One Calvinist explains: “Can God sin? If not, then he does not have a libertarian free will, and thus a libertarian free will is not necessary for a person to be genuinely free.”
Here you have a Calvinist denying that God is sovereign over His own morality! What kind of freedom does God possess, if it does not operate in the arena of moral choices, between good and evil? What is the moral merit and praiseworthiness of God’s choices for good, if that’s all He’s capable of choosing?
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “If God decreed in eternity past, ‘I choose to always tell the truth and never lie,’ and this self-fixed attitude then constrains Him to tell the truth, and not lie, every time that He is faced with the choice of speaking truth or falsehood, is that not His free action?” (SEA)
Indeed, Calvinism teaches that God does not freely weigh between choices of good and evil, and choose good. Rather, Calvinism teaches that God’s volitional choice for good, is just as fixed as His omniscient nature to know all things, such that God can no more choose evil, than He could choose not to be omniscient. Here is a sample quote:
Calvinist: “The truth is, the divine volitions were no more caused, whether by God himself or by any other cause, than the divine existence was. The divine volitions are the divine holiness uncreated and self-existent. And one attribute of God is not more caused or created than all his other attributes, or than his existence.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.261-262, emphasis mine)
Thus, according to necessitarian Calvinism, God is not free to either tell the truth or to lie, but rather necessitated to tell the truth (by an unnecessitated cause, of course). Arminian, Daniel Whedon, sees this as an assault on the freeness of God, as “putting the Eternal under necessitarian bonds for good behavior.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.263) I also see it as an assault on logic. How can God’s nature be the result of a necessity without an necessitation? The only basis for the morality of God, that I know, is God Himself, whose own will is the cause of His morality.
Whedon writes: “We, in opposition to all this, suppose the God of the Universe to be an infinitely free, excellent, meritorious Person. …we Arminians hold that God is freely good from eternity to eternity...God’s wisdom and holiness are an eternal volitional becoming; an eternal free, alternative putting forth of choices for the Right. … God’s wisdom and holiness are self-made, or eternally and continually being made. … God is holy therefore not automatically but freely; not merely with infinite excellence, but with infinite meritoriousness. …God renders himself eternally holy by his eternal volition preferring good from the motive good, the same good being both motive and object, preferred for itself.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, pp.262-263, emphasis mine)
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “To say that God does not have free will is necessarily to fall into panentheism; the world becomes necessary. It is also to fall into determinism in which everything, including God’s own decisions and actions, are automatic and not freely chosen. Everything is as it must be. How is that different from Stoicism except for the added claim that God is somehow ‘personal?’” (SEA) Whenever you place the word “necessity” before God, it means that God is not sovereign over it, unless you assert that the “cause” and “necessity” originates from within God Himself. The alternative, by stating that God is in any way necessitated by something outside of Himself, is either panentheism or polytheism. So if you can establish agreement that God is necessitated by only that which is within, then you have crossed the first major hurdle. Now you are left with the source of God’s own necessitation, as either being His physical nature or His emotional nature, and I contend for the latter, because the only known cause identified in Scripture from God’s emotional state: “He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3)
The opposing view insists that God is necessarily good because of His “nature,” but then insist that His nature is necessary too, and then when pressed for a necessitation, all you are offered is that it comes from within His “substance,” which is essentially saying His physical state, insomuch that the physical is the cause of the emotional, and of course, I argue for the reverse. I attribute the necessity of God to the will of God, which is the same thing as saying that God is necessarily good because He is “freely good.”
Before we address why God is freely good, and where “good” comes from, let’s address a few other questions first:
Daniel Whedon views God’s Son with the same, unnecessitated voluntary goodness, when he speaks of Christ as a real, free moral agent:
Daniel Whedon writes: “If Christ were not a free agent, even between alternatives of good and evil, then he can be of no example for human free agents.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.252, emphasis mine)
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “Libertarian free will does not seem worth too much if it does not operate in the area of moral choices (good and evil). Libertarian free will seems meaningless for moral praiseworthiness if there is only the possibility between good choices.” (SEA)
I suspect that given the state of our own world, and in lieu of the fall of man and some angels, that we tend to have a superstitious fear of a God who possesses a Libertarian free will, as a free moral Being, and thus we wish to simplify Him, and place Him within a box of pre-set parameters which guarantees our well-being. Does God really have to be an amoral machine in order to be trusted?
First of all, it is a mistake to suppose that goodness and holiness are simply the consequence of whatsoever God happens to do, so as to suggest that God’s actions, whatsoever they may happen to be, define goodness and holiness. Supposing such a thing, would also suppose that if God were to lie, cheat and steal, that lying, cheating and stealing would therefore be, by definition, goodness and virtue. This view would forfeit that God is a moral Being, since God would not be choosing between moral matters, but instead just arbitrarily defining moral matters.
The principle of logic exists, and only has relevance and meaning, to the extent that God exists, and exists as an intelligent Being.
The principle of morality exists, and only has relevance and meaning, to the extent that God exists, and exists as an emotional Being. If God was not a free moral Being, then moral good would not exist. Morality is a term which has meaning only because God has the freedom to perform, and because His creation was created with it.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians writes: “I don’t think posing an objective morality creates a ‘god’ or some facet of dualism that God is subservient to. I think morality can be conceived in the same way logic can be conceived. God is not ‘beyond’ logic, nor does he ‘serve’ logic as if it were his master. He is simply logical by nature--he does what is logical. Similarly God is good--he does what is good by nature. Moreover, the moral argument for God’s existence does not need to conflate moral ontology with God’s nature itself. All it needs to do is say that our epistemology of objective morals is dependent upon God’s existence, for by his creation and his revelation do we come to understand what these morals are. I think this is why we can know the rules of logic and basic rules of morality without revelation.” (SEA)
Jesus states, “There is only One who is good.” (Mark 19:17) James 1:17 states, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “In terms of the power of contrary choice, it should be pointed out that we go against inclinations all the time. Yes, God could have chosen NOT to create, even though He was inclined to. My question is why didn’t God create earlier, or later, than He did? Was there some inclination that suddenly prompted Him to create exactly when He did? Is it a matter of Him not being able to resist doing it right then? If not, why then? The answer is that we all have inclinations, and we all delay in acting upon them, for various reasons. For those who insist that we must always act upon our strongest inclinations, inevitably renders creation as a necessity to God. You see, if God created, exactly when He did create, because of some inclination, then creation becomes a necessity, rather than a free choice, and ultimately, then, Determinism of all stripes, makes God into a robot, who cannot act otherwise than His inclinations dictate.” (SEA, emphasis mine) Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “The issue is not whether or not we have inclinations when we choose, but whether these inclinations necessitate our actions. Inclinations provide impulses, but do not necessitate.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
We frequently act against our strongest inclinations when stronger inclinations are prompted by God.