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Calvinism: are there more gods than One?

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The following is a short lecture on the 5th Q+A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. If you would like to listen to this video lecture (about 9 minutes), then visit this link:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 7426&hl=en




Calvinism:
Are there more gods than One?
By
Monty L. Collier
Geneva
Dutch Calvinist Church
Kingsport, Tennessee




Welcome to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. My name is Monty Collier, and I am the teaching elder at Geneva Dutch Calvinist Church, Kingsport, Tennessee.

In this lecture on the shorter catechism we will examine the Bible to determine if it teaches polytheism or monotheism. Let’s get started.

Question 5. Are there more God’s than one?
Answer: There is but one only, the living and true God.


The notion that there is more than one god is called polytheism. There have been many religions in the past which have held to a multitude of different gods. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations are historical examples of polytheism. The ancient poets Homer and Virgil wrote about a multitude of different gods their people worshipped and served in their epic poems: The Illiad, The Odyssey, and the Aeneid. Today, the gods of the Greco-Roman world are studied as mythology, but it must be remembered that at one time there was an ancient pagan people who truly believed in these false gods.

Aurelius Augustine’s classic work, The City of God, is a testament to the fact that many people were deceived into seriously serving a host of false gods. In this large book, Augustine set out to demonstrate the absurdities of the Roman gods. Augustine had a key part to play in the apologetics which were done in the 5th century against Greco-Roman polytheism.
Today, there are still those who hold to poly-theism. In fact, there are polytheists world-wide. Some actually have the audacity to profess to be Christian.

Mormons are the most easily identifiable poly-theists today. Their headquarters is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, and their religion is officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe that all Mormons will eventually become gods themselves and go off into the universe to populate other worlds with their spiritual offspring. Their mistake flows from their rejection of Scripture alone, for they have added other so-called writings to the Bible.

Like all false religions, Mormonism teaches that man has free will and must merit his salvation. This faith plus works paradigm is essentially the same method of Justification taught in Roman Catholicism. Christianity is the only system which teaches the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone.

Speaking of Roman Catholicism, we must point out that they too can easily be classified as a poly-theistic cult due to their worship of Mary, whom they claim to be the co-mediatrix and co-redeemer of the human race. Catholics also worship of angels, saints, images and idols. The Bible is clear that religious worship and adoration is due only to God. The Bible says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them†Exodus 20:3-5.

Another form of poly-theism, even more common that the two previously mentioned, is found in those who deny the Sovereignty of God. Those who deny the Sovereignty of God necessarily assert that they themselves are gods possessing the nature of free will.

No where in the Bible do we ever read about men having free will. The only being in the Bible whose will is free from being determined or limited by another is Jehovah. Only the God of the Bible is free from outside determination and able to accomplish all His desires with proper authority. The Bible teaches this when it states, “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth†Job 23:13. Another verse which teaches God’s free will and omnipotence states, “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased†Psalms 115:3. Again we read, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places†Pslams 135:6. That the idea of Sovereignty and free will can only be applied to God the creator, and not to man, is clearly demonstrated in the following verse from the Book of Acts. We read, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being†Acts 17:28. That man’s will is irresistibly determined by God’s will is stated in the following rhetorical question from the Book of Romans. There we read, “For who hath resisted His will?†Romans 9:19.

The above verses from Scripture not only prove that God is omnipotent, independent, and free from being determined by any of his creatures, but they also show that all of God’s creatures completely depend upon Him for their continued existence. Furthermore, God’s creatures cannot help but have their will determined by Jehovah. Therefore, none of God’s creatures can be sovereign, and none of them can ascribe to themselves a will that is free from God. To do so would be a feeble attempt to claim equality with God almighty.
At this point, let’s look at a lengthy but thorough definition of the Sovereignty of God by Puritan Jonathon Edwards. He writes:

“The sovereignty of God is the ability and authority to do whatever pleases Him…The following things belong to the sovereignty of God:
1) Supreme, universal, and infinite power: whereby He is able to do what He pleases, without control, without any confinement of that power, without any subjection, in the least measure, to any other power; and so without any hindrance or restraint, that it should be either impossible, or at all difficult, for Him to accomplish His will; and without any dependence of His power on any other power, from whence it should be derived, or which it should stand in any need of; so far from this, that all other power is derived from Him, and is absolutely dependent upon Him.

“2) That He has supreme authority; absolute and most perfect right to do what He wills, without subjection to any superior authority, or any derivation of authority from any other, or limitation by any distinct independent authority, either superior, equal, or inferior; He being the head of all dominion, and fountain of all authority; and also without restraint by any obligation, implying either subjection, derivation, or dependence, or proper limitation.

“3) That His will is supreme, underived, and independent on any thing without Himself; being in everything determined by His own counsel, having no other rule but His own wisdom; His will not being subject to, or restrained by, the will of any other, and other wills being perfectly subject to His.

“4) That His wisdom, which determines His will, is supreme perfect, underived, self-sufficient, and independent; so that it may be said, as in Isaiah 40: 14, “With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?â€Â--There is no other Divine Sovereignty but this;â€Â
(The Freedom of the Will, Part IV, Section VII, pages 264-265)

With the above information in mind, we may conclude that the notion of free will is a humanistic notion not found in the Bible. The advocates of free will, in typical humanistic style, do indeed assert that man himself is divine and worthy of worship. Such a sinful notion is contradicted by the Bible as blasphemy.

The Bible says, “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things†Isaiah 45:5-7.


Sola Fide
Red Beetle
 

Drew

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Another form of poly-theism, even more common that the two previously mentioned, is found in those who deny the Sovereignty of God. Those who deny the Sovereignty of God necessarily assert that they themselves are gods possessing the nature of free will.
This is true if we all agree that the possession of some non-zero quantity of free will is the defining characterisitic of a "god". I do not believe that the word "god" is generally understood this way, however if having some free will makes one a "god", then I believe human beings are indeed "gods" in this sense.

However, even if man has free will, God can indeed be sovereign in the sense of being able to guarantee certain purposes will be achieved. Obviously, if man has free will, God cannot be sovereign in the sense of being the sole sufficient cause for every minute event in the universe. However, I see no Scriptural warrant to conclude that God is sovereign in this strong sense.

An argument as to how God could be sovereign in the less strong sense that I believe that He in fact is, can be found in a post of mine dated 3 January which can be found here:

http://www.christianforums.net/viewtopi ... c&start=30
 

Drew

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No where in the Bible do we ever read about men having free will. The only being in the Bible whose will is free from being determined or limited by another is Jehovah. Only the God of the Bible is free from outside determination and able to accomplish all His desires with proper authority. The Bible teaches this when it states, “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth†Job 23:13
The fact that there are no Scriptural statements directly asserting that man has free will is not evidence that man has no free will. If the writers of the Scriptures expected the reader to implicitly accept the notion of free will when statements like "seek the Lord" were written down, he would have no need to make a direct declaration of his belief in man's free will.

Whether correctly or otherwise, most people in the world implicitly believe in free will. If Fred spends his entire lifetime making statements like "I choose to do X", and never explcitly declares himself to possess free will, does this mean he does not believe he possesses free will? No it does not.

What about the statement "But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him"? Does this show that God cannot be moved by human agency? I suggest that readers read all of Job 23 and consider the possibility that verse 13 is really only saying that God cannot be turned from certain purposes that He decrees - that some things must come to pass and that God cannot be swayed in respect to those things. And with that assertion, I have no dispute.

Consider Job 23:14

For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such decrees are with Him


Does this text demand that the "what" that is appointed for me include the totality of my life, implying that all my actions are pre-ordained? I do not see it this way at all - the "what" can mean "those things that are appointed for me"- not all things need to be appointed but those that are and indeed performed by God.

When one consider texts like 2 Kings 20 whose "plain reading" suggests that man has moved God to change His course, I think that the most Scripturally consistent position is to view God as being "movable" by petition through prayer, but not to the point that His purposes are not achieved.

And obviously I do not believe God has purposes for every micro-event in the Universe - however, he is able to achieve those purposes He does have despite a degree of human freedom. This is what makes his sovereignty all the more compelling.
 

Veritas

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RED BEETLE wrote:
Those who deny the Sovereignty of God necessarily assert that they themselves are gods possessing the nature of free will.

I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I think scripture is clear that God knows the the whole plan, knows the whole purpose, knows our character, knows what's going to happen. But, I do think God allows us to choose. I believe He relenquishes some control over us as a sacrafice for us, out of love

RED BEETLE wrote:
No where in the Bible do we ever read about men having free will. The only being in the Bible whose will is free from being determined or limited by another is Jehovah
.

Drew wrote:
The fact that there are no Scriptural statements directly asserting that man has free will is not evidence that man has no free will.

I think the following verses are rather direct showing men having free will:

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. Deuteronomy 30:15-18


Even Jesus says we can decide not to follow Him:

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. John 15:6-7
 

Drew

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Hi Veritas:

I probably share your view that the texts you quote support the notion that men have some degree of free will. But I submit that the Calvinist will say things like "our choices are determined by God" or "if a man's heart does turn toward God, God was a fully sufficient cause", etc. While I do not believe this is true, it is at least plausible. If there were some text that declared explicitly that man has free will, it would be difficult to argue against that. But there is no such text (I believe)

The reality, however, is that all the texts you quote can be subsumed under a Calvinist world-view if one is willing to "re-define" the normal sense that one ascribes to imperatives such as "choose" such that the element of free will is taken away. In 21st century common parlance (I would claim), the statement "choose for yourselves whom you will serve" contains an implicit belief that such a choice is partially free. The very use of the word "choose" carries an unstated but strong implication of free will - at least the way we use the word in our culture.

So I think that statements like " choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" do indeed imply free will. However, this is only an implication that rests on the belief that words like "choose" carry implications of free will. I think this assumption is legitimate, but the Calvinist can at least raise the possibility that "choices" are not even partially free.
 
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So I think that statements like " choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" do indeed imply free will. However, this is only an implication that rests on the belief that words like "choose" carry implications of free will. I think this assumption is legitimate, but the Calvinist can at least raise the possibility that "choices" are not even partially free.

Those who appeal to Biblical commands in order to demonstrate the humanistic notion of free will only reveal the hopeless quagmire they are truly in.

A basic understanding of logic and grammar tells us that one can not deduce anything about free will or determinism from a command.
Only indicative statements, preferably placed in standard form, can be used in the art of necessary inference.

You would think someone who has studied philosophy at Princeton University would know this, apparently an Ivy League education is not what it used to be. Jonathan Edwards, Former President of Princeton University, must be rolling in his grave.

Rather than making such embarrassing mistakes, try to find some indicative verses which teach free will.

I recommended to Drew already that he should read Martin Luther’s book “The Bondage of the Will,†I can tell he did not take my advice. Had he read that classic work in Reformation theology, then he would have seen how Luther dispatched Erasmus, who attempted the same unscholarly trompe l’oeil.

Sola Fide
Red Beetle
 

Drew

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RED BEETLE said:
You would think someone who has studied philosophy at Princeton University would know this, apparently an Ivy League education is not what it used to be. Jonathan Edwards, Former President of Princeton University, must be rolling in his grave.
Back for more, eh? Only too happy to deconstruct your paper-thin arguments.
 

Drew

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RED BEETLE said:
A basic understanding of logic and grammar tells us that one can not deduce anything about free will or determinism from a command. Only indicative statements, preferably placed in standard form, can be used in the art of necessary inference.
I will let the reader judge whether or not there is an implicit belief in the existence of free will when commands like "choose" are given. I think it rather obviously is, at least in our culture at this time. If this was not the case in Biblical times, then please produce supporting evidence.

When we command someone to "choose", we implicitly believe that they are "free" in some sense to act on the command or not. Now I am not saying that just because our culture implicitly believes in free will, this means that the writers of the scripture were expecting their intended audience to make a similar inference. But it certainly seems plausible.

And besides, it has been repeatedly shown that the Biblical texts you appeal to in order to support your denial of human free will are only consistent with your position, but not to the exclusion of other positions where some human free will is present.
 

Drew

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RED BEETLE said:
Another verse which teaches God’s free will and omnipotence states, “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased†Psalms 115:3. Again we read, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places†Pslams 135:6.
These texts are entirely open to an interpretation that God only does those things that he actually pleases to do. These texts do not require an interpretation that God has a specific "desire" in respect to all events in our Universe. In short, He indeed does what He pleases, but the scope of what He pleases to do may not be exhaustive. For example, God may not have a preference as to who wins Super Bowl 41. Perhaps the free will of Peyton Manning will have a determining effect on the outcome.

If God does not have a "will" in respect to every event, and allows men the latitude to exercise free will to some degree, how does He possibly ensure that He indeed does accomplish those specific things that He indeed wants to accomplish? Therein lies the "awesomeness" of His sovereignty (in my opinion).
 
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Perhaps this is a tad off-topic, but I ask it to better understand, you, Red Beetle.

How do you know you are one of the elected?
 
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Fnerb

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aLoneVoice said:
Perhaps this is a tad off-topic, but I ask it to better understand, you, Red Beetle.

How do you know you are one of the elected?

I would like to know this as well...
 

JM

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You must be born again to be saved or one of the whosoever wills. If you're not born again, then you're not saved. If you don't know if your born again, then you're probably not.

"If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God's giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished." - C.H. Spurgeon

http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/f ... ions/site/
 

stranger

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I asked a similar question once:

What evidence can the Calvinist furnish that he is in fact among the elect?

JM's answer (about being born again) though true, is equally true of all believers whether or not they are Calvinist. So is there anything distinctive that the Calvinist can claim that sets them apart?

blessings: stranger
 
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JM said:
You must be born again to be saved or one of the whosoever wills. If you're not born again, then you're not saved. If you don't know if your born again, then you're probably not.

Okay - well then let me ask it this way: "How do you know if you are born again?"

It would seem to me that it would be possible to believe you are 'born again' when in actuality you are not. Perhaps you have gone to church all your life, heard the messages, and 'believed' that you are born-again. But how do you know that you are a member of the elect?

Not to mention that if God has ordained those who would be saved, then it would seem that evangelism wouldn't be necessary if not disengenious becuase you would be preaching to those that would not be able to recieve the message anyways.

While I realize that a Calvinist might not use the phrase "God Loves You" - God can only love those who are already 'elect' and therefore how does one evangelize to only the elect?

Let us also keep in mind that "Calvinism", while able to use God-given scripture, is merely man's understanding of God. As such it is a man-made Theology that is susceptible to man's failings.
 
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Drew said:
I will let the reader judge whether or not there is an implicit belief in the existence of free will when commands like "choose" are given. I think it rather obviously is, at least in our culture at this time. If this was not the case in Biblical times, then please produce supporting evidence.

When we command someone to "choose", we implicitly believe that they are "free" in some sense to act on the command or not. Now I am not saying that just because our culture implicitly believes in free will, this means that the writers of the scripture were expecting their intended audience to make a similar inference. But it certainly seems plausible.

And besides, it has been repeatedly shown that the Biblical texts you appeal to in order to support your denial of human free will are only consistent with your position, but not to the exclusion of other positions where some human free will is present.

Poor Drew, he simply does not understand the very basics of logical inference.

First, I will state what I said earlier.
A basic understanding of logic and grammar tells us that one can not deduce anything about free will or determinism from a command. Only indicative statements, preferably placed in standard form, can be used in the art of necessary inference.

You guys are giving commands and claiming that they imply "free will."
Commands are neither true nor false, and they can not be used in a logical argument because of this. Again, this only reveals that you never had day one in a logic class. Let me give you citation from a classical logic textbook:

"A command is neither true nor false...wherever a command rather than an assertion occupies the place appropriate to a conclusion, we do not have an argument" (Copi, Irving, M., Introduction To Logic, page 16).

Copi's Introduction to logic is the standard text for most people beginning logic. As you can see, Copi shoots down your ridiculous attempt to use a command during a logical argument. But, since you guys haven't studied logic, and since they don't seem to teach clear thinking in Ivy League schools anymore, let me give you a bit more of Copi for your edification.

"In its nakedly imperative form, directive discourse is neither true nor false. A command such as "Close the window" cannot be either true or false in any literal sense. Whether the command is obeyed or disobeyed does not affect or determine its truth value, for it has none. We may disagree about whether a command has been obeyed or not; we may disagree about whether a command should be obeyed or not; but we never disagree about whether a command is true or false, for it cannot be either" (Copi, Irving, M., Introduction To Logic, page 37).

You'll read the same thing in Patrick J. Hurley's text titled, "A Concise Introduction to Logic". [See page 16 of that text under the section "Simple noninferential passages."]
Hurley, Patrick J., A Concise Introduction to Logic, Belmont, Wadsworth, 2000

I'll try to find some time to check back with this thread, but no promises.
Hope you guys get some of the basics squared away soon.
Sola Fide
Red Beetle
:wink:
 

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Not to mention that if God has ordained those who would be saved, then it would seem that evangelism wouldn't be necessary if not disengenious becuase you would be preaching to those that would not be able to recieve the message anyways.

The reason we would preach to all is that God has given us the "great commission" to into the world and preach the gospel. It is the way that God has chosen to make us accountable. So when we stand before him we cannot say we never heard about him , we will be without excuse.

While I realize that a Calvinist might not use the phrase "God Loves You" - God can only love those who are already 'elect' and therefore how does one evangelize to only the elect?

We don't know who the elect are, and so just like I said above we are to go into the world and preach the gospel. God is the one responsible to save His elect.

J.I. Packer has a really good book it is titled Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. I like that way he puts our contribution in our salvation I hope it isn't to long .....
" As you look back, you take to yourself the blame for your past blindness and indifference and obstinacy and evasiveness in face of the gospel message: but you do not pat yourself on the back for having been at length mastered by the insistent Christ. (here is the part I like) You would never dream of dividing the credit for your salvation between God and your self. You have never for on moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God's. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank, not Him, but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to.....You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved, and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refuse to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think of your conversion and give thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace.
 
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Judy - I can appreciate the command to evangelism. However, does it not seem disengenious to preach a message to people that are not able to respond?

Not to mention that it has not been explained how you know that you are a member of the elect?

How do you know? YOU believe you have responded to the call, but how do you know?

Grace, by definition, is either available for all - or it cannot be available for only a 'chosen' few.
 
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Fnerb

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aLoneVoice said:
Grace, by definition, is either available for all - or it cannot be available for only a 'chosen' few.

It is available to all, some choose to ignore it.

This is why the great commission is so important. To go into all the world and preach the good news!!
 

Drew

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RED BEETLE said:
You guys are giving commands and claiming that they imply "free will."
Commands are neither true nor false, and they can not be used in a logical argument because of this. Again, this only reveals that you never had day one in a logic class. Let me give you citation from a classical logic textbook:

"A command is neither true nor false...wherever a command rather than an assertion occupies the place appropriate to a conclusion, we do not have an argument" (Copi, Irving, M., Introduction To Logic, page 16).

Copi's Introduction to logic is the standard text for most people beginning logic. As you can see, Copi shoots down your ridiculous attempt to use a command during a logical argument. But, since you guys haven't studied logic, and since they don't seem to teach clear thinking in Ivy League schools anymore, let me give you a bit more of Copi for your edification.

"In its nakedly imperative form, directive discourse is neither true nor false. A command such as "Close the window" cannot be either true or false in any literal sense. Whether the command is obeyed or disobeyed does not affect or determine its truth value, for it has none. We may disagree about whether a command has been obeyed or not; we may disagree about whether a command should be obeyed or not; but we never disagree about whether a command is true or false, for it cannot be either" (Copi, Irving, M., Introduction To Logic, page 37).

Note how RED BEETLE avoids the clear content of my assertion by posting confusing and irrelevant material, seasoned, as usual, with his dismissive condescension. Example:

RED BEETLE said:
Again, this only reveals that you never had day one in a logic class

Talk of the truth or falsity of a command is entirely irrelevant to my clear, and as yet unchallenged assertion that the issuance of a command (in our culture anyways) carries with it the implication that the recipient of the command has a degree of freedom to choose to obey the command or not. One does not to have studied logic in a formal setting to realize this.

Can I "prove" logically that this is how we understand commands in our culture? - namely that there is an implied degree of freedom to choose to obey or not? Of course not, because we are not talking about a matter of logic, but about what implicit qualifications our society attaches to the meaning of commands like "choose".

RB will have you believe that I am claiming that a command has a "truth" value. A child can see that I am making no such claim. So who, exactly, is he arguing with?

Commands do imply free will in 21st century western cultures. I have been careful to state that this may not have been the case in Biblical times and RB and others are invited to make such a case.
 

Drew

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Follow on: RB states the following:
RED BEETLE said:
A basic understanding of logic and grammar tells us that one can not deduce anything about free will or determinism from a command.
It may well be true that we cannot use "logic" to deduce the implication of free will in the recipient of a command. But many things that we know to be true cannot be supported by a logical proof. I cannot logically prove that when I use the word "bird", I am referring to that class of animals with beaks. feathers, and wings. That this is the societally agreed meaning of the word "bird" is obviously not deducible from a logical argument. It is a social agreement we all adhere to.

Same thing with the implication of free will that goes along with the issuance of a command.
 
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