Tag Archives: calvinism

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.

Advertisements

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

John Calvin’s admirers agree that he wasn’t the most charming fellow at times (Calvin appears to have conceded that as well). But was he a heretic-burning maniac as he is often portrayed?  Not quite.

—–

How do prostitutes stay in business in an era of hook-up sex? — Good points by the Wintery Knight.

—–

Ayn Rand says “I told you so.”  I found Atlas Shrugged tedious at times but amazingly accurate.  It is funny to watch her haters try to dismiss anyone who agrees with her premise, but they ignore that she was pro-abortion.  So do they think they are wrong on that topic?  It is important to note that the government-creep goes on with Republicans, too.

—–

The NY Times has been covering for Communism for a long time.

—–

Professional atheist Richard Dawkins was in his usual form lately, explaining why adultery is OK but investigating suspected adultery is really bad (Darwinism gives him an oddly precise moral compass!).  Then he opined on the Bible as if he had actually read it and understood it.  He tried to say that the New Testament writers didn’t seem to care if Jesus was real.  He should start with 1 Corinthians 15 then read the rest of the passages mentioned in the post.  No wonder he runs away from William Lane Craig!

—–

Kevin DuJan from Hillbuzz has keen insights into the gay community and how aggressively hateful they are against Christians.

—–

Yet another “hate hoax.”  You don’t see the media reporting on these once the hoaxes are discovered.  It is the same silence and cover-ups as with the pro-gay FRC shooter.

—–

Via UCC Condemns Boy Scouts — shocking!  By which I mean, not shocking at all.

This is one of those “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation” topics.  Even if you are part of the apostate UCC or some random fake Christian who spouts pro-gay theology, you should see the wisdom of not having males who are attracted to males camping with boys.

Gee, what could possibly go wrong?  Lawyers would have field days suing the Boy Scouts when abuses would occur (“They knowingly let gay men spend time alone on camping trips with boys — what were they thinking?!  Please make that multi-million dollar, Boy Scout-bankrupting check out to ______”).  It is about as logical as letting men camp with girls.

The one good thing about this topic is that those like the UCC are basically screaming out that they could care less about God’s word and common sense.  They just want to advance the gay agenda and try to destroy the Scouts.

Then there is this shining example of love, tolerance and common sense: The Atlantic Wants to Kill Boy Scouts Like Rabid Dogs.  But that definitely isn’t hate speech.

—–

Pregnancies from rapes are difficult to address, but one solution that shouldn’t be considered is killing the innocent child.  I’d entertain capital punishment for the rapist if Liberals want to advance that, but I don’t follow their knee-jerk reaction to kill the innocent.  Post-abortion trauma is similar to post-rape trauma, so it isn’t like an abortion makes the rape go away.

And remember, your taxes help Planned Parenthood hide statutory rape.  Abortions often hide the crimes of rape and incest.

Several point Calvinists?

Some Christians go into full freak-out mode when the term Calvinism* even comes up.  While some have done a very careful study to arrive at their opposition to the 5 points of Calvinism, much of what I come across falls into the straw-man category.  That is, they don’t have a proper understanding of what they are criticizing.  I’m not going to address the merits of the view here, and I ask that commenters do the same (if you really must say something, feel free to link to your favorite defense of your view).  I view this issue as important but not worth dividing over.

My point here is simply that many non-Calvinists often talk like Calvinists.

If you read the newspaper — or even look carefully in the mirror — you should agree with the doctrine of total depravity.  That doesn’t mean that we’re as depraved as we could be in all aspects of our lives, just that we were conceived as sinners and our words, thoughts and deeds always fall short of the glory of God.  That should make you at least a 1 pt. Calvinist.

I’ve previously asked, Ever notice how Arminians sometimes act and pray like Calvinists?, where I noted that they do so when it comes to evangelism and salvation.  If you talk about evangelism they are quick to say it is all up to God, and they’ll pray for God to change people’s hearts.  It is a humble sentiment, but it doesn’t seem to fit in with their Arminian theology.  I wonder if it is an excuse to avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism?  They don’t seem to want God to “woo” people, they seem to want him to really change them — forever.  Either way, it sure seems to hint at irresistible grace.

Many non-Calvinists hold to the perseverance of the saints, or the belief that you can’t lose your salvation — aka “once saved, always saved (OSAS),” or as I like to call it, “once really saved, always saved.”

Critics of OSAS often point to Hebrews 6:4-6 to defend their view that we can lose our salvation:

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.

It is an admittedly complex passage.  But if it means that you can lose your salvation then it would also mean you can’t get it back. There would be no hope for backsliders, which is not something that the “you can lose your salvation” group typically believes.

So quite a few people seem to be at least several point Calvinists.

* I prefer the term Reformed Theology over Calvinism, but I am going with the latter here as more people are familiar with it.

Ever notice how Arminians sometimes act and pray like Calvinists?

I’m not trying to start the whole Calvinism / Arminian debate here, I’m just making an observation.  I’ve known people who oppose Reformed Theology (aka Calvinism), but they talk and pray like Calvinists when it comes to evangelism and salvation.

If you talk about evangelism they are quick to say it is all up to God, and they’ll pray for God to change people’s hearts.  It is a humble sentiment, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in with their Arminian theology.  I wonder if it is an excuse to avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism?  They don’t seem to want God to “woo” people, they seem to want him to really change them — forever.

I lean to Reformed Theology now but caught myself thinking the same way when I leaned towards Arminianism.

A great overview of the Book of Job

The Book of Job can be challenging to read, but it contains many timeless truths.  Having God come on the scene and turning the questioning on Job is worth reading the whole book.

This article at Pyromaniacs: The Patience of Job was the best overview I’ve ever read on Job.

Human emotions don’t help us make sense of these things. If you want to sort through the problem of evil, you have to think sensibly, and theologically, and biblically, and not let your emotions rule your mind.

Job was a wise enough man than to know better than to respond by reflex on the basis of his feelings. If he had responded according to what he felt like, he might have cursed God. If he had just given vent to his feelings, he could easily been consumed with bitterness, self-pity, anger, and frustration—and he might have been tempted to take his wife’s advice: “Curse God and die!”

But Job’s very first response was the response of someone who knows something about God: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Job had filtered his feelings through his theology. It still did not make sense to him why he had to suffer like this (and that is why Job is 42 chapters long; because it records the dialogue Job had with his friends as he tried to sort this out). But even though it made no sense to him, even though he was overwhelmed with painful feelings, his immediate response made no mention of those feelings.

. . .

This cannot be stressed too much: It was sound theology, not his feelings, that enabled Job to weather the immediate shock of the news that his children and everything he owned were gone forever. This is why sound theology is so important—and so intensely practical.

Notice what truths Job clung to. These were the things Job knew for sure about God. These were the truths that became his anchor. And throughout the book of Job, amid all his complaints and pleading, he never once let go of these principles. Here are three truths Job clung to in order to see him through his grief:

I encourage you to read it all.  I agree that Job was a staunch Calvinist and it made a big difference to him.

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.