Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7

Concluding Argument for Divine Omniscience and Exhaustive Foreknowledge of God The Open Theist argues that if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, then all human action will be necessarily actualized since God’s ‘beliefs’ about future events cannot be falsified. But this would make it impossible to hold humans responsible for their acts if they cannot but act … Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7”

Concluding Argument for Divine Omniscience and Exhaustive Foreknowledge of God

The Open Theist argues that if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, then all human action will be necessarily actualized since God’s ‘beliefs’ about future events cannot be falsified. But this would make it impossible to hold humans responsible for their acts if they cannot but act necessarily. We must choose between God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom. However, the undeniable fact of life is contingent human action. The logical recourse is to reduce significantly, if not decisively, the scope of divine foreknowledge to preserve human freedom.

The Open Theist’s argument is premised on a false dilemma that one must choose between the ‘necessities’ of divine foreknowledge and contingent libertarian freedom. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7”

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7

The purpose of this post is to clarify the conceptual categories and the finely balanced relationship between necessity and contingency underlying the Reformed doctrine of meticulous providence and human freedom. I. Distinction between Natural and Free Causes Reformed Scholaticism frames the relation between God as the Creator and the world as his creation by using … Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7”

The purpose of this post is to clarify the conceptual categories and the finely balanced relationship between necessity and contingency underlying the Reformed doctrine of meticulous providence and human freedom.

I. Distinction between Natural and Free Causes
Reformed Scholaticism frames the relation between God as the Creator and the world as his creation by using ontological concepts like cause and effect. A further distinction is made between subjects with attributes of freedom (free causes) and subjects without that quality (natural causes).

A cause produces an act, and either the act or the state of affairs brought forward by the act is called the effect.

A natural cause is of such a nature that it could produce only one kind of act. Hence, it is called a necessary cause. Example, fire always burns and animals are driven by instincts.
A free cause is able to act variously at different times and structurally at one and the same moment. The effect of free causes are contingent or free. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Supplementary Reading on Necessary and Contingent Cause and Effect. Part 7(a)/7”

Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts

Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate. Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts: 1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free … Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”

Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate.

Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts:
1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free will includes the power to determine the will itself, so that a person with free will can will more than one thing. Compatibilists typically view free will as the power to act in accordance with one’s own will rather than being constrained by some external cause, allowing that the will itself may ultimately be causally determined by something beyond the self. Hard determinists deny the existence of free will altogether. Most Christian theologians agree that humans possess free will in some sense but disagree about what kind of freedom is necessary. The possession of free will does not entail an ability not to sin, since human freedom is shaped and limited by human character. Thus a human person may be free to choose among possibilities in some situations but still be unable to avoid all sin. /1/ Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”

Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7

Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom [Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered … Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”

Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom

[Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered insignificant and fate becomes inescapable as the future inexorably unfolds with relentless logic following an impersonal decree set by God at the beginning.

The fundamental error of identifying Providence with determinism is the de-personalization of the God-concept. Scripture rejects rigid determinism because the almighty power of the personal living God embraces freedom and responsibility of the creature] Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”

Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.

  Robert Kane clears away several confusions that have led critics like libertarians and Arminians wrongly to reject compatibilism and Calvinistic on grounds that determinism negates freedom. 1. “Don’t confuse determinism with constraint, coercion, or compulsion.” Freedom is the opposite of constraint, coercion, and compulsion compatibilists insist; but it is not the opposite of determinism. … Continue reading “Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.”

 

Robert Kane clears away several confusions that have led critics like libertarians and Arminians wrongly to reject compatibilism and Calvinistic on grounds that determinism negates freedom.

1. “Don’t confuse determinism with constraint, coercion, or compulsion.” Freedom is the opposite of constraint, coercion, and compulsion compatibilists insist; but it is not the opposite of determinism. Constraint, coercion, and compulsion act against our wills, preventing us from doing or choosing what we want. By contrast, determinism does not necessarily act against our wills; nor does it always prevent us from doing what we want. Causal determinism, to be sure, does mean that all events follow from earlier events in accordance with invariable laws of nature. But, say compatibilists, it is a mistake to think that laws of nature constrain us…But, in fact, the existence of laws of nature indicates only that certain events follow others according to regular patterns. To be governed by laws of nature is not to be in chains.

2. “Don’t confuse causation with constraint.” Compatibilists also insist that it is constraints, not mere causes of any kind, that undermine freedom. Continue reading “Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.”

Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able … Continue reading “Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7”

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able to choose between alternative possibilities with equal ease. Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism) rejects this so-called “power of contrary choice” or the “liberty of indifference”, and contends that choice is not a matter of indifference; we always chose what we personally want. We also act in accordance to our nature, motives and desires. Our choices change under different circumstances, but ultimately they follow what appears to be the most compelling motive for the moment.

Since God by virtue of his omniscience knows exhaustively our motives, he is able to foreknow and foreordain (elicit) specific human choices under appropriate circumstances ordered through his meticulous providence. We act according to what God has foreknown; nevertheless our choices and actions which follow our strongest motives are voluntary since they are not coerced. That is to say, divine foreknowledge is compatible with voluntary human choice. Continue reading “Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7”

Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7

The two main rivals of the doctrine of providence are deism and pantheism: (1) Deism envisages God leaving creation alone, having endowed it with inherent powers to operate according to its inbuilt laws. (2) Pantheism does not distinguish God from the world. Since God’s action or providence are identical with the course of nature, there … Continue reading “Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7”

The two main rivals of the doctrine of providence are deism and pantheism:
(1) Deism envisages God leaving creation alone, having endowed it with inherent powers to operate according to its inbuilt laws.
(2) Pantheism does not distinguish God from the world. Since God’s action or providence are identical with the course of nature, there is no independent or secondary causes in the outworking of creation.

[I am leaving out the philosophical theory of occasionalism, represented by Al-Ghazali (Muslim) and Malebranche (Christian) to keep the post simple, and so as not to burden some of my readers who may problems following complicated philosophical discussions. Occasionalism teaches that created beings are absolutely devoid of causal powers and all events are directly caused by God. God is directly, immediately and solely responsible for bringing about all phenomena.]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) strikes a balance between these two rival positions in its article on the decrees of God.

God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3:1) Continue reading “Models of Divine and Human Action in Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 2/7”

The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7

  What is Providence? Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. Budding theologians who are eager to display their critical acumen by … Continue reading “The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7”

 

What is Providence?

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

Budding theologians who are eager to display their critical acumen by challenging traditional doctrines like the Trinity, the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross, somehow give the doctrine of providence a pass. It seems that the doctrine of providence enjoys a privilege status and commands universal assent. For theists, it is intuitive and logical to conclude that God must be sovereign in sustaining, directing and ruling over the world in exhaustive detail if he is to be worthy of trust and worship. Continue reading “The Providence of God – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 1/7”