This is a follow-up to the previous post in which I argued that “libertarian Calvinism” (a view recently explored by Oliver Crisp in his book Deviant Calvinism) is not compatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith. Not all Presbyterians hold to the WCF, although it is arguably the most widely-adopted Reformed confession among Presbyterians in the English-speaking world. Moreover, Reformed Baptists have their own parallel confession: the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Since the WCF and the LBCF are very similar (often word-for-word identical) in their statements on major points of Reformed doctrine (see here for a side-by-side comparison) I thought it would be interesting to quote the relevant sections from the LBCF to show that libertarian Calvinism isn’t a live option for Reformed Baptists who take the LBCF as their doctrinal standard.
In the excerpts from the LBCF below, I’ve used bold to highlight the statements and phrases which together imply compatibilism and comprehensive divine determinism (see the previous post for explanation of these points) and underlining to indicate points where the wording of the LBCF differs from the WCF.
Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity
1. The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; […]
2. God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; […]
Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree
1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling
1. Those [WCF reads “All those”] whom God hath predestinated unto life, [WCF adds “and those only,”] he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.
It’s noteworthy that all the statements and phrases I highlighted previously in the WCF are repeated in the LBCF (there are minor changes of wording in places, but the force of the affirmations is the same). Furthermore, LBCF 3.1 adds the interesting phrase “hath decreed in himself” to the initial statement of God’s comprehensive decree. I may be wrong about this, but on the face of it this phrase seems designed to accentuate the idea that God’s decree originates entirely in God; it is not conditioned on any factors external to God. But as I argued in the previous post, such an idea would be inconsistent with libertarian Calvinism, since on that view God’s decree would depend in part on his passive foreknowledge of human free choices. To put the point another way: the LBCF affirms God’s aseity and independence no less strongly than the WCF.
Anyway, the upshot seems to be that the LBCF is no more hospitable to libertarian Calvinism than the WCF. Apparently confessional Reformed Baptists aren’t free to be libertarians either!