Stress-testing the
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Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


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A simple argument against God’s universal salvific intent

A basic argument, with commentary, in favor of the Calvinist view of election, and against the view that God purposes to save all people without exception.

In a recent correspondence, I presented a brief argument against the Roman Catholic conception of God’s purposes, and in favor of a supralapsarian Calvinist conception. Since I think the argument is a good one, and is effective against more positions than the Roman Catholic one, I’m going to develop it further in this post. It is an argument from the divine accomplishment of purpose, and is predicated on Isaiah 46:9–11. I’ll first (I) very briefly exegete this passage; (II) comment on the distinction which needs to be drawn between purpose and desire; then (III) lay some groundwork for my argument by outlining the theological tradition it refutes; before (IV) presenting the argument itself.

I. A brief exegesis of Isaiah 46:9-11

Remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
  I am God, and there is none like me,
  10declaring the end from the beginning
  and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
  and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
  11calling a bird of prey from the east,
  the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.

This passage establishes two essential facts: (i) that God, from the beginning, declares the end; and (ii) that this declaration is based upon what he has purposed to bring about. The latter is the key word in view, upon which I’ll develop the argument. In this passage it is used as both a noun (verse 10) and a verb (verse 11). As a noun, “purpose” is primarily (a) something set up as an object or end to be attained—that is, an intention—and (b) a resolution or determination. Secondarily, it is a subject under discussion, or an action in course of execution.1 As a verb, it is to propose as an aim to oneself.2 In the Hebrew, the noun is chephets, and refers to delight, pleasure, or longing.3 The verb is yatsar, meaning literally to mold into a form, especially as a potter;4 thus, in context, to determine, form, or frame in advance.5

Essentially then, what this passage is asserting is that everything which God intends to bring about, he will bring about. When, from the beginning, he declares the end, it is not merely a declaration based on a passive or external knowledge of what will happen, but rather on an active or internal knowledge of what he is going to do. Put in familiar theological terms, this passage establishes that God’s omniscience is inextricably related to his omnipotence: he knows everything which occurs in history because he knows everything he causes to occur in history.

II. Distinguishing between purpose and desire

Having established and commented upon the inevitable execution of God’s purposes, it’s necessary to draw a distinction between these and his desires. It should go without saying that nothing which God purposes he does not also desire. He does not purpose and then bring about things which he does not desire to purpose and bring about—that would make him schizophrenic. So only what God desires he purposes. But notice how when we phrase it like that, we’ve subtly implied (so innocuously) that everything he desires he purposes. This does not follow! Certainly some of what he desires he purposes; but the fact that he desires something does not, in and of itself, indicate necessarily that he purposes it.

In fact, the opposite may equally be true. God may desire something very greatly, and thus purpose it; and by the very act of bringing about this purpose he may establish the conditions wherein he has a contrary, though lesser, desire. For example, he may purpose to redeem mankind through the sacrifice of his son; and, in bringing about this purpose, he may establish a number of conditions which, in virtue of his moral character, he has a straightforward desire against. He desires to see his son live; not die. What father wouldn’t—and if a human father, how much more a divine one? He desires to see people do good and not murder. What good human wouldn’t—and if a good human, how much more a good God? Yet these desires are contingent upon the very purpose which they oppose. Thus, they are straightforward moral desires or attitudes which do not rise to the level of being purposes or intentions. And, because they are not purposes or intentions, there is no self-contradiction in God’s actions. The fact that he is capable of entertaining opposing but hierarchical desires merely demonstrates that he is capable of the same complex attitudes that we are. This becomes important when examining the conclusion of my argument.

III. A basic outline of the doctrine opposed

The argument I’m making is against those theological traditions which affirm God’s universal salvific purpose. This is a common Christian belief which can be summarized as follows:

  1. God has set within his mind, as an object or end to be attained, the salvation of all people without exception;
  2. he has acted in history to attain this end through the work of Jesus Christ;
  3. and he is prevented from attaining it only by the free agency of those people who choose to reject his overtures of salvation.

It’s probably fair to say that, in various iterations, this represents a “mainstream” Christian view. I’ve even seen it presented as the gospel itself. It’s based on the moral intuition that it would be reprehensible for God to elect only certain people to salvation, while making no allowance for the salvation of anyone else. According to this intuition, God’s infinite benevolence must be reflected in his genuine intention that all people be saved, which in turn must be outworked in his genuine attempt to achieve this in the atonement of Jesus Christ. In its most extreme variants, this intuition leads naturally into universalism: the belief that all people without exception will ultimately be saved. In its more conservative iterations, God’s intention to save all people is held in tension with those people’s libertarian free will, by which they are capable of choosing to reject the salvation offered.

This does not prima facie contradict God’s omnipotence, because although omnipotence entails no external limitations on God’s power, internal limitations are not only possible but necessary. For example, God cannot lie; he cannot do the logically impossible; and—according to the theological traditions in question—he cannot overrule the libertarian free will of those whom he wishes to save. Many reasons are given for this; generically, they tend to reduce down to the belief that God would be in some way acting against his character if he did not permit us to make our own free choices (even when these are against our own self-interest). This is generally supported by at least the argument that God would be acting against his character if he were to coerce people to love him, because love which is not freely given is not genuine. Thus, the only limitation on God’s ability to save people is one he imposes upon himself by merit of his own character in relation to libertarian freedom.

Although much can be said against this, I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that it’s at least prima facie reasonable. Having thus laid this groundwork and conceded this point, I can bring Isaiah 46:9-11 to bear to demonstrate very simply that a real contradiction does, in fact, exist.

IV. The argument from divine accomplishment of purpose

The bulk of this argument is comprised in its third to sixth premises. The first and second are appended in order to ensure clarity as regards the specific theological assumptions being made. Thus, premise (1) serves to funnel any kind of Christian position into the argument; and premise (2) functions as a catch-all for both traditional and heretical formulations of God’s omniscience.

  1. God purposes to save people.
  2. If God purposes to save people, then he knows which persons he purposes to save.
  3. Everything God purposes he accomplishes.
  4. Therefore, every person God purposes to save he will save.
  5. Not every person without exception is saved.
  6. Therefore, God does not purpose to save every person without exception.

The conclusion follows necessarily; so to deny it one must deny at least one of the premises. Let me briefly comment, then, on each premise in turn.

1. God purposes to save people

I start with this very generic premise for the sake of precision and power. It is a premise which cannot be denied by any Christian, since the very point of the gospel is that God desires and intends to save at least some people. I have not said precisely which persons, and so the premise is uncontroversial. Thus, it’s a good place to start, since it shows that the argument in toto applies to anyone who names himself a Christian.

2. If God purposes to save people, then he knows which persons he purposes to save

Again this is an uncontroversial premise, since even those people who deny God’s perfect definite foreknowledge will affirm that he is not so senile as to have no conception whatsoever of whom he intends to save. Specifically, since the argument is made against those Christians who believe that God purposes to save everyone—that is, the set of all people—the question of whether he knows precisely every individual encompassed within this set is moot. Thus, the premise is equally binding upon an Arminian as an open theist; since both must agree with it in view of God’s omniscience, even if they have differing views on what kind of knowledge that omniscience entails.

3. Everything God purposes he accomplishes

In light of the exegesis of Isaiah 46:9-11 above, this should also be an uncontroversial statement. Since God himself claims, “I will accomplish all my purpose […] I have purposed, and I will do it” (vv 10,11), to deny this premise is effectively to deny the inerrancy of Scripture. Unless a convincing exegetical argument can be made that this passage is affirming the logical opposite of what it is saying (ie, that God does not accomplish everything which he purposes), the only way to deny the premise is to fall into liberalism. Thus, my argument does not extend so far as to refute liberals—their low view of God’s word must be refuted on its own grounds.

4. Therefore, every person God purposes to save he will save

This premise follows necessarily from (2) and (3). If God purposes to save people, whether specifically or generically as an entire group; and if his purposes are always accomplished; then the salvation of these people is inevitable.

5. Not every person without exception is saved

This is the other premise which can be denied by some who call themselves Christians. Universalism is becoming more fashionable among even “evangelical” Christians, because of those same moral intuitions that lead people to assume that God purposes to save everyone in the first place. Thus my argument doesn’t extend to refute universalism any more than it does liberalism; rather, universalism, like liberalism, is one of its logical conclusions if (6) is rejected on the basis of being morally unpalatable. This kind of rejection requires a different argumentative approach—such as the one I use in my exchange with Victor Reppert on God and goodness.

6. Therefore, God does not purpose to save every person without exception

This is the logically necessary conclusion of the prior premises, presuming that one hasn’t deserted Scripture for liberalism or universalism (or both). Remember that, as per the discussion in heading (II) above, this doesn’t entail the conclusion that God does not desire to save every person without exception. All that has been proved is that he does not purpose it. Thus, on any remotely orthodox view of God, the argument succeeds in affirming irrefutably the Calvinist view of election, while simultaneously refuting other contenders.

  1. Merriam-Webster Online, “purpose” (retrieved August 2008).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius, “chephets” (retrieved August 2008).
  4. Strong, “yatsar” (retrieved August 2008).
  5. Brown, Driver, Briggs, Genesius, “yatsar” (retrieved August 2008).

28 comments

  1. James

    Hey Bnonn,

    This does bring up a problem . Like in my Matthew 23:37 question. Can we trust what God tells us? When Christ said he wanted to gather the children of Israel, was He being honest? You would say that, that was His desire but not His intention or purpose. When God states a aim in scripture we often do not know if it is a purpose or desire – so we can not know if the stated aim will be fulfilled or not. How does that not undermine our confidence in scripture?

    For instance this specific land promise I Israel:

    Ez.36

    24 ” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 33.” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it.

    I’m not arguing how or when or if this will be fulfilled, but I asking how can we tell if it is a mere desire that may not be fulfilled or a intention that will be fulfilled? Most of God’s stated goals in scripture are like that – they don’t come with a tag saying this one is an intention and this one is a mere desire.

    Also it think it does put God at cross purposes, yes He desires to gather Israel, but really He doesn’t. A degree of God given human autonomy solves this problem, and doesn’t bring God’s veracity into question.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Jim, I haven’t by any means forgotten about your concern re Matthew 23:37—actually, it’s been on my mind a lot, and has been one of the issues fueling the kinds of thoughts like those laid out in this post. I’m planning to expand my commentary above in another article soon, so as to address the sorts of questions you raise.

  3. Frank Ritchie

    Hey Bnonn,

    Looking at this, I have a problem near the beginning and would love to get your thoughts to move on to the rest of the post – though you may clear it up.

    You state that God’s desires and that which he purposes can be different and that he does not necessarily purpose all that he desires and therefore does not accomplish all that he desires, but does accomplish all that he purposes. (my paraphrase – correct me if I am wrong).

    Logically your argument is consistent and makes perfect sense – but I am struggling with this:

    You note correctly in your examination of Isaiah 46:9-11 the Hebrew noun ‘chephets’ and give a correct definition refers to delight, pleasure, or longing. Strongs would add desire and things desired.

    This is the word that has been translated in the version you are using in verse 10 as ‘purpose’ – thus in the translation you have used, it reads “I will accomplish all my purpose,’” Most translations from what I can see, more accurately translate it as pleasure, desire or delight – thus it could easily read – using the words you have focussed on – “I will accomplish all my desire”

    When we affirm the word being translated as “all” (kol kol) – then this passage is telling us that not only will he accomplish all that he purposes, but if we are to take verse 10 at face value, then it is telling us that he will accomplish all that he desires, all his pleasures, all his delights, all the things he desires.

    Time and time again in the OT chephets is translated in reference to what desires and delights God – here we are being told that he will accomplish all that he chephets.

    Your argument from what I can see, contradicts this and says he does not purpose all that he desires – therefore he will not accomplish all that he chephets.

    Your logic is well contained, but I wonder if it properly takes into account this passage, or if this passage is being used to somehow reinforce your logic. I don’t know if this passage submits to the logic presented. But I’m happy for you to clear up where I may be misunderstanding this. :)

    So the question – if verse 10 actually reads “I will accomplish all my desire” then does your logic falter?

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Frank, thanks for the question—it’s a good one. There are two separate lines of evidence to support the translation of chephets as purpose over and against mere desire:

    Firstly, chephets the noun is evidently compared or paralleled to yatsah the verb. Thus, our understanding of the one must be congruent with our understanding of the other. Yatsah does not refer to desire, but rather to the act of forming or bringing about. Chephets does refer to desire—but, by merit of that fact, its semantic range includes both desires that determine one’s actions, and desires which don’t. We must decide the semantic range based on the association with the verb; the ESV, I believe, correctly defines that semantic range as referring to purpose rather than mere desire or pleasure. It would be incongruent to read chephets as referring to desires in general rather than to determinative desires, in light of the verb which is chosen to represent its being acted out.

    Secondly, translations which opt for “desire” or “pleasure” as a rendering of chephets in this instance may be choosing a perhaps more lexically safe sense of the word (I would say broad); but also a manifestly less logically sound sense. There is a real difficulty with translating the passage as referring to all of God’s desires without distinction, rather than to his greatest desires—because if God says he will accomplish all of his chephet, and chephet refers to all desires without distinction, then we know that God is lying. Matthew 23:37, which Jim mentioned above, is an obvious contradiction to such an understanding of chephets. Thus, if verse 10 reads “I will accomplish all my desire”, as you suggest, then yes, my logic falters—but so does the internal consistency of Scripture itself.

    These two reasons, I think, compel us to understand chephets as referring to determinative desires, or desires of intention, rather than contingent desires, or desires of attitude.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  5. Frank Ritchie (servant)

    Thanks for that, Bnonn. I appreciate the quick and thorough response.

    The logical inconsistency when presented alongside other verses within scripture was nagging in the back of my head when we translate it as “desire”, but I wanted to see what was behind your choice of translation.

  6. David

    Hey Dom,

    Interesting post.

    The problem I see is the ambiguity of words here. I see one commenter has underlined the anbiguity of “chapets” (old spelling ), it is used for God’s effectual delight and desire in Ps 115:3. It is used in Hos 6:6 of what God desires men should have done. When we start saying, here it means desire, here it means delight, or whatever, we are in danger of being arbitrary as both are inter-dependent ideas.

    We also see the same ambiguity for the word “purpose” in Greek. See Luke 7:30, for example. And I think it is evident that John 12:47-48 indicate a salvific purpose for the salvation of the world. Of course, I cant accept that world here means anything other than the world of living apostate humanity (non-elect inclusive).

    So I would not try to draw the dividing line between the words desire vs purpose (or intent).

    Thanks,
    David

  7. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Heya David. I think my twofold argument for interpreting chephets as referring to determinative purpose in this particular passage is sound. If we interpret it otherwise, then we violate the internal consistency of Scripture. That said, you are right to point out that the word “purpose” itself is not used consistently throughout Scripture in the way that I am using it here. I should clarify:

    For the sake of consistency, I use “purpose” to refer to desires of intention only; as opposed to desires of attitude. However, this is a systematic definition; not a biblical one. I certainly acknowledge that the Bible uses the word “purpose” much more freely, and its specific meaning in any given passage needs to be determined from the context. Sometimes it will refer to a desire of intention; sometimes merely to a desire of attitude. For example, you mention Luke 7:30—if this were referring to a desire of intention, then Isaiah 46:10 would be in error to say that God will accomplish all his purpose, since his purpose in this instance was effectually resisted.

    When I speak of desires of intention I’m talking about those desires which God, in his omniscience and omnipotence, has determined will be fulfilled. But I want to again be clear that these do not obviate or falsify God’s desires of attitude, which he has determined will not be fulfilled. I do believe that God has a sincere desire that all people without exception be saved; but I don’t believe that he has purposed to fulfill that desire; I don’t believe that he intends for all people without exception to be saved. Otherwise we’d have universalism, which is certainly not an historical Reformed position (;

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  8. David

    Hey there Bnonn,

    Thanks for replying.

    I think I understand what you want to argue to. I agree in principle. My problem is that Scripture itself speaks of an intentionality within God to seek the salvation of all. Its not just a desire that all be saved, but an active principle (Dabney) that seeks (Calvin) the salvation of all men. Do you see what I mean? Many try to make a divide between intention and desire, as if the former speaks to what God will do, and the later, of what God wants us to do. But Scripture speaks of intention in a way that is a sort of “third thing,” somewhere in between.

    But thank and take care,
    David

  9. David

    I should add,

    It is really good to see you setting out solid grounds for these doctrines. It is sorely needed. A lot of Calvinists are very confused on this classic mainstream Calvinian position on the will of God.

    Thanks,
    David

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Thanks for your encouragement David. Perhaps the danger of this argument is that, extracted from the larger field of systematic theology, it can be construed in different ways. I do think it’s a good argument, and I’d like to expand my commentary on it at some stage so as to address the sorts of questions that Frank raised above, and add some caveats such as those which you have highlighted. I didn’t want to do that in this post, because my aim was to be quite brief—but you’re right that it behooves us to set out, and I think very carefully and at length, solid grounds for these doctrines.

    Such a commentary should certainly include mention of the notion of “active principles”. It didn’t occur to me to discuss here because I was approaching the issue from a different angle, but you’re right in that I’d want it clearly understood that when I say that God has contingent desires, or desires of attitude, I don’t mean that these are passive desires such that he in no way acts upon them. Rather, I mean that that they are not desires which God has set in his mind as ends to be finally achieved. You mention Dabney, and I actually had him in mind when I wrote this article; I like how he puts it:

    The best support to this view is that which the Scriptures themselves give, in that it furnishes an exposition of all the passages declaring God’s sentiments towards sinners, which is consistent with their plain, obvious meaning, and which relieves at a touch all the exegetical throes and writhings inflicted on those texts. For if God actually has a state of pity towards the sinner that dieth—although it does not rise to the executive grade of a volition to save him—why should he not say in his word that he has it? It is the exact expression of the state of the case. Washington had a sincere sentiment of compassion for André, which patriotism, wisdom, justice, restrained from the release of the criminal. Why should he not express it? Why should he not permit it to prompt him to send the condemned man comfortable food from his own table, and to protect him from every needless indignity? He would be an impertinent caviller, indeed, who should ask, Cui bono? [To whom is this a benefit; what good is this?] or should argue that all these manifestations of magnanimous tenderness were futile or deceptive, because still they permitted the destruction of their object. Cui bono? Who does not perceive these good ends: that the virtue and philanthropy of him who was to be the great pattern of American manhood might have their appropriate manifestation. That the claims of the divine attribute of pity might be illustrated for us all in our provocations by the homage of a Washington. That the unavoidable rigors of war might be mitigated so far as justice allowed. Now, our God is as high above the noblest human ruler as the heavens above the earth. But we see not why this fact destroys the propriety of his glorifying his own infinite goodness in the parallel way. Being omniscient, he is able to hold all the multifarious ends of his vast kingdom, from its foundation to its everlasting future, together in his mind. His government is, therefore, just so much the more a connected whole than that of any wise creature. Must it not follow that there is far more of inter-adjustment in his own views and aims? Among all those countless subordinated aims, the honor of his own character, as infinitely holy, equitable, true, and benevolent, is properly the ultimate convergent end. Hence it is worthy of him, not only that he should so reveal himself as to secure the salvation of the particular objects of his mercy, but that he should so fulfil his legislative functions, irrespective of men’s choosing to hear or to forbear, as to clear all his attributes of purity and goodness at once. Just as it is most right and worthy that he should tell men their duty correctly, whether he foresees their obedience or disobedience; so it is most worthy of his truth and benevolence that he shall acquit himself by exhorting men from their own self-destruction, whether they reject or accept his mercy. (Robert Dabney, God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy)

    As Dabney says, God may very well, and indeed will by nature act fully to satisfy his desires of attitude—yet he does so precisely because they are subordinated to “the ultimate convergent end” of his glorification, and thus ultimately will not rise to the level of ends in themselves, to be achieved. In the past, writing against Ron di Giocomo, I spoke of God’s simple moral desires as opposed to his teleological desires. This is just another way of talking about attitudes versus intentions. You could equally talk about God’s simple moral intentions and his teleological intentions—the moral intentions being subordinate and thus not ultimately determinative or efficacious. (Oddly, I wrote exactly about contingent desires against Ron, yet it never really “clicked” until much more recently, when I “rediscovered” the argument I’d forgotten making.)

    Anyway, I’m rambling; I plan to cover all this in a book called The Power of God, which will be a companion to The Wisdom of God and will focus on biblical metaphysics as opposed to epistemology—but a great deal more research is needed before I get that far, and I have yet to complete the second edition of The Wisdom of God even. I do wonder, though, how much such things would be necessary if people would just read the classics. Why does a book have to be recent to be read by most Christians if it’s just saying the same thing as one written a hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  11. James

    I don’t know Bnonn, the simplest solution here seems to be a high degree of human autonomy. And if one does not accept that then this is what we end up with – confusion. Like I said most of God’s stated goals in scripture do not come with tags – so how would we know which ones He intends to carry out and which ones are mere desires? If that does not induce confusion and insecurity into the Christian mind, then I don’t know what would. Perhaps He only desires (not intends) to save the elect.

  12. David

    Hey Dom,

    I appreciate what you are doing. It really is good to see folk interacting with these doctrines in a good way.

    The hierarchy of desires was made acceptable in America primarily through the work of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was able to show a way of seeing the psychology of God that was not trapped in the Greek view of mind. And so having multiple desires was now seen as acceptable.

    Dabney builds on this. The only problem with the language of active principles is that its a bit ambiguous. In other places he uses the word desire, such that God does desire the salvation of all men. I think that’s better language myself. Have you scoped out Howe on this? Dabney takes his lead from Howe. Howe is good in that he is one of the first to spot the problematic of the passive delight idea that many of the Protestant Scholastics were picking up on.

    Thanks for listening and take care,
    David

  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Thanks for the tip David; I’ll be sure to add Howe to my reading list.

  14. a helmet (Kehrhelm Kröger)

    Hello

    You seem to assume that we have no idea about whom God purposes to save. However, you miss the fact that we do know whom God purposes to save: the believers in the gospel.


    1. God purposes to save people.
    2. If God purposes to save people, then he knows which persons he purposes to save.

    God purposes, from the beginning to save the believers in his Son and these only.
    They did not exist in the beginning.


    3. Everything God purposes he accomplishes.

    That’s true.


    4. Therefore, every person God purposes to save he will save.

    That’s true, God intends to save all believers and all believers will be saved.


    5. Not every person without exception is saved.

    Because no everyone believes.


    6. Therefore, God does not purpose to save every person without exception.

    Right, he intends to save believers only and told us in his word in indisputable clarity. But that doesn’t prove that God has no universal salvific intent. Of course the salvific intent is universal. Since theoretically everyone might believe, everyone might be saved. Everyone is included in the intent.

  15. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I addressed this objection in the article. If it succeeds, then God does not have perfect definite foreknowledge. You’re trying to uphold God’s universal salvific intent by obfuscating his intentions toward specific people behind a non-specific statement about his purpose re the means of salvation. But of course, that generic statement actually entails any number of specific statements: if God purposes to save everyone who believes in his Son, then God purposes to save specific people, because specific people believe in his Son.

    If you want to say that God purposes to save anyone who believes in his Son, but that God doesn’t know who each of those people are, then you are denying that God has perfect definite foreknowledge. If, on the other hand, you agree that God has perfect definite foreknowledge of who specifically will believe in his Son, then my argument succeeds.

  16. Jim Houx

    Hey Bnonn,

    Just found your blog and was taking a gander. This is such an old article but I definitely wanted to see what you had to say on the issue, so I read it.

    I am going to make a flat out tongue-in-cheek stance here, at the expense of sounding silly, but possibly rousing your own thoughts to something.

    All I have to say at the moment is this: Your way of speaking above sounds like something an atheist would say. It sounds like the same kind of cold statements that don’t necessarily equate, because Western (and typically Atheist) thinking does not accept the fact that a thing can be black and white simultaneously. Contradictions can be true and your whole way of talking seems to come from the western/atheist/greek mindset.

    Hebrew people thought more like eastern philosophy.

    Also, I will point out something else. You quote KJV a lot, which I love. Textus Receptus all the way, baby. But do you realize that all the connotations of the words have been completely lost from the original Hebrew? God spoke with word-pictures and highly emotional imagery in the original language. So I always put forth this question:

    How can we possibly make cold, calculated rational logic arguments and arrive at sound conclusions when clearly God himself never even spoke to man in such a manner? Somehow it seems debase, misguided, and not at all the way Christ even spoke or wanted us to. I can’t possibly imagine Christ standing about today and listening to such rhetoric.

    In fact, I would even equate the Calvinist vs Arminist rhetoric to the same kind of talk probably spouted by the Teachers of the Law. The Bible spends more time showing Christ in his intimacy with humanity and emotional nature than it does ever showing his specific thoughts on various laws and subject matter. That ought to clue us in on something, especially since God wrote it.

  17. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Jim, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be tongue-in-cheek too, if you don’t mind :)

    Since you think black can be white and contradictions can be true, I’m going to assume your comment above is actually agreeing with my conclusion, and that you didn’t mean to present any logical reasons to disbelieve my argument.

    Btw, I never quote the KJV; I use the ESV fairly exclusively.

  18. Pedro Corso

    1. God purposes to save us all.
    2. God purposes to give us free will.
    3. #2 goes in conflict with #1, as someone can reject his salvation, because this someone has free will.
    3.1 The conflict of the two premises continues by stating that someone who has free will can make sins, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be saved.
    4. The only way God could get through this is to sacrifice (fully or partially) #1 for the sake of #2.
    5. Therefore, God will only save the ones that want and deserve to be saved.

    Sorry for my english.

  19. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Pedro, so it looks like you’re rejecting my premise (3). But the problem with that is (3) comes straight out of Isaiah 46:9-11. So while you save one part of your theology, you wreck another part (inerrancy).

    I’d also point out that there’s no clear reason God cannot bring about a world where everyone has free will and everyone is saved. Surely you would agree, under your own assumptions, that a world where everyone freely chooses God is possible? If so, premises (1) and (2) of your argument are not in conflict, so your argument fails internally as well as in relation to the Bible itself.

  20. Pedro Corso

    Premise (3) of your argument doesn’t necessarily need to be rejected. I’m saying that based on the assumption that God can purpose 2 different things that enters in conflict with each other, but also both of those things are compatible with God’s nature. In this case, even if premise (3) is true, God’s own nature make it impossible to fully accomplish both #1 and #2. Or he accomplish #1 or he accomplish #2, or he accomplish both #1 and #2, but only partially.

    That’s the case I’m showing here now, and that’s the case where an exception need to be made to (3). Therefore, I do not fully reject (3).

    That said, I still need to respond to your objection: is a world where everyone freely chooses God possible?

    I’ll make my argument assuming that God cannot go against logic, which means God cannot do something logically impossible.

    I’ll start with this: it’s logically impossible to cause or make someone freely chooses an action. That’s because either someone realizes himself some action or he is caused to do some action. Those are two contradictory ideas, therefore they cannot coexist in the same situation.

    Let’s have an example of a situation (A) where a person who has free will (Charles) receives a gift. There are only two possible situations:

    a. Charles freely choses to accept the gift.

    b. Charles freely choses to reject the gift.

    God cannot create a situation where (a) and (b) happens simultaneously, because it’s against logic.

    If we put Charles in a similar situation, where he receives money to kill someone or to make some sort crime, we have that he can freely accept or freely reject it. In this case, (a) is a wrong action, but the choice is up to Charles. If God causes Charles to make only the right decisions, then Charles cannot have free will, because then there is no possible situation where Charles can choose (a), even though that’s a valid option, and he should be able to choose it.

    No matter which situation God creates to someone who has free will, it’s logic to assume that this person will end up making at least one wrong choice. Can Charles live his life freely without making wrong choices? Maybe yes, but with the free will in play, God is always depending on Charles, which makes the possibilty of choosing wrong things true.

    And even if you prove me wrong, there is no way of escaping from the conclusion, because people actually do evil things. This is an observable fact. For now, my argument stays untouchable… yet.

  21. Pedro Corso

    Sorry for double post, but I suggest an alteration for (3): Everything God can purpose he accomplishes.

    And also, thanks for your attention.

  22. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Pedro, I agree that under your view, God cannot cause free actions.

    However, you presumably believe that God can infallibly know what Charles will freely choose in any given situation (scientia media I believe is what Roman Catholics call this).

    That being the case, and since you admit there is a possible world in which Charles goes through life making no wrong choices, why could God not create that possible world?

    In fact, for the context of our discussion, God doesn’t even need to create the world where Charles makes no wrong choices. He only needs to create a world in which Charles, at some point in his life, freely chooses Jesus. That’s a fairly broad gamut to work with.

    Now, if there are many possible worlds where Charles freely chooses Jesus, then surely there is at least one possible world in which everyone who ever lives freely chooses Jesus. It may not be the same people as lived in our actual world, but there will be some world where everyone in it freely chooses salvation.

    If that is true, and if God purposes to save all people, it stands to reason God would purpose to create that world rather than this one.

    Yet God created this world instead.

    Ergo, God does not purpose to save all people.

  23. Pedro Corso

    I reject the way that my doctrine interprets God’s way of knowing everything. How could God know something that does not still exists, our future? Either way, I can choose:

    1. The future is not a part of the reality yet, therefore God doesn’t know about the future. This doesn’t affect God’s omniscience.

    2. God knows our future, but because he is out of the space/time. This way, God would see all our timeline as a dot, not a line (because that’s our perception), and then he’d be able to see everything, but not to predict.

    In either way the future is caused directly by our choices, and the future cannot be predicted by God. I could just reject your argument saying that it’s not necessarily true, and even possibly false. Because in this case, we cannot even know if your statement that there is a possible world where everyone chooses Jesus is true.

  24. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Heh, well I think you are spot on with your analysis of God’s knowledge, if we assume free will is indeterministic.

    Unfortunately, it seems obviously wrong for you to say that God’s not knowing the future doesn’t affect his omniscience. Using the same old word to describe a completely new and different idea doesn’t magically mean you’re still talking about the same thing.

    Isaiah 46:9-11 places clear bounds on what God’s omniscience entails, and clearly links it with his omnipotence. He knows the future because he brings the future about. Under your view, however, that simply isn’t the case. You can keep calling God “omniscient” on your view, but he certainly isn’t omniscient or omnipotent in the biblical sense. He is just a powerful entity who brings the world into existence, but then is relegated to a passive observational role. That’s not even open theism—it’s just deism.

    Because in this case, we cannot even know if your statement that there is a possible world where everyone chooses Jesus is true.

    That’s fine—if you’re willing to pay a conceptual price so high that you end up rejecting Christian theism altogether, I’m not going to stop you. My argument is aimed at people who want to maintain the Christian doctrines of omniscience and omnipotence, rather than reject them.

  25. Pedro Corso

    Then I must reformulate my point of view, I guess?

    1. God will accomplish everything he can purpose.
    2. God purposes to save every one.
    3. God purposes to give everyone free will.
    4. God cannot accomplish #2 and #3 simultaneously because:

    a) One can choose not to be saved.

    b) One can live his life in a way that he won’t deserve the salvation.

    5. Therefore, God will only save the ones who chooses him and deserves to be saved by him.

    Objection: a world where everyone can freely choose God is possible, therefore your argument is invalid.

    Response:

    1. If God is truly benevolent, he’d rather choose a world where everyone has free will and everyone can be saved at the same time.
    2. But it happens that he created this world instead.
    3. Therefore, a world where everyone gets saved and has free will simultaneously shall be/must be/should be impossible to create.

  26. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Pedro, I’m afraid everything falls down here:

    1. If God is truly benevolent, he’d rather choose a world where everyone has free will and everyone can be saved at the same time.
    2. But it happens that he created this world instead.
    3. Therefore, a world where everyone gets saved and has free will simultaneously shall be/must be/should be impossible to create.

    What justification do you have for (3)? Why think that it’s impossible for a world to exist in which everyone freely chooses salvation? In fact, not only does this seem absurd on the face of it, but indeed it seems as if there must be many such possible worlds. Surely it is possible that Adam and Eve freely chose salvation, and their only son was Jesus? Surely it is possible that Adam and Eve and Abel freely choose salvation, and Abel’s only sibling is Jesus? Etc etc. I just don’t see how you can feasibly claim that these things are not possible at all.

    So rather than (3) being an “obvious” answer, it seems to just beg the question or be a case of special pleading on your part—you’re drawing that conclusion not based on the actual evidence available, but on your theological precommitments. The actual conclusion which (1) and (2) seem to lead to is:

    3*. Therefore, God is not truly benevolent in the sense originally supposed (desiring universal salvation), or it is not true that everyone has free will.

  27. Pedro Corso

    Well, it just becomes impossible to me to think that God is actually not benevolent, and equally impossible is to me to think that we don’t have free will. And even if that’s not a proper argument, it becomes difficult to think in 7 billion (and increasing) people accepting God in some point of their lives. You must consider that even if there’s a point where someone accepts Jesus, this someone could also come back and reject Jesus as easily as he has accepted him.

    Everything becomes even more complicated when you think that, even if this person accepts Jesus, she can live a life in a way that she won’t deserve salvation. Multiply this by 7 bilion and you’ll get that it’s highly improbable that such a world could really come to existence.

    That’s not to mention Lucifer and his temptations.

    I still think that my argument is pretty solid as it stands.

  28. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Pedro, I never suggested that the world in which everyone freely chooses God would look like our world. In fact, obviously it would look quite different.

    The question is whether that world, in which everyone is freely saved, is possible.

    On the face of it, such a world is obviously possible. There is nothing logically inconsistent or physically impossible about any given person freely choosing salvation—and so there is nothing logically inconsistent or physically impossible about all people freely choosing salvation. That isn’t to say it is likely—but presumably you don’t think God is forced to rely on luck. He can create whatever world he wants, regardless of how rare it may be out of all the possible worlds he could create.

    If you want to say the “all saved” world is not possible, you need to show that something about it violates the laws of logic or nature.

    So I’m afraid I don’t share your optimistic assessment of your argument. Far from being “pretty solid”, at this point it is entirely insubstantial.

    Well, it just becomes impossible to me to think that God is actually not benevolent, and equally impossible is to me to think that we don’t have free will.

    Presumably you realize that I believe both that God is benevolent and that we have free will. Yet I don’t believe God purposes to save all people, and I don’t believe salvation is up to us. So the question is, why is it impossible for you to think that your particular idea of benevolence and free will could be false?

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