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Inability does not imply Irresponsibility

September 5, 2006

(These are some fresh words, not recycled!) 

One of the hidden premises of Arminianism is “Responsibility implies ability”.  In other words, if God commands all men to believe, then all men must have the ability to believe, otherwise he cannot hold them responsible.  But this premise is false.  Just because Man has lost his ability to obey, doesn’t mean God has lost his authority to command.  If you need further convincing, read Edwards on the Freedom of the Will.  That’s not the point of my post today.

Today I take it as already proven that responsibility does not imply ability.  Today I want to consider the contrapostive that logically follows.  (Remember that from Philosophy 101? If A–> B then not B –> not A)  So the contrapostive of “responsibility does not imply ability” is “inability does not imply irresponsibility”

What does this mean for us?  It means that when you come to a command in the Bible like “Choose life.”  “Kill your sin.”  “Say No to ungodliness”, you must not simply reply “But I can’t”.  Indeed, you can’t.  But “I can’t” is no excuse.  You must. 

So what do you do?  You seek God for grace and help and strength to obey.  You pray like Augustine “Command what Thou wilt, and give what Thou commandest.”

Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand!”  He can’t, right?!  But the command contained within it the power to enable and effectually call forth his response.  “Lazarus, come forth!”  He can’t, right?!  But the command contained within it the power to raise from the dead. 

So stay in the word and let it command you.  Let it boss you around.  And pray for grace to obey.  Not just the promises, but also the commands and prohibitions of the word are means of grace.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2006 7:20 am

    Thanks for posting this. We need the command to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” and to know while working that “…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”(Phil. 2:12&13) Grace empowers. :)

  2. September 7, 2006 4:31 pm

    Excuse me good Sir, but isn’t denying the antecedent a logical fallacy? “If A, then B” does not necessitate “Not A, then Not B” because “Not A” can also lead to B since “If A, then B” does not declare any properties to “Not A”.

  3. September 7, 2006 4:41 pm

    I realized that I misread your post. Your logic is sound, since you are denying the consequent, and not the antecedant as I originally thought. Please forgive my confusion!

  4. September 7, 2006 8:00 pm

    Your brief confusion is pardoned. :-)

    And if anyone else out there wants to be as nerdly as you and I , here’s a review:

    If the original proposition is

    a–> b

    then the converse is

    b –> a

    the inverse is

    not a –> not b

    and the contrapositive is

    not b –> not a

    The converse and the inverse are not necessarily true. But the contrapostive is always true if the original proposition is true. This is one of the few things from my philosophy major that has actually come in handy more than once.

  5. Egana permalink
    September 14, 2006 9:32 am


    Hey! I remember those. They were really comfortable, and you would wer them with your jean legs rolled up a little to show off the brand label, right?

    Ah… I like knowing what’s going on… makes me feel smart, ya know… part of the group conversation… nice to know I can dip in here every once in a while and participate in an intelligent conversation…

  6. Egana permalink
    September 14, 2006 9:45 am

    On a more serious note, I was struck by your statement “inability does not imply irresponsibility” but in a relational way. I thought of my very capable parents, who excel at everything they do. Now, in my old age of 35, I can see that they don’t excel at EVERYTHING, but they succeed often enough that it was soooooo intimidating as a young person. They are all very good at things I am not so good at. And I often felt small, unworthy, unaccomplished, worthless, and stupid because of it.

    losing things was one of my worst problems. I simply was “unable” to put my keys or ID or backpack or homework in the same place every day. I mean, come one, each day was different, it required different actions, right? well…. anyway, I have often thought my inability to do something that others thought normal, right, common-sense, etc. was a true indication or my irresponsibility, my lack of worth and comnplete uselessness in my family and in our society.

    (Now please remember, these are thoughts were generated in Middle School and High School. And as such, are irrational and hormone driven, yet they linger into adulthood and haunt me…)

    Anway, thank you for your catchy title (even though my interpretation is NOT what you were talking about.) I am getting up from the computer with a new sense of freedom. just because normal daily tasks are difficult for me to accomplish, does not mean I am irresponsible. it simply means I need God’s help to do them. Awesome!

    Inability does NOT imply irresponsibility! Inability implies need.

    So now I can turn to God (and to others) and humbly, joyfully ask for help. Ahhhh…..

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