Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Norman Geisler & Unconditional Election

Norman Geisler writes: “…God is the unconditional source of the election, and that election is done with full foreknowledge of all things. But we have demonstrated that the elect will freely choose to believe. Election is not based on or dependent on foreknowledge. Rather, it is merely in accord with it (see chapter 3).” (Chosen But Free, p.69)

Geisler presents an analogy to help clarify his proposed distinction.

Geisler continues: “An illustration is in order. Suppose a young man (whom we will call Jim) is contemplating marriage, and knows two young ladies (whom we will call Joan and Betty), either of whom would make a good wife for him. As a Christian, he has three basic choices: (1) to propose to neither of them; (2) to propose to Joan; or (3) to propose to Betty. Bear in mind that the young man is under no compulsion. There is nothing outside his own will that places demands on him to choose any one of the three options (or any other one). Suppose further that the young man happens to know that if he proposes to Joan she will say yes and if he proposes to Betty she will say no. Suppose, then in accordance with this foreknowledge of how she will freely respond, that Jim chooses to propose to Joan. Suppose even that he knew she would be reluctant at first but with persistent and loving persuasion she would eventually—freely—accept his offer. The decision on his part was entirely free, uncoerced, and not based on anything outside himself. But it was also a decision that was with full knowledge of the response and which respected the free choice of the person to whom he decided to propose. This is analogous to what moderate Calvinists believe about God’s unconditional election.” (Chosen But Free, pp.69-70)

It seems evident that Jim chose to propose to Joan (as opposed to Betty) because he knew that he could get a yes from her. So why couldn’t you say that he chose her “based upon” and “dependent on” his special knowledge of her response? In other words, I’m simply not understanding Geisler’s asserted dichotomy.

Geisler adds: “It is clear, of course, that God chose us before we chose to accept Him. And our decision to accept His offer of salvation is not the basis for His choice of us. We did not choose Him--either first or as the basis of His choice of us.” (Chosen But Free, p.74)

I simply do not understand how the illustration has clarified the distinction between “based on” vs. “in accord with.”


drwayman said...

Actually if Joan knew that Jim wanted to propose to Betty as well, she would probably say no. I think that analogy doesn't hold water.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you... the analogy if anything supports election based on foreknowledge.

Richard Coords said...

Thanks guys, I really struggled to understand what Geisler intended by rejecting "based on" in favor of "in accord with." Geisler is trying to stake out a middle position, but I'm just not following his logic.

Preston N said... the more he wrestles the tighter the knot becomes. Anytime I see this type of logical inconisistencies I think back to a paper Loriane Boettner wrote entitled: The Foreknowledge of God. It is in my opinion the most honest explaination I have ever heard any Calvinist openly admit on this issue.

Boettner writes:

"Foreknowledge must not be confused with foreordination. Foreknowledge presupposes foreordination, but is not itself foreordination. The actions of free agents do not take place because they are foreseen, but they are foreseen because they are certain to take place........Hence Strong says, "Logically, though not chronologically, decree comes before foreknowledge. When I say, 'I know what I will do,' it is evident that I have determined already, and that my knowledge does not precede determination, but follows it and is based upon it. Since God's foreknowledge is complete, He knows the destiny of every person, not merely before the person has made his choice in this life, but from eternity. And since He knows their destiny before they are created, and then proceeds to create, it is plain that the saved and the lost alike fulfill His plan for them; for if He did not plan that any particular ones should be lost, He could at least refrain from creating them. We conclude, then, that the Christian doctrine of the Foreknowledge of God proves also His Predestination."

Although I totally disagree with Boettner's theology here, he is being logically consistant with his view on subject - which is more than I can say about Giesler

Richard Coords said...

Hey Preston,

I agree. Geisler through me off. I still haven't been able to figure out his apparent contradiction.

One question that I would ask of Boettner is this. When he writes: "Since God's foreknowledge is complete," I would ask, "complete" of what? Does God foreknow what He forordained, or does God foreknow something that He did not forordain, that is, something that is determined by another?

If God could allow someone to make a completely self-determined choice, could God, by virtue of being eternal, foreknow it, such as by dwelling in the future? This seems to present a counter-view to the C model, which seems to say that there is no logical way in which God could foreknow that which is undetermined. James White actually made that point to Dave Hunt:

James White: “How God can know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point…” (Debating Calvinism, p.163)

That was White's rhetorical way of saying, no, God, in that event, couldn't foreknow it. I think that Calvinists have a small view of God, by teaching that God cannot foreknow an undetermined choice, and that God cannot be sovereign while allowing an undetermined choice. That's a lot of "cannots" for C's who promote a "high view" of the sovereignty of God.

Anonymous said...

Very deep insights, gentlemen...the Lord has used them to challenge me very strongly! Praise be to Jesus the Calvinist Messiah!

Unknown said...

COORDS: "I'm simply not understanding Geisler's asserted dichotomy."

You're not the first, as Geisler is not asserting a dichotomy so much as a contradiction. If your choice is based on what you know someone will do (like saying 'yes'), then your choice is based on what you know someone will do. It's very simple. Jim proposed because he knew Joan would say yes; even if she was reluctant at first, Jim knew that eventually she would accept his offer. (The bolded parts underscore something external to himself.) If God's decision is based on the person saying yes, then it was based on something outside Himself.

Geisler says that God chose us before we chose to accept Him, while forgetting that he also said God chooses us because we chose to accept Him. Pointing to 'when' God made His choice does nothing to distract from 'what' His choice was based on. Geisler asserts a contradiction when he says that God's choice was "a decision that was with full knowledge of the response," but that "our decision to accept His offer of salvation is not the basis for His choice of us."

COORDS: "If God could allow someone to make a completely self-determined choice, could God [foreknow it by virtue of being eternal], such as by dwelling in the future? This seems to present a counter-view to the [Calvinist] model, which [suggests] that there is no logical way in which God could foreknow that which is undetermined."

Actually, I believe that foreknowledge (in its strict sense) is rejected outright on the Calvinist view, because (i) the term suggests a God who is bound by time, as the Open Theists have it, and (ii) in the vast majority of cases 'proginosko' takes a verbal form, or something God does (e.g., Rom. 8:29).

And another response might be, "God cannot foreknow that which is undetermined BECAUSE nothing is undetermined" (i.e., since nothing undetermined exists, it cannot hinder his foreknowledge). As noted by the likes of Spurgeon and Tozer, God is neither temporally bound nor does he experience time as a linear sequence; as Tozer wrote, "In God there is no was or will be, but a continuous and unbroken is. In him, history and prophecy are one and the same" (Knowledge of the Holy). And there is an enormous wealth of evidence in Scripture that everything falls under God's jurisdiction—from the motions of the cosmos to the hearts of men—while there is no suggestion of anything that is beyond his jurisdiction. Giving serious consideration to a transcendent God who is eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, righteous and benevolent, etc., how could any undetermined thing exist, that is, without contradicting the attributes of God?

COORDS: "James White actually made that point to Dave Hunt ... [rhetorically by] saying, 'No. God, in that event, couldn't foreknow it'."

I think you have misunderstood the dialogue. He wasn't making the point that God CAN'T foreknow an undetermined choice, but rather that Hunt (i) redefines 'proginosko' out of whole cloth, ignoring the lexical and scriptural evidence, (ii) including the lexical and exegetical analysis White had provided, and (iii) never explains how anything undetermined could even exist before an omniscient God in the first place. White's entire argument regarding 'proginosko' corresponds to what I said above, that nothing undetermined exists for God to have foreknowledge about.

Enoch said...

Is not election an example of how God's ways & wisdom are beyond our understanding? If we explain that God knew the future by being able to go to the future & see it, then that implies that the future existed before God's going there! But we know that God existed before all creation. And I don't know how we could prove that time does not have valid sequence in the Lord's understanding or that everything is an eternal now. I don't think it takes long to realize that activity is impossible to conceptualize without time & also that it is impossible to think of time as always having existed (as if there were a 2nd time vs. which to measure primary time).

Also, it seems intolerable to conclude that everything ever done was done by the Lord.

One thing that lacks proof in my mind is that foreknowledge means fore + knowledge in the "pregnant" sense of know = having a relationship with (Israel only have I known, etc.). Proof about what a root word means does not prove the same meaning in a compound. For example, one could hardly define under-stand by first finding a figurative meaning for what "stand" means, say a device with which to catch deer or sell hotdogs.

It seems to me that election & predestination are God's business & result in humility & gratitude in the child of God. But election does not deny human responsibility or "whosoever believeth" either.

Richard Coords said...

Couple things...

1) To assert that in order for God to know the future, that He has to somehow "go to the future & see it" is an implicit denial of what? Omni-presence. In other words, if God dwells in all space, then He dwells in all time as well, since time/space are merely coordinates in our universe. But the point is that if God is truly omni-present, then He simultaneously (i.e. "eternal now") dwells in all time/space. So God would not need to hop in a time machine to know the future. The reality is that God could relay the future events of Rev 20 simply because those events (that sliver in time/space) stands before Him. So He can accurately tell you what's going on and how He is interacting with it. That's the proper understanding of the Arminian model of sovereignty.

2) Biblical gratitude was never expressed as one giving "thanks" to God over a lucky draw in being born into an upper caste within the caste-system theology of Calvinism. (C's will often gussy up caste-system theology by assigning it the man-made label, "the doctrines of grace" [an acronym d.o.g., which at best, is really the doctrines of limited grace [i.e. limited atonement], and at worst, the doctrines of a caste system.

read4316 said...

Geisler's analogy is flawed in that God did not choose the elect based on His foreknowledge of them saying yes to Him, because God proposed to all humanity with the foreknowledge that many would say no, i.e. John 3:16, For God so loved the world. God is certainly sovereign and allowed humanity the freedom to reply to His proposal with a yes or a no, but He does not with hold His proposal even though he knows the response. Calvinism has an godly view of God in that they blame God for randomly choosing those that will go to heaven and those that will go to hell. I certainly do not and could not serve a god like that, for God is love and desires no one to perish but allows humanity the freedom to choose. Additionally, it amazes me how a calvinist knows that they are one of God's elect. Did God tell them? or did they decide that they were? and what if they are mistaken and God decided that they were going to hell and they are not one of the elect? calvinist view of God is unscriptural, ungodly, and heathenistic. If God made Adam sin and God determines ALL things and does not allow humans the freedom to choose, then God is to blame for ALL human sin and failure, and if He is a God of love, He must redeem ALL humans because their failures are His fault. This is of course is absurd, God is not to blame but humanity is to blame for their sin and failure, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, He made a way of escapee, but we must choose. Blessing and cursing, life and death are set before us,Choose Life! choose life

Richard Coords said...

Geisler's position is difficult to understand. He actually claims to support both sides somewhat. He indicated that he was puzzled as to James White's many criticisms of his book "Chosen but Free", because he felt that he agreed with much of what White had to say. So Geisler will make many statements that seem to support both sides, and puzzle everyone. While Geisler may proudly stake out such a position, I think that it shows that Geisler is not well-read on the Calvinism subject, though I did enjoy reading his perspective. I think that White could have handled his response better, but White is White. As a man who says much about grace, he exemplifies little.

I did an article on what I felt about Election, and here it is:

It first establishes the principle that Jesus is the elect One, and that His body is elect insomuch that it is identified with him (i.e. Chris is elect, and so is His body, as an extension of Himself), and I gave the analogy of David, Jonathan and Mephibosheth to try to illustrate this point.

Richard Coords said...

I think that you could also take your argument one step further. If C's say that God determined whatsoever comes to pass (i.e. all action), then what about thoughts? Did God determine whatsoever *thoughts* that come to pass too? Is God sovereign over *thought* in the sense that He is sovereign over *action* based upon how Calvinism defines true sovereignty? If so, then what about the demonic realm's thoughts? Did God determine every thought of theirs, from eternity to eternity? Some C's will back off of their claims by saying that God did not determine their every thought, and which ultimately unravels their argument, as you trace their logic from there.