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Monday, May 29, 2006

The Master Chess Player

I must tell you before even beginning this post that this is definitely a "thinking out loud" post. I'm not at all set on this issue, but decided to write about it in order to see what feedback my readers might want to share. I'm open to positive and negative responses to this, but please keep in mind that I'm not actively promoting this line of thinking. Just working through it. OK? Thanks! :)

Sometimes I get frustrated at the way we try to put God in a box. It's so easy to go down a path of reasoning and think that we have God all figured out. It's not hard to find people who will confidently tell you exactly how predestination and election work. They'll throw some Scripture verses at you, redefine a few words for you along the way, and then sit back, cross their arms and say, "See? Now you understand."

But if you say, "So you're telling me that nobody has any say in whether or not they are saved?" then the arms get uncrossed again, they'll lean forward, and with the intent of a boxer sending his opponent tumbling to the mat, they'll say, "Do you not believe God is sovereign? Do you really want to say that man is sovereign? That's blasphemy."

You see, for a lot of people, that's the "hinge" argument they use to defend their viewpoint. It's the classic "Here are your only two options" false dichotomy. Either God is completely sovereign and gets every ounce of glory, or man is completely sovereign and gets every ounce of glory. And in the latter, according to some, God is left whimpering in the corner because He reallllly wanted to see someone get saved, and they just wouldn't accept His gift of salvation. And we all know that we don't want a God Who is left whimpering in the corner, sad that His great plan fell through, do we?

Time and again, I have tried to figure out if those really are the only two options. And while I'm not very clear on how to articulate a third option, I think that there is one, and I'd like to try this metaphor on for size with my readership.

I stink at chess. I mean, I understand the procedures of the game, and I understand the objective of the game, but I stink at it. I can beat my 13-year-old son at it, but that's not something a dad should brag about! And truth be told, I can only beat him because he probably thinks one move ahead, while I think an amazing two moves ahead! But if I were to play someone who had any skill at the game at all, my lack of chess ability would very quickly show. Picture with me, if you will, three possible scenarios.

Scenario 1: I'm seated across the table from the world champion of chess. The game begins. I make my first move and sit back to see what my opponent will do. The world champion chess player looks up at me with a warm smile and says, "Where would you like me to move?" I look at him with a puzzled look, "Huh?" He just smiles again. "You tell me where to move." This seems rather interesting, and so I reach over and move one of his pieces for him. He looks a little disappointed with the move I chose for him, but says nothing.

Once again, I take a turn, and wait for him to move. "That was an interesting move," he says. "Now what would you like me to move in response?" I'm liking this match quite a bit! And once again, I move one of his pieces for him. Before too long, I proudly announce, "Checkmate!" as my opponent's smile fades. A little whimper is heard as he begins to quietly gather up his belongings. The champion has been defeated!

Scenario 2: I'm seated across the table from the world champion of chess. The game begins, but before I have a chance to make my first move, my opponent reaches across the board and moves one of my pawns forward. "Hey, wait a minute!" I cry. "You can't move my pieces for me!" He smiles, "Listen, I'm the world champion chess player. I know a whole lot more about this game than you do. I'll move your pieces where I want them to go." And with that, he takes his turn.

Once again, before I even have a chance to think about my move, he reaches over and moves one of my pieces. Again, I am constrained from even having any input into the move. Eventually, he sees my frustration. "OK," he says with a seemingly sincere voice. "I'll let you move yourself, but you have to move that knight from there to here," as he points out a square on the board. "But I don't want to move that knight," I said. "You'll be able to capture it, if I do." His warm smile continues, "I know. That's my plan. Now take your turn." I reach for my bishop. "NO! You must move that knight," my opponent says forcefully. And with that, he grabs my hand, places it on the knight and moves it to the spot he had previously determined.

It doesn't take long for this game to end. And predictably, I have lost. Every move I made was determined by my opponent to bring about his desired outcome.

Scenario 3: I'm seated at a table across from the world champion of chess. Between us is a standard chess board and the game is about to begin. It all starts evenly enough. A pawn forward on my part. An answering pawn forward on his. But before very long at all, it is clear who is dominating this game. One by one, my pieces begin to leave the board. And very soon, my king is on the run. "Check", says my opponent confidently as he moves his rook parallel with my king. I quickly move my king out of danger. "Check", repeats my opponent as a bishop comes sliding in from nowhere. Where did that come from? With a little less energy, I move my king out of danger again.

And then it happens. Down the board comes his queen to corner my king. I frantically scan my options. If I move this way, I'll escape the queen for another turn. But, oops. That puts me in danger of the rook again -- can't do it. How about...nope. That bishop is waiting on the diagonal I want to move to. I've already figured it out when my opponent calmly and quietly says, "Checkmate," and the game is over.

Scenario 1 obviously represents the caricature of Arminianism that is usually portrayed by those who seek to preach against Arminianism. In that scenario, the master chess player (representing God) is incapable of winning the game because he allows me to make all the moves for him.

Scenario 2 represents the Calvinist viewpoint. In this game, the master chess player is not only capable of making winning moves, but completely determines my own moves as well.

But Scenario 3 is what I want to explore with you a bit. In this scenario, the master chess player is clearly the winner. There is not really any question that his purposes will win out over mine. That's why he's the master, and I'm not! He is able to analyze all of my possible moves, and no matter where I move, he's already figured out how to respond to it to suit his purposes. Yet he does not determine every move for me. I am free to move any of my pieces anywhere I choose to move them.

My question for you readers is this: Is this at all a reasonable analogy of how God is able to remain sovereign even while granting human beings a free will? See, from the Calvinist's perspective, if man has free will, God is powerless. Man becomes fully in control. And so, in order to preserve the character of God in their system, they feel the need to remove any trace of actual free will. "Choice" becomes re-defined to mean that you are free to choose, but God determines what you will choose. Ummm, does anyone else see a contradiction there?

Let's make one thing very clear: I do not know of anyone who believes in free will who also believes that God is not sovereign. Let's kill that straw man once and for all, please! I am trying to demonstrate in a very feeble way here that free will and the sovereignty of God do not have to be mutually exclusive.

There is more I could say about this, but for now, I'll just throw the analogy out there and see what you all think of it. Am I missing something? Is there a fatal flaw in the metaphor of God as "master chess player"? Obviously, there are areas in which the metaphor does not hold up. For example, we are not playing a game "against" God, if we are His children. God is for us, not against us! But are there problems with the metaphor that I'm missing? I look forward to your thoughts.

Until next time,

steve :)

31 comment(s):

FRIST MY EMAIL ADRESS MAY NOT WORK. I READ YOUR IDEAS ABOUT GOD IN MY OPION YOU ARE WORKING WITH MATERIALS THAT WE HAVE ALL BEEN HANDED DOWN THRU THE AGES I CHOOSEN TO TRY AND THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX IAM NOT SURE IF ONE CAN COMPLETELY BE OUT SIDE THE BOX? I DO NOT LIKE THE WORD GOD I PREFER CREATER ONE CREATER MANY GODS ALL THE GODS ARE MAN MADE YOU CAN READ UP ON ANY GOD ANY ONE CARES TO NAME BUT NO ONE KNOWS THE CREATER. WITH THAT SAID I THINK THIS CREATER MADE THE UNIVERS AND ALL THAT THAT IMPIES SEEMPLY TO UNDERSAND ITSELF AND OR TO HAVE A PRPOSE FOR IT SELF AND OF COURSE IF WE COULD REALLY KNOW WE WOULD HAVE TO THINK IN MANY LEAVELS LIKE IT . I DERIVE MY OPIONS FROM THE KNOWLEDGE THAT SCIENCE TELLS US THAT ALL THINGS IN THE UNI ARE MADE OUT OF THE SAME THINGS CALLED MATTER AND MATTER IS WHAT WE CALL ENERGY BUT NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT ENGY IS ! SO WHICH IS FRIST ? DOS MATTER MAKE THOUGHT OR THOUGHT MATTER IT CAN BE EITHER WAY BUT IMPORTANT AS TO WICH IS CORRECT IS THERE A BYPROUDUCT OF THOUGHT!? LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS AND SUCH. AS YOU CAN SEE I USE VARY DIFF MATTIRIAL TO TRY AND UNDERSTAND WHAT WIILL I SEE IF THAT IS THE PROPER WORD WHEN I DIE. FORGIVE MY SPELLING AND TYPING I DO NOT PRACTICE VARY MUSH

By Blogger LOSS, at Monday, May 29, 2006 10:46:00 PM  

Well, I believe that both the Arminian position and the Calvinist are strawmen to a large degree...

Being Reformed does not make one a fatalist -- that is the same type of strawman that is created when one looks at an Arminian position from Scenario 1.

I believe that scenario 3 is close to my thoughts (as a Reformed position, mind you), and one thing I would like to have you ponder -- In the third scenario, God is in charge -- He knew the moves you would make before you ever made them, as they were foreordained to be made, but you were free to make them.

You see, you could decide to make any move, but the Master Chessman had the game won before you started, and would/could force you into any position He choose to. He knew the outcome of the game before it started.

I assume that you do play chess -- the strategy is to get your opponent to move into a position that is beneficial to you. Now, all analogies break down, but God is still sovereign, forcing you to move the pieces according to His plan...

Proverbs 21:1 -- The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Proverbs 16:9 -- The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

My discussion is incomplete, and there are many other aspects... But, just some thoughts before I am off to work...

I was quieter when my eye was acting up! :-)

By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:34:00 AM  

loss,

The wonder and the difference of Christianity is the assertion that through faith in Jesus Christ, a human can know God, the Creator. Many people reject that statement (just as you do), as such a position dethrones other "gods"; yet it is this assertion on which faith in Jesus must either stand or fall.

Being a "Christian" is not about following a religion. It is a practice of faith in knowing the Creator.


Steve,

I enjoyed the chess matches! I just don't get into these philosophies that attempt to explain God. Perhaps our real problem is in trying to explain Him, when, He has stated in numerous places He is too high above our intellects to be understood by us.

I think of it like this: I have related to my children in different ways over time as a function of their level to understand. As they now enter adulthood (my eldest, 24 years old, is getting married this afternoon!), I recognize their ability to interact with me is far beyond where it has ever been. Yet, they do not fully know or understand me. However, as my children with whom I have had a long and close association of building a loving relationship, they know me well.

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:56:00 AM  

Hey -- BTW, have I told you that I missed you guys during my recuperate! And these discussions are why!

ded, good response!

By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:59:00 AM  

You are a very brave man to enter into such a discussion.

I like your #3. It carries a weight of truth. Of course, all metaphors will break down, but yours is a good attempt.

I use the illustration of a coin with a "head" and "tail." They are never the same, yet always go together. They contain "parallel truths." So it is with sovereignty and free will. Many things in our minds are in conflict, while God sees them as parallel truths. Parellel truths are not necessarily equal, just parallel.

I like the chess game. Will use it in my teaching. Thank you.

Blessings,
Iris

By Blogger Iris Godfrey, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 10:42:00 AM  

Great article, Steve. The fact is, the sovereignty of God and the free-will of man ARE able to co-exist, even though some would disagree.

So many seem to think that if you don't accept your second scenario, then you are exalting man. This is not true at all. Free-will does not exalt man, it actually places more responsibility on man in his response towards God's holiness.

I like what Ray said.

The beauty of salvation is, when God wins, so do we.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 2:34:00 PM  

Great comments, all!

I probably should have forewarned everyone that for the next week or so, I will be slow to respond because my summer season with the stage company has started, and we are currently in rehearsals for our first show of the season. Rehearsals in a professional theater like this are 10-6 Tuesday-Sunday (Mondays off), and next Tuesday and Wednesday will be our "tech days" (noon-midnight) before opening the show Thursday night of next week. Then I'll be back to having my days free and be able to interact as comments come in!

loss, ded already did a good job of responding to your comments, and I simply second what he said. We can know the Creator because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It is true that many have created gods to represent the Supreme God, but I don't necessarily agree with your approach to how we know, or don't know Him.

ded, I'm actually with you about these types of discussions. I normally don't like to, either, but this particular issue has been bothering me lately. Thanks for at least enjoying the metaphor! ;)

Ray, I've missed you interacting, too. It was a nice surprise to see you again today here. It's very refreshing to have someone comment from a Reformed perspective and not trash my "scenario 3". You just continue to break all the stereotypes!! ;)

Gordon, I have seen you talk about free will/sovereignty on other blogs, so I felt pretty safe that you would agree with me on this. I'm still trying to figure out how my belief in free will ends up giving myself glory (in the minds of others), so thanks for stating that so well.

Iris, thank you for your insightful comments, too. And welcome to the blog. I don't recall seeing you here in the comments before, so thanks for coming by. It's interesting that you used the coin analogy. I like to think of it that way, too (like my father-in-law tells our son, freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. Gordon made this point, too). The reason I say it's interesting, though, is that recently another blogger used the two sides of the coin to show that you can't have both. It's only one or the other. I, of course, disagree.

I was wondering if, in this discussion, anyone would mention "Open Theism". In fact, I actually expected someone to say that Scenario 3 was a description of Open Theism, but Ray actually went the other way and pointed out that the master chess player knows the moves ahead of time. I have not researched or read much about Open Theism, as I've only recently heard the term used, but it intrigues me. Does anyone care to comment on how it would relate to my third scenario?

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 6:05:00 PM  

I have a dear friend who is a son of a Presbyterian minister. I am a Pentecostal minister from the Wesleyan-Arminian persuasion. He and I have had some of my most treasured conversations about God and the Scriptures. He gave me a mental image that I have often thought about. He says that he pictures a two-sided sign which hangs directly over the gate of heaven. On the front side (the entrance), the sign reads "whosoever will, let him come..." and once inside the city, one can look at the reverse side of the sign hanging over the gate which reads "chosen from the foundation of the world."

I don't think God is into "'isms" nearly as much as we are. I'm not sure exactly where Sovereignty and Free-will intersect in the grand scheme of things, but I think the truth is somewhere closer to the middle of the two poles.

My approach- I accept that God is Sovereign and that unless He has drawn me I cannot come to Him...all the while embracing the truth that I must work out my salvation with fear and trembling and make my election and calling sure.

I'll hush now.....

By Blogger Henry Haney, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:27:00 PM  

I enjoyed your analogies here.

I've always wondered myself if it were true that you were predestined and really had no free will in the issue, what would be the whole point of trying to follow Christ? I mean, you're either one of the chosen or you're not. However, don't misunderstand me here...I'm not saying your "acts" of following Christ earn salvation. I would agree more along the lines of your Scenario 3.

Another thing the scenario 1 line of thinking has me wondering is about God being a God of love. If he loved the whole world enough to send Jesus, why would he only "choose" a few? :)

By Blogger Erica, at Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8:10:00 PM  

I think that the whole issue of free will vs. God's sovereignty is a much too thought about, talked about, and yes, blogged about thing. While I would like to understand how the whole thing works, to me it seems relatively pointless. In my mind anyway, people who constantly feel that they must figure out this issue are many times either A. Trying to find out just how far to the fringe they can go and still be "in" or "safe", or B. Wanting to understand "the truth" so that they can make sure to tell everyone else. I prefer option C--that is, I would love to know the truth, but I do not need to know it in order to continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

I think you have used a good metaphor, and I tend to agree with Scenario 3. However, because of the limited capability of language, all metaphors break down at some point, and are therfore only arrows pointing in the right direction. The problem happens when people take such a limited picture and try to raise it as the standard of "truth". As always, thanks for tackling some hard topics Steve!

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 12:22:00 AM  

Steve -- I am no expert in Open Theism, I have read a bit about it, and heard Pinnock talk on it, albeit briefly, but I believe that it would be a scenario 3, EXCEPT the Master Chessman would not know the moves you were going to make. He would be REACTING to your moves....

I can't go for that one, too many Scriptures simply deny that fact.

By Blogger Ray, at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 7:46:00 AM  

I think it is a very good analogy. Actually I beleive some thing similiar...I think..I don't beleive I've ever worked it all out on paper before. lol anyway...I think God and his plan is vastly big enough to encompass all our small choices and even allow for missteps(if there are any in Christ)...it seems to me that God stands outside of time and space. Scripture says that He sees the end from the beginning....Perhaps He has gone to the end...seen our choices...then gone back to the beginning to write the script and our names in the Book of LIfe...
either way He does indeed win the game...

By Blogger Jada's Gigi, at Thursday, June 01, 2006 2:25:00 PM  

So in scenario 3, Does God say: "Checkmate, you win."...? Because I'm thinking God's purpose is for all creation to win.

By Blogger Claire Joy, at Thursday, June 01, 2006 4:18:00 PM  

I am praying.

By Anonymous ded, at Thursday, June 01, 2006 8:59:00 PM  

thought about this on my bike ride home. i first read it when you initially posted it, but it came back during last night's ride...i think 3 is consistent with Calvin. the deal with 3 is that the Master never loses. that's never a possibility. if the prize is your heart, and he wants it, he'll get it. and there is never a possibility of him not winning it.
God is good
jpu

By Blogger jpu, at Tuesday, June 13, 2006 2:31:00 PM  

Ray,

Your view of "choice" seems to be either not well thought out or inconsistent. You say that God "knows all the moves" in advance. Then later you say that God "foreordained" the moves.

Calvinism has defined choice in a way that makes it a semantic word game. "You are free to choose what God has predetermined that you will choose."

You say that too many scriptures deny that God would react to a person's choice. I would say that most of the Bible is about exactly that, God reacting to the choices of individuals. From your perspective this is all playacting on God's part.


JPU,

Scenario three is not consistent with Calvinism if the player is making unscripted moves. Calvinism turns God into a player who "manipulates" every game so that he can win. This is a God who takes no risks.

God will always win the game, but that doesn't translate into winning "every move."

Repeating the mantra, "God is good" does not cover up the ungracious nature of a "limited atonement."

Rod

By Blogger Pastor Rod, at Tuesday, June 20, 2006 11:12:00 AM  

Rod,

Nice to see you over here. I'm not sure if anyone else is still checking this thread since it's been a while, but I appreciate your comments.

I struggle with the Calvinistic semantics. It does seem that "choice" to the Calvinist is either God playacting (as you put it) or just not really choice at all. I have trouble understanding how that can be expressed sometimes with a straight face.

But at any rate, it's good to get other comments on it, and I appreciate yours!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, June 20, 2006 11:28:00 AM  

Steve:

Rod sure gets around. Unfortunately, his particular theological bent has trouble acknowledging certain scriptural realities.

For example, (above) he takes issue with this: "You are free to choose what God has predetermined that you will choose."

What other reasonable explanation is there for passages like this one:

"for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28

I always go back to my "who wrote the book of Romans?" example when this topic comes up. If Rod would be honest, he'd have to admit that Paul had complete freedom to write whatever he wanted in his letter to the Romans, but what Paul wrote was totally predetermined by God. I don't think we can rob Paul of his freedom, nor can we rob God of his control over what was written.

How God is able to predetermine things, without man being a mindless robot, is something that we can't fully grasp; we just accept that it's true. Similarly, we don't fully understand the trinity either, but we just accept that the 3 in 1 is true.

--Jim

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 3:54:00 AM  

Jim,

How interesting to see you over here. Welcome.

I would kindly request, however, that you address someone's comments directly, rather than talking to me about them. I don't know that Rod will be back to read this, since this is a rather old thread now, but I still think it was a bit inappropriate for you to talk about him here with such loaded comments as "Rod sure gets around" and "If Rod would be honest".

Rod is not that rare in his theology, and if you have read my comments and posts here, you know that I probably have more in common doctrinally with Rod, than I do with you.

Having said that, your recent post on pendulum swings is very appropriate to this discussion. Your comment swings the pendulum to the far other side of the spectrum, resulting in just as much avoidance of Scriptural revelation as you think Rod's position does.

If you have further issues with Rod, I would kindly request that you address him personally here, take it up on your blog, or take it up on his. In the comments of this blog, however, I prefer to see dialogue, not talking "behind someone's back" right out in the open.

Thanks for respecting that.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 9:17:00 AM  

Steve:

No problem; I understand completely. I'll address your own comments directly in this one.

A pendulum swing to the opposite extreme would be if man were a robot with no freedom at all. With that being the case, isn't what I said in my "book of Romans" example - something short of that kind of extreme?

Also, do you agree that God predetermined what Paul would write in Romans, and that Paul also had freedom to write whatever he wanted?

I seem to be advocating something in between the extreme that Rod presented, and the opposite one that you are portraying me as presenting. Do you see what I mean?

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 2:18:00 PM  

Jim,

I don't see how Rod's comment projects an extreme. When I said you swung the pendulum to the other side, I was talking about the fact that you said that Rod was ignoring Scriptural evidence.

Also, do you agree that God predetermined what Paul would write in Romans, and that Paul also had freedom to write whatever he wanted?

How would one even purport to have the answer to this question? This question is a red herring. If all you're trying to say is that it is a both/and, I would be inclined to say that we're probably holding to the same concept but talking past each other. In that sense, I don't even think Rod would disagree with us.

However, the point really being made is that "choice" in the language of the Calvinist seems to be a way of having their cake and eating it, too. To the human mind, it is illogical for Paul to be able to write whatever he wanted to write, yet have God foreordain exactly what was written.

The reality is that Scripture shows both sides of the equation. It shows situations in which God completely orders the events to achieve a purpose, and it shows situations where people have choices and God acts based on the outcome of their choices.

What Rod reacts against, and what I react against, too, is the seeming redefinition of "choice" in those passages to say that while man is "free to choose", God predetermined what choice they would make.

That is why I felt you swung the pendulum to the other side. Not in the sense that you were advocating for mindless robots (although it's hard not to see that in the Calvinistic position), but because you sideswiped Rod by saying that he "has trouble acknowledging" certain Scriptural realities. However, your position seems to ignore some Scripture as well.

I'm very curious how you ended up on this thread since it was about 3 weeks old. Were you searching for Rod's name on Google or something? ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 6:44:00 AM  

Steve:

"...to say that while man is "free to choose", God predetermined what choice they would make..."

Would you agree that this is what is happening in this passage?

"for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28

I don't agree with your portrayal of my view of scripture as having passages that I ignore etc.

How did I find this thread?

You guessed it. After Rod was banned from Carla's blog over the weekend, and after having seen him arguing on so many Calvinist blogs over the past couple of months, I was just curious as to how wide-spread the pattern was. A Google search on his name landed me here.

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:28:00 PM  

Jim,

While I don't disagree with your point about the verse in Acts, I don't see the necessity to extrapolate that point out to every situation.

Consider the possibility that God does orchestrate some situations (such as the death of His Son), but that there are other situations in which He does allow man to choose, even though He knows full well what choice they will make.

What you appear to be advocating is a position which (typical of what I have seen in Calvinism) puts Adam in the Garden where God says, "Don't eat of this tree", but then predetermines that Adam will eat of it. Note that God doesn't just know that Adam will eat (foreknowledge), but He actually decrees ahead of time that Adam will. There is a huge difference, and at the risk of repeating myself too many times, it is that difference that Rod and I and others seek to point out.

I really have little interest in battling proof texts with you, but when I made my point about you ignoring certain Scriptures, too, I was thinking of passages such as Deuteronomy 30:19 where God says, "Choose life".

It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to say that God is offering a legitimate choice, but had already predetermined what they would do.

Like I said previously, I know you are not advocating for mindless robots, yet it seems very hard to see your position as anything but that.

You began your interaction here with comments about Rod, and I'm a bit amused that I actually did guess how you got here. My next question is, did you actually read the post and have any thoughts on it, or are you more interested in tracking down Rod and doing "damage control" behind him?

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, July 13, 2006 6:46:00 AM  

Steve said: "...I don't disagree with your point about the verse in Acts..."

If that's the case, then the orginal statement that I reacted to here on your blog, seems to be settled then. At least, for this one isolated scenario in Acts. The statement was:

"Calvinism has defined choice in a way that makes it a semantic word game. "You are free to choose what God has predetermined that you will choose."

So at least in this one scenario in Acts, we see that such a 'semantic word game' (not my choice of words) does exist. If it did exist this one time in Acts, then it is a possible and plausable scenario, within God's ability, character, and methods. In other words, it demonstrates that God is able and willing to predetermine events while not robbing the humans involved of their sense of freedom.

I'm content if we can at least agree on the much. Then the debate just comes down to: how much does God do this, and does He predestine all events or not. Perhaps that's something to debate at another time and/or place.

I was hoping that I could simply demonstrate God's capability to accomplish what was done in the Acts passage. He is able to make it happen.

I didn't go on a tour of all of the spots that Rod had been to, in order to do damage control; as I said I was just curious as to how wide spread the pattern was. I just happened to see that statement about the 'semantic word game' here, and thought it was something that non-Calvinists would also accept from the Acts passage. Also there is the "who wrote Romans" example, which you declared a red herring or somthing like that, but I still think is germane to this point.

Thanks for the conversation.
--Jim

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Thursday, July 13, 2006 11:28:00 PM  

Steve:

I had intended my comment above to be my last one on your blog, but I just saw your remarks on Rod's blog, about this thread.

You said to Rod: "I'm sorry you're having to deal with this, Rod. I have had my own run-ins with some of these, too, and I find the double standards rather appalling. Like Jim pointing out to me on his blog that I only surface to make negative comments, and then he pops into mine off a Google search for your name, just to try to make you look bad."

I was rather surprised to see that Steve. You say that I have a double standard on negative commenting. I had never banned you from my blog, nor did I tell you not to ever make negative comments, I merely brought up to you that you were repetitively posting negative comments on multiple posts, and (in a tongue in cheek way) "why not agree with something sometime?". I didn't do this until the 3rd consecutive topic on my site that you had taken issue with.

My visit to this thread on your blog was my first-ever visit to your blog, and I had no intention to keep visiting your blog to "provide an alternate viewpoint" for your readers on a regular basis. If I start disagreeing with numerous posts of yours here, then feel free to make the double standard charge at that time. That's when it would be accurate.

Next, you say that I came here "just to try to make [Rod] look bad".

I took issue with one of Rod's comments here, which called the beliefs which I hold a 'semantic word game', yes. I tried to have a scriptural discussion here about that.

It is not true that I came here to make Rod look bad (as you claim). In fact, of all of the blogs that I Googled him on, yours was the only one that I made any follow-up comment to Rod's remarks. You were the one that kept asking me questions about Rod, making him an ongoing issue, when I primarily wanted to discuss scripture.

Yes, I did say above "Rod sure gets around", which you took offense to, but I said this after Googling him on various blogs of Calvinists (people who I know to be Christians that love the Lord) with Rod describing them as being: 'arrogant', 'cock-sure', 'ungracious', 'dangerous people', 'unkind', 'lacking charity', and equating them to the pharisees.

I'm guessing that you are not going to post this comment, but I wanted you to know that I thought your remarks (paragraph above) were a misrepresentation of what transpired.

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Sunday, July 16, 2006 2:52:00 AM  

Jim, you wrote: I'm guessing that you are not going to post this comment...

I don't moderate comments here, nor do I delete dissenting opinions. By virtue of you clicking "Publish", the comment appears and stands.

You can say what you will about your behavior toward Rod, but I think you have made a terrible mistake. The way in which Rod and I (and others) get vilified on "Calvinistic blogs" is a disgrace to the name of Christ.

And mine may be the only blog that you commented on as a result of Googling Rod's name, but it is not the only blog on which you have spoken disparagingly of Rod. And the fact that you did come here as a result of Googling his name and started off with the statement "Rod sure gets around" was, and still is, offensive, Jim. And even more so that you would now try to downplay that behavior.

Jim, please reconsider the way you are handling these situations. You and several of your blogging buddies continue to demonstrate an attitude that is very baffling to many of us (as in the thread on Carla's blog from which Rod was banned). Difference of interpretation is not heresy, Jim, and one who differs is not a heretic.

Since you have expressed your feelings about my comments on Rod's blog, I am willing to retract them and I will issue an appropriate statement there. My response on Rod's blog was based on what I was observing in your behavior. Your "grand entrance" onto my blog left quite a negative impression of your motives, and reading comments you made elsewhere about Rod (I believe it was on Carla's blog, but I am not sure now) accentuated that impression.

I really don't want to "fight" with you, Jim, nor do I care to stir up the wrath of the Reformed bloggers, so I'm content to let this drop if you are. But please do reconsider your approach to people like Rod who may not reach the same conclusions you do.

Under His Grace,
steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Sunday, July 16, 2006 9:29:00 AM  

I think you are making a big mistake Steve. I never called you or Rod a heretic or even mentioned the word heresy. I guess I'm guilty by association (ie: same beliefs).

Whatever "Reformed wrath" that people are experiencing is a result of their own behavior in going to Reformed blogs, stirring up trouble, not by merely disagreeing, but in doing so in a highly aggressive manner, including name-calling.

The solution is to either exercise self-control in the manner in which things are said, or if that can not be accomplished, then just staying off their blogs completely. When someone gets continually banned or moderated on numerous blogs, it ought to say something about the individual, but what I'm seeing here and on Rod's blog is the blame being assigned to a whole class of believers instead. Who is really being 'villified' (your word) in that?

It's interesting with all of the name-calling and misrepresentations, that you classify only one side as being a "disgrace to the name of Christ". This has been an eye-opening discussion indeed.

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Sunday, July 16, 2006 4:26:00 PM  

Jim, I do not understand why you persist in making these same accusations against Rod. I am asking you very graciously now to please drop the subject, or take it up with Rod on your blog or his.

I have not called you any names, and when you pointed out a misrepresentation of motive, I publicly apologized for it.

As far as I'm concerned, this conversation is now over. You are free to read and respond to anything on my blog, but I will not go down this road with you any farther.

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Sunday, July 16, 2006 8:48:00 PM  

Steve:

I was not attempting to "go down a road", etc. I was merely responding to your claims of one side portraying un-Christ-like behavior. I also have not seen anything here or elsewhere to explain your warnings to me about heresy. So far as I know, those words were never used. The depiction to the contrary is concerning, and would seem to be the kind of vilification that you are speaking out against here.

By Blogger Jim from OldTruth.com, at Sunday, July 16, 2006 10:49:00 PM  

hmm, sovereignty vs. free will?

i used to side very strongly with Calvanism. 'God is sovereign.' i used that phrase frequently. one area that changed my mind considerably is divine healing. opinions abound. i was in a church that believed in healing, but that after you were prayed for, you were to glorify God in your sickness. thank him for it.

when i prayed for healing, i prayed "dear Jesus" prayers. that is called petition. but there is no one really in the NT that heals through prayers of petition. they heal through declaration. now remember Jesus taught the disciples that they could speak to mountains and they would be removed.

someone gave me a teaching on healing prayers based on the Lord's prayer. basically you say something like "Kingdom of God come right now, will of God be done right now in this LEG as it is in heaven." since i prayed that way, i have seen many more miracles of healing. even a blind eye was healed in england while i was on a trip.

now to pray for the will of God to come into the eye, for example, i realised that Christ tells us to pray that way because the will of God isn't being done on earth in the first place. Jesus healed all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10.38) through the power of the Spirit.

now think about salvation. God desires all men to repent. we are to preach to every 'ethnos'--people groups. we pray for the 'kingdom' to come where darkness rules. that is, satan is 'sovereign' in certain circumstances. when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he said all the kingdoms of the world were his to give to whom he chose, and Christ did not challenge that.

in Genesis, God made MAN sovereign in the realm of the earth. God's rule extended through the spotless spiritual man to the earth. but when man sinned, he yielded his members as members of unrighteousness and has ever since been perpetually empowering the reign of darkness over the earth. only a man could retake godly authority over the earth, because it was man's right to rule. that is why Jesus came as a man.

does God know the end from the beginning? yes. will he get what he wants? almost. yes, but probably not as much as he wants it, and not with everyone for whom he wants it.

i guess i lean to arminianism ;-)

By Blogger Timothy, at Saturday, August 12, 2006 8:33:00 PM  

this is my first post on...well, on anyone's blog other than my family's. i have looked into the sovereignty/free will debate some, and one name that i'm actually surprised hasn't been mentioned yet is greg boyd.

his books offer a very detailed, insightful look at the whole debate, and boyd comes down very strongly on the free will/open theism side of the discussion.

God of the Possible, God at War, Satan and the Problem of Evil, Is God to Blame?, are a few of his books.

he offers a refreshing alternative to the simple dichotomy of calvinism/arminianism.

essentially, his position is that REALITY is not precisely what we thought it was. in other words, "reality" does not include decisions/events that have not taken place. the future is not something that exists in reality (at least, not in its entirety), and in that sense, it CANNOT be known by God. ...not because God's knowledge is limited, but because of the nature of reality: the future does not exist yet! if it existed, God would know it.

i want to talk further about this, but i'm very skittish about it because i haven't studied this topic in great depth. if you'd like to take issue with me on something, feel free to (mil36450@gmail.com).

(i hope i represented boyd's material properly, too...)

in Him,
carl

By Blogger Carl and Claire, at Sunday, August 20, 2006 4:09:00 PM  

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