Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Do Calvinists understand Arminianism? 5

posted by xscot mcknight

Myth #4: the heart of Arminianism is belief in free will. Nonsense, Olson argues in his must-read Arminian Theology. The heart of Arminian theology is the character of God, God’s goodness, and its system yearns to glorify God by exalting his goodness.
The fundamental tension here is that Arminians think Calvinists must make God the author of evil and sin — since God (whether supra- or infralapsarian) predestines humans to sin. Arminianism begins with God’s essential goodness and derives free will from that; it does not begin with the necessity of free will.
Arminius responded to William Perkins with this:
1. But you [Perkins] say that ‘the will of man intervened in this desertion [from God].’ [This point is about Calvinists saying God simply deserted Adam and Eve so they could sin.]
2. Because ‘man was not deserted, unless willing to be deserted.’
3. I [Arminius to Perkins] reply, If it is so, then truly man deserved to be forsaken.
4. But I ask whether man could have willed not to be forsaken.
5. But if you say he could, then he did not sin necessarily, but freely.
6. But if you say he could not [have so willed to be forsaken], then the blame redounds to God.
Over and over Olson provides evidence from the major Arminian writers that the fundamental problem Arminians had with this view was that it made God less than good, it made God sinful, that it was repulsive to the glory of God’s holiness. In other words, the argument was grounded in the nature, attributes, and character of God. The argument was not grounded in the necessity of affirming free will.
“Suffice it to say,” Olson concludes, “that any critic would be hard-pressed to find any true Arminian, past or present, who holds free will up as the first principle of his or her theology” (113).



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James Petticrew

posted October 5, 2006 at 5:00 am


For me, my basic theological suposition is that God is love. It is the lense of God’s loving nature through which I seek to understand the Lord and his ways. To me Calvinism, because it starts with His sovereignty, eventually ends up having to say that the Lord doesn’t will what Scripture clearly says He desires:
I remember a Calvinist preaching on 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” and stating that although it was the Lord’s desire to see everyone come to repentance, he had not enabled that to happen and therefore it was only His desire and not His will. Of course if you believe that grace is irresitible than this is a logical conclusion, but thank heavens that grace is not logical or we would all be in trouble.



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Dan Sullivan

posted October 5, 2006 at 7:15 am


This stuff is very close to my heart. I spent a couple of terms at Trinity and was in classes with Calvinist instructors Wayne Grudem, John Feinberg and Tom Nettles. I especially enjoyed Nettles’ class, but this question of the goodness of God being completely overshadowed by the sovereignty of God nearly destroyed my faith.
I wholeheartedly agree that we who have rejected TULIP do so primarily because of the view of God it presents. And the response that “God’s ways are higher than our ways” doesn’t help at all. If God’s justice includes predestining some to sin and then banishing them to eternal judgment because they willingly did what he decreed they must do, then any intelligible concept of God being “just” is lost. Language about God’s justice and goodness become meaningless because we are too small to know what justice even means.
I would like to see a post sometime about what the early church fathers – before Augustine – taught about election and free will. I think there may be some fruitful info there.



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Keith Schooley

posted October 5, 2006 at 7:19 am


This is absolutely true. It’s not about our ability to choose; it’s about God not being made into the ultimate author of sin.
It seems to me that Calvinists are essentially asking the question, “How could anyone, human beings being who and what they are, ever come to Christ, unless God sovereignly overcame their will and caused it to happen?” And Arminians are asking the question, “How could God, having the attributes of mercy and kindness that Scripture demonstrates, and having received a sacrifice of atonement of infinite worth, have chosen not to offer salvation to all?”



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Nick Mackison

posted October 5, 2006 at 7:47 am


James, how do you think Peter marries the doctrine of election to his text in 2 Peter 3:9? I know that in chapter 1 he exorts his readers to make their ‘calling and election sure’. I’m trying to work through how the two tie up. I’ve been reading Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” (which argues for compatibilism) and plan to read an Arminian viewpoint soon.



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Dr Mike

posted October 5, 2006 at 8:14 am


Dan wrote:
“I wholeheartedly agree that we who have rejected TULIP do so primarily because of the view of God it presents.”
I hope this does not sound condemnatory or self-righteous, but there is an additional concern I have about those who adhere to TULIP theology. It is this: the spiritual disposition of so many (but by no means all) of those to espouse it. I understand the Reformed position and how they arrive at it – and do not subscribe to it on theological and biblical grounds – but, when I see the type of Christian it generally (but not always) tends to produce, I have even more reason to stop and question rigid Calvinism.
There is among them, it seems to me, more of a focus on right-thinking and logic than on loving and doing good (again, not all Reformed believers are like this). At least on their blogs, they quote the writings of dead theologians more than they cite the words of the living God. They believe in the noetic effects of the Fall but it is hard to see it when their trust is in their ability to deflect or refute any objection they encounter.
But that is not exactly the spiritual inclination to which I refer. It is more their arrogance garbed as certainty, their condescending attitude toward others, and their apparent inability to ever change or adjust any aspect of their theology. I have yet to discuss any theological point with a Reformed believer who has ever conceded a point or allowed that there might be some merit in what I say. They are stuck in the past, enamored with where they are, and treat us – the non-Reformed – as dull-normal, bastard children of God.
This attitude, I think, is connected to their denial of free will, for freedom allows for – and, in God’s ordering of this world, demands – personal responsibility and accountability. But if there is no such thing as free will, then there cannot be corresponding responsibility or even judgment for the deeds done before or after salvation. I don’t think this is a conscious belief to which they ascribe but rather an insidious, perhaps inevitable result of denying free will and responsibility. (I am aware that they will say they believe in personal responsibility, but their arguments for it seem thin and stretched.)
The rigidity of five-point Calvinists tends to make many of them brittle and bitter, it seems. It appears impossible for most of them to allow for unanswered questions or live with the antinomies of Scripture. No theology – Calvinist, Arminian, Kingdom, Dispensational, or any other – can do justice to all the material of Scripture. This seems unplatable to such Reformed believers, however, and so they fortify and fight all the more fiercely for their theology, employing “voodoo exegesis” (as S. Lewis Johnson playfully called Zane Hodges’ position) to support their view.
Do they fulfill The Jesus Creed? Among their own, certainly; towards other Christian believers, it’s difficult to see. As John taught, the only way I know another believer loves God is when I seem her loving others, and the only way I know a Christian loves others is when I see him loving God by following His commandments.
I fear – and I really do fear – that the allegiance of many Reformed believers is greater towards their Calvinism than toward God. If Reformed theology were somehow proven to be false beyond debate, would they stoop to call themselves “modified Calvinists” or (perish the thought!) “Arminians”?
Again, I fear they are overly invested in their system and if the system fails, their faith will crumble like the house of cards it is. They would be saved – I do believe in the preservation of the Savior, if not the perseverance of the saints – but crushed by the weight of the collapse.
(My apologies for the length of this comment. Feel free to edit, delete, or tell me to start writing on my own blog again! I don’t mean to dominate, only elucidate.)



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Dr Mike

posted October 5, 2006 at 8:17 am


Scot:
FWIW, I used to have this rule on my blog that, if any comment wound up being longer than my original post, I cut it off and explained why. Again, feel free to hack away at my above dissertation.



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DanD

posted October 5, 2006 at 10:24 am


Dr Mike,
Thanks for your post, From my point of view I can tell you that I do not think my arrogance has flowed from my theology as much as from my heart. My practice of reformed theology has way too often been an epression of my own pride. For that I repent.
I have not rejected Calvinism however. I am very thankful that it has been the context of my spiritual formation.
What I am trying to practice more and more is to understand what others are saying, what texts I have been reluctant to honestly face, and how it is I can better follow and serve Jesus.
I have lots of questions and am confident in lots of answers, but I recognize that I am only a servant and the He has other servants who see some things a bit differently. Who am I to criticize His work?
Scot, thanks for these posts about us Calvinists and our questionable understanding of Arminians. It is very helpful to me.
grace



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Dr Mike

posted October 5, 2006 at 11:03 am


DanD:
You are clearly not one of those Reformed brothers about whom I am concerned (well, I am concerned but not for the aforementioned reasons!). I appreciate your openness and willingness to consider various and variant views without having to refute, rebuke, and reject them.
Theology, I am convinced, is not so dissimilar as the Indian story of the seven blind men and the elephant. If we listened to one another, we’d all be the better for it.



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Jake H.

posted October 5, 2006 at 11:12 am


Related to the article above, I think part of the problem is that “Arminian” is often used as a catch-all for anything that isn’t Calvinistic.
That reminds me, however, about a story of the other extreme. I was raised Southern Baptist. I eventually married a German gal and we attended her Baptist church (our present church), which has large German congregation. After a few Sunday morning classes I realized that they were all 5-point Arminians, with a very detailed and systematic theology, and told them so. They had no idea what I was talking about, and they were angry that I “called them a name.” I handed them a book about the topic and they settled down when they saw that their favorite regular guest speaker, Grant O., was a contributor to the book. They (with a few exceptions) never read the book, but they never again objected to me calling them that name.
At that time I was already reluctantly trasitioning into what eventually became Arminianism. In fact, Scot was teaching a Hebrews class for Trinity Extension at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield WI and “DA what’s his name” was teaching Revelation on another night. I used to rush out of Greek class and sit in the hallway outside Scot’s room to listen to the last 20 minutes of his class, and then get the notes from a friend. That topic was a sticking point for me at the time, and I remember spending many an evening reading commentaries while in “angst” over which way to go.
Anyhow, glad to see Olson’s book reviewed here. My copy is still in the box, calling to me to open it. I also sent a copy to the youngest member of the Trinity Journal Editorial Board, who is also a 5-point Arminian.
Thanks again, Scot.
Jake



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Brian

posted October 5, 2006 at 1:04 pm


Scot,
Whenever the systematic logic of theological argumentation goes in a particular dimension it is because something is being defended. This point is surely not lost on Calvinists since they do the same.
I don’t believe that thoughtful Calvinists actually believe Myth #4. They would simply say that the free will defense of God’s goodness is problematic.



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Nick

posted October 5, 2006 at 1:04 pm


i think every bit of theology is grounded in the “character of God”, or the “heart of God”, not in the way God and his creatures interact. who would think otherwise?
the difference is that calvinists don’t see free-will as a necessary ingredient of creation if in fact God is loving and desires loving relationship with us. we can’t imagine a God of love who doesn’t allow his creatures to make their own decisions. we can’t imagine a genuine personal relationship of love between anybody, including God and us, to be anything but a mutual, free, recirprocal, dynamic, exchange of love. we stongly believe that real love is never achieved by force, control, coercion, or manipulation.
so when calvinists say they believe in a God of love, our Lord Jesus Christ, we are amazed and wonder how that could be. we don’t see how they make the connection between love and divine sovereign control, how they can be compatible. we see that the God of calvinism is based on a twisted view of the nature of love. that God seems to be more defined by sovereignty and control, then love. its all about the definition of love.



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Rod

posted October 5, 2006 at 2:06 pm


Brian,
I think you would be surprised how many Calvinists would hold most of these myths. I am frequently shocked in my interaction with Calvinist brothers when I discover that they have almost no understanding of Arminianism.
Calvinists tend to dominate Christian scholarship. The average Calvinist tends to be more theologically astute than the average Arminian. Yet many intelligent and otherwise well-informed Calvinists have distorted ideas of what Arminians believe.
I’ve encountered this myth firsthand. It is more prevalent than you would expect.
Rod



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Rod

posted October 5, 2006 at 2:19 pm


Dr. Mike,
Calvinism is a system. It is rigorously self-consistent. Once an adherent buys into it, he must defend it at all costs. Any significant change threatens the entire system.
Calvinists’ certainty (often expressed as arrogance) is mostly a result of this reality. If their system is true, as they believe it to be, then it must be true in every detail. To defend the details of their system is essentially the same as defending the honor of God.
They do not have the luxury of assimilating new information. Everything must be frozen at the 17th century. (Even their philosophy of the will is dependent upon the thought of Thomas Hobbes and his contemporaries.)
They remind me of those who feel that they must defend a 144-hour creation and a young earth in the face of overwhelming evidence, who believe that if a “day” does not equal 24 hours then the whole edifice of biblical inspiration collapses.
Rod



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Brian

posted October 5, 2006 at 3:41 pm


Rod,
In Book 3, Ch 23 of Calvin’s Institutes the first objection to election that Calvin addresses is that it makes God a tyrant. He understood the issue. The theme of theodicy runs right through the heart of Calvinistic literature – Hodge, Boice, Packer, Carson, just to name a few. They all go behind Myth #4 and deal with the issue of God’s goodness.
For sure there are many who don’t understand the issues, but that is true of any subject at the popular level. I am only referring to the thoughtful Calvinists.
Yes, there are issues of philosophy that come up in their writings, but they also address biblical text after text and conclude that the free will defense is problematic. They can’t be dismissed as simply not understanding what Arminians are defending with respect to God’s goodness.



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Dave Armstrong

posted October 5, 2006 at 3:52 pm


They don’t at all, in my experience (both as an Arminian evangelical and as a Catholic Molinist).
On a related topic, I wanted to commend you (Dr. McKnight) for your very fair-minded, respectful treatment of evangelical conversion to Catholicism (“From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals become Roman Catholic”). I just ran across your article today as I was writing a response to a treatment which was very much the opposite in tone and tenor, on a blog called Reformed Catholicism. This post mocked and belittled Cardinal Newman and Catholic converts and Catholic apologists alike, and so I replied:
http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/10/anti-convert-anti-apologetics-anti.html
In the first comment underneath the post I commended your article, in marked contrast to their atrocious treatment. It so happens that I fall into all three categories they so despise: a convert, an apologist (I have four published books; soon to be five), and strong Newman devotee (the largest Newman web page on the Internet; also a web page on development of doctrine as well as on conversion itself). Newman’s analysis of development was key (but not the sole factor) in my own conversion: published in Surprised by Truth, as you might possibly recall.
It’s nice and quite refreshing once in a while to see some true ecumenism that doesn’t feel compelled to mock and despise other variants of Christianity, yet maintaining a charitable critical approach in line with one’s own theological and ecclesiological commitments. I thank you for that, and I’ll link to your article on my Conversion page too.
God bless you,
Dave



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Rod

posted October 5, 2006 at 4:14 pm


Brian,
I’m not sure what your point is. You seem to be defending something other than what myth #4 addresses.
You seem to be fixated on the Arminian view that Calvinism makes God the author of evil. No one is saying that Calvinists are unaware that Arminians think this. No one is saying that Calvinists don’t have an answer to this objection that makes sense to them.
You argue that Calvin “understood the issue.” That is not the point of myth #4. You said, “They cannot simply be dismissed as not understanding what Arminians are defending with respect to God’s goodness.” No one is “simply dismissing” them. (I think you need to refer to my comments to Dr. Mike.)
The question at issue here is an understanding of Arminians and what they believe, not a defense of the truth of Calvinist theology. It is possible to set aside which side is (more) correct long enough to truly understand what each believes.
I’m drawing several inferences from your comments. Feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.
Rod



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Nick

posted October 5, 2006 at 4:48 pm


it seems to me that some calvinists believe that God’s love and justice compete for each other. they don’t see that love is the overarching essence of who God is and everything he does.
or sometimes they do claim God is wholly loving, yet still claim the horrible and absurd notion that God pre-determines only some will know Him and be saved for eternity, so that billions are pre-determined before they are born to be damned to eternal hell. they think that somehow God in his sovereinty knows better, and we just can’t really understand why he chooses certain people over others, and how this does not contradict his loving nature.
i don’t think there is any theology out there more repulsive and damaging to one’s view of God than calvinism.
does anyone think i misunderstand their theology?



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Jake H.

posted October 5, 2006 at 5:37 pm


I don’t believe that thoughtful Calvinists actually believe Myth #4. They would simply say that the free will defense of God’s goodness is problematic.
Perhaps. But that would mean that a huge number aren’t thoughtful. Still, the issue needs to be addressed.



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Jack Savidge

posted October 5, 2006 at 5:46 pm


I am enjoying this discussion very much. I wanted to comment on the issue of predestination and sin. I have read hear that the logical conclusion of Calvinism is that God is the author of sin. I think we need to extend this. The logical conclusion of Calvinism is that there is no such thing as sin. John Piper has said that there is no human action (which would include sin) that is not determined by God. If our actions are caused by God and therefore in His will, then none of them are outside the will of God (which would be the definition of sin). We are violating His revealed will but not His secret will. The logical conclusion of Calvinism is universalism!!



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Ellyn Wheeler

posted October 5, 2006 at 6:33 pm


I am enjoying this discussion and learning a lot about the nuances of Arminianism and Calvinism and the logical implications of both. I myself began my Christian theological journey as a Calvinist (leaning heavily on God’s sovereignty helped allay my fears of losing my salvation, so unsure was — and am — I that I could do anything right in my life). But I slowly “grew into” a more Arminian outlook, believing that God did give all grace necessary for any good that came out of me but that God nevertheless did not control all of my choices as a result of (or through) that grace. The latter made more sense to me in how it described my growth as a Christian, which seemed to require some right choices and effort on my part in response to God’s grace.
The issue of suffering still leaves me dissatisfied with both Calvinism and Arminianism. I don’t like a picture of God that is less loving toward some sinners than others for apparently arbitrary reasons. That seems unfair and unkind. But I also don’t like a picture of God that implies God’s hands are tied by human choices.
Biblically, neither picture seems totally correct either. For example, in my mind, the book of Job seems to raise some troublesome questions for both theological perspectives. For the Calvinist, it makes the apparent “bet” between God and Satan over whether Job would curse God to his face (if He allowed his blessings to be removed) pointless. If Calvinists are right, God is simply taking advantage then of Satan’s flawed theology because He knows the outcome of this cosmic battle because God himself has pre-determined it. Satan then is just a dupe and God allows Job to go through all that suffering just for show. (This is not what I believe but how I think the Calvinist position would have to interpret Job; please correct me if I’m wrong).
On the other hand, the Arminians are still left with a supreme and loving God who allows the worst kind of suffering for a creature whom God has already claimed is one of the most righteous people on earth and of whom God is very proud (enough to brag about him to Satan!).
As an aside, one solution came to me when in prayer one day, I complained to God, “Why did you make Job (your beloved creature) suffer for the sake of persuading Satan (your enemy)?! Why didn’t you just crush Satan and stick up for Job? An answer came to my mind (from God, from my inner heart?) that asked back, “Yes, but who ELSE has that question?” I then remembered how I had been helped by seeing God’s character in the Christians who were suffering around me and that led directly to my belief in God and Christ. Perhaps God’s love for others was what motivated him to allow Job’s (and sometimes our) suffering for reasons and in ways we can’t perceive from our earthly perspective. That thought helps me.
So…not sure what you would call me. I’m just still trying to get to know this great and just and loving and sometimes unfathomable God. And that means I am still asking questions. I got a lot of “answers” in my theology classes at Trinity Evang. Div. School but none of them totally satisfied me.
Pardon my lack of eloquence and knowledge compared to the rest of you, but thank you for letting me contribute.



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Jake H.

posted October 5, 2006 at 7:14 pm


Ellyn,
Great thoughts, indeed. A lot can be said for the Job narrative. One in particular is that he sets as example for the reader. He models how to live in difficult circumstances: trusting God, even though we are profoundly troubled.
In the end God is glorified because his creatures worship Him, and, as David once observed, a sacrifice that costs nothing isn’t worth much. In a similar way, God is glorified when a person who is prone to addiction turns to God for help (i.e, has faith in God) in overcoming it, whereas a person who is immune to such temptations neither deserves credit for resisting the temptations nor needs God to help. In this sense fallen humanity brings glory to God through its restoration.
I just finished reading Tim Clinton’s Attachments and was struck by something that he didn’t directly write about: if our children didn’t depend upon us (if they never needed us), they wouldn’t love us. It’s the way we’re made.



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Perry Robinson

posted October 5, 2006 at 9:18 pm


I think we need to add something to the “Arminian” picture to get the conclusion regarding freedom. It is not just that God is good, but that the kind of freedom God has he gives to his creatures and to humans in the image of God. This image is never lost, but defines what human nature is because it is what God irresistably wills it to be. Sin therefore is personal and not natural. Ironically, advocates of Total Depravity seem committed to the idea, or something like it, that humans do have sufficient freedom to frustrate God’s will, for in their free choices they altered or erased the image of God.
It is also helpful to realize that there are far more positions than Calvinism and Arminianism. Scotism, Thomism, Molinism, Okhamism and Palamism.
The real issue here though is how the divine and human relate. The combatants tend to look at it in terms of abstract categories an them subsume individual persons to those catgegories. A better way of looking at the problem would be to look at a paradigm case of how the human and divine relate, specifically in Christ, for Christ has TWO wills. And the best place to see them at work is in the Passion.
When Jesus says “not my will” (matt 26:39) he is not referring to the one faculty of will that he shares with the Father and the Spirit qua divinity. He is referring to his use of his human will. Since God wills both the salvation of humanity AND the preservation of human life, Jesus in his human power of willing can freely choose between TWO goods without the divine will subordinating or determining his human will. Jesus is one divine person who USES two powers of willing, one for each nature. The will then is a natural power that persons use. Strictly speaking, the will is natural and not hypostatic. Monergism is nothing less than the Christological heresy of Monoenergism or Monothelitism.
If the will is natural, then Christ willing all to be saved implies the eternal existence of every human being and hence their resurrection. Relative to nature, all are “in Christ” (1 Cor 15:19ff) and receive the “vindication of life” (Rom 5:18) But not all turn to him in faith, so that while CHrist is the savior of all men ( 2 tim 4:10, 2 pet 2:1) he is so especially of those who believe. This is why in John 6:37ff, there is a play between the corporate (natural) and the personal. EveryTHING that the Father gives CHrist is raised up and none is lost and none that turn to him in faith are cast away. So everyone gets eternal existence but how they spend it is up to them. Predestination then is natural and not personal. (eph 1:10-11) For CHrist predestines all of creation in himself by gathering it together in his incarnation. Calvinism then confuses the categories of person and nature, basic to any orthodox Christology.



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Brian

posted October 5, 2006 at 9:35 pm


Rod,
Yes, you are drawing inferences from my comments, and a couple things I should have said better. Rather than try go through it I’ll just simplify. All I am saying is that the best of the Calvinists through the centuries do not believe Myth #4. It’s plain to anyone who will actually read their books.



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Broken Messenger

posted October 5, 2006 at 9:54 pm


I have read hear that the logical conclusion of Calvinism is that God is the author of sin.
I started to write a response to this and it gave promise of becoming a small novel, so just consider it a trackback:
http://www.brokenmessenger.com/2006/10/god-is-author-of-evil.html
Brad



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Jfred

posted October 5, 2006 at 10:35 pm


Dr. Mike -
The grace-filled ministry of Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC has spawned dozens of like-minded churches in the PCA, which are full of Calvinists who are solidly committed to mercy ministries.
In the early 90′s, PCA pastor Mo Leverett moved to the Desire Street neighborhood in New Orleans, one of the most blighted, violent urban environments in the nation. This is a place where cops wouldn’t even go, and Leverett has raised his entire family there, while founding one of the most successful urban ministries in the country.
You might also be surprised to learn that the PCA’s New City Fellowship Churches in towns like Chattanooga, St. Louis and Atlanta are setting very high standards for racial diversity.



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Jake Hermanzoon

posted October 5, 2006 at 10:47 pm


To be more accurate, Calvin said that God was the author of evil, but not its creator.



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Jake H.

posted October 6, 2006 at 1:12 am


Post 26 needs to be qualified with, Depending on the context…”



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Brad

posted October 6, 2006 at 2:40 pm


I wonder if this is partly a Calvin vs. Arminius conflict much like the “I am of Paul” “I am of Apollos” conflict.
It seems that scripture clearly teaches a “whosoever will” concept. It also clearly teaches a predestination/election concept. How those two marry remains a conflict… I doubt that it is a conflict with God, but more about our ability to comprehend how both coexist and in what proportions.
If the two concepts are contradictory, then we have evidence that scripture is in error. If they are not contradictory, then scripture is not in error.
A youth pastor introduced me to the concept of “difficulty” with scriptures. It included two scenarios… The first was “hmmmm. I don’t understand this.” The second scenario was more of a… “hmmmm… OK, I think I get it, but I couldn’t possibly explain it to someone else so that he or she would get it.”
This area of free will and predesination/election is most likely the first area of difficulty for most. For the rest, it likely is squarely in the second area of difficulty!
Back to Calvanism/Arminianism… I would posit that many of us embrace teachings from both sides, as both can find scriptural bases to support their perspectives. I can’t conceive of God as the “author” of evil. Nor can I view God’s character as being inclusive of One who would willingly choose, via predestination, those who would be eternally condemned.
When scripture says that it is not GOd’s will that any should perish, then it is either true, or it is not. If it is not, then what in scripture is true, if anything? At the same time, a just God, may not prefer it, but is nonetheless no less just if He is willing to condemn eternally those who rejet His Son and die without changing their minds.



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Shawn

posted October 6, 2006 at 9:36 pm


I dont buy into TULIP Calvinist theology, but I will admit that I have learnt a lot of value from many Calvinist theologians and authors, especially Francis Schaeffer and Tim Keller.



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Shawn

posted October 6, 2006 at 9:40 pm


I wonder if, at its heart, the problem with the argument between Calvinists and Arminians is that both sides are often more interested in rationalism and perfectly structured theological systems, and both need to embrace mystery and paradox.



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Jake Hermanzoon

posted October 6, 2006 at 10:38 pm


I wonder if, at its heart, the problem with the argument between Calvinists and Arminians is that both sides are often more interested in rationalism and perfectly structured theological systems, and both need to embrace mystery and paradox.
There comes a point where that may be the only choice. However, we don’t want to take that route too early in our composition of our theology. Whatever your present perspective, I’m sure there are much simpler ones, or totally different and conflicting ones, which anyone could have adopted before “throwing in the towel.”
I attend a church where these differences of perspective “bubble up” all the time. It’s no big deal there because we have pride in our history of dealing well with the differences. It wasn’t that way in the church I previously attended, and I was as guilty as any of being part of that problem. I’ve learned a lot by the spirit modeled by the leaders at my church.



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Dave DeJong

posted October 7, 2006 at 12:34 am


I’ve come to think that all the accusations against Calvinism and misunderstandings of it are ultimately rooted in a faulty notion of the relationship between ‘time’ and ‘eternity.’ TULIP is clearly Biblical – there are undisputable texts to which any Calvinist can point you – and yet within history we cannot deny human responsibility and free will. In order to clarify the Calvinist-Arminian positions, the nature of the relationship between time and eternity needs to be clarified.



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Rod

posted October 7, 2006 at 8:50 am


Dave,
You said:
TULIP is clearly Biblical – there are undisputable texts to which any Calvinist can point you
This is why Olson had to write this book. Do you not realize that Arminians say the same thing about their doctrines?
Arminians do not base their theology on philosophy and experience. They base it on God’s Word.
Rod



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Shawn

posted October 7, 2006 at 1:58 pm


If TULIP is clearly Biblical then why is it still a minority position within the Church as a whole? I know that simply being in a majority does not make one right, but it does seem reasonable to me to question how something that is supposedly “clear” has not been seen to be by most Christians. I have been reading the Bible for over twenty years and cannot find TULIP there in any clear way at all.



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David Johnson

posted October 8, 2006 at 9:51 pm


I would disagree with the idea that TULIP is clearly biblical. It is certainly scriptural–that is, one may point to some “proof texts” for “confirmation” of any of them–but is it biblical? That is, is it consistent with the whole broad sweep of the biblical canon?
As an illustration, I could argue that George Bush’s war-making is unscriptural, not on the basis of Jesus’ clearly non-violent life and teachings, but on the basis of the early wars of Israel–what really must be done is we must completely wipe Muslims from the face of the earth, or we will continue to be troubled by them for the rest of our/their existence. But every commenter on this site (I hope!) would recognize that as clearly unbiblical given Paul’s words in Romans 12 and Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5 and various other biblical texts.
I would say that TULIP and Calvinist thought, in a similar way, doesn’t pass the biblical test. I suppose Christians will be free to believe what they want (or not be free, if you subscribe to Calvinist thought), and our differing beliefs do not, of themselves, make any of us ‘more’ or ‘less’ Christian. I just don’t know how–on the bases of the totality of the biblical witness and of “plain reason” (any Lutherans?)–those who subscribe to Reformed theology/TULIP can simultaneously affirm the goodness of God.



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Dave DeJong

posted October 9, 2006 at 1:02 am


Rod: I realize Arminians claim a biblical basis for their doctrines. There definitely is a basis for the notions of human responsibility and the call to repent and believe. That said, in the key passages that distinguish the Calvinist and Arminian positions, such as Rom 9, their exegesis is tenuous at best. (Read Piper on Rom 9, “The Justification of God”.) They fight Scripture there, rather than submit to it.
Shawn: I can understand that you cannot find ‘TULIP,’ the five points of Calvinism in your Bible. You won’t find any doctrinal system there – rather you get the living
history of God and his people. But these concepts come right out of Scripture. Take election for example – the concept of election is a part of the very heartbeat of Scripture. Gen 12, a fundamental passage, the choosing of Abraham. Through the generations: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau. Deut 7, 11 – the election of Israel. Paul’s words in Rom 8, Rom 9, Eph 1, 2 Tim 1; or Peter’s in 1 Peter 1, which all mention election. In fact, I believe every NT writer teaches election. (Mt 24:22, Mk 13:20, Acts 13:48, Jn 10:29, 17:6ff, 1 Pet 1:1, 2:8,9)…even James, 1:18, “He chose.”
David: I have a problem with your distinction between “biblical” and “scriptural,” simply because I hold that the Bible is not contradictory in any way. It is not a matter of “proof-texts.” It is a matter of reading in context. Your example you obviously acknowledge as an incorrect application of the history of Israel. But, to use the same example as above, the doctrine of unconditional election is not an incorrect application from Scripture. It’s a part of the very heartbeat of it. And there are many texts where such a reading is the only application possible. In Rom 9:11, it’s almost as if Paul anticipated the Arminians 1500 years in advance! As for your dilemma about God’s goodness – Paul anticipates that, Rom 9:14. Note his answer, it’s quite remarkable. (That’s what led Piper to write the book referred to above.)



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Shawn

posted October 9, 2006 at 2:59 am


Dave,
I have no problem with the Biblical concept of election or God’s soveriegnty. I have a problem with the particular way that Calvinists understand election and soveriegnty which leaves no room for free will and therefore no room for moral responsibility



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