Growing in the Lord

Determinism (Part 2) – Scriptural problems

Is it possible for you to live a more holy life? Does God want you to sin? Does God grant grace to live in closer communion with Him? How? The answers to these questions are central to the Yield To God website.

In Part One, I presented one determinist’s horrifying words. In this one, I want to call attention to Mark Talbot’s words on the matter:

“It isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects… this includes God’s even having brought about the Nazi’s brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child.” (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p.41-42)The Final Solution to the Jewish Question: An Einsatzgruppe D soldier about to shoot a Jew kneeling at a partially filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union, in 1942. The Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary task forces whose main purpose

I have read the entire article quoted, and I assure the reader that sadly Talbot is saying exactly what it sounds like he is saying. Indeed, he goes into great details about such atrocities, to hammer home the point that he believes God has brought about every detail of every sin, including every desire and impulse which provoked such sin. One popular author of a systematic theology compared our actions to those of actors, while God is the scriptwriter who has already determined everything we will do.

In such a view, it is quite accurate to compare us puppet-1229899_960_720to marionettes who have been imbued with a miraculous spark of consciousness and the illusion of free will, unaware of the strings controlling our every desire and action.

As I pointed out in the first post, this view is gaining popularity and what used to be spoken of only in vague terms is now being preached more openly and with a strange fervor, as though it glorifies God by Him being powerful over sin, of having purposeful sin. I mentioned that one can imagine the book now: “40 Days of Purpose-Driven Sin – Finding God’s Glory in the Scripting of your Depraved Acts.

Obviously Sproul Jr’s view rejects the very heart of this website, because our emphasis is on yielding to God as the source of all goodness and only goodness, and that that we can truly yield to Him, or truly resist His work in our hearts. Determinism makes nonsense of this – positing both that we cannot actually resist God’s work, and that every sin we commit is just as much a part of God’s will for us as every act of prayer and worship.

 


BIBLICAL TESTIMONY REJECTS DETERMINISM

The Bible presents a genuine cosmic war between powers of evil and free agents (Eph. 6). Jesus came to “destroy the works of the Devil,” including sin and death (1 John 3:8, Hebrews 2:14cf). He was not destroying that which He prescripted as His “Plan A” from eternity past.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Fall_of_the_Rebel_Angels_-_Google_Art_Project

God declares that there are sins which “I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind they should do such a thing” (Jer. 19:5). Yet in divine determinism the reader must believe that God was the one who invented the idea for them to sin in this way, and then ensured that every desire, thought, and action in bringing forth the sin was likewise from His irresistible decree.

God’s grace is needed for us to do good, but if God predetermines all things, then how do we make sense of His statements about Himself?

What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? (Isaiah 5:4)

So then, God can give us as much sufficient grace as possible without eliminating our personhood, and intend that such grace will yield the results He desires, yet clearly Isaiah 5:4 shows a time when people choose to resist this work in their lives. This is contrary to divine determinism: if God had decreed – in a Deterministic way – that the Israelites would yield only bad fruit, then it makes no sense for Him to look for good grapes.

Even more to the point, if this extremist brand of “sovereignty” were true, it would mean that every sin you struggle to hand over to God is a sin He prescripted you to desire to do and to unfailingly carry out. This is clearly unbiblical, because God promises “the way of escape“:

 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  1 Cor. 10:13

If divine determinism is true, then God has already prescripted you to desire to sin and to inescapably fall into that sin. There would be no possible way is it true that God has provided a way of escape so that you “may” be able to bear it. This promise would be false on the face of it.

Furthermore, in determinism He actually withholds grace from you to render it certain that you would sin; He certainly isn’t giving you “everything needed for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Rather, He has prescripted you to sin repeatedly and then scripted you to ask for grace which He has likewise decided to grant only in partial, unsatisfying, insufficient measure.

To use the words popular in this group which promotes divine determinism, it is only God’s “revealed will” that these promises of sufficient grace are true – His “secret, higher will” is that He wanted you to sin and thus scripted you to do so. So not only does God want you to sin, but He lies to you about it and tells you He doesn’t want you to sin.

This is not the Biblical portrait of God or the spiritual war we find ourselves in. A view of God which exalts the philosophy of determinism as “God’s secret higher will” over the words and promises of Scripture (merely God’s “revealed will”) must be rejected by the Christian.

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God has indeed determined some things such as the places we will be born. But He has done this for the express purpose that all would seek Him:

[God] marked out [nation’s] appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

While we need God’s grace to come to Him, this is a grace that is abundant and free to all. Jesus is “the Savior of all men,” “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins – and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” Jesus bought “even false teachers who deny Him,” and God says “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked would repent,” (Titus 2:13, 1 Tim 4:10, 1 John 2:2. 2 Peter 2:1, Eze. 18). God expresses His unrequited saving love for Israel, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21), and his affection for the children who came to Him, declaring that it was not the Father’s will that any of them would perish (Matt. 18).

“Free will,” ultimately denied by divine determinism, is used in the Bible 20 times (Exodus 35:29, Exodus 36:3, Leviticus 7:16, Leviticus 22:18, Leviticus 22:21, Leviticus 22:23, Leviticus 23:38, Numbers 15:3, Numbers 29:39, Deuteronomy 12:6, Deuteronomy 12:17, Deuteronomy 16:10, 2 Chronicles 31:14, Ezra 1:4, Ezra 1:6, Ezra 2:68, Ezra 3:5, Ezra 7:16, Ezra 8:28, Psalm 54:6, Ezekiel 46:12, Amos 4:5). It is in hundreds of other places elsewhere presumed to be the case. Such freedom is enabled by grace, so that we may enter into a real relationship of love with Him as creatures in His image.


SUMMARY

Determinism makes nonsense of the promises and goodness of God. It is not biblical, it is not historical Christianity, and it is philosophically bankrupt.

The proper view is that although God has allowed evil and its consequences to have their effects in the world, He is working to redeem all the people who will come to Him and all the situations in their lives. God is a God who genuinely redeems genuinely evil situations, not a God who sends evil to you or prescripts you to sin so that He may appear to redeem it and you. Through both His foreknowledge and His plan, (two different things, Acts 2:23, yet conflated by determinists), God is able to turn any situation for good. “All things”, we are told: even things such as America’s current presidential election.

Categories: Growing in the Lord

5 replies »

  1. I’m interested to know if you would say that anything can happen outside God’s will? If not, then these atrocities are happening inside God’s will, and once you agree to that what is the difference in saying that they are planned by God or allowed by Him (as you mentioned in your summary)? It almost seems like an issue of semantics if you follow this trail. Either way, God is all powerful and yet these evil things are taking/have taken place.

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    • Great question, and I’m glad you felt comfortable to bring it up since this is the sort of objection that is often raised. Actually, Tertullian in 200AD summarized the Church’s stance to this objection. I’ll reply in more detail tomorrow, but for now I would point to the difference between 1) God desiring evil to occur as His Plan A, versus 2) allowing the possibility of it as a metaphysical necessity within the framework of His highest purpose: love with other beings in His image. I discuss this in the post “Trinity…Love…Theosis,” which ties these issues together nicely. Also, the Ravi Zacharias video in the right sidebar very briefly addresses this subject.
      Blessings,
      Micah

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  2. Also, not to be contentious, but because I truly find this kind of theological conversation interesting, what are your thoughts in regards to this on Amos 3:6: “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (ESV)

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    • No contention sensed. 🙂

      God indeed is the Judge of all the Earth and claims responsibility for bringing calamitous judgments upon people. The key here is that it is judicial calamity, not moral evil. Tertullian makes the distinction between these ‘evils’ or punishment vs. morality, (see here: http://wp.me/P7w380-EJ ). In this regard Augustine is in line with early consensus as well: “Evil, which is sin, the Lord hath not done; evil, which is punishment for sin, the Lord bringeth.”

      Particularly in the case of Amos 3:6 the Lord makes it very clear that this is punishment for their moral evil. Chapters 1 through 2 are nothing but explanations of why God is going to bring punishment. Amos 3:2 says, “I will punish you for all your iniquities.” All this is no problem for the early consensus view of Providence.

      What *would* be very difficult to assert is to say that God had secretly ordained for everyone to desire and to commit all the sins that God is punishing them for. That is the aspect of Determinism that leads to very problematic issues in the nature of God and our ability to rest in His provision of holiness through His Spirit in the riches of Christ.

      There are lots of verses Determinists might use (I’d say about 50-150, depending on how far one stretches them), but in my estimation along with the early church, none of them can genuinely support the weight determinists want to place upon them.

      What’s your take on it?

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