or everyone whom the Father grants saving faith (Calvinist assertion)

C1*. All the elect receive the benefits of Christ’s death (P1, P2, P3*)

P4. Some people will be in Hell (Scripturally true)

C2*. Those for whom Christ’s death is not effacious will be in Hell (C1, P4)

P5*. Those for whom Christ’s death is not effacious are not recipients of propitiation (C2)

P6. This is not a case of double jeopardy

C3*. God is not morally unjust

This should be sufficient to demonstrate that “for every man” does not mean for every single individual.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)

“Bought them” is the distinctive phrase here that Dr. Hunter would be pointing us to. What does this mean? To quote from an article from Alpha and Omega Ministries:

It has been demonstrated that the term “Master” (despotes) refers to an owner in a master- slave relationship. The meaning here is not of Christ as Savior or Mediator (despotes is never used as a redemptive title), but to Christ (or the Father) as Sovereign. It has also been demonstrated that the term “bought” (agorazo) in the New Testament is most frequently used in non-redemptive contexts. When used redemptively there are specific pointers that are conspicuously absent in 2 Peter 2:1 (such as the purchase price, believers as the lone object, or the presence of other mediatorial or redemptive features). Since this is so, it of necessity eliminates the assumed non-Reformed interpretation, at the very least, as the only viable interpretation of 2 Peter 2:1. In point of fact, not only is the non-redemptive sense equally viable, but there is far more to commend this sense than the redemptive sense, for which the general redemptionist argues. This does not mean, of course, that the Reformed view becomes the view by default; rather, that the Reformed view cannot be simply dismissed as a viable and exegetically sound interpretation. [3]

  • Theological Critique: Conclusion

 

What have we seen? Does the story of the Bible seem “to be one of [libertarian] choice,” or, as I believe has been thoroughly demonstrated, does the story of the Bible focus on the libertarian freedom of God over and against the bound, creaturely will of man? I believe firmly that the latter is the case. Now that we have gone through the theological objections, let us move on to our philosophical objections.

 

2.1 Philosophical Considerations: The Zero Balance Argument

Dr. Hunter uses this argument for libertarian free will. He states it as follows:

  1. If man has a zero-balance of influences he is free to choose
  2. Man does have a zero-balance of influences, therefore
  3. Man is free to choose.

He defines a zero-balance of influences using the following thought experiment:

Imagine that Todd has a desire to eat a piece of pie for obvious reasons. Yet, Todd also has a desire to lose weight. The way determinists typically frame this state of affairs, Todd will choose either the pie, because though he desires to lose weight he demonstrates a greater desire to eat pie, or he will choose not to eat pie, because though he desires the pie he has a greater desire to lose weight. However, imagine that Todd’s desire to eat pie is equally matched by his desire to lose weight. What will Todd do in such a case? It would seem that in this one instance Todd is free of causal influences and the choice is left completely to the agent himself.

In other words:

If this were the case then Todd would stand in a situation in which his desire to do x was equally matched by his desire to do y in life – in general. This zero-balance-altogetherness would amount to Todd’s awareness of all of the influences at work on him, and he could be said to truly be influenced by them. Yet, he would not be bound by determinism to give in to any one of them.[6]

What results from this is a situation in which the only causal force that is at work is the agent himself. He is free to determine his own wants and actions. Thus, soft-libertarianism emerges.

2.1.1 Philosophical Considerations: A Criticism

Dr. Hunter lists a number of objections to the two main premises of his argument. For the purposes of this essay, I reject premise 1 for the reason behind his first objection. The first objection to premise 1 that Dr. Hunter recognizes is that in a zero balance of influences indeterminism would emerge. Indeterminism is the view that at least one event is not determined by antecedent causes. To defend against this objection, Dr. Hunter states:

This would not be true of an existent agent who comes prepackaged with a mind. A mind does have causal powers. Thus, there is no reason to reject the idea that in a world with a zero-balance of influence the agent himself could will to, or cause something that he determines to happen. Thus, this is not a situation wherein cause and effect does not exist, yet man can be said to have transcended cause and effect in that his decision is the cause of the following effect. Only, his cause did not arise coercively because of the cause and effect inherent to the influences he perceives since there is a zero-balance of influence. [4]

This response, however, presents an issue. In situation x, agent y may be a subject with a mind that possesses causal powers; however, on a zero sum of influences, y in x has no motivating reason to cause him to preform actions a or b. Y must, by fiat, determine whether to preform a or b, in which case you have what Dr. Hunter describes when he says:

The individual himself would not even be able to predict what he would do, because there is no “reason” why he chose to do precisely what he did. His “choice” would be random and arbitrary in the strictest sense of the terms. As mentioned above, this may resolve the problem of determinism, but would not deliver free will to the agent.

I agree with this summation and would suggest to Dr. Hunter that he work through this objection with more care as he develops this argument.

2.2 Philosophical Considerations: Compatibilist Mysteries and Submitting Philosophy to Biblical Revelation

Here we come to the most interesting section of Dr. Hunter’s arguments for free will. He states:

How is it that God can be the determiner of all things, and yet a man be responsible for doing the very things that God determined he would do? Moreover, how is it that God is not responsible for all evil, sin and suffering in a deterministic world?

While it would be easy to appeal to something like the semi-compatibilism of Fischer and its reasons responsive mechanism, Strawson’s moral community, or some other compatibilist response I would rather go to the texts of Scripture to answer these questions. Genesis 45, 50:20, Isaiah 10, Acts 2, and Acts 4 all include references to God holding men morally accountable for sins that He ordained. Let us walk through each of these texts.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:5-8)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20)

Here, in the story of Joseph, there is a duality. There is personal, moral responsibility on the part of Joseph’s brothers and the sovereign will of God in ordaining the selling of Joseph into slavery to “keep you alive by a great deliverance” and “to preserve many people alive.”

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
 I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.
 For it says, “Are not my princes all kings?
 “Is not Calno like Carchemish,
Or Hamath like Arpad,
Or Samaria like Damascus?
 “As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
 Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images
Just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?”

 So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.” (Isaiah 10:5-12)

Here we have the prophet Isaiah prophesying judgement against Israel and Assyria. Though it was not in Assyria’s heart to go against Israel, God had purposed it so that Assyria might bring judgement against Israel. Then we read that God will judge the king of Assyria for his pride and for his attack on Israel! Let us examine our final texts in Acts.

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:22-23)

            For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28)

Truly there was no greater sin than the crucifixion of the sinless Son of God Jesus Christ; however, it was ordained by God by “[his] predetermined plan and foreknowledge.”

Calvinists are willing to admit that God is the primary cause of all things, including sin and natural evil, as otherwise there would be evil that would be unpurposed (see my essay on the Meticulous Providence Theodicy) and hence gratuitous. There is a difference between God’s decretive will and His prescriptive will. In His prescriptive will He gives the Law and judges men accordingly and in His decretive will He declares all things from beginning to end as Isaiah 46:10 declares. Therefore, even if the Calvinist admits to mystery, it is at least a Biblically supported mystery.

2.3 Philosophical Considerations: An Argument for Divine Determinism

Here I will present a basic argument for divine determinism, or the belief that God determines all events in time.

P1. Classical Theism affirms that God is omniscient (definitionally true)

P2. A being x is omniscient iff x knows all possible truths y and believes nothing false (definition)

P3. Subject a’s action b is a possible truth to be known (assertion)

C1. For x to be omniscient x must know y which includes whether a will do b (P1,P2,P3)

P4. If x knows y then x’s knowledge of a’s action b is infallible (P2,P3,C1)

P5. If x knows y then x knows that a will do b (P4)

P6. If x knows y then b will take place (repetition of P5)

P7. If x knows y then ~b cannot take place (P4,P5,P6)

P8. If ~b cannot take place then the principle of alternative possibilities is false

P9. The principle of alternative possibilities is false (P7,P8)

P10. If the principle of alternative possibilities is false then libertarian free will is false

C2. Libertarian Free Will is false

  1. Conclusion

We have gone over Dr. Hunter’s essay and I believe that we have seen that of the two sides (Calvinism and Arminism/Compatibilism and Libertarian Free Will) Calvinism has come out to be the Biblically and philosophically desirable position.

 

Notes

  1. All Scriptures quoted are from the NASB.
  2. https://goshareyourfaith.wordpress.com/resources/reformed-doctrine/the-arminian-understanding-of-titus-211-refuted/
  3. http://vintage.aomin.org/2PE21.html
  4. All quotes are taken from: http://www.braxtonhunter.com/blog/2015/6/10/a-case-for-soft-libertarian-freedom-in-human-beings-after-the-fall
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2 thoughts on “God’s Kingly Freedom: A Response to Dr. Braxton Hunter

  1. First, I want to say how much I appreciate that Joseph has taken the time to interact with my post to such a lengthy degree. In fact, it is to such a degree that I humbly ask to be forgiven for not dealing with every detail of his case. Much of it, including most (if not all) of the biblical data I have addressed elsewhere in debates, blog posts and journal articles. You can find a lot of that material at BraxtonHunter.com. With that, I will make some passing notes.

    Regarding John 6:

    John 6:37-40 – 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” 41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

    There is no doubt that in this passage, Jesus is talking about some group of people that the Father has given to him. The question is who that group is. The same sort of language is used by John and only by John in the same book (John 17:6) where Jesus is found saying,

    6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; THEY WERE YOURS and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

    This is the same group, and they must be understood as the remnant of Israel who already belonged to God and were learning from him. They were God’s, they weren’t the Devil’s or the world’s children. That is to say, it isn’t as though God took a subset of the Devil’s children (the lost) and gave them to Jesus. They were already God’s children, and so when Jesus came on the scene they were naturally handed over to Jesus. We find another indication of this in the preceding passage to John 6. In John 5:46 Jesus says,

    46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

    The type of faith (that of true Israel) that it took to believe in Moses was the kind that it took to believe in Jesus. So, if an individual was a true worshipper of the Father (part of the remnant/true Israel) they would naturally be drawn to Jesus.

    This is verified in the very passage in question. John 6:45 says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

    “has heard and learned from” is past tense. “comes to me” is present tense. Those who have already been hearing from and learning from the Father, come to Jesus. Again, these are the believing Jews (and, as it turns out, some gentiles) who were living during Jesus’ earthly ministry. That is how they had (past tense) heard and learned from the Father. So why would any non-Calvinist have a problem with this. It seems perfectly natural to me. If Someone was already worshipping the God of Israel and learning from him and hearing from him, then they would be drawn to Jesus and believe. Because God reveals to them who Jesus is. I can’t imagine any non-Calvinist seeing an issue there.

    Regarding Genesis 6:

    Joseph writes:

    “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)

    It is not clear how this passage teaches libertarian choice. If anything this is generally taken to be a proof text for either Total Depravity (every intent was evil continually) or Open Theism (God was sorry/was grieved in His heart). I will leave it up to Dr. Hunter to explain this one.”

    First, Joseph is right that this is often used by Calvinists to support total depravity. Unfortunately, for the Calvinist, it serves as a poor proof-text. It cannot support total depravity because that would require that this be a universal statement made about all men at all times. Systematic theologians often sloppily rush through the text grabbing statements about a particular doctrine (in this case the doctrine of man) and then throw those into the mix as to have nice clean doctrinal support. This was written about a specific group of people at a particular time. God’s justice has not yet required him to destroy the world as he did in their day. As for questions about whether or not it is still true that “the thoughts of [man’s] heart [is] only evil continually,” it may be the case, but cannot be supported by this passage. Further, I’m not an open theist so I take the comments about God being sorry/grieved not to mean that he was unaware of what man would do, but words do mean things. These words mean something. At the very least, they mean that God did not want them to do what they did. Yet, if compatibilism is true, then God could have determined that man would have freely (on a compatibilistic view of freedom) done exactly what he would have preferred. Then there would have been no need to be sorry or grieved by the sin of man (on any plausible definition of those terms). Thus, Genesis 6:5-6 serves as a poor proof-text for TD, but a great one for libertarian freedom.

    Regarding Deuteronomy 30:19:

    Moses’ command that the people of Israel “choose life” is not beyond their reach. In fact, he flatly says this in verse 11 of the same passage: “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,”

    Calvin would need to deal with the whole passage in order to dismiss it as a demonstration of libertarian freedom.

    Regarding Jeremiah 7:31:

    Joseph says:

    “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind. (Jeremiah 7:31)

    It is unclear what relevance this has to the debate over libertarian free will. I will leave it to Dr. Hunter to explain why he thinks it is relevant.”

    The point here is similar to that of Genesis 6. Again, I’m not an open theist, but words . . . have . . . meaning. If the words “I did not command [the evil of child sacrifice], and it did not come into my mind,” have any meaning at all, they at least mean God did not intend for these things to happen. If they happened, and God did not intend for them to happen, then man has libertarian freedom (which the libertarian takes to be what God did intend). Understand that God’s not intending something is not the same as God not knowing that it would happen.

    Regarding Jeremiah 36:3:

    “Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)”

    Calvin notwithstanding, whether God is speaking with the voice of man or not, he indicates a genuine counter-possibility. “Perhaps,” he says. Is this a sham, or does “perhaps” indicate a genuine possibility? If it indicates a genuine possibility to engage in one counter-factual or other, then libertarianism emerges. If it does not indicate a genuine possibility then God, at best, is being deceitful (if not outright lying), and at worst, his words cannot be relied upon to indicate his intentions. In neither case can he be trusted. It also should be noted that each time Calvin, or any subsequent Calvinist, justifies God’s actions of condemnation based upon the fact that “they had so often, and for so long a time, and in such various ways, shewed themselves to be so obstinate” they necessitate the talking out of both sides of their mouths. On compatibilism that obstinance was determined unchangeably by God, and it could not have been otherwise. Thus, man is punished for choosing wrongly among a set of only wrong options. He is punished for choosing A rather than B when, in fact, only A was available to him.

    Regarding the “all” statements:

    I will not take the time to respond to all of these except to point out that “all without distinction” does not contradict, but could include, “all without exception.” Moreover, passages that indicate specific types of people (like kings) are baselessly taken to indicate a group rather than individuals, since the only way Scripture could reasonably convey what would convince the Calvinist would be to list the names of every individual who ever has or ever will live. Paul did not, in my estimation, further specify that he meant every . . . single . . . individual because 1) that’s what he thought he was making clear by mentioning categories, and 2) he was not aware that this dispute would ever arise in the church, for he was unaware of the emergence of an Augustinian/Calvinist paradigm of systematic theology. If one presumes that Paul was unaware of a Calvinistic way of thinking then the passages in question seem to plainly imply every person without exception. If one presumes that Paul was teaching a Calvinistic way of thinking then the passages can be read with that lens – but still awkwardly. It is hard to imagine that his first century hearers would have taken his comments in that way.

    Regarding my zero-balance argument:

    Joseph writes:

    “This response, however, presents an issue. In situation x, agent y may be a subject with a mind that possesses causal powers; however, on a zero sum of influences, y in x has no motivating reason to cause him to preform actions a or b. Y must, by fiat, determine whether to preform a or b, . . .”

    Says who? This conclusion assumes a deterministic/compatibilistic conclusion which is the very issue under debate. The determining factor, in this case, would be the agent himself. For this reason, I prefer the term self-determined. The agent in a world of zero-balance has influences. He merely has a zero-balance of influences. This means he can choose freely among those influences. Like God (for he is made in God’s image) he has the creative ability to bring something about creatively (the creativity necessitated by his lack of dominant motivations). Yet, unlike God, man is not bringing about something from nothing. He is bringing about something from preexisting things, namely, his influences.

    Regarding my case from mystery:

    Joseph writes:

    “Calvinists are willing to admit that God is the primary cause of all things, including sin and natural evil, as otherwise there would be evil that would be unpurposed (see my essay on the Meticulous Providence Theodicy) and hence gratuitous.”

    First, that’s fine. I see no reason to demand that every single evil thing that God allows to happen has a purpose. Sometimes sin, suffering and evil are senseless. Second, if one demands that it must be the case that God has a purpose in all things, a Molinist view handles this fine and does not require us to conclude that God intends the rape and murder of children, the existence of the most vile sorts of pornography, all disease, the very blaspheming of his own name, and so forth. Third, the passages referenced that indicate God’s purpose for some evils do not necessitate that he intended the evil in order to intend the benefit that he brings from those evils. God brings good things out of bad situations. This is no problem for the non-Calvinist. Lastly, Joseph’s view requires God to be dependent on the sin of man in order to accomplish his goals. This is certainly an affront to God’s sovereignty. He cannot achieve his desired goals unless man rebels against him. This sits awkwardly to me.

    Regarding determinism:

    The problem with the argument is a modal one. God’s knowledge of what man will freely do does not necessitate that man was not free, but rather that God’s omniscience involved his certain knowledge of what those free actions would be. The analogy is not perfect, as no analogies are, but it is something like a previously viewed recording of a football game. If I had seen a recorded game and then showed it to Joseph (who had not seen it) I would have prior knowledge of all the events that take place during the game. I know how the winning play will go down. I know at what point the coach of the losing team will throw his hat to the ground, as well as what his facial expressions will look like. I know at what point the camera will pan to a fellow with a “John 3:16” banner waving. Yet, my prior knowledge of these events does not entail that the events were determined by me, or that they were determined by anyone (including the organizers of the event). God’s awareness of events prior to his creation of them does does not entail that agents could not have done otherwise. What it entails is that had they done otherwise, God’s knowledge of the true outcome would be different.

    We could tweak the analogy to accommodate Molinism. Imagine that I wanted to impress Joseph with the Indiana Colts. I have three videos of three separate games. In one game Indiana loses horribly. In the second, Indiana wins, but barely. In the third, Indiana dominates. If I want to accomplish my goals (in this case, impressing Joseph), I will probably choose to show him the game in which Indiana not only wins, but dominates. If Molinism is true, God has perfect knowledge of all possible worlds. He chooses among feasible worlds according to which of those worlds best accomplishes his ultimate goals. For the libertarian, God chooses among worlds in which libertarian freedom is given to human agents. Now the actual world (the one he chose) is not necessarily exactly as he would have preferred it, just as there may be events in the third Colts game that I would not have preferred (such as commercials featuring scantily clad women). Nevertheless, because God chose among worlds of free agents, his ultimate goals are met and man has libertarian freedom.

    One of these two options seems to make the best sense of the nature of reality given that God is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and there is evil in the world.

    Lastly, given the comments made throughout Joseph’s post regarding determinism, particularly the comments regarding my zero-balance argument, it would be interesting to know whether Joseph thinks it is possible for God to possess libertarian freedom. The article is titled “God’s Kingly Freedom.” If his freedom is compatibilistic, then it seems pointless to highlight his freedom, it being no different than man’s. If it is libertarian – how so?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope Dr. Hunter will forgive me that I will not be responding to the entirety of the comment that he posted.

      “it would be interesting to know whether Joseph thinks it is possible for God to possess libertarian freedom. The article is titled “God’s Kingly Freedom.” If his freedom is compatibilistic, then it seems pointless to highlight his freedom, it being no different than man’s. If it is libertarian – how so?”

      My thoughts on the nature of God’s will vs Man’s will has recieved its own post. To sum it up briefly, I believe that God possesses libertarian free will prior to creation and compatibilist free will post-creation while man possesses a wholly determined/semi-compatibilist (a la Fischer) will. I go into this in more depth here: https://believingcalvinist.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/does-god-have-free-will-a-brief-consideration-from-a-hyper-calvinist/

      “There is no doubt that in this passage, Jesus is talking about some group of people that the Father has given to him. The question is who that group is. The same sort of language is used by John and only by John in the same book (John 17:6) where Jesus is found saying,

      6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; THEY WERE YOURS and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

      This is the same group, and they must be understood as the remnant of Israel who already belonged to God and were learning from him. They were God’s, they weren’t the Devil’s or the world’s children. That is to say, it isn’t as though God took a subset of the Devil’s children (the lost) and gave them to Jesus. They were already God’s children, and so when Jesus came on the scene they were naturally handed over to Jesus. We find another indication of this in the preceding passage to John 6. In John 5:46 Jesus says,

      46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

      The type of faith (that of true Israel) that it took to believe in Moses was the kind that it took to believe in Jesus. So, if an individual was a true worshipper of the Father (part of the remnant/true Israel) they would naturally be drawn to Jesus.

      This is verified in the very passage in question. John 6:45 says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

      “has heard and learned from” is past tense. “comes to me” is present tense. Those who have already been hearing from and learning from the Father, come to Jesus. Again, these are the believing Jews (and, as it turns out, some gentiles) who were living during Jesus’ earthly ministry. That is how they had (past tense) heard and learned from the Father. So why would any non-Calvinist have a problem with this. It seems perfectly natural to me. If Someone was already worshiping the God of Israel and learning from him and hearing from him, then they would be drawn to Jesus and believe. Because God reveals to them who Jesus is. I can’t imagine any non-Calvinist seeing an issue there.”

      Here I must slightly disagree with Dr. Hunter’s mode of exegesis. Rather than jump off into John 17 to try and find an answer to the question of who the group mentioned (and here I would also say that to claim this is a group begs the question against personal election, which the, in my case, Hyper-Calvinist affirms, in favor of Traditionalist Corporate Election), we ought to stay within the confines of John 6 and work through to the end. If for any reason we should move outside of this text, we should do so in order to examine the nature of “drawing.” To quote from R.C. Sproul [1]:

      ‘Therefore I have said to you no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to Him by My Father’ (John 6:65).
      Let us look closely at this verse. The first element of this teaching is a universal negative. The words ‘No one’ are all-inclusive. They allow for no exception apart from the exceptions Jesus adds. The next word is crucial It is the word can. This has to do with ability …
      The next word in this passage is vital. ‘Unless’ refers to what we call a necessary condition. A necessary condition refers to something that must happen before something else can happen.
      The meaning of Jesus’ words is clear. No human being can possibly come to Christ unless something happens that makes it possible for him to come. That necessary condition Jesus declares is that “it has been granted to him by the Father.” Jesus is saying here that the ability to come to him is a gift from God. Man does not have the ability in and of himself to come to Christ. God must do something first …
      Earlier in chapter 6 of John’s Gospel Jesus makes a similar statement. He says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). The key word here is draws … [t]he greek word used here is elko. Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Linguistically and lexographically, the word means “to compell”.(Chosen By God, 67-69)

      Other uses of elko include Acts 16:19 and James 2:6 where the word is translated as “dragged.”

      When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. (Acts 16:19)

      But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (James 2:6)

      To be clear, the verb “to draw” is a strong term suggesting irresistability (the Calvinist generally uses the two passages from John 6 in question as support for Irresistible Grace).

      What is Dr. Hunter’s defense against the seeming clarity of these passages? He appeals to John 17. He states;

      There is no doubt that in this passage, Jesus is talking about some group of people that the Father has given to him. The question is who that group is. The same sort of language is used by John and only by John in the same book (John 17:6) where Jesus is found saying,

      6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; THEY WERE YOURS and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

      This is the same group, and they must be understood as the remnant of Israel who already belonged to God and were learning from him. They were God’s, they weren’t the Devil’s or the world’s children. That is to say, it isn’t as though God took a subset of the Devil’s children (the lost) and gave them to Jesus. They were already God’s children, and so when Jesus came on the scene they were naturally handed over to Jesus. We find another indication of this in the preceding passage to John 6.

      Here I agree with Dr. Hunter but for different reasons than he would like. As an advocate of equal ultimacy, God foreordained some to election and some to reprobation from eternity past via His elective decree prior to the decree of the Fall. In this sense, those whom God elected for salvation are eternally justified and belong exclusively for God; however, leaving that aside, we must also take into account the fact of Ephesians 2. Paul states:

      1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

      Even if we deny the truth of equal ultimacy, it is not true that God did not elect out of a sinful people already belonging to the devil. As Paul states, we all at one time were children deserving of wrath. Ironically enough, this explanation appeals to a concept of divine election! We must confer with Paul, who agrees with John, when he says, “4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6). Notice how in John 17:6, God’s election is syntactically prior to them keeping His word. Truly, the doctrine of divine election is inescapable.

      “First, Joseph is right that this is often used by Calvinists to support total depravity. Unfortunately, for the Calvinist, it serves as a poor proof-text. It cannot support total depravity because that would require that this be a universal statement made about all men at all times. Systematic theologians often sloppily rush through the text grabbing statements about a particular doctrine (in this case the doctrine of man) and then throw those into the mix as to have nice clean doctrinal support. This was written about a specific group of people at a particular time. God’s justice has not yet required him to destroy the world as he did in their day. As for questions about whether or not it is still true that “the thoughts of [man’s] heart [is] only evil continually,” it may be the case, but cannot be supported by this passage. Further, I’m not an open theist so I take the comments about God being sorry/grieved not to mean that he was unaware of what man would do, but words do mean things. These words mean something. At the very least, they mean that God did not want them to do what they did. Yet, if compatibilism is true, then God could have determined that man would have freely (on a compatibilistic view of freedom) done exactly what he would have preferred. Then there would have been no need to be sorry or grieved by the sin of man (on any plausible definition of those terms). Thus, Genesis 6:5-6 serves as a poor proof-text for TD, but a great one for libertarian freedom.”

      Here Dr. Hunter makes a point that I, to the surprise of some, may end up agreeing with. This passage of Scripture alone cannot support “T,” or Total Depravity on it’s own. It must be taken in the context of the totality of the Biblical data regarding the nature of man’s desires and the corruption of his nature by sin. Dr. Hunter says that He is not an Open Theist and for that I am thankful. The denial of the exhaustive foreknowledge of God is enough to draw one (pun intended) to question orthodoxy; however, Dr. Hunter does make the assertion that these words do mean something, and that is not a point that is in dispute.

      “I will not take the time to respond to all of these except to point out that “all without distinction” does not contradict, but could include, “all without exception.” Moreover, passages that indicate specific types of people (like kings) are baselessly taken to indicate a group rather than individuals, since the only way Scripture could reasonably convey what would convince the Calvinist would be to list the names of every individual who ever has or ever will live. Paul did not, in my estimation, further specify that he meant every . . . single . . . individual because 1) that’s what he thought he was making clear by mentioning categories, and 2) he was not aware that this dispute would ever arise in the church, for he was unaware of the emergence of an Augustinian/Calvinist paradigm of systematic theology. If one presumes that Paul was unaware of a Calvinistic way of thinking then the passages in question seem to plainly imply every person without exception. If one presumes that Paul was teaching a Calvinistic way of thinking then the passages can be read with that lens – but still awkwardly. It is hard to imagine that his first century hearers would have taken his comments in that way.”

      Here, Dr. Hunter asserts that “I will not take the time to respond to all of these except to point out that “all without distinction” does not contradict, but could include, “all without exception.” What this means is unclear as there does not seem to be much of a difference between the two. I would like to see a definition of both phrases before further comment. Dr. Hunter also asserts, “Moreover, passages that indicate specific types of people (like kings) are baselessly taken to indicate a group rather than individuals, since the only way Scripture could reasonably convey what would convince the Calvinist would be to list the names of every individual who ever has or ever will live.” Is this baseless? It seems not, since the direct object of 1 Timothy 2:1 and 4 are groups of people and not every single individual. There are ways to convey every single individual in the greek and if Paul wanted to convey that idea he surely had the capacity to do so.

      “Says who? This conclusion assumes a deterministic/compatibilistic conclusion which is the very issue under debate. The determining factor, in this case, would be the agent himself. For this reason, I prefer the term self-determined. The agent in a world of zero-balance has influences. He merely has a zero-balance of influences. This means he can choose freely among those influences. Like God (for he is made in God’s image) he has the creative ability to bring something about creatively (the creativity necessitated by his lack of dominant motivations). Yet, unlike God, man is not bringing about something from nothing. He is bringing about something from preexisting things, namely, his influences.”

      Says me! The problem with having a neutral willed agent, is that there is ultimately no reason for the agent to choose one thing over another. It’s just how it is.

      “The problem with the argument is a modal one. God’s knowledge of what man will freely do does not necessitate that man was not free, but rather that God’s omniscience involved his certain knowledge of what those free actions would be. The analogy is not perfect, as no analogies are, but it is something like a previously viewed recording of a football game. If I had seen a recorded game and then showed it to Joseph (who had not seen it) I would have prior knowledge of all the events that take place during the game. I know how the winning play will go down. I know at what point the coach of the losing team will throw his hat to the ground, as well as what his facial expressions will look like. I know at what point the camera will pan to a fellow with a “John 3:16” banner waving. Yet, my prior knowledge of these events does not entail that the events were determined by me, or that they were determined by anyone (including the organizers of the event). God’s awareness of events prior to his creation of them does does not entail that agents could not have done otherwise. What it entails is that had they done otherwise, God’s knowledge of the true outcome would be different.”

      The problem here is that Dr. Hunter does not point out a modal problem with the argument. He takes a simple foreknowledge view of divine foreordination; however the problem with this is that God’s knowledge turning out differently if ~b were the case and not b implies means that God was, from eternity, wrong.

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