Bill, You wrote: No one can have “free will”, George, until …

Comment on Academic Freedom Strikes Again! by Sean Pitman.


You wrote:

No one can have “free will”, George, until Jesus comes by way of the Holy Spirit and liberates the will by way of the gospel. And the Holy Spirit comes by way of the cross and grace. This whole discussion is on the value and importance of being “born again”. So I ask you and Sean, “What is the point of being ‘born again’ if you are already free to chose to do good or evil?”

Freedom of will exists before the Gospel message is ever heard – for everyone with a normally-functioning reasoning mind. Everyone is given the ability to recognize and choose between good from evil as a Divine gift (Genesis 3:15). Everyone is free to choose the good and reject the evil – even those who have never read the Bible or heard the name of Jesus (Romans 2:14-15). So, what value is there in being a born again Christian? – if even the honest and loving non-Christians can and will be saved? Well, because it makes one’s life better and more hopeful and joyful here and now and aides one is following the voice of the Holy Spirit.

It is a serious mistake to argue that no one is born with a free will. This is like saying that everyone is born as a robot with no ability to choose. If so, no one would be guilty of sin since no amoral robot could be accused of sinning. Sin requires that the ability to make moral choices be in existence for the agent in question. This implies, therefore, that everyone is given this ability – as a gift of God. This freedom to choose right from wrong is not limited to the Christian. And, this reality is highlighted in both the writings of the biblical authors as well as the writings of Ellen White.

“Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.” – Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 638

Even you seem to be aware of this reality, to at least some degree, since you write:

In this world, even an unbeliever has some awareness of right and wrong, but this is only because of the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit before being “born again.” God does nothing by way of a relationship to fallen man except by way of the cross. Adam brought on us all the verdict of condemnation, sin and death. To understand the doctrine of original sin, you must take Christ and the cross out of the equation.

Of course the cross makes salvation possible for everyone since all have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). This means that all free moral agents have deliberately rebelled against something they knew was right and deliberately did something they knew was wrong. That’s what sin is – a deliberate transgression against the Law. No one is accused for what Adam did, but for what each one of us have deliberately done ourselves – as free moral agents who are well aware of our actions.

It is therefore only by the cross of Jesus that grace can be offered to those who are actually guilty of personal rebellion against the Law of Love. You cannot claim that you are condemned for Adam’s sin when you yourself have not sinned. That’s mistaken theology. You and I are in a position of condemnation and the need of unmerited grace because we ourselves have done things that we knew were wrong. That’s why we are in need of God’s grace…

Of course, we are also in need of God’s power to overcome our fallen tendencies. However, it isn’t for these fallen tendencies that we are judged and found wanting. My own natural fallen tendencies might have made sin attractive to me, but it isn’t the tendencies themselves that are sinful – but the actual freewill choice to go along with these fallen tendencies that is sinful.

We are born sinners by way of Adam and we are not free to choose anything good. This shows the full value of the atonement that people like Sean limit to claim no one is a sinner unless and until they sin. Then they need the atonement. This is blatantly bogus.

Again, we are not born sinners. We are born with a fallen nature, but that’s not the same thing as sin. Sin requires a conscious deliberate decision on the part of a free moral agent. Otherwise, there simply is no sin – as the Bible and Mrs. White very clearly point out.

What you guys do is miss the first basic step in atonement and redemption and assume no one needs the atonement until and unless they know they are committing sin. This is a superficial definition of sin and will not even consider “sins of ignorance” by claiming if you are ignorant, it is not sin.

Jesus Himself explained that being honestly ignorant means that there is no guilt for sin (John 9:41). Sin requires a conscious deliberate rebellion against something that is known to be right and good. Otherwise, there simply is no sin – even if a fallen tendency for sin already exists.

This is the key stone of the bible and Protestant Reformation. Believers are always in a state of forgiving grace because we are always sinners in this life. By the power of God, we do not “commit” sin. But this does not mean we are not still sinful by nature.

That’s a mistaken view. We have fallen natures from birth, and even after being “born again”, but this does not mean that we are “sinners” once we leave the life of sin behind and stop sinning – through the power of God. That’s the whole point of Jesus taking on our fallen natures yet not sinning – not even once. If He did that, so can I – through the power of God that gave Him the victory in fallen flesh.

And to appeal to the nature of Christ and claim He is a sinner just like us is blasphemy. He was not born in sin, nor did He have a sinful nature. He was “born of the Holy Spirit” and was sinless from start to finish. We are not “born of the Holy Spirit” and unless we are “born again” by way of the Holy Spirit we are lost, we remain lost as guilty, condemned evil sinners that we are.

Oh please. Jesus was not a “sinner” just because He was born with a fallen nature. Again, you have to actually commit a sin to be a sinner. “He had the same nature as the sinner although He knew no sin, in order that He might be able to condemn sin in the flesh and might be able to sympathize with those who were in the difficulties, dangers, and temptations that beset His own path while He walked with men.” (EGW, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 176).

You continually fail to recognize what sin actually is. Sin is a deliberate choice. It’s no accident or automatic thing. It’s based on a deliberate decision by a free moral agent. Otherwise, there simply is no sin. If anyone else had lived as Jesus lived, that person would have every right to claim that he/she does not need Jesus to die in their place. Of course, no one can honestly make this claim since everyone has deliberately done wrong…

As EGW has well said, “In ourselves we are sinners, but in Christ we are righteous.”

This is because we have all actually deliberately chosen to sin – not because we were born with Adam’s guilt. Mrs. White asks: “What is sin?” Then, she answers in line with the biblical definition of sin: “The transgression of the law.” (SM, Book 1, p. 341). She never ever says that sin is what we inherit from Adam or the fallen human nature. That’s not sin. That may be what leads us into sin, but that is not sin in and of itself. We are all guilty of sin because we have all established our own individual guilt. Only with the Power of God acting in our lives can we be made righteous without being held guilty of our past decisions to sin. Again, however, this has nothing to do with your concept of original sin.

Again and again Mrs. White and the Bible very clearly state that Jesus took on both our physical as well as our mental condition – yet without sin. “He took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature . . . He was made like unto his brethren, with the same susceptibilities, mental and physical . . . Christ did in reality unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in behalf of the fallen race.” (Ellen White, Manuscript 166, 1898, p. 9, 10 and Manuscript 181.3 and RH February 10, 1885 par. 7). She goes on to explain:

“Christ’s overcoming and obedience is that of a true human being. In our conclusions, we make many mistakes because of our erroneous views of the human nature of our Lord. When we give to His human nature a power that it is not possible for man to have in his conflicts with Satan, we destroy the completeness of His humanity.” (Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1953-1957), 929)

In other words, Jesus was our example because He came and lived in our fallen condition with our fallen natures – yet without sin. That means that we can also do the same thing that He did through the power of God.

The Bible also never teaches that anyone is guilty and deserves condemnation or death because of the sins or crimes committed by someone else (Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20; Jeremiah 31:29, 30; Romans 2:5, 6; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 6:7, 8; Revelation 20:12, 13; 21:8).

You simply refuse to deal with such clear unequivocal statements . . .

As Daniel Ferraz put it:

The teaching of “original sin,” stemmed from Greek paganism, and was further channeled by the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, Augustine (AD 354-430) — himself greatly influenced by Greek philosophy — into the Roman Catholic Church and held by the majority of Protestants since the Augsburg Confession in AD 1530. Today, the dogma relies primarily on bad exegesis of Psalm 51:5 and inconsistent interpretation of Romans 5:12, 18, 19 (with the rest of the book of Romans) and with the complete witness of Scripture. Christians must follow divine revelation over and above the prevailing and pervasive Roman Catholic Church tradition and Greek philosophy.

it is the false belief in “original sin,” and the presuppositions that derive from it, that logically require that Christ assume the human nature of man before the fall, to ostensibly free Him from the presumed guilt of “original sin.” The next logical step, of course, is accepting the false belief of the immaculate conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so that He could receive a sinless human nature. If we accept this, then we must go further and accept that the Roman Catholics are correct in venerating Mary as the “mother of God,” and even “co-redemptrix.” But these are hardly positions that Bible believing Christians can substantiate. False belief about the nature of sin leads to false belief about the nature of salvation…

The dogma of “original sin” is anti-Christian, in that it goes against, and seeks to stand in the place of, the true teachings the Bible regarding the human nature of Christ.

Daniel Ferras, The Humanity of the Son of God Is Everything to Us, Vol. 23, No. 2 – Link

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
No one actually believes that intelligent design is not rationally detectable behind various artifacts and phenomena that are clearly the result of deliberate design and intelligent intent. It is only in an effort to avoid acknowledging “God” that secular scientists who have taken on philosophical naturalism put forth superhuman effort to avoid admitting what is otherwise obvious.

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
Now, I like you George, but I must say that restating the very same claim over and over again, without even addressing the counterarguments or questions presented to you regarding your claim, is not helpful to me, at all convincing, or even part of what I would call an interesting, much less, a productive conversation. I mean, you keep repeating, without substantive argument as far as I can tell, your simple claim that science (or any other form of rational thought for that matter) is not able to even detect a “miracle” if one happened to happen before your very eyes – like this claim of yours should simply be taken at face value as an incontestable self-evident fact.

“As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.” – george

Then, you go on to claim that miracles do not exist? But, how can you make this claim when, at the same time, you also claim that it is impossible to even recognize a miracle if one were to happen? Do you not recognize the self-defeating internal inconsistency of your position here?

Note that I’m not asking you to explain how a miracle happens, but only to be able to detect one if and/or when one does happen to occur. However, you simply ignore the comments of scientists who claim that science is, in fact, able to detect the miraculous when it happens (and has, in fact, done so – according to a fair number of very well-known scientists). You’ve also consistently ignored the questions I’ve asked you that seem to me to undermine this oft-repeated claim of yours. Why is that?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see that you’re actually open to a genuine conversation here – which begs the question as to why you even bother to be here at all if you’re not a troll (although a fairly benign friendly sort of troll)?

Now, if I’m somehow misreading you and you are actually open to a real conversation on this topic, why not begin by substantively responding to at least one of the simple questions that I’ve repeatedly asked you in this forum?

    Would you recognized a highly symmetrical granite cube measuring, say, 10 x 10 x 10 cm, as miraculous from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms? – and therefore rationally/scientifically conclude that it is a clear artifact of intelligent design? – even if found on an alien planet like Mars? Why or why not?

Simple question…

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!

As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.

How is that? Science, while not able to determine the cause or mechanism of miracles, is indeed able, according to numerous very well-known scientists, to detect “miracles” if and/or when they may occur – according to your definition of the term. Please review my last post along these lines and explain to me how a highly symmetrical granite cube is not a miracle from the perspective of natural mindless mechanisms? – or the appearance, out of nothing, of a finely tuned universe that is miraculously predictable and understandable to us through the language of mathematics? – or the origin and diversity of life from a mindless natural perspective where there is no known mindless mechanism? Please do tell me, how are these things any less “miraculous” than any of the “miracles” described in the Bible?

In sum, a biased biblical account of a miraculous resurrection is not scientific and not proof on the balance of probabilities that it occured. The evidence that you have cited is unreliable and not corroborated by unbiased accounts.

As far as historical evidence, you seem to demand 100% reliably or proof. However, that’s not how science works – especially the historical sciences. Again, it’s all based on the weight of evidence – not absolute proof.

Also is it possible Jesus did not die on the cross but removed before he was medically dead? Did some of his followers remove his body from the cave to make it appear he was resurrected?

It is not possible given the description of Jesus’ death – where a spear was thrust through his side and into his heart, causing blood mixed with water to pour out (John 19:34). Also, His followers could not have stolen the body from the tomb because it was sealed with a Roman seal so that no one could get in or out without breaking the seal and it was guarded by a large number of Roman soldiers – specifically put in place in order to avoid having the body stolen by the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66).

If a multitude of people saw him resurrected why are there only biblical accounts?

There are extra-biblical accounts of Jesus’ life and death – and even the empty tomb. Both Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise. Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher.Both Josephus and the Talmud indicate that He performed miraculous feats. Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say that this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And, the Talmud declares it happened on the eve of Passover. There are also possible references to the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection in both Tacitus and Josephus. Josephus records that Jesus’ followers believed He was the Christ, or Messiah – which wouldn’t be true if He was known to be dead. And, both Pliny and Lucian indicate that Christians worshiped Jesus as God.

With regard to the reality of the empty tomb, even the very antagonistic Toledot Yeshu, a compilation of early Jewish writings from the 11th century, acknowledges that the tomb was empty – though it is argued that the body was somehow removed from the tomb. Add to this the historical fact that Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine. This is striking because it was the 1st century custom to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones. Since there was no such shrine for Jesus, it suggests that his bones weren’t there. In this historical context, an interesting archaeological discovery lends early support to the biblical accounts of the Resurrection. The “Nazareth Inscription” is a marble tablet with Greek writing that has been dated to approximately AD 41. The inscription is likely an abbreviated form of an edict (called a rescript) from Emperor Claudius making taking body from a tomb a capital crime. (Link)

Also, the tomb was discovered to be empty by women – not men. Why is this important? Because the testimony of women in 1st century Jewish culture was considered worthless. If the empty tomb story were a legend, then it is most likely that the male disciples would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb. The fact that despised women, whose testimony was deemed worthless, were the chief witnesses to the fact of the empty tomb can only be plausibly explained if, like it or not, they actually were the discoverers of the empty tomb.

Beyond this, as previously mentioned, it is very very unlikely for a dozen fishermen to dream up this story and then be willing to die for what they knew was a lie. That’s just not a credible or otherwise reasonable conclusion. It simply is not plausible to suggest that each of these men would face continual persecution and horrifying deaths for something they knew to be a lie. After all, liars don’t make good martyrs.

Finally, due to the remarkable circumstances in first-century Jerusalem, Christianity would have never been able to get started if Jesus had not risen from the dead. Recall that the Resurrection of Jesus was central to the disciples’ preaching. Even if they had the courage to preach without having seen the risen Lord, what message would they have proclaimed? They certainly could not repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses of His Resurrection, as they did (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31). Without this bold proclamation of the Resurrection, and if His body was rotting in the grave, people would not be converted and the memory of Jesus and His disciples would quickly fade. In fact, it may be safely said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, very few people living today, if any, would have ever heard of Him.

In summary, there are “minimal facts” that are accepted by nearly all New Testament scholars which include:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
    2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
    3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
    4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
    5. The tomb was empty.

These facts are nearly universally accepted by New Testament scholars, including liberal scholars.

I haven’t seen a resurrection or a perfect granite cube, Santa Claus, ghosts, demons, fairies, haunted houses, prophets or anything of a miraculous nature that I am aware of. So it is specious for you to ask me hypotheticals in this regard. It’s like me asking you if your head could swivel 360 degrees could you see the world better.

How would you know if you had? – given that you don’t seem to know how you would be able to rationally detect a “miracle” if you ever did see one? Even if you did see a definitively dead and decaying corps brought back to life before your very eyes, would that actually do it for you? – since you claim that such things are not detectable as miracles “by definition”?

The fact of the matter is that you have seen highly symmetrical granite cubes (and drift wood horses and the like) that are obvious artifacts of intelligent design – true “miracles” from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms. You also believe in the “big bang” where something came from nothing producing an extremely fine-tuned universe – which is “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone. You also believe that living things were produced from non-living things – which is also “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone since there is no known natural mechanism that can do this over a reasonable amount of time.

    “It sounds startling, but science can’t explain ordinary experiences, much less supernatural experiences. No one knows how thoughts arise, why intuition exists, where creativity comes form, or most important of all, how the porridgy gray matter of the brain, which is totally dark and silent, produces the sights and sounds of the three-dimensional world. The simplest and most profound miracle that everyone encounters every day is this miracle.”
    “There is the obvious fact that we need to know something about what normally occurs in the world to recognize when something marvelous happens. So, the better we understand the natural order, the easier it is to identify the truly miraculous. On the other hand, the existence of miracles, by definition, makes necessary a limit to the power of science to fully explain all of reality.”

Clearly then, even though science can’t explain things that are call “miracles” with the use of purely naturalistic mechanisms (because knowledge is limited), science can in fact detect the existence and reality of true miracles when they do happen in our world…

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

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Thank you Ariel. Hope you are doing well these days. Miss seeing you down at Loma Linda. Hope you had a Great Thanksgiving!

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Thank you Colin. Just trying to save lives any way I can. Not everything that the government does or leaders do is “evil” BTW…

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Only someone who knows the future can make such decisions without being a monster…

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Where did I “gloss over it”?

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I fail to see where you have convincingly supported your claim that the GC leadership contributed to the harm of anyone’s personal religious liberties? – given that the GC leadership does not and could not override personal religious liberties in this country, nor substantively change the outcome of those who lost their jobs over various vaccine mandates. That’s just not how it works here in this country. Religious liberties are personally derived. Again, they simply are not based on a corporate or church position, but rely solely upon individual convictions – regardless of what the church may or may not say or do.

Yet, you say, “Who cares if it is written into law”? You should care. Everyone should care. It’s a very important law in this country. The idea that the organized church could have changed vaccine mandates simply isn’t true – particularly given the nature of certain types of jobs dealing with the most vulnerable in society (such as health care workers for example).

Beyond this, the GC Leadership did, in fact, write in support of personal religious convictions on this topic – and there are GC lawyers who have and continue to write personal letters in support of personal religious convictions (even if these personal convictions are at odds with the position of the church on a given topic). Just because the GC leadership also supports the advances of modern medicine doesn’t mean that the GC leadership cannot support individual convictions at the same time. Both are possible. This is not an inconsistency.