Elder Joe Holder, present day Hardshell apologist, in an article titled "Studies in Romans: Chap 6:19-22" (see here), wrote on the passage I just examined in my previous posting. I want to cite from this writing by Holder and respond to it. Part of Holder's writing deals directly with the passage while other parts deal with the general idea of predestination and the divine decrees, and with the subject of causality, responsibility, and blame, in relation to the choices and activities of rational creatures.
"Occasionally people fall prey to errant thinking that imputes the active or immediate cause of everything that occurs on to God."
It is interesting that Holder should speak about becoming "prey to errant thinking" since this is what has happened to Hyper Calvinists and Hardshells. This I have fully shown throughout my writings against Hardshellism. Holder, ironically, is himself, as we will see, an example of the very "errant thinking" he warns about.
I am not sure what Holder means by "immediate cause." However, by the use of the word "immediate" he implies that he believes in other kinds of causes. If there are "immediate causes" then there are, logically, "mediate causes." Further, he speaks of God not being an "active" cause and couples the words "active" and "immediate." Does he believe then in passive causes?
For a particular kind of cause to merit blame, must it be both immediate and active? He seems to believe that these two adjectives go together since he used the term "cause" in the singular, not saying "active and immediate cause(s)." In other words, Holder thinks that all "immediate" causes are also "active" causes, and vice verso.
The old 1689 London Confession, which Holder's forefathers endorsed, speaks of the divine decree as encompassing all things and all events, and yet they speak of things occurring according to the nature of "second causes." They believed that God was the first cause, or as the Scriptures say "the First and the Last" (Isa. 44: 6) Surely God being "the First" would identify him as the "First Cause." Further, God is "the Last," which would include God being the "final cause," the reason behind all things, or the reason behind all other reasons. I do not think that Holder denies these things.
So, when Holder denies that God is either the "active" or the "immediate cause" of all things, it is probably because he not only equates "active and immediate cause" with that cause that is next to the effect but with that which must be blamed, or found guilty. No doubt, in Holder's mind, to say that God was not the "immediate cause" was a way of exonerating God of moral wrongdoing. The problem is, most of today's Hardshells will not allow that God is any kind of "cause" of men's choices and behavior, so ignorant are they on the subject of causality. Further, if God is a mediate cause of an act, is he to be blamed?
Notice how Holder elaborates:
"The obvious problem with this idea is that it logically blames God for sin, so advocates must creatively find ways to hold to their error but contradict their own logical belief by saying that God causes everything except sin. So is sin not part of "everything"?"
Thus, Holder affirms that to say that God is the "immediate cause" of a sinful act makes him to be blamed, or makes him into an immoral and evil God. However, Holder as yet has not explicitly denied that God is (in some sense other than in an "immediate," "active" or blameworthy sense) a "cause" of all that occurs. But, he does seem to do so implicitly in attacking the view that says "God causes everything." Does he deny that God is in some sense the cause of all things? Does he affirm that God is, in no sense, a cause of all things (including the choices and deeds of his rational creatures)?
Note that he is not objecting to the statement that "God immediately causes everything" but to the statement without the adverbs "active" and "immediate" before "cause." He is opposing the statement that God is the cause of all things. As I said, most Hardshells today think like many Arminians and proponents of "Libertarian Free Will" in this regard, and think that if God is any kind of "cause" for an evil act, then he is to be judged guilty of wrongdoing. But, this is simply neither logical nor scriptural as I have shown in my writings, and especially in that series of chapters "Hardshells and Predestination."
Recall also the single text of Romans 11: 36 where Paul says that "all things" (or 'everything') are "of" and "through" God and "to" God. That is plain enough and overthrows Holder's denial that God is in any sense the cause of all things. Recall also how Isaiah said "You Lord have worked all our works in us." (Isa. 26: 12)
I certainly do agree with Holder that God is not the "immediate cause" nor the kind of cause that would make God guilty of wrongdoing or of some injustice or unrighteousness. The difference in my views and those of most of today's Hardshells consists in the fact that I do not believe that all causes of an evil act, by intelligent beings, deserve the attribution of guilt or of criminal responsibility. For example: I am the cause of my son existing. But, I am not morally responsible for what he does. Without my causing his existence, however, he would have done no evil. Yet my indirect causation does not deserve condemnation. It is a well known fact that causation of an event by itself is not sufficient to create legal liability.
Does God Get The Credit?
In this article Holder upholds the argument used by the deniers of Predestination and Sovereign management of all things, by those who uphold Arminian and Semi-Pelagian ideas. He says that he cannot credit God for any good work that he does for doing so would force him to also blame God for God not doing good work. This argument says - "God, I know I did not believe you today, but it is your fault because you did not give me faith." By such reasoning, Holder admits that he cannot give God the credit for his good thoughts, his good behavior, his obedience to God and righteousness.
This line of argument has been put forth by many since primitive times. It says that if a person is capable of getting the praise (or credit) for what is good, then he is also capable of getting the blame (or guilt). Holder, being an aged Bible teacher and pastor, ought to know better than to argue in such a fashion. He is a defender of the doctrine of unconditional election. Does he not know that this same line of argument is used by the deniers of it? Holder praises God for his being chosen to salvation. But, what will he say of the person who was not chosen by God? Will he say that such a person has the right to blame God for his not being chosen? If Holder applies his standard, he would have to agree that such a person had a right to blame God.
Surely Holder would rebut by saying that God is not to be blamed because:
1) he does not owe fallen unworthy creatures anything and his choosing to show a favor to one does not make him blameworthy, and
2) he is not under law to any, and
3) a finite creature, with limited knowledge, cannot judge God
The same principle may be applied to God's bestowal of good upon his own saved people. He gives more grace, more faith, more holiness, etc., to one than he does to another, so that some become the great men and women of faith, apostles and prophets, and bear forth fruit a hundred fold. Can the other children, who are given less, rightly complain and charge God with injustice? Holder thinks that such indeed may blame God. Yet, the Scriptures are clearly against him. For instance, Paul asks the rhetorical question:
"For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4: 7)
Holder's answer to the Apostle, based upon his idea about God deserving praise or blame, would be to say, in regard to his growth in Christ and his sanctification, that God was not to be given the credit. He would have to say that he can give himself the credit, for this is the only way, in his mind, to exonerate God of the charge of injustice, of guilt and blame.
"A permutation of this excessive view of predestination holds that God effectually and irresistibly causes righteousness but not sin. Advocates of this idea attempt to make every act of faith and obedience the result of a divine decree that rejects any sense of a voluntary act on the part of the obedient believer."
How is it an "excessive view of predestination" to believe that God "effectually and irresistibly causes righteousness"? God did not predestine righteousness? I thought Paul said that God chose and predestined men that they might be "holy" and "without blame"? (Eph. 1: 3-4) Is that not predestining people to be righteous? Holder surely does not mean to include that imputed righteousness that men have placed to their account. I also don't think that he means to exclude the soul being made righteous, in some sense, in regeneration. By "causes righteousness," therefore, I take him to mean acts of righteousness, or righteous behavior.
We have already seen how this proposition is against the Scriptures, denying what it clearly affirms. The Scriptures uphold the reverse proposition, that says that God is the cause of all the good works and righteous acts of his people. Further, Holder wants to see only universal categories. God either causes all or none of the acts of his rational creatures. He does not think that it could be true that God causes some of the acts of his creatures, and others he causes not. So, to overthrow Holder's proposition, all one has to do is to show where God caused a single moral act to overthrow his proposition.
There is some sense in which God is the cause of all things, and there is a sense in which he is not the cause. There is such a thing as "contributing causes" because often certain effects are "multi causal." This is why we use all kinds of adjectives with "cause," such as efficient, material, mediate, immediate, direct, indirect, formal, material, first, second, etc.
God is clearly the first cause of all things. He created all matter and energy. He created all souls and spirits, all rational and accountable beings. Had God not done this, there would be no evil. Further, when God created all things he foreknew the results; And, in spite of seeing the birth of evil and sin, he chooses to create any way. Further, God could have originally created a world where sin and evil were an impossibility, the kind of world that we hope to one day inherit. Creating a product with the foreknowledge that evil will result from that product makes the Creator in some sense a cause of that evil. He is in some sense responsible for it. To use the famous legal "but for" line of reasoning, we can say "but for" the creator producing that product with its foreknown harms, the harms would not have occurred.
God is also the "efficient cause" all things as Acts 17: 26 teaches - "for in Him we live and move and have our being."
In the next posting, I will complete my review of what Holder wrote on the passage under discussion.