Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deterministic Calvinism vs. Independent Thought

Calvinist, James White, writes: “How God can know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point….” (Debating Calvinism, p.163)

Based upon this example, in which White is simply being consistent with other Deterministic Calvinists, he concludes that God is incapable of knowing an undetermined future, and therefore, for God to be omniscient and all-knowing, no future could be left undetermined, or better yet, unscripted. So in other words, God must predetermine everything in order to possess omniscience over anything, and thus one single undetermined, independent thought by an independent agent, would thereby nullify the omniscience of God, and hence if free will did somehow exist, as the Determinist's logic goes, God would lack the capacity to know it, and since we know that God does not lack omniscience, free will must not exist. The problem, of course, is that the entire conclusion rests upon the blind presumption and circular reasoning that God lacks the capacity to know an unscripted event, which is odd, because God is eternal and unbounded by time, however, exposing the faulty Calvinist understanding of God's eternal nature is not the issue that I have in mind here. I'd like to instead focus on the Deterministic concept which proposes that there can be no such thing as independent thought, because, in the absence of independent thought, key Calvinist defenses are forfeited!, such as Compatibilism and Free Moral Agency. Otherwise, (1) if there is no such thing as independent thought, then what is God acting in compatibility with? (2) If there is no such thing as independent thought, what is "free" in Free Moral Agency? Wouldn't they just be "an agent"? The result is that you'd have just one will in the universe, and one will only, and that being the will of the Determiner, Scripter and Author of all wills, and no one else would possess a will, if they had no independent thoughts of their own.

Calvinist, James White, writes: “Let us lay aside this canard once for all (and with it a large portion of the arguments presented thus far): Man has a will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.347)

So James White, in a debate with Dave Hunt, insisted that man does have a will, but (3) what kind of will exists without independent thought?

Calvinist, James White, writes: “Unregenerate man's will is, according to the Lord Jesus Himself, enslaved to sin (John 8:34), but it is still a will. It acts upon the desires presented to it by the fallen and corrupt nature of all those who are in Adam.” (Debating Calvinism, p.347)

But if there is no independent thought, then how is it a will, or at least, a will of their own? That's the whole idea of a will. If there is no such thing as independent thought, then they are solely acting upon the "will of another," that is, the will of the Determiner, Scripter and Author of all wills.

There would only be a logical basis for God to Compatibilistically "cause" or "determine" certain events, such as Calvary, if God acts upon independent thoughts from His own. Otherwise, (4) if there is no such thing as independent thought, wouldn't all of our sin and resistance to God, merely be God giving Himself a hard time through us? Moreover, concerning the Devil, (5) if the Devil possessed no capacity for independent thought, then every unimaginably evil thought of the Devil's, in his entire existence, would actually be the thoughts of Who? Even worse, if such a thing is possible, and maybe this is, (6) if there is no such thing as independent thought, then it was the Father who spat in His own Son's face: "Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, 'Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?'" (Matthew 26:67-68)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ray Comfort on Conversion

Ray Confort of the "Way of the Master" series, has written a book on how to know that God exists, and in it, he presents an illustration on conversion. The context is on how Christianity is differentiated from other religions, and here is the quote:

Ray Comfort illustrates: “You are standing on the edge of a 10,000-foot drop. You have to jump. Your heart is thumping in your chest. Why? Because you know that the law of gravity will kill you when you jump. Someone offers you the original Mona Lisa. You push it aside. Another person passes you the keys to a brand new Lamborghini. You let them drop to the floor. Someone else tries to put ten million dollars into your hands. You push the hand away, and stand there in horror at your impending fate. Suddenly, you hear a voice say, ‘Here’s a parachute!’ Which one of those four people is going to hold the most credibility in your eyes? It’s the one who held up the parachute! Again, it is your knowledge of the law of gravity and your fear of the jump that turns you toward the good news of the parachute. In the same way, knowledge of what God’s moral Law will do to you on the Day of Judgment produces a fear that makes the gospel unspeakably good news! It solves your predicament of God’s wrath.” (How to Know God Exists, pp.97-98)

Yes it does solve the predicament, and God promises eternal life to whoever believes. The late pastor, Adrian Rogers, once commented that if you repent of your sin, and God does not receive you, and does not forgive your sin and does not make you Born Again, then I will close my Bible forever and never preach again. But He will save you! Do it today. Today is the day of salvation. That was Adrian Rogers' message. When you turn to Him, you will be confirmed and sealed. This is what the Gospel is. Yes, people do love their sin, but they also fear Judgment, as the living and active Gospel makes the fear of Judgment a gnawing reality. (see Acts 2:37, John 16:8, Acts 26:14) Fear is a game-changer. The Holy Spirit's intervention is a game-changer. The very fact that God intervenes at all, proves that no one is simply "left to their free will." God is in the middle of it, but how God intervenes, is a question that Calvinists and Arminians continue to argue about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prevenient Grace taught by John Calvin?

In terms of Total Depravity, the Calvinist says that the solution to man’s depraved nature is divine intervention. Arminians couldn’t agree more! It’s how God intervenes, that separates Calvinists from Arminians. Does God’s intervention include full blown regeneration, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Or, does God reserve full blown regeneration for the believer in Christ? Based upon Eph. 1:13, I contend for the latter, but I don’t doubt that a Calvinist can provide their own slant on that verse, as even Calvin himself had, by imagining a two-fold application of the Holy Spirit. So if God does not intervene with full blown regeneration, how else could He possibly bring the unregenerate, dead rebel sinner to a place where they are able to receive His free gift of grace? How, exactly, does Prevenient Grace work? I like how Paul described it at Acts 26:14. Now, before Calvinists say that it is 100%, absolutely impossible for God to be able to bring an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner to a point where they can receive His free gift of grace, they ought to consider something that John Calvin suggested. Calvin postulated how some people can live a life of thinking that they are one of the exclusive, Calvinistically elect, when yet they would later go on to fall away from the faith, and prove that they were not one of the Calvinistically elect after all. Here is what Calvin reasons:

John Calvin explains: “Let no one think that those [who] fall away...were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.66, emphasis mine)

What kind of grace was that again? That arrogated grace sounds like a non-regenerative, Prevenient Grace? No?

Calvin adds: “Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.24.8, emphasis mine)

“Illumes only for a time.” What kind of arrogated illumination is that? That sounds a lot like Prevenient Grace. Surely it’s not regeneration, since regeneration and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is apparently reserved only for the Calvinistically elect. So is John Calvin showing that an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner can be illumed with an arrogated grace which allows him, for a time, to overcome Total Depravity? So even though they suffer from Total Depravity, by God’s power, and without full blown regeneration, God has the power to breach their Total Depravity, and bring them to a place of illumination.

So what if God should “illume” someone with such an “arrogated grace” so that a person could be brought to the point where they are able to receive Christ’s free gift of grace, and thus as a converted believer, receive the regeneration and indwelling that is alone reserved in Christ, as Arminianism proposes? Ultimately, it seems like John Calvin has opened up a logical door to Arminian, Prevenient Grace. No? To me, it looks that John Calvin has proposed a way in which God could breach an unregenerate, dead rebel sinner's Total Depravity, through an arrogated illumination.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

James White debates Catholic, Robert Sungenis

In the youtube clip, Calvinist James White is debating with Catholic theologian, Robert Sungenis. Obviously there are things upon which we all agree, such as the Deity of Christ and the bodily resurrection, and we wouldn’t want to toss those theologies out, simply because they are held by Catholics as well. So we wouldn’t want to throw out the doctrine of an Unlimited Atonement, simply because it is also held by Catholics. What perplexes me is the fact that James White cites Revelation 5:9 in defense of his logic, which doesn’t seem to add up. Revelation 5:9 states: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’” I suppose that a Calvinist would infer that the “men” purchased are the elect men, and the elect men are drawn from the base pool of the whole world, that is, people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” It would seem that this is simply a euphemism for the whole world. Certainly the Calvinists do believe that the Calvinistically elect are indeed drawn from the base pool of the whole world. Well, at 1st John 2:1-2, it is precisely this world that has a propitiation. By James White’s reasoning, though, this would necessarily entail Universalism, because everyone who HAS a propitiation, must therefore BE propitiated. However, this is a forced conclusion, because if you consider the analogy of Numbers 21:6-9, should we infer that every snake victim was necessarily propitiated, simply by virtue of having the propitiation of the serpent on the standard? Of course, that is verifiably false, since God stated that the only ones who receive the benefits of the propitiation, are those who actually look upon the standard. Similarly, then, everyone in the world, that is, people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, HAVE a propitiation, but are not necessarily propitiated unless or until they actually look upon Christ in faith, and only then receive the benefits of the propitiation, which includes eternal life. This is fairly straight-forward, and it shows that both Revelation 5:9 and 1st John 2:1-2 are in agreement that the base pool of the whole world is what is in focus.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Bless God

"I Bless God"

--By Richard Coords Sr.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.

I bless the Arms of God that reached out to me during times of loneliness and despair.

I bless the Artistry of God for the beauty in nature and in every sunrise and sunset.

I bless the Authority of God that makes Him the great and undeniable, “I AM”.

I bless the Breath of God that gave life to all living creatures great and small.

I bless the Brightness of God that outshines the blinding brilliance of the sun.

I bless the Closeness of God that He regards me as His friend.

I bless the Compassion of God that looks beyond my faults as He continually cares for me.

I bless the Creativity of God for all creatures that walk, run, crawl, hop, swim, leap, jump, and fly.

I bless the Cross of Christ that assures the promise of eternal life to every believer.

I bless the Desire of God in that He wants me to be at one with Him forever.

I bless the Ears of God that listen and hear me and know my voice.

I bless the Existence of God that gives me absolute assurance of eternal security.

I bless the Eyes of God that look upon my heart and not my outward appearance.

I bless the Face of God that smiles upon me when I appreciate Him and give Him thanks.

I bless the Faithfulness of Christ that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

I bless the Fatherhood of God that leads me and teaches me and calls me His own.

I bless the Favor of God that provides all of my needs according to His unlimited riches.

I bless the Feet of Christ that walked on water and climbed the lonely hill to Calvary.

I bless the Foreknowledge of God that He knew me before I was even born.

I bless the Fragrance of God that is more pleasing than all the many flowers He created.

I bless the Friendship of Christ that keeps Him closer to me than a brother.

I bless the Generosity of God that He gave His only Son as payment for my sin.

I bless the Genius of God that architected the enormous and yet intricately balanced universe.

I bless the Glory of God that is more awesome and beautiful than every precious gem.

I bless the Goodness of God in that He is my provider and meets every one of my needs.

I bless the Grace of God that offers forgiveness for all sin even to those who despise Him.

I bless the Hands of God that formed man in His own image out of the dust of the ground.

I bless the Heart of God that will love me unconditionally forever.

I bless the Holiness of God as He is worshipped by men and angels everywhere, day and night.

I bless the Honesty of God that exposes my weaknesses and enables me to become stronger.

I bless the Hope of God that all would repent so that none need ever perish.

I bless the Humility of Christ that allowed Him to be a friend to blind and lame beggars.

I bless the Humor of God that provides me with the ability to enjoy laughter, even at myself.

I bless the Intellect of God that is the reason and purpose for my own human intellect.

I bless the Judgment of God that He counts my faith in Him as righteousness.

I bless the Kindness of God that He forgives my sins and remembers them no more.

I bless the Kingdom of God that will never be overthrown or defeated.

I bless the Kingship of God that He alone is worthy to be the Ruler of heaven and earth.

I bless the Laughter of God that is evoked when the plans of the unrighteous fail miserably.

I bless the Leadership of God as He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name sake.

I bless the Liberty of the Holy Spirit that allows me to be free from man made religious laws and rules.

I bless the Light of God that shines so brightly in a world filled with darkness.

I bless the Lips of God that can only speak Truth and that spoke entire galaxies into existence.

I bless the Love of God that is boundless, unconditional, and free to all who are willing to receive it.

I bless the Mercy of God that offers forgiveness that endures forever.

I bless the Might of God that controls the weather and the tides and the planets within their orbit.

I bless the Mind of God that designed a perfect plan for fallen man’s redemption.

I bless the Mouth of God that utters words of blessings, encouragement, and forgiveness.

I bless the Nail Scared hands and feet of Christ that bore the weight of all my sin.

I bless the Name of God that is above every name in heaven and on earth.

I bless the Nearness of God that He hears me every time I speak His name.

I bless the Nostrils of Christ that endured the stench of Golgotha as He hung upon a cross.

I bless the Omnipotence of God as I live under the might of His invincible power.

I bless the Omnipresence of God in that neither time nor distance confines Him.

I bless the Omniscience of God in that He alone is all knowing.

I bless the Patience of God in that He never ceases being a caring and loving Father.

I bless the Peace of God that provides comfort to me that surpasses all human understanding.

I bless the Perseverance of God in that He never slumbers nor sleeps.

I bless the Power of God that created the universe with its exponential billions of shining stars.

I bless the Presence of God in that He is never far from any one of us.

I bless the Promises of God that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I bless the Righteousness of God in that every knee will bow before Him.

I bless the Side of Christ that poured forth water and the blood that atoned for my sin.

I bless the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me while I was an enemy of God.

I bless the Soul of God that is the essence of boundless loving kindness forever and ever.

I bless the Sovereignty of God in that His word is and will forever be the final and everlasting word.

I bless the Spirit of God that teaches me, comforts me, and brings me liberty and peace.

I bless the Tenderness of God that planned that nursing babies would be held in their mother’s arms.

I bless the Thoughts of God that are more precious and higher than my thoughts will ever be.

I bless the Throne of God as He reigns from everlasting to everlasting without end.

I bless the Timing of God that is so perfect He can always be relied upon in time of need.

I bless the Touch of God that heals the sick, makes the lame walk and gives sight to the blind.

I bless the Truth of God that guarantees that He will always do that which He says He will do.

I bless the Understanding of God in that He knew I could never atone for my own sin.

I bless the Versatility of God that created the eagle, the dove, the lion, and the lamb.

I bless the Voice of God that one day will with a shout, call us to reign with Him forever.

I bless the Warmth of God that comforts me in a world that can be cold and uncaring.

I bless the Watchfulness of God that saw my hopeless condition and had pity on me.

I bless the Wealth of God in that He is the rightful owner of everything that exists.

I bless the Will of God that in everything I should give Him all thanks and honor.

I bless the Wisdom of God that He desires that I seek after His righteousness to obtain His wisdom.

I bless the Word of God that is from everlasting to everlasting and sharper than a two edged sword.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review of "Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport"

The motivation for this book is an attempt to recognize the way in which Calvinism connects with non-Calvinists, and why those who are Calvinists, do not run away in horror, but zealously embrace its theology. Author, Richard Mouw, recognizes that Calvinism does not always come across well, and best observes this in a movie entitled, Hardcore, in which a Calvinist elder, Jake, explains his TULIP theology to a curious lost woman in a Las Vegas airport, Niki, who in response to an explanation of TULIP Calvinism, exclaims: “I thought I was ****ed up.” (p.13)

Mouw writes: “I have been thinking about writing this book ever since I saw the film Hardcore. A movie with a title like that will not strike most folks as an obvious source of inspiration for some reflections on how to be a Calvinist in the twenty-first century, so I had better explain myself.” (p.11)

(The now Atheist director of Hardcore was raised as a Christian and graduated from Calvin College.)

Mouw writes: “I don’t recommend Hardcore for people seeking spiritual edification. But there is one scene in the film that I have regularly pondered in my own theological reflections. Jake Van Dorn, a pious Calvinist elder played by George C. Scott, is sitting in the Las Vegas airport with a thoroughly pagan young woman named Niki. Jake's teenage daughter has run away to California and gotten involved in the pornography business, and he has set out to find her. His initial efforts thus far have failed, but he has managed to enlist the help of Niki, a young prostitute who knows his daughter. They have just followed a lead in Las Vegas, but having discovered that the wayward daughter is no longer there, they are moving on in their search. ” (p.12)

Mouw writes: “There is no question in my mind that Jake’s Hardcore conversation with Niki was a disaster. You don’t respond to Niki’s curiosity about religion with a mini-lecture about TULIP. But how do you respond?” (p.103)

Mouw laments that he wished the Calvinist character would have been portrayed more charitably, with instead, a “relational evangelism” (p.108), as opposed to just laying out a dry TULIP theology and just surmising that if God chooses to give her an irresistible grace, she will convert.

Mouw explains: “If anything like this is true of Niki’s story, then the worst thing for a Calvinist to do would be to begin by telling her she is a horrible sinner who must repent and straighten out her ways. And that would be the message conveyed by beginning with TULIP, which could easily send her the message that she is a horrible person who may already have been rejected by God from the very foundations of the world. To be sure, her patterns of behavior are grounded in her rebellion against the living God. But in this case that rebellion has produced a life in which there is much loneliness and pain. Rather than going straight to the rebellion, it is a good thing to identify the loneliness and pain in the deep places of her life. Instead of hitting Niki directly with the ‘high Calvinism’ of the TULIP doctrines, I would rather have her hear a compassionate word.” (p.109)

In support, Mouw cites Charles Spurgeon’s use of Invitations (p.46) and sympathetic pleas with the lost. (p.109)

Mouw is very open and honest, which makes the book pleasant to read. Mouw does not defer to Hard Determinism in order to resolve the origin of evil, and instead, frequently differs to Arminian-friendly words such as divine “patience” (p.69) and divine “permission” (p.51), that is, God’s permission of evil events, as opposed to immutably causing them (pp.50-51). As opposed to the idea that prayer changes nothing, but only brings us in line with God, Mouw argues that prayer “is doing something. It is petitioning the Ruler of the universe. It is making our case in the Final Court of Appeals.” (p.61) “We can complain to God rather vigorously about the things we have a hard time accepting.” (p.51) One area in which Mouw gets in trouble is by suggesting that those who perish, do so when they reject God’s “offer” of salvation (p.85), which makes no sense in light of his defense of the “L” in TULIP, which stands for “Limited Atonement.” (p.40) In other words, if Jesus didn’t die for all, but only for a limited number of a pre-selected “elect,” then exactly what is He offering everyone else? Some Calvinists resolve this by insisting that God never “offers” salvation, but simply commands repentance, and those who do so (by Election with Irresistible Grace), receive the benefits of repentance.

I admire Mouw’s perspective on labels. He does not believe in slick marketing by calling himself, “Reformed,” but agrees to the label, “Calvinist,” for distinction's sake. (pp.18-19). I also appreciate the way Mouw is candid about his confusion over apparently conflicting passages in Scripture, as it pertains to Calvinism and Arminianism: “I simply live with both sets of texts, refusing to resolve the tension between what looks like conflicting themes. This is not an altogether comfortable position for me. I would like to be much clearer on the subject, but I really do not know how to proceed further. I can honestly say I’ve made the effort.” (p.42)

It’s always easier to speak with someone who is honest about his own reservations. Nothing is uglier than pride. I recall two Calvinists having a discussion over “problem verses” related to Calvinism, and the one Calvinist insisted, “We have no problem verses.” The other Calvinist insisted that the other was simply in denial. Again, pride is ugly, and Mouw demonstrates strong character.

Mouw is not shy about pointing out the negative stereotypes of Calvinism: “They see this emphasis of God’s sovereign control over all things as encouraging a passive, fatalistic spirit.” (p.51) “There is no denying that a belief that we are predestined to eternal life can lead to a deterministic, even fatalistic, understanding of the Christian life. If it is God who does the choosing, then we may be tempted to think that our own choosing, our own responding to God, is a charade. It is all preprogrammed. But Calvinist theologians go out of their way to deny this implication.” (p.66) “The idea of Election has often been wedded to a belief in a remnant, a faithful minority—tied to a sense that God has bypassed the vast majority of the human race and bestowed his saving mercies on a small number. Often this perspective seems to be worn as a badge of honor—as though Calvinists have a right to take pride in the fact that God has chosen them over most other members of the human race.” (p.84) “Calvinists have certainly not stood out in the Christian community as especially pure people when it comes to the way they behave. They have frequently been intolerant, sometimes to the point of taking abusive and violent action toward people with whom they have disagreed. They have often promoted racist policies. And the fact that they have often defended these things by appealing directly to Calvinist teachings suggests that at least something in these patterns may be due to some weakness in the Calvinist perspective itself.” (pp.114-115) “But I also see tendencies in my own Calvinism that make me nervous. Christians who specialize in free-will-centered theologies, for example, typically do a much better job at evangelism than Calvinists do.” (p.119)

Mouw encourages tolerance and acceptance of non-Calvinist Christians when he states: “Rather than insisting that only Calvinists are genuine Christians, I prefer to think that Calvinism best captures experiences and concerns that are at work in the lives of everyone who knows what it’s like to plead for divine mercy out of a recognition of our own unworthiness.” (p.118)

However, if there was one thing that bothered me, it was the attempt to bring all Christians under the general banner of Calvinism. For instance, Mouw favorably presents the notion that all true Christians are Calvinists when they are on their knees in prayer, because they are depending on the mercy of God. I would argue that all true Christians are Arminians when they are on their knees in prayer, because they are petitioning God to change something, which something, Determinism says was immutably predetermined and can never be changed. Calvinists sometimes explain this as “the means,” but that is only providing a tiny bit of wiggle-room. The reality is that prayer defies fatalism. So you can argue it both ways, but I nevertheless cringe at the comments of some Calvinists who try to be charitable towards Arminians by suggesting that all Arminians who are genuine Christians are Calvinists whether they realize it or not, or that some day they will be convinced of Calvinism. What if we turned it around and said, “all Calvinists who are true Christians are Arminians whether they realize it or not”? Would any Calvinist find that to be charitable? Mouw recites the views of one Calvinist: “He was making a much more charitable point, namely, that all true Christians are, whether they know it or not, Calvinists at heart. A person, he says, ‘may not call himself a Calvinist; he may even resent being called by this name’—but that’s what he is ‘in the final analysis’ if he ‘lives in utter dependence upon God.’” (p.113) What if I said that all true Christians are, whether they know it or not, Arminians at heart, if in the final analysis, they believe that their sin is displeasing to God? Rather than Calvinists counting Arminians as Calvinists, it is better to maintain the distinctions, and simply find unity under the general banner of “Christian,” who likewise maintain the centrality of the Gospel, in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, with there being life in His name.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Piper on the "drawing" of the Gospel of John

In John Piper's sermon on John 6:44, he also deals with the context at large, namely, as it spans from John chapter 5 to John chapter 12 (listen carefully to 26:40 through 29:52, especially the conclusion). Certainly, John Piper, as a Calvinist, espouses the traditional Calvinist interpretation of the drawing of John 6:44, but notice what he says about the "drawing," concluding at the 29:52 mark, because, surprisingly, that's actually the traditional Arminian interpretation. Piper mistakenly attributes the traditional Arminian interpretation of John 6:44 as God drawing everyone to His Son, which is simply not the case. Instead, and I recognize that there are exceptions, Arminians have predominantly interpreted the Father's drawing of John 6:44, as being the Father's drawing of those that were in covenant with Him, as the faithful remnant of Israel, whom the Father was, upon that transitional period, drawing to His Son, viz. if you love the Father, you will love the Son, who bears His message. Conversely, if you hate the Son, then that serves as evidence that you hate the Father as well. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews that if God was their father, as the Jews had claimed, then they would have loved the Son, but as it was, they did not. What's interesting to note, is one Calvinist's agreement with the Arminians, whether conscious of it or not, that the drawing, or lack thereof, was in direct correlation to one's standing with the Father.
Piper explains: "I'm leaving you. You have resisted Me. I'm backing away from you. I'm not going to draw most of you."
In contextualizing John 12 in relation to the drawing, John Piper has brilliantly, albeit unwittingly, articulated the Arminian perspective, which gives hope that Calvinists and Arminians can have some sort of common ground. In other words, the Father's drawing of the Jewish people to His Son is a function of their belief or disbelief in Him. As such, the reason why the Father had not drawn many in Israel to His Son, and consequently, not counted them among His Son's flock, was because they had persistently rejected the Father, who had so often, spread out His arms to them. (Isaiah 65:2) That's typically how Arminians have interpreted the general setting of John chapter's 5 through 12, and John 6:45 has particular relevance to this concept, insomuch that those who have "heard and learned from the Father," that is, having been in covenant with Him, come to the Son. It's fairly natural, that if one had loved the Father, that for these, the Father was recognizably noticeable in the Son and His message. Again, it must be emphasized that a remnant of faithful Israel, who are in covenant with Him, were being drawn by the hand of the Father to His Son, in a transitional period, by the Spirit-filled Preparer, John the Baptist, who baptized in the name of the One who was to come after him.
The line of distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism over this passage is that with Calvinism, God is not drawing the faithful remnant of His covenant people, Israel, to His Son, but rather is drawing an unfaithful, unbelieving remnant of eternally pre-selected Covenant people to His Son, who through the Father's eternal giving and drawing, become faithful and believing, and hence come to Christ. Arminians contend that this is a dramatic case of eisegesis, that is, importing a concept that is totally foreign into the text at hand. But what about the Arminian interpretation? Does that amount to reading something foreign into the text? On the basis of John 6:45, I don't see how such a claim could stand. It's fairly clear that those who have heard and learned from the Father, i.e. those in covenant relationship with Him, come to the Son. Thinking out loud, if what Arminians are saying is true, would Calvinists still have a work-around? Conceivably, I suppose that a Calvinist could theoretically argue that a person would become part of the Old Testament faithful by ordinary Calvinistic means, i.e. through "sovereign grace" (effectual grace, irresistible grace, regeneration, which Calvinists infer from Romans 11:2-5), and as result, in this setting, God draws His own to follow His Son. Nevertheless, my argument was silent on the particulars of just how people became part of the Old Testament faithful, and simply took them as they were, which as such, were drawn by the Father to His Son. But again, according to the traditional Calvinist model of the drawing, God draws unbelievers, not believers (which according to Calvinism, could not otherwise be believers, since they are totally unable to believe apart from an effectual drawing), and hence by said drawing, become believers. But again, Piper's exegesis of John 12 betrays such a view by contextualizing the nature and purpose of the drawing, in making it a correlation of belief or unbelief, which is the exact opposite of what traditional Calvinism teaches about the drawing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Clarification on "Chilling Quotes"

The Society of Evangelical Arminians [SEA] did an article on “Chilling Quotes” from John Calvin, based upon some quotes that I had provided. This article drew a response from Colin Maxwell to which I owe an explanation:

Quotes 1 & 2

John Calvin: “Elsewhere I deny that any injury is done the reprobate, for they deserve destruction. Here Pighius spreads his wings and noisily exults, that in this case I neither understand myself nor remember what I previously said. But it does not seem to me worth while to say many words in my own defence, and I am displeased at having to use even a few. 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. If in the former case no comparison is made between men themselves, and worthiness has no relation to the reward of life, so in the second case the equal condition of all is not proved. Add to this that Augustine writes in one place that salvation never lacked to anyone worthy of it, but qualifies the statement in the Retractions so as to exclude works and to refer acceptable worthiness to the gratuitous calling of God. But Pighius presses on. 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. I reply that three things must here be considered. First, the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam He decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined. Secondly, Adam himself, on account of his defection, is appointed to death. Lastly, in his person now fallen and lost, all his offspring is condemned in such a way that God deems worthy of the honour of adoption those whom He gratuitously elects out of it. I neither dream nor fabricate anything of this. Nor am I called on in the present instance to prove each particular, because I fancy I have done this already. But I must dispose of this calumny of Pighuis who proudly triumphs over me as though I were vanquished ten times, for the reason that these things are quite inconsistent. When predestination is discussed, it is from the start to be constantly maintained, as I today teach, that all the reprobate are justly left in death, for in Adam they are dead and condemned. Those justly perish who are by nature children of wrath. Thus, no one has cause to complain of the too great severity of God, seeing that all carry in themselves inclusive liability. As to the first man, we must hold he was created perfectly righteous and fell by his own will; and hence it comes about that by his own fault he brought destruction on himself and on all his race. Adam fell, though not without God’s knowledge and ordination, and destroyed himself and his posterity; yet this neither mitigates his guilt nor involves God in any blame. For we must always remember that he voluntarily deprived himself of the rectitude he had received from God, voluntarily gave himself to the service of sin and Satan, and voluntarily precipitated himself into destruction. One excuse is suggested, that he could not evade what God had decreed. But his voluntary transgression is enough and more than enough to establish his guilt. For the proper and genuine cause of sin is not God’s hidden counsel but the evident will of man.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, Westminster John Knox Press, 1997, pp.121-122, emphasis mine)

With my edition, it is clear that there is no “scandalous tampering,” but I can hardly fault you since I did not include the edition for you to cross reference. What happened is that I had simply misinterpreted as belonging to Calvin, what Calvin was instead highlighting as being Pighuis’ inference. To that, I am in error, and my website at has been updated. Clearly, in context, John Calvin flatly denies the charge that he teaches that the “Reprobate” are unconditionally condemned, but rather are conditionally condemned on account of “inclusive liability.” Perhaps I was overly focused on the part which states: “If what I teach” while missing the part which says, “I reply.” That was sloppy on my part, and for that, I owe SEA and its readers an apology. But there is more to this story.

Colin, perhaps you would be willing to also comment on the following from Calvin, to see if I have inferred of Calvin correctly, which ultimately works back to the initial quotes 1 & 2:

John Calvin:They again object, Were not men predestinated by the ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the cause of condemnation? If so, when they perish in their corruptions they do nothing else than suffer punishment for that calamity, into which, by the predestination of God, Adam fell, and dragged all his posterity headlong with him. Is not he, therefore, unjust in thus cruelly mocking his creatures? I admit that by the will of God all the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first, that we must always return to the mere pleasure of the divine will, the cause of which is hidden in himself. But it does not forthwith follow that God lies open to this charge.” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, section 4, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “They deny that it is ever said in distinct terms, God decreed that Adam should perish by his revolt. As if the same God, who is declared in Scripture to do whatsoever he pleases, could have made the noblest of his creatures without any special purpose. They say that, in accordance with free-will, he was to be the architect of his own fortune, that God had decreed nothing but to treat him according to his desert. If this frigid fiction is received, where will be the omnipotence of God, by which, according to his secret counsel on which every thing depends, he rules over all?” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, section 7, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “Here they recur to the distinction between will and permission, the object being to prove that the wicked perish only by the permission, but not by the will of God. But why do we say that he permits, but just because he wills? Nor, indeed, is there any probability in the thing itself—viz. that man brought death upon himself merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God; as if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the chief of his creatures to be.” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, section 8, emphasis mine)

My comment: In other words, Adam and Eve fell by the “pleasure of the divine will.” As such, God has a set script for His noblest creature, man, and that if any such creature were to script his own ways, according to the desert of his libertarian freedom, then God could not simultaneously be omnipotent.

John Calvin:The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. Should any one here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be directed against predestination. Nor ought it to seem absurd when I say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, section 7, emphasis mine)

My comment: John Calvin indeed believes that the Fall was divinely “arranged,” and also “dreadful.” Of course, if you are on the losing end of the arrangement, it is dreadful indeed. Now we return back to John Calvin’s comments in Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God:

John Calvin: “To this opinion of this holy man I subscribe: in sinning, they did what God did not will in order that God through their evil will might do what He willed.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.123, emphasis mine)

John Calvin:If anyone object that this is beyond his comprehension, I confess it. But what wonder if the immense and incomprehensible majesty of God exceed the limits of our intellect? I am so far from undertaking the explanation of this sublime, hidden secret, that I wish what I said at the beginning to be remembered, that those who seek to know more than God has revealed are crazy. Therefore let us be pleased with instructed ignorance rather than with the intemperate and inquisitive intoxication of wanting to know more than God allows.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.123, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “But now, removing from God all proximate causation of the act, I at the same time remove from Him all guilt and leave man alone liable. It is therefore wicked and calumnious to say that I make the fall of man one of the works of God. But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.123-124, emphasis mine)

Understood, but when you go back to my initial quote, in which I mistakenly inferred of John Calvin, what was actually instead John Calvin’s summarization of Pighuis’ inference of Calvin, how would Pighuis’ inference not, in fact, be indicative of Calvin, since it appears to be so well congruent? In other words, if God’s choosing of some for the purpose of destruction, in no way depends upon His permission of their voluntary defection and the “desert” of their libertarian freedom, but instead depends solely upon a divine “arrangement” according to the “pleasure of God’s will” for His “noblest creation,” then how can we not say that Pighuis’ inference is absolutely spot on? Simply to “confess ignorance” as to how determinism and liberty fits together, does not suit his defense against Pighuis’ inference very well.

Quote 3

John Calvin: “Paul does not inform us that the ruin of the ungodly is foreseen by the Lord, but that it is ordained by His counsel and will. Solomon also teaches us that not only was the destruction of the ungodly foreknown, but the ungodly themselves have been created for the specific purpose of perishing (Prov. 16.4).” (The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, William B. Erdman’s Publishing Company, 1995, pp.207-208, emphasis mine)

Colin, you say that we should not overlook the significance of the word “ungodly,” in terms of “their responsibility,” but are you not simultaneously overlooking the point of Calvinism’s objectors, who like me, highlight Calvin’s use of, “created”? In fact, does that not seem perfectly congruent with the inference of Pighuis, in that these are not merely found, but made, according to divine arrangement, according to divine purpose, and according to the pleasure of the divine will, to be born into this world as “ungodly” for a set purpose and perish as such? Surely you can see the unconditional nature of that, as per the doctrine of Unconditional Reprobation.

John Calvin: “Conceited men are resentful, because, in admitting that men are rejected or chosen by the secret counsel of God, Paul offers no explanation, as though the Spirit of God were silent for want of reason, and does not rather warn us by His silence—a mystery which our minds do not comprehend, but which we ought to adore with reverence.” (The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, William B. Erdman’s Publishing Company, 1995, p.209, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “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?” (The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, William B. Erdman’s Publishing Company, 1995, pp.209-210, emphasis mine)

Again, where is the disharmony from the inference of Pighuis, in that these are not found but made worthy of condemnation by the “arbitrary power” of a “sovereign God”?

In Summary, here is how Calvin’s defense works:

Assert that since “A” is true, and that “B” is true, we do not need to explain how they work together, but merely that they are true, and the rest will sort itself out. Fully executed, here is how it appears:

We know that “Hard Determinism” is true, and we know that “human responsibility” is true, therefore we do not need to intrude upon the secret workings of God in order to figure out how they are both true, but only to recognize that they are both true, and let God sort out the mystery in His own due time. The problem, of course, is that we do not all recognize Hard Determinism as true, and therefore we can substitute a more *friendly* word such as “Sovereign.” With the substitution, here is how it appears:

We know that God is “Sovereign” (insert smily face) and we know that “man is responsible,” therefore we do not need to know how they work together, but only that they are, in fact, true and God can sort out the mystery in His own due time. Obviously, when dissected, Calvin’s defense is nothing more than Circular Logic, by simply presuming Hard Determinism (which is step 1 in his two-step defense, as shown in the initial quote where I have bolded the words “First” and “Secondly”), which is why Pighuis’ inference seems valid.