In Defense of Theological Determinism

February 22, 2018


This is an excerpt from Sonny’s book, “High Calvinism: A Consistent Approach to Defend and Declare God’s Sovereignty.” To get a copy of this book, click here.

 

Theological determinism is not an insoluble belief that should bewilder Christians. Defining theological determinism is paramount and also a necessity. God is a free agent. And God is the prime actor in all that he ensues—per His decretive will. Nothing comes to pass unless God has decreed it. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) teaches, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…”1 This is consistent with Eph. 1:11 [emphasis added]: “Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ.”2

 

            The elect of God are προορισθέντες [Pro: before + horizo: to determine] according to Him who ἐνεργοῦντος (works) “all things” according to the counsel of His will. The word ἐνεργοῦντος is in the active voice, which means that God is the subject and performer of the action. The “τὰ πάντα” (neuter) literally means “all things,” to include the secondary causes of men’s actions that have been decreed by God’s immutable and infallible will that ordains all things. This is why God’s meticulous and specific providence should be treated as sublime, and not with contempt.

 

            Because of its unpleasant connotations, theological determinism has become a sonorous phrase that incites vexing responses. And critics of determinism will desperately try to extenuate this doctrine for various reasons: To exonerate God to answer for the problem of theodicy, not able to reconcile God’s decree with their believed contra-causal freedom, and/or ignorance on causation (ultimate, proximate, efficient). Even reformed churchmen who agree with Chapter 3 [I] of the WCF, will be surreptitious because they know that determinism incites emotions. Therefore, instead of preaching that God is the prime actor of “all things that transpire,” they become defense attorneys for God who rely on subterfuge to get “God off the hook.” This theological essay will address a few objections against determinism, and provide cogent responses to the indefensible and untenable objections that are made against God.

 

 

 

           

[1] Chapter 3, Of God’s Eternal Decree, I. As an addendum to the WCF, the Puritans should also be noted because of their unyielding affinity for God. Stephen Charnock was notable because of his work on the attributes of God. He states [emphasis added]: “God knows himself because his knowledge with his will is the cause of all other things; …he is the first truth, and therefore, is the first object of his understanding…As he is all knowledge, so he hath in himself the most excellent object of knowledge…No object is so intelligible to God as God is to himself…for his understanding is his essence, himself.” Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 1. 1873, pg. 415 [emphasis added].

 

[2] “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…” This verse leaves no room for libertarian freedom. If God works “all things according to the counsel of His will,” then nothing comes to pass outside of of His will. To argue with this passage, is tantamount to speaking with contempt against God “ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ” (who works all things according to the counsel of His will).

 

 

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