Monday, February 21, 2011

Calvinism goes to the dogs

Sometimes when you play too rough with the Calvinists, in pointing out the obvious flaws of their theology, such as their ridiculous concept of John 3:16 in that it means, "For God so loved the world of the elect," or how obvious of a contradiction it is to affirm that God is the "ordainer of evil" but not the "author of sin," or simply by labeling a Calvinist as a "double-talking, logic-dodger," the Calvinist will notoriously retreat into the niceties of Calvinism, such as by claiming that they merely believe in the "Doctrines of Grace." Now doesn't that sound nice? One thing about Calvinists is that they are pretty good at slick marketing, not preferring the title of "Calvinist," but instead favoring the concocted title of "Reformed Theology" and the "Doctrines of Grace." It's almost humorous when a Calvinist is pinned down, that they trot out the badge and shield of the man-made term, "We believe in the Doctrines of Grace!" Yes, "Halt! We believe in something good!" But do they realize that it spells out an acronym of DOG? The slick marketers over at "Calvinism Headquarters" really dropped the ball on this one, or perhaps it's God's inside joke that Calvinism is a dog. Really, at best, the DOG is the doctrines of "Limited Grace" (i.e. Limited Atonement), while at worst the doctrines of a Caste System, and Calvinist do not like their theology compared to a Caste System at all, but that's really what it is. And really, regarding the latter, nowhere is it found among the prophets or apostles the expression of gratitude in thanking God over having been chosen to be born into an upper caste of Election. Instead, Christian gratitude is expressed in giving thanks to God for the gift of His Son, Jesus. What prophet or apostle ever said, "Thank you God for allowing me to be born into the upper caste of Election instead of the lower caste of non-elect Reprobates!" Where's that in Scripture?

Calvinist, John MacArthur, states: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.” (Understanding Election)

But that's just what a Calvinist reasons. Notice the following:

Luke 18:9-14 states:And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

The Calvinist prescribing to the DOG could say with the Pharisees, "Yes, thank you God for letting me be born as a priviledged member of the Upper Caste of God's eternally elect sheep, instead of being born into the Lower Caste of God's non-elect eternal Reprobates."


Richard Coords said...

By the way, it's important to say that YES, I do believe in grace, whereas NO, I do not believe in the systematic theology entitled, "Doctrines of Grace." When the DOG is thrown at you, I think it's important to begin with saying, "YES, I believe in Grace; No, I reject the DOG. Bad DOG."

That makes it clear that you do believe in Grace, because we do. Whether it's Atoning Grace at Calvary (obviously Jesus dying on the cross is Grace, as we'd all agree), or the prevenient grace of God that reaches out to the lost (both sides affirm the *preceding* grace of God, though disagreeing over whether it is resistable or irresistible), it is clear that simply rejecting the DOG does not automatically mean that grace is rejected altogether, though that may be the intent of some clever C marketers.

JSA said...

I'm glad you've started posting again; seems the content was sparse last year.

I'm not sure how well the analogy holds up, though. The Pharisees are thanking God for making them superior to others; for giving them greater worth. MacArthur is saying just the opposite.

Anyway, I find the broader question to be one of the most interesting questions about Christianity -- if salvation is a gift from God, and not everyone is going to be saved, how should we feel about that? How should we respond? As far as I can see, this question applies equally to classical Arminianism, Roman Catholicism, etc.

Do we say, "Thank God I'm not going to hell like some unfortunate souls"? It seems pretty bad, when worded that way. But even if we take out the comparison to others, there is always an implicit comparison.

Richard Coords said...

Hello JS,

Yes, I neglected the Blog more than I should have. If I had an excuse then it was because I was in a busy season as a loan officers and claims adjuster, and now I have more time (which as an indepdent ctr is not always a great thing, Haha, but the Lord provides.)

MacArthur's quote is interesting. After work, I'll share a quote from him concerning a believer's worth that was considered somewhat controversial, even among fellow C's. I gather that he sees the "elect" as God demonstrating His glorious attributes through them (to some extent), and conversely the opposite with the alleged, non-elect. In other words, "Thank God for choosing me to be what I am, which otherwise would have been much worse." I'll take a look at it in more depth.

On the 2nd point, the non-C perspective is that salvation is the gift of God that He makes *available* through the passion of the Holy Spirit in reaching lost sinners. The non-C perspective is that God will say on Judgment Day, "This is what my Son did for you. This is what your life could have been. is how I sacrificed for you, but you felt that you were good enough as you were, and that you didn't need Me, and now with the books opened, you see that you were not good at all, and now must suffer the consequences, though you deem it too harsh, look at the "salvation so great" that you had neglected, and thus the worst is warranted. I think the non-C view of salvation & Calvary is that it is provisional, where God not only made the sacrifice to provide it, but does the chasing as well, and man either accepts or rejects it. I think that God likes it this way. I think that He gets something out of it that is more pleasing to Him than simply demonstrating His own attributes to Himself through us, or that's at least how I perceived the C model. More to follow tonight...

JSA said...

Ah, I think you may be right about MacArthur. Lou Martenauc at "In Defense Of The Gospel" blog has done a detailed analysis of the cases where MacArthur even appears to be espousing a works-based salvation. And there is sort of an implication that the works are intended to show God's glory, through you.

I think most Calvinists would probably frame it differently, though. They would probably say that God's glory is made manifest through his great mercy and love, in the case of the saved; and in his perfect justice, in the case of the condemned.

Interestingly, I've read several books by the 3 main founders of radical Islam (al-Banna, Qutb, and Maududi). Radical Islam has some strange parallels to Calvinism. They focus so extremely on the sovereignty of God that they don't even allow someone to feel assured that he is going to heaven. In their system, you can never smugly say, "Thank God that I am saved, unlike those poor kafir". That would be arrogant and presumptive. God is sovereign. So right up until the moment of death, you are fearing God's wrath and begging for him to spare you. There are stories of some of the companions of Muhammad, who on their deathbeds were adamant that they were terrified and had no idea whether God would let them into heaven; and pleaded for God's mercy.

Richard Coords said...

(I posted under my Dad's sign in. found it.) It took me long enough. By the way, very sad to hear what people suffer emotionally and spiritually is Islam. Sadly to say, I imagine that such a spiritualy plight might make Jihad very inviting.

Here's the MacAthur quote:

"A true sense of self-worth comes from understanding our position in Christ. We have been chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Knowing this gives us a sense of our significance and value to God. We were so important to God that He gave up His Son to die on our behalf. ... Thank God for considering you valuable enough to bestow such riches upon you. ... If you're struggling with a lack of self-worth, remember that you were important enough for God to give you to Jesus as an inheritance" (The Believer's Life in Christ, MacArthur Bible Study Guide, Eph. 1:1-2:10 [Word of Grace Communications:1989/1995], pp. 27, 36, & 69-70). (Emphases added.) [Tape series also offered in GTY's 51-page, 1996 tape and book resource catalogue.]