The debate between predestination and “free” will has raged on for thousands of years now, and a recent post at Triablogue has raised anew an interest in this seemingly timeless conundrum for this beachbum. A verse in Sacred Scripture that always comes to the fore in such reflections is from the lips of our Lord:
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes: (Matthew 11:21 – KJV).
I discern two important issues concerning predestination and “free” will in this verse: first, contra Reformed doctrine, unregenerate folk (in the classic Reformed sense) sure seem to be capable of repentance under certain circumstances.
Unfortunately, Waltz makes a bare assertion without any supporting argument.
One problem is that he seems to confuse ordinary usage with technical usage. The fact that “repentance” can function as specialized term in Reformed theology to denote the response of the elect to the Gospel doesn’t mean it carries that specialized sense in Scriptural usage.
For example, the Pentateuch supplies many examples in which Pharaoh or the children of Israel temporarily think better of their actions in the face of some dire calamity. They repent to avoid further calamity. But as soon as the crisis has passed, they revert to their former behavior. So there was never a change of heart. It’s a purely expedient response to an external threat. Once the pressure is off, they go back to their same old tricks.
Indeed, the dominical comparison is all the stronger if it was something which ought to come quite naturally. The fact that Chorazim and Bethsaida are too defiant to respond naturally in the face of evident, undeniable miracles underscores the depth of their depravity. They are even worse than pagan Tyrians and Sidonians.
Personally, I think this very interesting verse can be harmonized with Augustinian and Thomistic thought; however, I also believe that it poses certain difficulties for Calvinism.
Once again, an assertion without an argument. He doesn’t bother to explain what is distinctive to Calvinism which makes this verse reconcilable with Thomism and Augustinianism, but not with Calvinism.