Friday, October 24, 2014

'Freewill'? Arminianism’s Philosophical Problems – Part 3

In Search of a Coherent Narrative 

Part 3: 'Freewill'? Arminianism’s Philosophical Problems 

Previously I discussed how the concept of man’s Freewill does not hold a monopoly on scripture. I also discussed how foreknowledge seems to fail to explain how God’s predestination is a response to man’s Freewill choice of Him. This additional discussion looks more closely at the very concept of Freewill, not so much from a scriptural perspective but from philosophical perspective. This post asks how Freewill is actually meant to work, and explores some potentially negative consequences that is associated with Freewill thought. I realise books could be written on these subjects, but here, I aim to at least provide an exploration of some ideas in order to provoke thought around these subjects.

Cause and Effect

Arminian thought regarding Freewill cannot be explained. I believe it cannot be explained because it does not provide an answer to the important concepts of cause and effect. Cause and effect is the direct relation between a cause and the effect that it brings. Let me explain using the scenario of salvation. If we choose God over absence from Him, cause and effect would ask “what caused us to choose or not to choose God?”. Freewill thought would state that WE chose to or not to. However, in reality I do not think that it is that simple. Observing nature provides us with an understanding of cause and effect within creation. Quite simply, we are to a great extent products of our environment. I was raised in a New Zealand European family who are strong Christians. Guess what happened to me? Yes, I took on largely their language, culture, values and even their faith. My upbringing dictated to a great degree who I would become. Others absorb their surroundings also, such as a person in an Arab state may likely grow up to be a Muslim. Proverbs strongly hints towards a similar conclusion where the impact that our surroundings can have on us, actually determines the path we walk. It states that when you “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” When observing reality, it seems to suggest that our context that we live in drastically dictates where we will grow up, how we will act, and what we will believe. Thus, I believe we can fairly ask, “What causes me or anyone else to accept God or not to accept Him?”

A Dichotomy

When observing the concept of cause and effect and its relation to Freewill, it leads to a dichotomy about the nature of our Freewill. Either our decisions have direct causes, or they have ‘random’ causes. In Arminianist thought, people must have ultimately (in the end) an EQUAL choice between salvation or absence from God. If it is not equal then it implies that our circumstances, our experiences, and our nature would be the deciding influences to tip the balance on what we ultimately decide. Some Arminianists say that our surroundings do have an influence, but that we still have a choice to override that influence. However, if something does influence me then it must definitely have an effect on me. Can I really be held responsible for responding to an influence that had an effect on me, especially if that effect had no opposing influence to pull me in the other direction? If it were really true that we had a free choice to choose against influences, then reality would reflect that. As demonstrated earlier and clearly seen in reality, influences heavily determine the outcome of individuals in society - the way we think, the god (or lack of) we believe in, and even the prevalence of generational or societal sin! If we deny that influences determine outcomes then we must look at the alternative, which would mean something even more drastically unsettling. If we have a perfectly equal choice with no influencing factors, then what is it within us that makes any particular choice? What would cause me to choose to be saved, but the person across the road to choose not to be? I cannot say that it is because I wanted to be saved more, because that would be a predisposition of mine, or created by an outside influence. The only other disturbing option is that the decision would be completely random. If the decision is completely random, then there is no basis to discuss the importance of making any choices whatsoever. So any particular decision either has a cause (or a largely determining factor) or is completely random.

In my opinion, according to cause and effect, God ultimately created my circumstances, and He created my predisposition. I do not see any way that our Freewill can fit into this picture. I will speak more on the implications of this in my final post.

The same problems with the concept of Freewill can be applied to God. If God had choices before Him and randomly chose one, He would be an inconsistent and untrustworthy God. He definitely would not be the same yesterday, today and forever as it claims in the scriptures (Hebrews 13:8). In scripture, if God does something, it seems to always be for a reason, and that reason does not seem to be random. Either He makes random decisions (Which isn't Biblical or logical) OR He has some predisposition inherent in Him that causes Him to decide one way or the other. God would not be the God of the Bible if something existed outside of Him (Randomness or other) that would largely determine Him to do one action or another. Therefore, He must have a fixed nature that determines His actions.

Dangers of Freewill Thought

The concept of Freewill also creates other concerns when relating to people and creating discourses about society. The concern is that Freewill may cause us to lack compassion for those who reflect their external environment. I realise that we do have individuals natures that can cause each of us to act differently in different situations, however when looking at reality there is a strong correlation between our circumstances and the type of people we become. Freewill thought, on the other hand, limits the degree to which our external environments can be looked at as a potential cause. For example, if a child is born into a low income, abusive family with no work ethics etc, how would he be judged in Freewill thought if that child grew up to become just like his or her parents? The child would be seen as choosing ‘Freely’ his lifestyle, and therefore judged with limited compassion. With a true commitment to Freewill, I believe it is not possible to have full compassion on that grown-child’s disposition while being consistent with Freewill thought. Under Freewill thought, instead of compassion or understanding, the tendency can be to focus on, treat and judge a person on the symptoms of their behaviour, rather than addressing the underlying causes of their behaviour.

Unless we acknowledge the power that external circumstances have over our choices, it not only extremely limits our ability to have compassion on people, but it restricts the belief in the power to assist change. I believe that as one can take on the characteristics of their environment, so we can create new environments where there is hope for change. However, this is not as possible in Freewill thought. We would be merely wishing that people would change their “free” mind from each moment to the next. In fact, what good have we done if we have merely for the moment convinced someone to “freely” choose God? No real change has been done in their life because they then may freely choose to reject Him at any given moment. Believing that influences truly can have an effect provides a more positive outlook to changing the characters of people towards becoming more Christ-like.


What happens in heaven - do we have Freewill to choose God or not to choose Him? If we do not have Freewill in heaven, then we are back to being mere ‘robots’, which Arminianism appears to characteristically oppose like a vampire to garlic. Some Arminians say that the glory of God will be so great that we will not want anything other than God. However, all that is saying is that we have a predisposition to enjoy the glory of God rather than having a “real” choice – thus taking our Freewill away.

Death of Innocents

One last thought about Freewill, is that of the death of the unborn or young child. If the way to God is only generated by a Freewill cognitive choice on our part, then this makes it nigh impossible for children to cognitively choose salvation. One could say that children either automatically go to heaven or hell, but these conclusions take away the purpose of “choice”/Freewill in the first place. Arminian thought would normally state that it is impossible to have loyalty without the opportunity to be disloyal; therefore, children going to heaven would mean a reneging of this value. Unless of course they believe in another age or realm after death, by which children can have a choice, which most Arminians probably deny. Maybe children just die and no longer exist for eternity? Who knows, but the Arminian narrative does not provide answers consistent with their narrative on this point.

Man’s Freewill does not Absolve God’s Responsibility for the Existence of Sin

On a brief note: Freewill does not get God off the hook when it comes to taking responsibility for the existence of evil (as I briefly mentioned in the previous post). Some people in defence of a Freewill state within humankind say that because people can ‘freely’ choose to commit evil, any evil that happens in the world is because of humankind. However, I believe that I can demonstrate that God has at least some responsibility for evil in this world. For example, if I were to throw someone into a pool of sharks and then hope the sharks would overlook that person, and that person then gets eaten, I would consider myself responsible for that outcome. God is involved in equivalent situations that actually happen in reality. He lets children be born into likely to be or currently abusive environments. Thus, the motive to believe in Freewill as a means to absolve God of ‘guilt’ is put into question.

Final Remarks

Many Arminians accept paradox when it comes to our Freewill coinciding with God as our Creator. This is a noble act. Many things cannot yet be explained, but if we want to explain how our relationship with God works, then these topics need to be addressed. Arminians do mean well. I do not think that all Arminians believe in Freewill in order to belittle God’s sovereignty per se, but instead aim to take the responsibility of sin onto our shoulders. Another up for Arminianism is that it clings to much of scripture, by enabling the potential for all people to be saved - something which Calvinism denies, as we shall see in the next post. However, when looked at closely, Arminianism is grossly unexplained, and can have the potential to oppress those who reflect their environments.

Next post we look at Calvinism and the issues that it has as a scriptural narrative.


  1. Good post Dan :) I'm keen to hear people's thoughts...

    I've noticed that many thoughtful Arminians attempt to escape the chain of 'cause and effect' and the 'randomness vs causality' proposal, when it comes to our decisions. Among many things, this allows them to escape the dangers of Free Will thought (the problems with compassion and blame, hope for change, etc). But in order to remain true to God's character (clearly our biggest priority, so at least they've got this right), I believe they sacrifice consistency and truth.

    Some will state that we can have 'influence' on our decisions without it 'causing' them. In other words, they are denying that having an 'influence' on our decision in any way makes that decision an 'effect' of this influences. This makes no logical or linguistic sense to me. Either our choices are random, or we have REASONS for making the choice we end up making. These reasons can be conscious or subconscious, but they all cumulatively have the 'effect' of creating our decision. If they do not create this 'effect', it means that the decision was, ultimately, random (without any conscious or subconscious reason). Using the term 'influence' doesn't minimise this model in any way, it just confuses the picture for those who don't understand the terms.

    Others will accept that we never are completely 'free' when it comes to decisions, and accept the bias or predisposition that you discuss - however they deny that this equates to causality. This can be because we don't actually have stable natures and characters, which (to me) equates to random bias. But usually it is because they believe that the nature of our souls (i.e. our predispositions) do not have an external 'cause', but are in some way self-determining (much like God does not have an ultimate 'cause'). Again, this doesn't solve the problem, it just causes some confusion. What exactly is the basis for these predispositions? Do we create them ourselves, or does God create them? If we create them, do we create them randomly, or with a basis? If there is a basis, we have denied that it is ultimately self-determining.

    If someone can articulate these two common arguments better than me, please do :)

  2. Thanks Josh for the comment!

    I take it that you mean thoughtful Arminians 'escape' by accepting paradox? I would be a little stronger in saying that even with a paradoxical view it can still breed those negative characteristics of Freewill thought. I am assuming the main reason they accept paradox is because they don't want to let Freewill thought go.
    I suppose if they focused on the values of Christ in showing love (In its fullness) to those in need, then this could override the consequences of Freewill thought.

    I am not sure how anyone could claim that a bias or predisposition is there, within us, at the same time as saying that it has no causal effect on our decisions?

    If a bias is real, then it is EFFECTUAL (Looking for a better word) - it actually HAS an effect. If the effect of the bias is not successful in its purest form, then there MUST be another force pulling in another direction to that bias. If that force is Freewill, then that force is not free from that bias. If it is not free from that bias, then that bias is actually affecting our Freewill. The cogs of that bias must be actually connecting to some degree with the cogs in our Freewill system. But Freewill is not a system (Or we would be robots), so the cogs in the bias system therefore cannot connect with or influence our Freewill. Thus eliminating any belief that an influence can actually have an influence without it ultimately influencing us :)

    Ha, hope that made some sense!

    Any comments welcome. Obviously reductionism will result in infinite regress, but hey, it is fun to think about these things.

    Reality/existence is a strange thing! It is weird that any thing is the way it is, because no matter the explanation for everything, the explanation will never make complete sense.


  3. I suppose I should wait until the next chapter before diving in too deep. I would like to ask at this time if you reject the notion of our freewill actually being very limited, in that it is only in regards to the decision to accept or reject who we were all created to be as being the only thing that our Heavenly Father lets us have a truly free choice of, with that decision including accepting Christ Jesus as our own personal Lord and Savior, of course?

    P.S.: I am sorry, this next part probably should wait, but I was just given a clearer question, which touches upon the foundation you have been laying, which is: Do you reject the notion that our Heavenly Father gives us the freedom to reject Him and all that He shown to prove His worthiness to receive all of our love and trust because He would rather let as many as will perish than force them to love Him against their true desires?

  4. Yes you've put it nicely Dan, it doesn't make sense to talk about influence without effect.

    But I find the second argument more compelling, where the bias does not originate from God but from itself. Still doesn't end up working unless you accept randomness.

    I don't think Arminianists consciously accept paradox until you tease the implications of their argument out for them.

  5. Jerry: a very important (and common) question.

    I don't believe God ever forces anyone against their desires. Rather he is the ultimate basis for all their desires.
    And I don't think that free will actually supports the idea of "real love" and responsibility, as you suggest.

    Also, this is not necessarily about rejecting anything in particular. It's about deciding if something works with scripture and logic, or not.
    At the very least I think either free will OR determinism fits with scripture, but only determinism fits with logic as well. That's why Dan says Arminianists have to accept paradox.

    1. It's good to hear from you again, my dear Joshua. I understand what you are saying, and if you don't mind, I would like to wait until Dan comes out with his next chapter before addressing those points. For I suspect that they will be expounded upon in the next round.

  6. Dan- as you correctly point out, our upbringing has a lot to do with our choices. But your upbringing as a Christian is your key to Heaven (according to you), and the Arab's upbringing as a Muslim is his key to Hell (isn't it?). How is this fair?

  7. Hi Jerry and Scott!

    Thanks for your input, excellent questions and statements!

    I thought you both were aware of my general stance regarding the end outcome of each person's lives. Yet, obviously not. As you can see, in the coming posts within the series, I hope to address what I believe is the solution that makes the most sense to me. A solution of hope. If you like, we can wait until the following posts to discuss further or we can engage these questions and statements further in this thread :)

    I would like to share this poem for you to ponder. It is by Corrie Ten Boom I believe, and I think that it applies to each and every person, not just the 'elect'. Although I don't necessarily agree with the last two lines entirely. I believe God works the best for all. Though this may only be made aware to those to whom it has been revealed at any particular time.


    "My life is but a weaving
    Between my God and me.
    I cannot choose the colors
    He weaveth steadily.

    Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
    And I in foolish pride
    Forget He sees the upper
    And I the underside.

    Not ’til the loom is silent
    And the shuttles cease to fly
    Will God unroll the canvas
    And reveal the reason why.

    The dark threads are as needful
    In the weaver’s skillful hand
    As the threads of gold and silver
    In the pattern He has planned

    He knows, He loves, He cares;
    Nothing this truth can dim.
    He gives the very best to those
    Who leave the choice to Him.”

  8. Yep, that's a very nice poem- lovely imagery. I don't agree with any of it, of course, except possibly the first verse, if you take God to be Nature, as Spinoza did.

    About God revealing the reason why after the weaving: I can only quote Richard Feynman. "I don't feel frightened by not knowing things".

    cheers from chilly Vienna, Scott

  9. True, there is no need to fear not knowing some things. Some things are out of our control, whether be decided by God or fate. However, I suppose that would depend on relative situations :) There are situations where I believe I would feel more comfortable knowing the reason behind some things, but because I cannot in all situations know why, this gives way to the values of faith, hope and love.

    Jerry, how are you finding the anti spam text before each comment? Would like moderation placed back on for a while?

    1. The numbers are easier to decipher, and I do not want to inconvenience you in any way. So, please just leave it as you have it.

    2. Nice reply, Daniel. I would just substitute "humility" for "faith". And say that there doesn't seem to be a "why" behind most of what happens in our Universe: you need sentient beings to have "whys", and I don't see and need for a sentient being to supply a "why" for, say, gravity: it's just the way it is.

      cheers from Vienna, Scott

  10. Just to throw in my 2c worth... I've been doing a bit of study and teaching lately around the subject of "soil". There are a lot of interesting insights that help perhaps balance and perhaps reconcile the various "nature vs nurture" or "freewill vs predestination" perspective. What I have been proposing is that humankind are - as per Genesis - made form the dust of the earth, imbued with life by the Spirit and Adam became a "living soul" or perhaps more literally "living soil". The OT uses the soil analogy frequently and of course Jesus does in many places, Mark 4 Parable of the soil and the seed is the one I've been most focussed on. He speaks in other places about our inner life being like a garden or soil to be tended, watched over etc. In fact the calling of humankind in Gen 2:15 is to tend and keep the land (serve and watch over). So we see these amazing parallels between literal soil and our individual heart/soul condition and our collective cultural "soil".

    How this relates to your discussion is that soil, like individual humans or human society, never exists outside of it's history and context. We are connected to our culture, history, family, locality etc in ways that are much more than by influence but genetically, organically (being made from common soil and eating food from the same soil), by the common local bacteria and microorganisms that we carry in our bodies. Like soil we are connected to the other life around us in so many ways (including a very direct relationship to literal soil).

    Back to Mark 4, we often take this as a scripture about individual responses to the gospel - hard, cluttered, shallow etc, but I think equally valid (and perhaps actually what Jesus meant) was the response of localities and communities and whole cultures to the word of God. Jesus often spoke this way: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!"

    My point in this is that we are trained in our modern western culture to see things extremely individually. What I am challenged to do is to see our community more holistically, look at the "soil" at a cultural level and perhaps reframe the dichotomies between Arminianism and Calvinism a bit in the process. We really are products of our culture and environment and at that kind of macro level freewill is pretty illusory. However God encourages us to not harden our hearts when we hear his voice (Hebrews) so he seems to assume that we are capable of making choices. My hypothesis on this is that the condition of our hearts actually determines the quality of those choices. Keeping an open heart to God (good soil) will determine the presence and quality of the fruit we bear. And at a society level perhaps we should be concentrating on the condition of the soil more than just sowing seeds that are basically wasted - waiting for the right time to sow?

    I haven't thought this through totally but hope this adds to the conversation.

  11. Zilch: I don't think the poem is saying that the 'unknown' on its own creates fear. It is the KNOWN evil that is fearful - our experiences of ongoing NON-good, the 'dark threads'. In order to escape fear, this experiential cycle need re-interpreting, on the basis of other knowledge (or trust). So generic 'unknownness' only contributes to fear by not providing a way of escaping it. The real source of fear is what we do know and experience.

    Clive: I agree with the community focus. As you mention (and as we've discussed before) it doesn't negate the usefulness of discussing individual choices and determinism, but I think the interconnectedness of various 'groups' (e.g. communities, humanity as a whole, etc) is a big sociological (and Biblical) concept we tend to ignore in Westernism.

  12. Fwiw- I'm a firm believer in the value of soil. Not only its obvious value (as of course was also known in Biblical times) as the source of our nourishment, but as part of our living world that we should embrace. As such, I make sure that I regularly eat a bit of soil every once in a while. If nothing else, it keeps my immune system limber. And I'm almost never sick. Try it.

    cheers from cool Vienna, Scott

  13. Hi Clive,
    Thanks for your comment. Sorry for a slow reply.
    You always bring an interesting and worthwhile balance to the discussion we have around determinism, but the collective point of view is beyond the purpose of this post.

    I am well aware that western culture has dominated tribal cultures which tend to view things differently. We need to respect tribal cultures and uphold their points of view, however this does not mean pulling away from the strengths that the western culture can provide. That strength is often reductionist thought - putting things in pigeon holes lol. Not ignoring that obviously in certain circumstances it is a weakness.

    I think the point of the parable of the sower was that we are to be witnesses to those around us, whether they be soft or hard soil. We cannot ever really see the condition of another's soil until we see the fruits of it. Only God knows. Hence we be Christ to all no matter whether they accept us (and the gospel) or not.
    Though, I agree that if we can change the collective cultural soil the more effective we may be. Remembering that it is God who convicts and changes hearts, and not us. We are mere tools.

    I don't believe that changing our thought from being individual to collective resolves the problems between Freewill and Predestination. It more smudges the lines.

    --- "However God encourages us to not harden our hearts when we hear his voice (Hebrews) so he seems to assume that we are capable of making choices. My hypothesis on this is that the condition of our hearts actually determines the quality of those choices." ---

    You imply above that the deciding factor - whether we adopt the gospel or not - is by a condition that we place our hearts in. However, this condition has to come from somewhere. You are right in that much of the Bible appears to be written from a Freewill perspective (a lot is not), though I believe that this perspective is simply statements of truth or certainty rather than uncertainty. What I mean by that is: It is true that if we cease to harden our hearts then we will be softer towards God. It is true that God calls us collectively (and individually) as a principle to 'not harden our hearts'. Some of us will listen at that moment and others will take more time to listen. These statements of expectation does not make it necessary for us to have Freewill. From our perspective it merely feels like we have choice. From God's perspective, an expectation like that is a useful guideline given for us to turn towards, even though He knows that expectations like that will only have effect when (as you say) our hearts are conditioned right. Actually, hearing statements like that could be a part of the process by which our hearts are conditioned to become softer towards God.


    P.S. I might pass on the eating straight soil thing Scott lol.

  14. I can't see how eating a bit of soil can hurt, unless it's obviously contaminated with something, and seeing as how people who live on farms have fewer allergies than people who live in cities, it seems a pretty likely conclusion that too much hygiene is a bad thing, because it doesn't keep your immune system up to date. Those unfortunate individuals who are so allergic to everything that they have to live in the mountains, and you can't visit them unless you change your clothes, all come from cities and all come from modern times.

    Unless you live under a bell jar, bugs are going to get to you, so it's better to be prepared as much as possible.

  15. Hi Daniel,

    A little tangent... but I did some study a while back on anthropology and found that the world-views of tribal culture and peasant culture are actually quite similar in their view of collective vs individualistic thinking. Their connection to the land is a little different as peasant cultures often weren't as connected (different concepts of land ownership) but otherwise very similar.

    Why I say this is that most of us in NZ actually come from either peasant or tribal culture not that many generations back. My ancestors were Irish/Scottish working/peasant class people. The Industrial Revolution was really the driver of individualism/ consumerism/ globalism and it was as damaging to peasant cultures (the Highland clearances and the Irish Potato Famine for instance) as it was to tribal cultures through colonialism.

    Then what was left of caring community cohesion was systematically destroyed through the deliberate transformation (by corporate advertising and propaganda) of Western society into individualistic materialistic consumers during the last century. So you can see I have no loyalty to the part of Western culture that has been destroying communities, individuals and God's creation for the last 300 or so years all in the name of "progress", "freedom" and "prosperity". I'm still a wild Scottish/Irish rebel at heart :)

    Where that leaves me as a Christian is that I see the personal, social and environmental call of the Church as one and the same thing. I think we are called to both "name and shame" what has been done through Western culture (often by people who call themselves Christians) and present a Biblical alternative. I think when Christians start seeing that the Bible has something to say about culture and creation as well as the personal soul the world may start to listen a bit more. I did a post on my blog along these lines last week:

    My belief is that as we do this (under God's sovereign grace!) he will use us to affect the condition of the cultural soil around us and there will be much more receptivity to the gospel of the Kingdom.


  16. Hi again Daniel,

    Just want to question the assumption you make about the parable of the sower. You say: "I think the point of the parable of the sower was that we are to be witnesses to those around us, whether they be soft or hard soil. We cannot ever really see the condition of another's soil until we see the fruits of it. Only God knows. Hence we be Christ to all no matter whether they accept us (and the gospel) or not." This is a common way of taking the parable - I was reading Spurgeon on this recently and that is his approach. But I think there is more.

    I agree that we cannot know for sure the condition of another's heart but I believe that we are called to be more than sowers, also we are called to be farmers or "husbandmen" as the old language puts it. Growing plants is much more than sowing seeds, it about preparing the soil plus lots of other things. The reason for instance that Christ's message was received as it was had to do a lot with the preparation that John the Baptist had done. I think the old concepts like "Christian Charity" are what we are called to - and like treating our community as if it is our "parish" are what we do to care for the cultural soil.

    I think that these are neglected in contemporary Christianity. We have often adopted a more industrial mass-production model then blamed "unbelievers" for their lack of receptivity when we are expecting them to receive the good news without us doing the necessary preparation work.

    I'm challenging myself to take responsibility for the "soil" of my community and trying to work out the implications of that. It does open up a lot of possibilities.

  17. Ok, really annoyed lol. I lost my comment I posted to you... Here is a short version:

    Totally agree 100% that church has become disconnected from society. Christianese culture in church is useful, but only for some people. We need to get into our communities and bring Christ to them in a relational way rather than preachy. I think you misunderstood me about the soil. I mean to be Christ to everyone in a relational loving way. They will know we are of Christ if we show love to one another. Meet them where they are at. Church has become a safe house from the world to the point that it struggles to connect with people out in the world.
    There was a young boy I mentored at Te Ora Hou, who I thought would struggle to connect in church. Instead I think we need to go out to the community instead of wait for it to come to us. How we do this is up for discussion :)

    I have to say that western culture has destroyed much as you say, but I say again that it has its value, and to overlook that would mean doing to Western culture what Western culture has done to other cultures... devaluation.


  18. Yes good points - I think we are on the same page over this. I've been thinking of mission in broader terms. There is a quote I love - "It's not that the church has a mission it's that the mission has a church". We are called - quite simply - to love the world (in a John 3:16 sense rather than a 1 John 2:15 sense). This may look like what people derogatively call "social gospel" or even "environmentalism" rather than traditional evangelism but these when things are rooted in the gospel they are profoundly relevant in my opinion. Tom Wright has been very helpful in helping me to see this more clearly - as have lots of other writer and thinkers :)