Tag Archives: Arminianism

Why all the fuss about that predestination thing?

The negative characterizations that Arminians and Molinists make about the “Calvinist God” are virtually indistinguishable from the nature of their version of God.  They just don’t realize it.

The purpose of this post isn’t to debate Arminian vs. Reformed vs. Middle Knowledge (or whatever hybrid / other version of orthodox Christianity you adhere to).  It is merely to point out that some of the rancor against Reformed theology* in the debate seems misplaced.

The Bible uses the word predestined many times (e.g., Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will), so the only question is what the word really means, in context.  But regardless of your definition, unless you subscribe to the false theology of Open Theism then it seems that you would agree that these two events happened in this order:

  1. God knew who would repent and trust in Jesus and thus spend eternity in Heaven, and who would not and therefore spend eternity in Hell.
  2. God created everyone.

My point is simply that the other views aren’t as far from Reformed theology as their adherents like to think they are (“That old meanie Calvinist God who knew which people would go to Hell but created them anyway is nothing like our loving Arminian/Middle Knowledge God who knew which people would go to Hell and created them anyway!!!”).

For example, on the Molinism/Middle Knowledge view, God considered the infinite number of possibilities of “free will” choices and created the version of the universe that maximized the number of people who would be saved.  But that means one of the following must be true, neither of which is far from Reformed theology.

1. God created someone who wouldn’t convert in any one of an infinite number of universes — even if they read nothing but the Wintery Knight blog, watched nothing but William Lane Craig debates and experienced nothing but Bible-based, loving Christians.  That seems indistinguishable from Reformed theology on that point. They would have been created such that it would be impossible for them to believe under any circumstances.

2. God created people who would have believed in some other universes, but not this one.  God just didn’t give them the right circumstances.  That should strike the same chord of alleged unfairness that people hold against Reformed theology.  They would have believed if only God would have done things differently!

And under the Arminian view, using all their preferred definitions of key terms, God knew which people would not use their “free will” to choose him but created them anyway.  Which means one of the following:

1. No matter what God did, they wouldn’t choose him.  God created them knowing that no matter how events were ordered, they would not use their “free will” to believe, sort of like the previous possibility #1.  This seems barely distinguishable from the Reformed view.

2. They would have chosen God had He made their circumstances different.  God could have ordered events differently so that they would have been more compelled to choose.  But He chose not to . . .

Again, I’m not after the merits of the views in this post.  I know which one is correct ;-).  I’m just pointing out that they aren’t as far apart as people make them out to be on the emotional issues.  Even if you are correct on this in-house debate and Reformed theology is in error, the emotional reactions to Reformed theology on this point are not warranted.  In Reformed, Arminian and Molinist theologies God knew what people would do, including that many would spend eternity in Hell, then He created them anyway.

P.S. I had to shut down comments on the last post with a similar topic because otherwise-well behaved people were getting petty.  Don’t make me do that again! 

* Sometimes referred to as Calvinism.  I realize that some don’t care for the term “Reformed,” but I need to choose some descriptor.

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The Potter’s Freedom

I rarely post things like this because they can become needlessly divisive.  As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, I saw way more Reformed-bashing and just plain misunderstandings of the Reformed position than I saw in the reverse. I consider it an in-house debate among Christians — albeit an important one — and don’t see any reason for either side to be nasty.  Comments will be closely moderated.

I highly recommend The Potter’s Freedom by James White, which thoroughly addresses Chosen But Free by Norm Geisler (or read both — Geisler has an appendix addressing White and White added an appendix addressing Geisler’s response (or those of his students’ class project of responding)).

If I wasn’t Reformed before reading it I would have been afterwards. I always respected Geisler, other than the Ergun Caner debacle, and still appreciate most of what he has done, but White rips him to shreds in the most polite sort of way.

(For the record, I have been in Arminian churches my entire life and am saturated in the Christian culture of Arminianism. My recent switch doesn’t mean I’m right, but the fact is that I made the switch against significant odds and a desire to see Arminianism proved right. But the Bible verses just don’t support it.)

After noting that I’d love to hear a debate between James White and William Lane Craig, someone responded with this:

Craig doesn’t debate other Christians on secondary issues. He views it as a harmful witness. Plus, White isn’t really qualified to debate Craig. He’s got a suspect degree from a suspect university and always says suspect stuff. You just don’t debate every goof on the internet who wants to debate you.

My response:

Comments like that make me even more Reformed 🙂 . As an Arminian I’d listen to lots of Reformed / Arminian debates and always wonder why they lined up well versed Reformed professionals against Arminian light-weights who mainly trafficked in ad homs and bad exegesis. It just didn’t seem fair. Then I started to think that maybe it was the arguments that were at fault and that that was the best the Arminians could do.

Have you read The Potter’s Freedom? If not, please do, and see if you can do any better than Geisler’s students did in refuting it. (I was embarrassed for Geisler, and I’d been a fan of his for over 15 years). It should be easy, since you insist that he’s just an Internet goof that always says suspect stuff.

P.S. Dawkins will thank you for the excuses Craig gives — he can modify those to use against Craig.

Additional thoughts

“Reformed” and “Arminian” may be overly broad terms.  There are also Molinists, who think that through God’s middle knowledge he selected a world where the most possible people would choose him, and there are many who don’t hold to all 5 points of “Calvinism.”

Having said that, it seems that the logical law of excluded middle would hold that election is either conditional or not conditional, grace is irresistible or not, etc.

Perhaps it is the finance guy / CPA in me, but I don’t get bothered by limited atonement.  There are many arguments to use (really, read the book!), and of course we center on the Bible, but the concept of propitiation (satisfying God’s wrath) alone makes me willing to strongly consider it.  If Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath for everyone’s sins, then there is no wrath left.  Illustrations about them not picking up their gift wouldn’t apply.  The wrath would have already been pored out.

This DVD gives a good overview of the tenets and history of Reformed theology.

Finally, I’ll note that I don’t consider those with opposing views to be non-Christians.

Roundup

UK midwives protest ruling forcing them to perform abortions — this is getting more and more common.  Religious freedom: You’re doin’ it wrong.  The Obama administration is forcing religious organizations to pay for birth control, some of which are abortifacients.  This is unconscionable.  At least the Supreme Court got one thing right as far as the hiring practices of religious groups.

A summary of Dr. Laura’s Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands — this is just the intro — be sure to read the entire post.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written another book that deserves a place on the best seller list with six of her other books, such as Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives and Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, from this unmarried man’s perspective, is an excellent manual for women on how to get want they want from men and marriage and, generally, how to be happy. Dr. Laura makes a number of important, practical points, based on her experience in private practice, from advising her radio callers, and from literally hundreds of letters and emails she received from men and women while she was writing the book.

Barack Obama fought the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which protected infants who survived abortions from being murdered, but the media calls Rick Santorum the extremist?!

Peer-reviewed paper in medical journal challenges Darwinian evolution — Wait, that can’t be right!  Everyone knows that there is no such thing as that.

A new article by Dr. Joseph Kuhn of the Department of Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center, appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, poses a number of challenges to both chemical and biological evolution. Titled “Dissecting Darwinism,” the paper begins by recounting some of the arguments raised during the Texas State Board of Education debate that challenged chemical and biological evolution. Those challenges include:

1. Limitations of the chemical origin of life data to explain the origin of DNA
2. Limitations of mutation and natural selection theories to address the irreducible complexity of the cell
3. Limitations of transitional species data to account for the multitude of changes involved in the transition.

Why do people hate Tim Tebow? Why do people want Tim Tebow to fail? — It is interesting watching the haters get so riled up about Tim Tebow.  Why wouldn’t feminists want a guy like Tebow, who would be faithful to them, have their long-term best interests at heart, not want to take away their purity, not risk them having to get a disease, an abortion or to be a single parent?  One pro-abortion group tried to raise funds by asking people to donate money for each touchdown pass Tebow makes, so they could somehow profit from his success.  He is similar to Sarah Palin in that his life and story mock the pro-abortion theme that we need to kill the unborn if they aren’t perfect or wanted.

Your tax dollars at work: The administration of the most pro-abortion President ever thought that taxpayer-funded abortions in the U.S. weren’t enough.  They needed to increase abortions in Kenya as well and hired surrogates to spread their message.  It stills sickens me to hear alleged pro-lifers rationalize their vote for Obama.

Stan does his usual excellent work in examining this comment by William Lane Craig:

The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. [God] has to play with the hand He has been dealt. — William Lane Craig

Craig is really good but isn’t perfect.  That was a truly odd comment of him to make, but when you peel back the layers it is actually consistent with his worldview.  Whether it is Arminianism or Molinism, they leave the final say to humans on many issues.

MLK, Jr believed homosexuals could –and should– change — Oh noes — what will the fake Christians do with that fact? Oh, they’ll just say he would have changed his mind, just like Jesse went from pro-life to pro-abortion.

Once lost, always lost?

Stan at Winging It brought up an interesting point about the “once saved, always saved” debate.  I’m on the “once really saved, always really saved” side.  I add “really” as a deliberate redundancy to emphasize that the conversion must be authentic.  Countless people can say a few words and hang out in church and not be truly saved (I know, because I used to be one).

Here’s a wrinkle that I liked:

Well, both sides have had various manifestations. On the “conditional security” side, it appeared in most cases like you could certainly lose it if you didn’t remain faithful, but if you lost it, you could get it back again. No problem. Just repent again. Poof! You’re saved again. Rarely did they face the specter of Hebrews 6, although they liked to use the passage as proof against the Calvinists.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt (Heb 6:4-6).

“There, see? If you ‘have fallen away’, then you lose your salvation!” Okay, fine, but note that it says that “it is impossible … to restore them again to repentance”. So if you go with “conditional security”, rather than the “Once Saved, Always Saved” view, you would necessarily need to hold the “Once Lost, Always Lost” position. So some Arminians would concede the point and others would deny it.

So if the “you can lose your salvation” camp wants to cite Hebrews 6 (an admittedly challenging passage to exegete) then they should be consistent and say that once it is lost, it is gone for good.