A Question for My Arminian Friends
On the eve of the night where there was supposed to be a debate over Baptists, Calvinism, and/or omnibenevolence (or something like that), I thought I’d pose a question that I had been thinking about since yesterday afternoon to my Arminian friends. Let me provide the context of my question first if I may.
According to the Arminian theological framework, God’s election of a person is conditioned on the basis of foreseen faith. The faith which God sees is an act of trust that is inherent within a sinner (that is derivative of man and not a gift from God) who freely, of his own accord and without any external or internal influence, chooses Christ. The Arminian position readily emphasizes the human responsibility to “call upon the name of the Lord” and right they should, but the nature of the free will is libertarian and carries the idea of “power of contrary choice” in where there is no efficient cause (“contra-causal freedom”) resulting in a framework of indeterminism. So there are three key aspects: conditional election (foreseen faith), saving faith derivative of man, and libertarian free will – all components in the soteriological underpinnings of Arminian theology.
So my question comes regarding God’s foreknowledge and the nature of saving faith. God’s foreknowledge assumes (apriori) that His knowledge carries some measure of determinacy, for to know something in advance is more than a prediction; it is definite, certain knowledge. And, according to the Arminian position, God foresees those who place their faith in him and therefore elects them. But, in actuality, they have not existed at the time of God’s foreknowledge and have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ. And, if they possess libertarian free will, they must necessarily be able to choose contrarily if they are to really be free. So in essence, God cannot foreknow what a man who possesses libertarian free will will do, whether he believes or not, because if God knew they would put their faith in Him, they would not be free. So here’s my question:
How can God, in his foreknowledge, know something that, according to your theological construct, cannot not be known?
It appears to be that one either has to forfeit God’s foreknowledge or forfeit man’s libertarian free will. So your two options are either Calvinism (the biblical position) or Open Theism. The former holds to a deterministic (compatibilism) view of free will and retains the doctrine of foreknowledge while the latter is forced to logically conclude that God cannot foreknow the future acts of (libertarian) free agents (abandoning God’s omniscience). This is why many who have been staunch proponents of Arminianism are now Open Theists. They have realized the logical inconsistencies and have sought to develop a system more internally consistent and fully explanative. The only problem is they do it while gutting the very nature of God and reformulating the message of salvation according to Scripture.
As a follow-up question then would be: Where in the Bible can you show me that libertarian free will exists? Conditional election? Faith derivative of man and not a gift from God?
Now, before you answer, let me tell you I know Norm Geisler’s answer, so please don’t read Chosen But Free and regurgitate it to me (and worse, please don’t consult Dave Hunt). I would like to know what your answer is to this dilemma. Biblically, I can show you where election is unconditional, free will is compatibilistic (and deterministic), and saving faith is a gift from God.
When I think about this question and the consequences to the answers, I am led to ask myself which system honors God, is grounded in Scripture, and represents the Gospel according to Jesus. When I look at Arminian theology, what I find is philosophical constructs like libertarian free will that is not in the Bible and doctrines like foreseen faith that confuse the nature of God’s omniscience. Furthermore, I do not see where a synergistic gospel (God + me [and my faith]) gives glory to God alone. What is worse is that ultimacy is attributed to me (man), my free will, and my faith. On the other hand, Calvinism gives ultimacy to God in that He accomplishes the ends (my salvation) and provides the means (saving faith) according to His election which is unconditional and irrevocable. So at the heart of my question is, in my mind, a real dilemma for non-Calvinists who do not want to go off the deep end into Open Theism. Either you admit the inconsistencies in your doctrinal framework and its unbiblical elements or you change those elements. In that change, you can either choose to glorify God and His supremacy and sovereignty in salvation, or you can glorify man and his autonomy and self-determination in which he contributes to his own salvation with his own faith.
If I have misrepresented the theological framework of Arminianism, please let me know. The purpose of my question is to discuss this matter because I believe it is essential to the gospel and how we communicate it to others. My hope and desire is that we would be radically God-centered in our thinking (theology) and our practice (methodology) so that our worship (doxology) can truly be “from him, and through him, and to him all are things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans ). May our minds and hearts be ignited with wonder of God’s amazing grace and taste afresh the goodness of God.