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Calvinist Objections to Free Will

Trent Horn

Audio only:

Not all opposition to the idea of free will comes from atheists. In fact, a prominent strain of Christianity denies free will as it strives to defend the omnipotence of God. But does such a strategy turn God into a monster? Trent Horn explains.


Cy Kellett:

Does God decide everything or do I get to decide some stuff? Trent Horn is next. Hello and welcome to Focus The Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett your host. And most Christians throughout most of the history of Christianity have believed that we have a choice. Certainly God saves us by his own gracious power, but we get to choose whether or not to cooperate. We get to choose whether or not to follow the commandments. We get to choose between him and other goods.

Cy Kellett:

And we don’t always make the right choice and he does forgive us and all that, but we get to choose. Choosing is part of the Christian life, but not all Christians accept that. Some say, if God is all powerful and all knowing, he knows everything past, present, and future, and he has the power to change anything, that doesn’t leave any room for our freedom. Well, we think it does leave room for our freedom. And we asked Trent Horn to explain just how that is. Trent Horn, apologist at Catholic Answers, welcome back.

Trent Horn:

Thank you for having me.

Cy Kellett:

Thank you for wearing the exact same shirt that you wore last time.

Trent Horn:

I couldn’t help it because I don’t have free will. It’s been determined.

Cy Kellett:

I finished recording it five minutes ago.

Trent Horn:

Maybe it wasn’t determined by the universe, but maybe the creator of the universe. God has ordained I shall wear this shirt in this interview and I cannot contradict His sovereign will. I cannot.

Cy Kellett:

Well, I didn’t know you were a Calvinist, because that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Trent Horn:

I couldn’t help it if I was.

Cy Kellett:

All right, so we’ll talk about… We talked the last time about scientific or atheistic or materialist objections to free will, this time religious objections.

Trent Horn:

Oh, yeah. I actually thought Cy, I thought about writing another book. I don’t know if I have enough books here too.

Cy Kellett:

It’s trend stack, size stack. This isn’t even the whole trend stack, this is just the Catholic Answers.

Trent Horn:

There’s still a few that are… Yeah, you need The Case for Catholicism and [inaudible 00:01:55], no, that would be cheating. That’s just the Spanish translation.

Cy Kellett:

No, translations don’t count.

Trent Horn:

They don’t. Yeah, so you’ll think that non-religious people oppose free will and religious people all endorse free will. That’s not the case. There are some non-religious people who do believe we have genuine libertarian freedom. They believe that we have free will, not libertarian politically, but we are at liberty to choose things. And then there are religious people across different religions, but even within Christianity, who deny we have free will or who would say that we do have free will, but we’re also completely determined by God to do what we will do. And so, that’s why it’s important to discuss these issues of, “Okay, well, this is hard because we believe that God is sovereign over the universe, but we also believe man has free will. And so how do we sift through this?”

Cy Kellett:

Not only just that he’s sovereign, but he’s also all powerful. So if you’re sovereign-

Trent Horn:

And he’s all knowing.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Oh, so you know everything, you’re all powerful, and you are the ruler of everything.

Trent Horn:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

So if he knows that tomorrow, I’m going to choose to sin, let’s say there’s some sin that I will fall into. I’m going to say gluttony, just because I enjoy the sin of gluttony. Well, I shouldn’t say that.

Trent Horn:

Well, is there any sin that people don’t enjoy?

Cy Kellett:

I don’t know, maybe vengeance.

Trent Horn:

I know because they-

Cy Kellett:

Do they enjoy vengeance?

Trent Horn:

Every sin a person commits, they do so because of some perceived good they are seeking. There’s no sin someone pursues that lacks any goods for them whatsoever.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So tomorrow I am going to commit gross acts of gluttony. God sees that, he’s all-

Trent Horn:

You know what I once, Cy, I took a bunch of teens to an In-N-Out once, one of the teens got a 20×20.

Cy Kellett:

No.

Trent Horn:

He did. 20 meat patties, 20 slices of cheese.

Cy Kellett:

Did he eat it?

Trent Horn:

He ate the whole thing.

Cy Kellett:

God bless him. God bless that boy. That poor cow-

Trent Horn:

(singing).

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Well, anyways-

Trent Horn:

So you’re going to go eat that 20×20.

Cy Kellett:

Right. So I’m going to eat that 20, but I’m going to have a shake and fries with it. So this is gross gluttony.

Trent Horn:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

God, all powerful, all knowing God, knows that’s coming. Clearly, I don’t have free will.

Trent Horn:

Well, that would be what’s called the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Trent Horn:

And so the argument goes, if God knows today, what I will do tomorrow, if he infallibly knows what I will do tomorrow, if he knows that today, then tomorrow cannot be any different. And in order to have free will, I have to be able to have done otherwise. If I only have one option, I’m not free. So that’s divine foreknowledge and human freedom. That’s the classic statement of the problem and people have dealt with it for a very long time. And usually their ways of addressing it involve changing the argument or biting the bullet on certain things.

Cy Kellett:

Yes. Okay.

Trent Horn:

For example, let’s talk about the two ways you could bite the bullet. One you could say is, “Well, maybe God doesn’t infallibly know the future. Maybe God doesn’t know the future at all.” And that could be for a variety of reasons. In fact, this objection actually doesn’t relate to God as much that the Greeks held to logical fatalism. Aristotle talked about this with a sea battle. Like, Trent and Cy are having an interview, that’s a true statement.

Cy Kellett:

Yes.

Trent Horn:

Trent and Cy will do a Catholic Answers radio show in three weeks, true or false? Well, what Aristotle would say is, “It’s neither true nor false, it’s indeterminant.” He used a sea battle in his example. Well, the idea here is if you… I jumped ahead a little bit, but if I don’t have free will, I couldn’t help it. If propositions are only true or false, then if there are all these feat propositions about the future, they either are true or false. And if that’s the case, they’re not going to change, that means the future is set. You can’t do anything. So Aristotle says, “Well, maybe they’re not, maybe they’re indeterminant.”

Trent Horn:

There’s a third option from true and false. So the future is still open, but what do you do if you have a being that knows them, that knows the future infallibly? It doesn’t seem like you could leave it to be indeterminant. So that’s why there are Christians who have adopted a view called open theism. Greg Boyd is a prominent defender of this view today. There’ve been a lot of people, especially those who are in the sciences who think that with relativity theory and quantum mechanics, we can’t have perfect divine foreknowledge.

Trent Horn:

There’s lots of reasons people embrace open theism. Other people embrace it because they go back in scripture and they read God very anthropomorphically in the old Testament that God says things like, well, look at the flood with Noah, “I repented of the evil that I did. I repented of making human beings or I regret doing that.”

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

Now, some of the examples you pick in scripture, I think are very weak, because some of them could be taken to mean not even that God doesn’t know the future, but that he doesn’t know the present. Like in the garden, he says, “Adam, where are you?”

Cy Kellett:

Oh, yeah. Right.

Trent Horn:

Sometimes you can ask a question and the purpose is not to get information.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

So if God is speaking rhetorically or anthropomorphically in scripture, then that can explain God saying he regretted things. That’s just a way of saying that we have aired. And so when we repent of something, we destroy it. So if a husband buys pornography, he repents of it by throwing it away. He regrets what he did, he destroys it. So that’s an anthropomorphic way of saying that God destroys human beings because of what they have done, even though he knew what was going to happen.

Trent Horn:

So the problem for the open theist who follows the Bible, he tries to take from the Bible anthropomorphically that God does not know the future, is there passages that seem like God certainly does know the future and makes plans based on it. One of the most famous would be Genesis 50:20. That would be when Joseph is reunited with his brothers in Egypt. So you remember in the story of Joseph, his dad, Jacob, loved him, gave him a fancy technicolor dream coat.

Cy Kellett:

I don’t think fancy technicolor.

Trent Horn:

That’s just an adaptation later.

Cy Kellett:

All right.

Trent Horn:

And then his brothers sold him into slavery. But then Joseph, because he’s sold into slavery, becomes a ruler in Egypt, saves Egypt from famine, saves his brothers from a famine. His brothers come to meet him and there’s the great reveal. A lot of cruel family drama, Joseph really let’s them have it for a while in the story.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, playing along.

Trent Horn:

That whole family is so dysfunctional. Genesis just might be called dysfunctional family.

Cy Kellett:

That’s God’s people you’re calling dysfunctional.

Trent Horn:

We are all dysfunctional. But in Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers about selling him into slavery, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good, for the salvation of many people.” So the idea here is that God knew what would happen after that event and he used these men’s evil deeds to accomplish a good. That seems pretty hard for being a dude that doesn’t know the future. The open theist will try to say, “Well, God’s like the world’s greatest chess player. He’s ready for any move.” Well, no-

Cy Kellett:

Well, I’m sure he is, but that’s not what he’s doing here.

Trent Horn:

No, it’s not. And that’s why if you go to The Catechism, paragraph 600, read in its full, you can see it’s understanding. It says, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of predestination, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.” And then it quotes later, the quotation says, “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Trent Horn:

And in Acts, it talks about how the leaders had been destined to do this. For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. So here it’s saying, “Look, just like Joseph’s brothers did evil things to him, God willed it to good. Herod, Pilate, the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrin, God knew they would freely do evil things, but through their free decision, brought about a great good.” So how do we get this foreknowledge and the freedom together?

Cy Kellett:

Right. How do we?

Trent Horn:

Well, all the church basically teaches is there’s just two things you can’t do. You can’t get rid of foreknowledge, which would be what the open theist do. And you can’t get rid of free will, which is what Calvinists do. And so the Calvinists, if you remember, in our episode, when we talked about atheistic objections to free will, I talked about compatibleism as a view about free will and determinism. Now, for atheists, they would say you’re determined by the universe, but as long as you do what you want, you’re free.

Trent Horn:

So many Calvinists will say, “Well, God determines everything that happens, but if you want to sin and you enjoy it, then you are culpable for your actions.” So you’re doing exactly what you want and you could’ve done otherwise, if you wanted to do otherwise, but wait, what’s causing my wants here? So I was engaging people online once about this, about free will, because I was saying, “Look, God is a moral monster. If he creates human beings and then arbitrarily decides this group goes to heaven and this group goes to hell-

Cy Kellett:

That is monstrous.

Trent Horn:

It’d be a monstrous thing for God to do and the church rejects that, it’s called double predestination. We agree that God knows who’s going to go to heaven and they can’t get to heaven without his grace, but God still gives grace so that anyone can be saved if they choose to respond to it. God has not taken anyone to say, “You are damned because I’m sending you to hell.” We reject that. Calvinists, it’s funny, they’ll try to oscillate between the two. What they’ll say, and this happened in my debate with James White, “Going to heaven, it is 100% up to God who goes to heaven.”

Trent Horn:

But if that’s true, then it’s 100% up to God who goes to hell, they’re logically exclusionary. So when you look at that, then what they’ll try to say is, “Yeah, it’s up to God who goes to heaven, but you, you’re going… I’ll say, “Well, why did I sin? You sinned because you wanted to sin. Well, why did I want to sin? You wanted to sin because you inherited a sinful nature. Well, where did I get that sinful nature from? Because your parents wanted to sin.” And so I’ve asked them, “Why did they sin?” And then it goes all the way back. Okay, we’re back to Adam.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right.

Trent Horn:

Why did Adam sin?

Cy Kellett:

Well, he sinned because Eve made him do it.

Trent Horn:

Then why did Eve sin? We’ll pick Adam and Eve together.

Cy Kellett:

I think he might’ve been exaggerating, but just a smidge.

Trent Horn:

And now you seem to be in the horns of a dilemma here. So either Adam chose to sin, he freely willed this and disobeyed God, which would mean that God is not sovereign over everything, some humans have free will, or God caused Adam to sin. You go to the Westminster Confession of Faith, reformed confessional creeds that Calvinist was described to, they seem contradictory because they will say that God predestined everything, he ordained everything that is to come to pass, nothing happens without his ordination, his proclamation, but also God is not the author of sin.

Trent Horn:

So it’s like, well. Now, there’s different ways, of course, when you try to mix it together, different Catholic theologians will arrive at different conclusions. So Thomas Aquinas uses examples, either divine foreknowledge or predestination, Thomas talks about God being a primary cause, we being secondary causes and Calvinists do use some of that kind of language. But Thomas is very clear that God does not engage in anything like double predestination or anything like that. But Thomas’ view, the critics of the view is that of Thomas’ explanation of predestination would be that comparing it to Calvinism would be a distinction without a difference, because they say like, “Oh, it’s too close for comfort.”

Trent Horn:

The other view that’s very common, and there’s other views in these, would be the Molinist view, proposed by the late medieval theologian Luis Molina. He was a Jesuit theologian. And he says, “Look, we’re free because when God creates, there’s three levels of knowledge in God logically.” So remember, before God creates, there’s no time. There’s only God sitting around trying to think of what to do. But there are things that are in a logical order for God. It’s like, let’s say you have an argument, all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, Socrates is mortal.

Cy Kellett:

Yes.

Trent Horn:

That’s a timeless argument. You don’t have to read it out. But all men are mortal is logically prior to Socrates is mortal, okay?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So in God, his knowledge then, the most basic thing logically that he would have would be his natural knowledge, or I would say it’s the knowledge of everything that can happen. This is everything that is possible. And then when God creates the world, we have God’s free knowledge. He knows what will happen. So there’s what can happen. Not everything that can happen will happen. There’s what can happen, then there’s what will happen after the world’s created. But between that is something that has been creatively called his middle knowledge.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, yeah. Okay, I have heard this.

Trent Horn:

And so the idea is… I love the name. Like, “What should we call this thing that’s in the middle? It’s in the middle between the natural knowledge and the free knowledge. We can call it middle knowledge.” Theologians. So the middle knowledge is everything that would happen. So God knows not only what can happen, but he knows what would happen if Cy was born in California in the 20th century or if Cy was born in a medieval village. Or if-

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I see. These are counterfactuals, they did not happen, but God knows, “Had I had him born in a medieval village, everything that would have happened, how history would have unfolded.”

Trent Horn:

Yes. So he knows all these counterfactuals. Would have been, fancifully called counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. So you call them counterfactuals, what would happen? And so the Molinist view would say that, “God knows who would receive His grace if He were to give it to them. And so he gives grace to those he knows would receive it and he doesn’t give grace to those he knows would reject it.” And so the difficulty in this view is some people will say is it seems Pelagian, because God says, “I chose you, you didn’t choose me.”

Trent Horn:

But it seems to be left up to the idea that we are earning our grace. Now, the Molinists would say, “Well, no, we’re not. God just knows how we will respond. He doesn’t waste his gifts on those who won’t respond to them.” The Calvinist view would be the one that we definitely have to reject, which is that, “Look, God knows who’s going to heaven. He gives them grace, they can’t reject it. They can’t reject it when He gives to them and they can’t reject it afterwards.” So the first one is irresistible grace.

Trent Horn:

Once God saves you, you cannot say no at the beginning and you cannot say no after. We would say, no. Now, we do have some common ground here with those who are Christians who are critical of free will. Because once again, there’s always heresies. It’s like I’m on a platform, a wooden platform on a post and it’s wobbling. And I’m trying to stay in the center and not sliding into a heresy, because the other view is to say, “I can choose to go to heaven. I can choose God or I cannot choose God. I have the freedom to choose whatever I want.” That’s not true, because the Calvinist will say, “Look, Ephesians chapter two says that we are dead in sin. We’re dead in our trespasses. A dead man can’t do anything.”

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

What that means though, is it’s more like the walking dead in the sense that we’re not spiritually alive, but we are capable of responding. We’re capable of allowing God to bring us to life. We’re not inanimate objects in that respect. So we would agree with them that like, “Yeah, there’s the heresy of double predestination, but then you have Pelagianism, which is the heresy that there’s two kinds of Pelagianism, traditional Pelagianism would say, “I can get to heaven on my own merits or I can seek God’s salvation of my own human will.” We can’t do that. You cannot. When you’re in sin and you’re… Even when I was an adult and I went to be baptized, I only went to be baptized when I was 17, because God’s holy spirit moved me to do that. Now, I said yes, but I would not have been able to do that just on my own human will.

Cy Kellett:

Nope.

Trent Horn:

Semi-Pelagianism would say, “You’re right, we need the Holy Spirit to get saved, but we can stay saved without grace.” That’s not true either. Everything we do is operated and animated by the grace of God working through us.

Cy Kellett:

Yes.

Trent Horn:

But we are always free to accept or reject it. So that’s why when you look in scripture, for example, look at the idea of, because what Calvinist will say is, “Well, look, when God wills something, people, they don’t say no. His will is never counteracted in that way.” Well, I don’t agree with that. God wills… And I’ve asked them, “Does God will that I sin? Or does God will that I don’t sin?” I would say God’s will is that I not commit sins.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

But I do. So God has one will, in a sense, he wills for me to be holy, but he also wills for me to be free. So that’s why he actively gives me the ability to be holy and he permits me to be sinful. So when God wills something, he has an active will where he wills to save you and he gives you the grace of the Holy Spirit and the sacrament. But also, He can just will something but He lets it exist.

Trent Horn:

That would be His permissive will. So I would agree with Calvinists, “Yeah, we can’t save ourselves, but we do cooperate with grace.” And that doesn’t take away from God. And we can reject it. And the scripture says that. In Acts chapter seven, when Stephen is giving his big speech in Acts seven and talking to the Jewish leaders, he says in Acts seven, I think it’s verse 60, “You stiff necked people, you always resist the Holy Spirit.” You can resist it.

Cy Kellett:

Well, yeah.

Trent Horn:

And then another one is when Jesus is talking, he’s once again rebuking the religious leaders in Matthew 23, that they fail in their duties. He says, “And that’s going to lead to their destruction.” In Matthew 23:37, he says, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not?”

Cy Kellett:

Aha, God’s willing something and people are refusing.

Trent Horn:

He would say, “I wanted to gather you together and you wouldn’t do it.”

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

You wouldn’t do it. And so that’s why when we’re engaging this, it’s important to balance this out.

Cy Kellett:

Well, it’s… I mean, if I may, you don’t get to a point where you go, “Well, God has given me free will and I know how He did it and how He keeps doing it.” It’s like saying, “I know that God created everything ex nihilo, out of nothing.” I don’t know how He did it.

Trent Horn:

It’s though he didn’t.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right. So there’s a rage to know how God does it here. Calm down, you don’t know how God does everything.

Trent Horn:

And we can just say, “Look, we know that God has given us freedom, but God is sovereign, he’s not surprised by anything. And he orders, as Romans eight says, orders all things to good to those who love him.” Another illustrative example of this would be when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, because especially in the Old Testament, there was a very high view of divine sovereignty. The idea is that God, because we think of God as like, “Oh, the modern world, if you do believe in God, he’s just out there watching the universe do stuff and it’s governed by the natural laws he made.” The ancient world did not see it that way.

Cy Kellett:

Not at all.

Trent Horn:

They saw it as everything that happens, every baby that’s born, every leaf that falls, every rain drop that hits the ground, is because God is moving in, in that way, that he is sustaining all of creation and making everything the way that it is. And so a very high view of sovereignty. So the author of the Exodus is saying, his pagan critics would say, “So you’re telling me your God, Yahweh, created the whole universe and this Egyptian Pharaoh stopped him? This Pharaoh said, he wants to let his people go and Pharaoh stops your God?

Trent Horn:

Not a very sovereign God.” And so the author of Exodus is saying, “Well, no, God knew Pharaoh would do this. This was part of God’s plan all along.” So on the one hand you have language that emphasizes God’s sovereignty, which was specifically the phrase, “And then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” So it’s saying, “Yeah, God is sovereign, but also, man is free,” because in the same chapters, you go from Exodus four through Exodus seven and eight, it also says, “And then Pharaoh hardened his heart.” So it says, God did it and Pharaoh did it.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

So we have both, we have sovereignty and free will that go together, maybe in ways we don’t understand. One way to look at it is to say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, I think a way to resolve the difficulty here is to say that God… We assume God did something, he zapped his heart with a hardening ray. Rather, you could look at it as God withdrew his grace from Pharaoh and withdrew a natural disposition to mercy. And then let Pharaoh be turned over to his own inner, maximum stubbornness. The idea here is that God can harden… If you leave a loaf of bread on the counter, it will harden.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

You just leave it alone.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So I think that if you look there, what God can do to us, when it says in the scriptures, he handed them over to their passions. I think a lot of times when God is interacting with people and it says he caused evil to happen to them, it can be read as God allowed evil to befall them.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

So that’s just another way to look at it, but I would say, just as the same as I had in my episode with you on Atheistic Objections of Free Will, that they undermine moral responsibility, Christians who say we don’t have free will or free will is compatible with determinism, to me that not only undermines our moral responsibility, it undermines God’s goodness. And so it’s something that is-

Cy Kellett:

Would you say it’s also fair to say it undermines the moral teaching of Jesus, who keeps telling us to choose the good? I mean, even in the the last judgment scenes with Jesus, he’s talking about, “You fed me and whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.” It suggests that he’s… I mean, it doesn’t just suggest, he’s telling you what to choose.

Trent Horn:

If you don’t believe in free will, or even if you’re a Christian who believes in free will, but you think you can’t lose your salvation, which is a very common view. There’s lots of people who would say, “Yeah, of course, we have free will, but God’s not going to let you lose your salvation. So our free will is circumscribed in that respect. It won’t happen.” I would say, “Well, that evacuate all of the parables and warnings.”

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

And you can’t read them like normal language anymore. They end up becoming hypothetical warnings to an event that will never happen.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

I mean, it would be like, Cy, if I told you, “Hey Cy, remember, if you ever go back in time, don’t talk to your former self. You’ll create a…” And if I was serious about it, all the time, I might say it as a joke, but logically speaking, that’s not possible. You can’t go back in your own timeline to interact with yourself and maintain the same timeline. If I got legitimately worried about it and I said, “Well, Cy, this is a hypothetical. It’s not actually going to happen.” You’ll be like, “What’s going on? But that’s what’s happening in scripture, if you say that you can’t lose your salvation, but then-

Cy Kellett:

But what is the moral teaching for?

Trent Horn:

Right. Because if God is determining it, I think what the Calvinist or others may say is, “The moral teaching just exists so that those who fail to live by it can be rightly condemned and God can glorify His justice.”

Cy Kellett:

I’m sorry, what kind of a God is that? “I told you what to do, so that I could send you to hell.”

Trent Horn:

Because His ways are higher than your ways as high as the heavens are above. His ways are higher than yours. And so what people will say, and this does come a little bit with us, that God is… When we talk about God’s attributes, like His goodness or His power or His knowledge, there are three ways we can talk about those words. We could use the words univocally, which means they have the same meaning, but that doesn’t make sense. Like if I said, I’m good and God is good, the word good there can’t have the same meaning, otherwise, God would just be a creature like me, or I would be divine.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

But the problem is, I feel like the Calvinists would say, “Well, God sending people to hell, that’s good under God’s terms. That’s God manifesting his goodness, which is different than ours.” That makes goodness equivocal, in the sense that, “Well, God’s goodness is just not like ours.” If it’s so radically different, I don’t even know what to make of it.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

I don’t, I really don’t. I can’t possibly have a relationship with a being who, in this respect, if it’s that equivocal, it’s so radically different.

Cy Kellett:

It’s almost [inaudible 00:28:24] then.

Trent Horn:

Yes, it is. So between words being univocal, having the same exact meaning, or equivocal having totally different meanings, so take, for example, like if I say, “I will see you tomorrow and I went and visited the Holy See.” The only thing they have in common, the word, see there is how they’re spelled.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

So if God, and me, if the only thing, goodness, we have in common is how they’re spelled-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, they’re not the same thing.

Trent Horn:

They’re not in any way.

Cy Kellett:

Right. They’re not analogous. They’re nothing. They have no relation to one another.

Trent Horn:

But that’s the third. So instead of equivocal or univocal, we would say that the relationship with those attributes is analogical.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

We would say that God’s goodness is analogous, it’s like our goodness. And that we are good in as much as we participate in being. We’ll take a simpler example, what makes a squirrel good? A good squirrel? It’s not that it’s morally good, but hey, it can eat nuts. It can climb trees. If you’ve got a squirrel that’s just flinching on the ground and can’t do anything, it’s not a morally bad squirrel, but it’s a physically bad one. It’s not doing well. It needs a little vet.

Trent Horn:

So with a good human being, we participate in what it means to be a human being. And if we lack virtues or dispositions, then we aren’t fully good. God is good, in that he’s just the perfection of being itself. He’s unlimited an infinite being. And so it’s like our goodness, but still very, very different. It’s at least comprehensible in some way. So I think then when we put all that together, we can understand God, how he orders the universe, and how we’re still free to choose. I loved your point though, about just as we don’t know how God made everything from nothing, or how God became man or how God is a Trinity, we may not know how God orders the universe and preserves our freedom, we just know that he does.

Cy Kellett:

Right. And he can. And there’s not a logical conflict.

Trent Horn:

No.

Cy Kellett:

It’s not like, “Well, how does God make a square circle?” Well, God doesn’t make a square circle, because that’s logically impossible. It is not logically impossible to have a universe in which God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and I have moral freedom.

Trent Horn:

Yeah. And God makes it-

Cy Kellett:

That’s not logically impossible.

Trent Horn:

Right. So God makes it, so he achieves his ends and he does so knowing what we will freely do.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

To make an analogy, a very strained one, I mean, you and I, if you have children, small children, you kind of know what they’ll do in given situations. And so you can arrange things so that you can achieve a certain end without taking away their freedom. Like if I want them to do an activity, like say, I want them to go outside and jump on the trampoline to blow off steam, I might say, “You could go jump on the trampoline or do you guys want to go clean the toilets for a bit?” And I know in doing that, they’ll say, “I want to jump on the trampoline.” I wanted them to be on the trampoline and I’ve just arranged…

Trent Horn:

You know how it is. You can arrange things, you know what they’re going to end up doing. Now, of course, that is an infinitely distant analogy of how God does it, not how he does it. But like you said, it’s not logically contradictory in that regard. I mean, I’d be able to explain it. At one point though, if we have time, I want to go, you said like, “Well, what about in scripture? How could someone believe Jesus’ warnings?” I think what people will do is they’ll sometimes take what Jesus says about doing the Father’s will and misinterpret that in that regard, this happens a lot in John chapter six.

Trent Horn:

So there in John 6:37-38, “All that the father gives me will come to me. Him who comes to me, I will not cast out. I’ve come not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. This is the will of Him who sent me that I should lose nothing of all that he’s given me, but raise it up at the last day. As well, “My father, everyone who sees the son and believes in Him will have eternal life and I will raise him up.” The idea is, they’ll say, “Well look, Cy, I don’t care what you say, Jesus says he does the Father’s will.

Trent Horn:

His will is for me to be raised up, I’m going to be raised up.” [inaudible 00:32:28]. The problem here, and well, St. John Chrysostom, the Church Father, said this of this passage, what Jesus means, Chrysostom says that Jesus means, “At least for my part, I will not lose them. That Jesus is saying that he is the Messiah, He is God incarnate. And so He has come to do the Father’s will. Because He is the son, He will not fail the Father.” If we go to hell, it’s not because Jesus is like, “Oh, whoops.”

Cy Kellett:

No, he’s saying, I won’t let go of you. He’s not saying you won’t let go of me. It’s the same thing as saying, “I will never drop you. I’ll never drop you.” Well, but if you jump out of my arms, that’s different than me dropping you, it’s not the same thing.

Trent Horn:

That’s right. And so when we look at the passage, it is also important in John 6:40, you have to notice the use of present tense verbs. It doesn’t say, everyone who saw the son and believed in Him, should have eternal life.

Cy Kellett:

It’s present tense.

Trent Horn:

Everyone who sees the son and believes in him. So the idea is that when we freely continue to respond to it and, it’s absolutely right, those who remain in Christ, Christ will remain in them.

Cy Kellett:

Absolutely.

Trent Horn:

But they are always free. When he says, “I will not cast them out,” it’s like if I say, “You can come to my office, I’m not going to kick you out of my office, Cy, you’re free to leave if the conversation starts getting boring.”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

Another verse, John 6:44-

Cy Kellett:

I give it two minutes.

Trent Horn:

Right. That’s generous. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.” So some of you will say, “Well, look, it’s clear. The Father draws them, they go to Jesus, they get raised up.” They’re using the motion here to understand Father he’s got them, draws them in. Then they go to Jesus, Jesus raises them up. There’s nowhere for me to fall away in that cycle. But that’s assuming that the Father’s drawing is a kind of irresistible grace.

Cy Kellett:

Right. Which it’s clearly not, because Jesus also says, “When I am lifted up from this earth, I will draw all men to myself, but not all men are saved.” So drawing obviously means something different.

Trent Horn:

And it is the same Greek word, [inaudible 00:34:40], in John 12:32, as we see in John 6:44, that yes, of course, the only way we go to Jesus is if the Father-

Cy Kellett:

He draws us.

Trent Horn:

He has to draw us, but it’s not irresistible in that respect. And I’ve already quoted in Acts and in Matthew, where it is not. And that’s important to remember to balance it out. We cannot get to heaven on our own and God doesn’t just decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. And so that would be the understanding of free will in the predestination debate, though we should touch on real fast, the foreknowledge debate, because we got a little bit tracked away from that.

Cy Kellett:

Yes, we did.

Trent Horn:

So how could God know the future? He knows it infallibly. We’ve already talked about the ways where, “Well, you just either open theism or Calvinism.” We can’t do either of those. So how could it be? Well, one way would be to adopt the [inaudible 00:35:35], the medieval philosopher, which Aquinas also adopted. We’ve already talked about Molinism, that would be one view. God knows the future because he just knows everything you would do.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Trent Horn:

The other view that’s popular is to say, God does not know today what I will do tomorrow, that that is the key. God is obviously watching us right now do this interview, but it’s not stopping us from freely acting. So if God is watching us now doing something tomorrow, it doesn’t stop us either. So if I’m watching you do something, it doesn’t stop you. And so if God’s knowledge of the future is because he is seeing us in the future from some kind of eternal now, it doesn’t take away our free will.

Trent Horn:

And actually this can work among newer kinds of science that look at time and space as a four-dimensional block, that if God is aware of the whole block and one timeless view, then we are always free to act at every single moment of our existence. So the key there though, is that the timeless view would be that you’re right, if I just wrote down on a sheet of paper, Cy Kellett, will wear a red shirt tomorrow, this paper is never wrong, it seems like it takes away your freedom a bit, but that’s because it’s talking about someone in time knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow. But if God is in the spoke of a circle and sees all of the moments, then he’s not in time saying what is going to happen. Also, the problem with the foreknowledge, Cy, is that-

Cy Kellett:

Because it’s not what’s going to happen, it’s what’s from his perspective outside of time, it is, he sees what is.

Trent Horn:

That’s right. Also, we have to keep in mind, just because God knows what will happen, there’s a further logical inference here trying to say, just because he knows what will happen, that’s not what determines what happens. So in a very, very, very loose sense, if you’re struggling with divine foreknowledge and human freedom, a very loose sense, it’s not that God’s knowledge of the future determines what happens, it’s what happens determines what God’s knowledge is. Of course, I’m not saying we change God, we can’t do that, but it’s not like God knowing everything is what causes everything to be. It’s like, if I’m on top of a skyscraper and I see two cars going really fast and I know they’re going to hit each other and they do hit each other, does it follow-

Cy Kellett:

That you caused it.

Trent Horn:

Yeah, because think about it, I knew it would happen and it did happen, but the idea is not the one who caused it to happen.

Cy Kellett:

No.

Trent Horn:

I’m just in a vantage point where I know it will happen. And that’s the same thing with God.

Cy Kellett:

And we can’t really imagine a vantage point outside of time, because we’re in time.

Trent Horn:

We’re temporal.

Cy Kellett:

But he does have an outside of time vantage.

Trent Horn:

Well, he has to. He made time.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right.

Trent Horn:

He created time, so he’s timeless in that regard.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Trent Horn:

So as a Catholic, you’re free to pick either one, the Thomistic timeless view or the Molinist view. And I have sifted through all and I haven’t firmly decided which view I wholeheartedly support, but I see merits in them in that regard. One last point though, I’ve known some people, Cy, who have said, “Well, I’m an atheist, because I don’t understand God. If God knows what I’m going to do tomorrow, how could I be free?”

Trent Horn:

To me, that’s the absolute worst reason to become an atheist, if you’re despairing about divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Because if you become an atheist, as we’ve talked about in our previous show, you’re not going to believe in free will. If you become an atheist, you’re trading… If you, as a Christian are so worried about God determining the future and taking away your free will, why would you become an atheist and just trade God, determining the future with the universe, determining the future? At least with God-

Cy Kellett:

At least let God do it.

Trent Horn:

Right. At least let God do it, so it’s all working towards good. I mean, I’d rather have someone become a Calvinist than an atheist. Or at least if God is involved with his omnipotent power, there’s a way for him to preserve our freedom, even if we don’t know exactly how he does that.

Cy Kellett:

Thank you, Trent.

Trent Horn:

Thank you, Mr. Cy.

Cy Kellett:

I’d last more than two minutes in that conversation.

Trent Horn:

I know you’re freely able to do that.

Cy Kellett:

Thanks very much, of course. We don’t have to know how God does something in order to affirm that he does it. He created the universe ex nihilo. He created my soul. I have a soul. I experience my soul every day. I have no idea how he created it. I do not know how he gets stuff done. The fact that I cannot explain how he’s all powerful and all knowing, and also has given me liberty to choose, that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t done it. He has done it. And we know that from experience. We know that from Revelation and we can trust in it.

Cy Kellett:

And that’s why Jesus gives us all those moral teachings, because he knows that we are creatures able to choose. I’m really glad to see Trent Horn, it’s always nice when he’s here and I’m glad to see you. Thanks for coming. You can always send us an email, we love hearing from you, [email protected], [email protected] If you get us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or the other sites or podcast places, if you wouldn’t mind giving us that five star review and a few nice words so that the podcast can grow there.

Cy Kellett:

Also subscribe, so you’ll be alerted when new episodes are available. That would be great. And if you’re watching on YouTube, please help Zach keep his job. We really need Zach around here. And if we don’t grow on YouTube, by you going right down here and liking and subscribing, I am just really not confident about Zach’s future with us. I told you the email. Yep, I’m Cy Kellett, your host. See you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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