Wednesday, November 19, 2008

James White & the Purpose of Sin

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, writes: “If any of you want to know what I preach every day, and any stranger should say, ‘Give me a summary of his doctrine,’ say this, ‘He preaches salvation all of grace, and damnation all of sin. He gives God all the glory for every soul that is saved, but he won’t have it that God is to blame for any man that is damned.’ That teaching I cannot understand. My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man's soul at God’s door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.” (Jacob and Esau)

In other words, Spurgeon is arguing against the kind of “equal ultimacy” that Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, had also warned against, in that God’s decrees toward “the elect” vs. “non-elect” is not a positive/positive schema, but a positive/negative schema. This concept involves God’s positive (active) action for the one, and negative (passive) action for the other (i.e. permission).

The only problem is that a permission-based, positive vs. negative view of God’s decrees doesn’t seem to work well with Determinism, as Arminians, Walls and Dongell, point out:

“But if God only permits certain things without specifically causing them, it is hard to see how this would square with the Calvinist claim of all-embracing determinism.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, pp.126-127)

Additionally, they point out: “ is hard to see how Calvinists can speak of any events or choice as being permitted.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.129)

“In a normal case of permission, the person granting permission does not determine the choices of the one who is granted permission.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.131)

“Calvinists can insist on using the language of permission, but we think it’s strained and unnatural, given their view that all things--including our choice--are determined.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.132)

“The notion of permission loses all significant meaning in a Calvinist framework.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.132)

“The dilemma is part of what motivates many Calvinists to ‘bite the bullet’ and embrace a thoroughgoing determinism.” (Why I am not a Calvinist, p.132)

Losing “permission,” from the Calvinist position, comes at the cost of losing Compatibilism, which is the Calvinist alternative to Determinism, which attempts to reconcile the polar opposites of free will and determinism. However, there is an even bigger problem, which should put the final nail in the coffin of Compatibilism. I cite a youtube clip of James White, where he states concerning the Arminian perspective: “It’s far better to have a God, who in creating this universe, does not create with a sovereign decree, that determines actions in time. …God created all that evil, and has no purpose for it, none whatsoever. At least the Reformed person can say that God uses means, we can look at the Compatibilism that’s plainly presented in Genesis chapter 50, Isaiah 10, Acts 4, we can talk about the purity of God’s motivations and the impurity of man’s motivations, ect.” (Theology Matters: The Parable of the Farmer--Geisler)

Here’s the problem. If God has a “purpose” in a depraved person committing sin “A,” then doesn’t it stand to reason, that God doesn’t have a purpose in them committing sin’s “B” through “Z”? So if it’s God’s purpose for the depraved person to commit sin “A,” then the depraved person’s freedom of choice to commit sin’s “B” through “Z,” is therefore a threat to the purpose-driven will of God. The purpose-driven decree of God, must therefore restrict the depraved person’s range of sinful choices down to only one sinful choice, amongst a multitude of other sinful choices. Therefore, how would God reduce a depraved person’s choice, to only that one single choice which God has allegedly purposed for them to commit? God would have to remove any semblance of free choice (thereby eliminating Compatibilism), and instill within the depraved person’s heart, a desire which matches His one lone purpose. Now consider that the decree of God, according to Calvinism, is an all-encompassing decree. It’s not hard to imagine from here, how every choice of every man, depraved or regenerate, must be restricted to only a preset course of action, amongst a multitude of other potential actions.

Using an illustration, suppose that I have a purpose in you driving home drunk tomorrow night, and getting into a life-changing car accident. For my decreed purpose to be achieved, I cannot have you going to the movies instead. I cannot have you staying home. I have to get you out of the house, and instill a desire to drink alcohol, rather than drugs, and only so much that you are still able to operate a vehicle. With so many competing sins, I’d have to restrict all of your choices down to one clear path, to the point of meticulous programming. So the challenge, here, is not about a depraved person doing something good, but about a depraved person doing some other depraved action, besides the one that has a specific purpose. Therefore, for a Compatibilist to suggest that Compatibilism still provides a basis for judgment, because God can still judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, is overthrown by the fact that God would have to meticulously instill the thoughts and intentions of that person’s heart. Their thoughts and intentions could in no way be there own, since anything genuinely of their own might conflict with the decreed purpose.

Now if you were to say that God only decrees certain sins of depraved people, and not all of their sins, then the concept of an all-encompassing decree, falls as well. There is no way out. Either you have an all-encompassing, purpose-driven will for the depraved sinner, or you have people committing such sins as child sacrifice to Molech, which never entered God’s mind that they should commit, as per Jeremiah 32:35. So once James White insists that sin must have a purpose, he cannot look at such things as Compatibilism as a solution, contrary to what he stated in his youtube clip.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Supralapsarianism? What's that?

Laurence Vance writes: “If God has ordained everything for his glory then the reprobation of the wicked is his ‘determinate counsel’ (Acts 2:23) and takes place ‘according to the counsel of his own will’ (Eph. 1:11) no matter which lapsarian system one adheres to.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.298)

The contention is whether or not there is any real difference between Supra-lapsarianism vs. Infra-lapsarianism, or whether the purported distinction is merely a false dichotomy, where a system of jargon is invented for the sole purpose of Special Pleading. In other words, the charge is essentially whether any Calvinism inevitably boils down to the hyper Calvinism of Supra-lapsarianism.

First, what is Supra-lapsarianism?

To begin, I will first define the Calvinistic lapsarian terms, and then I will cite a couple of quotes, and then ask you three simple (Yes/No) questions.

The word “lapsarian” comes from the Latin word lapsus, which means the “doctrine of the Fall.” The prefix supra means above, while the prefix infra implies below. So the perspective of the former is “before the Fall” while the perspective of the latter is “after the Fall,” or in lieu of the Fall.

1) Supra-lapsarianism: The damnation of the [alleged] “non-elect” is according to the secret purpose of God, without regard to their sin. Creation, the Fall, and sin must all be the manifestation of the secret counsel of God, having created the [alleged] “non-elect” by necessity. This is also known as Double Predestination or Unconditional Reprobation. Its logical order is:

1. Election and Reprobation

2. Creation

3. Fall

4. Atonement for the elect

5. Salvation for the elect

Here is a statement of Supralapsarianism:

John Calvin writes: “...God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why, except that its reason is hidden in His eternal counsel.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.53)

Calvin explains: “When God prefers some to others, choosing some and passing others by, the difference does not depend on human dignity or indignity. It is therefore wrong to say that the reprobate are worthy of eternal destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.120-121)

In other words, Reprobation is just as unconditional as Election.

Calvin adds: “If what I teach is true, that those who perish are destined to death by the eternal good pleasure of God though the reason does not appear, then they are not found but made worthy of destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121)

In other words, the Unconditional Reprobation of the wicked is not in lieu of their sin, but in lieu of God’s alleged decree, which establishes their “lot” in life:

Calvin writes: “…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203)

Calvin writes: “There are some, too, who allege that God is greatly dishonored if such arbitrary power is bestowed on Him. But does their distaste make them better theologians than Paul, who has laid it down as the rule of humility for the believers, that they should look up to the sovereignty of God and not evaluate it by their own judgment?” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.209-210)

Calvin adds: “At this point in particular the flesh rages when it hears that the predestination to death of those who perish is referred to the will of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.208)

2) Infra-lapsarianism: The damnation of the [alleged] “non-elect” is strictly according to the sin of man. This is called Single Predestination, and closely associated with Preterition, which conveys the meaning that the [alleged] “non-elect” are simply “passed by” and left out of the will of God. It rejects the idea that God creates sinners by “necessity,” and to ultimately damn them for the glory of God.

1. Creation

2. Fall

3. Election and Reprobation

4. Atonement for the elect

5. Salvation for the elect

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, explains: “If any of you want to know what I preach every day, and any stranger should say, ‘Give me a summary of his doctrine,’ say this, ‘He preaches salvation all of grace, and damnation all of sin. He gives God all the glory for every soul that is saved, but he won’t have it that God is to blame for any man that is damned.’ That teaching I cannot understand. My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man’s soul at God’s door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.” (Jacob and Esau)

So it seems that according to John Calvin, the sentiment expressed by Chares Spurgeon is nothing more than an example of how “the flesh rages” against the “arbitrary power” of the “sovereignty of God.”

3) Sub-lapsarianism: As a close relative of Infra-lapsarianism, the prefix sub also implies below or after. This designation accommodates the atonement views of the 4-Point Calvinists, so that Election and Reprobation are placed in a logical order which follow the atonement:

1. Creation

2. Fall

3. Atonement for all

4. Election and Reprobation

Salvation for the elect

4) Conclusion: Now we come to the conclusion, which is the question of whether any of these designations are legitimate distinctions, or merely worthless jargon used to confound, confuse and obfuscate:

Calvinist, G.C. Berkouwer, states: “We cannot speak of before and after in God’s eternal decrees as we do in time, hence the difference between supra and infra can be called imaginary because it implies the application of a temporal order to eternity.” (Divine Election, p.261)

Berkouwer adds: “The fall must ultimately have been part of God’s counsel and therefore it ‘rests’ in God’s sovereign pleasure. But in that case the infra concept says the same as the supra.” (Divine Election, p.261)

5) Question:

A) Based upon the reasoning provided, do you believe that John Calvin was a Supra-lapsarian? (Yes/No?)

B) Based upon the reasoning provided, do you believe that G.C. Berkouwer was a Supra-lapsarian? (Yes/No?)

C) Does Berkouwer’s argument violate any principle of logic? (Yes/No?)

No answer will be permitted, unless it first answers all three of these simple (Yes/No) questions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

John Gill answers the question

Here is the multiple choice question:

When does a person technically become "in Christ"?

A) Before the foundation of the world, certain "elect" people are already "in Christ," not that they are chosen to become in Christ, but already are in Christ, from eternity past. As a result, when they are born, they already are "in Christ," without even knowing it, until such time as Irresistible Grace makes them aware of it.

B) Certain "elect" people are born "in Adam," but at an appointed time, are preemptively made Born Again "in Christ," regenerated with a new heart and a new spirit as the "new creture" in Christ, and thus are efficaciously drawn to Christ.

C) A person is born "in Adam," and does not become "in Christ" until he hears and believes in the Gospel, and then is "sealed" in Christ, as per Ephesians 1:13.

I believe that Calvinist, James White, taught (B):

James White: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191)

Jacob Arminius taught (C):

Arminius: “God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith.”

I personally believe that Paul taught (C) as well:

Paul: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13)

However, I couldn't find a single major Calvinist who was willing to espouse (A), until now.

In his commentary on 2nd Timothy 1:9, John Gill states: "which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; it is a gift, and a free gift, not at all depending upon any conditions in the creature, and entirely proceeding from the sovereign will of God; and it was a gift from eternity; there was not only a purpose of grace in God's heart, and a promise of it so early, but there was a real donation of it in eternity: and though those to whom it was given did not then personally exist, yet Christ did, and he existed as a covenant head and representative of his people; and they were in him, as members of him, as represented by him, being united to him; and this grace was given to him for them, and to them in him; in whom they were chosen, and in whom they were blessed with all spiritual blessings. The Ethiopic version reads, "in Christ Jesus, who before the world [was]"; but without any foundation." (

Now the interesting thing is, if they were "in him," that is, Christ, from eternity past, "as members of him," then compare with 1st John 2:23-24: "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father."

So if a person could be "in the Son" from before the foundation of the world, doesn't it stand to reason that they were "in the Father" from before the foundation of the world, also?