Just and the Justifier

A Christian Distinctive

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Reformed Theology and Free Will

Packer is too good a biblical scholar to think there ever was such a thing as “free will” taught in the scripture. Thus the whole conversation between him and myself can proceed on the cordial agreement that free will is an unbiblical notion that is not part of the antinomy because it is not part of revelation.1

Standard philosophical understandings of free will includes its ability to choose and do otherwise under similar circumstances. What distinguishes “free will” from “free agency” in moral agents with content in their nature and subjective faculties is that the former deliberates and draws upon that content; while in the latter, the content pushes upon and compels our decision making process and will to the point of determining. In the former, the will ill is the active and determining agent. In the latter, the will becomes a passive.

Free will is an unbiblical notion? Such a notion cannot be found within Scriptures? If Lucifer or Adam and Eve did not have free will, for instance, does John Piper and his ilk have a coherent definition of free will? Like scientism and the objective reality of soul and spirit; free will is precluded from Calvinist systems of rationalist theology. Free will doesn’t exist; neither in God, nor in man.
If Adam and Eve did not have free will to choose and do otherwise, if “man is free [only] to choose and act in accordance with his nature”2 , then by virtue of Adam and Eve’s sin, it must indicate that Adam and Eve were always inherently evil, contrary to pontifications by the Reformed tradition that they were endowed with righteousness (“He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image” 3), or Biblical judgments of the Creation (“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”) 4.

So which is it? Is “free will” an unbiblical notion? Or, was humanity inherently evil and therefore Creation was not good from the beginning?

 

©Copyright John Hutchinson (From “Monergist, But not Calvinist”)


  1. John Piper, “A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility”, desiringGod, March 1, 1976, Accessed http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility on March 25, 2014.
  2. Ernest C. Reisinger, God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will, 1998, Chapter 3 – “Free Will and Free Agency”
  3. The Westminster Confession, 1647, Chapter 4, Article 2.
  4. Genesis 1:31
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Putin: Russia’s Bismarck and the Pan-Russian Reunification

March 22, 2014

When Francis Fukuyama headily proclaimed The End of History and the final victory of Western capitalist liberal democracy over the corpse of Soviet Russia, I guffawed. Being deep in the Evangelical world, we were already bearing the oppressive onslaught of a triumphalist secularism. I had anticipated that an evident counter-reaction would lead to a global-wide theist-secularist schism, which would lead to civil strife, of various degrees and temperatures in the evenly-divided United States. I detected a widening economic disparity and centralization as the Thatcher-Reagan corrective to the sclerotic, over-regulated, over-taxed, labour-tilted 1970s was moving toward imbalance in the other direction. And I knew sufficient of Russian history and culture, (and with a little cheating from Ezekiel’s eschatology), to know that capitalist, liberal democracy lacked for a conducive cultural milieu in Orthodox Russia.

I expected that after a Weimar-like interregnum in the 1990s, the new Russia would emerge as a modern, updated version of Tsarist-like autocracy without the Tsarist trappings. At worst, this prognostication underestimated the extent of anticipated Orthodox Church collusion with the new tsars; or the social conservatism, which Putin, a modern Talleyrand chameleon, might cynically exploit, possibly even believe. Perhaps, the ghost of Solzhenitsyn has been more insidious and enduring than cursory outside observation could possibly understand. It becomes the height of irony that the modern Russia becomes the vanguard of moral virtue against a decadent West, including what was once an irritating, at least to European hearts, overzealous moralist America.

New Russia’s Putin, despite having a weaker hand to play with, has outwitted a hapless U.S. President and totally obtuse Washington Establishment on both wings of the political spectrum. That obese ‘hyperpower’ is beginning to resemble a Cathay to the Mongols and a Persian Empire to the Macedonians.

An exceptionalism-blinded, history-illiterate America with its venal and venial political class, highly credentialed but obtuse intelligentsia and fawning journalistic soothsayers, completely misdiagnoses Putin and the current geopolitical paradigm. From neocons to Rodney Clinton, their myopic historical memory seems to extend no further back than little before World War II. Conventional ‘wisdom’, such as it is, depicts Putin as some Boys from Brazil incarnation of Hitler and the new situation as a Cold War echo.

However, it would seem that Bismarck would be a more appropriate, meaningful and useful analogy. American foreign policy has engaged in hubristic overreach into the heart of historical Russia, far from its own lines, and beyond the sphere of what could be reasonably defended. A nationally proud Slavic nation, already sporting from the humiliation of Soviet disintegration, is further galvanized into the restoration of Russian greatness by this psychologically obtuse foreign policy. Putin’s Realpolitik feints into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea; all are reminiscent of Prussian efforts to unify the hitherto myriad of weak German duchies and principalities into a Pan-Germanic state in the 1860s.

And in the ongoing demise of Pax Americana hegemony, we are living in a multi-polar global version of 19th Century’s Europe; where petty national self-interests replace ideology as the guiding impetus. All jockey for geopolitical position like old Republican patrician families, contracting temporary alliances like paterfamilias contracting strategic marriages of their wards. Putin’s ambitions are far more modest and calculated than Hitler’s. And thus, we should expect further coercive consolidations with the Slavic orbit, at least initially. After all, Bismarck’s Prussia did surround Paris.

Imputed Sin? Really?

Being a perfectionist, a ‘precisionist’, often to pathological levels; I always had an acute sense of a scrupulous, exacting justice. A parent betrayed a confidentiality at ten years old, which in my adult judgment as it would have appeared to that parent, to be minor. But a child has a different estimation of such violations, which parents dismiss at our and their peril. The ‘great betrayal’ happened two years before my conversion. I never trusted either parent with any secrets throughout my teen-age years, to my great detriment. I was a different sort of holy terror, for any parent to put up with.

In my spiritual battles of the mind, it was necessary for me to perceive the justice in the Justification in order to certify to myself the truth of Christianity. This was a critical and pivotal issue. For to borrow from Apostle Paul, if the Justification does not satisfy Justice, “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”[1].

When I was in primary school, whenever the teacher could not discover the perpetrator of some minor vandalism or other misdemeanor, she (usually) would stay the whole class in detention until the culprit came forward. The latter rarely happened. However, I was fully galled. And my general contempt for public school educators had some roots in that unjust display of collective guilt. The idea of coercively ascribing guilt by association is so contrary to common human notions of natural justice.

And indeed, the God of Scriptures differs not in this regard. “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”[2]The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”[3] “He will render to each one according to his works.”[4] These are but some of the Scriptural passages that deals with the principles of (judicial) guilt

And yet, the Reformed/Calvinist traditions, in their Calvinolatry and fidelity to creeds found wanting, continue to persist in the Westminster Confession assertion that the guilt of Adam was imputed to all humanity. Read more…

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