St. John Cassian: On Grace and Free Will

Update: John Hendryx, of the Monergism.com site I reference below, has opened up a discussion with me here. See below in the comments.

In the very first post in this soteriology diablog, along with contending that monergism was a heresy, I also claimed that the author of the site, John Hendryx, made a caricature of synergism, essentially creating a straw man which he can knock down and claim that “synergism” is a heresy and unbiblical. One of the clearest examples of this caricature of true synergism is his A Prayer That a Synergist Won’t Pray.

The following prayer is indeed a caricature that no synergist would dare pray, but is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology:

“God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith … This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. I made better use of Your offer of salvation than others did. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the action of Your Holy Spirit.”

Which just goes to show that Mr. Hendryx has no clue whatsoever what true synergism is. But then he has his own heresy to establish. (He also has a complete misconstrual of synergism in his straw man chart, Two Views of Regeneration by John Hendryx.)

On the Monergism.com website is this quote by A. A. Hodge:

“The Semi-Pelagian doctrine taught by John Cassian (d. 440) admits that divine grace (assistance) is necessary to enable a sinner to return unto God and live, yet holds that, from the nature of the human will, man may first spontaneously, of himself, desire and attempt to choose and obey God. They deny the necessity of prevenient but admit the necessity of cooperative grace and conceive regeneration as the product of this cooperative grace.” A.A. Hodge (The Semi-Pelagian Theology of John Cassian)

There is also this outrageous comment:

Eastern Orthodox will argue that Cassian was not a semi-pelagian (and fail to explain why not) but Cassian himself saw grace and freedom as parallel, grace always cooperating with the human will for man’s salvation.” (p. 56; cf. Phil. 2:12-13) He teaches that the grace of God always invites, precedes and helps our will, and whatever gain freedom of will may attain for its pious effect is not its own desert, but the gift of grace.” (The Semi-Pelagian Theology of John Cassian)

I have decided to take up that challenge, to both show that St. John is not a semi-Pelagian, and that Mr. Hendryx completely mischaracterizes synergism. I will use St. John Cassian’s Conferences, XIII (the third conference with Abba Chaeremon) to do so. But first some caveats. St. John is not a systematic writer, or a systematic theologian. If he is anything, he is an ascetical theologian. And the context in which he takes up this issue is that of Christian askesis. He also makes comments which, lifted out of the context of the thirteenth Conference as a whole, do seem to support the accusations of his critics. But those disclaimers notwithstanding, it is clear from the whole of the conference St. John is not a semi-Pelagian, nor is the synergism in his writings in any way accurately described by the comments cited above.

The other caveat that needs to be stated, is that the understanding of the role of human will and deliberation in the context of salvation and eschatology was given a much more rigorous and Christological framework in St. Maximus the Confessor in the sixth century, and sharpened yet again by St. Gregory Palamas in the thirteenth century. But to explore these issues are beyond the scope of this single post (which will itself be perhaps too extensive in its reach). So I will limit myself to St. John Cassian’s words in the thirteenth Conference.

First, we need to clarify the terms Pelagianism, and then semi-Pelagianism. Pelagius and his followers essentially taught that there is no such thing as original sin. Adam’s fall affected only himself. Human nature as created is good and able to will the good, and each person born is born with the same nature with which Adam was created. This meant that the will was entirely free, and that man, by his own effort could achieve spiritual advancement. It’s important to remember that Pelagius was a monk, and that this doctrine, though heretical, came out of a context of spiritual askesis. Pelagius, heretic though he was, was intent on preserving moral responsibility before God. He rightly surmised that if all human nature had been affected by Adam’s fall, that the freedom of the human will would be affected, which would diminish personal responsibility and therefore guilt.

St. Augustine, in combatting the error of Pelagius, emphasized the complete corruption of human nature, such that the will was not at all free and utterly reliant on God. This, obviously, led to certain other necessary conclusions: that each person through human nature inherited Adam’s guilt, that God foreknew and therefore predestined all the elect, and that the elect had a specific number, and so forth. One should also keep in mind Augustine’s background, especially as related in the Confessions. Augustine had definitely experienced his will as in bondage to his fallen nature, and God’s work in his life seemed wholly outside his own cooperation.

In other words, both Pelagius and St. Augustine were monergists of a sort (though perhaps not in the modern sense): Pelagius in that the work of salvation was fundamentally human, with which God “cooperated;” St. Augustine that the work of salvation was fundamentally divine, within which the human will was moved to “cooperate.”

The term, semi-Pelagian (which itself did not arise till the eighteenth century, and so was not applied to the controversy in antiquity), however, as applied to St. John Cassian, is just simply wrong and pejorative. St. John and other of his contemporaries recognized that both Pelagius and St. Augustine taught things that the Church Fathers themselves had not taught, but of the two, Pelagius was the heretic. No, if St. John and his contemporaries were “semi-” anything, they were semi-Augustinians. As we will see, St. John agrees with St. Augustine that all of human nature is fallen. Like St. Augustine, he recognizes that salvation is primarily (both temporally and providentially) God’s work. The main difference between St. Augustine and St. John is to what extent the will is free to act on its own in cooperation with God’s salvific work. (For the above, cf. the following articles: Semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism)

Having briefly clarified terms, we can now look at St. John’s thirteenth Conference.

One of the primary texts from this conference that is taken out of context to make of St. John a semi-Pelagian is the following:

And so the manifold wisdom of God grants with manifold and inscrutable kindness salvation to men; and imparts to each one according to his capacity the grace of His bounty, so that He wills to grant His healing not according to the uniform power of His Majesty but according to the measure of the faith in which He finds each one, or as He Himself has imparted it to each one.(Conferences, XIII.15)

This is where monergists and those who attack St. John’s supposed semi-Pelagianism gravitate. After all, where could it be more clear? God grants his grace according to the measure of the faith he finds in each person, right? We will, then God joins in and helps us. But we respond first.

But not so fast. To that text, we could juxtapose the following:

But let no one imagine that we have brought forward these instances to try to make out that the chief share in our salvation rests with our faith, according to the profane notion of some who attribute everything to free will and lay down that the grace of God is dispensed in accordance with the desert of each man: but we plainly assert our unconditional opinion that the grace of God is superabounding, and sometimes overflows the narrow limits of man’s lack of faith. (Conferences, XIII.16)

Here St. John condemns precisely the criticism that monergists apply to him. But we must be careful here. St. John is expressly condemning Pelgianism here. But he is also asserting that the ultimate cause is God’s grace, not man. Indeed, it is in fact that lack of a man’s faith in which God’s grace superabounds. What could be clearer here? St. John is not predicating God’s grace on man’s own faith.

This is merely an introduction to several more texts that we will consider. We will consider these texts under the rubrics of human nature, God’s actions in salvation, man’s actions in salvation, and how man and God both act in salvation.

The Nature of Man

Human nature is one of the great divides between monergists and synergists. Both monergists and synergists believe God is sovereign. Both monergists and synergists believe that salvation is accomplished by God and extended to us in grace. Both monergists and syngergists believe human nature is fallen. Where they disagree is on the extent of that fallenness.

This is why St. John is not a semi-Pelagian. Contra Pelagius, he believes human nature to be fallen, and every person has a fallen nature. While St. John is not clear, in a systematic way, as to what extent human nature is fallen, he is clear that human nature is fallen.

For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. (Conferences, XIII.12)

Here St. John clearly asserts the freedom of the will to will the good. He expressly rejects the Augustinian notion of the complete bondage of the will. He bases his declaration on the biblical account of Adam:

And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: “Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil?” For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: “God made man upright,” i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, “But they have sought out many imaginations,” for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before.(Conferences, XIII.12, emphasis added)

In other words, Adam did, indeed, fall, but he did not fall so as to be incapable of knowing the good along with the evil he had not previously known from experience. Furthermore, this applies not only to Adam, but to his descendents through history as well.

Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men.” And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: “Hear ye deaf, and ye blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? and blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers?” And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: “Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears;” and again: “having eyes, but ye see not; and ears, but ye hear not.” . . . (Conferences, XIII.12)

Note here, he is not just stating that we have a knowledge of good but are unable to do it. Indeed, we have both the knowledge and the freedom of will to do good things. He makes this clear by calling to mind David and his building of the Temple.

Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: “And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas thou hast thought in thine heart to build a house to My name, thou hast well done in having this same thing in thy mind. Nevertheless thou shall not build a house to My name.” This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. (Conferences, XIII.12, emphasis added)

But just because man can do good, does not mean that that good is efficacious to bring about our salvation or that it is meritorious in some way.

And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: “Neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor [i. e., the Shepherd of Hermas], where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.” And therefore he warns Timothy and says: “Neglect not the grace of God which is in thee;” and again: “For which cause I exhort thee to stir up the grace of God which is in thee.” . . . (Conferences, XIII.12, emphasis added)

In other words, for St. John, human nature is fallen, but is still able to know and will the good, and indeed, even to do that which is good. In the text above, he implies that human striving does not accomplish personal salvation, though personal salvation does not happen apart from human striving. Those implications will be seen more clearly in the following texts.

Before we move on to those texts, we need to be clear. How it is that nature is both fallen and yet able to know and do the good is not spelled out by St. John. And given the questions which have arisen historically in the wake of the Pelagian controversy, St. John can be misread. Those later soteriological and Christological wrestlings clarified more than St. John does here, how it is that man is fallen yet able still to know and do the good. Indeed, St. John himself, in his other work, Institutes, beginning in Book V, gives a non-systematic answer, in that human nature has been “infected” with the passions. That is to say, human nature shares in death with Adam, and that mortal nature allows for a distortion of the human nature through the personal embrace of the passions. (The Fathers differ in whether the passions are distortions of human nature, or completely alien to human nature, but are agreed that they distort the nature God created.)

But one needs to keep in mind that the teaching St. John espoused was not rejected by the historic Church, but was the foundation for the later clarifications which came to fruition in St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Symeon the New Theologian and St. Gregory Palamas. That teaching emphasized that any nature God creates is good and naturally wills the good. Thus, so long as our nature is human, there is, as St. John clearly understands, the capacity to know and to will the good that is God.

The Work of God in Salvation

So, what does God do, according to St. John, in salvation? Does he merely just jump start the will? Does he wait till the will inclines toward him? Does he thoroughly encompass the will such that beginning to end it is all God’s work, and not that of the will? The answer that St. John will emphasize again and again is that salvation entails both divine and human action.

And therefore though in many things, indeed in everything, it can be shown that men always have need of God’s help, and that human weakness cannot accomplish anything that has to do with salvation by itself alone, i.e., without the aid of God . . . . And all these matters, as we cannot desire them continuously without divine inspiration, so in no respect whatever can we perform them without His help. (Conferences, XIII.6)

What could be clearer that St. John does not teach that God merely adds his salvific work on top of the human will? It is first and last God’s work. But it is also man’s work. Unfortunately St. John’s critics choose to focus on texts like the following out of their context:

And when His goodness sees in us even the very smallest spark of good will shining forth, which He Himself has struck as it were out of the hard flints of our hearts, He fans and fosters it and nurses it with His breath, as He “willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” for as He says, “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” . . . (Conferences, XIII.7)

But even this text, taken out of context, has to be misread in defiance of its prima facie statement: God sees the “very smallest spark of good will” but where did that will come from? “He Himself has struck as it were out of the hard flint of our hearts.” That is to say, God, himself is the cause of the spark he looks for, and fans into flame.

But lest we think this is an anomaly in St. John’s teaching, he says again:

. . . For the goodness and love of God, which He ever shows to mankind,-since it is overcome by no injuries so as to cease from caring for our salvation, or be driven from His first intention, as if vanquished by our iniquities,-could not be more fitly described by any comparison than the case of a man inflamed with most ardent love for a woman, who is consumed by a more burning passion for her, the more he sees that he is slighted and despised by her. The Divine protection then is inseparably present with us, and so great is the kindness of the Creator towards His creatures, that His Providence not only accompanies it, but actually constantly precedes it, as the prophet experienced and plainly confessed, saying: “My God will prevent me with His mercy.” (Conferences, XIII.8, emphasis added)

Which precedes the following passage:

And when He sees in us some beginnings of a good will, He at once enlightens it and strengthens it and urges it on towards salvation, increasing that which He Himself implanted or which He sees to have arisen from our own efforts. For He says “Before they cry, I will hear them: While they are still speaking I will hear them;” and again: “As soon as He hears the voice of thy crying, He will answer thee.” And in His goodness, not only does He inspire us with holy desires, but actually creates occasions for life and opportunities for good results, and shows to those in error the direction of the way of salvation. (Conferences, XIII.8, emphasis added)

This last citation is again one of the many texts taken out of context to prove St. John was a semi-Pelagian. But again, even this passage shows that St. John does not attribute efficacious salvation to the human will.

And to prove that the cooperation of God’s saving grace with the human will cannot include any merit on the part of man, or any ability to effect his own salvation, St. John writes:

And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man’s sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God’s grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eternal bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David’s single word which he uttered: “I have sinned against the Lord,” and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: “The Lord also hath put away thine iniquity: thou shalt not die.” The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. Again it was his own doing that he was humbled and acknowledged his guilt; but that in a very short interval of time he was granted pardon for such sins, this was the gift of the merciful Lord. And what shall we say of this brief confession and of the incomparable infinity of Divine reward, when it is easy to see what the blessed Apostle, as he fixes his gaze on the greatness of future remuneration, announced on those countless persecutions of his? “for,” says he, “our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” of which elsewhere he constantly affirms, saying that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us.” However much then human weakness may strive, it cannot come up to the future reward, nor by its efforts so take off from Divine grace that it should not always remain a free gift. And therefore the aforesaid teacher of the Gentiles, though he bears his witness that he had obtained the grade of the Apostolate by the grace of God, saying: “By the grace of God I am what I am,” yet also declares that he himself had corresponded to Divine Grace, where he says: “And His Grace in me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: and yet not I, but the Grace of God with me.”For when he says: “I laboured,” he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: “yet not I, but the grace of God,” he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: “with me,” he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort. (Conferences, XIII.13, emphasis added)

Once again, St. John is not stating these things in such a systematic way as to allow us to demarcate off where God’s work begins and ends and where man’s work begins and ends. But that, as we are about to see, is precisely his point.

The Work of Man in Salvation

We are already clear that whatever man does in salvation is not efficacious nor meritorious in accomplishing that salvation.

. . . the blessed old man [i. e., Abbot Chaeremon] had by the addition of a single sentence broken down the claims of man’s exertions, adding that man even though he strive with all his might for a good result, yet cannot become meter of what is good unless he has acquired it simply by the gift of Divine bounty and not by the efforts of his own toil.(Conferences, XIII.1)

But that man’s work is unnecessary to salvation is flatly rejected by St. John as well.

. . . human pride should never try to put itself on a level with the grace of God or to intermingle itself with it, so as to fancy that its own efforts were the cause of Divine bounty, or to boast that a very plentiful crop of fruits was an answer to the merits of its own exertions. . . . the initiative not only of our actions but also of good thoughts comes from God, who inspires us with a good will to begin with, and supplies us with the opportunity of carrying out what we rightly desire: for “every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from above, from the Father of lights,” who both begins what is good . . . . (Conferences, XIII.3)

In part, the work of man in his own salvation is a testimony to God’s saving grace itself. It is “necessary” in the sense that God has created man with free will and for man not to exercise that free will would be to resist God’s will. Of course, as we have seen, St. John doesn’t spell out the extent of man’s fallen human nature.

The Work of God and Man in Salvation

What St. John is clear about is that salvation is a synergistic cooperation between God and man. Against those critics who would make him a semi-Pelagian, St. John writes:

And so these [i. e., free will and omnipotence or providence] are somehow mixed up and indiscriminately confused, so that among many persons, which depends on the other is involved in great questionings, i.e., does God have compassion upon us because we have shown the beginning of a good will, or does the beginning of a good will follow because God has had compassion upon us? For many believing each of these and asserting them more widely than is right are entangled in all kinds of opposite errors. For if we say that the beginning of free will is in our own power, what about Paul the persecutor, what about Matthew the publican, of whom the one was drawn to salvation while eager for bloodshed and the punishment of the innocent, the other for violence and rapine? But if we say that the beginning of our free will is always due to the inspiration of the grace of God, what about the faith of Zaccheus, or what are we to say of the goodness of the thief on the cross, who by their own desires brought violence to bear on the kingdom of heaven and so prevented the special leadings of their vocation? But if we attribute the performance of virtuous acts, and the execution of God’s commands to our own will, how do we pray: “Strengthen, O God, what Thou hast wrought in us;” and “The work of our hands stablish Thou upon us?” . . . These two then; viz., the grace of God and free will seem opposed to each other, but really are in harmony, and we gather from the system of goodness that we ought to have both alike, lest if we withdraw one of them from man, we may seem to have broken the rule of the Church’s faith: for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us: for “At the voice of thy cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee;” and: “Call upon Me,” He says, “in the day of tribulation and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” And again, if He finds that we are unwilling or have grown cold, He stirs our hearts with salutary exhortations, by which a good will is either renewed or formed in us. (Conferences, XIII.11, emphasis added)

In other words, humanly, it is impossible to demarcate out where God’s work in our personal salvation begins and ends, and where our personal human activity begins and ends.

Indeed, part of the reason it is so difficult to make such demarcations, is that God’s work in human salvation is rich in variation, fitted to the person.

By those instances then which we have brought forward from the gospel records we can very clearly perceive that God brings salvation to mankind in diverse and innumerable methods and inscrutable ways, and that He stirs up the course of some, who are already wanting it, and thirsting for it, to greater zeal, while He forces some even against their will, and resisting. And that at one time He gives his assistance for the fulfilment of those things which he sees that we desire for our good, while at another time He puts into us the very beginnings of holy desire, and grants both the commencement of a good work and perseverance in it. Hence it comes that in our prayers we proclaim God as not only our Protector and Saviour, but actually as our Helper and Sponsor. For whereas He first calls us to Him, and while we are still ignorant and unwilling, draws us towards salvation, He is our Protector and Saviour, but whereas when we are already striving, He is wont to bring us help, and to receive and defend those who fly to Him for refuge, He is termed our Sponsor and Refuge. . . . Whoever then imagines that he can by human reason fathom the depths of that inconceivable abyss, will be trying to explain away the astonishment at that knowledge, at which that great and mighty teacher of the gentiles was awed. For if a man thinks that he can either conceive in his mind or discuss exhaustively the dispensation of God whereby He works salvation in men, he certainly impugns the truth of the Apostle’s words and asserts with profane audacity that His judgments can be scrutinized, and His ways searched out. . . . (Conferences, XIII.17)

It is difficult, then, to articulate a single systematic outline by which we can explicate God’s salvation of man and man’s participation in that salvation. If we claim that faith must precede God’s act, St. John pulls out the example of St. Paul. If we claim that God must act apart from human will, St. John pulls out the example of St. Zacchaeus. What St. John knows and states consistently is that God begins, continues, and ends our salvation, and we cooperate with that activity of God, according to the nature he has himself given to us.

Conclusion

As has been implied from above, monergism and Augustinianism and Pelagianism, rest on an understanding of human nature such that human nature and divine nature relate in terms of opposition. Human nature resists divine nature. St. John, however, affirms that which had been dogmatized at Chalcedon and III Constantinople: that human and divine nature were not a relation of opposition, but, via the Incarnation, were in synergistic cooperation. That is to say, human nature is not naturally opposed to God’s nature, nor, given that Jesus had enhominized the divine nature, could human will be said to be naturally in bondage. If there is a bondage to the will, it is not due to human nature, but due to the hypostasis of human nature, that is to say, the person. St. Maximus will later clarify and distinguish the natural will from the gnomic will. But we need not trace St. Maximus’ teachings here. It is enough to follow St. John in affirming the catholic faith, that all that God created, including human nature, is good, and that not even personal sin can erase or obliterate the goodness of what God created, even if it can deface and distort it.

Finally, lest we think that St. John’s teaching is an aberration, an idiosyncratic formula, he himself concludes:

And therefore it is laid down by all the Catholic fathers who have taught perfection of heart not by empty disputes of words, but in deed and act, that the first stage in the Divine gift is for each man to be inflamed with the desire of everything that is good, but in such a way that the choice of free will is open to either side: and that the second stage in Divine grace is for the aforesaid practices of virtue to be able to be performed, but in such a way that the possibilities of the will are not destroyed: the third stage also belongs to the gifts of God, so that it may be held by the persistence of the goodness already acquired, and in such a way that the liberty may not be surrendered and experience bondage. For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given. If however any more subtle inference of man’s argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it should be avoided rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we gain not faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written: “Except ye believe, ye will not understand”) for how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason of man. (Conferences, XIII.18)

And not only does St. John invoke the catholic and apostolic faith of the Church, he puts the final point to the proof that he is no semi-Pelagian. And that monergism, on its face, cannot be said to be the historic faith of the Church.

[Note: Please note that this post originally contained an egregious spelling error. I had originally used “meritricious,” intending to convey “meritorious.” I have changed the original word to meritorious in both instances. “Meretricious,” by the way, means “Attracting attention in a vulgar manner,” ” Plausible but false or insincere; specious,” and “Of or relating to prostitutes or prostitution.” Clearly not at all what I meant to say. A little embarassing, but thanks to Chris Jones for privately pointing it out to me.]

24 thoughts on “St. John Cassian: On Grace and Free Will

  1. Bravo!! Well reasoned and reasonably concise, given the exigencies of the case. Just what I needed in my perennial battles with the better informed among our Protestant brethren. God bless you and your family as you enter His Church!!

  2. Thanks Clifton

    I read your blog. Thanks for putting all your effort into it. I understand your position and appreciate your zeal. I did not see anything, however, which attempted to answer my challenge so I am not sure how to respond to you or whether you meant that I should respond. You made assertions that my position was heretical and a strawman but you did not show why it is heretical scripturally or otherwise. All bare assertions must be tested to see whether or not they be true. So I would ask that you would answer the following question and we will weigh your answer against the Scripture.

    The question comes down to this: If two persons receive the same degree of assisting grace, according to your understanding, why is it that one person ends up receiving/believing the gospel and not the other? What makes the two persons to differ? It was not grace that made them to differ since both had the same grace. In other words what made them to differ was something innately superior in one over the other. If your position is true, show me how this is not so. The Scripture says that the natural man has been taken captive by Satan to do his will (2 Tim 2:25) and only Christ can set us free. If the will was already free and we were not in complete bondage then why does Christ need to set us free? We believe and affirm with the Scripture that it is the grace of God in Christ that makes men to differ, not something God is responding to in fallen men in their unregenerate state. Faith is not something prduced by our unregenerated human nature for the natural man can not understand the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14) since they are foolishness to him. The natural man cannot understand because he does not have the Holy Spirit. A blind man cannot see unless you first give him new eyes.

    Otherwise if your theology were true you could boast, “thank you Lord I am not like other men who do not have faith … when you extended your grace, they did not make us of it, BUT I DID”

    Show me how your theology does not exactly fall into this error and explain how I am creating a strawman by giving you this example. You assert that I am making a strawman, but show me. A bare assertion is no proof. From my reading of your essay this is not a caricature at all but a clear expose of your position and is right on target. If not then defend your position. I am willing to listen.

    The perfect character of God, when exhibited to different men, produces delight and desire in some, repugnance in others. We ask why? Why do some perceive and delight in God’s moral beauty, while others do not? The answer, some love, and others do not, or some believe and others do not, is no answer at all. It is merely saying the same thing in other words. There is a reason why one perceives this kind of beauty, to which the others are blind; why one is filled with love the moment it is presented, and the other with repugnance. And a reason lies in back of the mere exercise of this affection, and must be something besides the act itself and this shall account for its nature.

    The Lord promised that he will make our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Can one believe the gospel while his heart is still one of stone? No, of course not, his heart must first be made flesh if he is to believe. We are willfully blind, love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20) and will not come into the light… and Jesus says one must first be born again if he is to see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3). In other words regeneration (the new birth) preceeds faith. God not only extends an offer of help, but resusitates us because only He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

    See these clear passages from john 6.

    37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

    65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    “Come to me” and “believe” in me are synonyms here. The text says no one can come unless it is granted (universal negative) and then the other verse says “ALL who the Father gives to him will come” (Universal positive). This is an inescapable biblical syllogism.This is the word of God. It is saying, Unless it is granted, no one will come, but all to whom it is granted WILL COME.

    Look forward to hearing proof of your assertions as well as an answer to the questions. If you can use Scripture in your answers it would be preferable.

    Shalom
    John Hendryx

    P.S. Re: Brian Andrews comment. The vast majority of Protestants do not hold to monergistic regeneration, only those who hold to Reformation Theology.

  3. John:

    Perhaps I was not clear in my email, for which I apologize. Let me remind you of the impetus of the post. You claimed that St. John was a semi-Pelagian. I showed definitively in this post that he was not. I will not go over that proof again. If you have counter evidence or can show my argument to be invalid, I will happily consider it.

    Contingent on that primary proof was the further argument that your construal of synergism is completely false. I need here only to show that what you say synergism is, in reality is not what it is.

    Whether or not monergism is a heresy has been the point of this entire series of posts on soteriology, which I recommend that you read. Since we have been considering it at length, I’ll not here review all the comments pro and con.

    I will comment on your remarks concerning Scripture at the end.

    As to your construal of synergism, I will resort to your chart. You claim about synergism, the following:

    Cause of Regeneration
    *Faith is the cause that triggers regeneration

    This is FALSE. This is not synergism. Please re-read what St. John says above. God’s salvific work precedes, accompanies, and suffuses all men’s efforts.

    *Faith and affections for God are produced by the old nature.

    This is true. Synergists believe human nature to be fallen, but not incapable of faith or of desire for God.

    *God and Man work together to produce the new birth. God’s grace takes us part of the way to salvation, man’s unregenerate will must determine the final outcome.

    The way you have construed this is FALSE. As St. John says above, God’s grace comes before, during and after all our willing and desire. God’s grace is extended to us in that he gives us the will and desire in the first place. But man can resist God’s grace, since in his personal exercise of his own will, man can freely choose to reject God.

    *God is eagerly awaiting the sinner’s will.

    This is true, but not in the sense you construe it. God also draws the sinner, and thus does not merely wait on the personal exercise of the sinner’s will.

    *The persons of the Trinity have conflicting goals in accomplishing and applying salvation: The Father elects a particular people; The Son dies for a general people and the Holy Spirit applies the atonement conditionally on those who exercize their autonomous free will.

    This is just ludicrously FALSE. There is no writing in any Church Father by which you can support this contention. It is based on your very particular rubric of the limited elect in the order of salvation, and so begs the question. It is therefore invalid.

    *Restoration of spiritual faculties comes after the sinner exercizes faith with his natural (innate) capacities. Has the ability to see spiritual truth even before healed. (see 1 Cor 2:14). Has spiritual capacity to receive the truth, prior God’s granting any spiritual ability.

    Since synergists do not accept your particular interpretation of the order of salvation and the nature and extent of the Fall, this is another instance of begging the question. You assume your position to be true, and then caricaturize the synergist position.

    It is true that synergists do not believe human nature to be so fallen as to be completely and utterly unable to exercise faith.

    View of Humanity
    *The fallen sinner has the ability and potential inclination to believe even prior to the new birth

    Synergists do believe this because they do not accept the monergist’s view of the fallen nature of humanity, which you describe as “The fallen sinner has no ability or inclination to believe prior to the new birth.”

    *There is enough good left in fallen man to turn his affections toward Christ.

    This is another contentious construal of synergism. The good to which fallen man turns his affections is God. It is not a matter of man being good enough to desire God, but rather God being good enough that fallen man can still desire him.

    *Sinner needs help, is spiritually handicapped.

    And prior to the Parousia this will always be true of all sinners at all times. Synergists believe we need the healing of our natures, the restoration of the image of God.

    *Natural man is sick and disabled like a drowning man so God would be unfeeling if He didn’t help by casting a rope.

    This is another misleading point. On its face, it is true. God does indeed love fallen man, and is merciful to him. But I note that you contrast it with your position, and therein you imply that synergists teach that man is not morally culpable for his “sick and disabled” condition. And this is manifestly FALSE. Synergists do not believe that.

    *Needs salvation from the consequences of sin – unhappiness, hell, psychological pain

    The way you’ve construed this is FALSE. Synergists do believe we need salvation from the consequences of sin, but they also believe that we need salvation from personal sin and mortality.

    *The natural man is sovereign over his choice to accept or reject Christ – God conditionally responds to our decision.

    This is FALSE as you’ve construed it. Man does, indeed, have the freedom to choose to accept or reject God’s love. But God does not conditionally respond to that choice. God eternally and unconditionally loves and acts in love toward man. Hell is real, and the real ratification of the settled choices of those who reject God’s love. And that is why hell is what it is for the damned. They reject God’s love, but God still loves them anyway, which is a torment to them.

    *Some fallen men either created a right thought, generated a right affection, or originated a right volition that led to their salvation while some other fallen men did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith that God required of them to obtain salvation. Therefore salvation is dependent on some virtue or capacity God sees in certain men.

    This is just plain FALSE. Re-read the post above.

    *Man’s nature & affections do not determine or give rise to his choices. He can still make a saving decision prior to the new birth while still in his unregenerate state. In this scheme God gives enough grace to place man in a neutral position which can swing either for or against Jesus. (An act of chance?)

    This is, again, FALSE as you’ve construed it. God does not give just enough grace to balance the equation. He gives the grace he determines to give, which grace is just the experience of his nature. (Grace is uncreated.)

    View of the Gospel
    *The Gospel is an invitation

    Yes, of course it is. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a command, either. So, they way you’ve described this, it is FALSE.

    *Christ died for all our sins except unbelief

    FALSE!

    *Sinners have the key in their hands. Man’s will determines whether or not Christ’s death is efficacious.

    FALSE. Christ’s death is always efficacious for everyone. All will be resurrected to their respective destinies, which destinies will be the ratification of their settled choices. This does not diminish in any way the efficaciousness of Christ’s work. Indeed, judgment is part of Christ’s work.

    *It would be unjust of God to not give everyone an equal chance.

    FALSE. Synergists do not believe this.

    *After God makes one’s heart of stone into a heart of flesh the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation can still be resisted.

    This is true. But it is also true that the Holy Spirit’s call can result in an ever more settled disposition to follow God, and results in deification.

    *Salvation is given to fallen sinners (unregenerate) who choose and desire Christ of their free will.

    Of course. That’s what salvation is, the deliverance from the state of sin in which we find ourselves.

    *The grace of God is conferred as a result of human prayer

    FALSE. Nothing more need be said.

    *God has mercy upon us when we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, apart from his regenerative grace.

    FALSE as you’ve construed it. God has mercy upon us even when we do not believe or otherwise desire and act for him. All God’s grace is regenerative. There is no such thing as one sort of grace and another sort in God. This is a mistaken theology.

    *Commands to repent and believe the gospel imply the ability of the sinner to do so.

    Of course.

    *God helps those who help themselves.

    FALSE–and a low, cheap and dishonest shot. No synergists believe this in the way you’ve construed it.

    *Unregenerate man contributes his little bit.

    FALSE. Man must give his all.

    *Repentance is considered a work of man.

    FALSE. At least in how you’ve construed it. Synergists believe what you’ve said of them here, but they also believe what you write of monergism: that repentance is a gift of God.

    *One of the greatest gifts God gives humans is to never interfere with their free will.

    FALSE. God works together with man’s free will. You construe a false opposition which synergists do not accept.

    *With Man’s will salvation is possible.

    FALSE. Synergists believe that salvation is only possible in God.

    So, as can be seen, you’ve have not accurately represented synergism.

    So, I have done two things here: proven that your contention that St. John Cassian is a semi-Pelagian is false, and point-by-point (on the basis of your chart comparing synergism and monergism) showed how your construal of synergism is a caricature of true synergism. If you have any counter-evidence to show that your construal of synergism is, indeed, true, or that I, myself, have mischaracterized what you say about synergism, I will happily consider what you say.

    Now, as to whether synergism or monergism is true is the very thing that has been under consideration in this series of posts. And while it would take great time and effort, I know, to go through these posts, I suggest you do so, so as to familiarize yourself with the arguments. You may assume that Perry and I come from the synergist side of the issue, while Darren and Kevin come from the monergist side.

    In terms of history, monergism is not a view of salvation that has been held by the catholic and apostolic Church, which even you admit in the writings on your site. Though St. Augustine remains a powerful influence, you have admitted that the Roman Church turned away from St. Augustine’s understanding of salvation toward a synergistic one. The Eastern Churches have always had a synergistic understanding of salvation. Thus, monergism is, historically, a relative new teaching that did not arise in its modern form until after the Reformation. Even among Reformation churches, it is a minority opinion, the great bulk of Protestantism being synergistic (even if not in the same sense as Rome or Orthodoxy) in its salvific model. That it is such a minority opinion should give one pause for claiming it to be the proper biblical understanding of salvation.

    That being said, however, with you, I agree that the Scripture ought be held to be more authoritative than what human argument and opinion can put forth. Therefore it ought be fundamental to and a justification of our beliefs. Here is the difficulty, however. Monergists and synergists look at the individual and collective Scriptural passages on salvation, faith, the nature of man, etc., and come away with contrary opinions. This is clearly not the fault of Scripture, but is, rather, the problem with the hermeneutic systems used to read Scripture.

    In other words, in this specific discussion, appeal to Scripture alone will not solve the dilemma. I will refer you to Philippians 2:12-13 as a fundamental synergistic text, and you will likely read that text through a monergistic paradigm. How do we determine who’s right? Not on the basis of Scripture alone, for the contention is that one or the other interpretation (or both) is mistaken. And Scripture alone cannot decide this.

    So, what I propose is that we discuss our view of human nature. Monergists and synergists both believe human nature to be fallen. The question is to what extent is it fallen, and what are the consequential effects of that fall on man’s nature.

    If you will familiarize yourself with our discussion here, you will see what ground has already been covered and we can take up the matter from there.

    Thanks for replying. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

  4. Clifton

    It appears there may be some minsnderstanding …. Are we defining the word “synergism” in the same way?????

    The Century Dictionary, written in 1899, defines synergism as follows:

    “…the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives.”

    In the traditional understanding of the words, synergism and monergism are ONLY speaking of the act of regeneration (the new birth), it does not refer to sanctification or anything else. The above definition therefore refers to unregenerate persons ONLY.

    So when I put up my chart and explain I am basing my defintion of synergism and monergism off of this concept. Your quotation of Philippians 2:12-13 shows that you completely misunderstand what the term monergism means. The quotation in Phil is being written to people who are already believers who have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, as the context clearly shows. We have NO ARGUMENT that our life in Christ after regeneration is synergistic. The Holy Spirit indwells us and we work together with God. What we refer to is that Regeneration, the initial act of the appliction of the work of Christ by the Holy Spirit — this is monergistic. We cannot see until our eyes are opened. The seed falls on fallow ground until God plows it up and makes the soil good. So your agument and use of Phil 2 is irrelevant to the discussion. It has zero relation to what we are speaking of. . We agree about Phil 2:12-13 as being synergistic but this text has nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

    Likewise monergism is a theological term which related to regeneration ONLY: Here is the century dictionary’s definition

    “In theol., The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

    Now with that behind us, what I ask and hope you are willing to answer is the following question to see whether your assertions about synergism and semi-pelagianism are true.

    Again, the question is…..

    Given that two persons have God’s grace extended to them, why does one person receive Christ and not the other. What makes them to differ?

    By the way, my chart is not a polemic against John Cassian. The chart is a polemic against modern day evangelicals.

    Solus Christus
    John

  5. John:

    That, I think, is one of the key differences between monergism and synergism. Synergism makes no significant distinction between justification and sanctification, seeing both realities as, if you will, two sides of the coin of salvation. There is no justification without sanctification and no sanctification without justification. Both realities are simultaneous and concurrent. One can, of course, distinguish them theoretically, but, according to synergism, they cannot be separated, since they are simply distinguishable aspects of the same thing.

    This is why your chart is misleading. You assume the same rubric under which synergism and monergism are to be considered. But they are not able to be so considered. So, when you say the “traditional” understanding of synergism is limited to regeneration, this is, in fact, not true. This is shown fully by St. John in the post above. St. John refuses to demarcate when God’s work and man’s work begins, because salvation is not just about justification, nor is synergism just about sanctification.

    While I don’t doubt that I could grow in my understanding of monergism, I do not think I so completely misunderstand it to the degree you appear to indicate. It is true that monergists relegate the Philippians 2:12-13 to sanctification, but synergists do not. My only point here, in any case, was simply to illustrate that whatever prooftexts monergists or synergists might bring forth, such biblical “proofs” are prediated on a priori hermeneutic principles–and these principles cannot be decided on the basis of Scripture.

    I do understand your chart is not a polemic against St. John, but it is a polemic against synergism, and in that it misunderstands and mischaracterizes synergism can be illustrated by reference to St. John.

    With regard to definitions of monergism or synergism, I suggest it is only minimally helpful to refer to a modern (theological?) dictionary. Not that this is illegitimate, but that such definitions cannot fully explicate either position. This is why I have so laboriously examined St. John’s XIIIth Conference here.

    I can answer your question simply, of course. The answer is, in a word: Mystery. But, of course, this will not satisfy you. However, if I answer, “Choice,” it would be true, but because this answer presupposes an understanding of human nature that is at odds with that put forth by monergists, it will be misunderstood. A monergist would read “Choice” and claim that human choice is sovereign over God’s grace. But this in fact is not what a synergist believes.

    This is why I am insistent that we discuss what we believe about human nature.

  6. Clifton

    You said>>>That, I think, is one of the key differences between monergism andsynergism. Synergism makes no significant distinction betweenjustification and sanctification

    Huh??? No where did I mention justification. I, like you, do not believe justification to be monergistic. Another revelation that your entire polemic against monergism has been against something we don’t believe. Our union with Christ unto justification requires both the Holy Spirit and the faith of man. Regeneration is where the process begins unto justification and sanctification enabling us to desire to live for Christ … so these certainly cannot be seperated but the initial act in God mercifully bringing to life he who once was dead in sin and hated God (Eph 2 & John 3:19). We choose what we want most and those who hate God do not choose him simply by nature.

    Have a close look at your answer “Choice” to my question as to why one man believed the gospel and not the other. Isn’t that interesting. I asked you WHY ONE BELIEVED and your answer is “because they chose to.” This does not answer my question, or even begin to, it merely repeats it. I asked you “WHY” not “what they did” — since we all know what they did. The question is why does one person believe the gospel and not the other???? What makes them to differ. If is is the grace of God then it is a mystery, it we have the final choice then you are asserting that the natural man has spiritual desires which the Bible clearly denies (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7)

    Next your answer “mystery” of course simply does not make sense because it would only be a mystery if it were of God. Man’s choice itself is not mysterious unless it is God who brings it infallibly to pass. As soon as man’s will becomes involved as the sine qua none of regeneration, (something never once spoken of in Scripture in the imperative), then the mystery is gone. I find it amazing that you are unwilling to say that it is ONLY the grace of God in Christ that makes men to differ. In other words, you believe that something else is involved other than the once for all sufficient work of Jesus Christ. All spiritual blessings are from Christ (Eph 1:3). Are you saying that we can undertake a spiritual act, prior to us being spiritual? This is to negate the work of Christ who raises up the sinner, illuminating his mind so that he understand spiritual things. There is no mystery in your answer if you deny the grace of God is the only thing that makes men to differ. It is to say that grace is helpful but one man naturally had more wisdom (or something) than the other to make the final choice. This is inescapable.

    So in your view Christ’s work on our behalf is insufficient in itself to save us. It is a conditional love which only saves on the condition that someone of their natural capacity respond to the gospel. If it were sufficient you would stop boasting about man’s free will to believe the gospel apart from the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. Either it is grace alone or grace PLUS something.

    “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”

    The argument can and must be settled with Scripture and plain reason.

    John

  7. John:

    Easy there, big fella. A simple mistake or lack of clarity does not necessarily signify a fundamental lack of understanding. I see you haven’t disputed other of my contentions. Be that as it may, let me clarify what I meant.

    Regeneration, in the synergistic view, cannot be limited to a point in time, or to a single act. Not even God just regenerates at a single point in time of the life of a person. It is a process that precedes the point at which, in the synergistic view, the person makes a choice to believe (in the all-encompassing sense), suffuses that point, and endures long after that point. In other words, regeneration is not simply a single-faceted reality. It is, primarily, about God, beginning-middle-end. But it also involves the human person in all their faculties and capacities.

    In that I spoke about this in terms of justification and sanctification was simply an inadvertent error in not reading you as closely as perhaps I should have. It is also a testament that you and I will continue to use the same vocabularly in different ways.

    But that we are gravitating toward choice and what happens when a person chooses is a good thing, because now we are moving more closely to the true point of this dicussion: the nature of humanity.

    You write:

    We choose what we want most and those who hate God do not choose him simply by nature.

    Here, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that man is incapable of choosing in opposition to his nature. But this assertion, if this is what you are saying, logically entails that you say that persons are their natures. But this logical conclusion leads one to modalism in Trinitarian theology, and monotheletism in Christology. (For these admittedly abrupt connections, refer to Perry’s comments here and here.)

    You next make contentions about what I believe as a synergist which, predicated as their are on your own deeply held monergism, is flatly wrong:

    Next your answer “mystery” of course simply does not make sense because it would only be a mystery if it were of God. Man’s choice itself is not mysterious unless it is God who brings it infallibly to pass.

    This is a reductionist view of man that is just simply false. Humans are not infinite in their person, as God is, but they are nonetheless not subsumable to full explication. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9.) No one can fathom the mystery of the human person save the Creator. So, yes, one can and indeed must refer to human agency in terms of mystery.

    That’s not to say, one cannot make actual substantive claims that do express the reality of human decision.

    Your contention also clearly arises from a context in which choices necessarily arise from nature.

    By synergists have a completely different understanding of human nature than that presented by you here.

    So, when you write:

    As soon as man’s will becomes involved as the sine qua none of regeneration, (something never once spoken of in Scripture in the imperative), then the mystery is gone.

    You completely mischaracterize the synergist view. Synergists do not think that man’s choice is the sine qua non of regeneration. God is the sine qua non of regeneration. But he has so willed that humans cooperate with his work.

    I find it amazing that you are unwilling to say that it is ONLY the grace of God in Christ that makes men to differ. In other words, you believe that something else is involved other than the once for all sufficient work of Jesus Christ. All spiritual blessings are from Christ (Eph 1:3).

    I have never made those claims, and you should step back and take a moment to reflect on what I have said, not only in the post above, but in my comments to you.

    I believe that God’s grace is first, last, and everything in salvation. No other reality can save us other than the work of Christ. I do, however, believe that the human person exercizes his will in cooperation with the all-sufficient grace of God. There is no contradiction here, because the nature that God creates, and the person who energizes that nature, is all a gracious act of God. But that does not erase the proper and God-ordained activity of the human person in cooperation with that grace.

    Are you saying that we can undertake a spiritual act, prior to us being spiritual?

    I am saying that the human person is always “spiritual” from the moment of conception on through the eternal destiny to which he is assigned by God’s ratification of his dispositional choice. I am also saying that human fallennes in no way precludes all desire for and any ability to incline toward and the capacity to exercise the will so as to choose the good that God is. For it is God, himself, that of his grace, has given man personhood, desire for the good, and the natural will that is created to be inclined toward God.

    This is to negate the work of Christ who raises up the sinner, illuminating his mind so that he understand spiritual things. There is no mystery in your answer if you deny the grace of God is the only thing that makes men to differ. It is to say that grace is helpful but one man naturally had more wisdom (or something) than the other to make the final choice. This is inescapable.

    No, it is not inescapable. It is only inescapable if you assume your monergist paradigm of human nature. I, and ancient teaching of the Church, do not accept your understanding of human nature.

    So in your view Christ’s work on our behalf is insufficient in itself to save us. It is a conditional love which only saves on the condition that someone of their natural capacity respond to the gospel. If it were sufficient you would stop boasting about man’s free will to believe the gospel apart from the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. Either it is grace alone or grace PLUS something.

    Once again, this is NOT my view. You need to read my post and comments more carefully.

  8. RE; Your question regarding Human Nature

    >>>This is why I am insistent that we discuss what we believe about human nature

    I think we can pretty much agree about human nature. If I were to ask you

    1. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit plays any role in the sinner coming to faith in Christ? (you would answer ‘yes’)

    2. Do you believe that, apart from any supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, the sinner, by nature, has the ability and desire to come to Christ? (you would answer ‘no’)

    Here is plain proof that all Christians, without exception, believe that no man is found NATURALLY willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ. The natural man, apart from the Holy Spirit, has no free will, because, of necessity, due to his fallen nature, he would never naturally submit to Christ. The Scripture describes natural man as those who love darkness (John 3:19), are in bondage to sin (Gal 4:3; 6:17, 20), and taken captive by Satan to do his will (2 Tim 2:25), until the Son sets them free (John 8:36). Why would the Son need to set them free from sin unless they were not free, i.e. slaves to sin (as the Scripture plainly testifies?) When we speak of man having no free will we are not saying man’s will is not self-determined, because it is. It is not because of some outside coercion that the will is not free, because the will is not coerced. Rather, the Scripture simply says that the will is evil by a corruption of nature, but only becomes good by the grace of the Holy Spirit. EVEN YOU WOULD AGREE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NECESSARY as a SYNERGIST. Correct?

    It is not because of natural strength that we believe, obviously since we need the Spirit. We do not, in our unregenerate state, convert ourselves. By our own efforts, apart from the Holy Spirit, we cannot achieve this for Jesus says apart from Me you can do nothing. The Scripture further testifies that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3) and the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit, because they are spiritually appraised. They are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14) and he acts only as he is acted upon, in accordance to the measure of grace he has received.

    People generally tend to confuse coersion with necessity. So the argument you and I have Clifton, is not about our differences over fallen man’s state, it is about the nature of the grace of God in regeneration. Is it effectual, accomplishing what he set forth to? Jesus said, “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.” (John 6:39) Can Jesus lose or fail to accomplish this if it is the will of God as he says? No, of course not. Or is it merely an offer of a helping hand, of which there is no evidence in the Bible for. For we need more than help. Apart from the Spirit we would always chose to rebel against God.

    Acts 13:48 shows that under the preaching of the gospel only those God’s determines will come to Him actually will:

    “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    Sometimes in the Old Testament God even reveals behind the scenes how He enabled particular Jews to obey his Word when they were called to repent: In 2 Chronicles chapter 30 when couriers with a message of repentance passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, they laughed them to scorn and mocked them when they were called to repent, “Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to GIVE THEM ONE HEART to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 30:11-12) The text says some resisted the call, but all those tribes which the hand of God gave a heart to obey the Word, repented.

    Peace
    John

  9. John:

    We most emphatically do NOT agree about human nature.

    For one thing, I do not think your biblical proof texting accurately reflects what Scripture says about human nature. Please re-read my post above. St. John employs Scripture to show that human nature, though fallen, nonetheless does not preclude the personal operation of the will so as to choose to do the good.

    I would be interested in seeing how you respond to St. John’s comments on specific Scriptural passages above.

    When you write:

    So the argument you and I have Clifton, is not about our differences over fallen man’s state, it is about the nature of the grace of God in regeneration.

    It is clear that you are not attending carefully to that which I have actually and consistently written.

    Our point of difference is precisely human nature, and not so much grace and God’s actions in accomplishing our salvation.

    I would like to see you actually respond to my assertions and arguments about human nature.

  10. Clifton

    You said>>>>I believe that God’s grace is first, last, and everything in salvation. No other reality can save us other than the work of Christ. I do, however, believe that the human person exercizes his will in cooperation with the all-sufficient grace of God. There is no contradiction here, because the nature that God creates, and the person who energizes that nature, is all a gracious act of God. But that does not erase the proper and God-ordained activity of the human person in cooperation with that grace.

    If it is ALL a gracious act then why don’t all men believe?

    We do not disagree that regeration is an ongoing process that God begins and carries through to the end, but ALL who are regenerated believe the gospel. You made the assertion above that regeneration preceeds ‘choice” — so are you saying that some persons will be regenerated and never believe? This is a contradiction in terms.

    What of those who reject the Gospel? Did regeneration (the new birth) precede their choice to reject Christ? So they were at one time born again and then they undid their regeneration by some action? I am confused by your thinking here.

  11. Clifton:

    If we don’t agree about human nature then are you asserting that fallen man can believe the gospel without ANY HELP from the Holy Spirit? This question to you reveals that we believe exactly the same thing. If you would but answer the question you would see that your view is a self-contradiction. There is a difference between making an assertion of what you believe and being able to hold on to it under scrutiny.

    It has been enjoyable speaking with you. I have a great deal of work to do and have spent more time with you than I should but have enjoyed it.

    I am sorry that you think I am a heretic. I don’t think the same of synergists or you. I merely think they are confused.

    To think that the grace of God alone in Christ is what saves us is heresy, I think, is quite laughable.

  12. John:

    Well, since you are apparently abandoning the discussion before you’ve given my view a fair hearing and carefully considered it, I suppose any further response on my part is superfluous.

    But to be accurate: What I am calling a heresy is not that “the grace of God alone is what saves us” but rather your view of human nature which logically entails modalism in Trinitarian theology and monotheletism in Christology. I assume you think these are heresies.

  13. Brother Clifton

    Your are confusing your logic. Even God “makes choices” according to his nature. God is holy and thereby cannot sin. The Scripture testifies that God cannot lie.

    This clearly shows that we bahave according to our desires, what we want. Also you are working toward the day when we are glorified with Christ where there will be no more sin. By nature we will be unable to sin. Does this entail modalism? Hmm cause the Scripture plainly testify to it.

  14. John:

    Okay. Let’s pause for a moment. I alerted you to this post to give you a fair chance to responde to my arguments.

    So far you have not done so.

    I have proven that your assertion that St. John Cassian is not a semi-Pelagian. You have not gainsaid my argument, nor proven it invalid.

    I have also proven that you have misunderstood synergism. Once again, you haven’t gainsaid my contentions–indeed, the discussion thus far between us has only served to confirm that contention–nor proven my contentions false.

    But before we can begin discussing the merits of monergism or synergism we have to take stock of our commonalities.

    You and I agree, I think, that:

    Human nature is fallen.
    We are saved by grace through faith.
    The work of Christ is the sole foundation of human salvation.
    Man cannot regenerate himself or otherwise accomplish his own salvation.

    So, clearly we do not fundamentally disagree on God’s grace and salvation (though we might differ in certain details).

    The single point of contention between us is human nature. And it is here that the discussion between us must begin.

    So, we must clarify what we mean by human nature, the will, personhood, and choice, and how all those relate.

    As to persons being nothing more than their nature, this leads to modalism in God, because if God is nothing but his nature, this cannot logically entail a Trinitarian enhypostatization of the Persons. (See my Soteriological Sidebar II: Nominal and Real Personhood.)

    So it is not a matter of God acting in accordance with his nature (which presupposes a Person over and above that nature which directs that nature’s activity), but of the conception of personhood.

    And if we’re talking about God’s Persons, we’re talking about the image of God and are back to personhood.

  15. You said >>>I have proven that your assertion that St. John Cassian is not a semi-Pelagian. You have not gainsaid my argument, nor proven it invalid. I have also proven that you have misunderstood synergism. Once again, you haven’t gainsaid my contentions–indeed, the discussion thus far between us has only served to confirm that contention–nor proven my contentions false

    On the contrary, you have only made it clear that my assertions were correct. Your unwillingness to answer my very simple question as to why some persons respond to the gospel and not others (and saying it is a mystery) is simply a cop out because you have lost the argument. The gospels speaks often of the reasons so how can it be a mystery it is is revealed in Scripture? Therefore your assertions above that you have proven anything are patently false. Unless you can answer the question with Scriptural support you are simply avoiding the truth that you are unwilling to face.

    If why someone believes is a mystery, then show us from Scripture that it makes such an assertion. It doesn’t make any such asserion so you belief that it is a mystery is therefore based soley on your extr-biblical presuppositions. If not then show us.

    The testimony of Jesus and the apostles clearly indicate why such decitions are made:

    “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. “[note: a person produces fruit in accord with his nature] (Matt 7:16-18)

    ” Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. ” (Matt 12:33- 35)

    “Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)

    “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:26-27)

    34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…”If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does…44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:34-47

    As for our natures, our affections drive the decisions we make. We do not make choices for no reason at all.

    If we do not choose God based on our desires then are you advicating that we made our choices based on CHANCE????? What other option is there? If there is no reaon for the choices we make then our choice is simply indifferent.

  16. John:

    Well, it’s abundantly clear that you are not actually engaging what I have said at all. Indeed, I rather suspect that not only have you not carefully read what I have written, you are quite consciously avoiding it at all costs, knowing, I suspect, that you cannot prove the arguments fallacious.

    The best you can come up with is your parlor trick of a question as to why one person chooses salvation and another does not. I do not make that accusation lightly: it is a simple debating trick in which you have set the terms of the question such that your presuppositions are automatically assumed–without proof mind you–and therefore your argument conceded.

    But, for the umpteenth time: I reject your view of human nature. Since I reject that view, I refuse to answer your question within the rubrics of that view. It is tantamount to answering whether I’ve stopped beating my wife; the assumption of the interrogative itself begs the question.

    In other words–let me spell it out for you–before I can properly answer your question, we have to settle whether the terms on which the question is asked are true and valid. If it is the case that in fact humans can exercise their wills such that it is the human person’s choices that actualizes the nature through willing, then your question makes no sense and is invalid. And that is the very question under discussion.

    Further, in light of that, none of the verses you bring forward prove the point you are trying to make (i. e., that a person is incapable of choosing in opposition to his nature). They are simply prooftexts taken for the most part out of context; contexts in which the point in question is not human nature and the inability to choose in opposition to that nature.

    Now, let’s get back to my two contentions, which, I must stress once again you consistently avoid.

    I will ask you point blank:

    Will you, in the absence of proof that my argument is invalid, give up your contention that St. John Cassian was semi-Pelagian?

    Will you, in the face of manifest evidence from your own words, and in the absence of evidence invalidating my own construal of synergism, freely admit that you do not understand synergism and misconstrue it in your writings?

    Finally, will you for once actually look at what I have said about the synergist view of human nature and engage that explication instead of inventing a caricature of my beliefs?

  17. John,

    You asked if two persons receive the same assisting grace how are we to explain why one responds and the other does not? I donít think someone who is a synergist has to think that there is something innately superior in one person than in the other to explain why one responds and the other does not. All they have to say is that one chose to respond in freedom and the other did not. A synergist can also say that persons receive grace depending on any impediments that they may or may not place in relation to it. That too would help to explain why one responds and the other does not. This reply preserves the responsibility and blameworthyness of the person who does not respond. Here we can turn around your question. If the person who does not respond does not do so because they are not the source of that non-response, then how are they to be blamed? If we attach ascriptions of praise and blame relative to the source of an act, then if God is the source of their act, how does it not follow that God is to blame and not them? We can easily secure the conclusion that the person who responds cannot boast by noting that God acts first and without God having the primacy in the act of salvation the person would not have responded. But I am at a loss to see how you can stave off the conclusion that God is blameworthy for people not responding except in some ad hoc appeal to mystery.

    Also, in Reformed theology, God is absolutely simple, which means that in God justice and mercy do not differ. This means that Godís justice and mercy are equally extended to all. How then are we to stave off the conclusion of universalism with respect to salvation or damnation on such a view? What explains on your view why one responds and one doesnít if Godís justice is identical with his mercy?

    It is quite true that humanity was taken captive by the devil and did his will and many continue to do so. But you havenít show that this captivity is contrary to the will of those who do the will of the devil. What is the captivity and will of the devil?

    Hebrews 2:14-15 ďForasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.Ē

    The captivity of the devil is the fear of death and this fear of death and death specifically comes through sin for the wages or consequences of sin is death. To turn away from God in sin is to turn from life to annihilation. Corruption and the dissolution of our nature is then tied to the personal act of sin.

    2 Pet 1:4 ďWhereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.Ē

    It is by becoming partakers of Godís nature that we escape the corruption brought into the world by the devil through sin. This is why Peter says that the corruption is in the world through lust. Those then who use their desires to sin turn away from life and head towards corruption and death thereby furthering a goal of the devil, to murder and destroy Godís creation. For the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy and he was a murder from the beginning because he kills people by getting them to sin. (Jn 10:10, Jn 8:44) This is why false teachers serve corruption and bring people into bondage. They use their desires in a sinful way that leads to a turning away from God who is life and so in effect being servants of corruption.

    2 Pet 2:19 ďWhile they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.Ē

    This is why the Resurrection of Christ and the General Resurrection are seen in direct contrast to corruption.

    Romans 8:21 ďBecause the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.Ē

    Acts 2:27 ďBecause thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.Ē

    The captivity of the devil then is the captivity of sin, corruption, death and the fear of death. This is why just previous to the passage you cite in Timothy Paul says in v. 22 ďFlee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.Ē Paul has in mind evil desires as what counts as doing the devilís will. This is why it is significant in Revelation that Christ says ďI am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.Ē So it is quite true that only Christ can set us free from sin, corruption, death and the fear of death. In his incarnation by uniting all of human nature to himself he has guaranteed that it will not be annihilated thereby setting us free from death, even the wicked since even they are raised to life. Persons using their will are free in that they can choose between the good and the evil, but it does not follow from this that they can escape from death and corruption apart from Christ. They can freely will not to die all they like, but that isnít going to convey life to them. In this sense the will is not so much unfree but just irrelevant. Part of the problem here is thinking that the ability to will otherwise is identical with the ability to do otherwise, and these are not the same things. No one, as far as I know is arguing that we can do anything that pleases God or move ourselves to faith apart from God moving first. To think that one of their own natural abilities apart from grace can move themselves to faith just is semi-Pelagianism. Synergism in and of itself is not semi-Pelagian. To think so is to confuse the idea that nothing we can do of ourselves can please God with nothing we can do under any conditions can please God. Clearly these are not the same ideas. Augustine for example accepts the first but not the second because he is a synergist who thinks that we cooperate in our own justification. The idea that we genuinely act in our own salvation does not imply that there is room for boasting. As Augustine was fond of quoting Paul in saying (1 Cor 4:7) ďFor who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?Ē Because God is the primary actor in salvation and acts first in terms of logical priority, this in no way gives room to the possibility of human boasting. These two ideas are simply not connected, unless of course you wish to argue that Augustine was guilty of it too and therefore a semi-Pelagian which is an awfully strange thing to accuse Augustine of being.

    The problem with the way you frame your question concerning why some respond and some not has to do with a more fundamental confusion that I hope to bring out later. Essentially the error is that of a category mistake. You are looking for an explanation of a personal act in terms of antecedent impersonal necessitating causes. The first thing to note here is that even if there were antecedent causes, this in no way in and of itself serves as a sufficient explanation for why one act was performed instead of another. This is because the idea that every effect has a cause is different than the idea that causes necessitate their effects. Antecedent states may be contributing causes to the acts which are effects but this doesnít imply that they are sufficient causes. Moreover, the idea that every effect has a cause is a different idea than the idea that causes necessitate, determine or render inevitable one and only one effect. Libertarians need only endorse the former. Causation isnít tied to the idea of determinism, which is the idea that antecedents necessarily single out only one consequent. The problem is that personal acts are not fully explainable in terms of antecedent causes-if they were, they wouldnít be personal acts. There are fundamental theological reasons why your proposal concerning how actions are to be understood wonít work. Here is one of them. God can choose to create or choose not to create. If God chooses not to create he is still just as much God and glorified as if he created. God is not creator by nature but by will. That is, there is nothing in Godís nature that sufficiently explains why he chooses to create. To appeal to Godís nature to explain why God creates will end up making creation necessary because Godís nature is had by him necessarily. To argue that if we rule out determinism with respect to actions that we render the actions of an agent inexplicable is to commit oneself implicitly in theology to a non-Christian view of God.

    Moreover, there are accounts of indeterministic causation that seem plausible that appear to serve just as well in explaining why some agent responds and the other doesnít. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-probabilistic/ If we have a particle approaching a barrier and it is undetermined (metaphysically speaking, not epistemologically speaking) as to whether the particle will breach the barrier this does not imply that whatever happens is inexplicable. So say there is an 80% probability that the particle will breach the barrier and a 20% probability that it wonít. In either outcome we will explain the event by reference to the very same principles to explain why it did or it did not breach the barrier. This kind of explanation is perfectly acceptable and appears coherent in the sciences so why isnít it so with respect to indeterministically generated personal acts? Such acts look inexplicable if we try to explain them with deterministic presuppositions or exclusively in terms of antecedent causes. But if we are required to explain human acts in this way, we are owed an argument as to why we have to do so. So far, I have yet to see you gesture at what such an argument might be.

    Stones and Flesh
    It is quite true that God says to Israel that he will remove their heart of stone and given them a new heart. This these and other passages do not say that God does so apart from the willing of such individuals. Here again you are conflating doing anything of ourselves absolutely considered and doing anything ourselves with Godís help. Just because someone canít believe with a heart of stone in no way implies that what their heart was wasnít up to them in some measure. As Augustine says, God saves our wills but not without our wills. Just because God is the primary actor it doesnít follow that God is the only actor. As to not seeking after God, it is quite true that people apart from grace are in darkness, love their evil acts and hate God. But it is also true that God gives them signs so that they can seek and find him.

    John 6
    John 6 is primarily about showing that Jesus is the source of life. V. 37 and 65 do not support a Calvinistic view of election. The first thing to notice is that from v. 37 forward there is a dialectic between the impersonal and the personal. There is a play between the neuter and that which denotes a personal response. The contrast comes out more clearly if we line things up.

    v. 37 *All that* the Father gives me will come to me, (NATURE)
    v. 37 And *whoever* comes to me I will never drive away. (PERSON)
    v. 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.Ē (NATURE)

    v. 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.” (PERSON)

    There is play back and forth between the neuter and the personal. This is because everyone gets raised up on the last day by Christ. Christ is the source of life for everyone, even the wicked. If he wasnít, then they would not be raised up. All come to Christ, but not all come to Christ in the same way. All belong to Christ by nature by virtue of him taking up their nature and so all will come to him in the resurrection. But some will come to him in belief, which is why ďcome to meĒ is not synonymous with belief.

    Synergism
    Synergism is the idea that there are at least two parties working in some act. Semi-Pelagianism is the idea that we can of our own power apart from Godís help do something that pleases God. All Semi-Pelagians are synergists, but not all synergists are Semi-Pelagian. Augustine for example is a synergist but he is no Semi-Pelagian.

    In the tradition understanding of the terms, synergism can refer to salvation in general since not everyone in the history of theology thought that monergism was necessary in regeneration, namely Augustine. And in the Reformation traditions justification is thought to be exclusively monergistic. As to the parable of the sower, the parable says not that farmer makes the ground good but that there was good ground. Moreover, the parable says that the birds of the air come and take some of the seeds. Jesus says that the birds represent the devil who takes the word out of their heart so that they may not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:12)

    As to dictionaries, it seems to me a waste of time to consult common language dictionaries for precise terms defined in a specialized field, namely theology.

    Manicheanism and Action
    Wanting something does not explain why it is chosen. This is because desires are not causes of actions. Desires and reasons are mental states and mental states cause nothing. Decisions on the other hand are acts or activities and they cause plenty. If merely wanting or desiring something were sufficient for doing some act, then we wouldnít need to employ decisions to explain why the act was performed. But since we do need decisions to explain why the act was performed this implies that desires are not sufficient to explain why an act comes about. To chalk up the difference to one of nature is first to confuse the categories of person and nature. If nature determined a persons acts then first and foremost, it would apply to God. This would make creation necessary, not to mention redemption. If redemption were necessary then it would be natural. To think of grace as natural is just flat out Pelagianism. Second, to think that persons are determined by their natures would result in either making God and morally impeccable agents capable of sin or it would render the fall of the devil and humanity impossible or inexplicable or it would imply that Adam was created sinful-take your pick. If the fall of the devil and humanity is nothing more than a fluke, it is hard to see how those agents are responsible for it, since there is no possible reason for why it occurred. This is in part why nature doesnít determine actions of agents. It is hard for me to see how there can be strictly speaking anything like a sinful nature given that God is the creator and sustainer of every nature. Moreover, sin is personal and not natural and corruption is natural and not personal. This is why ascriptions of praise and blame are attributable to persons and not natures, which is why there cannot be a ďsinfulĒ nature. So we cannot explain personal acts by reference to nature. This is why Jesus says ďIf you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!Ē (Matt 7:11) The problem that is motivating this thinking is that if we donít say that nature constrains or determines an agents act then it will be possible for God to sin, which is obviously wrong. But I think that this thinking is wrong and here is why. It is not Godís nature per se that prevents him from doing evil. Apart from the fact that evil acts are defects in the exercise of power by an agent and God is perfect in the exercise of his power such that an evil act for God would be a contradiction in terms, it is the fact that Godís faculty of will and his personal employment of that faculty are ďfusedĒ or necessarily tied together that explains why it is impossible for God to do evil. Likewise this is what explains why people in the eschaton cannot sin while we can. Our personal employment of our faculty and the faculty of will itself are not necessarily connected yet since this only occurs in the state of being virtuous. This is why the devil and our first parents *did* act contrary to their nature because they were not yet fixed in virtue, fixed in the Good. The reason why our first parents were able to sin and those in the eschaton arenít has nothing to do with human nature qua human nature, but rather with the relation between the faculties of a nature and the personís employment of those faculties. Briefly put, virtue is acquired through habit and in the acquisition of virtue, the faculty of will and the personal employment of the will by the agent are fixed in the Good. The reason why sin was possible was because this union had not yet taken place. This was the whole point of the easy commandment to set our first parents on the road to virtue. One virtue is attained and they became fixed in the Good, the possibility of sinning is removed. The problem is that prior to this point it is possible for the will as a faculty in being naturally and necessarily directed towards goodness may not end up being directed towards a real but only apparent good by the person employing the faculty. Sin then is a personal turning of the faculties of a nature against itself in a personal exercise of freedom.

    This is how it is impossible for God or those in the eschaton to sin and yet not be determined by their nature. God never acquires virtue, he just is the Good necessarily. Those in heaven have acquired virtue but this doesnít imply a lack of free will in a libertarian sense on their part, since libertarian freedom doesnít imply an ability to do acts of differing moral worth, but rather only a plurality of acts. It is just because there is an infinite number of Goods in the Good that they retain their freedom even though they cannot sin. This is why Christ in his human will had libertarian freedom and yet it was impossible for him to sin *in his humanity.* The will as faculty is always and necessarily directed towards that which is presented to it as a good. It is just that for those not yet fixed in virtue, real or apparent goods can be presented to it as objects for volitional activity in its personal employment or use. This is why it was possible for Satan and some angels to fall and why those later ďconfirmedĒ and thereby making it impossible for them to sin without any diminution of their freedom. The problem is in supposing that the Good is absolutely simple so that free will implies a choice between good and evil options. If that is true, then either we have a choice between moral impeccability but a loss of freedom or freedom and the impossibility of moral impeccability. This is essentially Origenís dialectical problem that he could not solve which plagues the Reformed tradition. It is ultimately motivated by a faulty doctrine of God that sees God as absolutely simple. This view is the common inheritance of Latin Christianity, which is why debates about freedom and Godís ďsovereigntyĒ continue to plague it. Dump the Neo-Platonic view of absolute simplicity and the dialectic falls apart.

    You think that Cliftonís answer regarding why one chose and the other did not is a deal breaker. Well here is my question to you. Why does God choose to create rather than not create? What in Godís nature explains why he chose one over the other? Answer: Nothing. Cliftonís reply is essentially in principle no different than the one you will supply God (the agent) just chose this one instead of that one. If Cliftonís answer is incoherent then so is the Christian doctrine of God. Clifton doesnít have to assert that the natural man has spiritual desires but only that he does so under the influence of grace. So much for being ďinescapable.Ē Christís work is quite sufficient to save us which is why Christ is the savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Christ saves everyone from annihiliation (death) but the degree that he saves them is contingent upon faith, which is why Christ is especially the savior of those who believe.

    Human nature
    The only way humans can lack free will is if they cease to be human. Since humans are made in Godís image and God has free will, humans have it as well. The fall into corruption and sin does not change our nature qua nature. It changes the functionality of our nature and our personal dispositions. Our nature is now corrupt, meaning it decays, doesnít work right and falls apart finally ending in death. Sin is personal and not natural so that it is persons who are affected by sin. Sin and corruption do not eliminate free will rather they diminish its potency or effectiveness. We cannot accomplish that which we will and we cannot will the good without in some way willing ourselves at the same time as an end. This is why the acts of unregenerate persons do not please God. Noting that Godís grace is necessary for faith is not sufficient to show that monergism is true. You need necessary and sufficient conditions. Augustine agrees that it is necessary but not sufficient for example which is why he thinks that there are people who are regenerate but fall away.

    It is quite true that apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but this does not imply that only Jesus does something. Rather it implies that with Jesus *we* can do something. If humans only act as they are acted upon, then it is hard to see what the difference is between being acted on by God and cases of manipulation. In the latter cases, persons are not responsible for their actions and hence neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. If God determines my desires and Godís determining my desires is not up to me, then my desires are not up to me. Likewise, if God determines my actions, and Godís determining my actions isnít up to me, then my actions are not up to me. How can I do something with Jesus if Jesus determines my actions and his determining them isnít up to me, thereby implying that my actions arenít mine? And what is the difference between your view and that of say Malbrancheís Occasionalism where God is the only cause of any act?

    To think that apart from the Spirit we would always choose to rebel against God seems to me to suppose that nature is inherently bereft of good and inherently evil. This is Manicheanism.

    Acts 13:48 is of no help to your position. First because Acts 13 says nothing about Godís determining anything. It speaks of appointing to an end but not of determinism. It means those that God enrolled in eternal life. The contrast is between those who were appointed to an end, the Jews but did not believe and those who were now appointed and believed. Notice what Paul says in verse 46 ďThen Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.Ē Moreover, John 7:30 seems to support this understanding that people can reject Godís purposes for themselves. ďBut the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.Ē Part of the problem is that you are assuming that God wills everything with one and only one modality of willing. The other problem is that you read into causal notions into the passage which simply arenít there.

  18. For those who want to ge their brains clear on exactly what Free Will is and isn’t, here is some bibliography

    Peter van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will, Oxford. van Inwagen’s book started off the contemporary debate in the last 30 years.

    Robert Kane, The Significance of Free Will, Oxford. Kane is probably one of the formost defenders of Libertarianism. This is probably the single best book on the topic.

    John Matin Fischer, The Metaphysics of Free Will, Blackwell. Fischer’s text is probably one of the best defenses of Compatibilism.

    From here you can find your way through the labyrinth of contemporary literature.

  19. Clifton & Perry

    You quote … 2 Pet 1:4 ďWhereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.Ē It is by becoming partakers of Godís nature that we escape the corruption brought into the world by the devil through sin. T

    I think you need to consider the before and after of regeneration. We have no argument about the AFTER. The question is how can someone without the Holy Spirit believe the gospel? And if they cannot then my question to you is WHY NOT??? What is hindering them? That is, unless you want to argue that someone can come to Christ apart from the Spirit … but this would contradict your earlier statements about the necessity of grace… no? So question… can a person choose Christ apart from the Spirit .. if not why not??

    You said>>>>No one, as far as I know is arguing that we can do anything that pleases God or move ourselves to faith apart from God moving first. To think that one of their own natural abilities apart from grace can move themselves to faith just is semi-Pelagianism. To think so is to confuse the idea that nothing we can do of ourselves can please God

    He you place yourself in a tough spot. Again. Why can’t an unregenerate person believe the gospel naturally? If your view of human will is correct and we do not choose based on our desires, but rather according to the liberty of indifference, then why can’t an unregenerate man do so? If not something rooted in his very nature then what? His rejection of Christ is willful blindness. The Scripture testifies that the unbeliever rejects Christ because he “HATES THE LIGHT” (John 3:19) His choice is based on his affection, no????

    You said >>>This reply preserves the responsibility and blameworthyness of the person who does not respond.

    If someone borrows $1 billion to found a new company and squanders it in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, his inability to repay the debt does not alleviate him of the responsibility. Likewise our inability to do ourselves any redempptive good does not alleviate us of responsibility. God’s commands are forsaken because we don’t want to obey them. It is enitirely our fault.

    >>>>If the person who does not respond does not do so because they are not the source of that non-response, then how are they to be blamed?

    The gospel is not about us, it is about God. We are already dead in sin and can not even lift a finger toward our own salvation. If God saves someone it is a pure act of mercy toward rebellious sinners who hate him. Some get mercy and some justice. It isn’t about what God sees in us because all he sees are creatures that love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT COME INTO THE LIGHT (John 3:19, 20).

    Do you see that?

    You said >>>>If we attach ascriptions of praise and blame relative to the source of an act, then if God is the source of their act, how does it not follow that God is to blame and not them?

    God is not to blame for our sin. If he passes over someone and chooses not to save them they still get justice. If he saves us Christ does for us what we could not do for ourselves. Christ’s atonement raises dead sinners to life and the Scripture says that he will have mercy on whom he has mercy and it does not depend on man’s will desire or effort but on God’s mercy (Rom 9:15-16). He chooses to save some out of his osvereign good pleasure.

    >>>>Also, in Reformed theology, God is absolutely simple, which means that in God justice and mercy do not differ. This means that Godís justice and mercy are equally extended to all.

    Incorrect. I am not advocation any denomination or theology here. What matters is what the Scripture s say. And for the Record… no Reformed theologian advocated God extending mercy and justice to all persons. You must have derived this information from a polemic against reformed theology rather than from their own statements. Can you provide some quotes???

    Next, If you reject my view of human nature as you claim then show me from Scripture that your view is correct. All I have received from you thus far is UNAIDED HUMAN PHILOSOPHY.I listed large portions of Scripture which proved that my presuppositions are based on the text of Scripture. The only thing you have done is make unaided assertions of what you believe without showing how the Scripture makes your case. Where is this liberty you find in Scripute??? You only make a philosophical deduction that one’s will must be free from bondage to have responsibility. OK … can you provide scriptural support from this position? The man without the Spirit cannot understand Spiritual things right? (1 Cor 2:14; ROm 8:7) Why? because he is not spiritual. Spirit gives birth to spirit and felsh gives birth to flesh.

    For example, the following Scripture shows Jesus speaking to some Jews who reject him and he exaplains clearly WHY THEY REJECT HIM. Because of their desires which are derived from who they are by nature. You can debate with Jesus all you want. I care very little for philosophy if it does not jive with our highest presupposition, the Scripture.

    34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…”If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does…44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:34-47

    Please explain why Jesus would say the exact same thing I have

    Furthermore No one “actualizes their nature through willing”. No one ever said this. What was said is the same thing the Jesus said. The reason they do not hear is that the devil is their father who’s nature is to lie and because they are not “of God”. Jesus says my sheep hear my voice the reason some do not believe, he says is “BECAUSE they are not My sheep”. He doesn’t say they are not my sheep because they do not believe.

    You quote>>>>
    ďFlee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.Ē Paul has in mind evil desires as what counts as doing the devilís will.

    Again, he is speaking to a believer. Unbelievers cannot work out their salvation or pursue righteousness because they can do not redemptive good. The Scripture says without faith it is impossible to please God. So those without faith are carnal and CANNOT UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL THINGS (1 Cor 2:24) unless the Spirit opens their eyes.

    You quote Augustine and claim he was a synergist

    >>>>>Augustine for example accepts the first but not the second because he is a synergist who thinks that we cooperate in our own justification. The idea that we genuinely act in our own salvation does not imply that there is room for boasting. As Augustine was fond of quoting Paul in saying (1 Cor 4:7) ďFor who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?Ē

    Augustine was not a synergist but believed that the grace of God in salvation was invincible. He said “for the will is evil by corruption of nature and becomes good only by a correction of grace.Ē (Rebuke and Grace)

    The reason you feel perhaps that I am evading your question is because your assertions must be able to withstand testing. You can say and believe that you are a tree .. but when we test the reality it reveals something entirely different.

    >>>>You asked if two persons receive the same assisting grace how are we to explain why one responds and the other does not? I donít think someone who is a synergist has to think that there is something innately superior in one person than in the other to explain why one responds and the other does not. All theThis reply preserves the responsibility and blameworthyness of the person who does not respond.y have to say is that one chose to respond in freedom and the other did not.

    Response: Again, I did not ask you what they did. I asked you why they did it.

    Synergism is the idea that there are at least two parties working in some act. Semi-Pelagianism is the idea that we can of our own power apart from Godís help do something that pleases God. All Semi-Pelagians are synergists, but not all synergists are Semi-Pelagian.

    And this is the very reason why I have asked you the simple question about why one persons chooses Christ and not another. Your answer proves that some aspect of your faith is apart from the grace of God. It is the motive which gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, so is the act. For if the choice be made prior to the rising of desire towards the object, then it is made in indifference and is of no moral character. If the desire rises, it is love; which is the very thing to be accounted for.

    For if two persons both receive God’s grace — one responds and the other does not, what makes these two men to differ? IT IS NOT GRACE BECAUSE BOTH HAD GRACE. That means that something APART FROM GRACE in one person and not the other made was what made the final determination.

    What was this thing that one person had that the other did not?

    You said
    >>>>You are looking for an explanation of a personal act in terms of antecedent impersonal necessitating causes.

    There is nothing impersonal about it. The application of Christ’s redemption by the Holy Spirit is as personal an act as they come. This has nothing to do with philosophy — we are speaking of the necessity of God’s grace for a sinner to believe.

    You said>>>>
    But if we are required to explain human acts in this way, we are owed an argument as to why we have to do so. So far, I have yet to see you gesture at what such an argument might be.

    Because of God’s mercy to us in Christ. Spiritual dead sinners who cannot help themselves are loved by God who determines to save them.

    You said>>>>
    there are accounts of indeterministic causation that seem plausible that appear to serve just as well in explaining why some agent responds and the other doesnít. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-probabilistic/ If we have a particle approaching a barrier and it is undetermined (metaphysically speaking, not epistemologically speaking) as to whether the particle will breach the barrier this does not imply that whatever happens is inexplicable. So say there is an 80% probability that the particle will breach the barrier and a 20% probability that it wonít.

    I am afraid I lost you there. It appears you are advocation that it is possible we are saved by some kind of chance happening. How impersonal can one get. To allege there is anything that happens by chance in the univers is to deny God’s sovereignty as if something could take him by surprise.

    Stones and flesh>>>
    This these and other passages do not say that God does so apart from the willing of such individuals.

    So in other words you are saying that there was some willing here before the grace of God when their proud stony hearts were ruling their desires??

    Take a look at the Counsel of Orange which uphled the Monergism of Augustine

    CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

    So my question to you is do you believe the assistance of grace depends on the humility and obedience of man? Isn’t it a gift of grace itself that we are humble and obedient????

    If you say ‘yes’ then why isn’t everyone humble and obedient???

    Blessing to all of you on this board…. This is an important topic I believe and I wish I had more time … so if my response is a long time in coming don’t mind me. eh???

    Grace and Peace
    John

  20. John:

    First, some general comments.

    Part of the disconnect here is precisely in that you understand human nature differently than do we. You understand human nature, human willing and human choice to be inextricably fused. We do not.

    Another part of the disconnect is that by default you are assuming your monergist readings of the biblical texts in question to be the true readings, and then using your interpretations of those texts as a critique of our synergist positions. But this precisely begs the question. We do not accept your monergist readings, and, in fact, Perry has done a good job of showing how your monergist readings of those texts are wrong (and how a synergist reading is correct). So, until you answer the criticisms of your textual intepretations, your appeal to the biblical texts in question does not advance your argument. It merely shows that you have no argument; just a set of bald assertions you cannot defend.

    Perry and I have done two things in these arguments: we have explicated what synergism is (which, for whatever reason, you keep refusing to accept), and we have shown that on the basis of monergism’s own presuppositions monergism logically entails ultimately unChristian understandings of the Trinity and of Christology.

    Now, I do understand that you disagree with us. But up to this point all that you have done is first assume monergism to be true and then on the basis of monergism’s presuppositions attempted to critique and disprove synergism. This is the ultimate weakness of your argument. You cannot advance your argument and must resort to retrenchment in questionable presuppositions that have yet to be proven.

    This is what, if you wish to substantiate your claims, you need to do: first, to answer our criticisms of monergism (i. e., you need to prove that monergism does not lead to heretical Trinitarian understandings and heretical Christology), and second to critique synergism on its own terms, and in so doing, show that synergism fails on its own terms. Because quite frankly, if you cannot prove that synergism fails on its own terms, that implies that it is a valid, logical and true argument. And if you cannot answer the criticisms we have made of monergism, then that implies that monergism is a heresy.

    This really is where the argument is at. So further back and forth needs to be on these matters and not merely over the contention of opposing points.

    However, let me go on to address some of your questions.

    I think you need to consider the before and after of regeneration. We have no argument about the AFTER. The question is how can someone without the Holy Spirit believe the gospel? And if they cannot then my question to you is WHY NOT??? What is hindering them? That is, unless you want to argue that someone can come to Christ apart from the Spirit … but this would contradict your earlier statements about the necessity of grace… no? So question… can a person choose Christ apart from the Spirit .. if not why not??

    We have already responded to this. We believe both that God’s grace is necessary and that man has the natural capacity to believe. It is NOT either God acts or man believes; for synergists it is BOTH God acts and man believes.

    He you place yourself in a tough spot. Again. Why can’t an unregenerate person believe the gospel naturally? If your view of human will is correct and we do not choose based on our desires, but rather according to the liberty of indifference, then why can’t an unregenerate man do so? If not something rooted in his very nature then what? His rejection of Christ is willful blindness. The Scripture testifies that the unbeliever rejects Christ because he “HATES THE LIGHT” (John 3:19) His choice is based on his affection, no????

    In the case you mention, yes, his choice is BASED on his affection. But it is not DETERMINED by it. This is where you and we disagree on human nature. You must assert, based on your monergist propositions, that man is determined by his nature to always choose toward one end. We do not. We believe that man is free to choose to act over and above whatever desires he may have.

    But lest you misread me, this does not logically entail that man’s choice somehow overrides God’s grace. As St. John says above, even man’s capacity for choice is an expression of God’s grace. So even if man chooses an end opposed to God, in that he chooses he is experiencing the grace of God.

    If someone borrows $1 billion to found a new company and squanders it in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, his inability to repay the debt does not alleviate him of the responsibility. Likewise our inability to do ourselves any redempptive good does not alleviate us of responsibility. God’s commands are forsaken because we don’t want to obey them. It is enitirely our fault.

    You make a fundamental confusion here. You equate inability with incapacity. These are not the same thing. Or, to say it another way, you confuse willing and choosing the end with willing and choosing the means. It is entirely possible that the indebted man, recognizing his own moral culpability, freely wills and freely chooses to be in a state of absolution of his debt. But clearly the path to willing and choosing the means to do so is not open to him. Thus, “unregenerate man” can freely will and choose salvation, though being incapable of himself to accomplish salvation.

    The gospel is not about us, it is about God. We are already dead in sin and can not even lift a finger toward our own salvation. If God saves someone it is a pure act of mercy toward rebellious sinners who hate him. Some get mercy and some justice. It isn’t about what God sees in us because all he sees are creatures that love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT COME INTO THE LIGHT (John 3:19, 20).

    Do you see that?

    You apparently cannot see through to the implications of your own position. If God is absolutely simple–which you must believe on monergist principles, and which you’ve indicated by some of your comments you do believe–then there is no essential distinction between God’s mercy and God’s judgment. Let me reiterate Perry’s question to you, which you seem to have misunderstood:

    Also, in Reformed theology, God is absolutely simple, which means that in God justice and mercy do not differ. This means that Godís justice and mercy are equally extended to all. How then are we to stave off the conclusion of universalism with respect to salvation or damnation on such a view? What explains on your view why one responds and one doesnít if Godís justice is identical with his mercy?

    To which you replied:

    Incorrect. I am not advocation any denomination or theology here. What matters is what the Scripture s say. And for the Record… no Reformed theologian advocated God extending mercy and justice to all persons. You must have derived this information from a polemic against reformed theology rather than from their own statements. Can you provide some quotes???

    Perry is showing you the logical entailments of your (and Reformed theology’s) presuppositions. Can you prove Perry wrong? Do you not believe in the absolute simplicity of God? If not, can you really claim to be a monergist? If so, then how do you answer Perry’s charge of universalism?

    You next charge:

    Next, If you reject my view of human nature as you claim then show me from Scripture that your view is correct. All I have received from you thus far is UNAIDED HUMAN PHILOSOPHY.I listed large portions of Scripture which proved that my presuppositions are based on the text of Scripture. The only thing you have done is make unaided assertions of what you believe without showing how the Scripture makes your case. Where is this liberty you find in Scripute??? You only make a philosophical deduction that one’s will must be free from bondage to have responsibility. OK … can you provide scriptural support from this position?

    First of all, Perry did. Go back and re-read his comment. Also, you clearly did not read any of the citations from St. John. He gives many Scriptural references pointing out the liberty of human choosing. Please re-read the original post here before you make such unfounded accusations.

    Second of all, your readings of Scripture are themselves based on human philosophy. Perry has shown this–conclusively in my mind.

    In fact, all Scripture must be interpreted. You have yet to prove your interpretive method is what is required to properly understand the Scriptural texts you interpret. In other words, your charge of our lack of Scriptural support begs the question that your interpretive principles are right.

    You go on to say:

    For example, the following Scripture shows Jesus speaking to some Jews who reject him and he exaplains clearly WHY THEY REJECT HIM. Because of their desires which are derived from who they are by nature. You can debate with Jesus all you want. I care very little for philosophy if it does not jive with our highest presupposition, the Scripture.

    No, the text does not explain why they rejected him. To illustrate what I mean, go to the texts of the calls of Sts. Peter, Andrew, James and John, of St. Matthew, of St. Zacchaeus. Where in the texts does it say why they choose Jesus? It certainly doesn’t say that God regenerated their will so that they could choose Jesus does it? You have to import your presupposed monergist understanding into the text to make it say that. But that only begs the question. You haven’t proved the very thing that’s being contested. You’ve only assumed it then proof-texted it with a biblical passage.

    Lest you think I’m making this charge up out of whole cloth, let me quote you your own words:

    Again, he is speaking to a believer. Unbelievers cannot work out their salvation or pursue righteousness because they can do not redemptive good. The Scripture says without faith it is impossible to please God. So those without faith are carnal and CANNOT UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL THINGS (1 Cor 2:24) unless the Spirit opens their eyes

    Here’s what 1 Corinthians 2:14 actually says:

    (Complete Apostles’ Bible) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

    (KJV) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    (Greek NT) ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ Θεοῦ· μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστι, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται.

    This passage is not making claims about the possibility of belief. It talks about being able to understand the things of God. One can certainly have faith, or believe, apart from understanding, or with deficient understanding. Faith, after all, is not a syllogistic proposition, but a life commitment. We are certainly able to believe apart from understanding.

    This, by the way is what I mean by prooftexting: using a passage to substantiate a claim that the passage does not make, and then also tacking on an extra claim “unless the Spirit opens their eyes”, which the passage itself does not say.

    That’s a bad argument.

    You go on:

    And this is the very reason why I have asked you the simple question about why one persons chooses Christ and not another. Your answer proves that some aspect of your faith is apart from the grace of God. It is the motive which gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, so is the act. For if the choice be made prior to the rising of desire towards the object, then it is made in indifference and is of no moral character. If the desire rises, it is love; which is the very thing to be accounted for.

    For if two persons both receive God’s grace — one responds and the other does not, what makes these two men to differ? IT IS NOT GRACE BECAUSE BOTH HAD GRACE. That means that something APART FROM GRACE in one person and not the other made was what made the final determination.

    Here is where you continue to misunderstand synergism. Please, I beg you, read St. John’s words above, and quit making these unfounded accusations.

    That a person has the capacity to choose is itself an act of God’s grace. This is how even personal choice, which is authored by a person, even when it rejects God, is itself suffused with God’s grace and mercy.

    You believe God’s grace is invincible because your monergist presuppositions require you to believe that human nature is always in opposition to God. Synergists do not believe that.

    So, God’s grace can act in and on man, and man can also freely choose, which capacity to choose is itself God’s gracious gift.

    Or to say it another way: God’s will is that man freely choose, thus man’s act of choosing per se is perfectly compliant with God’s will. This is also in part why when man chooses evil, he is personally responsible for it, for he has taken the grace of God given him in his capacity to choose and personally authored a sinful act.

    Furthermore, you mistake the nature of willing and choosing, motive and deliberation. The “motive” is that which moves the will. That is to say, the will is inclined toward an end. That end may be a real good, and thus moral, or it may only be an apparent good, and thus deficient. It is the function of deliberation to discern the difference between a real good and an apparent good.

    But act results from choice and, usually, deliberation. And here deliberation and choice are not entailed to follow will and motive. Indeed, it is precisely the function of deliberation and choice to direct the will and its motive desire.

    Thus, while we may, perhaps even often do, act in such a way as to actualize our will and its motive force, we ultimately do so through choice. That choice may be akratic–unguided by reason–in which case it will likely be vicious. But that choice may also be enkratic–guided by reason–in which case it will likely be virtuous. (But woe, to the man whose choice is deliberately akratic! ūüėČ )

    You also make a point that needs clarification:

    There is nothing impersonal about it. The application of Christ’s redemption by the Holy Spirit is as personal an act as they come. This has nothing to do with philosophy — we are speaking of the necessity of God’s grace for a sinner to believe.

    Do you believe God’s grace to be created or uncreated? If created, then it is, indeed, an impersonal antecedent cause (unless, of course, you assert its enhypostatization, but this would be a highly unusual argument), even if it is “applied” by a personal agent.

    You reacted to Perry’s probabilistic argument thus:

    I am afraid I lost you there. It appears you are advocation that it is possible we are saved by some kind of chance happening. How impersonal can one get. To allege there is anything that happens by chance in the univers is to deny God’s sovereignty as if something could take him by surprise.

    You misunderstand. Perry’s example was given in the context of indeterminism (free will is per se undetermined), to show that the argument against indeterminism–i. e., that it has no explanatory schema–is simply mistaken.

    But that is precisely Perry’s point: an undetermined choice is not chance.

    You also, it seems to me, fundamentally misunderstand canon 6:

    CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

    So my question to you is do you believe the assistance of grace depends on the humility and obedience of man? Isn’t it a gift of grace itself that we are humble and obedient????

    If you say ‘yes’ then why isn’t everyone humble and obedient???

    Nothing in the canon precludes the freedom of human choice.

    Tthe point of the canon is that human effort cannot effect salvation. But this is not the same thing as saying we have no freedom to choose.

    Indeed, nothing in the canon precludes someone who has been assisted/enabled by grace in all these ways from freely choosing to reject God. But if the canon cannot preclude the rejection of God, then we have the free capacity to choose. And this canon can be read in an entirely synergistic way (though obviously canon 7 cannot–but then no argument is made as to why free choice must be precluded).

    I’m grateful for your comments as they help elucidate the arguments and help make plain what is the truth.

    Please return and comment as you can.

  21. As to 2 pet 1:4 I think you need to engage the argument I gave as I engaged yours. The argument you gave from Timothy was that prior to regeneration the human will was in bondage to the devil. The particular kind of bondage you had in mind was that the unregenerate will is determined by the devil or evil desires in some way. I donít disagree that the unregenerate are in bondage to the devil. What we disagree about is what that bondage is constituted by.

    I cited 2 pet 1:4 along with other passages to show what that bondage consisted in, namely a bondage to death and corruption. The sequence was lust-> sin-> corruption->death. This is why Jesus calls the devil Beelzebub, or the Lord of the Flies, where flies denote corruption. The unregenerate do the devilís will not in that the devil determines their actions but that they bring about the end that the devil desires, namely their death. I noted that this was supported by previous verses in Timothy where Paul speaks of fleeing evil desires showing that he has this idea in mind.

    You donít seem to perceive my affirmations that people come to faith only with Godís help so let me clearly differentiate our two positions. You think that the necessary condition of Godís antecedent assistance amounts to a kind of moving of our wills without our willís own self motion. God alone is acting and we are passive. I think that the necessary condition of Godís antecedent assistance includes the activity of our will. Second, I flat out affirm the absolute necessity of Godís grace being antecedent and logically prior to any act of faith of anyone at all times in all places under any and all logically possible conditions. Clear enough? So the question is not, how can someone believe without the Holy Spirit. Rather the question is, what does Godís aid consist of and how does it work?

    When you ask why they cannot form an act of faith with Godís assistance you are essentially asking why Godís assistance is necessary. Following Augustine it is necessary because faith is a virtue, specifically a supernatural virtue in which God is pleased. This does not mean that prior to possessing this virtue that people cannot have any kind of belief in God or Christ. What it means is that what constitutes their belief in an unregenerate state is always ordered to themselves as an end rather than God as an end. This is why any belief or motion of a person towards God apart from the supernatural virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) will not please God. The supernatural virtues please God because they are divine in origin and they have God as their end. The question is not so much what they can will but in what ways can they will the things that they do. Not just any acts of belief will please God. Not just any acts of hope or love will please God. Only those acts that have God as their end.

    You seem to think that there are only two positions available to the non-Calvinist. Either it is the case that only God moves us or we move ourselves. But there is a third position taken by Augustine, namely that we and God both move us to the virtue of Faith.

    You think that I am in a tough spot. I think it is rather comfy actually. Here we need to distinguish between belief of any kind and the virtue of faith. The former people can have on their own apart from grace but it will not please God. For the latter they require Godís assistance. The assistance doesnít obliterate their act of will to believe, because otherwise it would not be their act of will, but Godís, which is absurd. So why canít a person apart from grace have the virtue of faith? Very simple, because faith is a supernatural virtue and not a natural virtue and because every personís use of their will apart from grace is directed towards themselves as an end, even in belief. Here it would be helpful if you grasped Augustineís notion of libido or the will to power as original sin.

    The liberty of indifference doesnít deny that we choose based on our desires but only that are desires are causes, causes that necessitate their effects, and/or causes that are anything more than contributing causes. And you ask if someone makes choices with the liberty of indifference why canít they choose to believe? Well as I noted, I distinguish between belief simpliciter and the virtue of faith, which is a specific form of belief. Surely you will grant me that not every form of belief in Christ amounts to the virtue of faith. Even the demons believe so it is not a question of mere belief, but of faith. Also, I donít see how you can say that their unbelief is of their nature and also willful. If the latter then they are clearly responsible but not if the former. They are responsible on the latter because they willed it to be so in some way. But if it is natural, then they didnít will it at all, in which case they canít be responsible for it. Responsibility is a property of PERSONS, not natures. I agree with John 3:19 that those who do evil hate the Light. Since it is a personal act, it is not a question of WHAT they are but WHO they are. That is it is a question not of nature, but of person. Nature suffers corruption and disorder and persons suffer from guilt. The problem is that you take ďbased onĒ to mean ďdetermined by.Ē Doing things based on reasons or desires doesnít amount to the idea that those reasons or desires determine an agent to perform some act. If it did, then we would be stuck with saying that God was determined to create, redeem, etc. since God does things for reasons. But via modus tollens, God isnít determined to create, redeem, etc. therefore performing some act for some reason or desire doesnít mean that those reasons or desires determine the agent to perform some act. All of this is just to say, once again, that reason and desires are not causes. Reasons and desires are dispositional STATES. Because they are mental states they donít cause anything. Decisions are the things that cause acts.

    Your analogy of someone borrowing money doesnít prove what you think it does and here is why. Someone who doesnít respond to God is responsible because they are the source of the act of not responding. This is because we attach praise or blame relative to the source of an act. Your case is still a case in which a person was the source of their act to squander the money. What you need is a case in which someone isnít the source of their own acts but is still responsible. Good luck in constructing such a case. ūüėČ I agree that our inability apart from Godís help doesnít mitigate our responsibility in any way because we were the ones who sinned and got ourselves into this mess. It is just because we as persons are the source of the sin that makes us responsible. The fact that we canít get ourselves out of a hole that we threw ourselves into doesnít prove monergism, namely that only God acts in regeneration. It only implies that God is a necessary condition. What you need to show is that Godís assistance is both a necessary and a sufficient condition.

    The Gospel is about God in love rescuing his creation from annihilation. You state that some get mercy and some get justice. But if as I stated previously, if justice and mercy are identical in God because God is absolutely simple, then everyone gets the same thing. In which case how are you to explain why some get eternal life and some hell? Heaven and hell are just being in the presence of God relative to different persons. This is why Jonathan Edwards taught that hell was the presence of God for the wicked and not his absence.

    Second, your comments about the gospel not being about us but God, does not engage my argument at all. I asked that if the person who does not respond does not do so because they are not the source of that non-response, then how are they to be blamed? The argument underlying the question is fairly simple. If some antecedent state of affairs brings about my acts, and that antecedent state of affairs bringing about my acts is not up to me, then my acts arenít up to me. If my acts arenít up to me, then it is hard to see first how they are in any sense, my acts and second how I could be responsible for them. If God causes them in predestination to not believe then how is it not the case that God is the source of the act of unbelief? In which case why isnít God culpable for the unbelief and not the human agent? If you do not think that praise and blame are ascribed relative to the source of some act, then you need to give some better explanation as to on what basis praise and blame are ascribed. Because you keep pounding John 3, please not that they HATE the light because their deeds were evil and they do evil. Hating is a personal act. And it is they that did the evil deeds. It is because they are set on evil that they hate the light. The problem is that you keep conflating the categories of persons and natures. Do you see that?

    Merely asserting a proposition which all Christians agree on doesnít remove the difficulty that your theological system generates. Simply saying that God is not to blame for sin does no explanatory work. You need to explain, if God causes all events, then why isnít he responsible for them? Romans 9 also uses Pharaoh as a case of divine election, namely to serve some purpose of Godís. The problem is that you see in the election discussed in Romans 9 a kind of theological determinism. And that is rooted in part in a failure to distinguish between what God causes and what he orders. ďHence, God causes some things and orders them, but other things he only orders.Ē Augustine, On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, 5, 25. I agree that God orders all events but this doesnít imply that election is a kind of predestination. That is, ordering an event is bringing about certain consequences from it. So the agent causing the act is free, it is just that the consequences of that act arenít up to him. This is why Paul says in Romans 9:11 ďin order that God’s purpose of election might continue.Ē Godís purpose in electing the gentiles was to bring about the salvation of all Israel and specifically a means of making Israel jealous. More specifically god’s purpose in electing Israel was to bring about the promised Seed, Christ. God chose people to fulfill his purposes irrespective of their standing, including the king of Egypt. This is essentially the same idea expressed in Genesis where Joseph states that what his brothers purposed for evil, God purposed for Good. The acts were freely done by Josephís brothers but the evil end that they purposed did not come about.

    As to Christís atonement, well this depends on what theory or model of the atonement is biblical. I have a hard time seeing how the penal view which didnít come into existence until late medieval scholasticism and the Reformation is biblical. If it were biblical it should have been taught previously like other doctrines like the Trinity, hypostatic union, Resurrection. I agree that by Christís redemptive work Christ raises sinners to life but he also raises everyone to life. (Rev 20) It is because of Christís work that even the wicked are resurrected.

    I didnít claim you were advocating a specific denominational view, but rather a tradition of theology that spans across various denominational structures. I didnít claim that you or a Reformed theologian said that God extends mercy and justice to all equally. What I gave an argument for was that this was the conclusion they were committed to by virtue of their view of God. If God is absolutely simple, this means that justice and mercy are identical in God, otherwise they would constitute parts in Godís essence. But since God is absolutely simple, justice and mercy are identical in God. The argument is simple. If P has property y, and P has property x, then P has x & y properties. If Pxy is absolutely simple lacking any kind of plurality, then P is identical to x, P is identical to y, and x is identical to y. So if God is absolutely simple, and justice and mercy in God are identical, then if God extends justice to one person he also extends his mercy to that person. Now, show me where the argument I gave is wrong.

    What I am claiming regarding Reformed theology and absolute simplicity is pretty standard across all of the reformed churches. You can find it explicated in various ways in all of the representative Reformed systematic theologies-Hodge, Berkhof, Reymond, Turretin, Shedd, Strong, et al. Just go peek under the doctrine of God and look up simplicity. It is all there. Hereís a quote from Turretin to motivate you to go look. ďThe simplicity of God considered not morally, but physically, is his incommunicable attribute by which the divine nature is conceived by us not only free from all composition and division, but also as incapable of composition and divisibility.Ē Institutes of Eclenctic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 191. Turretin has an entire article to is and you can find much the same treatment in Hodge, Berkhof, Kuyper, Hoeksema or any other Reformed theologian.

    Just because I gave arguments doesnít imply that the arguments were unaided by divine revelation. By the same verses that indicate that God is free, you can find verses that indicate that man is free. Godís freedom consists in that he chooses between options, he does things for reasons or specific ends/goals. God wills things that he doesnít always desire (the death of the wicked for instance). You can find the same kinds of thing strewn about Scripture saying the same things about humans. They make choices between options, do things for reasons and they sometimes will things that they do not desire. What human servitude to sin consists in is not in a lack of being able to will otherwise. Rather it consists in the fact that humans set as their goal sinful things, they serve sinful ends. Their servitude also consists in the fact that while they can will otherwise with respect to redemption, they cannot *do* otherwise. They cannot *do* anything that pleases God.

    As to philosophy in general, Scripture doesnít condemn using your brain. All truth is Godís truth and truths of reason do not conflict with truths of Scripture and visa versa. If something can be shown to be true with reason, then it is true. Using your brain doesnít make it any less so. And the arguments you attempted to put forward were done using your reason as well. I agree that you listed large portions of Scripture. I listed, referenced or alluded to all the Scriptural statements that were necessary to support my claims. Listing large portions of Scripture doesnít prove a case. (The devil can do that.) Showing that Scripture means what you claim it means does. You listed the passages and I exposited and explained how they actually supported my view and didnít support yours. You havenít done much else than just cite passages and assume that the mean what you think they do.

    What is more, I have given arguments using truth preserving inferences like modus tollens, modus ponens and such. Are you recommending that I donít employ logical arguments to prove my points? What shall I use, non-logical arguments? And Reformed theologians employ philosophical terms and arguments all the time so it can’t be illigitimate for me to do so. Philosophy per se isn’t opposed to Christian belief and it isn’t evil. If you doubt me go read the first 8 chapters of Proverbs on how we are to get knowledge and wisdom above all else. Philosophy is the love of wisdom.

    As to being the source of an act and that being the ground of moral responsibility just look at any portion of Scripture were someone breaks a commandment. Why are they responsible if they arenít the one doing it? if it isnít up to them? The implicit answer is they are the source of the act. Otherwise you would blame someone else. I agree that the natural man or man of the flesh cannot understand spiritual things. But why? Romans 8 which you cite, but do not explicate tells you why. Because the mind SET ON the flesh is death. These people set their minds on and live according to the flesh. So if you set you mind on the flesh you cannot understand those things which are only comprehensible from the vantage point of someone who has set their mind, set their goal, lives according to the Spirit.

    A particular philosophical outlook may conflict with scriptural teaching. But letís be clear, no one approaches Scripture bereft of any philosophical outlook or presuppositions. So you are approaching Scripture with philosophical assumptions and views which influence and guides your understanding of Scripture whether you realize it or not. Let me also be clear that to say that people do sinful acts because they have a sinful nature is the heresy of Manicheanism. There is no such thing as a sinful nature. There are good natures that are corrupt, broken, disordered, that malfunction, but there is no evil nature because evil doesnít have a nature. If it did, God would be its creator and hence God would be the source of evil. Augustine writes,

    City of God, 12,3
    In Scripture they are called God’s enemies who oppose His rule, not by nature, but by vice; having no power to hurt Him, but only themselvesÖAnd to them it is an evil, solely because it corrupts the good of their nature. It is not nature, therefore, but vice, which is contrary to God. For that which is evil is contrary to the good. And who will deny that God is the supreme good? Vice, therefore, is contrary to God, as evil to good. Further, the nature it vitiates is a good, and therefore to this good also it is contraryÖThis, then, may be thus formulated: Vice cannot be in the highest good, and cannot be but in some good. Things solely good, therefore, can in some circumstances exist; things solely evil, never; for even those natures which are vitiated by an evil will, so far indeed as they are vitiated, are evil, but in so far as they are natures they are good. And when a vitiated nature is punished, besides the good it has in being a nature, it has this also, that it is not unpunished.5 For this is just, and certainly everything just is a good. For no one is punished for natural, but for voluntary vices. For even the vice which by the force of habit and long continuance has become a second nature, had its origin in the will.Ē

    John 8:37 does not say that those who rejected him did so because they had an evil nature. What it does say is that anyone who sins serves sin and the implication being that they serve sin which is why they are of the devil. There is no mention of predestination, irresistible personal election or an evil nature in the passage. As to the devilís ďnatureĒ the greek term phusis or ousia are not used there. What is used is the adjective idios or form which denotes character or personal disposition. Start looking through Thayerís lexicon and then go through the rest. The argument Jesus is giving has a suppressed premise, namely that sons act like their fathers. Jesus tells the truth which implies that his Father is God and the Jews lie, which implies that they act like their father the devil who lies habitually. There isnít there any mention of a sinful or evil nature. What there is a mention of people who serve sin and hence belong to the devil, as opposed to those who serve God and hence belong to God. You can argue with Jesus all you like, but thatís all the verse says. Jesus doesnít say the exact same thing you said as I illustrated above.

    As to Timothy, I donít deny that that passage is speaking to belieers. My argument was that that passage illustrates the captivity to the devil and how those who are under that captivity do the will of the devil by acting according to the passions of the flesh so that they bring about their own death. Their death being the devilís will or goal. And that passage does support that claim that I did make.

    Augustine was most certainly a synergist and for this reason didnít believe in sola fide. Augustine thinks that God makes our will effective but not apart from our willing. This is why Augustine for example doesnít believe in sola fide, because he thinks that we contribute to our justification. Moreover, this is why Augustine thinks that there are those who receive different degrees of grace such that some are truly regenerate but fall away while others persevere. This is why say the Lutherans are closely to Augustine than the Reformed because they believe it is possible to fall away after being regenerate. This is pretty much the scholarly consensus on Augustine. I suggest you pick up Alister McGrathís Iustitia Dei on the history of the doctrine of justification. You can find similar treatments in Rist, Bonner, Brown, Markus, or OíDonnell. OíDonnell has a nice article to start with here http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/twayne/aug4.html

    The passage from Rebuke and Grace that you cite is misread. (A reference would have been helpful in tracking it down.) What Augustine means is that the personal employment of the will is evil, but the faculty of will is good. This is why he says below that natures qua natures are good even when they are corrupted because corruption is a lack of a good and not a positively existing thing.

    Spirit and the Letter 30,52
    “Do we then by grace make void free will? God forbid! No! Rather we establish free will. For even as the law by faith, so free will by grace, is not made void, but strengthened.Ē

    On Grace and Free Will, 31.
    ďThere is, however, always within us a free will,-but it is not always good; for it is either free from righteousness when it serves sin,-and then it is evil,-or else it is free from sin when it serves righteousness,-and then it is good. But the grace of God is always good; and by it it comes to pass that a man is of a good will, though he was before of an evil one. By it also it comes to pass that the very good will, which has now begun to be, is enlarged, and made so great that it is able to fulfill the divine commandments which it shall wish, when it shall once firmly and perfectly wish. This is the purport of what the Scripture says: “If thou wilt, thou shalt keep the commandments;” so that the man who wills but is not able knows that he does not yet fully will, and prays that he may have so great a will that it may suffice for keeping the commandments. And thus, indeed, he receives assistance to perform what he is commanded. Then is the will of use when we have ability; just as ability is also then of use when we have the will. For what does it profit us if we will what we are unable to do, or else do not will what we are able to do?Ē

    ďSomeone says to me: ĎSince we are acted upon, it is not we who act.í I answer, ĎNo, you both act and are acted upon; and if you are acted upon by the good then you act properly. For the spirit of God who moves you, by so moving is your Helper. The very term helper makes it clear that you yourself are doing something.Ē Sermon, 156, 11.

    ďBut He who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge but he does not justify you with your willing it.Ē Sermons 169, 13.

    ďGod has not only given us the ability and His help in exercising it, but He also works in us ďto will and to doĒ not because we do not will or because we do not do, but because without His help we neither will nor do anything good.Ē On Grace and Original Sin, 1, 25, 26

    ďWho of us would say that by the sin of the first man free will perished from the human race? Certainly freedom perished through sin, but it was that freedom which was had in paradise, of having full righteousness and immortality; and it is on that account that human nature has need of divine grace.Ē Two Letters of the Pelagians, 1, 2, 4

    The reason I think that you are evading my question is because you are evading my question. I have given straightforward arguments as to why your view is mistaken. One of the arguments I gave which you have yet to touch is the following.

    If x determines my choices, and what x determines isnít up to me, then none of my choices are up to me. Necessity is transferred through logical entailment from the antecedent to the consequent.

    1. Np (p is necessary)
    2 Nq (q is necessary)
    3. N (p ->q) (necessarily p implies q)
    4. Np (necessarily q)

    So if my desires, Godís will or anything else determines my choices, then my choices arenít mine-I make no choices at all. You havenít even tried to test most of the arguments I gave but rather just posted more biblical texts assuming that they show what you seem to be reading into them.

    You argued that the synergist either canít explain why one responds and the other does or that they have to believe that there is something innately superior in one and not the other. The reason why a libertarian says that they just chose to do so is that the agent is the explanatory end. The buck stops with them which is why they are responsible for their actions. This is what it means to be the source of their own acts. If you want to explain in terms of contributing causes you can appeal to character and such things but none of those are sufficient causes. This is why you canít explain why God creates by an appeal to Godís nature. Godís choice is free and there is nothing you can appeal to as a sufficient explanation other than ďGod just chose to.Ē If the former explanation is incoherent then so is the latter. But the latter explanation isnít incoherent (on pain of gross heresy) so then neither is the former. THAT is an argument and not an assertion. It is deductively valid since it employs modus tollens (If P, then Q, ~Q, therefore ~P.)

    I agree it is the intention that gives the moral character to the act but that doesnít prove jack squat. My answer doesnít show that some part of my act of faith is apart from Godís grace. What it shows rather is that my act of faith is the same act as Godís moving me to the virtue of Faith. What you are assuming is that it is either all my act or all Godís act, but that it canít be both wholly mine *and* wholly Godís. This is an assumption you need to argue for.

    Again and again you keep posing this view that desires are causes. I have already shown that they are not. It does no good to keep trotting out an argument that has already been refuted. Desires arenít causes because they are mental states not mental acts. States donít cause anything, acts do. The act of choosing doesnít have to be determined by desires or reason to be done *for* those reasons or desires. It just means that they are not causes or are not determining causes.

    If the two agents have grace in equal measure then you are right that the act cannot be explained fully with reference to grace, but has to be explained as an act of will. Grace doesnít act on your behalf. God doesnít will in your stead. Grace frees you to will in such a way as to please God, to find his favor. Why one respond and the other did not? First off it is possible for someone to place an impediment to grace. Second, because they just did respond. If we say that that is not an adequate explanation, then we cannot say that God just choosing to create is an adequate explanation either. Moreover, on your view, every act is determined and hence no act is free. Added to this is the logical consequence of your view that if God does something for a reason that that reason acts as a determining cause on God, so now God is determined to do what he does. In which case it logically follows on your view that creation is necessary, which results in pantheism which is rank heresy. If God is determined to create because every act must be explained in terms of determining causes, then God is determined to create, in which case that it is Godís nature to create and that he could not be God without creating thereby making the created world eternal and identical with Godís essence. I take this conclusion to be about as good as any refutation of any view one can have in Christian theology. You can have your Calvinistic soteriology because it results in a non-Christian pantheism.

    When I spoke of explaining personal acts in terms of antecedent impersonal necessitating causes I was speaking of reasons and desires as causes. Last time I checked persons and desires werenít persons. And it makes no difference even in the case of God determining your actions. I fail to see what the difference is between God determining you and an evil neurosurgeon determining your actions through technological manipulation. Both seem to be clear cases of manipulation. And we are not talking about the necessity of Godís grace for the virtue of faith. We are talking about whether it is a sufficient cause or not. You keep confusing these two. This is why with Augustine it is possible to say that God moves us and we move ourselves in one and the same act of motion. This is why there is a difference between saying that we cannot move ourselves to faith from grace and we cannot move ourselves to faith simpliciter. You are arguing for the latter and I am arguing for the former.

    When I asked for an argument as to why we had to explain human acts in the way you were, I was asking for an argument and not mere statements. Can you form an argument with premises and a conclusion for your position? As to indeterministic causation I am not advocating that we are saved by some chance happening. First because indeterministic causation isnít the same as chance. Chance events have no cause where as indeterministically caused events do have a cause. Second, I am only pointing out that causation and determinism are not the same ideas. That was the entire point of noting that there are indeterministic theories of causation. Third no temporal event indeterministically caused or not could take God by surprise because God is atemporal, that is timeless. God doesnít strictly speaking know *before* an event occurs. God just knows the event. I am not denying in any way the traditional doctrine that God is omniscient. But you seem to think that if some event were indeterministic that that would compromise Godís knowledge in some way as if Godís knowledge depended on his determining events, which it does not. How do I know it doesnít? Because there are things that God knows that he doesnít determinately cause. For example, God knows that he exists, but he didnít cause that.

    As to stones and flesh, I am saying that there is willing on our part with the grace of God and not apart from it which is quite synergistic and exactly what Augustine taught.

    I agree with everything that the Council of Orange says. It says that the virtue of faith is a gift. I agree. It says that acts of nature are inadequate and cannot produce this virtue. I agree. Where does canon 6 say that we do not will with God in the act of Faith under the influence of grace? It doesnít. This is why Orange does not teach monergism but rather teaches the primacy of grace. Since you are fond of Orange, do you agree that regeneration comes through baptism? (Canon 5?) I do. Do you agree that free will is restored by the grace of baptism? (Canon 13) I do. Do you agree with the Councilís decree that it is by cooperation with Christ that we obtain the salvation of our souls? I do.

    Whatís more, for those who do not respond, on your view, what is the cause of their non-response? Their nature. And who causes and determines their nature to be what it is? Adam? And who caused and determined Adam to fall? If not God, then is God the cause and determiner of some acts but not others? Was there some evil desire that caused Adam to fall? How about the devil? Was there some evil desire in him? If so, where did it come from? What caused that? Was the devil created evil or good? If good, why did he sin? No, how *could* he have sinned if all he had was a good nature and good desires given to him by God? If he was created evil, then how is God not the source of evil and hence himself evil? I canít see how your view doesnít implicate God in evil.

    Humility and obedience are inspired by grace, as the Council says. This doesnít imply that people canít be unfaithful with the grace that they are given. This is why Augustine thought it was possible to be regenerate and fall away.

    Here is what I want to know from you John. How do you know that God has free will? Are Godís choices determined by his nature or is he free to choose between multiple options? Where does the Bible say God has free will?

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