III. OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF DECREES. 1. That they are inconsistent with the free agency of man.
To this we reply that:
A. The objection confounds the decrees with the execution of the decrees. The decrees are, like foreknowledge, an act eternal to the divine nature and are no more inconsistent with free agency than foreknowledge is. Even foreknowledge of events implies that those events are fixed. If this absolute fixity and foreknowledge is not inconsistent with free agency, much less can that which is more remote from man?s action, namely, the hidden cause of this fixity and foreknowledge ? God?s decrees ? be inconsistent with free agency. If anything is inconsistent with man?s free agency, it must be, not the decrees themselves, but the execution of the decrees in creation and providence.
On this objection, see Tyler, Memoir and Lectures, 244-249; Forbes, Predestination and Free Will, 3 ? ?All things are predestinated by God, both good and evil, but not pre-necessitated, that is, causally preordained by him ? unless we would make God the author of sin. Predestination is thus an indifferent word, in so far as the originating author or anything is concerned; God being the originator of good, but the creature, of evil. Predestination therefore means that God included in his plan of the world every act of every creature, good or bad. Some acts he predestined causally, others permissively. The certainty of the fulfillment of all Gods purposes ought to be distinguished from their necessity.? This means simply that God?s decree is not the cause of any act or event. God?s decrees may be executed by the causal efficiency of his creatures, or they may be executed by his own efficiency. In either case it is, if anything, the execution, and not the decree, that is inconsistent with human freedom.
B. the objection rests upon a false theory of free agency ? namely, that free agency implies indetermination or uncertainty; in other words, that free agency cannot exist with certainty as to the results of its exercise. But it is necessity, not certainty, with which free agency is inconsistent. Free agency is the power of self-determination in view of motives, or mans power (a) to chose between motives, and (b) to direct his subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen. Motives are never a cause, but only an occasion; they influence, but never compel; the man is the cause, and herein is his freedom. But it is also true that man is never in a state of
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