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Ordain vs. Determine

Discussion in 'Calvinism & Arminianism Debate' started by Inspector Javert, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. Inspector Javert

    Inspector Javert Active Member

    Jun 10, 2013
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    Not really trying to get into a debate per-se....but since Archangel and some others in another thread objected to the term "determine" or "determinism" and drew a distinction between it and "ordain".....I wanted more clarification on the issue from their perspective.

    Naturally....I would say that I see essentially no qualitative difference (at least given Calvinism)....but I was hoping some of our resident Calvies might explain the distinction as they see it better.

    In other words...if I were a "Calvinist", I would proudly own the mantle of "determinist" as well. But, our Calvinist brethren (or some at least) do not. I would like to hear you guys' position in more detail.

    I like the website provided by Stanford University for some of the definitions of such terms: So....to explain some of my understanding of the meaning of "determinism", I will link to one source from which I draw the distinction:

    From section 6....an internal link is provided to the "Compatibilist" answers:

    This is to give you some working understanding of where I might come from. (Sorry....it would take some "homework" to wade through it all, so if you're not interested I understand). But I would love for some of you guys to differentiate and point out your areas of disagreement, so that the term "determinist" isn't used unfairly.

    I consider "Calvinists"..."determinists"...and given the earlier thread...I would perceive them as making a distinction without a difference. How would you guys respond? Thanks in advance for your participation :wavey:
    #1 Inspector Javert, Jul 27, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2013
  2. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 18, 2006
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    Very good question. If you have ordained have no not also determined?
  3. Inspector Javert

    Inspector Javert Active Member

    Jun 10, 2013
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    Well, not being a Calvinist, I would actually say "NO"...."determine" and "ordain" are NOT the same thing....EXACTLY.

    But, what I don't understand is the Calvinist mindset as to the distinction. I think that as a NON-CALVINST...I can make a somewhat meaningful distinction (I think both words exist for a reason)...but, I don't understand a Calvinist answer.

    That's why I ask.

    I would maintain that given a Calvinist Soteriology....there is no meaningful distinction (or not one that's consistent with their Theology anyway).

    But, that's why I ask. I would like to have them respond to that so that I might understand better. As far as I can tell, Calvinism doesn't provide an Ontologically meaningful distinction (even though one exists if one is NOT a Cal). But, I would like to provide them a forum where they might answer in their own words. I'm interested in what they will come up with. :wavey:
  4. Winman

    Winman Active Member

    Jul 8, 2009
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    I believe when a Calvinist says "ordain" they generally mean that God allows something to take place. However, if you really press them, they will tell you it is the only thing God allows to happen.

    They will say God does not determine that a man sins, but only allows that man to sin in order to bring about his purpose(s). But again, press them and they will tell you that that man HAD to sin, he could not have chosen not to sin in that given situation. God has already ordained all that will take place and it cannot happen differently.

    Calvin himself said that the devil and all the ungodly cannot even conceive of evil, or plan it, or move one finger to bring about this evil unless God allows, NAY UNLESS HE COMMANDS that it take place. Calvin said the devil and sinners are FORCED to do his will.

    Calvin seems a little confused here, he says that God "permits" sin, no he "commands" sin all in one breath.

    But this is what Calvinists generally mean by ordain, that God "permits" something to happen, except that it MUST happen as he permits.
  5. Inspector Javert

    Inspector Javert Active Member

    Jun 10, 2013
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    KK.....OBVIOUSLY....I agree with you. But, I'm SERIOUSLY not trying to give our response to the sitch...

    I'm hoping that there will be reasonably knowledgeable Calvinists who are prepared to respond to this belief of ours who might throw in their "two-cents" (as it were).

    PERSONALLY...I agree with you. But, I'm not trying to debate them....(not yet anyway).

    I want to provide a forum for them to answer what they understand to be the difference between "Determinism" and "Ordination". I want them to speak. If they fail to....then, we non-Calvinists obviously win. But, since they objected in another thread, I wanna give them the chance to speak.
  6. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Mar 25, 2010
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    contrast your link with this one,,,read carefully pg 9 and 10 including the footnotes.....

    open the link to the PROBLEM OF EVIL

  7. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Nov 4, 2011
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    I suppose, for the sake of clarification, there needs to be some distinction used in the words: determine, ordained, (or a better word that I personally like) decree.

    Humanistic-ally speaking, the words may seem similar and I suppose one could consort with the dictionary definitions and find that they can be interchangeable.

    But, I do consider that the Scriptures show God as one who decrees, ordains, and, as I recall the word determine(d) as it relates to God used only in the following ways:
    Genesis 41:32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.

    Isaiah 10:22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.

    Lamentations 2:8 The Lord determined to destroy The wall of the daughter of Zion. He has stretched out a line, He has not restrained His hand from destroying, And He has caused rampart and wall to lament; They have languished together.

    Daniel 9:26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

    Luke 9:51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem;

    Luke 22:22 For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

    Acts 17:26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

    In each case, there was no "deciding" but the actual end result was stated as fact.

    Humanistic-ally thinking, there is an element of some consideration, thinking and "deciding" factor connected to the word "determine" which is NOT the use as demonstrated above.

    God doesn't have to think through a matter to "decide" - He has no reason to consider a variety of choices, and make some "determination" from among a series of available options. In fact, "there is no shadow of turning" with God. He knows all and when the word determined is used, it is as if there is no option, no debate, no change allowed, no other choice.

    The word ordain has a more "separate to holy" connotation, in my thinking. For instance, David was "ordained" to be king, but was actually crowned after the death of Saul.

    Decree is used twice as often as determine in the Scriptures both as pertaining to man's making a statement and God making a statement.

    For instance in Ezra - a decree was given by the king.

    Zephaniah urges folks, " Before the decree takes effect—
    The day passes like the chaff—
    Before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you,
    Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you."

    Caesar made a decree that the world would be taxed.

    The Psalms speaking of Christ says, “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You..."

    The word decree then seems to carry the emphasis of something written down. The Greek word for "decree" is "dogma" - a written law or ordinance that carries with it certain rights, privileges, and judgment if broken.

    So, in this manner the three words are different.

    But there is another issue over the word "determine" that some on the BB desire when it is used.

    When applied to refute a view some don't like, the word, though not appropriate to the view, is used by some knowing it is showing a lack of a Christ like attitude. The desire to scorn, ridicule, demean, and mock is uppermost in the poster's intent. This is my opinion, and frankly it is most self evident.

    There is no pretense to this type of display, and others actually take prideful glee in seeing evil being done.

    Such should not be a part of the BB, for it doesn't seek to sharpen the countenance but to offend, mar, and destroy the brother.

    I have taken a bit of time to give MY OWN opinion on the words, attempted to show by Scriptures how they are used, and perhaps someone else may construct a separate consideration.

    I do not expect my own work to be consistent with what everyone else would think, and am open for alternative suggestions on the Scriptural use of the three words.
  8. The Archangel

    The Archangel Active Member

    Feb 21, 2003
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    There is a difference with distinction between "ordain" and "determine." The language itself is not used synonymously by most of the Calvinist Divines and by most Calvinist adherents.

    Just as the Westminster Confession states, God "ordains" all things that come to pass. What this does not mean, however, is that God deterministically causes all things that come to pass. We see this in the language of the Westminster Confession itself where the clause "ordains all things..." is quickly qualified with certain exceptions. Specifically, we are told, God does not "author" sin.

    So, then, what is the difference? To explain the difference, I will refer to an Old Testament passage in which God's ordination is clearly seen and, if we explain the passage differently "determinism" can be clearly demonstrated--and, in this case, would be shown not to be the case.

    Before we begin, we must admit a bit of mystery. However, we can see ordination in a fairly non-mysterious way. Having said that, it is important to understand that this is a window into what God is up to in this particular case, and we must understand that we are not given that window in most cases--especially in modern cases.

    Here is the passage:
    15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21, ESV) (Emphasis mine)
    Genesis 50:20 gives us a window into what "ordination" is (as opposed to determination).

    The text says there are two intents at work here--the intent of the brothers and the intent of God.

    We clearly see (and know from the earlier parts of the story) that Joseph's brothers did intend evil against him. We know that the brothers' evil was sinful against God (for Joseph was made in His image), against Joseph, and against Jacob.

    The original plan was to kill Joseph, but Judah didn't see the profit in such a thing and convinced the group to sell him. In either of these plans, we can clearly see the sinful intent of the brothers and we can see that sinful intent lead to their sinful and "evil" actions against Joseph.

    The text also clearly states that God is intending "good" through the "evil" actions of the brothers. We see the brothers acting of their own volition--freely--in their sin against Joseph, but we know from the text that their actions are not happening in a vacuum--God, in His sovereignty intends their free and sinful actions to serve His greater purposes.

    This is what is referred to as God's "super-intention," and it is what we mean when we refer to God's "ordination." By ordination we mean that man can and does act freely of his own volition according to his nature and God can and does super-intend those free and often sinful actions to serve His purposes and display His glory.

    We see something of this in the New Testament when Paul writes: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.(Romans 8:28, ESV). Of course the proper understanding of the passage, as the ESV puts in a footnote (as it appears in some manuscripts) is: "God works all things together for good..."

    Notice, in both the Genesis passage and the Romans passage that God is not "working evil things out for good" in some after-the-fact way. No, instead, God--quite before-the-fact--is causing even sinful things to work out for His plan, His glory, and our good. He is ordaining the ends and the mean to serve His grand purpose.

    Determination is a different story altogether. In the Genesis passage, Joseph does not say: "God caused your evil for good." Had Joseph said that, we would indeed have determinism. However, we don't have that. We clearly see the brothers acting on their own--they are not mere puppets.

    So, the sovereignty of God and the free will of man do fit together in a mysterious way--but they do fit together in a non-deterministic way.

    There are two great errors (heresies, really) that must be avoided in any discussion about the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. The first error is Determinism. Determinism portrays God as nothing more than a puppet master and man as having no will of his own. As we have seen, the Bible does not portray God in this way, and neither should we.

    On the other hand, the second error is Open Theism. Open Theism portrays God as having no knowledge of the future and man as being the chief determiner of the course of history. Open Theism portrays God as nothing more than the hand-wringing pleader who is incapable of any plans because He cannot and does not know the future. Perhaps the image of the Wizard from The Wizard of Oz would be apropos here. The Bible does not portray God in this way either, and neither should we.

    The Bible always portrays an absolutely sovereign God and a mankind that is absolutely responsible and exercising of his own free will. Man's actions never take God by surprise and man's actions never take place outside of the ordination of God. This is why we are able to say to those who have experienced great tragedy that God is in control. And, though we cannot know what He is up to in this particular situation, we can trust that God does cause all things to work together for good for those who trust Him and are called according to His purpose precisely because He for-ordains the free and sometimes sinful actions of man to serve His purposes and display His glory. So, God is absolutely trustworthy in all times and in all circumstances, because He is sovereign and because He "ordains all things...".

    The Archangel