Is Morality eternal and unchanging?

An atheistic counter-argument to the moral argument for the existence of God:

“If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?”

The premise of the question is faulted first off. When the argument begins “If God were absolutely moral, because morality is absolute” it begins with a conceptual misunderstanding.

God’s nature is unchangeable and eternal. What is argued by theistic apologists concerning morality is not that morality cannot exist without God, but that the foundations upon which morality is built cannot exist without God; and that the good and necessary consequences of this is a denigration of morality to mere preference.

Second, morals are not unchangeable or absolute. Moral judgements must account for many different variables. Killing someone may or may not have been in self-defense; depending on this the act could have been moral or not. In some cases an action can be morally permissible, and in others not. What is crucial is the need to see that someone like the apostle Paul say to one person “you can eat meat offered to idols” but say to another person “you shouldn’t eat meat.” This, Paul does, as he accounts for variables for which is he is cognizant that differ in each party.

What is countered by theists on this point is actually different than what the original argument proposes: the foundation for all morality; namely, the nature of God, is eternally unchangeable. Therefore the objective standard by which morality is determined is unchanged. If God, the eternal and unchanging foundation for all morality, gave a specific moral standard, in a given context, for given purposes, and he gives a set of instructions to a particular time, at a particular place, that doesn’t mean that all people, at all times are somehow included. It still means that it was binding on them, and the argument goes, that it was a proper expression of God’s nature in the given context. The moral standard is not eternal and unchanging, but rather its foundation is; God. This leads to the third point.

Finally, something can be wrong for a two year old, and not necessarily wrong for a 21 year old (obviously enough). The change of standard is mainly due, not to some ontological deficiency in the rule itself, but rather is a concession of something that could be good (sex, or a beer) due to some immaturity (a necessary and proper immaturity I might add) in the child.

If Jesus Christ is the climax of the earlier stages of moral development in which Israel found herself throughout the Scriptures; and he himself was appointed to bring God’s eternal and unchanging character more fully to bare through his life, death, and resurrection; and this watershed moment in history radically affected the entire context in which humanity found itself; then, the objective foundation for morality established by the eternal character of God is hardly undermined by changes Jesus Christ may effect with regard to specific rules given to a people in relative immature stages that God was intending to transcend.
If Israel is understood as “the people through which God’s to promise Abraham for the world” would be accomplished; and that this promise would be climactically fulfilled by Christ and carried forward to the intended era God has planned for humanity; then changes in moral rules once the all-important Messiah arrives are not somehow undermining God’s eternal and unchanging nature, nor is he undermining the rules that were fitting for the immature stage in which Israel lived. God is their Father, and Fathers must do things like that with their children. [They may say its ok for an infant to cry every time she wants something; and turn around and get on to a 12 year old who attempts the same behavior.]

[I will probably return to draw this third point out much further at a later date]

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Who is Romans 7 about?

[A Copy of part of my Exegesis paper]
Josh Shelton

Who is the “I” in Romans 7:14
There are several views taken on the precise identify of the “I” in 7:14. Here are some of the main ones: 1. Autobiographical-as a lost Paul. 2. Autobiographical- as a saved Paul. 3. “Ego” in solidarity with Adam. In this view, Paul, is saying “I sinned in Adam, and now, the nature in solidarity with Adam is in me;” and this Adamic nature (indwelling sin), when it is under the law, behaves in the manner delineated from 7:12-23. 4. “I” or “Ego” as representative of Israel. This is also known as the salvation historical view.
Dealing with the first two alternatives, the most powerful argument for the first view is a simple juxtaposition of a few statements from Paul:
1. that we should no longer be slaves to sin”(douluein, 6:6)

2. “but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God” (6:22)

3. “but now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (7:6)

4. “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”

5. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9).

Juxtapose that with:

1. “I am sold under sin” (7:14c)

2. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (7:14c)

3. “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner to the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23)

4.“making me a prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23c)

5. “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (7:14)

With such a juxtaposition it is easy to see the strengths of the argument.
On the other hand, there are arguments for the opposing view as well. In 7:18, why does Paul say that nothing good dwells in him, and then specify, “that is, in my flesh?” Verse 22, Paul refers to his inner being. Dunn says that this is probably referring to the regenerate life attained through solidarity with Christ; whereas the flesh is attained through solidarity with Adam. The most formidable argument, however, is concerning verse 25. Dunn writes, “It is the stone on which the majority interpretations of Rom. 7, 14-25 break and fall—hence the rather feverish attempts to omit the verse as a later gloss or to rewrite the last section of 7 with v. 25b interposed between v. 23 and v.24.”
Consider verse 25 briefly. Assume that some readers believe that Paul is referring to himself as an unregenerate person for reasons demonstrated in the juxtaposition. When they read Paul’s cry “who will deliver me,” followed by his triumphant celebration, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is only one conclusion that is viable. Paul has been delivered from the state he has in outlined from 7:7-24. So far, then, what is being argued is that being a servant of “the law of sin” is something that cannot describe, in context, someone who has experienced the deliverance of Jesus Christ. But, immediately after Paul’s celebration, he writes “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Dunn writes,
The antithesis between the inward man and the flesh is not overcome and left behind, it continues through and beyond the shout of thanksgiving—as a continuing antithesis between mind and flesh… [Paul] confronts the believer with both sides of the paradox, both sides of his nature as believer…in short, the Christian lives on two levels at once—he knows both life and death at the same time.

So, it would seem that being in the flesh can coexist within someone who has experienced the deliverance of Christ. The cry of verse 24 then is not the cry of a non-Christian for the Christian freedom, but rather the cry of a Christian for the full freedom that is his in Christ.
Hae-Kyung Chang criticizes Dunn’s position in favor of the “Paul embodying Israel” view. Moo points out that Paul in Romans 3:7 uses “ego” as a rhetorical device that does not describe himself personally. Chang, utilizing Moo’s commentary on Romans, and argues that Paul conceived of the world in terms of two aeons or ages. One age headed up by Adam in which the powers of sin, law, flesh, and death rule. Then, on the other hand, there is the age headed up by Christ in which the powers of righteousness, grace, Spirit, and life rule. As such, the world is broken into two categories for Paul. Chang argues that 7:14-25 reiterates the world headed up by Adam. Chang’s most potent argument runs thus:
In Rom. 6 and 8, respectively, Paul makes it clear that “being free from under sin” and “being free from the law of sin and death” are conditions that are true for every Christian. If one is a Christian, then these things are true; if one is not, they are not true. This means that the situation of depicted in Rom. 7:14-25 cannot be that of the normal’ Christians, nor of an immature Christian. Nor can it describe the condition of any Christian living by the law because the Christian who is mistakenly living according to the law is yet a Christian and is therefore not “under sin” or a “prisoner of the law of sin.”

However, Chang’s analysis falls very short with regard to verse 25. Chang says,
v. 25a is not strictly an essential part of what Paul argues, but must be recognized as an interjection, a strong and sudden emotion of gratitude, exclaiming anticipatory over the victory believers have in Christ.

For Chang, Paul’s celebration of Christ’s deliverance is an unnecessary aside that is irrelevant to the flow of Paul’s thought. Dunn’s analysis at this specific point is much more coherent. However, the contrasts between chapter 6,8 of Romans with chapter 7 of Romans is quite formidable. Moreover, the context and the content of 7:1-13 seems to coincide with the view of Israel’s experience under the law. Normally under this view Paul is thought to be recounting his own experience in solidarity with Israel as a regenerate, but non-Christian Jew; under the law, and in bondage to sin. Be that as it may, the Achilles heel, even of this line of thought is still verse 25a and its subsequent statement in 25b. This is so even in N.T. Wright’s, and Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans; Paul’s statement is hard to fit in after his celebration of deliverance accomplished by Christ.
There are particular strengths in each view. Some of the strengths in each view are mutually exclusive and automatically exclude other views, while some of the strengths can pass through the permeable membrane which divides each position. Now, to attempt a synthesis!

Synthetic Reflections

Moo rightly notes that the three views discussed so far, in addition to the Adamic view, provide particular insights into the text. Think of these theological directions as tunes that must be synchronized to the right pitch, and harmonized, in order to hear the particular symphony that Paul is playing here at this point in Romans. Consider the following hypothesis, and see if it adjusts the different tunes into a recognizable symphony that harmonizes the flow of Romans 7.
What if Paul is writing Romans 7 from the Christian perspective; and from that perspective demonstrating the necessity of dying to the “Torah” as a means of sanctification? So that, Paul could say “This is what life under the law looked like for Israel (7:13-24). Because of the death Christians died in Christ, they have died to the law and are therefore free from the dominion of sin.” To which his opponents would respond, “You are treating the law as the problem, Paul.” Paul could respond, “No, the culprit is indwelling sin. The nature in solidarity with Adam is the true culprit, and because of the weakness of sinful man, the law was, is, and will continue to be incapable of transforming sinful people like us into the people that God wants us to become. The Christian still has indwelling sin in him, and because of this sin, life under the law will continue to look this way; the same way it looked for Israel. But now, the basis of the Christian’s relationship with God has changed. God, in his Son, has done what the law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh (8:3). Through the death of the Son, and their death in him (see 6:2), Christians (the Jewish sort in particular) have been liberated from their bondage to the law (Romans 7:1-6). The reason such liberation was necessary was because of indwelling sin, not because of some inherent evil within the law (7:17). Indwelling sin used the law to enslave, deceive, and kill all who were under it (7:11). It was because of this that such a revolutionary change has been wrought by God through Christ. Through Christ, Christians have been translated from “under the law” and are now “under grace” (6:14). This entails that sin will no longer have dominion over Christians (6:14), that that they will be slaves of righteousness (6:18), and slaves to God (6:22).
So then, “this,” Paul says, “is what life under Torah consists of: slavery to sin, and bondage to law, the end of which is death (6:20-21); but now that you have been set free from sin by being taken out from under the law, you are now a slave to God, not sin; and the fruit of this slavery is righteousness, and the end of this righteousness is eternal life (6:22).” “Therefore,” Paul is saying, “if your bondage to the Torah has been severed, and you have been set free from that which has been holding you captive to sin (because of indwelling sin); then, why would you want to return to the Torah as the basis of your relation with God. Sin does not have dominion over you because you are not under the law, but under grace; and because of this, you are a slave to righteousness bearing fruit to eternal life. If you return to the Torah, you will return to the bondage that Israel experienced under the law; and sin will then begin to dominate your life once again. In order to be set free from sin, you must be set free from the law!”
In this case, Paul could be retelling his struggle, using the stories and symbols of Israel’s struggle under the law, but telling it also from the vantage of a Jewish, but converted Christian, who struggled to continue believing the gospel with all of its entailments. One can imagine that Paul returned the power sphere of the law more than once as his default state. The product of Paul’s failure is a life that resumed its existence under the law, and therefore under sin’s dominion. Such a life becomes totally inconsistent with the person the Christian truly is. Romans 7:7-25, then, could quite possibly be an autobiographical warning, that a failure to relate to God on the basis of what God has done for Christians in Jesus the Messiah will result in the domination of sin, as experienced by Israel under the law. Therefore, the need to abandon the Torah, and to participate in the gospel by faith, is a need that remains crucial throughout the Christian life.
It would seem most plausible (I think) to say that Paul is speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel before coming to Christ. However, it must be emphasized, that Paul is writing this to Christians from a Christian perspective. Moo writes “The experience of Israel with the law should remind Christians to never return to the law–Mosaic, or any other list of ‘rules’ as a source of spiritual vigor or growth.” Moo and Wright both hear a noise in Romans 7 that causes a deja-vu of James D.G. Dunn’s earlier comments, but due to some of his exegetical shortcomings, the noise from Paul’s symphony that Dunn was picking up (and playing too loudly I might add) has dropped off and is barely audible in their exegesis. I want to turn that noise up a notch and keep as much of their exegetical harmony as possible.
To sum up, Paul can thus be speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel as Jew in order to delineate life under the power sphere of the law. He does this, it seems, in order to vindicate the law, and simultaneously demonstrate that it is not the true culprit for the death and destruction that followed in its wake. Paul identifies indwelling sin as the real problem. Indwelling sin connotes the nature in solidarity with Adam (already treated by Paul in Romans 5). Israel, then, corporately recapitulated the sin of Adam and they were deceived and killed. All of this is written by Paul from the Christian perspective. His aim is to show that because of indwelling sin (i.e. solidarity with Adam), the law has had a negative impact on all those who are under it. He does this with an autobiographical warning of what will happen to those who are under grace, if they begin to relate to God under the power sphere of the law (and I think Paul knows this from personal experience). Paul is thus saying, “Relating to God must always be on the basis of the gospel, and under the power sphere of grace and the Spirit.” Whether Paul is converted or not in verse 14 is almost irrelevant; regardless of whether he is or not, operating under the power sphere of the law will yield the same results. For Christians, the Adamic nature is still present with them, though they are under grace. Therefore, they must not refer back to the law as a way of life because the law will still unwillingly provide sin with an opportunity to usurp dominion over them.
Where does 7:25 fit in with this new view? After Paul exults in celebration over his liberation accomplished by Christ, he says, “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” The law of sin is served by the flesh (which is the nature in solidarity with Adam, not Christ). Paul is in the flesh when his basis of relating to God is as one who is “under the law.” He does this as one who is not truly under the law, but under grace (his true identity, which is in solidarity with Christ, not Adam); and as such sin does not have dominion over him. So, Paul is not in the flesh, but, when he is (I note the tension here with 8:9), he serves the law of sin. Paul is in the flesh when he fails to relate to God “under grace.” Therefore, is incumbent for the Christians in Rome to abandon the law altogether as a means of sanctification. The law will only serve indwelling sin, and place the believer back under its dominion. Paul knows this all too well. He knows that his failures as a Christian are at root failures to believe the gospel, and subsequently to participate in the person and work of Christ by the Spirit. The law, in fact, has become the very thing that hinders such participation in the gospel. This is why Paul begins chapter 7 by saying we have died to it and are now totally free from it. Specifically, then, Paul in 7:25 is saying that after Christ’s deliverance, there remains in the believer a nature that serves sin; and thus relating to God on the basis of law is totally out of the question. The basis of the Christian’s relationship to God is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, for, God in Christ has done what the law could not do…and in Christ, the righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled, and it is now being fulfilled in those who walk according to the spirit; so, don’t walk according to the flesh, this is not who you are in Christ, for, in Christ, God is creating a new humanity, he is doing this now with you, and that humanity is not characterized by life in the flesh; so do not walk in the flesh…and do not lose hope or become weary, for, those whom God justifies he will also glorify.

Carson and Moo, Introduction to the New Testament,

Douglas Moo makes some interesting comments about the Greek word “nomos” in Paul that are very beneficial. To summarize 4 of Moo’s points:1. “Paul discusses the law as a single entity rather than as a series of commands,” 2. “The law can refer to power or systems of authority: ‘the law of the Spirit of life has freed me from the law of sin and death.” Are two uses of the Mosaic Law intended here, or are two opposing systems to be interpreted? Moo says that the latter is clearly the case, 3. “Occasionally, Paul appears to use “nomos” of the will of God, without regard to any definite, historical form in which that will is expressed.” Passages that Moo uses to illustrate this: “The work of the law’ written in the hearts of the Gentiles (2:15) may reflect such an idea, as may 2:26-27—–that the law is fulfilled by those who are in an uncircumcised state — clearly implying that the historical revelation of the divine will through Moses cannot be intended,” 4. Paul’s use of nomos most often and most basically is referring to that of the Mosaic Law.Douglas Moo, “law,” and “works of the law,” and “legalism” in Paul, Westminster Theological Journal, (1983): 78-84. Quoted from Josh Shelton, Paul and Law Research Paper, submitted to Robert Kendall at Liberty University May, 2012.

Moo, Romans, 409.

This is known as diatribe style and it is composed of a question, emphatic rejection, and explanation. Chang, 269.
Ibid.

Wright, 559.

Moo, 423.

Paul argues that a person’s bondage to the law must be severed in order that he or she may be put into a new relationship with Christ. This awakens concerns about the status of the law. Moo, Romans, 409.
Ibid., 417.

Ibid.
Dunn, 257-273.

Ibid.
Ibid.

Man as a Christian is still part of this world, still belongs in some sense to this world (Rom. 6,19, 1. Cor. 1,29, 6,16, 7,28 etc.). Man as a believer still lives in some sense at least “in the flesh” (2. Cor. 10,3, Gal. 2,20, Phil. 1,22, Phm. 16). [Ibid.]

Ibid. “That is to say, the two dimensions of the believer’s existence run counter to each other and prevent his living wholly in one or other; the Spirit prevents his fleshly desires coming to effect, but so too does his fleshliness prevent the Spirit inspired desires coming to effect. In consequence the believer finds himself torn in two by conflicting desires and impulses, and his experience as a man of Spirit in the flesh is one of continuing frustration.” [Ibid]

Moo, Romans, 427.

Hae-Kyung Chang, 267.

Ibid., 268.
Moo, Romans, 427.

Moo, Romans, 417. The law is a text case, applicable to all people.
Moo’s conclusion of 7:7-12 says “the experience of Israel with the law should also remind Christians never to return to the law–whether the Mosaic or any other list of rules– as a source of spiritual vigor and growth. [Moo, Romans, 441].

For Paul, this would include working out all of its entailments of course.
Such is the case because of the solidarity with Adam in what Paul designates “sarx.”

Those statements that seem to point to some nature in Paul opposed to the evil that is within him can be attributed to his status in the covenant as a Jew.

Wright, Romans, 553.

Ibid., 441.
This would call for something similar to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6 to “reckon yourselves dead.” You are dead, so reckon yourself dead. You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, so “reckon yourself in the Spirit.”
Being under grace is something far more radical than merely God’s willingness to forgive. I am thinking of the new humanity being created in the Jesus the Messiah. Through God’s call, we are translated in this humanity and we are to carry out God’s mandate for us on that basis. “Under Grace” is a way of telling the whole story of Jesus Christ and its ramifications.

The problem with The Righteousness of God

The problem with God’s Righteousness in Romans 3:21-26; the problem that threatens God’s righteousness is not, contra Wright, the heretofore unfulfilled promises of God (in Abraham). The problem that threatens God’s righteousness is the fact that God passed over former sins. This problem is why God put forward his Son as a propitiation, to show his righteousness, because he formerly passed over sins. God’s righteousness demands, by its very nature, that God put forward his Son as propitiation if he so desires to pass over sins. If God passes over sins, his righteousness demands that he put forward his Son as a propitiation.

God’s covenant faithfulness may demand that God pass over former sins. But, its not covenant faithfulness that demands the putting forward of his own Son for a propitiation, but his righteousness.

God’s Righteousness is God’s unswerving committment to act and govern things in such a way that he demonstrates the supreme value of his name and worth above all things.

When God imputes his righteousness to us, he imputes a status that is counted as though it has always acted and willed in ways that maximized the glory of God over all things.

When God imputes our sin to Christ, the same is true. God imputes a status to Christ, at which time God accounts Christ as having done what actually had not done.

My Thoughts on our Family Mission Statement

For those who read the Shelton Mission Statement, and think to themselves: does the Shelton Family actually live up to this mission statement? Here is a rejoinder comment.

I want to be candid: I do think that this mission statement is an accurate reflection of our ideals, but there are moments (far too many) where our thoughts, actions, and behaviors of our family betray our mission.

This mission statement serves two relevant purposes in light of the above statement: 1. The mission statement helps family have accountability. The fact that our family will drift from this mission at times is the very purpose for which the mission statement is created. Therefore the mission statement is not meant to describe what the Shelton family now is, but to prescribe what the Shelton family aspires to be while promoting that aspiration to help it come to fruition. 2. The mission statement is not a foreign set of words for my wife and I. It truly is the heart beat of our life and marriage. We strive with all of our might, incessantly, stubbornly, to grow in our knowledge of God together. This mission statement crystallizes some of the conclusions that we have drawn with one another at various times, now written so that we can be as like-minded as possible. While I am away at work, I want my wife to parent with the same vision that I do. I tell my wife that she is the resident theologian of my household while I am gone, and as a matter of being the head that I am called to be, I do my best to teach her, and stir her into a passion to know God through his word (the way Jesus as the head of the church, relentlessly taught his disciples as the body. Being the head makes you the teacher, not the knower). Of course, my goal is for that passion to know God and study him to spew from her life and lips throughout her “mommy-career.”

I truly believe that my family will be different because of this mission statement. My hope is that more verses will be memorized, deeper conversations about God discussed, more prayers for our family, friends, church, and mission, more surrendering of our lives to the Holy Spirit, a better work ethic, and a better stewardship of our bodies, will all arise from this Mission Statement. Sure, there are times where we will deviate from it. But this statement will call us to account and repent and return to our mission. As such, it will then serve its purpose. May God help us for the glory of Christ!

Family Mission Statement

This Family exists to know God and enjoy him in all of life; and by this, to glorify God. Therefore, God will be glorified in our family with these 5 priorities, beginning with the most important:

The Shelton Family Will:

1. Devote their lives to the study of God’s word. God’s Word will dominate our conversations, our thoughts, our time, and our lives. We will read, study, learn, memorize it. A failure to diligently pursue a knowledge of God is sin. Therefore, we will work to understand the Bible throughout our lives by sacrificially and diligently working to understand and know God more and more each day.
2. We will pray. We will pray to the God of the Bible and as we come to see him more clearly through his word, and see the world through his word, and by this we will express our dependance on God for everything.
3. The Gospel is the central truth in the Word of God and it is central to who God is. Therefore, the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ will be the foundation for all that the Shelton family is and does. This Gospel is the news that must be cherished by all the peoples of the world. Therefore, the Mission of the church, and of the Shelton Family, is to embody this gospel and participate with Christ’s church in her mission through prayer, financial support, and active involvement.
4. The Shelton Family, and each member of it, are the temples of God. God lives in us by the Holy Spirit. God is creating a new humanity in Christ by His Spirit in the church and in the Shelton Family. Our goals, choices, aspirations, hobbies, morals, and lifestyles, are all meant to reflect the new humanity being created in Christ by the Holy Spirit. We will therefore strive with intense effort to surrender to the Holy Spirit.
5. We will work at our jobs, and structure our hobbies, and use our free time mindful of these 4 priorities. As we work we will do so embodying the new humanity being created in the church (4) by the Gospel (3) according to the Word of God (1), and we will do so wholly dependent on God (2). Diet and exercise promotes and facilitates 1-4. Although Diet and exercise are the lowest priorities of the Shelton’s Mission, they are important for developing self-control, honoring the temple of God, and maximizing our usefulness for Christ’s Kingdom. We will therefore, in proportion to our priorities, eat healthy, and live healthy lifestyles with the goal of maximizing 1-4, but never to the neglect of 1-4.

Essay on Calvinism and the Glory of God in Romans 9

The Biblical Evidence in Romans Chapter 9

The Bible’s emphasis on these matters is of utmost importance. The locations where the Bible speaks directly to man’s freedom in conjunction with God’s Sovereignty is where God’s Sovereignty and Human Freedom are brought into their respective position. The emphasis that the Bible places on such issues should establish one’s beliefs. When the Bible speaks of man’s freedom to choose, in conjunction with God’s sovereignty, the emphasis does not consistently fall on God’s commitment to ensure that every person has the ability to choose, such that no influence would decisively incline the will in one direction instead of another. When reading the Bible, it is clear that God does allow people’s wills to be influenced in such a way that the influence decisively moves people’s decisions one way instead of another (Gen. 20:6; Ex. 12:36; Judges 9:23; Acts 4:28; Prov. 21:1). When people’s wills are similarly inclined in the Scriptures, such an influence does not abrogate a person’s responsibility (Acts 4:28). Now, a brief analysis of Romans chapter 9 will be given to determine what God’s “superior purpose” is in relation to universal salvation, and this will help to biblically establish the grounds of defining human freedom.
In Romans chapter 9, Paul presents a problem. The problem is that the majority of God’s chosen people, Israel, have rejected Christ. Paul addresses the problem of Israel’s rejection in Romans 9:6 by saying “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” Paul then sets out to demonstrate that God has never included all of Abraham’s offspring. God rejected Ishmael, and accepted Isaac. Many of Paul’s critics would have pointed out that Ishmael was a son of the slave Hagar, and that this was the basis of God’s rejection. Therefore Paul moves to another example to delineate the true grounds for the distinction between those who are included into God’s covenant and those who are excluded.
The next example that Paul gives is Jacob and Esau. These two boys were twins and they were both born as sons to Isaac and Rebecca. Romans 9:11 says that God chose to include Jacob and to reject Esau before either of them were born and before either of them had done any good or evil. The next objection is “then why did he choose one over the other?” Paul answers “in order that the purpose of God’s election would stand, not of works but of him who calls.” John Piper writes,

“First, with the use of the preposition ἐξ Paul makes explicit that God’s decision to treat Esau and Jacob differently is not merely prior to their good or evil deeds but is also completely independent of them. God’s electing purpose (Rom 9:11c) and his concrete prediction (9:12c) are in no way based on the distinctives Esau and Jacob have by birth or by action. This rules out the notion of the early Greek and Latin commentators that election is based on God’s foreknowledge of men’s good works.”

God chooses Jacob over Esau with no respect to the distinctives of either party. Paul even builds on this when he writes, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16). John Piper writes,

“Paul never grounds the “electing purpose of God” in man’s faith. The counterpart to works in conjunction with election (as opposed to justification) is always God’s own call (Rom 9:12b) or his own grace (Rom 11:6). The predestination and call of God precede justification (Rom 8:29f) and have no ground in any human act, not even faith. This is why Paul explicitly says in Rom 9:16 that God’s bestowal of mercy on whomever he wills is based neither on human willing (which would include faith) nor on human running (which would include all activity).”

Many people raise the same objection that Paul anticipates when they ask “Is there injustice on God’s part” (Rom. 9:14)? Paul, in answering this question harkens back to the episode with God and Moses where God reveals his plans for Israel, Egypt, and Pharaoh.
In Exodus 33:18 Moses pleads with God saying “Please show me your glory.” To which God responds “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex. 33:19). When Moses asks to see God’s glory, God’s says that He will pass all of his goodness before Moses and that He would proclaim his name ‘The Lord.’ Immediately after this God says “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” In other words, God is saying that the essence of His glory carries with it the freedom to extend grace and mercy to whomever He wills. God is saying to Moses, “in order for you to rightly see my glory, you must know that I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious; because, all of my gracious activity is motivated by nothing outside of me; I am free!” God is under no obligation to extend mercy to anyone, and it is part and parcel of the glory of God to delegate His grace freely and sovereignly; hence God’s statement subsequent to Moses’s request. Piper writes,
This suggests strongly, then, that in Rom 9:15-18 Paul is defending the righteousness of God in predestination by referring to two Old Testament texts which reveal that God proclaims his name (i.e. his character) and demonstrates his glorious power in the world by exercising his sovereign freedom to show mercy and to harden. The unstated premise of this argument is that when God acts righteously he must use his freedom in this way; or, to put it another way, God’s righteousness consists in his unswerving commitment always to act for the glory of his name—a name which according to Ex 33:19 implies a propensity to show mercy and a freedom apart from all human distinctives in determining its distribution.

Paul answers the next objection that the critics raise. They ask “does God’s choice of Jacob over Esau, the choice that was independent of anything in them or done by them, mean that God is therefore unjust?” Paul refers to two Old Testament texts (Ex. 9; Ex. 33) which reveal that God demonstrates His glorious power in this world by exercising His sovereign freedom to show mercy and to harden. This conclusion is strengthened by asking “why did Paul chose these two texts” among the many that he could have chosen concerning the same topic. If Paul was merely demonstrating that God had the right to harden Pharaoh’s heart, then, why didn’t he simply cite from the passages where it explicitly states that God hardens pharaoh’s heart? Piper asks “Why choose a text in which the very word “hardening” is missing?” Piper answers,
It is no accident that the key word ôνoµα appears also in verse 17. It is no accident because in both Ex 33:19 and Ex 9:16 Paul has found Old Testament texts in which the exercise of God’s sovereign freedom, in mercy and in hardening, is the means by which he preserves and displays the glory of his name.

Romans 9:22-23 says, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” God desired the full panorama of His glory to be manifested in its fullness. This was why He created the world. Unconditional election displays the glory of God’s free grace. God, when He extends grace, does not extend grace because of anything in the object of His grace. It is solely on the basis of who God is. Unconditional election displays this reality by making it clear that no one has any claim to grace by virtue of anything that they have done. This is why God doesn’t save all. He seeks to manifest the fullness of his glory, which fullness consists in the display of His free grace that is extended to those whom He wills apart from, and independent of, any distinctives that they possess.

Conclusion:

God’s Glory is the emphasis of Romans 9 and it is consistent with God’s chief end in creation; namely, the display of the fullness of His glory in all of its manifold perfections. The fullness of God’s glory, including the glory of God’s justice for the vessels of wrath, exists for the vessels of mercy, and is meant to intensify both their delight in God, and their worship of God. For this reason, God determined not to save all, or to extend to all the unmerited favor that He extended to his vessels of mercy. Consequently, the vessels of wrath were able to follow their own passions and desires freely. They were free from any constraint to act contrary to their wishes, and in as much as they voluntarily did what they wanted to do; they were responsible for their decisions.

Short Testimony

Life before being a Christian

I think of the word Christian in two different senses. I will delineate these senses in narrative form. First, from the time I was a kid I believed in Jesus, that he was God, and God’s Son, and that he died on a cross and rose again. Until I was fourteen, other than going to church, these specific beliefs had little to no impact on my life, values, goals, etc… As far as I was concerned I was a Christian. When I was fourteen however, I watched my Dad get saved. I knew that he believed in Jesus before this event, he believed that Jesus was God’s Son, and God, and that he rose from the dead after dying on the cross for his sins; so, to see him “get saved” scared me. Me and my dad, left church, and ended up driving to the pastor’s house because I wanted to understand what I could be missing. In short, my pastor said, belief in Jesus, as you mean it, is not sufficient. You must commit your life to Christ and follow him. After committing to Christ in that moment I thought “now I am really a Christian.” For the next two and half years I studied the Bible relentlessly (on average 3-4 hours a day). I was faithful in church. I was actively sharing my faith. I was involved with prison ministry (my pastor was the chaplain.) I was fighting lust with all my might. I unplugged my x-box and replaced all of my hobbies, except lifting weights, with scripture memory, theological studies (I became a Calvinist within 6 months and was very hungry to understand all this new stuff), etc…

About three years later I started having some issues. One issue, in dealing with a friend that doubted his salvation in the most morbid introspection imaginable, he began to express doubts that I myself had felt before, but ones in which I ignored. In dealing with him and discussing his doubts and trying to disciple him, I began to open up about some of my uncertainties. I wondered how many times the “presence of God” was something that I was manufacturing. I even wondered if I had ever “felt God” ever before in my life in a way that wasn’t self-generated. I began to pursue an experience that was totally authentic, a relationship that was truly God and not a mask that I wore.

What happened next? The harder I pursued a relationship with God that was real, the more I realized that I had never really had one. So, I started fasting, and cutting out any known sin from my life. My focus began to be to stay conscious of God all day long and to live life without regrets. To do what was right, no matter what, so that nothing would put a barrier between me and God. Nothing happened. No God. No experience. No relationship.

So, I told God that reading my Bible was something that I enjoy very much, but that I think I enjoy it for the wrong reasons and not because through it I know him (since I didn’t think i had a relationship at all). So I quit reading it. I told God that if I didn’t know him that everything that I was doing was a waste of time. Why not have sex? Why not drink alcohol? If I don’t know Jesus, who cares?

Becoming a Christian

So I walked away. A couple of months later my Dad died. And soon after I went to college. I was in the party mode. Within two years I was a self-proclaimed atheist.

One night I was faced with the reality of meaningless, truly faced with it, and it scared me. But I thought, no sense in pretending everything is not meaningless, if it is. I felt I needed to just man up. But, there came a series of experiences that made me recognize that the belief that all is meaningless doesn’t really account for reality as I was experiencing it. I realized that I had many friendships that were important to me, people that I cared about, that these things were evidence that I had to account for in my view of reality. Not in a wish-fulfillment kind of way, but, as relevant realities that are a part of life. I couldn’t just ignore those facts and focus on scientific ones.

I messaged a friend of mine and he met me. I was quite a handful for most Christians, having studied so much myself, so I had him in bad way. He called up my pastor and my pastor told him about a Book by D.James Kennedy called “Skeptics.” He told me to give me that book.

The book was not anything special to be honest, but, the specific time in my life, and the years of prayer behind that book led to a cataclysmic event in my life. As I read that book, in my normal way I started deconstructing the arguments of Kennedy. Then I had this strange impulse that made me say to myself in my mind, “you need to weigh these arguments fairly, and sincerely, your destiny is in the balance. If you are not convinced after this, then put the book down and walk away, but if you are, you must surrender to God.” I said to myself, “OK.”

Within a matter of hours I went from Atheist, to Agnostic, to Theist, to believing “Jesus is God.” I told myself, “I have already vowed to surrender, I guess I have to follow through.”

The next day, I had this moment when years of guilt suddenly landed on me. I quickly went into the bathroom and I fell to my knees and I began to weep. Then, I began to feel someone in the bathroom with me. Someone that made the guilt get worse, whose presence made me cry in ways that I had never before in my life cried; and yet a presence that I had longed for all my life. I could barely breath, and the presence just got stronger and stronger until I felt I was going to die; I wanted the presence to leave, but, strangely, I hoped it wouldn’t. I knew it was Jesus Christ. He came to make good on my vow. That was his voice in my head the night before, not mine. At the point where my guilt was unbearable, the old story about the tax collector beating on his breast begging mercy went through my mind and I began doing the same. Then a voice (much like my own voice in my head) spoke to me, and said that this is what God’s presence does to sinners. This is what it did to Jesus on the cross when God forsook him. He felt what you are feeling to the full. He felt it so that you would be forgiven and counted righteous, so that you would never have to fear this presence again. The light bulb went off! And the guilt, along with the presence, left me. Now, I was truly a Christian. I had been regenerated and now Christ, in his work, truly looked precious to me.

The same day I told my girlfriend, who lived with me, about my experience. She told me she loved God. I laughed, and told her that those who love God do not ignore everything that he tells them to do. I explained that she didn’t love God and that she wasn’t following Christ and that she was lost. She had an experience the next day (she has her own story; this is mine). I told her that I was going to live for God and that that meant that we were not having sex before marriage, and that I was going to be the weirdest guy she had ever known, and that it was probably best that we split up. She told me that she had always wanted someone who truly followed God, and then I explained to her that she didn’t know what she was asking for. Strangely I saw a sincere desire to follow Christ in her, a real transformation over the next couple of days. I decided we could try out this relationship, but that I was only interested in one long term relationship in which marriage was going to happen, or nothing at all. I told her she needed to move out.

My struggle

Through much deliberation, within two weeks I decided to ask her to marry me. I told her that we could get married in three months, but that she needed to move in with her parents until then. Her parents and her brother were not on good terms with her. She couldn’t move back in (she said).

So, we went and got an apartment together, and began preparing for our wedding. I struggled to share my faith because I was living with a girl that was not my wife. I felt I was sending the wrong message. I prayed that God would get me through these miserable months. I lived under guilt and disappointment with myself for not handling this situation better.

This cloud did not leave with marriage. The effects of that decision had negative effects for years to come. I look back with immense regret. The gospel could have spread much more effectively if we had done it differently.

But: The gospel doesn’t say that God accepted me because I was going to make stellar decisions for the rest of my life. God accepts me because of Christ taking all of my guilt on himself and satisfying God’s wrath.

The thing that has changed in me the most is my treasuring the gospel. Let me finish the scene from the bathroom. After my guilt left, I began to stand up. Within seconds I asked myself, “Is this it?” I wondered if I was done, if God had truly saved me. I felt like I needed to solidify it, or do something to make sure. I began to kneel back down and suddenly I heard “I did not pardon you because of anything that you did, or said, I saved you because Jesus Christ, my Son, paid for you with his blood. It wasn’t your tears, it wasn’t your prayers, it wasn’t anything in you at all, it was all Him.” Then I said to myself “oh yea, I just trusted and embraced that!” Then I realized, the light bulb that went off earlier was God’s gift of faith to me. Three seconds, that is how long it took for me forget what my status before God rested on; to forget what my only hope is.

The gospel is not something merely for lost people. It is our only hope each day. This truth has depths that as I have unraveled them, I have been transformed. I encourage you to reflect on what your only hope in life and death is. Whatever your struggle is, whether it be anger or lust. Trust in Christ for strength and turn to him as your only hope.If you have known Christ in this way, know that as you struggle, you do so as God’s Son or Daughter, and let that reality strengthen you; and always remember that such a blessed status was bought by Christ’s blood.

The End of the Law

Exegetical Analysis of Rom. 10:3-4 [from my research Paper on Paul and the Law]

Rom 10:3 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”4 Here in this text, there is a contrast between seeking to establish one’s own righteousness juxtaposed with submitting to God’s righteousness. Christ as “the end of the law” comes immediately after this contrast of establishing one’s own righteousness and submitting to God’s. Therefore, however one is to grapple with Paul’s intended message, it is vital that one does so with sensitivity to the context.
So, what are the possible interpretations of Christ as the “end of the law?” 1. The Law is completely abolished. This view is supported with Paul’s use of the law as an indivisible whole and with Paul’s statements that we are no longer under the law.5 However, the weakness of this view is “that other statements in Romans (2:26; 8:4; 13:8-10; cf. also 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal 5:14) indicate that Paul expected believers to obey the moral norms of the Mosaic law for example, in Rom 13:8-10 Paul lists some specific commands from the OT, and makes it clear that he expects believers to fulfill them.”6 2. Still many others believe Paul is referring to the law’s termination as a way of salvation. Proponents of this view believe that righteousness in the Old Testament came through “law-keeping.”7 These people believe that there are two ways of salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that Paul teaches the precedence of faith in Christ as the only means of attaining God’s righteousness by appealing to Abraham as proof that salvation has always been by faith (cf. Gen 15:6; Gal 3). 3. Another view is that “turning to Christ” puts an end to seeking to establish one’s own righteousness through works of the law. Schreiner’s interpretation is to the effect that those who turn to Christ will cease using the law as a means of establishing their own righteousness. This view is textually faithful and its only weakness is that it doesn’t touch the salvation-historical importance of Christ as the “end of the law.”8 4. The last and best view is to understand that with the coming of Christ “the authority of the law of Moses is, in some basic sense, at an end . . . there is also a teleological nuance that is also present. . . because the end of the Mosaic Law is a natural result of something else.”9 What Moo is saying, then, is that the law was designed to end and terminate with the arrival of Christ. Schreiner’s and Moo’s conclusion can be synthesized and this synthesis will offer a full understanding of the meaning of Christ as “the end of the Law.”10 Schreiner points out the experiential experience when people turn to Christ for righteousness; then, Schreiner says, they no longer seek to establish their own through the law. Schreiner understands it as a cause and effect relationship: turn to Christ and the effect is that all attempts to establish one’s own righteousness will cease as natural result. Moo says that the Law was designed to terminate with Christ and so the attempt to use it to establish one’s righteousness was a misunderstanding of its purpose. A proper understanding of the Law would have inevitably led to the recognition that the telos of the law had come. So, the reason the law has the experiential effect that Schreiner points out is because of the salvation-historical significance of the arrival of Christ. But, the Jew’s misunderstanding of the Law led to legalism and a rejection of the telos of the law. This misunderstanding demonstrated their ignorance of the “righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). So that, the attempt to establish their own righteousness resulted from their failure to recognize the salvation-historical importance of the arrival of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant; which failure was a result of their ignorance of the righteousness of God that is to be attained by believing God11 and not by “establishing one’s own through works of the law.”

[Moo is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the law” from a “historia salutis” perspective; whereas Schreiner is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the Law” from an “ordo salutis” perspective. Moo is closer to the point it seems, though Schreiner’s argument fits very nicely with the text. The synthesis, then, is that the “historia salutis” aspect of the end of the law has ramifications for the “ordo salutis” aspect of the end of the law. Using Schreiner’s terms, faith in Christ is the end of individual legalistic endeavors. The point is this: the reason Christ puts an end to legalistic endeavors is because of the salvation-historical impact his coming had on the law and believer’s relationship to it.]

Foreknowledge and Human Freedom

Divine Foreknowledge and Libertarianism
Name of Student: Josh Shelton
Date Submitted: 2-27-13

[Many of my footnotes are not footnoted on the blog, but the bibliography is at the end]
 

Introduction
Libertarianism is notorious for the assumption that it and it alone proposes the genuine concept of freedom consistent with human accountability and responsibility. Libertarians tend to operate under this assumption of freedom when critiquing Calvinistic formulations of God’s Sovereignty over human choices. Before commencing, a brief definition of terms is necessary.
God’s divine foreknowledge will be used to refer to God’s infallible and exhaustive knowledge of all future choices, thoughts, attitudes, events, etc. Libertarian freedom is: 1. An absolute power to choose contrary,1 2. The power to choose otherwise such that no causal factors determine a person’s choice including the person’s own desires, or 3. To put it more precisely, freedom that maintains that “no causal antecedent nor set of antecedents, laws of nature, or other factors is sufficient to incline the will decisively to choose one option over another.”2
If such freedom is demonstrated in specific instances to not exist, then libertarianism maintains that accountability is absolved. Antagonists to libertarianism, known as determinists, and/or compatibilists, therefore seek to demonstrate that there are in fact instances where such a notion of freedom, and the limited domain of accountability concomitant with such freedom, fails to account for the responsibility of human choices. Furthermore, compatibilists also feel that there are antecedent events and realities that render particular choices certain without absolving responsibility or accountability, and that such cases betray libertarianism. For this reason, compatibilism does not wish to challenge the notion of human accountability or freedom, butsimply the rogue definition of freedom given by libertarianism. So, the compatibilist searches for areas where he can demonstrate the inconsistency of libertarianism. One such a case is God’s foreknowledge. This paper will argue that God’s exhaustive divine foreknowledge contradicts the libertarian conception of freedom such that the two positions are mutually exclusive.

Divine Foreknowledge and the Certainty of the Future
In Pike’s famous essay, he set out an argument that can be summarized: Jones is going to mow his yard (from now on termed P) because God believes P is going to happen.3 Pike argues that an infallible being with divine foreknowledge cannot be mistaken with regard to his beliefs and knowledge, and therefore, the future occurrence of P is fixed. Libertarians have responded to this form of reasoning with an accusation now known as the “fatalism fallacy.”4 When discussing God’s foreknowledge it is crucial to keep in mind that God’s foreknowledge does not make the future unfold in the manner that it does. Libertarians responded to Pike’s reasoning: “God believes P is going to happen, because P is going to happen, not the other way around.” Their response is true.
God’s foreknowledge does not create the nature of the future. However, His foreknowledge is itself an important variable that helps inquirers to make a more accurate assessment of the nature of the future and the free choices it contains. One of the arguments that will be put forward here is that the foreknowledge of God does not make our choices certain, but divine foreknowledge certainly means that they are certain. God’s foreknowledge of future free choices cannot exist unless those choices are fixed. This is the compatibilist’s main point when discussing the issue. This was the point of Jonathan Edwards in his response to Whitby when he wrote:
To all which I would say, that what is said about knowledge, its not having influence on the thing known to make it necessary, is nothing to the purpose, nor does it in the least affect the foregoing reasoning. Whether prescience be the thing that makes the event necessary or no, it alters not the case. Infallible foreknowledge may prove the necessity of the event foreknown, and yet not be the thing which causes the necessity. If the foreknowledge be absolute, this proves the event known to be necessary, or proves that it is impossible but that the event should be, by some means or other.5

The fatalism fallacy argument contains a key phrase; namely, the consequent phrase, “P is going to happen.” This phrase provides the sufficient grounds for God’s belief that P will occur. This phrase, if true, communicates truth that pertains to the certainty of future events and choices.
One very important variable to consider when analyzing the certainty of P is the beliefs of an infallible being with regard to P. An infallible being’s belief that P will occur sheds light on the structure of the future and enables a more accurate assessment of the nature of the future’s certainty. The fatalism fallacy quote also communicates another point. It says that God believes P because P is going to happen. The certainty of P prior to P establishes the proper epistemic foundation sufficient to enable and necessitate the beliefs of an infallible and omniscient being. The only way that God could know and believe that P will occur is if it is certain. The purpose of raising God’s foreknowledge in an argument against libertarianism was to demonstrate the fixedness of the future prior to the choice of Jones. The fatalism fallacy concedes the fixedness of the future and then says that the argument fails, even though what they concede is what the determinist is arguing for in the first place. In light of this, the accusation of the fatalism fallacy should be laid to rest when it is directed toward determinists who affirm compatibilistic freedom.6 For, when it is directed toward such a person, it is misguided, confused, and wholly unsuccessful. John Feinberg voices his own frustration with the appeal to this proposed fallacy allegation:
[The Calvinist/Determinist] agrees that [God’s foreknowledge] does not make anything occur. The Calvinist/determinist point is to ask how God can really know (in the strong epistemological sense) that something will occur if in fact it is not set. Obviously, it is not set or caused by anyone’s knowledge of it, but the fact that one has knowledge of it suggests that it will in fact occur. Herein lies the problem for contra-causal freedom, for God cannot guarantee that something will assuredly occur if contra-causal freedom is correct. And, if he cannot guarantee it, then at best he thinks it will occur but does not know that it will.7

The proposed argument then is that the future is set or fixed, as evidenced by God’s foreknowledge, and that this fixedness poses a serious threat to libertarian notions of freedom. Looking further into this idea of the “fixedness of the future” (from now on FOF), there are two specific areas to consider. The first area to consider deals with the causality of the FOF and whether or not one is warranted in thinking the FOF exerts a causal influence on the present. Second, the agent or thing responsible for fixing the future will also be considered.

Is the fixedness of the future causal?
So, the ground of God’s foreknowledge is the “fixedness of the future.” The subsequent question is “Does the FOF exert any causal influence on the present?” It seems, on the face of it, that the fixedness of the future itself is concomitant with some sort of causal influence or exertion on the present. If the future was fixed, then the course of events were guaranteed prior to their actually taking their course.
Assuming God’s foreknowledge, which requires the fixedness of the future, suppose there have been 500 billion choices. In each and every choice, the course of events (including choice) flowed in perfect harmony with the prior FOF. The fixedness could not have been a result of God’s foreknowledge because the fixedness is itself the basis for such knowledge. So, the FOF exists before the choice occurs, and therefore the choice itself cannot contradict the FOF because it is fixed in the past, evidenced by God’s foreknowledge. Furthermore, it cannot be reduced to mere coincidence that universally all events follow the course preset by the FOF. It must be exerting some influence on the present. Such would be the only justifiable conclusion.
To argue the point, consider a craps table which has 38 different possibilities for each spin. Suppose there are two different scenarios:8 1. John bets on the red 16 slot on the craps table and it hits 100 times in a row while he is near the table, and 2. John bets on the red 16 slot, and it hits it only one time, along with a totally random assortment of hits. Now, the probability is exactly the same in both cases no matter what numbers he hits (1 in 38 per spin; or as a whole, 1 in 38100, and this is regardless of what they hit). However, in the first case, John is kicked out of the casino for tampering with the equipment. It is clear that mere probability does not account for pattern recognition. A person is not required to know the precise mechanism at work, or how John is cheating, to be justified in believing that John is cheating, assuming the first scenario. Transposing this onto the question of FOF, it is already established that the future is set, and that the future cannot change or be altered, evidenced by God’s knowledge and beliefs of the future. So the future is fixed before the future arrives, and it cannot be altered once it arrives without damaging God’s beliefs. God’s beliefs do not cause the future to be as it is in the future, but the future causes God’s beliefs to be as they are in the past; therefore, when the future arrives, the future cannot be otherwise than it was when it caused God’s beliefs to be as they now are.
So, the future is set prior to the choice of Jones, and the course of events always follows the pattern of the FOF in every case. The assertion comes to this: if the future is fixed before the future arrives, and if, when the present arrives it always plays out according to the pattern already fixed, then there is surely justification for believing that the pattern of the FOF is somehow, in some way, at least remotely responsible for the course of events playing out as they do. One is not forced to account for the exact mechanism responsible for the causation, or to adequately explain such. In the same way the guy working at the casino is not forced to identify whether John was using a magnet or some other mechanism at the scraps table to know that he was cheating. If this is true, then the FOF is one factor among a “set of antecedents, laws of nature, or other factors [that is] sufficient to incline the will.”9

What fixes the future?
The next crucial question is “what fixes the future?”10 The libertarian has only one option. The future free choice of Jones is what sets the future. However, on the face of it, if the future is set by the future free choice of Jones, then the future is not set until the future free choice of Jones (that is until the future becomes the present.) If the future is not set until the free choice of Jones occurs, then the future is not set at all.11 If the future is not set, then the proper epistemic foundation for God’s foreknowledge of future choices is destroyed. Libertarianism is contradicting God’s foreknowledge. Many Molinists will respond, “we cannot know the precise mechanism of God’s omniscience, nor do we have to.”12 The reason they cannot know it, in this case, is because they have a defeater for their doctrinal position. Libertarianism is a defeater for God’s foreknowledge because it is a defeater for the fixedness of the future, which is the epistemic basis for God’s foreknowledge.13 In light of this, and the foregoing truths, it is easy to see why Edwards and Pike argued in the manner “God believes P, therefore P is going to happen,” because the only way God could believe P, is if it is already certain to happen. In any case, either libertarianism is contradicting the foreknowledge of God, which is made possible by a fixed future; or, the FOF is contradicting the established belief in libertarian freedom. Either way, one of them must be reassessed if the belief in human freedom and the belief in divine foreknowledge are to continue.
If God’s foreknowledge does not fix the future, and man’s free choices do not fix the future, then what does? To be clear, any system that is built on libertarian conceptions of freedom, including Molinism, will inevitably meet the rebuttal above; namely, that the only thing that can possibly fix the future for them (in their scheme) is the free choices of people. For those who are not committed to libertarianism, God’s foreordination fixes the future and provides the epistemic basis for his foreknowledge. This does not undermine human freedom. The freedom accepted by compatibilists is accurately defined by William Alston when he writes, “It is within S’s power at ‘t’ to do A: if S were to will (choose, decide . . .) at ‘t’ to do A, S would do A.”14 Augustine’s view of freedom was basically the same. He claimed that freedom was the ability to voluntarily choose according to one’s wishes. Soft determinism, which believes that God’s foreordination sets the future, does not suggest that God coerces people to choose one thing over another. In light of the contradiction between libertarianism and the FOF, the most logical remedy for the libertarian would be to accept this specific view of human freedom known as compatibilistic free-will. In spite of this failure of all libertarian systems in accounting for God’s foreknowledge15, there are yet still attempts to harmonize God’s foreknowledge and human freedom on other fronts. Two of these fronts are Molinism, and Ockhamism. These two will be briefly dealt with respectively.
Molinism
First of all, most Molinists conceive of God as temporal, which is usually concomitant with a belief in the A-series view of time. Wrestling through the difficulties of the A-series and B series theories of time is off subject. For the sake of argumentation, the A-series view of time will be assumed, seeing as it is the most accepted view among Molinists. The A-series affirms not only the reality of “temporal becoming,” but most importantly for this argument it affirms, “the present represents the edge of becoming, and future events do not merely not yet exist, rather they do not exist at all.”16
In this view, God usually does not have a perceptual sort of knowledge (especially of the future) but a conceptual view of knowledge. In the conceptual view, God knows the truth value of propositions eternally. So, the proposition “Jones will do P at t,” was true or false as a proposition in the past, in the sense that God was capable of recognizing something unique about this proposition as a proposition. The same would be true of the false proposition “Jones will not do P at t,” God knew that this proposition, as a proposition, lacked the attribute of truth. God, then, simply innately knows only and all true propositions as true. The problem with this line of reasoning is with the remaining question “what makes the proposition true?” There seems to be only two possibilities: 1. God’s knowing it makes it true (The Molinst rejects this; it’s the fatalism fallacy); or, 2. Jones’s doing P at t makes it true, which brings the issue to where it ended earlier. If Jones does not yet exist, and he has not mowed his lawn, then the proposition is not yet true or false. If libertarianism is true, then, the only sorts of propositions about the future that can be true are those which hold open the actual power to contrary. Such propositions restrict divine foreknowledge. Such propositions are normally conceived of as “might” counterfactuals, contrasted with “would” counterfactuals. One argument concerning each counterfactual will be given against Molinism before turning to Ockhamism.
Might Counterfactuals
Might counterfactuals have the potential of affirming the power to contrary in the exact circumstances in a way that “would” counterfactuals simply cannot. Gregory Boyd writes,
It makes perfect sense to affirm as true the statement that ‘Commander Karl might and might not publicly praise Churchill if given a chance.’ But it is impossible to affirm as true the statement that ‘Commander Karl would and would not publicly praise Churchill if given a chance,’ for this statement is blatantly absurd.17

Furthermore, might counterfactuals are actually negated by “would” counterfactuals.18 Boyd writes, “if it is true that Karl might praise Churchill, then it is false that he would not, and if it is true that Karl might not praise Churchill, then it is false that he would.”19 William Craig, a Molinist, responds, “freedom requires only that in a given set of circumstances one must be in some sense capable of refraining from doing what one would do; it is not required that one might not do what one would do.”20 What should be clear to Craig, but is not, is that a person cannot be truly “capable of refraining” in the libertarian sense if the possibility that an agent “might refrain” is denied.21 Such restraint undermines libertarianism.

Would Counterfactuals
Next, and probably more important to this critique of Molinism, is “would” counterfactuals. William Lane Craig writes, “Since God knows what any free creature would do in any situation, he can, by creating the appropriate situations, bring it about that creatures will achieve his ends and purposes and will do so freely.”22 Craig states that God, in viewing the world, knows which circumstances would yield the free choice “x” or the free choice “y”. Since God knows what we will freely decide to do in every possible set of circumstances, God can simply bring about those circumstances (that situation) in which he knows we will freely choose to do exactly what he wants to be done.23
“Would” counterfactuals assume a deterministic approach that contradicts libertarianism, because if someone says that Jones would do x, given these circumstances, then they are assuming that the circumstances are sufficient to incline Jones’s will to do x instead of y. The addition of the word “freely” hardly delineates libertarian definitions of freedom as opposed to compatibilistic ones. In fact, the entire scenario betrays libertarianism. So, if changing the circumstances leads to a different choice or outcome, then it is assumed that a change in the circumstances (set of causal antecedents) brought about a different choice. Even if the causal laws were constant in both “worlds,” it was the causal factors, in this case the circumstances, that results in a different choice. In short, the belief that God can manipulate the environment to create the “appropriate situation” where his creatures “freely” choose what he wants them to choose is quite frankly not consistent libertarianism.

Ockhamism
Ockhamists address the issue of God’s foreknowledge and its threat to dissolve their belief in libertarian freedom from a different vantage than has been discussed so far. Ockhamists claim that all persons intuit an important asymmetry between past and future.24 “This asymmetry consists in part in the fact that the past is outside our control in a way in which the future is not.”25
Ockhamism hinges on the term “necessary.”26 Even though it is conceded that the future is as unalterable as the past, the past is necessarily the way that it is in a way that the future is not.27 Plantinga gives an example: “Although I now have the power to raise my arm, I do not have the power to bring it about that I raised my arm five minutes ago.”28 So, Ockhamists claim that the soft determinists and/or the compatibilists are treating the future as though it is set in the same manner as the past is, when clearly there is an apparent powerlessness over the past that does not extend to the future. This is due to the future being set, they claim, in the form of soft facts; while the past is set as hard facts. There are two arguments against Ockhamism to consider before concluding this entire discussion.
The first argument must establish the “fixity of the past” (from now on FOP) before progressing. Widerker defines the FOP: “If a given event occurs at a time t, then no one has it within his power at a time later than t to bring it about that that event did not occur at t.”29 Another working assumption in this argument is that God intervenes and governs the world with reference to his foreknowledge. In light of this, Widerker develops this argument:
Suppose that God knows at t, that Jack will freely pull the trigger at t5, with the intention of killing Smith. Suppose further that, wanting to save Smith, God reveals this fact to Smith at t3. As a result, Smith by taking appropriate precautions is able to save his life. Now, the Ockhamist concedes that, by having the power to refrain from attempting to kill Smith, Jack also has at t4 the power to make it the case that God did not know at t, that Jack would attempt to kill Smith at t5. On the other hand, God’s knowing that Jack will attempt to kill Smith is a condition that in the circumstances causally contributes to the occurrence of the event of God’s warning Smith at t3, in the sense of being (in the circumstances) a causally necessary condition for it. Surely, if God had not known at t1 that Jack would try to kill Smith, he would not have told Smith that Jack will attempt to kill him. But then it follows that, by having the power to bring about the nonobtaining of that condition, Jack would have it within his power at t4 to bring about the nonoccurrence of past events, such as:
Wt3: God’s warning Smith at t3
Xt3: Smith’s hearing at t3 a voice telling him that Jack will attempt to kill him
Yt3: Smith’s coming to believe at t3 that Jack will attempt to kill him, etc.30

Since God governs the world in light of his foreknowledge, and he intervenes because of the facts of the future, then the past and present are both causally influenced by the specific future decisions of free agents. Drawing from Widerker’s argument, once God warns Smith that Jack will attempt to kill him, the past and present are causally affected by the fact that Jack will in fact attempt to kill Smith in the future. Once God acted on his foreknowledge in behalf of Smith, in order for Jack to have the power to do otherwise in the libertarian sense, Jack would have to possess the power to change the fact of the past; namely, the fact that God warned Smith that Jack will attempt to kill him (because, if true, then God would not have warned him).
Second, the question for the Ockhamist is “how did soft facts become facts to begin with?” If the Ockhamist is a libertarian, then he must answer thus: “the future free choices of free agents are what make ‘soft facts’ facts.” So, the statement, “Jones will mow his lawn in three weeks,” if true, was a soft fact three weeks before Jones actually mowed his lawn. According to libertarians, Jones’s decision to mow his lawn in three weeks is what made the statement a soft fact three weeks before Jones actually decided to mow his lawn. However, this can be reduced to saying that soft facts do not become soft facts until they become hard facts; and once they become hard facts, then, every moment before that decisive moment they can now be considered soft facts. In short, since Jones’s decision is what makes the proposition a soft fact, then it cannot be a soft fact until Jones’s decision takes place (which is totally absurd). Soft facts assume the FOF, and the FOF restricts the sort of freedom necessary to uphold libertarianism.
Conclusion
This discussion really began with the fatalism fallacy. It was noted that God’s foreknowledge did not cause the future to be fixed, but that it required the future to be fixed. For this approach, the fatalism fallacy rebuttal is totally useless. The phrase “If P will happen, P will happen” is not necessarily what the compatibilists point is reduced to. It was argued that the consequent phrase “P is going to happen” actually establishes the epistemic environment sufficient to ground the beliefs of an infallible being, and that for such to be possible the future choices would have to be fixed in a way that is contrary to libertarianism.
Next, the causality of the FOF was considered. Since the present always follows the pattern preset by the FOF, one is totally warranted to think that there exists a causal relationship between the pre-set FOF and the present. Just as someone who witnesses rain many times notices that the ground always gets wet afterward; even without knowing the precise mechanism, one is justified in thinking the rain causes the ground to get wet. From there, the next area of analysis was with regard to the precise agent or mechanism responsible for fixing the future. Libertarians say that it is the future free choices of people that fix the future. However, it is impossible for God to know what is going to happen, before it is actually “going to happen.” Such certainty that P will occur is necessary for God’s foreknowledge, but it undermines libertarian freedom.
After this, Molinism and Ochamism were inspected in light of some of the foregoing arguments. Molinism had problems on two fronts: ‘might’ counterfactuals, and ‘would’ counterfactuals. According to Molinism, it is historically impossible that a person ‘might‘ do otherwise than he does. If this ability is denied, libertarianism is destroyed. Next, the ‘would’ counterfactuals were considered. ‘Would’ counterfactuals assumed a deterministic view of choices; precisely the opposite of what most Molinists claim to hold. The whole system of Molinism is built on compatibilistic assumptions within its ‘would’ counterfactuals and such is what Molinism is usually diametrically opposed to. The last system to consider was Ockhamism. Ockhamism was shown to violate the principle of the FOP since God deals with people according to his foreknowledge of future events. The system also ultimately cannot account for the existence of soft facts without damaging libertarian definitions of freedom.
Affirmatively, God’s decree fixes the future and it establishes the epistemic foundation for God’s foreknowledge. Yes, this does contradict libertarian freedom, which is why such freedom should be abandoned and replaced with a better, more consistent view of freedom and accountability.31 The freedom to follow one’s greatest desires is a real freedom that flows seamlessly with God’s infallible foreknowledge of future free choices (since he perfectly knows the causal antecedents and their effects). Compatibilism also establishes the existence of soft facts, seeing as it does not state that future free choices are what set the future. Instead, it states that the combination of variables in this actualized world are what fix the future. In light of this, God can know the future, and what he knows can be soft facts until the events occur, at which point they become hard facts. It must be asked why a view that is demonstrably more consistent is so avidly rejected to embrace what is plagued with inconsistency. The reason is that compatibilism gives God the power to bring about the choices that He ultimately deems successful in fulfilling His original purpose in creation; also known as Edwardsean Calvinism.32

[Many of my footnotes are not footnoted on the blog, but the bibliography is below]
Bibliography

Alston, William. “Divine Foreknowledge and Alternative Conceptions of Human Freedom.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 18, no. 1/2 (1985): 19-32.
Arminius, Jacobus. A Discussion on the Subject of Predestination. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956.
Basinger, David. “Divine Control and Human Freedom: Is Middle Knowledge the Answer.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 1993: 55-64.
Carson, D.A. Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2002.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig. 1990. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/god-and-real-time#ixzz2JtzgbilJ (accessed 2 1, 2013).
—. The Only Wise God. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 1999.
Edwards, John Piper and Jonathan. God’s Passion for His Glory. Wheaton: Crossway, 1998.
Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will. New York: Cosimo Classics, 1845.
Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001.
John Feinberg, Norman Giesler, Bruce Reichenbach, and Clark Pinnock. Predestination and Free Will. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986.
Linville, Mark D. “Divine Foreknowledge and the Libertarian Conception of Human Freedom.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 33, no. 3 (June 1993): 165-186.
Meyer, Stephen. Signature in the Cell. New York: Harper Collins, 2009.
Paul Helseth, Willaim Lane Craig, Gregory Boyd, and Ron Highfield. Four Views of Divine Providence. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
Pike, Nelson. “Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action.” The Philosophical Review 74, no. 1 (January 1965): 27-46.
Widerker, David. “Troubles with Ockhamism.” The Journal of Philosophy, 1990: 462-480.

A Hebrew Matthew?

Even if we step back and grant that Matthew’s gospel was written in Hebrew, where does that leave us. Luke, no doubt, was written in Greek. Along with Acts. John, as well, was certainly written in Greek. All of Paul’s letters were written in Greek.

Now, let us assume that Matthew is in Hebrew, but that we have no extant copies of Matthew in Hebrew (none). The earliest translation we have comes from the 14th century. Then at best all we can do is compare it with the Greek translation. One, cannot necessarily take priority over the other, even if the original Hebrew (which we have not even a copy of) is the true original.

Let us assume that that the one that Shem Tov uses is the absolute original, wrote by Matthew Himself. It would seem, then, that the best approach to a understanding of the NT, would be to recognize Paul, who around 35 A.D. began to corrupt Christianity and to Hellenize it. His influence was pervasive and since Jerusalem was shortly destroyed, his influence became the powerhouse of the next generation of Christianity. For this reason, Matthew, which was written in Hebrew, was translated into Greek and specfically to accomodate Paul’s theology. Luke wrote his account, as a companion of Paul, and followed his thoughts on all of his teachings. Later, disciples of John, and lovers of Paul, put their version of John together, again to accomodate what was already clear in Paul. Jesus was not just a man, He was God, as Paul stresses more than anyone except John. Paul also developed a need for a Trinity. John’s Gospel was developed to meet that need. Paul’s teachings on the law, as the apostle to the Gentiles, in many ways contradicted the Hebrew Matthew, as he clearly taught that Jesus brought the law to an end, teaching that the Mosaic law was temporary, and that it was brought to an end in Christ, and that Christ has freed us from it, and that we have died to it. We must note too that Paul’s letters were the first to circulate in the church. This would be good evidence that he quickly jacked stuff up. Im sure the Gentiles loved Him.

Now, if this position is taken it is much more tenable I think that to twist Paul’s writings like they are origami. I devoted the bulk of my studies to Paul, and feel confident that if we study what he taught, we will come to the conclusion that Christ is the end of the law, and that the law is temporary, and has been brought to its consummation and termination. Instead of going this route, though, I will defend our view of Matthew. If this view of Matthew turns out to be less warranted, I don’t see how Hebrew Christianity (Goshen) can hold up. The Hebrew Matthew seems to be the lincpin holding it all together.

What I am going to do however is give lines of evidence that teaches first that Matthew was originally written in Greek.

Part 1:
First, like in Acts 26, the Greek phrase used there is “te Hebraidi dialekto” which is “in the Hebrew dialect (that is, or could be Aramaic).” When Paul said that Jesus spoke to him te Hebraidi dialekto, did he mean “in Hebrew” or “in Aramaic” or even “in a Hebrew dialect that could be either Hebrew or Aramaic.”

[Translatios differ here: in the Hebrew tongue” – KJV “in the Hebrew language” – NRSV “in Aramaic” – NIV “in Aramaic” – TNIV (with note: Or Hebrew). “in Aramaic” – NLT(SE) “in Hebrew” – The Message]

There is a case where Aramaic is the only tenable option of what Jesus spoke: John 19:13 reads: “When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha [Hebraisti de Gabbatha].” Gabbatha is an Aramaic word that means “height” or “eminence.” Thus, in this case, Hebraisti means “in Aramaic,” not “in Hebrew.”

Part 2: Papias has no writings extant today, his writings are quoted by Eusebius from the 4th century.

There are a variety of reasons (scholarly and apologetic as well as evangelical) why the book of Matthew may have been translated into Hebrew in later centuries. But the existence of a 14th century translation doesn’t seem to me to be particularly convincing evidence that Matthew wrote the book in Hebrew originally (or that this is it, even if he had)

The difficulty for us is that the Greek Gospel of Matthew shows not the slightest sign of having been translated from a Semitic language. As we will discuss below, Matthew not only seems to have been written in Greek but also to have drawn on sources which were at least predominantly in Greek. If Irenaeus has in mind our Gospel of Matthew, then he is clearly wrong. If he has in mind some other document, then it has not survived and has, in any case, no close relationship to canonical Matthew.

A few rebuttals: 1. If matthew was originally wrote in Greek, then, his use of the LXX and the Hebrew, and unique variations would conincide seeing as he was writing to Hebrews, using Greek language. If Matthew wrote his work in Hebrew, though, he would not have quoted Greek sources. Matthew, the book, points to someone writing in Greek who was very knowledgeable of the Hebrew language.
2. As far Hebraisms, it is generally agreed that Jesus spoke Hebrew, Aramiac, and Greek. Most believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a Hebrew dialect) mainly, and if this is true, then Matthew’s Hebraisms are instances of him translating Jesus’s words into Greek. He collects Jesus’s saying, which were in Aramaic, and he writes them into Greek. It is the sayings of Jesus mainly that contain the Hebraisms, and this is consistent with Matthew not translating a Letter, but recording what he heard.

Biggest piece of evidence from either side: The existence of Matthew in Greek in various forms and in incredible volume from the 2-3 century forward compared to the existence of not one line of a Hebrew gospel in any early manuscript or papyrus form is to me still decisive. I don’t see how any line of evidence presented so far can trump that one argument for a Greek Text. To recapitulate this: there are zero manuscripts from the first 1200 years after Christ of a Hebrew manuscript of Matthhew. There are numerous Greek manuscripts, some of which date back to pre 150 a.d. FYI: The first Hebrew manuscript was recorded by a Christ rejecting Jew around 13-1400 a.d.

My personal position is this: What seems most likely, is that Matthew wrote his original letter in Greek, but that he compiled memoirs of Christ and his sayings, which would have been most likely in Aramaic (or possibly but less likely Hebrew). This is a common thing for a writer to do. So, to say that Matthew wrote his work in a Hebrew dialect (Which Aramiac is a Hebrew dialect along with Hebrew itself), does not mean that it is the original. Matthew’s original doesn’t show signs of translation, but of historical retellings. It is very likely that Matthew gathered all of the Oral teachings of Jesus, which were in Aramaic, in preparation for writing his work. This would fit well with most of the quotes from the Fathers as well.