And that’s the proposition I’ve been arguing for.
Although I expect this will be regarded as another straw man, the fact is that Thornwell explicitly rejects your "mystery." In your OP you stated, "The key problem is that Calvinism teaches that any person not acting from external force can only will to do what is in his nature to do." This is the problem as you stated it. Thornwell rejected this teaching. He stated, "It is the determination of the will which fixes our natural dispositions as principles." Again, when he says, "we are not sufficiently acquainted with the mystery of the will," he immediately follows it with the affirmation, "All that we can say is, that it possessed this power of arbitrary self-determination, in defiance of reason, conscience and nature, as an essential element of its being." So your "mystery" is based on a view of human nature which Thornwell rejected.
I started this thread because I’d recently read some commentaries on the Fall by Reformed theologians. One of these commentaries was by RC Sproul. I disagree with some of Sproul’s views, but he argues effectively and I found myself wishing that Sproul could make a case for his views on the Board; I thought the discussion would be illuminating. (I started this thread by saying, “As Sproul has pointed out…”)
But obviously Sproul isn’t available for internet discussion, so I thought I’d try to argue his position as a spur to discussion.
Sproul isn’t convinced that Adam was either free or determined, so this was the position I initially took – a position of freedom and necessity both failing to explain the Fall. The discussion then quickly digressed into how fallen man makes choices, and in order to maintain consistency with Sproul’s views, I took his view (which I don’t accept) that fallen man (not Adam) acts out of necessity (as I understand Sproul; there may be some nuances in his views I’ve missed).
While we argued about necessity, it occurred to me that there was a larger question about Adam’s fall (the “why” question”), which, as I saw it, remained apparently unanswerable regardless of whether we take Sproul’s view (it isn’t clear that Adam was either determined or possessed of true free choice) or the dominant one on this Board (Adam was free – which, again, happens to be my view as well).
Because my defense of necessity was merely a spur to discussion, I thought the discussion could become far more useful if I “conceded” what I believe anyway, which is that Adam was sufficiently free to make moral choices.
And this is where the discussion became circular. After I’d conceded your point about Adam being free, and about his will being mutable, I tried, thinking that we’d settled the freedom/necessity argument, to take a closer look at the “why” problem. But you kept returning to the necessity argument long after I’d abandoned it. (The quote of mine you posted in your last note was from the 19th of March.)
No matter how I tried to focus our attention on the “why” problem, you kept accusing me of defending necessitarianism. At first I thought that this was understandable – I had, after all, been acting as a gadfly. I couldn’t reasonably expect someone who’d been arguing against a “necessitarian” to come to terms, all of a sudden, with the fact that he was now arguing with someone who accepts freedom and mutability and accountability. But after the sixth or seventh attempt of mine to convince you that I’d conceded your main points, it became clear that I wasn’t going to have any success at getting you to believe that you and I were in agreement on the basic questions surrounding the Fall.
Even in your latest post you’ve chosen to represent my current position with a position that has long since been superseded. So I’m at a loss as to how to break this discussion out of the eddy it’s trapped in.
But moving on to the latest issue. Mr. R posted a quote from Thornwell in which Thornwell acknowledges a mystery at the heart of Adam’s fall. I suggested that this mystery – why it is that Adam’s will cooperated with his misplaced desires instead of not cooperating with them – was precisely the mystery I’d been trying to discuss.
Your response was that Thornwell rejects the very mystery he identifies. But of course this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Thornwell’s affirmation that Adam’s will “possessed this power of arbitrary self-determination, in defiance of reason, conscience and nature” explains only how Adam’s will behaved the way it did. It doesn’t tell us why Adam chose sin over obedience. Thornwell would have been highly forgetful, or highly illogical, to tell us in one passage that Adam’s “psychological processes” that led to his corruption are “perhaps impossible” to understand and then just a few paragraphs later tell us that these processes can be perfectly understood.
Thornwell is talking about two different things here. On the one hand he’s telling us the bad news, which is that Adam’s choice is shrouded in ultimate mystery, but on the other hand he’s telling us that Adam’s will had the power to act autonomously, and thus that Adam is accountable. He doesn’t pretend for a second to know why Adam used his autonomy to sin; he simply affirms that Adam’s choice wasn’t determined by a defect of “reason, conscience, or nature.” The whole point of Thornwell bringing up reason, conscience, and nature is that he wants us to know that Adam had perfect forms of all three and that his sin has to be blamed on him alone. The mystery of Adam’s sin, Thornwell tells us, exists in parallel with his freedom and mutability.
Thornwell never repudiates his “mystery” statement. You seem to be the only one doing that.