After a couple of weeks dealing with various sundry tangents, ranging from “survivor” blog hypocrisy–and implicit Marxism in appealing to “tone” as the plumb line for a comment’s moral truth–to the theoretical and abstract ideas of space and time, and the relative relationships between objects thereof, we can once again return to the topic of the non-rational reformed idea of “free will”.
Oh yes…every once in a while you will hear some neo Calvinist “scholar” concede that, oh yes…of course WE “choose”. Of course, YOU decide to accept Christ.
And then you, by now, understand that behind this conciliatory platitude must exist some kind of rank deception disguised as an olive branch…and and even worse is the implicit expectation of how we, the slobbering barbarian masses should just fawn and blush and cry great crocodile tears of joy that a paaaaastor would deign to agree about an idea, an issue, a point of contention…oh, my, the vapors I get just thinking about His Highness the Benevolent King Pastor the First (because they are always first in their own minds) deigning to validate and allow me my point, my freedom, my own mind, even if it is only within the dark and dank confines of some small, irrelevant, token-ish way. Oh, what sovereign grace of God could permit such a loving and kind King to rule over me and my barbarian brothers and sisters.
And of course, as I said, by now we all know that this is all bunk, and that these are merely the kinds of things they say to get you to shut up and tithe. There is no more rational thinking behind a statement like that of Pastor Wade Burleson over on Wartburg Watch–“I choose!”–coming from a reformed protestant than there is in the ye-old-practice of casting aside ALL of their theological contradictions, relegating them to the shelf of “Who are you, O man? Vessel of wrath!” and “God is a mystery; who can understand His ways?”.
Trust me. When a Calvinist or any follower of neo-Reformed mysticism claims any sort of “free will”, you can smell the stink a mile away. There is something wrong in Gotham City.
You see, Calvinists always have a hedge against any kind of free thinking…by now, you must understand this. A free-thinker does not need an authority…authority being simply another made-up doctrine, never actually applying to any human being in Christ. The point of the gospel is that we are NOT under law anymore; we are our OWN source of innocence before God, and the only authority we must accept is the law of love which wholly AFFIRMS self, and consummates this fact by equally affirming (loving) others. NO outside “authority” is needed nor warranted.
As an aside, in my opinion, the idea of a fully funded, salaried professional Pastor is something only ancillary to the New Testament Gospel in the remotest way. What you get with this kind of structure is indeed, ALWAYS going to eventually wind up in the cul-de-sac of “authority” and submission, obedience, complimentarianism, and patriarchy. And from this stems all manner of abuse. As soon as one realizes there is good money in “pastoring”, a “living wage” (and the living is good, as the palace-like mega churches doth profess) the message is muddied. The motives mixed, and truth suffers. Jesus never commanded a salary, and He was God. So then why should any of us get paid to tell people about Christ?
And I really don’t care about their proof-text of Paul, and what it says about the ox and the muzzle and the grain. When it comes down to brass tax, Calvinist churches in America do a LOT of taking and a very, very little TREADING of anything. They produce almost nothing. And what they do produce is not ever held up to any kind of objective standard. There is no obligation of course to produce; to actually do an EFFECTIVE job, with noticeable and measurable outcomes, nor performance accountability to the people who PAY them. The farmer keeps his ox only insofar as the ox has measurable, profitable VALUE…and THAT value is not given to the ox to decide. But since the pastor is “first” among you, whatever he does is not for you to gauge. But how is that anything at all like a farmer with an ox which WORKS towards a profitable and never SELF-defined end?
Oh..how far we’ve strayed in our churches form the REAL point of the proof-text.
No, no, no…oh, no… how MUCH grain they should be treading is not for YOU, the lay person, to say or to judge. They can sit on their hands and howl at the moon and you are commanded by God to submit and to tithe, goes the determinist, despotic refrain. They presume that what is yours is theirs for the taking. They use the Ox and the Grain proof text as a means to obligate you to support them financially.
Yes, I might sound cynical, but there is no real rational correlation between “not muzzling an ox”–that is, allowing the ox to eat so that he may continue to PRODUCE–and paying a handsome salary to a man to stay in one place and talk for an hour once a week. Notice also that the Ox actually moves around. Maybe as part of the job duties, pastors should do weekly missions trips around the community where they actually go OUT and tell strangers who are NOT paying them about Jesus.
But I digress…as usual.
As I was saying, any neo-Reformed/Calvinist person claiming that will is free only EVER do this with the explicit understanding that any free-will engaged by a person is firmly under the umbrella of God’s sovereign Will. So, in effect, what they are saying is that your will is free, but is LIMITED. John Immel explained to me that this is what is called in philosophical circles “soft determinism”. You are in a cage of divine sovereignty. Inside the cage, or the box, as I like to call it, you can do what you “want”. You can lift weights. Use the toilet when the mood hits you. Write your loved ones about how wonderful and utopian the “freedom” is behind the iron bars of God’s sovereign plan for your life, while you gaze with pity on the poor souls out in the world, beyond the “yard” and the barbed wire, who are walking along the wide roads of the great outdoors straight to hell.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This is Calvinism’s freedom. The freedom to be inexorably bound to the destination of the box. It hurdles through space and inside you use the latrine and eat your fruit loops…hey, it’s up to you, Wade will say. You are FREE. But where the box is going…whether to the fires of hell or to the bliss of the reformed black hole paradise…well, try to leave the box and you hit a wall. Try to jump and there is the ceiling which bloodies your head. Try to dig and your shovel cannot penetrate God’s bedrock of determinism. The box is going where it is going. You are pacing back and forth in your “freedom”. Nothing more.
And this is precisely what I believe Wade understands is “orthodox”…and yet, he cannot see the explicit impossibility of such an idea. I think he really believes that there is some kind of freedom buzzing around in that mind of his.
And to these people we pay a living wage?
The truth is, the whole idea of free-will (or will at all) is a anathema to the reformed crowd. The entire theology and philosophy is utterly rooted in the idea of the objective existing and BEING REACHED long before YOU had any say in the matter. Categorical determinism is the only possible conclusion to be had from reformation theology…from the Heidelberg Catechism to the Westminster Confessions to the Puritans statements on the church’s civil authority. There can be NO freedom of any kind. Any freedom they tell you about is a lie at worst, and…well, a lie. It is a lie whether they have the intellectual fortitude or motivation to see it or not. There cannot be any such thing as freedom residing under the absolute umbrella of determinism. Of “sovereign will”.
If God is infinite, so is His determining power. There can be no freedom. When you use the latrine is up to God. When you sleep is up to God. When you rise is up to God. Whether heaven or hell, or up or down, or red or blue, or Barack or Mandella or Mao or Churchill or Winnie the Pooh or stupid or smart, or white or hispanic or “white-hispanic”…it’s AAAAAAALLLLLL God.
You see, if the box is going where it is going, then what you do inside is wholly irrelevant. There is no PURPOSE to what you do “freely”. Freedom then merely takes on a new definition. And it is this: freedom is what you do that is utterly in service to the destination of the box you are in. Where the box arrives is THE functional outcome of what you do.
If you go to the latrine, what is the real outcome? The box inexorably moves towards the determined goal. If you get head lice, what is the outcome? The box inexorably moves towards the determined goal. If you flunk Ms. Hogwrath’s calculus test, what is the outcome? The box moves. If you choose Christ, what is the outcome? Deny Christ, what is the outcome? The box moves. Straight, never veering to the right or left. It goes where it always will go because it has been determined to go there.
Every outcome of every action results in the same objective, regardless of what “choice” you make. The functional outcome is DETERMINED. It is not, nor can ever be free.
But wait, one might protest. We shall concede that the box is going where it’s going, but wouldn’t it be more logical to say that what you do is simply irrelevant rather than saying that the outcome of what you do is the determined objective of the box?
Well, part of me wants to say to-may-to, to-mah-to. But I’ll ignore that part in favor of the discursive argument.
I would argue that it is not more logical. We have conceded in this example that both you AND the box exist. And, really, co-exist. The difference is moot. For all intents and purposes, YOU cannot be separated from the box. That is the Calvinists’s whole damn point. And so if you are real and what you do is real, but YOU cannot ever be removed from the box, and we agree that the box INDEED does have an objective, and that objective is real and determined, then the only rational conclusion taking into account all of these premises is that when YOU act, it MUST be in service to the only purpose/objective which actually exists: the destination of the box.
The only way to change this is to declare that the person simply does not exist. To declare that anything the human being does is irrelevant to the destination of the box is really, metaphysically speaking, declaring that the human being does not, in fact, exist at all. Or, that the human being IS the box, which is what I believe is really being argued…and which is actually the exact same thing as saying the human being doesn’t exist at all.
There is no way to separate a REAL human beings actions from some kind of effect. Actions are causes, effects are what follows. If a human acts, there MUST be an outcome, and the outcome cannot be NO outcome, which is what we are attempting to argue when we say that man’s actions are wholly irrelevant to the determined objective of the box he or she is in. There are NO irrelevant outcomes resulting from actions which are FREE and REAL and of a human being. They must have literal, observable meaning. And if we then concede in our ridiculous Calvinist hubris that the only real meaning is that of the determined objective of the box, then all actions of the human being are, in fact, directly in service to the determined objective and as such, MUST then themselves be likewise determined. Freedom in this case is a lie.
And as I said the only alternate idea is to declare that the human being, if his or her actions are truly irrelevant, then cannot actually BE. He or she IS the box, per se. For actions are NOT literally ever redundant. If we say they are, then this is metaphysically the exact same thing as declaring that the person is not real; that the person does not actually exist apart from the box (which is EXACTLY the Calvinist point); that the person is the box, and since the box has a divinely determined objective then there can be no free-will in this construct. There is no free will because the only real objective is determined; and also there is no free-will because in this construct man does not actually exist.
I have said this once, and I will repeat it over and over until I die. Determinism is an ABSOLUTE. The beginning and end of it is determinism, period. There can be NO reconciliation with ANY other idea of any kind, be it humans, or devils, or will, or power, or up or down or black or white or God or Christ. Determinism is determinism is determinism. There is NOTHING more besides.
It is rational larceny to pretend anything else.