Tagged: inability

Edwards, Necessity & Certainty: Part 1

by Ken Hamrick

This will be a series of informal posts chronicling my quest to understand and engage Jonathan Edwards on the ideas of necessity and certainty, and to establish where Andrew Fuller departed from Edwards’ view. In this, I’m seeking to expand the argument made in the paper, “Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles.”

Edwards defines necessity in the following way:

Philosophical Necessity is really nothing else than the FULL AND FIXED CONNECTION BETWEEN THE THINGS SIGNIFIED BY THE SUBJECT AND PREDICATE OF A PROPOSITION, which affirms something to be true. When there is such a connection, then the thing affirmed in the proposition is necessary, in a philosophical sense; whether any opposition or contrary effort be supposed, or no. When the subject and predicate of the proposition, which affirms the existence of any thing, either substance, quality, act, or circumstance, have a full and CERTAIN CONNECTION, then the existence or being of that thing is said to be necessary in a metaphysical sense. [1]

He treats necessity and certainty as the same thing Continue reading

Unwillingness & Inability: A Summary of Andrew Fuller’s Solution

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

by Ken Hamrick

The theology of Andrew Fuller, as set out in his greatest work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, is centrally located between those Calvinists who see sinners as walking corpses—no more able to believe than a dead body is able to raise itself from the dead—and those of the other side who see sinners as fully enabled by God’s grace to choose (their will being the determining factor). To Fuller, men are able to believe, but will nonetheless remain unwilling until God does a supernatural work of grace to reverse their unwillingness. Regeneration only causes a man to do what he otherwise could have and should have done but refused. This puts the feet of the universal gospel offer on much more Biblical ground, and removes much of the repugnance of the Calvinist doctrine. The gospel is to be preached to all men because all men do have the ability—and the warrant—to embrace it; and that gospel would save any who do—even the unelect if they would but be willing. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Rejoinder to Tom Nettles

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 2;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

Recently, I published a Centrist response[1] to Dr. Tom Nettles’ series of articles on Andrew Fuller.[2] He has replied to that critique, but only in brief comments (one initial[3] and one final[4]). I had hoped he would step up to the task of a substantive engagement. Be that as it may, I will in this rejoinder address his comments and show the continuing inadequacies of his defense.

Dr. Nettles states:

I agree […] that human sin in the fallen state is certain. I also agree that Fuller resisted capitulating to any concept of mechanical, or natural, necessity or impossibility in the issue of sin or, on the other hand, of faith and repentance. I disagree with [Hamrick’s] argument that certainty in the area of moral choice is substantially different from moral necessity. He states, “The philosophical lens of Centrism is that of a determinative certainty. In other words, God determines all things by making all things certain, but not necessary.” Given the entire fabric as to how humans make decisions in light of the inflow of motivations to the understanding, and that it is impossible to demonstrate that any decision ever goes contrary to the prevailing motivation, then how to separate certainty from necessity in this moral realm I must leave to Mr. Hamrick for I cannot do it. He must argue for contra-causal choice, which I don’t suppose he will want to do; or he must say that one’s choice has no cause at all, which will immediately contradict, in both of these cases, our Lord’s description of the human heart as the fountain of all moral choice.

Contrary to Dr. Nettles, in this moral realm, necessity can be distinguished from certainty as surely as sovereignty can be distinguished from justice—as surely as might from right. Continue reading

PART 2: AGAINST FULLER AND MORAL INABILITY, Why Many Can Not Believe

THIS IS PART 2 OF 3. WHY MANY TODAY CAN NOT BELIEVE.

Part 1 [https://sbcopenforum.com/2014/08/23/against-fuller-and-the-idea-of-moral-inability-why-israel-missed-the-messiah-and-why-many-cant-believe/] was about how the Jewish people missed the Messiah.

Now of course they all did not miss the Messiah, and not all people today will reject the Gospel. But the reason most  of the Jews missed out on the Messiah was because they sinned against God and that caused their spiritual thinking to become futile and their foolish hearts to be darkened. Hard hearts toward God and blinded minds toward spiritual truth are the inevitable and certain consequences of sin. This is not just true of the Jewish people, it is also true of people today and everywhere.

Sin destroys. It ruins. It makes one unholy and unfit for fellowship with God. The answer for sin is in part 3. For now, let us look at the state of the Gentiles and why they are blind to the Gospel truth. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles (Whole Paper)

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

An Addendum, incorporating the Rejoinder, was added, 11-25-2014.

by Ken Hamrick

[13,200 words…] The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.

Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,”[1] Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists.[2] As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 3 of 3

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 2;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

In his second installment, “Fullerite: Doctrine of Inability,” Dr. Nettles’ fundamental misunderstanding of Fuller is seen in how he has taken some of Andrew Fuller’s sentences out of context, and turned them around to imply what Fuller actually was teaching against:

In answering both the hyper-Calvinists and the Arminians in The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation, Fuller pointed out that both believed that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what it is beyond his power to perform.” In their ardent desire to steer clear of each other, they finally concur in their attitude toward duty and grace—where there is not grace, there is no duty. “The one [hyper-Calvinists] pleads for graceless sinners being free from obligation, the other admits of obligation, but founds it on the notion of universal grace.” Fuller carefully distinguished, as he did in his earlier confession, between natural inability and moral inability, and asserted that the “inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth . . . to abate in his demands. It is a fact that he does require them, and that without paying any regard to their inability, to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always.” Both hyper-Calvinists and non-Calvinist-partial-Arminians find this assertion to imply some kind of contradiction, or at [least] impose on any normal sense of fairness. In spite of all the rantings and reasonings against him and his view, however, Fuller continued to affirm both the absolute moral inability of man and the remaining duty of perfect obedience and cordial love to God and consequently a belief in the gospel.[29]

This axiom, that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what it is beyond his power to perform,” is not what Fuller argues against (as if only the hyper-Calvinists and Arminians held to such a thing) Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 2

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

 Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

It will be helpful, prior to addressing further differences with Dr. Nettles, to establish what Andrew Fuller means by his distinction between natural and moral inability. Speaking of himself in the third person, in the preface of Gospel Worthy, Fuller explains that he was introduced to the difference between natural and moral inability by studying Jonathan Edwards:

He had also read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, with some other performances on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in this distinction; as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence—to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures—and calculated to disburden the Calvinistic system of a number of calumnies with which its enemies have loaded it, as well as to afford clear and honourable conceptions of the Divine government.[10]

Fuller’s adoption of this distinction does not establish that he adopted the theology (and philosophical baggage) of Edwards in toto. It would beg the question if one were to argue, that because the meaning of Edwards carries a certain nuance and philosophical bent, then Fuller’s meaning must carry the same. To understand Fuller, we must look to Fuller and how he understood this distinction.

The main difference between moral inability and natural inability, to Fuller, was that in natural inability, one is unable no matter how much one might be willing; whereas, moral inability consists only in one’s unwillingness due to “an evil bias of heart.” Natural inability is “the want of natural powers and advantages,” while moral inability is merely “the want of a heart to make a right use of them.”[11] Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 1

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

 Other Posts in This Series:      Part 2;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.

Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,”[1] Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists.[2] As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding. Continue reading

Interesting Series on Andrew Fuller by Tom Nettles

Southern Baptists Need Their Sovereign Grace Heritage (by Dr. James Willingham)

“Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….” In 1972 that statement by Dr. John D. Eusden in his Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ The Marrow of Divinity focused my attention like a salmon fixes the eye of a soaring eagle. Continue reading

A Compatibilistic View of Regeneration (Intro)

Regeneration is perhaps the most difficult topic to be debated between the opposing views, due to the intertwining of such topics as spiritual death and life, depravity, rebirth, faith, the role of the Holy Spirit, etc. Call me an optimist, but I still see the potential for fruitful discussion. Continue reading

The Missing Balance in Calvinism

by Ken Hamrick

Any time that some truth which is held in balance in God’s word is given an emphasis on only one side, then misunderstanding and error result. It is true, as the Calvinists emphasize, that election in eternity past is unconditional. But the neglected Biblical balance is this: salvation in this temporal world is conditional, and God blesses no one with the saving, justifying, regenerating, life-giving union with Christ until they drop their rebellion, humble themselves, and come in genuine, repentant, fully surrendered faith. It is true, as the Calvinists emphasize, that faith is the gift of God; but it is just as Biblically true that faith is the requirement of God for salvation. Continue reading

Compatibilism: A More Immanent Grace

by Ken Hamrick

Immanence is mostly forgotten as an attribute of God and a method by which He works in the world. Calvinists and Traditionalists argue over the limits of God’s transcendent acts of grace and the limits of men without such transcendent grace. Both sides, it seems, have a presupposed agreement to frame the debate around a transcendent grace, while the solution sits dust-covered in the theological closet. Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 7: Unifying Propositions on Atonement

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

There is much room for agreement on atonement… and misunderstandings to avoid on all sides. Libertarians (both Traditionalists and Arminians) can find unexpected common ground even with a Reformed theologian, such as Charles Hodge Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 6: Unifying Propositions on Regeneration

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

There are two profound changes that happen to a man as he is converted: first, the man is changed from a man who hates God to a man who is ready to repent and turn to God (this is what the Calvinists focus on—how profound it is that a man who shakes his fist at God becomes a man on his knees at the altar!); and second, God responds to the man who turns from his sin and justifies him, indwelling him with the Holy Spirit and bringing life back to his spirit (this is what Libertarians tend to focus on—the “new creation,” being “born again” and restored to communion with God). Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 5: Unifying Propositions on the Inability of Sinners

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

At every point of doctrinal disagreement between Calvinists and Libertarians (both Traditionalists and Arminians), there are Biblical propositions that can pull the two sides closer together without leaving the moorings of their particular theology. Continue reading

Making Sense of the Inability of Sinners

In the natural use of the term, ability, as viewed with disregard to will, it’s meaning is simple and clear—one is either able or unable. But in the moral use of the term, as mingled with the idea of will, the utmost care must be used in understanding the meaning. Continue reading