Friday, July 20, 2007

There's No Such Thing as a Free... Will?

By popular demand: what do we think about the ancient sovereignty-of-God-and-free-will debate? (I deliberately avoided using "versus" between sovereignty and free will, which kinda tips my hand...) And let's keep in mind John the M's appeal for a bit less head and a bit more lived-life--how do you live out your understanding of God's sovereignty and your understanding of free will?


steve H said...

I'll "tip" my hand by trying to put a paper on the google groups site since I don't know that there's a way to do such a thing here.

Michael said...

I wonder how beneficial this type of conversation is. This discussion has gone on for a very long time without any real resolution.
I believe trying to figure this out is like trying to find a one sided sheet of paper. It is not possible.
Our greek thinking is always looking for ways to discect and divide an issue. What we consider to be at odds from our limited perspective is not at odds from God's. And it wouldn't suprise me to find that God would frame the argument differently.
My other thought is that we tend to look at this issue from the perspective of living within a world where time rules versus from outside of time. I am not suggesting we have to take drugs to figure something out, but I believe there is an element of mystery wrapped in the eternal that we cannot see or understand in this life. We need revelation, but it is the type of revelation that is born out of relational obedience not out of contemplation or theorizing.
I personally think that is why the Book of Revelation is difficult to understand. We tend to put a chronological calendar to events that were seen by John outside of time, but impacting time. We tend to draw the wrong conclusions.
I think the same could happen here. We will tend to draw the wrong conclusions. These are my thoughts.

steve H said...

Michael - If you get time take a look at the paper "The Mystery of Sovereignty" that I posted on the other site at
under the sovereignty / free will thread. I did my best to hold the two together -- truth in tension -- with evidence from Calvin and from Wesley, who are often seen as opposed to one another on these matters.

Jeremiah said...


Well said! I think you and I are probably very similar in our beliefs. I hope you won't disappear again now that you've weighed in on the discussion. Although I do hope you are not suggesting we think about this like Hebrews...

To All:

I think there are two edges of this debates. One edge says that God's sovereignty is such that (as Brian's thread title hinted at) there is no free will and humans do not have the power to make one's ways evil, but God performs the evil works just as He performs the good. This is heresy. The other edge says that some action man does, whether belief or obedience or "faith alone" or some other act, dependent on free will, however subtle or holy brings salvation. This too is heresy.

The wide range between of God's grace bringing us to salvation and continuing its work in us and us submitting our stubborn evil hearts to cooperate with HIS Grace is where orthodoxy lay.

Practical outworking

First of all it allows us to quit thinking and worrying about our salvation. We simply trust that the Grace of GOD is working and leave it at that.

Secondly, we are able to then set our eyes on making the earth look like heaven.
This may be as menial a task as cleaning a toilets, lifting boxes at our work, or designing buildings. Or it may be as heady a pursuit as digging through the detritus or our own heart looking for personal holiness or writing about mysteries over our head on a blog. They are all equally holy and all equally necessary to GOD's eternal plan of expanding heaven to earth.


it is ultimately not our power and we recognize this by taking a sabbath. We work our hearts and bodies out six days a week and on the seventh, rest in recognition that we are "working out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is GOD who works in you to will and act"

This verse sums up nicely the two "guard rails" of this discussion.

I have observed that most of us either minimize GOD's sovereignty so we can do what we want in antinomian ecstacy, or take it so seriously we use it as an excuse for laziness or hopelessness in a kind of "GOD wills it" resignation.

Michael, I think I've just agreed with you in a longwinded way.

OK guys fire away

josenmiami said...

Michael, I strongly agree with this comment that you made:

"We need revelation, but it is the type of revelation that is born out of relational obedience not out of contemplation or theorizing."

I think that is a danger that this discussion group runs.

Jeremiah: why not suggest that we should think more like the Hebrews? Jesus was certainly Hebrew, they obviously had something going on in terms of a revolaiton of God.

Michael said...

I really do believe we need to think about this more like a Hebrew and less like our western greek mindset.
This would be a great discussion to have as a group. Maybe another thread at another time.

I will take the time and read your paper.

I believe there is a real danger that when we try to seperate sovereignty and free will, we are in danger of putting limits on ourselves and on who God is and how he conducts himself in the world that he created.

Consequently we tend to not see the Father at work because we have made an assumption about free will and or his sovereignty.

I believe the closer we come in our relationship with Him the less we have to be, and will be, concerned about issues like this that have attempted to describe who He is and how he interacts with us.

Finally, (I know this is long, but I couldn't stop typing) I really do not believe that the Father ever intended a top down form of governmental order when He created us. I believe that the reality of the trinity, relational unity, covenantal commitment, diversity, and the order that is hidden within the trinity was the design He had in mind. Adam was to rule, subdue, become fruitfull and multiply. This was to be a cooperative relational effort, Adam and his Father taking counsel together in the world His Father had created for him. Adam learning obedience through the things he suffered and conferring with His father (and the Father revealing more of himself in the world he created) on how he was to subdue, rule, become fruitful and multiply.
I believe this is what the Father had in mind in the beginning, intends for today, and will get in the end.
Study how Jesus fed the five thousand.

John the Musician said...

I've always believed personally that God knows the choices we will make because of the knowledge of His creation of us. I think I'm going to have to agree with the old dudes and say that there must be a mixture, but how that mixture operates is beyond me. I feel that in my life, the choices that have to do with other people are more important to me, where as the choices that only involve myself are much less important. For instance, making choices about who (besides God) should be my priority time wise vs. how I'm going to pay for the movie tickets.

Jeremiah, I noticed you said that with Sovreignity, God must commit both good and evil acts, is it not possible that God would allow human choices, and then turn the evil which comes from those choices to good? I also think that Brian was actually hinting that he thinks there is a mixture of God's sovereignity and free will. =O)

Also I'd like to get my dibs in for the next round topic.

Intimacy With God

steve H said...

Michael, In a recent conversation within out network (KMI) my Swiss brother Walter Duerr addressed the issue of top down (heirarchy)and realational unity (council) in the trinity and for us as we seek to pattern ourselves on God:

"With you I agree, that we touched something vital, may be the core of everything I am writing to day, in our discussion of the difference between the ontological and the economical Trinity. This is not just a little distinction for a few airheads with no practical outworking. We touch here the discussion between Arius and Athanasius, between strict Monarchism and a true community with order. To say it out front: I know that you (we) have the right theory, (so I hope for most of us), but I have the feeling, that some of our practice is not keeping the tension, and leans it self by default towards a (exclusively) hierarchical view of leadership, maybe in some cases even to the point of feeling ontological superior.

"If I understand the Discipleship movement correctly, then this was one of the main pitfalls, at least in its practical outworking.

"In fighting western individualism, existentialism and post modernity, we have always emphasised, the call to community, family (Dojo, hierarchical order) on one hand, but have at the same time emphasised self-government, Priesthood of all believers, Jurisdictions, so we do definitely not want to go to the extremes of either Collectivism, nor “Islamic Emanation” were the people are just an emanation of the Leader, nor to any form of “monarchism”, which is the catholic problem.
“No small people” anymore is one of our slogans.

"I take it that we aspire to be a “learning organisation” that empowers the members to become all the Lord has in mind for them ….. but there are a few challenges

"Again, I don’t want to simplify or generalise too bad, but I think we have certain tendencies. If we don’t understand the above point, we will have a deficient view of councils. They are not just cover ups or didactically, I believe they are the balance that is to be found in the Trinity it self: There is no subordinationism within the ontological Trinity, and even to attempt to find one would be futility. (That is exactly what Arius, and with him the Christian (!) Caesar’s wanted.)

God is at the same time both Hierarchical (in function) and a council of equals, and he doesn’t seem to see any problems with that. Fallen man on the other hand has always had big problems, and wanted to help him out.

I have always understood the councils to be the place were the “submit one to another” is to take place, were I as an leader do not have to have all the answers, indeed if I did, I would make a teaching class out of it, and it would no longer be a council."

I think that this is another of those matters where we finite men have to hold infinite "truth in tension" because we cannot see the whole picture all at one time.

Michael said...

I read your paper. I particularly like the quote by John Wimber,

"John Wimber estimated in one teaching that the best theological systems may handle about 80% of Scriptural truth. The other 20%, he thought, must be either ignored or forced into the system."

I am not sure about the 80-20 breakout, but I believe we tend to "force" what we don't understand into a grid of what we do understand (or think we understand).

Steve, Walter Duerr's comments on the trinity is good. Much if not all of what we need to understand about our life with the Father, family, and community is derived by how we view the trinity.

I would like to share an illustration I believe the Lord gave me several years ago.

If we look at our body, we have an internal structure to our body called the skeletal system. Without it we would be nothing but a lump of flesh incapapble of moving or acting. Yet this bone structure is largely hidden from view. We don't see, it, we very seldom acknowledge it when we meet others (when is the last time someone commented about you, that you had great bones?) yet the skeletal structure is needed.

On the flip side, when we see a bone protruding from the skin, we know something is wrong. Bones were not meant to stick out from the body. When it does stick out we need a doctor to reset the bones and allow the healing to graft them together again.
Remember when President Reagan was shot and Al Haig said "dont worry I am in charge". That was a bone sticking out.

Here is the principle I see "Any time we have to announce our leadership, we have probably lost our ability to lead."
Just ask our wives. As soon as we say I am in charge, something is wrong, a bone is sticking out.

Leadership, order, structure, should be hidden from view. Those that need to know, know who is in charge, it doesn't have to be announced. It doesnt' have to be seen. It is real and needed, but works unseen within the body. I believe this applies to the trinity, is seen in our body, our families, and the family of God.

Much more could be said about bone marrow and the its contribution to our immunity system and blood supply.

Michael said...

I am trying not to disappear.

Brian Emmet said...

John the M, your dibs have been duly dibbified. Thanks.

I'd like to have this discussion unfold a bit further, if we can--several of you/us requested the topic, so I'd particularly ask those of you who so "voted" to chime in with specific issues, questions, applications, etc. Then I'll come in at the end and provide The Correct Answers to all our questions!

Interesting to note that this free will-soverignty discussion is arcing back to questions of authority, leadership, etc. from much earlier threads.

Minor note: I believe the correct phrasing is the "priesthood of the believers" as opposed to the "priesthood of the believer." The point is NOT that every man is his own priest, but that we function as priests to one another--in other woirds, it is not the radically individulaized "Since I'm a priest, therefore I don't really need you, others, the church, history, etc." Instead it's "How do we as a gathered functioning community present God to each other, and our lives to God (the twin functions of priestly ministry)?" But let's not chase this particular rabbit right now.

josenmiami said...

hi guys,

so far, I very much in agreement with everything that has been said, especially your points Michael. I might actually be able to keep a low profile in this thread and let Michael carry the ball for "hidden-servant" leadership that I have tried to talk about in previous threads, but which he is explaining better than I could.

You said: "Leadership, order, structure, should be hidden from view. Those that need to know, know who is in charge, it doesn't have to be announced."

all I can add is "amen". My friend Dick Scoggins calls this "kabuki" leadership, after the concept of the Japonese stage hands who stay invisible on the stage and keep the attention on the actors (the everyday saints in our case).

I believe this is related to the choice of God to give man free will. His soveriengty can overule us at any time, but he chooses to give us freedom: freedom to choose, freedom to create, freedom to define...and he seeks to woo and influence us with his gracious love. No wonder grace is so amazing!

Also, Michael, I think the church could use a dose of Hebrew thinking a bit less Greek conceptualizing. As I understand it, the Hebrews did not conceptuallize abstractly, they implemented what they believed in practical obedience. And they did not have classrooms, they had obedience oriented apprenticeship. There was a reason why, in Phillippians 2, Jesus was found appearence as "Jewish" man -- incarnated into a cultural worldview. God chose not to incarnate himself into a Greek worldview but a Hebrew worldview.

hey Steve, I am doing my best to keep up with the blog...this program keeps us super busy. Sorry I have not had a chance to read it...will try to get to it soon.

..and, I agree with JohntheM, "intimacy with God" would be a great future topic. Brian, I am looking forward to your magisterium on this issue.

Brian Emmet said...

I think we need to be wary of pushing the "Greek vs. Hebrew" way of thinking too far. We are neither Greeks nor Hebrews; we have been formed by both, along with many, many other thoughtforms, mindsets and worldviews--it is just not that straightforward to tease out "Hebrew" from "Greek" from "Roman" from "Christendom" from "Enlightenment" from "my personality." I'm not wanting to overthrow the idea, just use it with appropriate caution and circumspection.

The world of Jesus was a very complex intermixing of the Hebraic, the Hellenistic, the Babylonian and Persian (from the Exile), the Roman, and a whole lot more. Even "classical Biblical Hebraic thinking" was not uninfluenced by the surrounding cultures.

None of which is pertinent to the current discussion, eh?

John the Musician said...

Well it seems obvious to me that two things are true, for one, we have free will. We all make choices every day and it seems to me that although God could if he wanted predestine the color of our socks on the 26th year 11th month and 17th day of our lives, it is simply such a small decision that it's most likely rather unimportant. This leaves us human beings to choose the color of our socks, and because of that and many other choices that we make every day, I would say that free will is obviously part of our lives. Two, God's sovreignity is unquestionable, He's God... I mean how much more sovreign could you get?

So the question has never been which, but as usual with God, both and. I'd also like to understand more about how the two work. For instance if I am thrown into a lava pit, I can call to God and ask for salvation and He will save me. Since I asked, he's not imposing on my free will, but He is imposing on the free will of the one who threw me in. =OP I suppose that's self explanatory in that the other was going against God's law.

Anyways... This was a weird post.

I would also say that if anybody has not seen Evan Almighty I would recommend it along with Steve H. I really enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between God and Evan. It also struck a deep desire in my heart to have a face to face relationship with God.

steve H said...

In the historic argument in which God's sovereignty has often been pitted against man's free will, I think the very term "free will" has been problematic. I personally prefer to say that human beings are responsible to make real choices with real consequences.

Human beings were created to obey God. When Adam fell the whole race came under the tyranny of Satan. As Bob Dylan put it so succinctly (in his first Grammy winning song, by the way)"You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you're gonna have to serve somebody."

There is a sense in which the will is never totally free; our options are limited because we are created beings -- created to be subordinate to authority.

There is, of course, a sense in which we do make choices -- real choices from which real results follow. We are responsible for the choices we make and we bear responsibility for the consequences that follow. Adam's choice to disobey and the consequences with which we are still living is a prime example.

Even so, God was not caught off guard by Adam's sin and he is not caught off guard by any of mine or yours either. God knows all things and has already planned and prepared to weave all our choices and their consequences into his overall purpose and plan. His overall plan is neither thwarted or delayed or adjusted by all that.

How does he do this without giving up his sovereignty or violating our responsibility. Don't ask me! I am only a finite being wrestling with the reality of an infinite God. When I glimpse his sovereign greatness and power, the only logical and appropriate response is to bow and worship.

Jeremiah said...


Thank you for not disappearing, you've got rich stuff to add. I think you (in some weird way) serve as a very useful bridge between Joseph and myself. In the last thread I sometimes had the impression that he and I were talking past each other. I too have pretty much agreed with everything you've said, which (gasp!) means Jose and I are lined up. I really like how you are using the "Body" analogy (some of you might remember I referenced it way back in the second thread).

The reason I do disagree with the "Lets all think Hebrew" idea is it seems rather explicitly rebuked in I Cor. 1:18-24, The council of elders in Acts, and in Galatians. In the Corinthian letter, paul addresses the issue that the Greeks wanted wisdom, the Hebrews wanted power, But "we preach Christ Crucified" It seems that Jesus was hammering the Jewish mindset over and over again as being deficient, both to his disciples and to the pharisees/saducees. I do think there are useful lifestyle devices the hebrews had, as well as useful intellectual and learning devices the Greeks had. Quite possibly this is why GOD used Hebrew for the OT and Greek for the NT. Also everthing Brian said on this issue I agreed with.

Regarding the Hidden Authority discussion, this is after all the whole point of the promise to "Write the law on their hearts" The unfortunate truth is that things very often do go wrong, and the authority/structure has to manifest. One other point to add, a misshapen or absent skeletal system is always grotesque from an asthetic point of view. It may not be "sticking out" but even at its hidden best, it provides a depth and form to the entity which is truly beautiful. I think the old adage that "beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes straigt to the bone" is appropriate. If the structure below is in good shape, the cosmetics can be adjusted relatively easily, if the structure below is out of alignment, you are in for SERIOUS headaches to get the thing working again.

One other thing, the principle of "The Cross" is fundamental to why hidden authority works. When we willing lay our lives down for others, it never has to be "top down"

josenmiami said...

Jeremiah and I are both in agreement with Michael!? double gasp!! blessed are the peace makers! Michael, you DA PERSON!

This is all good, but we need to occasionally pause and tell some jokes or something or we run the danger of taking ourselves too seriously (something I have often been guilty of).

Got some new photos up and a new update from Debbie:

love and blessings,

Sean said...

Hey everyone,

How's life? I have been wrestling with this topic for years. We do have free will, but it isn't "free" - i.e. it is more limited than what we would like. The factors that impede our wills are social and cultural forces, our ingrained sin nature, and a host of other things - probably too many to count.

We want autonomy, but we will never have it. Either we're serving YHWH or we're serving something other than YHWH. We have to live with that - that we're not gods afterall (though we think we are).

The Holocaust is the philosophical/theological problem that I'm using to look at God's soverreignty and man's agency (i.e. his will).

I'm 80% Calvinist and 20% Arminian(I know, that doesn't make sense). It fluctuates often. With real difficult issues, I have a hard time justifying either one. I think both are true - but how and when both are true - how that plays out - I don't know.

Yes, I agree with Michael that we need to think Hebraically about this...


PS: Sorry I've been out of the loops for so long...

John M. said...

After Michael's first post, I thought we were done. Then as I read on, I thought I had some things to say. By now, though, everything that I would have said has been said -- and more!

I guess I would just say, "God is sovereign, and in his sovereignty, he has granted us a lot of latitude to make decisions -- and yet he can still work all things for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose."

John the M. I didn't think your post was weird at all. I liked your "socks" analogy.

Practically speaking, I seem to flip back and forth between blind trust that God is sovereign and in charge, and the idea that I am responsible for my decisions.

Example. Yesterday I got on a plane in Denver to fly to Chicago and then on to Lexington on a connecting flight. I chose the flight schedule out of practicality, but I asked God for a safe flight, and totally trusted my life into his sovereign will each time we landed and took off.

I chose to go to CO because I really wanted to, but also because I sensed God directing me to.

While there, my Son, his friend and I decided to climb a mountain late in the afternoon (when all sane climbers are already down or nearly down because of afternoon electrical storms.) Just a few hundred yards below the summit we heard thunder in the distance, but continued up. The summit was beautiful and partly sunny -- for about 15 minutes, then it began to thunder all around us. About two minutes into our descent we were in a full-blown electrical storm with rain, sleet, and HAIL! (not real large hail, but it still hurt) and lots of lightning and thunder. I blindly trusted the Lord to help us get down safely.

After he/we, both/and? were back at our vehicle David told me that that was the worst thunder storm he has ever been in on a mountain and that we were in great danger. He was thinking about how he would explain to his mom, if I got killed up there. I was too naive to even know the danger. I was just trying to keep up with two 20 somethings on the descent!

Did God "program" our decision to climb from the foundation of the earth? I don't think so. Did he know that we were going to go up? Sure. But we still could have decided not to. Someone explain that!

Since we did climb, did He protect us? Yes, I believe He did. Would he still have protected us if we had been dumb enough to stay on the summit instead of high-tailing it down...? Hmmm! I hope so, but why choose to be so stupid?

So in our freedom to chose, we made a not so wise decision. God didn't make us do that. But in our total helplessness to control the storm, I believe that he sovereignly protected us.

Although, I don't agree with "openness" theology (at least I'm pretty sure I don't; I'm not well enough informed about it to say absolutely), I can certainly understand how some people smarter than me have concluded that God has actually suspended his foreknowledge when it comes to our decisions, and waits for us to decide before he then responds to our decisions.

Mystery. Mystery. Mystery!

Aren't you guys glad that our God is too big to comprehend or explain?

As to the value of this discussion, my thinking has already been sharpened and expanded by what has been shared. I think we should keep it going a little longer.

John M. said...

Hey Sean, welcome back!

There I go with a long-long post again -- so long that Sean posted while I was typing -- and after I said that I didn't have anything to say! That was probably true, but I sure spouted a lot of words after saying it. Maybe I'll get the longest post award again!

Sean, regarding your 80/20 idea, I have called myself a "Calminian" for years. But I have been reading a book called "Arminian Theology" by Roger E. Olson. He says that the mixture is a cop out and that one is either one or the other. He says that if you waffle on only one point of TULIP that you are actually Arminian. So after reading his argument, I have concluded that I am Arminian -- based on his interpretation of the classic definitions of Calvinism and Arminianism.

The other side is that he says Arminius was "more Calvinistic" than most modern Arminians, because he also believed in God's total sovereignty and in God's pervenient grace.

Michael said...

If I new a good joke I would tell it, but I have never been good in the joke telling department.

I agree with you. I struggle with the term "free will". I think we have a will, but I am not sure how free it is. I think that the sin patterns in our soul (both inherited and cultivated)create hinderances and bondages that we don't understand.
I am certainly grateful for the cross of christ.

I think I am almost talked out!

John the Musician said...

Thanks John M. for keeping that rejection in my heart at bay as you always do! hehe. Partly joking there. =OP Actually, I had a great time of minestry with a couple of brothers here in Ohio and we dealt with a great deal of the rejection.

Also, I wonder if it occured to you while you were on the mountain, that perhaps God wanted you to see the beauty in His dangerous creation? I probably would have stayed, it sounds like it was quite exciting. =O)

As far as free-will, I rather like the term. It could possibly be because I am young and still believe in my greatness of ability. But more to the point, God specifically designed us so that we would be able to operate without Him. He made the way for us to chose "the dark side" if we wished to do so. However, I agree that it is one side or the other. On the one hand we can chose God and operate as initially intended, or on the other we can decieve ourselves into believing we are our own God. I guess I still think free-will is a good term because after all, we do indeed have the freedom to chose.

I wonder though...many times when we watch a movie with an awesome hero, it awakens a desire in our hearts. We have a desire to be the hero, and how is that possible with God being the hero? I think that he makes it possible. Many have said that the closer to Jesus we are, the more we are our selves. That seems like a contradiction in some ways, but if you think about the fact that God created every personality in the world, and that they flowed from His personality, then it makes more sense. It's kind of like by looking to God we find out what part of Him we are, and are then better able to be that part which is us. I think God desires for us to be heroes. Kind of like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. We submit to the King, and He bring us into His inner circle. He allows us to "do" something great for the advancing of the Kingdom. Of course that isn't the aim necessarily, but it does seem to ring truer in my heart.

John M. said...

John the M. That's awesome about dealing with the rejection in your heart. You're not subject to that, so don't let it creep back in. When rejection tries to regain a foot-hold, ask Jesus to make your thoughts (or rejection) obey Him.

I like the term free-will too; probably because it's familiar, but I also hear what Steve and Michael are saying. We're probably not as "free" as we think, but it's nice to think we are. Right? Obviously, though, as you said, we do have freedom of choice in many major and minor areas.

Regarding the hero motif... I like to think of God's Kingdom as God's Big Story. It is a grand epic with the traditional conflict between good and evil -- good guys and bad guys, good spirits and bad spirits etc. In fact John Eldridge believes that all the grand stories, myths and fairy tales reflect the ultimate reality of God's grand story (plan, ultimate purpose) for the universe. Jesus is the Hero of the story, but God the Father has written each of us into the grand story. We all have a role to play. We all have a mission/destiny to fulfill. Our fulfillment and sense of purpose will only ultimately be found as we find our place in God's grand story. Sometimes our role may seem rather insignificant, even futile, but it is probably way more significant than we realize. (Read Frodo, Sam and the other hobbits.)

This also plays into our current thread, because, even though we're each written in and have a vital role, if by our unwise choices we "miss" our destiny (at least in terms of our earthly purpose), it does not ultimately hinder God's sovereign purpose to redeem all creation to himself and to fill the earth with His glory. The story is not a static, one-dimensional, totally linear one, but one that is continuously unfolding, in continuous motion, in many dimensions, in many places, over many millennium. Pretty awesome!

Regarding the thunderstorm, it was awesome and exciting. I didn't get to appreciate the full grandeur, though, because I was looking at my feet most of the time, trying to keep my footing while I scrambled over boulders and loose rocks. Staying on top was not really an option. (at least in our judgment) We were totally exposed with no shelter. Granted, if I had been sitting still, I could have appreciated the ferocity of the storm more fully. But my appreciation might have quickly become sheer terror, or suicide. Most people only get struck by lightning once! :)

josenmiami said...

hi guys, just wanted to say I am trying to keep up...good discussion. spent 3 hours last night "hanging out" by the ocean...
got to share deeply with Stuart this morning about the Lord...he is a 25 year old PhD student.

Brian Emmet said...

What Scriptures ought we bring to bear upon our discussion?

"For freedom Christ has set us free; only do not submit again to a yoke of bondage" (Gal 5)

"For men are without excuse..." [if no excuse, then presumably their decisions are real, and matter?]

"Pharoah hardened his heart...God hardened Pharoah's heart" (Exodus)

"Whosoever..." (Is 55 and several Gospels)

"Only the elect can be saved..."

Jeremiah said...

I am really appreciating that we are able to live within the Both/And in this discussion and really this has been more of a worship time where we have each been marvelling at GOD's incredible ability to be All-Consuming, All-Powerfull, All-present, and still carry distinctions and in fact create something that is "Other" than Himself. Ultimately I think that is what this boils down to. I mean try to wrap your mind around what it must habe been like for GOD to create the first "something" that HE created that wasn't Himself. I mean, where did HE put it? How did HE make a "Hole" in himself to contain something that wasn't HIM? The incredible mysterious contradiction of that just blows my mind away. I almost feel myslef levitate with the intense energy that binds that reality together! How do you touch that? See that is the same as the Free will/Sovereignty issue. Just as somehow in the eternal mass of WHO HE IS, HE made room for distinctions enough to include not just "other" mass, but other persons and other personalities, so too in the incredible mass of HIS Sovereign Will He has made room for "Other" wills. Now how much "otherness"?? Who knows, and who really cares? It is what it is. Its kind of like my kids, I have responsibility for their actions if they screw up, but so do they. On the other hand, if they are well behaved, they get complimented, but so do I... And so we come full circle to the Both/And incredible beauty of GOD.

Sean, Glad you are back.

Michael, good stuff man, hold on a few more posts!

John M. I've always wanted to be struck by lightning, sorry you missed your chance. Also glad to see the "Meadows Move" is getting resurrected.

John The M. I've got good news and bad news. Good news is you have this treasure of God's glory in a clay vessel. The bad news is that to get it out He is going to break the vessel. The good news is the glory is the light that shines from Jesus face. The bad news is it will be so bright you have to cover it somewhat so you don't blind others. The good news is they will praise GOD...

Joseph, I've got a funny ministry story for you but it probably isn't appropriate here, I'll try to post it on the other web site.

To All, this feels like the ends of some of Paul's letters. (Say Hi to so and so, greet what's his face, etc.)


Jeremiah said...

Meadows move:

Brian, you posted before I finished writing.

A scripture I read the other day which I thought was great is where the Council of Jerusalem ruled on the issue of circumcision. First the whole council discussed and then James says, "Here is my decision" Pretty clear who had the authority eh... But beautiful picture of the "First among equals" idea.

But here was the part that really stuck out... when they write the letter they say "...Therefore it seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us..." I mean if that isn't Both/And, what is it?

josenmiami said...

hi guys, I am scanning through the emails.

Steve: I like your paper on this subject, especially the quotes from Wimber and St. Vincent, and the reference to Ransom in C.S. Lewis´book. I tend to shy away from "systematic" theology anymore for the very reason that Wimber pointed out. I like leaving the 20% mystery in the mix.

JohntheM and John M: I agree about the power of the big story...and heroes.

Michael, dont worry about jokes, I have a bunch over on my humor blog and I think Jeremiah is going to provide one.

Jeremiah, if you send it to me about email, I´ll post it on the blog.

Brian, I dont have a bible program or my bible here with me in the internet shop...but I have been thinking about God trusting Adam to name the animals in the garden, and the scripture that says "if we suffer with him, we shall also rein with him"

I am impressed about how much God wants to share his glory with us, and wants us -- not to work for him, but to work WITH him... he trusts us to help him rule creation...

I think that is why he made such a point of giving us the power to make "train" us to rule creation with him in the age to come. His thoughts are higher than our thoughs, and his ways are higher than our ways, (his definitions are also better than ours) but as we surrender to him, and learn obedience through suffering with and for him, our thoughts and ways are elevated to him (Christ is formed within us, the hope of glory)...

our will surrenders to his will, and our will eventually lines up with his will. At some point, he releases more and more power (dunamis) to us and is content to let us decide what to do in situations because he trusts our choices. Sovereignty and human choice join hands...

amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

josenmiami said...

ok, I just put a blond joke that Debbie sent me on my blog...the one about a blond, and two monkees in San Diego.

Brian Emmet said...

Interesting idea from Wimber; it parallels science in some ways. Science tends to form a "theory of everything" (e.g., Newtonian physics) which explains nearly all observed phenomena... but there are inevitably a couple of niggling anomalies ("loose ends")that don't fit the ruling paradigm, but are shunted to one side because they're small, we don't have a good explanation, we assume they'll fit into the big picture eventually, etc. But often those seemingly small anomalies become the things that overturn the ruling paradigm, e.g, the transition from Newtonian physics, which works quite well on the macro level to a quantum model, which explains things on the micro level for which the Newtonian model has no answers.

Theology is not quite the same as science, of course, but I suggest there are apt parallels. The Reformation can be understood as Luther's pointing out some anomalies that didn't fit neatly into the prevailing late medieval Catholic paradigm.

NB: the move from Newton to quantum does not overthrow Newton (his Laws of Motion work very consistently and dependably!)but relativizes the Newtonian model's pretensions to "explain everything." It limits Newton to the realm/sphere/domain where "Newtonism" works.

Yes, I am going on too long, but-- modern science in its materialistic/naturalistic expressions ends up denying human freedom (perhaps a more useful term than "free will"?) and thereby ends up in determinism and nihilism: if the cosmos is soley matter and energy, if we can figure out the conditions at the moment of Creation (the Big Bang), we could theoretically predict everythng about the universe, including what I will have for lunch tomorrow (because everything is understood as a solely material process). Some forms of Calvinism appear to take this approach theologically...

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom"--hmm, an interesting notion: before faith in Jesus, we really don't have free will or human freedom; we are slaves to sin, which sin touches every aspect of our persons. However, in Christ, we are set free--the dynamic of life in the Spirit introduces into our lives a freedom that was neither present nor even possible before that. This perhaps delivers us from a materialistically-based determinism...?

josenmiami said...

awesome thoughts Brian. Are you familiar with Thomas Kuhn? he wrote a book on scientific knowledge in the 1960s if I am not mistaken and said the same thing you just said about the transition from Newton to Einstein and Quantum physics. He was the one who coined the term "paradigm".

My gut feeling is that we are seeing some "loose ends" in the church and in the kingdom....and the stage is set for another theological paradigm change on the scale of Luther/Calvin. As you pointed out so well...this does not negate what has gone before.

I tend to agree that the term "free will" does not fully espress human freedom to choose and to exersize co-responsability with God to 1) choose, 2) define, 3) create, 4) and ultimately to steward creation along with God.

There is a passage in the "Problem of Pain" about the divine soccer game of the Trinity, running, dancing and passing the ball back and forth. The Trinity is inviting humanity into the game...we get to play, kick the ball, do strategy, but we dare not hog the ball too long.

God is soveriegn, but he desires to bring many sons (and daughters) to glory...and for that reason he takes the huge risk of allowing us to choose....

John M. said...

Brian, what you say about science and theology is quite helpful.

Joseph, I agree that there are loose ends and that God is moving us into a major transitional time.

John M. said...

Hello Everyone, I just read Steve Humble's paper on Sovereignty and Free-will on the other site. It is excellent. I recommend that you read it if you haven't already.

PS Our third grand child, a boy, was born today to our middle daughter Christy. It was her first. We are blessed!

John the Musician said...

Brian, something similar to what you were saying a few posts back. It seems to me that often young people go into the military for the reason of finding some authority to rule their lives for them. I think that's virtually the same dynamic that happens spiritually. God definately invites us into His freedom, but at the same time it's risky, scary, and very difficult to be so responsible. That is why, I'm sure, God invites us to unload our burdens on Him and take up His burden which is light. If we don't learn how to trust in God's goodness then we end up carrying the very heavy responsibility of our lives. Many of us then find the devil knocking on our door saying, "Don't worry, I'll take over from here." We are often all to releaved to find the many escapes he provides for us to dodge our responsibility. Of course we find out later that we just put the responsibility off, but in the meantime it feels pretty good. I definately agree with you about the nature of sin, and the bondage and lack of freedom there-in. I think that perhaps the reason that there is freedom in God is that He teaches us the way to being holy, and then allows us to try our own wings. Then He teaches us some more. =O)

Also, if anybody hasn't seen any of the Harry Potter movies, I would recommend them. The most recent esspecially was quite good. Throughout the movie you see how strong of a connection there is between Harry and the dark wizard who was vanquished when he tried to destroy Harry. There is a connection because of the mark the dark lord left on him. Often Harry believes he himself doesn't have a choice, that because he is connected with Voltemort that he must be evil as well. Dumbledore throughout the movies often reasures Harry that it is all about what he chooses.

Pretty interesting all in all. I'm not sure that I've explained it well, but you definately get a closer look at the inner struggle that we all are fighting when you see the movie.

josenmiami said...

hi friends,

John, congrats on the new grandchild!

JohntheMus, you make very good points. It does become a heavy responsability if we take on our shoulders the full burden of our choices and our you point out, we must also enter into his rest.

I think discipline is a real issue for your generation. I have noticed a lot of incongruities, young people want heroes and adventure, but often do not want sacrifice and discipline that are necessary to have the other.

Young people want relationships nad community, but they want to be free to do whatever they want, with no restraints. True community requires some personal sacrifice and commitment, not to mention accountability.

I have only seen one Harry Potter movie. The new one is playing here, but I am a little afraid it might be too intense for mom. Maybe, I´ll buy the previous movies and watch them in order in Portuguese. We went to see "Transformers" a couple of days ago and we both like it.

Michael said...

Hey everyone I have tried to keep up. It has been busy at work which keeps me from writing to much during the week. But I am trying not to disappear.

I read your comments on science as you responded to Wimber's comments. I agree with your comments. It is usually the anomaly that ends up turning the whole on its ear.
Again, I don't think we like living with the 20% not fitting into the other 80%. It is uncomfortable. I think we do this with theology, science (dawarnism is a classic case of trying to make 20% fit into the 80%), and people.

I would like to offer a different perspective on the scripture "where the spririt of the Lord is there is freedom". I often wondered why Paul did'nt say where the Spirit of Christ is there is freedom. I have often thought that this statement is less about salvation and more about submission (I am sure I am splitting hairs here). Our freedom found in our submission to Him and his ways.
Maybe we are saying the same thing.

Brian Emmet said...

John M, I add my congratulations to everyone else's on your newest grandchild; that man is blessed of God who lives to see his children's children!

Sean and Michael, great to hear from you; glad you're listening in even when you don't have time to write.

The pace of this conversation seems to be slowing some. Have we said all we have to/want to, at least for the present, or are we just catching our breath? One possible application from the last few comments might be to identify the "20%" that doesn't seem to fit into the "80%"--what are the loose ends (i.e., "loose" with respect to what reference point?), and what is the paradigm into which they don't seem to fit?

josenmiami said...

hi Brian, I just think everyone is busy...I certainly have been for the last week. Debbie has been sick with bronchitis, and it has been cold and rainy here.

also, there is probably a little less controversy than the last thread...the controversy or disagreement tends to jack up the participation.

Michael, it has really been good to have your contributions here. I appreciate it.

It seems like we are mostly agreed that God is sovereign and that he has granted us the power to make choices (in his image) and that our choices are bounded within his greater sovereign will.

It also seems that we are agreed that we only see through a glass darkly...80% of a systematic theology. We only "know in part".

However, I wonder how much is contained in the 20% that we do not know? I have a feeling that the 20% of mystery in God’s infinite truth might be in fact much bigger than the 80% that we are able to apprehend with our logical, linear finite human minds.

In other words, What we don’t know is a lot more than we DO know....kind of exciting! We will definitely not get bored in eternity.

John M. said...

Joseph, your 80%/20% comments are interesting. A year or so ago, I drew two diagrams. Each on had three catagories: "What can be known." "What I actually know." "Mystery." The first diagram represented my 20's. On it, "What can be known" included the majority of the diagram, with a very small slice of mystery. "What I knew", included about 1/3 to 1/2 of "What can be known."

The second diagram represented the present. On it "Mystery" was the majority of the box. "What can be known" was a small slice, and "What I know" was slightly more than a line's width.

I think you're right that what we don't know/mystery is way bigger than what we "know".

If that's not the case then our "god" is too small.

"God you are big, and we are little. However great we think you are, you are so much greater. However good we think you are, you are so much better. However awesome we think you are you are so much beyond... However sovereign we think you are, you have so much more knowledge, understanding, wisdom, power and authority. However much grace we think you have, you are so much more gracious. However loving and inclusive we think you are, you have loved and included so much more. However terrible we think you are in battle and judgment, you are so much more... We bow down. We worship. We thank you and honor you." Amen!

Brian Emmet said...

I just wanted to check in w/ everyone on the current discussion--not trying to snuff it out early, only wanted to make sure it still had "legs" (to mix and mangle my metaphors).

Joseph, your comment about the 20% perhaps containing "more" than the 80% reminded me of something CS Lewis wrote about the manger in Bethlehem holding somethig "larger" than the entire universe--an example of the "inside" being "larger" than the "outside"! Pascal makes a similar point about the relative "size" of things: the human being is a mere "thinking reed"; however, that seemingly insignificant reed is "larger" than the stars, because the man can know the stars but the stars cannot know the man. The tiny space "inside" of our heads is larger than the universe, because we can imagine/think of things beyond the universe.

John, Amen to your prayer, and thanks for writing it out for us. Amen and Amen!

Jeremiah said...

OK I'm back

Viv and I went to Gatlinburg for a long weekend to celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss.

Man we really do keep up a brisk pace, there is a lot which has been written.


What you are really discussing is (I believe) epistemology, the branch of "knowing" and you are just pointing out that science and religion have similar epistemologies (or ways of knowing). There are parallels, but there are obvious significant departures. I think the most significant departure involve the "Truth tests" each branch uses, but that stuff doesn't have much bearing on what we are discussing.

It is very interesting that in our discussion on Human Will and God's Sovereignty, we very quickly went right to the mystery of it and have been largely camped out there. I'm guessing that we have all argued/pondered the topic in the past to the point of exhaustion without really coming to satisfying conclusions (i.e. conclusions which are logically thorough and contain all of the emprical and revealed data)

Interestingly I've read the Roman Catholic position on this topic and we all, from what I've seen here, fall squarely in the middle of what they would say is orthodox.


I'm always very hesitant to take too much from anything in any media (i.e. books, movies, music) which is a celebration of black magic. It just seems like too much hassle to sort out the good from the bad. One of the most freeing things ever told me regarding responsibility for my destiny came once from a preacher friend of mind. I was talking about how worried I was that I would miss what GOD had for me and his response was "GOD is more interested in you fulfilling your destiny than you are, relax" Its been a useful thought. the Correllary is that HE is also infinitely more powerful to fulfill my destiny than I am. It is definitely a both/and, and I do work as hard as I can (and without boasting probably harder than most I know) but at the end of the day, I just set it down and say "Lord, Let it be..."

John M.

Congratulations on a new Grandbaby and Amen to your prayer. I can't wait until my kids start having kids. I noticed that if one kid was fun, two kids are 4 times the fun and 3 are nine times the fun. I bet grandkids are the same way.

Alright, back to work...

Jeremiah said...


One more thought. Some have you have commented on us heading into a "transition time"

Here are my predictions for the next 20-30 years...

1) China will be a Christian Nation
2) Europe will be muslim
3) U.S. will be the center of an armed conflict between armies comprised largely of mexican nationals and muslims.
4) Quebec still won't have its independence.

John the Musician said...

At least I know that black magic is black, personally I stay away from the white magic. =OP hehe. Just joking. Anyways, I don't feel like the magic part of it is all that important, rather I think that the story is about something we all feel. A desire to be special. I think that as long as we realize that it's not the magic that we're interested in, but the desire of our heart to be really special then we'll be alright.

Also, if you look at the Chronicles of Narina, then you see both black magic and white magic, both are magic and there for technically bad, but they actually represent a deeper truth about the nature of God. Just my thoughts on the matter. I think however, that it does pertain to the conversation, as often in these types of stories we see the struggle to choose the right path. For Harry Potter it was to choose between power and love/friendship, in the Narnia tales, it was a choice between belief and unbelief. Ultimately though I think it's pretty obvious that we as humans do have choice.

josenmiami said...

hi guys, sorry ... I have been a bit distracted by the email interchange. Of course, we could have had the same discusion on the blog, but we probably would not have had the participation and contributions of Paul Petrie, Dennis Coll and Cole, Michael Cook, Mike McCarty, Gary Henley or my friend Dick Scoggins.

Several people have written me asking for suggestions about what to do to implement some of the things we have talked about.

Any ideas?

finished my last class this morning and took the final exam. We have a party tonight, site seeing tomorrow and on our way home Sunday. Thanks for your prayers.

josenmiami said...

we went with a group to a fort this morning to have breakfast. The young man i have been hanging out with, Stuart, hugged me and told me he loved me last night at our graduation ceremony (he is not gay).

this morning he was hung-over and not feeling well. He gave me permission to pray for him, and God completely removed the hang-over in about 30 seconds...thank God for his mercy and his interest in the details.

John the Musician said...

Awesome dad, sounds like you had a blast. =O)