More On the Unworkable “Logic” of the Neo-Reformed Concession of Free Will (Part Three)

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.

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33 thoughts on “More On the Unworkable “Logic” of the Neo-Reformed Concession of Free Will (Part Three)

  1. In other words, we are a “little” free? Sort of in a play pen of God’s making and we can choose which toy to play with and whether to cry or not. Why is it the guys who teach this stuff are not in the play pen but out teaching others about the play pen? :o)

  2. At the end of Erasmus’ Diatribe on Freewill he has a few good jokes about how stupid it is to say God does everything. I particularly like this one: We say ‘What a beautiful baby God has given you’ — and yet the father had a hand in begetting!

  3. “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.”

    You won’t say this, but I will. Paul’s reasoning there is species. Nay, forget specious, its just plain wrong. What does Paul say?

    “For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.’ Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written…” (1 Cor 9:9-10)

    The premise is, God doesn’t care about animals, so it must really be about men. Really??? Really Paul??? You know better than that.

    Jonah 4:10-11 “Then said the Lord, ‘Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?'”

    What? Doth God take care for oxen?

    There’s also some business where Jesus talks about God caring about sparrows and concludes “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

    What? Doth God take care for oxen?

    Yes, he does. So no this is not about giving ministers a right to take our money. Sorry, Paul, but get your greed hands off my wallet.

  4. Well…Lydia, you KNOW why, LOL!

    They are those who somehow, someway, beyond their ability and capacity to explain, beyond the language’s ability to express, understand that THEY have been divinely enlightened–specially chosen, with the “keys” to the kingdom–the most important key being that of the latrine, of which they graciously open the door for new members to enter so that they may do their obligatory and indefinite stint on the Urinal Cake Cleaning Committee (the UCCC)). THEY are in the stead of God, you see. And don’t ask them to defend the logic; for you and I both know that the Jesus, Himself spoke in parables so that the barbarian masses wouldn’t hear “lest they turn with their ears and be healed”. So they speak in mystic riddles, just to confuse you, and from their gilded towers they humbly accept your petition to use your own money (which is their money, you understand) to replace the urinal cake in the middle stall, being as that is the road more traveled in the restroom, and truly is indicative that the slobbering, idiot laity cannot see that God said be either hot–which is the right urinal, or be either cold–which is the left urinal…but instead they prove their baseness and their depravity and their prideful lack of submission to the Inerrant Word of God by constantly being indecisive as to the command from God thus, and therefore habitually choose the middle urinal, which is dubbed the Doctrine of the Lukewarm Urinal, and is invoked to show that man, unless sovereignly moved to the hot (unconditionally elect) urinal or cold (outside the limit of the atoned) urinal, will be like a wave tossed to and fro. For that man who shall micturate in the middle urinal should know that he shall receive nothing from God.

    And so go, my son. Replace the middle urinal cake. For it is clear we have much more compelling of the depraved masses to do. And so the next several years we will devote to the same teachings we have been doing for the last several years and which God has sovereignly declared that you refuse to understand, namely, authority and submission to your pastors, who NEVER approach the purgatory and spiritual limbo that IS the middle urinal, and by this we understand that we are elect. And bless you for providing it out of our own…er, I mean, YOUR own stewardship.

    But don’t forget to fully tithe come Sunday.

    Amen.

  5. James,

    Yes…I totally see your point. And no, I’m not afraid to say that I believe that Paul did his share of proof texting of scripture. I agree that his use of the Ox and the Grain was dubious for me, which is why I questioned its usage above. I will go back and read more, but I think you are right…I’m fairly certain Moses’s point had more to do with affirming the worth of the human being over an animal than creating a hedge against volunteer evangelism.

    Not that I have a huge problem with Paul’s use here…I also understand what he is trying to say. Which i merely that for all the time and trouble and abuse the teachers of the gospel were enduring, they should feel no shame in asking for support, and those who are benefiting from the message of salvation should not be stingy in their offerings. But again…I’m not sure why Paul had to appeal to a peculiar interpretation of the Torah to make his point. Why not just appeal to common sense? Why not just do what Jesus did during HIS ministry, which is to appeal to the inherent worth of humanity as superseding law? And I sure as hell deny the idea that somehow this can be proof-texted into giving neo-Calvinist despots a huge, fat salary for “teaching and preaching”. Something all of the bloggers and commenters do here, and on other blogs almost every day for FREE.

    By the way, have I thanked you guys for that lately?

    And while I do respect the challenge Paul was facing, I have serious issues with what seems to me a root presumption of stoicism and Ptatonism in much of his doctrine. It has been no secrete that I deny his metaphysical “chain of command”: Father, Son, Church, Husband, Wife, Children. I do not see that squaring with Christ’s gospel message, frankly. I can see the human disaster rooted in this abstraction from a hundred miles away.

    Yes…I have some serious issues with Paul’s teaching.

  6. Oasis,

    Just wait until my next post (coming today or tomorrow). It is entitled: Simultaneously Dismantling Old Earth and Young Earth Arguments in a Single Blog: Why BOTH arguments ultimately fail because “old” and “young” are both relative and abstract.

    It will be good. You will be able to diffuse either argument in a matter of seconds. And this…is just plain fun. You can play devil’s advocate, back and forth, whenever the mood strikes you.

    Ah…the pleasures of purely reason-based philosophy.

  7. I think the problem with Paul is because of the ingrained and ridiculous doctrine of inerrancy. To question Paul is to question God. To question any part of the scriptures is to question God’s existence.

    What changed my life completely was to focus on the Gospels after being indoctrinated with Paul for years. I grew up on the Gospels so it was like going home and meeting Jesus again after all those years. Thanks, I will take Jesus over Paul. I am also partial to 1 John.

    And I say this with the idea that I don’t think Paul is really that bad if taken in historical context. He was an intense sort of guy and applied his scary sort of zeal to spreading Christianity. We see in one place circumcision is bad and people are being bewitched with it. Another place, circumcision will help a worker be accepted (Timothy). There are all sorts of examples of this which is why proof texting is the biggest sin of all because we were not there and have no way to really understand it in context with our Western enlightenment eyes.

    And I always get a kick out of the preachers who preach that Paul was limiting women to certain roles. If we believe the Acts account, Paul had no problem whatsoever throwing women in prison. And in that culture they had to be some sort of influencers/seditionists to even be considered for prison.

    Paul was all over the place but then Galatia was not like Corinth and so on.

  8. Oh and one more thing…..I also started paying much more attention to the OT. I think we must if we want to understand the historical Jesus and stop viewing Him as a 16th century Reformer, for crying out loud.

  9. James, I am looking forward to these on your blog. In fact, I gotta read some of him. I have read ABOUT him in my research and always found him an interesting character. He sort of got painted over with the historical popularity of the tyrants.

  10. Wow, Just went to check out the book you recommended on Erasmus/Luther and free will. A quote on page 13 (reading the intro on amazon) of the intro has a quote by Luther in Assertio saying, and I am paraphrasing, that ‘free will is a fiction. No one has it in their own power to think a good or bad thought but everything happens by absolute necessity”.

    YIKES.

    So how else could Luther claim anything but that either God or Satan were the author of his words? And the worst part is that he thinks we do not have the ability to discern which. Scary stuff.

  11. Some people view Jesus as a 16th century Reformer, others view him as a 4th century church father. You ever noticed how when Protestants appeal to the “fathers” they act like Augustine was the first one? That’s because to Calvinists, Jesus was crucified in liked 350 AD, Paul took over in 360 AD, and then comes Augustine in 380 AD. That way we can skip all those inconvenient guys who believed in freewill like Justin Martyr in 150 AD Irenaeus in 180 AD, and Tertullian in 208 AD, and Origen in the 250s, definitely got to skip him!

  12. Yes, if you read all the way straight through Luther’s Bondage of the Will, you’ll either be 100% persuaded that freewill must be true because of how insane the guy is, or you’ll go completely insane yourself simply from forcing yourselves to read the rantings of a man that belongs in the insane asylum. I’ve read Erasmus’ Diatribe several times. I’ve never got past the first few pages of Luther’s Bondage. He spends like 20 pages just bashing what Erasmus said in his intro, and Erasmus intro was like a page or two. One comment Erasmus made was something like “I am not fond of assertions. Where neither the inviolable authority of Scripture nor the Church have spoken, I am a skeptic.” And Luther takes that and runs with it just beating a dead horse into the ground, and pretending that Erasmus has just proclaimed himself to be an atheist or something which is obviously not the case. Its some scarily mindblowing stuff in Luther’s Bondage; it shows you that this doctrine of denying freewill didn’t come from rational minds nor people who can be fairminded towards someone who disagrees with them.

  13. One thing of interest is concerning the Apocrypha. In the Apocrypha there is a book that back then they called Ecclesiasticus. Today we call it Sirach. And this book was accepted by Luther during the debate on freewill. I wonder why it got tossed out later??? Hmm, could there be any reason????

    Sirach 15:11-20 NRSV.

    11 Do not say, “It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away”;
    for he does not do what he hates.
    12 Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”;
    for he has no need of the sinful.
    13 The Lord hates all abominations;
    such things are not loved by those who fear him.
    14 It was he who created humankind in the beginning,
    and he left them in the power of their own free choice.
    15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments,
    and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
    16 He has placed before you fire and water;
    stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.
    17 Before each person are life and death,
    and whichever one chooses will be given.
    18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
    he is mighty in power and sees everything;
    19 his eyes are on those who fear him,
    and he knows every human action.
    20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,
    and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

    And your pastor told you the Apocrypha was thrown out because it was full of mythological stuff like dragons, right? Yeah, he’s a liar. The whole Apocrypha was thrown out just to get rid of Sirach chapter 15.

  14. Consider this quote of Luther from page 173 of Luther and Erasmus. (The translator has the annoying habit of rendering freewill as ‘free choice’.)

    “Clearly then, no one since the Pelagians has written more correctly than Erasmus! For we have said above that free choice is a divine term and signifies a divine power, although no one has yet attributed this power to free choice except the Pelagians; for the Sophists, whatever they may think, certainly speak very differently. Erasmus, however, far outdoes even the Pelagians, for they attribute this divinity to the whole of free choice, but Erasmus only to half of it. They reckon with two parts of free choice–the power of discerning and the power of selecting–one of which they attached to reason, the other to the will, as the Sophists also do. But Erasmus neglects the power of discerning and extols only the power of selecting. So it is a crippled and only half-free choice that he deifies. What do you think he would have done if he had set about describing the whole of free choice?”

    By the sophists I think he means the scholastic Catholic theologians. Anyway, to Luther, freewill is a deity, for which reason freewill must be denied to everyone but God — freewill is itself God to him, God is freewill. How can you debate someone who is so unfair with definitions? Erasmus in no place seeks to “deify” freewill. And as Luther mentions, Erasmus’ version of free will is kind of weak, even only “half-free.” Erasmus did this precisely to avoid being called a Pelagian — he was as afraid of that as your modern SBC pastor — and Luther calls him a Pelagian still. (You can’t win with these guys.) And worse — he’s worse than a Pelgian — why? Because he dares teach a WEAKER version of freewill than them. So, if you teach a stronger version of freewill than Pelagius, you’re condemned as a Pelgian. If you teach a weaker version of freewill than Pelagius, you’re condemned as a Pelagian. Sounds to me like no matter what, they’re going to call you a Pelagian. What do you think?

  15. Yes…I see this too. It is easy to forget that the same Paul who hauled women and children off to prison for daring to profess Christ against the established ecclesiastical authority’s “sound doctrine” is the same Paul who later became the Apostle to the Gentiles. But just because purpose changes does not mean disposition does. He still seems in many ways to be committed to the idea of caste-like authority structures, which is very much like the Pharisee-ism of the time I believe.

    But like you I try not to dismiss Paul entirely, though admittedly I have come to the conclusion that he is just wrong on some issues, and on others, his examples are simply insufficient or outright inappropriate. But still, if we learn nothing else from Paul it is that context is EVERYTHING. IF we see Paul’s writings firmly in the midst of his task at the TIME, it is easier to understand where he was coming from; and easier to discard the aspects of his epistles which simply do not apply to 21st century Christendom.

    I also wholly agree that unless you have a firm grasp of the first Covenant of Promise with the Jews, it is simply impossible to truly understand Christ. Christ is a categorical extension of God’s relationship with Israel, not a rejection of it. When we accept Christ, we must also accept that the Jews philosophical interpretation of all of life is true for us as well. You cannot replace Judaism with Gnosticism through Christ. I find the old testament to be much more metaphysically consistent than the new…and if you carry this consistency into your interpretation of the NT, everything becomes much clearer. You can start to see what is true, and what is merely the influence of the philosophical flavor of the month in Rome at the time.

    And lastly…for all Paul’s talk about vain philosophy, he sure likes to reference these pagan vain philosophies quite a lot.

    Oh yeah…one more thing. I have also come to the conclusion that not ALL of the old testament is “God’s Word”, and I’m beginning to question whether some of the more brutal practices of the Jews were, in fact, “God’s will”. For example, I was reading in Esther. And I have no problem with Mordecai hanging Haman…the man was a pig. But then to hang all of his sons as well? Whatever happened to “the sons shall not perish for the sins of the father”? Did Esther and Mordecai just find this commandment a little inconvenient?

    I could be wrong, but I wonder just how God felt about that little exercise in revenge. Again, I wasn’t there, so maybe there is more to the story; but from what I read, I’m not sure how the sons are implicated simply because dad happens to be an a-hole.

  16. James…you are blowing my bibliography away. I have got to start reading up on some of these guys. I have a feeling I’m missing out on a LOT of very illuminating information.

  17. Wasn’t the Apocrypha part of the accepted Jewish Canon in Christ’s days? The Septuigant I think it is called.

    Is it possible to read the apocrypha online? I haven’t yet done a google search, but I would like to read through it. I’ve been told it is a pack of lies by Reformed despots for so long, I would love to know WHY. Just what threatens them. Is it that those dastardly Catholics really are on the fast track to hell by way of the devil’s throat, or is there something in there (like Sirach 15, as you point out) that threatens their power construct?

    Hmmmm…can you guess which one I pick?

  18. “He spends like 20 pages just bashing what Erasmus said in his intro, and Erasmus intro was like a page or two.”

    James, the more I read of Luther and Calvin’s writings, the more I recognize the tactics of engaging the Neo Cals today. Same stuff. They are emulating them.

  19. “Erasmus did this precisely to avoid being called a Pelagian — he was as afraid of that as your modern SBC pastor — and Luther calls him a Pelagian still. (You can’t win with these guys.)”

    LOL!! How true. I saw blog threads hundreds of comments long with SBC non Cal pastors trying to explain why they are NOT Pelegians or semi P’s. I mean it got so ridiculous I could hardly stand it. Was Pelegius really that bad, that is my question or is he a favorite whipping boy because the right guys said so hundreds of years ago? I need to do some homework on him but official Reformed history can be a problem.

    Of course I can understand the fear more in Erasmus’ time than today. There was a fear of punishment from the magistrate in some quarters.

  20. Well…I think they can call me whatever they want; I call them mystic despots, and their metaphysical assumptions are insanity. The cannot defend a single doctrinal presumption by which they label themselves “reformers”. I’m more Pelagian than Pelagius, to be honest. I’d take his ideas even a step further. I deny FIRST CAUSE. God did not cause anything in creation, because that inexorably ties Him to the everything which exists and everything it does. You cannot make a metaphysical distinction between God and Creation if you accept the fact that God caused out of nothing. It is an impossible concept. So not only do I profess categorical free will, but free existence, period. Everything that is is ultimately rooted in an utterly separate SELF from God.

    Also, Luther’s presumptions are false at the root. You cannot bind the will of your created via FREE volition. FREE WILL cannot give birth to BOUND will. It is like saying white can DIRECTLY cause black. They are mutually exclusive infinite concepts. IF God actually “creates” a will, by his own self-volition, then the will He “creates” must be free…for that is the ONLY kind of will, by definition, that exists. If the will God freely creates is bound, then it is no will at all, period. The concept of “bound will” is a logical contradiction. There is no will but that which is free. If man has no volition of his own, then man cannot exist in the construct. Again, he is merely an extension of God. Without will, man can know nothing. Man can do nothing. Man can be nothing. Everything you think you know is a lie. You can never form an opinion like “free will does not exist in man’ because by your VERY OWN ADMISSION you cannot possibly be FREE to THINK. YOU have no thought. YOU don’t exist. YOU can’t argue any point because you can’t possibly know anything.

  21. “For we have said above that free choice is a divine term and signifies a divine power, ”

    Luther declares it and it is “truth” that many believe today!

    How bizarre. But this helps me quite a bit and make sense in light of some of the discussions I have had with Neo Cals accusing me of elevating myself to god like status with my belief in free will.

  22. Me too, Argo. I have spent a lot of time reading Calvin/Augustine and Luther. And about them including other Reformers and the Radical REformers but not guys like Erasmus in depth. I also want to read the Apocrypha. I have wanted to for years but never got around to it.

  23. The Apocrypha was accepted in the canon in the Diaspora for sure where they read the OT in Greek. In Judea itself I don’t know. You can read the Apocrypha in the NRSV on BibleGateway http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-Revised-Standard-Version-NRSV-Bible/ And in the KJV at http://ecmarsh.com/lxx/. The translation there is Brenton’s LXX, but in the Apocrypha he just used the KJV except for the books the KJV didn’t include like 3rd and 4th Macabees which Brenton had to translate himself.

  24. Lydia,

    Sorry you ended up in moderation. Er…not sure what is happening here with the site. That was not intentional.

  25. Lydia and James,

    Yes…for some reason you ended up in moderation. I am not sure why that happened. It wasn’t intentional…LOL. Of course not!

    Only I get put in moderation, LOL…on Wartburg Watch, for daring to question Ye Old Pastor Wade’s great and all altruistic divine right to enlighten the barbarians.

  26. Yes…me too. In my recent studies I have read bits and pieces. The stuff I saw was decidedly and unabashedly free-will in its metaphysics. No big mystery NOW why it seems to be missing from the accepted protestant “orthodox” canon. Hard to claim the divine right of kings and philosopher king status when even GOD acknowledges that, yes, man can actually think for himself and doesn’t need some aristocracy or theocracy leading him around by the snout.

    But, yes…it looks very interesting. James just posted a link below.

  27. I’m using wordpress’ scheduling ability to schedule a few subsequent posts about Erasmus and Luther to come out. I like that feature. Even if I croak tomorrow, you’ll still get to read many of new my posts.

  28. I got turned on to reading the church fathers by an internet debate I had with a Greek Orthodox priest at 16 and he was quoting them out of context and I saw how they often could be used against his arguments if read in context. I read them online at ccel.org and a few years later ordered a full set of hardcover from Christianbook.com which was honestly a waste of 300 bucks since I never really read them in book form but only read them online. Although I have a full set of the fathers that the powers that be in the 1800s deemed worthy of translating, I’ve only read the ones up to Augustine. (And I’ve completely lost interest in reading them.) That would be the so-called apostolic fathers, Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, and finally Augustine. I’ve read some bits of some guys after that like Hilary and Chrysostom, but not much.

    I haven’t actually read the entirety even of all these guys’ works that I have read. I’ve read everything of Justin Martyr’s that survived, his two apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and the Discourse on Hades which is falsely attributed to him. Justin was my favorite theologian in my teens. Tertullian, I’ve read a few of his books but not all. He’s very witty with turns of phrase. He was a lawyer before his conversion. Cyprian his successor, I suppose I’ve read all his books but not his letters. Ireneaus, he wrote one thing, 5 books against heresies, and its all about these crazy Gnostic doctrines, and its impossible to get all the way through. I’ve read a bit of some another one not included in the set, Epiphanius’ Panarion, a book on various ‘heresies’ but he’s usually inaccurate on these heresies (comparing him to Irenaeus and Tertullian), and he’s really mean. Origen, well, I only know him by reputation because he’s not included in the set. There’s some fragmentary stuff included, but the great bulk of his work is locked in Latin to this day because he’s considered the worst heretic ever since he can be asserted to ultimately be the origin (pun intended) of the Pelagian heresy — you know, believing in freewill and believing that God creates a new human soul for each baby rather than bits of your parents’ souls merging to form your soul (how Augustine made original sin’s transmission work). Athanasius, I think I’ve read all of him. And Augustine, just the anti-Pelaian works and as much of the Confessions as I could stomach. And a few scraps of Jerome.

    Having read all of this, I would say these guys from Tertullian forward were tending heavily in the direction of the kind of “antisemitic thugs” that we ended up with in the Reformers. Justin Martyr is the most Jew-friendly, and as he’s trying to convert Trypho the Jew to Christianity, he’s telling him things like that God gave circumcision to the Jews as a sign so that when Jerusalem was destroyed as a punishment for killing Jesus the Romans would know who was a Jew so they could banish them from the city. Orthodox Christianity, the type that comes to us through the line of the “fathers,” has always been rather antisemitic. Tertullian is telling the Jews in his book “An Answer to the Jews” (mistranslated to hide the real title, “Against the Jews”) that the Old Testament is not theirs, its ours. And these guys are all really mean. Justin Martyr and Athanasius seem to be the mildest of them. Tertullian can kind of get away with it because he’s funny. But a lot of them don’t have that going for them.

    Oh, and there’s Eusebius’ church history. I read most of that I think. That’s interesting to see some first-hand information on the formation of the canon. Probably that one is more informative than the rest.

  29. Wow. Thanks for posting that, James. I knew nothing about Sirach before reading this thread, but this part right here…this right here, if it had been included in the canon I read, could have saved me months of agony. Amazing. And so ironic, and possibly maddening.

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