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ISBN/ASIN : 0877845670
Manufacturer : InterVarsity Press|
Release data : 01 October, 1985
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All sides presented in a clear format.
This book's method of delivery has to be the best way to explore such difficult issues. Although the reader will disagree with one or more of the contributors of the book, regardless of their position, a clear understanding of just how much can be discovered through other's point of view will be obtained.
This book will further develop your own position on the issue, and give you "something to chew on."
Missing the predominate Calvinist view
Generally speaking, these "four views" book are a very good resource the Christian struggling over controversial issues. However, this book falls short of truly presenting the possible options.
The problem is, the person presenting the Calvinism view is writing from a "high-Calvinism" or "supralapsarian" viewpoint. This was the viewpoint of John Calvin. And the main idea in this view is that before ("supra") the Fall ("lapse"), to glorify Himself, God decided to create humanity so that He could save some of them while damning others. The saved would then glorify God for their salvation when seeing the plight of the damned.
However, this viewpoint is NOT the viewpoint that most Calvinists subscribe to, nor is it the position of the Westminster Confession. The view of most Calvinists and the Confession is "low-Calvinism" or "sublapsarianism."
In this view, to glorify Himself and to extend His love, God created humanity. Then, AFTER ("sub") the Fall, God looked down the corridors of time and decided that out of the mass of sinful humanity He would, by His grace, save some while rightly damning the others for their sin. So this view does not have God creating people in order to damn them as the high-Calvinist view does. There are also other important differences between these two views.
Now in this book most of the arguments the non-Calvinists present against the Calvinist are actually directed towards the areas of Calvinism in which high-Calvinists and low-Calvinists disagree. IOW, the anti-Calvinists arguments would not apply to the version of Calvinism that most Calvinists subscribe to.
So when reading this book, one would not learn what the majority Calvinist viewpoint entails or proposed arguments against it. But my book "Scripture Workbook: For Personal Bible Study and Teaching the Bible" does present this majority view in three chapters on God's Sovereignty and the five points of Calvinism. And these chapters include hundreds of Scripture verses upholding the low-Calvinist viewpoint while refuting proposed arguments against it.
Given this omission of the predominate Calvinist view, I wouldn't particularly recommend "Predestination and Free Will." But if one does get it, then also get a book like mine that presents the low-Calvinist position.
Good starting-point for further study
This book is one of the first attempts to commingle opposing views on one of the most acute issues in theology : how an Almighty God can control events and yet leave people 'free' enough to be responsible. Putting full weight on the sovereignity of God is John Feinberg, who proposes that God controls everything with nothing having been left out of His will. In this view, all of Man's actions have been ordained since eternity and nothing escapes His determining.
At the extreme opposite is Clark Pinnock coming in with his now very popular (and strong) thesis that God's project of creation involves bestowing humans with the power of agency and genuine creativity; the future is 'open' and God can be genuinely surprised and disappointed by His creatures. In between Feinberg and Pinnock, we have Norman Geisler proposing a model in which God's desires still cannot be disappointed in spite of the genuinely free - the technical word used throughout is 'contra-causal' - actions of people (in the sense that everything that ever happened and will happen falls within the plan of God) and Bruce Reichenbach defending probably the most popular view around: that God does not get everything He desired because His mode of governance does not consist of controlling every iota in existence, but rather involves delegation. Both uphold exhaustive foreknowledge.
I was impressed with Feinberg's introduction to the various possibilities involved with the word 'can'. Still I felt it wasn't necessary since the whole issue revolves around the fact that whatever we do has been 'fed into' and 'determined' for us since eternity and done so in an unconditional way. We can define freedom whatever way we care to, but the fact that God's determining hand has an UNCONDITIONAL role completely rules out whatever defense Feinberg's theology can have for our accountability towards evil.
The best portion in Geisler's writings was his exposition of self-determinism (with which I'm sure Pinnock and Reichenback would agree). I think he hit the hammer on the head by his assertion that it is meaningless to ask what 'caused' the actor to choose his actions. This is like asking how God created the world ex nihilo. And I think this adds damage to Feinberg's case, because he (Feinberg) fails to consider that there is an irreducible element of 'self' in any meaningful talk of personal choices - and that this element simply cannot be 'pointed to'. Feinberg's constant requests for what caused a choice shows some kind of 'metaphysical Newtonianism', IMO. Almost like asking, "What CAUSED him to fall in love with his wife?". However, Geisler seems to be reveling in the contradiction of taking the strong points of determinism and indeterminism, juxtaposing them together and leaving it at that (as Reichenbach carefully points out). Nevertheless he has a wonderful habit of first stating on what points he agreed with the author he's criticising. That's quite a gracious move, I must say.
Reichenbach presents a rather 'heavy-going' but clearly argued essay on how God has opted not for meticulous control but broad governance of His universe (something like the mayor of a city who delegates responsibility to his subordinates). Only the staunchest determinist would find problems with Reichenback's argument that God grants us freedom within limits to fulful our given role as stewards of the created order. Overall, I think many Arminian Christians would hold to Reichenbach's view which, except for his view on foreknowledge, could be easily added to Pinnock's essay without contradiction. Unfortunately, I felt his criticism of Pinnock's theory that God cannot 'know' free future actions, to have missed the point. Pinnock wasn't so much saying that God can't predict future actions, just that some future actions cannot be infallibly known (God's repentance documented so many times in Scripture should make this clear).
As for Pinnock, what can I say? He writes like a music-lover simultaneously enjoying and explaining a symphony to a friend. I think most open theists (like me) would've preferred a presentation more solidly grounded in Scripture but as a beautiful description of the creative project God has decided to embark on and of the 'flower of human freedom' He has blessed His people with, Pinnock's essay is quite second to none. He may not convince anyone not willing to let go of God's total foreknowledge but his work does have an emotional, and almost surreal, appeal to our hearts.
For the Calvinist, this book will be a good challenge to (and, hopefully, a source for modification of) your ideas. I think many will agree that Feinberg seems almost 'lost for words' throughout. Determinism is really a dead-end; the power of God may be upheld but it is a great cost to His love and our understanding of evil. For the Arminian, Reichenbach's work add sufficient intellectual support to your beliefs. Ironically, Geisler's explanation of 'self-determinism' can be fully integrated into your understanding of humanity without accepting his odes to determinism (just read what Reichenbach has to say). For the open theist, there are probably better places to look if you want more support for the non-actual ontological status of the future in the present. But Geisler and Reichenbach still provide necessary criticisms of the theory and implications that God may not know all the future, and it's always good to know the possible problems with our position. For the 'general reader', do get this book for a solid introduction to the issues involves and the arguments and assumptions employed by the various theological camps.
And no, we're not 'ordained from eternity' to read this book but let's put some of our human agency to good use and self-determine to dig in and think through the kind of world (and life) God has created for us.