Ep42-The Operations of Grace & Free Will (Pt 1)- The Problems of Theism & The Love of God Ch 11

Topics Discussed:
• Grace and Free Will in Interpersonal Relations
• Free Will and Irresistible Grace
• Concurring Grace

Show Notes:


“in LDS thought it is imperative that humans remain free to reject the salvation of God even if it is God’s will to save them.”

“Because salvation entails an interpersonal relationship between us and God, it is impossible to realize without free agency, which genuinely leaves it up to us whether to respond to God’s overtures of love and persuasion.”

Grace and Free Will in Interpersonal Relations

“For a person to be free in a morally significant sense, libertarians maintain that the person must be free to will to do or refrain from willing to do an act A under all of the circumstances that obtain in the moment of free decision. ”

“Those who find the arguments in favor of libertarian free will that I gave in the first volume of this work persuasive will have a definitive reason for rejecting the doctrines of predestination, irresistible grace, and original sin.”

“there are additional reasons for adopting libertarian free will in the context of interpersonal relationships established through grace.”

“Consider what is involved in making choices in the context of interpersonal relationships. A choice is an act that includes within its very modality something the agent does rather than something that happens to the agent. When I jump off a diving board, I make a choice to do so. When I fall off the diving board, something happens to me. ”

“The choice to offer the relationship empowers the other to choose in a sense that it makes it possible to accept the offer. This seems to me to be the kernel of truth in the Augustinian notion of regeneration of the human will by grace; for when God offers as a matter of grace to accept us into a loving relationship, he empowers and enables us to make a choice in relationship to him that we do not have on our own and cannot bring about as a matter of our free choice acting alone as mere alienated agents.”

“interpersonal relationships involve the heart and soul, for the “value” offered is not something of value besides oneself. It is precisely oneself—one’s entire heart, might, mind, and strength. Thus, the relationship cannot be brought about unilaterally by its very nature, for the interpersonal relationship consists precisely in the free and gracious giving of each to the other.”

Free Will and Irresistible Grace

“(With irresistible Grace) God is the sole agent involved. Given that the agent would not have faith and choose God on his or her own, only a type of “force” that acts contrary to the agent’s natural beliefs, desires, and wants can accomplish salvation. Thus, the divine action on the human will is coercive in the sense that it acts contrary to a person’s beliefs, desires, and wants that incline the will to choose.

“Feinberg explains that reasons act as causes that “decisively incline the will” to accept God’s grace. God can guarantee that his goals will be accomplished freely “even when someone does not want to do the act, because God’s eternal decree includes not only God’s chosen ends but also the means to such ends.” The means include “whatever circumstances and factors are necessary to convince the individual (without constraint) that the act God has decreed is the act she or he wants to do. And, given sufficient conditions, the person will do the act.”

“My wants, beliefs, and desires are a result of God’s causal activity in this view, but so is the decision that I find a particular reason persuasive. Thus, it is not I but God who decides what is persuasive and God who moves my will to accept the reasons given.”

“The notion that God decisively inclines the will also raises the specter of the problem of evil. Why doesn’t God decisively incline everyone to will to do good and recognize him as God? If someone rapes, murders, or steals, in this view it is because God willed these acts as a part of his all-inclusive decree that ordains all things that occur.”

“According to the great early American theologian Jonathan Edwards, there is in God a revealed will by which he disapproves of and opposes moral evil as contrary to his nature; but there is also a secret will by which he wills and determines all moral evils that in fact occur as a means of achieving his purposes.”

“So if the sinner were to succeed in obeying God’s revealed will, he would actually act against what God truly desires to have happen in the world.”

Concurring Grace

“Thomas Aquinas recognized that, given creatio ex nihilo, it is not in the nature of created beings to exist. Thus, in each moment of existence, God in effect recreates the entire world and all of its constituents ex nihilo.”

“The first position is occasionalism, which maintains that God creates everything new in each moment of time.”“Occasionalism entails that no reality but God can exercise causal power, and therefore there is no secondary causation in nature or exercised by humans.”

“The other view is conservationism which holds that God creates substances along with their active and passive causal powers (the power to cause and to be caused). Thus, created substances are genuine agents that have their own causal powers given to them by God.”

“The position adopted by Aquinas (and Luis de Molina and Francisco Suarez) rejects both of these views and opts for concurrentism. It is the middle position between these two views. It holds that an effect of any created agency is produced by both God and the created substance, so that there is an unduplicated causal power exercised by the created substance, but that created substances can realize their causal powers only if God cooperates with them contemporaneously as an immediate cause which is also necessary but not sufficient in itself to produce the effect.”

“Can I will otherwise if God causes my will to be what it is? Manifestly not. If God causes me to will to rob the 7-Eleven by creating my will, then my will to refrain from robbing is impotent.”

“if sin is contrary to God’s will, and if there is sin, then things must occur that are not within God’s absolute control. If agents are responsible for what occurs rather than God, then it must be up to these agents whether the event occurs, rather than God. If it is really up to free agents whether things occur that God does not desire to occur, then God must respond to events that are initiated by these agents rather than initiating the events.”

Talk about “Suarez’s own view of God’s concurrence”

“It seems that the far better position to adopt is that counterfactuals of freedom on which middle knowledge depends simply have no truth value and thus middle knowledge is false.”

On the middle knowledge view...“whether I am saved or not is not totally a matter of arbitrary decision because presumably God chooses a possible world based upon his assessment of the goodness that is created by creating that particular world as opposed to some other (without assuming that there is a best possible world). However, in the end my salvation is sacrificed for the good of that world if I am reprobated, and I just happen to be saved because that is how it turns out in the world God chooses to create if I am elect. That is, it is a matter of luck whether I am saved or not. This result seems quite unwelcome to me, for it means that salvation is the luck of the draw whether I am saved or not when God creates this world. What could be more tenuous than that?”


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