Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Redefining freedom"

No matter how “free will” is redefined and the efficacy of the decree is qualified, Calvinism is still a theology of determinism as long as it declares that nothing God does can be conditioned by man or can be a reaction to something in the world. (Cottrell, J.W.; The Grace of God, the will of man: a case for Arminianism; pp. 102)

I’ll take this occasion to make one basic point. Arminians often act as though Calvinists “redefine” freedom. In so doing, Arminians also act as though there’s a received definition of freedom which fell from heaven. One which the nefarious Calvinists proceed to “redefine.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, anyone with a cursory knowledge of current literature on action theory would realize that there is no standard definition of freedom. Hence, there’s nothing to redefine.

Rather, different action-theorists define freedom consistent with their differing theories of action. It’s not as though Arminians are custodians for the received definition, which furnishes the frame of reference in relation to which everyone else offers a modified definition.

This is just so much special-pleading on the part of the Arminian apologist and polemicist. An illicit attempt to scoop out a preexisting foothold for his own position. Intellectual cheating.

I’d also note in passing that Thibodaux’s discovery of a “fatal flaw” in Calvinism is based on prooftexting Scripture in a manner which is indistinguishable from open theism.


  1. Why can't some things God does be reaction to events that occur in the world, if determinism is true?

  2. Depends on how you define "reaction." But in the teleology of the decree, one thing can obviously be on account of another thing. So, yes, Thibodaux's "fatal flaw" is fatally fallacious (if that's what you're angling at).

  3. Steven,

    Indeed. I can pick up a pen and let it drop to the floor. Then, in reaction to it being on the floor, I can pick it up and put it back on my desk. None of that requires the pen to have free will.

    My guess would be that Thibby would say that's not a genuine "reaction." Thibby's not known as someone who concerns himself with definitions, and somehow thinks he can discredit anything by putting the phrase "that's not genuine" in front of it, i.e. "that's not genuine freedom" or "that's not genuine choice" etc.

    So my guess is that Thibby will respond with "a genuine reaction requires God to have some doubt as to what will occur, necessitating a reaction to the unknown"--which would fit with his already-indistinguishable-from-open-theism argumentation.

  4. Forgive my ignorance, but is the gist of the argument that God blesses Abraham because he obeyed? That seems like a radical departure from even an Arminian perspective.

    Seems like a strange take on the matter. When I look at the covenant that was made back in Gen. 15:18 I see no mention of a condition being placed on Abram.

    I also ask myself was Abraham a believer when we get to Gen. 22? I would have to say yes and hopefully all would agree. If you ask me I would say that Gen. 22 perfectly plays out the idea behind Philippians 2:12 -13. In that Abraham worked out his salvation with fear and trembling for it was God that was working in him to will and do of his good pleasure.

    We also see from James why Abraham obeyed because he believed God. Abraham did not doubt God or the covenant that God made with him back in chapter 15.

    That is supposed to be “A Fatal Flaw in Calvinism”?

    Grace & Peace