pills

Allowing for Mystery in our Lives

I am a child of Western thought. Therefore, I like to figure things out. If possible, I like to figure it all out. This causes problems between me and God sometimes, and I need to deal with it better. Sometimes I only really follow or engage with God when I get it.  When things make sense to me, my intellectual anxiety is eased and my will can engage.  Who? What? Where? How? and especially Why? Theological gurus call this “cataphatic” theology. Cataphatic theology emphasises God’s revelation and our understanding of it. Taken to an extreme, we can find ourselves in the arrogantly awkward position of, as A. W. Tozer put it, “trying to look God eye to eye.” When we have to understand everything, we attempt to trade our finitude for infinitude. And this should scare us to death. We need a healthy dose of “apophatic” theology. This emphasizes mystery. Our Eastern brothers and sisters normally get this better than we do. They are content without publishing a new theology book every year. They don’t normally write papers explaining the mysteries of the world, have societies discussing the nuances of our faith, or argue about too much. Taken to an extreme, this can lead to an unexamined faith, where people know what they believe but they have no idea why. And God did go through a lot of trouble to explain quite a bit of himself to us. While there are secret things that belong to the Lord (apophatic), the things revealed belong to us (cataphatic). We need balance. We need a cool yet passionate head about us. We need to hold some theological ropes very tightly, but we need to loosen our grip on others. There is quite a bit that we can know about God, but there are so many things that we don’t get and we will never get.

Why all of this? Because I am going to talk about something that is very divisive in the Christian life. And, for the most part, I am going to try to encourage some of my Western brothers and sisters to take a cue from my Eastern brothers and sisters, step down off the stool, and quit trying to look God eye to eye. I am going to encourage us to allow some tension in a very debated issue in Protestant Christianity.

Calvinism is Not a Closed Box Rational Based System

I am a Calvinist. It is funny. I often hear people talk about Calvinism as a closed box system that forces everything to fall in line, even when we have to sacrifice biblical integrity to do so. I often hear the accusation that Calvinism is a system that makes rationality its primary goal. And this is often true. Sometimes Calvinists do attempt to fit things into a system and engage in questionable, logic-driven hermeneutics to do so.

However, I think we need take a step back and see that while the shoe fits when it comes to some particular issues in Calvinism, these accusations are far from forming the bedrock of the primary issues in Calvinism. You see, one of the many reasons I am a Calvinist has to do with the tension that is allowed within the Calvinistic system that is not allowed in other systems. Calvinism centers on one primary doctrine: predestination. While the sovereignty of God has its place, it does not ultimately determine where one lands. An Arminian can believe that God is sovereign to a similar degree as a Calvinist. But an Arminian cannot believe in predestination in the same way as a Calvinist.

[Tweet “One of the many reasons I am a Calvinist has to do with the tension that is allowed that is not allowed in other systems”]

All Christians Believe in Predestination

Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in predestination. In other words, whether or not God predestines people is not the issue. All Bible-believing Christians believe this doctrine. The issue has to do with the basis of this predestining.

The Calvinist says that God’s predestination is unconditional. God did not choose people based on any merit, intrinsic or foreseen. This is called unconditional predestination, because there are no conditions man needs to meet. It does not mean that God did not have any reason for choosing some and not others, but that the reason is not found in us. It is his “secret” and “mysterious” will that elects some and passes over others.

The Arminian says that God’s predestination is conditional. It has its founding in the faith of the predestined. In other words, God looks ahead in time, discovers who will believe and who will not, and chooses people based on their prior free-will choice of him. Therefore, God’s predestination of people is “fair” and makes sense. After all, there are too many questions left unanswered when one says that God chooses who will be saved and who will not. Why did he choose some and not others? Did God make people to go to hell? Is God fair? “Why does he still find fault, for who resists his will?”

Book Recommendation: Why I am NOT a Calvinist

The Consistency of Arminianism

The Arminian chooses this position because, for them, it is the only way to reconcile human freedom and God’s election. Both are clearly taught in Scripture. Therefore, in order to have a reasonable and consistent theology, one or the other must be altered. If God unconditionally chooses people, then people don’t have responsibility in their choice, good or ill. Therefore, in order to make things fit, the Arminian defines divine election or predestination in such a way to make it fit with human freedom. The Arminian says that God’s choice is based on man’s choice. Therefore, we have consistency. The tension is solved. There is no tension. No mystery. Cataphatic theology trumps apophatic theology.

The Tension of Calvinism

However, the Calvinist is not satisfied with a redefining of God’s election to make it fit. To the Calvinists, man is fully responsible for his choice, yet God’s election is unconditional. This creates a problem. It creates great tension. For the Calvinist, this tension cannot, and should not, be solved. So how does the Calvinist live with this? How does the Calvinist answer the Why? questions? “Why does God choose some and not others? Why does he still find fault?”  What is the Calvinist answer to the How? question?  “How can there be true freedom when God is sovereignly in charge of election?”  We have no answer. We get off our stool and punt to apophatic theology. The tension is left intact. We place our hand over our mouth here and say, “Though we have no answers to why God did not choose people he truly loves, we will trust him without judgement.” We will redefine neither divine election nor human freedom to make them fit a more rational or logical system. While there is nothing wrong with using one’s reason to understand truth, there are problems when reason takes priority over revelation. If the Bible teaches both human freedom and sovereign election, we leave the two intact. If the Bible teaches that God loves everyone more than we can imagine and that God desires all to be saved, yet he does not elect some, we trust God’s word and live with unanswered questions. These two issues, human freedom and sovereign election, are not contradictory when put together, but they are a mystery.

[Tweet “Calvinists will redefine neither divine election nor human freedom to make them fit a more rational system. “]

The Mistake of Arminianism

This is one of the mistakes I believe the Arminian system of conditional election/predestination makes. There is no need to solve all tensions, especially when the solution comes at the expense of one’s interpretive integrity. There are many tensions in Scripture. There are many things that, while not formally irrational, just don’t make sense. The doctrine of the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, and creation out of nothing all fit this category. All of these are beyond our ability to comprehend. Once we smush them into a rational box and tell ourselves we have figured them out, we have entered into heresy (although I do not believe the Arminian view is heretical). The issue of human freedom and unconditional election is in the same apophatic domain. We can’t make sense out of them and once we do, we have entered into error. There are many things God reveals that confuse us and baffle our thinking. They seem irrational. Yet we find God saying, “Chill. Just trust me. I’ve got this under control. While I have revealed a lot and I know you have a lot of questions, this is a test of trust. I love everyone but I did not elect everyone. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Will you trust me or will you redefine things?”

Book Recommendation: Why I am NOT Arminian

Putting it all Together

God’s sovereign unconditional election can stand side-by-side with man’s responsibility without creating a formal contradiction. We may not know how to reconcile these two issues, but that does not mean God does not know how. Their co-existence does not take away from their collective truthfulness.

[Tweet “God’s sovereign unconditional election can stand side-by-side with man’s responsibility without creating a formal contradiction.”]

I believe that the Arminian system sacrifices biblical integrity for the sake of understanding and doctrinal harmony. The Calvinistic system allows tension and mysteries to abide for the sake of Biblical fidelity.

As I said before, I have had people say to me (often) that they are not Calvinists because the system attempts to be too systematic with all its points for the sake of the system itself. I think it is just the opposite. The Calvinistic system creates more tensions than it solves, but seeks to remain faithful to God’s word rather than human understanding. I think it is a good illustration of how West meets East. Revelation meets mystery. Cataphatic theology meets apophatic theology. While Calvinism is not formally irrational, it is emotionally irrational. I get that. But I think we need to take both pills.

Now, I must admit. I am confused as to why most of the “progressive” Evangelicals I know are more attracted to the rationalistic approach of the Arminians than the mystery-filled approach of the Calvinists.

Let the assault begin . . .

Course Recommendation: The Theology Program Soteriology

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    499 replies to "The Irrationality of Calvinism"

    • John

      I’m not sure I’m convinced that Calvinism really allows much in the way of tensions. It might give lip service to statements like “God desires all to be saved”, but in reality, such statements are heavily qualified or interpreted into oblivion. Or to put it another way, when faced with that statement, and a statement that seems to teach unconditional election, they’ll accept the unconditional election statement in the Calvinist way, and take the seemingly Arminian “God desires all to be saved” against the plain meaning.

      Another example. Does Calvinism really allow the statements in scripture that talk about falling away to stand in tension against the Calvinist TULIP preservation principle? Of course not. They are interpreted in a very creative way so as to make sure they don’t say what they seem to say.

      I’m not sure it’s fair to say that because Arminianism supposes that election is based on seeing into the future man’s free will, that it is purely an artificial construct created to complete an Arminian “system” and to solve an otherwise unsolved tension. I think it would be argued based on Ro 8, “Those he foresaw, he also predestined” teaches that. I know Calvinists have their own spin on that, but I think it’s easier at least to understand foreseeing as what Arminians say, and it’s not about completing a system.

      At the end of the day, Calvinism boils down to “God chose everything that happens. End of story”. It’s attractively simple. Not much tension in such a view though. Notions such as freewill still exist, but their meaning is always subsumed within what Calvinism needs it to mean.

    • david carlson

      I am with john on this Calvin’s Institutes did not continually her rewritten and grow out of anything but a desire to see eye to eye with God.

    • Mike O

      What if Arminianism and Calvinism coexist? Why must God do things “one way or the other?” What if there are some who God treats Calvinistically and some whom he treats Arminianistically?

      Scripture can only truly be read exegetically when we don’t limit God to one system or approach to handling humanity.

      Are there people who are unconditionally predestined? Yes. Calvinism holds.

      Are there people who are won or lost based on their (or our) actions? Yes. Arminianism holds.

      God can be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow without being limited to a single system (Calvinism or Arminianism) that must apply every time, with every person, in every situation.

      Plus, this allows for both mystery and reason. The bottom line for me is, whatever God tells you when you’re talking to him, do that. Be calvinist. Be Arminian. Whatever bent you have when you’re talking to Jesus, go with it and don’t worry about if it’s “THE RIGHT” answer.

    • R David

      “I believe that the Arminian system sacrifices biblical integrity for the sake of intelligibility and doctrinal harmony. The Calvinistic system allows tension and mysteries to abide for the sake of Biblical fidelity.”

      I think Arminians see the exact reverse of this. They would say they see the mysteries, and they are holding to biblical integrity; while it is the Calvinists who are trying to hold to doctrinal harmony.

    • EricW

      I hope I say this in (or, rather, with) tact: “intact” (from the Latin intactusin- + tactus) is a single word.

    • Aaron M. Renn

      The visceral dislike of Calvinism I believe stems from 2 sources:

      1. Sovereignty and free will do seem to be formal contradictions whereas the Trinity and Hypostatic Union aren’t. There are many everyday examples like these. One family can have many persons. I am both fully American and fully male. Whereas fully predestined and fully free defies easy resolution.

      2. Neither pole the Trinity nor Hypostatic Union produces necessarily bad outcomes, hence people have embraced them. The Jews still have a monarchian view of God. You could also be outright polytheistic, as some are. Similarly, you could consider Jesus just a man. Or he could be just God. Like non-Euclidian geometries, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. However, while free will has no obvious problems, a God in total control of man’s life who nevertheless sends that man to hell immediately suggests that God would be a moral monster.

      Neither of these means Calvinism is untrue, but I think they explain why it’s difficult to parse for many people.

    • Matt

      John says, “they give lip service to ‘God desires all to be saved.'” You’re making Michael’s point. The reason you see it as lip service is because it doesn’t seem to fit with unconditional election. Calvinists believe both are true.

    • Scott W

      It’s interesting that all the negative comments against Calvinism have little basis in scripture and much in human reason. And the scriptures quoted are from a context of a different nature. The very comments posted prove Michaels thesis to be right about Arminianism – that it is grounded in human reason – in an ironic way. I believe one is of faith and the other not. The God of Arminians when it comes down to brass tacks is not infinite when the implications of their doctrines are allowed to run there natural course. Which is funny because they, the ones using reason, fail to use logic against their own system.

    • David Gibbs

      I think that calvinism actually creates more problems than it solves. Can a Calvinist, even a person who by all indications is a supposed christian, be sure that he is one of the elect who has been predestinated to be saved? How can he know if the basis or reason for ones predestination is a “mystery”?

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      There is a third option – Luther. God is sovereign – Yes! Our will, vertically speaking, is in bondage and can only be freed by God – uh-huh! Our will, horizontally speaking, is free right now – sure is!
      The End.

    • C Michael Patton

      “Calvinism creates more problems than it solves.”

      Yes, and that is a point of this post. Leaving things in tension is difficult for us.

    • Kurt

      Both Calvinism and Arminianism attempt to provide rational answers to questions that the Bible doesn’t answer.

      The Bible is clear that salvation is all of God and that damnation is all of man.

      Calvinists fudge on damnation being all of man. God doesn’t *really* want to save all men with everything he has. If he did, wouldn’t they all be saved? There must be something in God that causes men to remain damned.

      Arminians fudge on salvation being all of God. If God wants all to be saved equally than why are only some saved? It must be because they chose God… somehow… just a little wee bit.

      The Bible doesn’t answer the question of why some are saved and others are not. But it does answer two questions clearly.

      Q: Why are some saved. A: God
      Q: Why are some damned. A: Man

      I suggest leaving it at that, submitting human reason to God’s word.

      By the way, for those interested in doing more research on the subject, this is the Lutheran position.

    • Jason Pratt

      The “tension” wouldn’t be a tension at all, without a doctrine that God chooses never to even try saving some people from their sins.

      That’s the big difference between Calvinistic and Arminianistic predestination, and the big sticking point.

      It’s also why (as John says in the first comment) many or even most Calvinists (throughout history and still today) haven’t interpreted the Bible as teaching “that God loves everyone more than we can imagine and that God desires all men to be saved [from their sins]”.

      If you actually believe those two propositions are Biblically accurate, Michael, then they are outright contradicted by the notion that God chooses not to even try saving some sinners from sin: someone who loves both Sinner A and Sinner B more than humans can possibly imagine and also seriously desires them to be saved from their sins, would at least try to save them from their sins. It is clearly very easy to imagine a love less than that, after all!

    • Boltok the wrapper

      Let’s major on the majors (love God, love others) and minor on the minors (theological debates like this that will not end God grants us the wisdom to fully understand Him)

      We cannot yet, at our present expansion of neuro-filled-intellectually-induced-scientifically-based bodies, but we will try and explain away the essence of God when there are clearly missing elements on both defenses.

      Perhaps the seeming contradictions and mysteries of God are meant to remain unsolved. Just as the seemingly complexities of humans. Sometimes we’re kind, sometimes we’re pricks. Sometimes we care and sometimes we could care less. We have the good and the bad, the ugly and the sad. We are enigma’s ourselves that we cannot understand, yet we will argue and unfortunately even condemn…out of a claim that we know the “truth.”

      How about humility of not knowing it all? How about saying the calvanist have a point! The arminians also have a point! I’ll run my race, you run yours…let God be the judge. Let’s not play mr. Know-it-all…let’s just play nice.

      Love God! Love one another!

      I LIKE!!!! IT’SA VERY NAICE!!!! YAKSHAMESH!!!

    • “The Calvinistic system creates more tensions than it solves, but seeks to remain faithful to God’s word rather than human intelligibility. I think it is a good illustration where the West meets the East. Revelation meets mystery. Cataphatic theology meets apophatic theology. While Calvinism is not formally irrational, it is emotionally irrational. I get that. But I think we need to take both pills.”

      Nice statement here Michael! I am always amazed how little people actually perhaps read the whole of your posts! Indeed I am one that has waded into the EO myself, and like much there, but I always return to what I see as the West, and St. Paul’s Jewish Hellenistic and Greco-Roman revelation and theology… Gal. 4: 1-7 (noting especially that the Law of God is always Jewish, and even the concept of Adoption was Jewish also – Rom. 9: 4). But Paul changes that and makes “Adoption” personal & indivdual…an “adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5-7). And in the end, only the chosen or “elect” soul: crys “Abba Father”!

      Btw, here is the sort of baseline in the Doctrine of God, of He Who Is: The Biblical God is both “transcendent” and “immanent”, God is transcendent “to it” and immanent “in it”. Indeed we simply always have divine mystery in the “doctrine of God”! And the God who is Totally Other, has revealed Himself, but only ‘In Christ’, Himself the “Incarnation” of God! We can see the same reality in St. John, (John 1: 17-18). It is here btw, that I love that wee Johannine revelation even in Matthew’s Gospel: 11: 25-27!

    • I think I get and agree there @Jason! Romans 9 does become personal and individual, but only for the “Elect”, (Rom. 9: 11-13, etc.)…And we really must see the etc., God’s mercy is under His sovereign will! (Verses 14-15-16)

    • BTW at the end of the day, I still find it easier to have a Calvinistic viewpoint because of the mystery of God’s sovereignty, juxtaposed to our felt need for self worth. Ergo, none of us created ourselves in our own image. Nuff said…

    • Amen Doc, “Nuff said”! 🙂 We simply must bow our knees here! Again, only the chosen/elect soul crys: Abba Father… Father, Father! And whether Calvinist or Arminian. We cannot exclude proper spirituality, I think as “Doc” suggests!

    • Alden

      I think I would agree that Calvinism is irrational… at least I’ve never made sense of it. 😉

      Seriously though, I do think the Calvinist-Arminian debate creates something of a false dichotomy. Both views rely more on Augustinian thought than the earlier Lutheran approach, which moved from Augustine a bit more Eastward in many respects. Having been raised Lutheran, I never could understand why everyone else was so obsessed with this debate…

    • I love Luther, but “Lutheranism” much, much less! And btw, Luther WAS an Augustinian, and he most certainly “obsessed” in both the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of salvation! Note his debate with Erasmus.

    • And sadly many Lutherans today, don’t have a clue to the real and historic Luther! But, that’s another debate! 😉

    • @Delwyn: #10 Btw, Luther did not hold to “free will”, as more of “responsible will” before God, again Luther knew man was bound by sin, by also by God’s grace in Christ, he was responsible to respond and repent! Indeed a “biblical mystery”!

    • Mike O

      @Fr Robert, that is sadly the case for all denominations.

      I’m probably to practical to read a theological blog like this, but I do … and it’s very interesting. But I can’t help but walk away from debates like this with troubling questions. Like, if the God of the universe’s great plan of salvation was for his own son to die, it seems a bit of a waste if it’s not applicable to all mankind. I know there’s no Bible verse for that, I’m just saying when Jesus died, it was to pay the universal price for sin. Or wasn’t it? If his death only covers the sin of some, then why bother?

      Yes, I’m being a tad snarky, but that really is a question I have. I mean, if you’re god, and you’re going to kill your son to effect some result, one would think it would work. That has nothing to do with Calvinism except that Jesus died for ALL, yet all are not saved. That doesn’t seem to fit the general tenor of Calvinism.

      Sorry, no bible verses to back myself up. just a general feeling that “Calvinism and only calvinism” doesn’t fit the overall “come unto me all you who are weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” tenor of the New Testament in general, or of Jesus in particular.

    • Pacotcb

      God does love all men and He writes in His word how that is manifest: “God demontrates his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Christ died for ALL sins, and while we tend to think that God must choose all men (or elect all men) I think He did in the sense of the verse above, but it is man that is responsible for what He does with the Christmas Gift and man is responsible for His sin.
      God is not unjust either for not choosing all, rather, He shows immense, eternal love each time a person calls on His name for Salvation.

      My personal conclusion, we don’t have all the answers but that is okay. There is much we can confirm about Calvinism (I personally see 4.5 points as accurate) but what don’t understand about the scriptures will one day be revealed and we will be face to face with our creator and know in full things not revealed(1 Cor. 13).

    • Perhaps we should see both Infralapsarian: Calvinism, so called that sees that God’s plan of salvation for some people followed and was a consequence of the fall of man from grace. Note, most Reformed Creeds are Infralapsarian! See too, Supralapsarian…God’s plan of salvation for some, preceded the fall, etc. Was Calvin and even Luther supra?

    • NW

      The main reason for the ongoing Calvinist/Arminian debate in evangelical circles is not due to the conundrum of how to reconcile human free will and divine sovereignty (although, that is a real conundrum) but the fact that our present understanding of various biblical verses reflect mutually contradictory positions. Hence, Tom Talbott’s trilemma:

      (1) God in his omnipotence can save whomever he desires (John 6:44; John 10:25-30; Rom 8:30).

      (2) God in his omni-benevolence desires to save all people (John 1:29; 3:16-17; 1 Tim 2:4).

      (3) Some people will be permanently separated from God and will not be saved (Matt 25:46; Rev 14:11).

      So, evangelicals can pick any two but not all three, even though all three statements ostensibly enjoy clear, biblical support. Arminians reject (1), Calvinists reject (2), and Christian Universalists reject (3). Hence, I think the most profitable way to settle this debate is to determine which of the preceding three statements is most likely to be false, and why the relevant biblical verses for that position do not teach what they seem to teach for reasons other than preserving the logical coherence of one’s theology.

      When phrased in this way, my money is on (3) being false. It not only enjoys the weakest biblical support in terms of numbers of verses but also the support it does enjoy invariably hinges on the correct interpretation/translation of a single Greek adjective (i.e. aionios).

    • @Mike: I am an Augustinian and somewhat a Calvinist. Certainly Infralapsarian! God’s sees all men as sinners! And in some real sense Christ’s Death is certainly “sufficient” for all sin and sinners, but it is strangely “efficient” only for the Elect! (See 2 Peter 2:1) I know this is somewhat scholastic logic, but none the less biblical to my mind anyway. And btw, until a Christian and especially the pastor-teacher grapples with the “Rubicon” of election and predestinarian, he cannot really preach fully the Gospel in my opinion. The doctrine is central in soteriology! As it was such for both Calvin and Luther! Again, my thoughts at least. But indeed always biblical mystery, with logic, but mystery always wins in the end, and here I would quote Paul’s 1 Cor. 13: 9..with verse 12, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 🙂

    • Jason Pratt

      Michael: {{Yes, and that is a point of this post. Leaving things in tension is difficult for us.}}

      I don’t think you’re being comprehensive enough about the difficulties involved, yet.

      It is only by application of rational logic that anyone comes to have any ideas at all about anything, including what the scriptures teach. (Setting aside the question of rationally basic notions, which don’t apply to scriptural exegesis.) If the logic isn’t adding up, then that’s a sign something is wrong somewhere: data is missing, or data is faulty, or the logic is invalid somewhere.

      Appealing to mystery (in what is actually a non-Biblical sense, since mystery referred to secrets that had been revealed) to avoid the contradiction, isn’t going to protect anyone from heresy, which can (and frequently does) hide behind such invulnerable appeals to mystery! Such a strategy also tends to kill any hope of self-critically detecting, much less correcting, one’s own mistakes.

      I’ll grant that if a re-examination of the data seems to point to all the data being solid, then a remaining resolution could be unknown data points resolving the problem. But if further investigation suggests there can be no data points for resolving the problem, then the solution isn’t to give up and accept everything illogically anyway: one might as well go straight to religious pluralism and declare on the same basis that all religious (and irreligious) ideas are equally true!

      If logic suggests the thinker is in error about something, and he cares about truth, and regards the topic as important, then the proper procedure is to keep on asking and knocking at the data until one is proven false and so either rejected or modified. (Which could be the indication that there can be no extra data resolving the problem even in principle.)

    • Oh rock on @Jason! Indeed Biblical mystery is revelation! And certainly Pauline Mystery is such also, as too the Johannine, but we find it in the logic & mystery of the Text itself! Thanks to remind us!

    • Btw, Jason, your point needs to be addressed by our Orthodox Brethren, where “mystery” get pressed outside of Christ sometimes; it can only be as Paul states: “In Jesus name”!

      Note, this was one of the places that Karl Barth took the EO to task, i.e.”mysticism”, beyond the biblical revelation!

    • *gets

    • John I.

      As I was reading the post and comments I found myself thinking many of the thoughts just expressed by Jason (#27).

      If something is contradictory, in the sense of logically contradictory, then it is false. It is part of God’s nature to be logical, which is part of the reason he cannot lie, and he gifted logic to us so that we can reason and communicate.

      If our faith can be logically contradictory, then we have no tools to argue against cults or religions that hold to contradictory ideas and beliefs. Their response can be the same as Michael’s, “you may call our belief contradictory, and therefore wrong and a reason to leave our faith, but we call it a mystery and so can stay as we are”.

      Belief that contradiction is not only acceptable but part and parcel of our faith is destructive of both apologetics and missions.

      Biblical mystery is not contradictory, but something that is not revealed. To call a contradiction a mystery is to call a toad a prince. A contradiction is an error.

      One of the chief obstacles in a clear discussion of the issues is the use of terms such as “freedom” as if everyone was meaning the same things. But that is not the case for the Calvinist and Arminian concept of “freedom” (and other terms) is very different. So different that they don’t even overlap. What frequently also happens, is that writers will equivocate in their use of words.

    • Jason Pratt

      Fr. Robert,

      Paul’s retort in Romans 9 refers to one or more of several OT scriptures where God is chastising people for believing that God has hopelessly punished Jewish and Gentile rebels and will never save them from their sins! This is the referential point both of “Who are you to answer back to God” and the potter/clay analogy. There is no distinction of elect and non-elect in those OT scriptures Paul is referencing, in the sense of who gets elected to be saved from sins and who doesn’t. God may reshape a pot on the wheel, or may restore a pot that He has shattered on the floor (the latter being something impossible with man but possible with God, and indicative of resurrection): both are applied to rebel Israel, and by various topical and thematic extensions to rebel Gentiles.

      Paul goes out of his way in reference to Esau to remind readers of the outcome of God “hating” Esau (the nation of Edom in the OT scripture Paul is referencing): so that Esau may serve Jacob/Israel, which also refers back to Isaac’s blessing on Esau that he will be blessed in Israel. The election of Israel is for the sake of Esau’s blessing, too. It isn’t about God choosing not to even try saving Esau from his sins.

    • Jason Pratt

      The subsequent quote from Exodus 9 about Pharaoh, references one of the few places in that incident where God (through Moses) rebukes Pharaoh for continuing to rebel even when God isn’t hardening his heart: but the explicit point is that God refused to kill Pharaoh for his sins so that the king would come to give glory to God. Some rabbis in Paul’s day (and afterward) understood this to mean that, since Pharaoh did not witness to God across the nations subsequently, he either must be saved from his sins by God post-mortem and raised in the resurrection to evangelize to evildoers; or else he survived the Reed Sea deluge (or was miraculously resurrected), gave glory to God, followed the Israelites incognito in humility, kept on going when the rebelled and were forbidden to cross the Jordan, went up north (instead of rebelling to cross the Jordan)–and became king of what would become the city of Ninevah!

      Thus the rabbis explained why the king of that city led them in repentance at the ridiculously minimal (and hostile) preaching of Jonah: he either was the descendent of Pharaoh, or was actually Pharaoh himself kept miraculously alive to fulfill the word of God in the days of Jonah to save the inhabitants of Ninevah.

      So God’s salvation does not depend on the man who wills (rebel Pharaoh resisting the salvation of Israel) or on the man who runs (Jonah the rebel prophet resisting the salvation of pagan Ninevah) but on God, Who has mercy.

      (The other main rabbinic theory about the Mosaic pharaoh was that he survived the flooding of the sea, or was resurrected by God, gave glory to God, went back to Egypt, and became the monotheistic pharaoh Ahkhenaton. Paul seems to be referring to the Pharaoh/Jonah rabbinic tradition, but he who wills could be Pharaoh and he who runs could be Israel fleeing Egypt who wouldn’t want their pagan oppressor to be saved by God.)

    • Jason Pratt

      In context of all that, the reference to Exodus 33 (in Rom 9:15) where God incorporates mercy and compassion into the self-expression of His divine name of self-existence, while passing by Moses, should probably not be read as a tacit explanation for why God refuses to have any compassion at all on some sinners (it’s His inscrutable choice even if that makes no logical sense to us based on other things He reveals to us about Himself), but as a root connection between God’s fundamental self-existence and His intention toward sinners: He may by no means leave the guilty unpunished, but the punishment is subordinated to His divine mercy, which is not subordinated to but is rather an expression of His divine sovereignty. (Thus God may stop being angry, but He will not stop loving, even while being angry.)

    • Jason Pratt

      John I,

      Yes, but I do want to be fair to people who as far as they can tell think the Bible affirms that God has the capability, the competency, and the intention to save all sinners from sin, but also thinks the Bible testifies not all sinners will be saved from sin by God (much less by any other way).

      It isn’t illogical under those conditions to expect resolving facts somehow logically validate all the propositions, whether or not God ever resolves them for us by leading us to the resolving facts.

      What I do think is irresponsibly illogical is to rest content in the situation AS BEING IRRATIONAL AND ILLOGICAL!

      Much less to regard this state of affairs as being superior in faith to Christians who aren’t content to accept a fundamentally illogical theology (especially for self-critical purposes to detect where they themselves have messed up understanding God rightly somehow. Which has a bearing on the witness we’re supposed to give to the world about God: right-representation, “ortho-doxy”.)

      Also, strictly speaking Biblical mystery is not something that hasn’t been revealed, but something that has at last been revealed (even if we don’t understand it yet).

    • @Jason: I would like some classic Calvinists see Romans 9 as somewhat parenthetic, the Gospel does not set aside the covenants with Israel, when talking about Gentiles. But here Paul is talking about Israel after the flesh, the natural posterity, and also Israelites who, with or thru faith are also Abraham’spiritual people or children. So Gentiles who believe are also of Abraham’s spiritual children. But in Romans 9 Paul is considering the two kinds of Israelites, verses 8-13. But note “election” is still central! (Verse 11) But when we get to the Gentiles, (24-30). The same principle applies, God’s mercy is under His sovereign grace and will! (Rom. 11: 24)… Also Paul’s example of Pharaoh (17) is just certainly in God’s sovereign will, purpose and grace…14-24 are simply unmoveable! Aye, I am a “Calvinist”! But, note, an Historic Pre-Mill! 😉

    • theoldadam

      I think Calvinism is WAY TOO Rational.

      Christ can’t really be present in the bread and the wine because, ‘He’s sitting at God’s right hand’ ?

      ‘Not all people will go to heaven, so Christ didn’t die for and forgive everyone’s sins’?

      No. They are just too rational. And in these errors their assurance is greatly lacking and therefore must look inward for it. Bad move.

    • Yes, biblical mystery is a “musterion”, but in the NT this is always revealed, itself, as in Col. 1: 25-26-27. So we can only use the word “mystery” loosely theologically. But biblically, it is used in general revelation itself. We even get the idea of “manifested”, “revealed”, even “dispensation”!

    • Faith is always itself both objective and subjective! Note Paul asks the Corinthians to “Examine” or test yourselves, whether you be IN the faith, prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how Jesus Christ is in you, except you be “unapproved”..fail the test’! (2 Cor. 13: 5) And as the Wesley brothers I believe also properly saw, the is an inter-witness too in salvation, Rom. 8: 16, etc. Here by faith comes our assurance of salvation, which should be the norm for the Christian. Indeed as I have read about John Wesley, when his father lay dying he told John, the inter-witness, the inter-witness of faith.. of Christ!

    • MikeB

      “I believe that the Arminian system sacrifices biblical integrity for the sake of intelligibility and doctrinal harmony.”

      I think one can say the same thing swapping out the word “Arminian” for “Calvinist”. Which is where John (#1) seems to be coming from.

      “While there is nothing wrong with using one’s reason to understand truth, there are problems when reason takes priority over revelation.”

      If one is sacrificing biblical integrity how do you know? What would the criteria be for knowing when one has sacrificed “biblical integrity” vs when one is just allowing for tension and mystery? Doesn’t reading a text (revealed or otherwise) require logic and reason to understand it? And doesn’t evaluating different interpretations of that text require logic to determine which is most likely correct?

      -MikeB
      @g1antfan

      • C Michael Patton

        Reason is always required. But reason does not cancel out mystery. We strive for the cataphatic until we sweat blood. Then, when no solution makes good sense of revelation, we allow mystery to come in and do it apophatic job. Again, think Trinity and you will see what I mean. Can you rationally understand the Trinity? If you can, you have just entered heresy. I think that there are five great mysteries in the Scripture that we cannot resolve:

        1. Creation ex nihilo
        2. Hypostatic Union
        3. Dual nature of Scripture
        4. Trinity
        5. Human Freedom/Responsibility and Divine sovereignty (unconditional election included)

        Do you a agree that we cannot rationally understand the first four and that we have to punt to mystery?

    • theoldadam

      It’s far better than to trust in the external Word and in what God has done for you in your Baptism, and what He does for you and promises to you in the Supper…than to look inward to anything that you do, say, feel, or think.

      Faith in God is far superior and solid, as compared to faith in faith.

    • @theoldadam: You know I believe too that faith is always central, but faith also simply always has a witness or evidence, and the internal life of the Christian believer is itself a place for this, this is St. Paul’s whole thesis biblically in Romans 8, as too his statement in 2 Cor. 13: 5 (I quoted). And this is the essence of the Letter of James. See the sweet test of obedience in James 1: 17-25!

      And this is not “faith in faith”, but faith “in the indwelling Christ!” As Paul can say: “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (glorification).

    • Yeah, I am a “Calvinist”, and not a “Lutheran”! 😉 Note Calvin’s doctrine of Justification & Sanctification is somewhat different here than Luthers. But, Law/Gospel is still an important issue, with both.

    • Aaron M. Renn

      I’d like to add that it’s immensely comforting to believe in God’s total sovereignty when we are going through serious trials (as I am now). If God really gives man free will apart from total sovereignty, then he isn’t really sovereign in what happens in my life as 90% of the problems most of us experience result from other people. I’m on my own since God can’t make other people do things except in extraordinary circumstances. I think it’s ridiculous to claim that God gives man one and only one free choice – to chose Him or not – but every other action is determined. If God as moral monster is the Achilles heel of Calvinism, God as not really in control of what happens to us is the same for Arminianism. I would not call myself a Calvinsit as yet, but I can recognize that at some level predestintion is inescapable. it goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. God knew the future, yet he put the serpent there anyway, though he had no obligation to do so and arguably Satan and his followers deserved to immediately be cast into the lake of fire. Even RC Sproul admits he doesn’t know this one. To say that “all things work together for the good to those who are in Christ, who are called according to his purpose” is to assume that God’s actually in control of what happens in the world. The real question isn’t predestination as such. The real question is whether you and me believe God is in absolute authority and control over what happens in our lives day by day.

    • JB Chappell

      NW (comment #26) hit the nail on the head. Arminian and Calvinist ideologies are BOTH supported by scripture. We can argue all day about which is *more* supported by scripture, but I find it ridiculous that people on either side insist that THEIR side is the one trying to remain faithful to scripture, and that the other is “too rational”. The fact that people on either side say as much should indicate that both sides are probably trying to be faithful to scripture, and that both have scriptural support.

      I think it is important to acknowledge that there are genuine “mysteries” (things we don’t know/understand), to be sure. But I do not think that there is any value in believing something that appears to be irrational, regardless of whether or not it is supported by scripture. Why should I believe that scripture is “inspired” or “inerrant” if it is (supposedly) telling me mutually contradictory things?

    • theoldadam

      Fr. Robert,

      I wish you luck in your internal examinations.

      I have found that they always lead to one of two outcomes….pride, or despair.

      I walk by faith, and not by sight. What I do, say. feel, or think, has no bearing on what the Lord has done for me.

      I trust in that…alone.

      (I love that very Lutheran word…’alone’)

    • theoldadam

      “…this is not “faith in faith”, but faith “in the indwelling Christ!” ”

      St. Paul also said that” the devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light.”

      You can’t trust in that internal stuff. It may even be last night’s pizza speaking to us.

      We Lutherans much prefer to trust in the tangible, concrete acts that He does for us in the sacraments, the real presence
      of Christ in earthen vessels…given for us.

      Thanks, Fr. Robert.

    • JB Chappell

      @theoldadam

      I’m sorry, did you just say that how God acts through sacraments is “tangible”…? In what way?

    • JB Chappell

      CMP,

      “Reason is always required.”
      +
      “But reason does not cancel out mystery”
      does NOT =

      that we are obligated to *believe* mysteries.

      The only reason for holding to this would be that one considers “revelation” as trumping “reason”. We then have to consider what “revelation” is. Is it what the Bible says? Perhaps, but we have to interpret what it says, as you well know. And I do not know of anyone willing to argue that their interpretation, or even a consensus, is equivalent to “revelation”. So the concept of “revelation” needs to be elucidated, and why it would trump reason justified. But of course that requires reason itself. So, I’m not really sure how we could justify not adhering to reason.

      One can hold that it’s axiomatic for revelation to trump reason. But then one must somehow be able to demonstrate a concept has been “revealed”. This requires reason. So, it seems to me reason must always be the trump card.

    • JB Chappell

      CMP: Regarding the 5 proposed mysteries, i would draw some distinctions. If in using reason we encounter mysteries, we have some options:

      a. withhold judgment (“i don’t know”) – genuine mystery
      b. make a conclusion using reason, claim it does not need to be understood using reason, then try to defend this using reason (self-contradictory, it seems to me) – “divine mystery”
      c. Reject certain options, like supernaturalism for instance, then make an inference to the best explanation (probably begging the question) – reject mystery

      So, with respect to the mysteries you proposed:

      1. A logical contradiction (but one which I don’t think the Bible teaches).
      2. The “mystery” here is only in how it “works”, but that is the case with any miracle – but miracles aren’t necessarily illogical.
      3. Uncertain of what this means, but suspect it’s circular (are you claiming the scriptures teaches its “duality”?)
      4. I suspect this is similar to #2
      5. Depending on how they are defined, these both cannot be true. they can be defined so that they are “compatible”, but generally this just ends up with a concept of “free will” that isn’t how people (or, apparently, the Bible) normally conceive of it.

      So, tentatively, i would suspect that 1 & 3 are probably “divine mysteries”. i would claim that 2 & 4 are genuine mysteries in that we simply don’t know how they work, but reason does not necessarily dictate disbelieving such concepts. I would claim that 5 may not actually be a “mystery”, depending on how we define our terms. Based on common notions, however, I would claim that believing in both God’s sovereignty and human freedom are logically contradictory – so this commonly becomes a “divine mystery”.

    • Austin Thompson

      Recently, I wrote an article outlining common mistakes those in the Calvinist camp can make, particularly in the area of erasing tensions.. What I enjoy about this blog post is its frankness, and also interesting spin on Arminianism and Calvinism. Honestly, I never thought of Calvinism as the more tension-embracing system, even though I myself am a “Calvinist.” Usually, the “resolved” tensions of semi-pelagianism in Evangelical Christianity today is presented as the more “balanced” and equal system. Thanks for your post! If anyone wants to read my post about “True Calvinism,” check out this link: http://thepresenceofgod.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/true-calvinism-what-does-this-mean/

    • theoldadam

      JB Chappell,

      You can taste and feel the bread and the wine. You can feel the water. In these real, earthly elements God has decided to make Himself present for us. To act for us, to be there, for us.

      In these earthen vessels (along with the preached Word that is done …to us) God is doing His good and gracious will for us.

      The Lord never commanded that we do anything, where He would not be there in it, for us. Giving what He commands.

    • theoldadam

      Water…bread and wine.

      Earthly elements that we can see, touch, taste, smell, ingest.

      Given to us. Done to us. To make Jesus’ cross concrete in our lives.

    • Bob Anderson

      I think you are making a few gross assumptions here. The article implies that Arminians are trying to rationalize and Calvinists are not. Frankly, in the common arguments, I find the opposite to be true.

      But rationality is part of the process of understanding. It is making something intelligible, and both Calvinists and Arminians work towards a rational understanding of God’s Word. In truth, there are always tensions in belief systems and a few here have mentioned some of them (creation ex nihilo, etc.). I always tell people that a bit of mystery is a given in any theology that claims revelation. We simply do not need to know everything and cannot know everything. I think a bit of mystery is good for the soul.

      But I am not a Calvinist. I consider myself an exegete. The focus of my post-graduate education was in Biblical studies, not systematic theology, although I studied it and taught it. I am not a Calvinist because my exegetical methodology differs from their hermeneutic. I personally think Calvinism is based on a non-contextual framework that lack intellectual rigor.

      But I am not suggesting that everyone who wears the label of “Calvinist” or adheres to the five points acts irresponsibly with Scripture. I truly appreciate much of the work of men like Thomas Schreiner and Douglas Moo, and I use Wallace’s Greek Grammar extensively. Oddly, I tend to agree with these men very often in points of research. But I draw different conclusions than they do concerning some particulars of the text because I bring a set of information and factors to the text that they do not. That is going to be true in any discussion of the text.

      What I am suggesting is that when people come to the text with different frameworks for understanding, then they will interpret the text within that understanding.

      Perhaps the time has come to shed the old labels and presuppositions and do a serious discussion of what the text is really saying. For example, because God foreknows something – knows something before the writing of the text or the contemporary circumstances of the text – does that truly imply the author is speaking of a pre-temporal knowing, or is it a reference to a past event or promise? Note carefully my question – I am not suggesting God does not know pre-temporally. I asking what the text is actually saying.

      For me, the proper starting place for interpretation is not Calvinism or Arminianism, but Second Temple Judaism.

      Just some food for thought.

    • Irene

      “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…” JPII, Fides et Ratio

      There is one truth. If faith and reason are leading you in different directions (tearing the bird apart!) there is something wrong. Either your philosophy and/or logic is wrong, or your interpretation of revelation (like Biblical interpretation) is flawed.
      But someone will say, “But God is so far above us! How could human reason understand him?” Then I say that yes, God is infinitely above us in all things, but revelation is not God’s personal diary, or his message to the angels. Divine Revelation is God revealing himself TO US. And we can all agree that God knows his audience. We know by reasoning. Revelation is full of wonders and marvels, and when we listen carefully to its echo, we may hear new harmonies and themes we never heard before. There are unknowns yet to discover, but faith and reason never contradict each other.

      If faith and reason are two birds, and you’ve got a foot on each, and they begin flying apart, you’d better find a different ride to truth!

    • […] Michael Patton writes about the Biblical fidelity Calivnism tries to uphold, while Arminianism for­sakes Biblical integrity in order to rec­on­cile two ideas: God’s […]

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)


      five great mysteries in the Scripture that we cannot resolve:
      1. Creation ex nihilo
      2. Hypostatic Union
      3. Dual nature of Scripture
      4. Trinity
      5. Human Freedom/Responsibility and Divine sovereignty (unconditional election included)
      Do you a agree that we cannot rationally understand the first four and that we have to punt to mystery?

      Like JB Chappell, I am not sure that all of these are in the same category. And I do think that we can rationally examine these other “mysteries”. Now there may be some mystery because we can’t understand “the how” but the way the term mystery is being used here is not quite the same because they can still be shown to be logical. Maybe not acceptable to some, but still logical.

      1. Most evidence points to a universe that had a start. When one allows for the supernatural then God is a plausible and logical candidate for creating. We may not be able to explain all of the physical/scientific reasons for how it happened but it is philosophically logical.

      3. Assume you are talking about the idea of verbal plenary inspiration – the idea that fallible man could write infallible text. I am not sure what logical contradictions there are in this argument, though if we accept that prophets could verbally share what God revealed than writing it down is not too far a leap.

      2/4. In these man is trying to describe God. God is undescribable. We should expect a great deal of mystery and difficulty describing Him. We do our best based on what is revealed by Him to us. However, though the explanations and definitions are difficult to fully reason through they are not necessarily logically invalid. In fact logic and reason are used to identify heretical views of God.

      5. If God determines all things and is in control of all things, than logically man does not have the ability to choose otherwise (the common way to understand free will). If God determines/causes all things then logically God would be the cause/source of evil and bad things (vs just permitting them to be committed by agents with free will). Logically, God can both be sovereign and yet choose to give control to those He has created and permit them to act in ways He does not endorse. Nor does this require that God as sovereign could not still directly act on His creation in different ways to cause various events.

      MikeB

    • Irene

      Another point–if you are dangling your theology in irrationality, you must be sure you are distinguishing between irrationality and LIES. Saying, “Scripture says so here and here and here!” is no guarantee of truth, because heretics quote Scripture, too. And the Father of Lies also uses Scripture to tempt even Christ!

      St. Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitory:
      Here, possibly, some one may ask, Do heretics also appeal to Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture—through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of ….. and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old. (p. 64)

      So, do you have an interpretation of Scripture that leads to an irrational truth, or do you have an interpretation of Scripture that is a falsehood? How are you distinguishing between the two and protecting your theology from lies?

    • C Michael Patton

      It is interesting to see the Anout of effort there is on this post basically arguing “We can reason out everything about God’s revelation”. I would never say that we punt to mystery every time we think about God. I explicitly said that this is foolish and undermines the imago Dei. As well, if you read the post you see that I don’t really believe that ANYTHING about God and his revelation can be FORALLY irrational. However, those who want to deny the presence of mystery all together, looking God eye-to-eye need to rethink their understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. The cry of the man “Why does he still find fault” (a rational question trying to alleviate mystery) is and swerved by Paul by appealing only to mystery. We must often place our hands over our mouth. I think this is one of them.

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      CMP

      I think that is the point most of the comments are making – God and His revelation are formally rational. Not that there is no mystery or that there are not things that God has not revealed.

      The more I study the tenets of Calvinism regarding #5, I see them as logically irrational or at least leading to logical conclusions that are not supported in Scriptures, rather than just mysterious.

      In Christ,
      MikeB

    • @theoldadam: We must always seek to deal of course with Holy Scripture, itself. And here of course too both Luther and Calvin are not infallible! Note, I am always Luther friendly! But, again we must grapple with the Text itself, as I noted with 2 Cor. 13: 5, so I quote it literally:

      “Test yourselves if you are in the faith, prove yourselves, or do you not realize yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless you are unapproved.”

      Here of course the Sacraments are somewhat involved (but not spoken, but assumed), but there is more here than just this, are WE living in the faith? And finally does Jesus Christ, Himself, live within us, who confess Christ? This will always be a most central question!

      *Note in this Text, how “yourselves” is pressed here! To use the philosophical, here is the I/Thou relationship, the existential: of God & us! And here I think, at least to my mind, both Luther and Calvin would agree, “theologically”. But that is of course secondary. But yes, faith.. but faith that can be “examined”, at least somewhat within ourselves, to show forth Christ Himself! And the so-called Christian can never really escape this! And I am quite aware that this is problematic for “Lutheran” theology! But, it should the same for any so-called biblical theology! 🙂

    • *be the same

    • @Michael: Note, I pressed the I/Thou, how can we escape the “existential”, the ground of our very being? It is here “within” that faith itself is an objectivity, even ‘In Christ’! – Even as sinful beings!

    • Of course theologically the “ordo salutis” must be seen, and here “regeneration” is God’s first work, as Calvin noted. But then too for Lutherans, this “ordo” is different. This so-called “sorting out” is never uniform really, even Luther from time to time, found it necessary to emphasize the demarkation lines between the three articles of the faith (W.A. XVIII. 203. 27 ff.), and to insist , upon the distinction between the merit of Christ and its “distribution” by the Holy Spirit.

    • JB Chappell

      CMP, I think you’re (unintentionally) caricaturing those who are emphasizing reason. I don’t see anyone claiming that everything can be reasoned out. I, for one, claimed exactly the opposite: there are genuine mysteries (things we do not know). That is a different claim then the one you are proposing, however: that we are obligated to believe irrational things.

      Such a claim rests on (to me) an uncomfortable confidence in the processes that leads to such a conclusion. What is more probable: that a reasoning process that leads to an illogical conclusion is flawed, or not?

    • Kelton

      Hey Michael, I’m a Calvy and I think I can answer some of these questions of yours.

      You say “However, the Calvinist is not satisfied with a redefining of God’s election to make it fit. To the Calvinists, man is fully responsible for his choice, yet God’s election is unconditional. This creates a problem.”

      Response: Not necessarily, because it depends on how you are defining “free will.” If you are defining it as,” man chooses according to his strongest desire.” Then I think it fits perfectly. Man will only choose to sin, he will never choose God, once God changes this persons heart, then he will choose him.

      Matt: “It creates great tension. For the Calvinist, this tension cannot be solved and should not be solved. So how does the Calvinist live with this? How does the Calvinist answer the Why? question?—Why does God choose some and not others? Why does he still find fault?—”

      Response: I’m convinced that the reason why God chooses some and not others is that he wants to show both his wrath and his mercy. For those he condemns, he is demonstrating his wrath, for those he saves, he is demonstrating his mercy.

      Matt: What is the Calvinist answer to the How? question?—How can there be true freedom when God is the one sovereignly in charge of election?—We have no answer.”

      Response: because natural man is in bondage. So his freedom is actually bound. So now he only chooses rebellion. So he is totally free to choose to rebel, he can’t nor does he want to choose God. It’s not until God changes his heart that he then chooses God. Man always chooses according to his strongest desire.

    • C Michael Patton

      “That is a different claim then the one you are proposing, however: that we are obligated to believe irrational things.”

      I understand that it is hard to always read the entire post. I also understand the provocation of the title. But the post explains that there can never be formal irrationality, only mystery. I am not asking people to believe in things that are really contrary to logic. These things, the Trinity, Calvinism, Hypostatic Union, creation ex nihilism, dual nature of Scripture are transrational.

      True logic and reason are a part of Gods character. He can no more violate it than he can violate his righteousness.

      Please read carefully folks.

    • Amen Michael! Reason and Mystery are both central in true Calvinism, and most certainly short thru in the NT!

    • *shot

    • JB Chappell

      CMP, sometimes people just misunderstand each other. In any case, you’ll have to explain how there is any practical difference between “irrational” and “transrational”. Seems to me that they would probably look the same, and you seem to concede as much, claiming that often they “seem” irrational. Please explain how creation ex nihilo does not violate the logical axiom “out of nothing, nothing comes.” Perhaps you wouldn’t claim that we are obligated to believe this, but your inclusion of it with the others on your list seemed to imply as much. If that is unwarranted, I offer my sincere apologies.

      But it is notable to me that you are not justifying the notion that revelation trumps reason (I trust that isn’t misconstruing anything?). To me, the idea that we need to embrace mystery depends on this.

    • Chris Arnold

      I may be accused of trying to have it all figured out and “looking God in eye to eye,” but I don’t believe I am doing that ;P

      1 Timothy 2:4 is not its own little book of the Bible that comes after Revelation. It has a context. The context clear states that God desires all men (without distinction, not without exception) to be saved. It teaches that even if you are treated harshly by rulers and kings such as hitler, NERO, and others, we should pray for all men, because God desires all men to be saved. All types of men. The context gives understanding to the text. Just a thought that most people probably have heard already.

    • Godismyjudge

      Michael,

      Let’s say a child asks you a question they cannot possibly understand. Would you reprimand them for asking? I doubt it. Likewise, I don’t think it’s reasonable to say Paul smacks down someone for asking a reasonable question. Rather the Romans 9:19 question shows a moral problem with the asker. The question challenges God – not so much His strength, but His authority (as many commentaries attest). Also, after the reprimand, Paul gives a good answer. So where’s the mystery?

      God be with you,
      Dan

    • Perhaps we might use the word “transcendence/transcendent” here besides mystery. And transrational fits perhaps too back here?

    • Bob Anderson

      Michael, you wrote –

      “It is interesting to see the [amount] of effort there is on this post basically arguing “We can reason out everything about God’s revelation”. I would never say that we punt to mystery every time we think about God. I explicitly said that this is foolish and undermines the imago Dei. As well, if you read the post you see that I don’t really believe that ANYTHING about God and his revelation can be FORALLY irrational. However, those who want to deny the presence of mystery all together, looking God eye-to-eye need to rethink their understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. The cry of the man “Why does he still find fault” (a rational question trying to alleviate mystery) is and swerved by Paul by appealing only to mystery. We must often place our hands over our mouth. I think this is one of them.”

      First, let me suggest that all reasoning is fallible because we simply do not have all the information. Therefore, we can only “reason” with the information provided, which includes revelation from God in the form of the text, his acts in history, and the person of Jesus. We also must acknowledge that our toolkits for reasoning is often biased and inadequate. That is seen in much of our intellectual pursuits both within and outside of theological circles.

      You have associated the Romans 9 question of God finding fault with the Arminian position. Yet that is patently a false assumption. No Arminian Christian would question the integrity of God. I suspect that you raise the question because it is implicit in your position on the text. But that does not mean that the question cannot be raised in other context, such as whether the covenant with Israel precludes God’s judgment. This is the case with Jeremiah’s argument against the kingdom of Judah (Jeremiah 7:1-15). This is also an echo of Ezekiel 18:25 and 18:28, where God’s ways are (rhetorically) considered unfair because he forgives the man who repents, in spite of his sin, but condemns the righteous man who sins. (See Ezekiel 18:20-32.)

      Paul is very explicit about the impartiality of God in Romans 2. God will judge both those who are within and outside the Law impartially in the basis of what they do (2:6-11; 9:14). So the argument in Romans 9 must depend in the impartiality and integrity of God – which is really what is at stake here.

      To associate this question with the Arminian position is simply improper, unless you are contending, as Jeremiah’s opponents did, that God is covenantally required to sustain Israel in spite of her sin.

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      I don’t know of any one who defines free will as “man chooses according to his strongest desire.” That alone does not make it wrong, but it should give you pause. If man ALWAYS chooses according to anything, this choice is determined. You seem to concede this in stating later that we are in “bondage” (can you be slave and still be free?). Most (not all) would agree that if our actions are determined, they are not free. And if they are not free, it becomes difficult to justify that we are responsible for decisions. This is not a problem for those who want to emphasize God’s sovereignty. It is a problem if you want to exclude sin/evil from God’s sovereignty.

      You also write: “I’m convinced that the reason why God chooses some and not others is that he wants to show both his wrath and his mercy.” Why does this seem like a satisfactory explanation to you? If I have two dogs, but I’m nice to one, but beat the other; i’m fairly certain no on will think it’s OK that I simply want to demonstrate my wrath.

    • theoldadam

      We are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves.

      We don’t stop sinning because we don’t want to stop. We want what we want. We become little gods unto ourselves.

      But the Lord has decided that He wants us, anyway.

      Here’s the Lutheran party line:

      If we come to faith in Christ, God gets ALL the credit.
      If we do not come to faith, we get ALL the blame.

      That is biblical. It may not be quite so rational. But it surely is biblical.

    • Bob Anderson

      Michael –

      I keep coming back to your post to contemplate the struggle you are presenting. You are an affirmed Calvinist, yet you see the inconsistency of your own system. An appeal to mystery may temporarily solve the problem, but I can see you are not satisfied with that. You are quite correct that what is unknown is reserved for God, but we are not dealing with what is unknown. When we do theology – Biblical theology – we are dealing with what is revealed, even if our knowledge of what is revealed is limited.

      One of the fundamental problems I see you introducing is the conflict between human freedom and divine sovereignty. You say that as a Calvinist you want to let the tension stand. That is all well and good, but I do not think that is even an issue for many non-Calvinists. For us, we are not concerned overly much with human freedom. Many of us acknowledge that to be a given – just as you do, since you acknowledge the tension. We all recognize that human freedom is limited by our environment, which is multifaceted with a myriad of influences. That is the way life is. But we also recognize that we can choose between alternatives and are held responsible for those choices.

      We also recognize that God is sovereign and can do what he wants to do. That is obvious, since he is God. But what is at stake here is not whether human choice somehow triumphs over the sovereignty of God. What is at stake is the character of God, as defined in the Scriptures, is violated by a philosophy of determinism that is equated with what Calvinists call “divine sovereignty.”

      You see, the problem you are struggling with is an internal problem within your own system. It is not a problem introduced by Arminians or other non-Calvinists. And the problem will persist because even if there were no Arminians to contend against, the problem is paradigmatic to Calvinism, and even within your own ranks, you see the tension between the Scriptures.

      As I have suggested in the past, perhaps you need to shed your preconceptions and embrace the text for itself. You do not have to appeal to mystery to do this. That is only necessary if you want to support a tottering paradigm.

      I have often found that when I cannot resolve a conflict in theology, I am asking the wrong question. Perhaps you need to consider that your Calvinism has been asking the wrong question all along.

    • theoldadam: I would agree that even the redeemed still have the old sin nature, (Rom. 7: 13-25 ; 8: 7 / Gal.5:17). But as St. Paul writes of the redeemed ‘In Christ’: “So then, those who are the flesh cannot please God. But you [the Redeemed Christian] are not in the flesh [though we still have the sin nature within] but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [within] he is not his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your moral bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:8-11)

      The whole reality here, is that our redemptive “Sonship” (Adoption) makes us also, in Sonship, alive through the Spirit, which is most certainly the indwelling Christ within! But still have something of a dual nature, i.e. the sin nature, but he has been defeated and buried In Christ, this is the reality of our Baptism in Christ, (Rom. 6). He of course he can still raise his ugly head, but only as the Law of God is pressed. This of course can and must happen, when the Christian steps into sin, as the Law of God announces! But of course both positionally and practically the Christian is to live and walk in grace.

      Both Justfication and Sanctification, are “alive” for the Christian, 1 Cor. 1:2 ; 6: 11!

    • Sorry “theoldadam”, I was busy and on the fly when I typed the above! But, I hope you get the basic bilbical approach? WE are close here, but Law/Gopsel always stands before the Christian! And by “faith” we simply MUST live the Christian life! No excuses of “the flesh”! But of course not one wiff of perfection however. WE are always sinful and sinners in this life!

      And btw, since this is a post about Calvinism, the true Elect Christian best BE persevering in his salvation! (Jude 1: 1 ; 24-25)

    • *biblical

    • (Busy morning! Many people asking about how to process GOD, in yesterday!)

    • @Greg: Amen to Van Til! # 29 Would that I could get more student and theological types to read him! – As too, his great student John Frame.

    • @Greg: If you have not read it? Try reading John Frame’s book: Cornelius Van Til, An Analysis of His Thought. Just a grand intro into one of the great 20th century’s Reformed Theologians!

      Btw, you bet.. I am a Presupper! 😉 God’s Word is our only presupposition in truth and knowledge! The only lasting evidence and real evidential, itself!

      “All Scripture is God-Breathed” (2 Tim. 3: 16)

    • Btw, this whole discussion about the so-called Irrationality of Calvinism, I have not yet seen the word or concept of “Antithesis”! If one has read Tertullian, who of course pre-dates Calvinism, one can surely see it is his thinking! And later too, our Cornelius Van Til. Just an important point I think.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      It seems to me that you’ve missed the point in your reply to Bob. It doesn’t matter where one “starts”, if by that you mean chronologically. Bob made it clear that what isn’t an issue is whether human freedom can “triumph” over God’s sovereignty. What is at stake is God’s goodness.

      If by “God is good”, you include the notion that He determines our actions, but then holds us responsible for them, but then only punishes some of us for them… well, that simply doesn’t jive with any understanding we have of “goodness”. Some might say: no problem, God is good by definition – but that, of course, becomes tautological and “good” is meaningless. Others might simply add to the “tension” or “mystery” and say that the Bible says God is good – end of story. But that, too, becomes meaningless – because then we’re basically we’re saying that whatever God does is “good”, because the Bible says so.

      Faith does not give us “access” to the unseen, at least not in any reliable way. It is the “assurance” (confidence/trust) about what we do not see. Which isn’t to say that it is merely intellectual assent either, as James makes clear. The classic example is the chair: if I look at it, I may *believe* that it can support my weight, but I’m not exercising faith until I actually sit in it. Faith does not provide me any special access into the nature of the chair – it could still break, after all. I could be wrong. Likewise, there are numerous Christians exercising “faith” about all sorts of things, and they are often fantastically, tragically wrong.

      Finally, it is no problem to acknowledge that we have no place telling God what to do, or that we obviously limited in our knowledge. Of course, God can do whatever He wants. He is God; we are not. Again, however, this misses the point. What’s at stake is God’s goodness, at least in any sense that we understand it. One can say that “God is good”, but if by that you mean something other than what people mean by it, then why on earth are you using the term?

    • JB Chappell

      Another “tension” to consider (although not sure yet if it rises to the level of “mystery”): although the Bible is clear that we are to recognize our place, or not attempt to “look God in the eye”, it seems to me that there definite instances of men seemingly rising above their station, and God doesn’t bat an eye. For instance, Jacob wrestles with God and is rewarded. Abraham negotiates with God, and isn’t chastised for it. Gideon tests God by asking for signs. Etc.

      This isn’t a fully-developed thesis, obviously, just something that came to mind as some were emphasizing our “place” as humble human folk.

    • JB Chappell

      Regarding Van Til and presuppositional apologetics, it is true that human reason “reduces” to tautology, if by that we mean that ultimately reason is self-referential. I cannot demonstrate why reason/logic “works” without using reason/logic. It isn’t clear to me why this should mean that revelation “trumps” reason, however.

      Consider: either (1) revelation trumps reason because reason tells us this is so, or (2) it does because revelation tells us this is so (if this is a false dichotomy, please do point out other options). (1) is obviously self-defeating, if reason was necessary to demonstrate such a claim, then obviously it is still logically “prior” to revelation. And if (2) is true, then obviously revelation is tautological in the same way that reason is, so at the very least reason and revelation are on the same level.

      And this isn’t even beginning to address the objection that presuppositional apologetics is basically an exercise in begging the question.

    • JB Chappell

      @theoldadam, re: the Lutheran axiom

      “If we come to faith in Christ, God gets ALL the credit.
      If we do not come to faith, we get ALL the blame.
      That is biblical. It may not be quite so rational. But it surely is biblical.”

      There isn’t necessarily anything irrational here. No logical contradiction. Rather, I would say that it appears immoral, if the phrase “we come to” is used consistently. If, in coming to faith, you mean that this is because of God determining such, then of course God should receive all the credit. But, if in NOT coming to faith, you mean that God determines such, then it isn’t clear at all why people should receive blame.

    • theoldadam

      JB,

      Yes, God draws us, gives us faith. His credit.

      Or, we reject Him. Our blame.

      We don’t say that God desires that some do not come to Him. Or that He predestines some to hell…because the Bible does not say that.

    • Kelton

      @JPChappell

      JP wrote:I don’t know of any one who defines free will as “man chooses according to his strongest desire.”

      Response: It’s called capatibalism. I think I may have spelled it wrong, but I believe that’s how Calvin himself defined it. And I think that’s what scripture portrays the will as.

      JP:That alone does not make it wrong, but it should give you pause. If man ALWAYS chooses according to anything, this choice is determined.

      Response: It’s no different than say if you went to the store and picked your favorite ice cream. Even though it’s surrounded by other flavors, you’re always going to pick your favorite ice cream. You choose according to your strongest desire. If it’s cookies and cream, you’re always going to pick cookies and cream. With natural man, he’s always going to choose sin.

      JP:You seem to concede this in stating later that we are in “bondage” (can you be slave and still be free?). Most (not all) would agree that if our actions are determined, they are not free. And if they are not free, it becomes difficult to justify that we are responsible for decisions.

      Response: Not at all, we are responsible for our actions because we are always going to sin. 100% of the time until we are redeemed. That’s a real choice, just like you choosing your favorite ice cream.

      JP:This is not a problem for those who want to emphasize God’s sovereignty. It is a problem if you want to exclude sin/evil from God’s sovereignty.

      Response: I don’t think so, because God restrains man’s evil until the intended moment and then either allows man to sin or not. Much like he did with Abemelech, God stopped him from sinning. God restrains man’s sin and then uses it to accomplish his purpose.

      JP:You also write: “I’m convinced that the reason why God chooses some and not others is that he wants to show both his wrath and his mercy.” Why does this seem like a satisfactory explanation to you? If I have two dogs, but I’m nice to one, but beat the other; i’m fairly certain no on will think it’s OK that I simply want to demonstrate my wrath.

      Response: How would you know what you are saved from? If God never showed you his wrath, how would you know what you are saved from?

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      Yes, God draws us, gives us faith. His credit.

      There is no need to “draw us”, if God just gives people faith. And if He just gives people faith, then He isn’t to others. On what basis this is done is subject of much speculation, but surely you realize that this makes the claim that God desires all to be saved to be much more difficult to defend.

      Or, we reject Him. Our blame.
      So, either God gives us faith, or we reject Him. This dichotomy excludes the possibility that we can accept God. If we are *incapable* of such an act, on what basis could someone be judged/punished for it?

      As for “double predestination”, I’m not sure who you are referring to when you say “we”, but I assume you are aware that there are many Christians who do, in fact, affirm that God predestines/foreordains some to Hell. http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=229 1 Peter 2:6-8 seems fairly clear on the matter.

    • JB Chappell

      Sorry, that last post was meant to be a response to theoldadam – not Kelton. My bad!

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      I can understand that someone who has already fought these battles doesn’t necessarily feel like covering the same ground again. So no problem if you don’t feel like responding to my objections, you are obviously not obligated to do so. I did read your document, thanks for providing it. I found that you are very adept at poking holes in the arguments of those you engage, but while you make many assertions, you do not typically justify them

      “Every last particle of human knowledge and experience is taken wholly on faith.”
      What do you mean by “faith” here? Blind belief, based on no evidence whatsoever? Then I disagree entirely. If you mean that there is always an element of uncertainty to “knowledge”, then sure. I would not accept that “faith” must be blind.

      “Tautology is NOT knowledge.”
      It can be. “It is what it is” would be a justified, true belief. It is also completely trivial. Regardless, the fact that reason eventually becomes self-referential highlights the fact that our rational efforts are constrained. There is no shame in acknowledging that.

      “Faith is the only escape.”
      Escape from what? Self-reference? Obviously not, because eventually God becomes self-referential. We just have no issue with that, because we like God’s aseity. And, as I pointed out before, “revelation” is just as tautological.

      Furthermore, you haven’t actually demonstrated how “faith” (however you define it) actually helps. There’s no reason to think that God would want us to use logic or math, specifically. So you have to add more assumptions (i.e. beg the question more). Eventually, the presuppositionalist moves the goal posts exactly where he/she desires them to be, which is in assuming the God of the Bible to be true. It is “taxi-cab” reasoning, plain and simple (you get off at your desired destination).

      “2+2 IS 4. We live pragmatically pickled in that truth and yet have no objective reason to do so without faith.”
      I have objective reasons to accept that 2+2=4. It works. When I use this equation, it gets results that are consistent with the world around me. I can make accurate predictions with it. Etc. These are objective reasons, even if they are inductive. Now, is it *possible* that 2+2=5, but that the wool has simply been pulled over my eyes? I suppose that’s possible, but I would argue that I have no objective reasons to believe so. So, while there is an element of uncertainty to my knowledge, it is nevertheless well-grounded.

      How does “faith” (in your sense) help? How does inserting “God” into the equation make it more likely to be true, or better grounded (i.e. 2+2=4 IF “God”)? God is equally capable of pulling the wool over my eyes, is He not? And, Biblically speaking, we have reason to believe that He does this to people. So, there is an element of uncertainty in any worldview.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      Forgive me, I was unclear. By asking “on what basis”, I was referring to a *moral* basis. Clearly, God can do whatever He wants. So, He can send people to everlasting torment based on the fact that they like chocolate. But we would probably find this not very suitable for a Being that is supposedly just & omnibenevolent.

      Furthermore, it should be obvious that Paul is not really answering my question:

      v22: “What if….”

      Asking “what if” is offering a possibility, not answering with any finality. It obviously betrays uncertainty. He is not providing revelation here, he is offering speculation.

      Furthermore, does it not seem obvious that this possibility is unsatisfactory? Why would God need to unleash such wrath on some in order for His “vessels or mercy” to understand His glory? It seems obvious that in real life we do not necessarily come to know/understand someone’s more pleasant traits by contrasting them with the negative. I do not appreciate my wife’s beauty because I fear her anger (and I do!).

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton (for real this time!)

      Calvin did not believe in “free will”, and that is partly my point. Defining “free will” to eliminate the “free” is to simply deny it exists. By declaring that someone always chooses evil, one is simply defining the will, not describing how it is free.

      Compatibilism does likewise. It doesn’t really describe a reality where determinism and free will coexist. Rather, it re-defines “free will” to be “NOT free will”. It does, however, acknowledge that we have real choices that are made… even if how we assess and decide are determined in advance. It is almost precisely like a computer makes decisions: based on a program. And if one’s idea of “free will” is closest to a computer analogy, I think you can see how it isn’t really free will.

      In reality, we make fun of those people who would kick a computer because it wasn’t running properly. But that is essentially what God is doing when we say He punishes those who could never choose Him. But apparently some would justify this by saying, “yeah, but those computers who don’t get kicked are going to be REALLY impressed with the force of the kick, and are going to be REALLY appreciative of the fact that it didn’t happen to them.” What an awesome God…?

      “…you’re always going to pick your favorite ice cream.”
      My favorite is cookie dough. But I do not always pick cookie dough. My guess is that you would counter-claim by stating that wasn’t my greatest desire at the time. That this is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy should then be clear. There is no way to prove this false. But it should be clear the free will is precisely the idea that one can “rise above” one’s greatest desire – or at least somehow willfully adjust their desires.

      “…we are responsible for our actions because we are always going to sin…. That’s a real choice, just like you choosing your favorite ice cream.”
      That there are genuine alternatives does make something a “real choice”, that I am willing to concede. So, much like a computer, people are capable of executing assessment programs and making real choices, provided alternatives. But, again, it should be obvious that we would not hold a computer *morally* responsible for anything. We would blame the programmer. We do not prosecute computers for downloading child porn.

      “…God restrains man’s evil until the intended moment and then either allows man to sin or not.” Much like he did with Abemelech, God stopped him from sinning. God restrains man’s sin and then uses it to accomplish his purpose.
      This explains nothing. That God uses sin for His purposes speaks to the idea that God can make the best of bad situations. Not that He is perfectly good. Nor that He is just.

      “If God never showed you his wrath, how would you know what you are saved from?”
      How do you know now what you were “saved from”? Supposedly, you were not just “saved” from a sinful nature, but also from eternal damnation. Do you need to experience this in order to know that you were saved from it? No. You “know” that you were saved from this, because God tells you so. Why could it not be the same with sinful natures?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      You are still failing to define “faith”. There are people who have “faith” that they don’t need doctors, because God’s will is to heal their child. Then their child dies. Faith is not knowledge. People live in uncertainty, and that is why everyone also lives in faith. Faith is not an escape from uncertainty, it is living with it.

      “And the reasons you gave for believing that 2+2=4 are themselves unverifiable statements of faith.”
      It is not unverifiable that I have found 2+2=4 very useful. It is perfectly verifiable, and it is objective evidence. It is not, however, proof. That I am willing to concede. But that is different than what you are trying to claim.

      “You have no objective basis on which to “prove” what 2 + = and 4 even are.”
      Neither does the presuppositionalist! This is my whole point, you are wonderful at pointing out shortcomings of the epistemology of others. You do nothing to *demonstrate* how “faith” is somehow better. “You live in uncertainty, therefore you should believe in the God of the Bible” is a non sequitur.

      “Your perception of the world is entirely subjective too. Perception is not certainly and uncertainty is not proof.”
      Of course. But certainty is not required for “knowledge”.

      “I say it IS the image of God in which we are all created.”
      Clearly, you “know” much more about the “image of God” than anyone else to make such a claim.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      “ALL men are deserving of hell.”
      If you say “deserve”, this implies there is a basis for it.

      “The question is not, ‘on what basis does God send people to hell?'”
      If the above is true, then obviously my question is not illegitimate.

      “Once our sin and His holiness is understood the question becomes ‘WHY does he save ANYBODY?'”
      Flipping the question around does not help. The fact that God chooses to save some, but not others begs the question (not in a logically fallacious way) of “why?” You concede as much. To answer “because He chooses to” is no answer at all. “Because He desires to show mercy” begs the question of why He wouldn’t simply do so for everyone.

      Answering that with “because He also desires to show His wrath” is helpful, because now it brings His goodness into question. How is it “good” to kick a computer for running a program you set up in the first place?

      Again, one can claim that God is good and we can’t question what He does, but then you’re using “good” in a meaningless way. One might as well call God “blue”.

      “He would NEVER relegate something like this to a hypothetical.”
      Know Paul so well, do you?

      “It’s a rhetorical statement with the answer being assumed before it’s asked.”
      No. The evidence you need comes before the “What if” statement. Paul says: ‘who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?’ It’s a fairly clear allusion to God’s reply to Job. Did God ever actually answer Job’s question?

      No, He did not. In fact, the whole point of the story is that we DON’T know the answer to the question.

      “What we experience with other humans is utterly inapplicable where God is concerned.”
      This obviously isn’t true. It is at least analogous, even if imperfect. God became a man, after all. Otherwise, why ask us to “love” God? To “obey” Him? These are things we understand (to a certain extent) because of our relationship to others. Or am mistaken in that Jesus was fairly persistent in speaking in parables, drawing analogies with our relationship to God by using human relationships. Why would He do that, if it was “utterly inapplicable”? Clearly, there is something to learn about God from what He has put on this Earth.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      “A God that fits between your ears friend is created is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is one of your own creation in your own image.”

      That God cannot be fully comprehended, I have no problem with. So, it is not the case that I expect God to “fit between my ears”.

      Heck, I don’t even necessarily expect God to be rational. I think Descartes may have been onto something when He considered that if God truly transcends reason, is truly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, then there are NO constraints on Him. The law of non-contradiction need not apply. God CAN square a circle. He CAN create a stone heavier than He can lift… and yet still be omnipotent.

      But it is clear to me that if God operates as such, then not much can be said of Him. What does it mean for a Being to be “good”, when there are no constraints on this? It means nothing.

      So, while I acknowledge that possibility, I also acknowledge value in the pursuit of God. That effort requires that I use the tools available to me. So I have to use reason, I don’t think anyone disputes that. I don’t think anyone disputes that it has its limits, either.

      So the question is where to draw the line. For so many Christians, it’s in “what the Bible says”. As you said: “It’s Biblical”. Nuff said. Right…?

      Wrong, because obviously interpretations change. Furthermore, if in interpreting the Bible one comes to a position that has logical contradictions or ideological tensions in it, then that *should* be a red flag. One should at least entertain the following notions:

      1. that perhaps the source documents are flawed
      2. That the process was flawed
      3. That the conclusion is true, just illogical
      4. That the conclusion is true, just mysterious

      Where I depart ways from orthodoxy is in considering #1. For most Christians, this is a non-negotiable, even there is no good reason for it to be so. It is simply dogma.

      Sorry to see that you are reluctant to continue commenting here. Please, don’t make that decision on my account. I have only commented on a few posts (although admittedly very actively on those posts. It should be clear that the majority of those you’d interact with are more orthodox Christians, which apparently is what you were expecting.

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg, Thank you for responding. I have a class to teach this morning, but let me suggest a few things over a series of posts.

      Let us make sure we get our facts straight. Paul does not have an Arminian opponent. His interlocutor is seen as the man under the law, a Jew or Jewish convert, depending on the particular scholar to whom you appeal. He is echoing a concern raised by Ezekiel. You need to understand that Paul is arguing from the Jewish scriptures here.

      Second, I think I can tell you why 2 + 2 = 4. The symbols 2, +, =, and 4 are intelligible to me because they have commonly held definitions within our language. When I place two objects (represented by the symbol 2) next to two other objects, I can infer that they consistently present me with a quantity of objects represented by the symbol 4. That is the way language works. It is symbolic of reality. To suggest this is an unproved epistemological principle is to suggest language itself is a mystery and cannot be understood. That is not really reasonable. If that were the case, we could not be having this dialogue.

      Concerning your first point, let me first state that is was CMP who raised the issue of free will as a tension with respect to the sovereignty of God. That means that even as a Calvinist, he acknowledges this underlying basis of human morality to some degree. That is why many Calvinists I encounter appeal to compatibilism rather than absolute determinism. The fact that the tension is there means that it is inherent in the Calvinist system of thought. To address it as mystery is simply the way CMP has chosen to explain it. It is not that I have begun with the free will of man as a given. It is the issue raised by CMP. What I have suggested is that moral choice is a given. We do make choices that make us responsible to God. God’s impartial judgment of those choice are clearly indicated in Romans 2.

      Second, the only boundary to God’s sovereignty is his own righteousness. This is truly the issue at stake for Arminians and other non-Calvinists. We simply state that God will not act out of character. Why not? Because he is not capricious. We worship the God of Abraham, who counts faith as righteousness. If the character of God is revealed in scripture and history and Jesus Christ, then we have a pretty good basis for defining the character of God.

      It seems to me that in your first point you are creating a philosophical entity called God with a series of assumed absolutes – which appear to be part of those mysteries that you and CMP admit cannot be known – and then move towards an interpretation of the text based on what you both say cannot be known. But what Paul is arguing for in Romans is the righteousness of God, his faithfulness to the covenant.

      I will deal with your second point sometime later this afternoon.

      Again, thank you for commenting.

    • B. P. Burnett

      I would just like to interpret and comment on the picture at the top of the blog post. It seems as if this reference to the Matrix movie places libertarian human freedom and sovereign election in irreconcilable opposition. Yet this seems confused. Election is a a soteriological category about God’s loving choosing of a particular people in Christ to be his own for his glory’s sake. Human freedom and its primary negation–determinism–are metaphysical descriptions or explanations about the movement and interaction of human agents in the world. What’s being assumed, then, is that for sovereign election to be be possible, then it must be achieved by God through a deterministic metaphysic. But why assume this? Is it a biblical theological teaching?

      I believe it is certainly incorrect to equate election with universal divine determinism since, exegetically, the Bible does not do so. At best, determinism may be a philosophical theological explanation of the biblical theological data about election, but these are not the same thing. One is the base from which we must work (biblical theology) which involves the exegesis and interpretation of the text. The other involves the conceptualisation of the biblical theological concepts in themselves and their corollaries (philosophical theology).

      In my opinion, so many Calvinist writers who should know better conflate these two categories of biblical and philosophical theology without making explicit the distinction as I have just done. Whatever biblical theology of election you think there is, very good: you can argue that. But make sure you make clear that whatever philosophical theological add on you want to convey such as human freedom or universal divine causal determinism is indeed philosophical and not exegesis as such.

    • There has been nothing here that has really surmounted the full tents of Calvinism (which are somewhat Augustinian) themselves. As was Calvin, Augustinian, certainly, though of course his own breed. He liked to argue (in his mind) sometimes with Augustine’s theological ideas. But in the main, he held to a strong Augustinian construct. And yes, we cannot escape the philosophical aspects. This has been central in Christian Theology, and I would maintain this goes back to St. Paul’s Jewish Hellenistic and also Greco-Roman thought. Certainly the “how” of all this we will never fully understand, but again God’s Transcendence and Immanence are always the biblical tension.

    • C Michael Patton

      Human freedom/responsibility are two sides to the same coin. They are both exegetically implied. Divine sovereign choice is, I believe, explicitly taught. Taking the two pills is, in theology, called compatablism. They are not contradictory, only mystery. That is the point of the article. No need, in this post, to get into a philosophical argument about freedom.

    • John

      Most strong Calvinist apologists argue that the 5 points stand or fall together. Probably fair enough. The trouble is then, there are verses that are really hard to get around that teach falling away. So if you start off from that exegesis, and you accept the Calvinist argument that the 5 points stand and fall together, then Calvinism falls, by their own logic.

      Of course, the Calvinist would argue perhaps that unconditional election is proven by Ro 9, and thus the other 5 points stand. Therein is the problem that sola scriptura can never resolve.

      @JB Chappell: “Asking “what if” is offering a possibility, not answering with any finality. It obviously betrays uncertainty. He is not providing revelation here, he is offering speculation.”

      I haven’t followed the debate in detail, but it sounds like someone agrees with my understanding of Ro 9. Paul is answering the question of why Gentiles are saved, and Jews are lost, even though they have the promises. Paul argues that God can do whatever he wants – yes, even save and damn people for no reason whatsoever. BUT, it looks hypothetical to me. “What IF God… etc etc”. But Paul’s final conclusion is not that God is arbitrary, only that he has the right to be, if he wants. Paul’s final conclusion is that it is by faith. (v30). I understand there are arguments against this interpretation, but I think the “What IF” language is quite powerful, and the conclusion of faith in v30 is important.

      @Matt: John says, “they give lip service to ‘God desires all to be saved.’” You’re making Michael’s point. The reason you see it as lip service is because it doesn’t seem to fit with unconditional election. Calvinists believe both are true.

      Not both in the sense of the ordinary meaning of the words. I could say Arminians believe in unconditional election given a broad enough brush to define that.

      @Kurt “The Bible is clear that salvation is all of God and that damnation is all of man.”

      It’s very difficult to define what “all of man” or “all of God” means. Ultimately, the whole universe is in some sense “all of God”. So this whole monergist vs synergist debate is ultimately ending in confusion of terminology. Supposedly Arminianism is synergist because faith comes from man. But where does man come from? From God, right? Calvinism is monergist because faith comes from God. But to whom does he give it? Man. And it all becomes a debate about the exact sequence and mechanisms these exchanges take place, which the bible doesn’t tell us about. So it all becomes a debate about concepts so abstract, at least as far as man’s understanding, that it is all doomed to fail.

      A lot of theology is like that. We deal in abstractions that we only know vaguely about. We can’t put them under the microscope like in science and measure and analyse them.

    • JB Chappell

      It’s true that sovereign election and human freedom are not irreconcilable. But that graphic at the top of the page was, I think, simply alluding to the main ideologies discussed, which where Calvinism and Arminianism.

      Calvinism obviously holds to a bit more than just Sovereign Election. “Total Depravity” would also seem to be a Calvinist tenet, depending on how it’s formulated, that speaks to human freedom. Irresistable Grace, Perseverance of the Saints… These are all doctrines which seem to be at odds with human freedom.

      Now one can, of course, claim that TULIP tenets do not add up to “determinism”, and that is true. But Calvin himself defined “free will” according to a determinist ideology, and emphasizing God’s sovereignty as much as Calvinists do, it’s easy to see why “sovereignty” or “election” eventually get conflated with “determinism.

    • @Michael: Amen to #14, if we simply go off into scholastcism, we can end up like the Molinists with a philosophical libertarianism, and here historically are the socinians, etc., and our so-called modern process theolog’s. Aye, I will stick with the old Reformer’s myself! 😉

    • Btw, we simply should mention here the history of Protestant Scholastic Theology, this has itself been a theological process, but hopefully pressed along by both the desire for reform, and the need of the church and catholicity. This really was the spiritual essence of our top-tier Reformers! Myself, it is here I think myself of both a Theodore Beza and Francis Turretin. Personally I think it would be more helpful for today’s Reformed to reconnect with this early Reformational & Reformed Scholasticism. And again, myself, this goes before the TULIP.

    • JB Chappell

      I was wondering when someone might mention Molinism! I’m no scholasticist, but I think Molinism is underrated myself. If, when considering human freedom, God’s sovereignty, and God’s goodness, I think Arminianism balances God’s goodness & human freedom well, perhaps at the expense of some of God’s sovereignty. Calvinism accounts for sovereignty, but seems* to hold to human freedom only in non-moral situations (if at all), which would call into question God’s goodness.

      Both perspectives obviously enjoy Biblical support, and obviously if Calvinism doesn’t seem to balance the three as well as Arminianism does, it is accepted because Calvinists believe their perspective is better supported by scripture. I only point this out, because I think many Arminians (Arminianists?) would still prefer their perspective, even with less scriptural support.

      Molinism probably doesn’t enjoy much direct Biblical support, but neither do I know anything that would subvert it. It is more philosophical in nature, which might be why some don’t like it, or simply aren’t familiar with it. In any case, I think out of the three ideologies, it offers the best balance between the three concepts. I’m not convinced that it actually fully accounts for human freedom and probably still calls into question God’s goodness, but if it does sacrifices them in some way, it does so in a better way than Calvinism does, IMHO.

    • John

      @Fr Robert: “ply should mention here the history of Protestant Scholastic Theology, this has itself been a theological process, but hopefully pressed along by both the desire for reform, and the need of the church and catholicity.”

      Protestant scholasticism is in response to a need for catholicity? You’re going to have to explain that one. 🙂

    • John

      “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin”

      I interpret this to say “god is the author of sin, but is not the author of sin”.

      I don’t think any Calvinist can explain why this statement is not contradictory, except that they need it not to be, because that would not be a good look.

    • JB Chappell

      <>

      Ditto. Basically, “God ordains all, EXCEPT sin… but “except” here is not to be thought of as an exception… and this is all to be thought of as a ‘mystery’, not a logical contradiction.”

    • Kelton

      @ JP Chapell

      @Kelton (for real this time!)

      Response: That’s funny.

      JP: Calvin did not believe in “free will”, and that is partly my point. Defining “free will” to eliminate the “free” is to simply deny it exists. By declaring that someone always chooses evil, one is simply defining the will, not describing how it is free.

      Response: Not really, we’re not denying it exist, we’re just defining it differently. And I think it’s the way scripture defines it. The will of man is bound by sin before regeneration. And man does actually choose, but he only chooses ungodly things, left to his own devices, natural man would never choose the things of God because he is unable to do so. (Rom 8:7)
      =====================

      JP: Compatibilism does likewise. It doesn’t really describe a reality where determinism and free will coexist. Rather, it re-defines “free will” to be “NOT free will”. It does, however, acknowledge that we have real choices that are made… even if how we assess and decide are determined in advance. It is almost precisely like a computer makes decisions: based on a program. And if one’s idea of “free will” is closest to a computer analogy, I think you can see how it isn’t really free will.

      Response: Only if you define free will as libertarian free will, which is where I think you are headed. Capatibalism doesn’t argue that there is a computer programmer making the decisions for you, but rather that what man chooses and what God predestines are compatible in the sense that God restrains man’s choices and either allows him to accomplish them or restrain them. Perfect example is Gen 20:6 where God stops Abemelech from sinning against him. God overrode his free will so to speak and restrained his evil.
      =========================

      JP:In reality, we make fun of those people who would kick a computer because it wasn’t running properly. But that is essentially what God is doing when we say He punishes those who could never choose Him. But apparently some would justify this by saying, “yeah, but those computers who don’t get kicked are going to be REALLY impressed with the force of the kick, and are going to be REALLY appreciative of the fact that it didn’t happen to them.” What an awesome God…?

      Response: LOL, not really, those people who don’t choose God actually and genuinely hate God.(Romans 8:7) So all God does is leave them in their rebellion.
      ==============================

      JP:“…you’re always going to pick your favorite ice cream.”
      My favorite is cookie dough. But I do not always pick cookie dough. My guess is that you would counter-claim by stating that wasn’t my greatest desire at the time. That this is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy should then be clear. There is no way to prove this false. But it should be clear the free will is precisely the idea that one can “rise above” one’s greatest desire – or at least somehow willfully adjust their desires.

      Response: No you missed the point there. The idea is that cookie doe is your favorite ice cream, and even though there are other options, you’re going to pick cookie doe because that is what you want. Now, if given the option to do evil or do the things of God, man is always going to pick evil. He is never going to choose the thing of God. (By the way the example wasn’t meant to fit every scenario, it’s just to give you an idea of how man’s will works.)

      JP:That there are genuine alternatives does make something a “real choice”, that I am willing to concede. So, much like a computer, people are capable of executing assessment programs and making real choices, provided alternatives. But, again, it should be obvious that we would not hold a computer *morally* responsible for anything. We would blame the programmer. We do not prosecute computers for downloading child porn.

      Response: Correct, but the difference is in this case is that man isn’t being programmed by God. Rather imagine a person lying dead in the street, man is spiritually dead to God (Eph 2) and can’t respond. Sure he’s active in his rebellion, but he is spiritually laying there. Unless God wakes him up, he is going to continue laying there.
      ===========================
      JP:This explains nothing. That God uses sin for His purposes speaks to the idea that God can make the best of bad situations. Not that He is perfectly good. Nor that He is just.

      Response: No read the passage, God stops him from doing what he wants to do. (God literally stops his so called free will). God restrains man’s evil until the appointed time.

      JP:How do you know now what you were “saved from”? Supposedly, you were not just “saved” from a sinful nature, but also from eternal damnation. Do you need to experience this in order to know that you were saved from it? No. You “know” that you were saved from this, because God tells you so. Why could it not be the same with sinful natures?

      Response: Because God wants to show you what you are saved from. (Rom 9:22)

    • @John: Indeed as a Reformed Anglican, the reality of the Reformation was simply the Catholic Church! Check out the Anglican Articles 1615, and the Thirty-Nine Articles. And I love Philip Schaff’s quote, “The Reformation is the legitimate offspring, the greatest act of the Catholic Church.” (The Principle of Protestantism, 1845)

      • John

        @Fr Robert: Catholic in what sense? The Reformers did not have a church that believed the same things as the early church that coined the term catholic. Neither was their beliefs catholic in any other sense that I can think of. Maybe you think they were catholic on certain important issues, but catholic in general? I think not.

    • @John: Ya really might want to read the early Reformed Creeds, like the Anglican Articles 1615! I don’t have it before me at the moment, but it states God’s great doctrine contingency-cies!

    • Sadly John, your ignorance is showing! 😉 This forum is not the place, but you surely don’t know Reformational or Reformed history or doctrine/theology! What do you think the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles where/are? As Again the Anglican Articless 1615! Do some homework here mate! See also Luther;s Schmalkald Articles, 1536.

    • John

      @Kelton “Natural man would never choose the things of God because he is unable to do so.” (Ro 8:7)

      Something that bothers me about Calvinist exegesis is that it often treats scripture like a computer treats a computer program. i.e. in a highly literal technical way, not allowing us to recognise that over-literalness is not how we talk in real life. It’s kind of like a game I play with my kids sometimes, interpreting every statement with complete literalness, and making it a game.

      In the case of for example, Ro 8:7, yes taken to its final literal end, it means there is no proper free will. However here is the sanity test I always apply: If I as a parent said it to my kids, would I be making a statement to destroy free will?

      In this case, if my kids are going astray, and doing the wrong thing all the time, and I said to them “Your trouble is, that your mind is governed by the flesh, and so you can’t submit to God’s law”, I don’t think that would mean I am denying free will!!! I think it would mean I am exhorting them to stop having their mind governed by the flesh! I realise you can take it that way, but I don’t think it passes the everyday sanity test to use it as a proof that way. And lots of Calvinist arguments boil down to that.

    • John

      @Fr Robert: Calling people ignorant, but not explaining why, is rather tiresome and condescending. Don’t do that. Pointing to the 39 articles doesn’t cut it. I point you to Ge1:1-Revelation as a retort.

    • Btw, the Spanish priest, Miguel Molinos whose book Guida Spirituale is regarded as one of the founding documents of Quietism, (later condemned in the RCC) His controversial book traced the so-called mystic path of perfection or total submission to God, thru annihilation of the human will. Many of his followers gave up the practice of vocal prayer and observance of the sacraments, and some became accused of immorality. In 1687 Molinos was arrested, tried, and condemned, and forced to recant, was imprisoned for the rest of his life.

    • @John: But your “historical” ignorance (not to mention your theological ignorance) is obvious, as to Reformational history and doctrine! I said “this” was not the forum! Sorry.

    • John

      @fr Robert, if this is not the forum to discuss it, then it’s not the forum to accuse others of ignorance about it. Arrogance is not becoming. I admit to being ignorant of what obscurity you are alluding to, because I don’t have ESP, but I don’t admit ignorance of the 39 articles.

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      “Not really, we’re not denying it [free will] exist, we’re just defining it differently.”

      I understand that is what you think. However, you must answer this question (successfully) in order to preserve “free will”: in what significant sense is man’s will “free”? Stating that that there are real options available to a person does nothing to demonstrate freedom.

      “… left to his own devices, natural man would never choose the things of God because he is unable to do so. (Rom 8:7)”

      Consider John’s reply to you as a start here. However, I’ll add to his objections. You are pointing to one scripture, but surely you are aware of the ridiculous number of examples of people doing “right” things in the Bible. If doing right things is only possible if God does it for us, then you have to consider that much of the OT and what Jesus said were simply useful fictions. I’m not sure that’s the road we want to go down. So perhaps we might consider that’s not the road Paul was going down either?

      If “the mind governed by the flesh” is truly incapable of doing anything good without God, then it would seem as if the opposite would be true, no? Wouldn’t the mind governed by the Spirit be incapable of doing wrong? Yet that is obviously not what Paul is communicating, because he (and everyone else) is painfully aware that even the mind governed by the Spirit is capable of falling – which is why so much of what he writes is exhortation to do better.

      Presumably, Paul is writing to those who should be governed by the Spirit (he is referring to them as “brothers and sisters”, after all). If a mind governed by the Spirit is incapable of doing wrong, why is he addressing them so? If their minds were governed by flesh, and their right-doing is beyond their control, and if Paul truly believed that, what would be the point in his exhortations? “Hey, you guys need to do a better job of having God do good things for you!” The no-free-will doctrine simply doesn’t make any sense here, when considering the rest of what Paul says. It only makes sense on a literal reading in isolation.

      “Capatibalism doesn’t argue that there is a computer programmer making the decisions for you…”

      Not quite, no. Compatibilism would say that YOU are the computer. You are operated by “software”, and given any specific input, a specific result will *always* output. There is no way to overcome hard-wiring. This is determinism, plain and simple. The only difference between compatibilism and hard-core determinism – the only concession that it makes – is that it actually allows for options. But having options does not make someone “free” if they can only choose them given certain conditions that are also out of their control.

      “…man isn’t being programmed by God.”

      Man WAS programmed by God – surely you concede this? So, according to you, the programming was changed. Changed by man? Surely we don’t have the power to change our own programming, because that smacks of (libertarian) free will. So, if the only thing we can say about the Fall is that Adam and Eve were presented with a genuine choice, but that choice was determined by factors beyond their control, who was responsible for those factors?

      “ Rather imagine a person lying dead in the street, man is spiritually dead to God…”

      Here’s a better analogy: imagine a street full of zombies, but otherwise physically functional (they can see, taste, feel, etc.). These zombies hate “Steve” because their hard-wiring was corrupted as the result of an experiment gone awry. Who conducted the experiment? “Steve” did. “Steve” now chooses to wake some up to come live with him in his beach estate. In order to do so, however, he has to drain the blood from his body, run it through a machine to gain certain properties, then return it. In the process, he actually dies, but then returns to life as most of the blood returns to his body. The blood that wasn’t is used as The Cure. The Cure is sufficient to save all the zombies, but “Steve” decides to burn most of them alive. Why? Because he wants to demonstrate to the others how awesome he is. Those who “Steve” has chosen then sing his praises.

      If that doesn’t sound like Calvinism, I’d like to know why. If it does, I’d like to know why/if we’d consider “Steve” as “good”.

      “God restrains man’s evil until the appointed time.”
      I still don’t know how this demonstrates that God is just or good. It certainly doesn’t demonstrate free will. The fact that there is “an appointed time” for evil doesn’t strike you as a bit disturbing? It’s one thing to say that God can use evil for good, another to say that evil is part of God’s will.

      “…God wants to show you what you are saved from. (Rom 9:22)”

      This passage does not say that God wants to show us what we were saved from, only that God chooses to show His wrath because He *MIGHT* (“what if…”) have wanted to “make the riches of His glory known” to those who he had “prepared in advance” for glory. How is he making that known? By destroying everyone else, apparently.

      I do get that Calvinists want to affirm that people are responsible for their own predicament. And so, if God saves us, that would seemingly make us appreciate Him all the more. I just don’t get why He can’t do that for everyone. The only reason He wouldn’t is if for some reason He wants those He saves to appreciate He didn’t send them to Hell. But, according to Calvinism, He never was going to send to Hell! So, that was not a fate they were saved from! The whole thing is just wildly inconsistent and/or arbitrary, if not logically contradictory. But it has Biblical support, so…

    • Kelton

      @ John

      John: Something that bothers me about Calvinist exegesis is that it often treats scripture like a computer treats a computer program. i.e. in a highly literal technical way, not allowing us to recognise that over-literalness is not how we talk in real life. It’s kind of like a game I play with my kids sometimes, interpreting every statement with complete literalness, and making it a game.

      Response: Hey John, well the problem is, that is what it actually says. I don’t think there is any other way to interpret that passage. Natural man cannot do God’s will.
      ================

      John: In the case of for example, Ro 8:7, yes taken to its final literal end, it means there is no proper free will. However here is the sanity test I always apply: If I as a parent said it to my kids, would I be making a statement to destroy free will?

      Response: Depends on how you define free will. It fits perfectly with a capatibalistic view of free will, not so much with the libertarian view. Man chooses to rebel against God, and loves his rebellion.

      John: In this case, if my kids are going astray, and doing the wrong thing all the time, and I said to them “Your trouble is, that your mind is governed by the flesh, and so you can’t submit to God’s law”, I don’t think that would mean I am denying free will!!! I think it would mean I am exhorting them to stop having their mind governed by the flesh! I realise you can take it that way, but I don’t think it passes the everyday sanity test to use it as a proof that way. And lots of Calvinist arguments boil down to that.

      Response: Well it’s not so much they are going astray here. The passage says they are hostile towards God. That hostility is active rebellion, a hatred towards God. You know the atheist who wants to ban all things dealing with the nativity type stuff (that’s a joke, but actually sort of true.) They don’t want God, if they could spit on him, they would.

    • Kelton

      @JP

      JP: I understand that is what you think. However, you must answer this question (successfully) in order to preserve “free will”: in what significant sense is man’s will “free”? Stating that that there are real options available to a person does nothing to demonstrate freedom.

      Response: Oh easy, man is free to choose whatever he wants. It’s just that he never wants the things of God.
      ————————————

      JP:Consider John’s reply to you as a start here. However, I’ll add to his objections. You are pointing to one scripture, but surely you are aware of the ridiculous number of examples of people doing “right” things in the Bible. If doing right things is only possible if God does it for us, then you have to consider that much of the OT and what Jesus said were simply useful fictions. I’m not sure that’s the road we want to go down. So perhaps we might consider that’s not the road Paul was going down either?

      Response: Not at all, people do right things but for the wrong reasons, they don’t mean to please God. Romans 8:7 tells us that man is unable to choose God or do the will of God and as a matter of fact, down right hate God. What happens is God doesn’t do it for us, he changes our hearts so now when we choose, we choose the things of God. Man choosing according to his strongest desire.

      JP:If “the mind governed by the flesh” is truly incapable of doing anything good without God, then it would seem as if the opposite would be true, no? Wouldn’t the mind governed by the Spirit be incapable of doing wrong?

      Response: Um, no it says the mind set on flesh is unable to submit to the law of God. In other words, man can’t choose God like so many want to believe.

      JP:Yet that is obviously not what Paul is communicating, because he (and everyone else) is painfully aware that even the mind governed by the Spirit is capable of falling – which is why so much of what he writes is exhortation to do better.

      Response: That’s not what is meant in this passage.

      JP: Presumably, Paul is writing to those who should be governed by the Spirit (he is referring to them as “brothers and sisters”, after all). If a mind governed by the Spirit is incapable of doing wrong, why is he addressing them so? If their minds were governed by flesh, and their right-doing is beyond their control, and if Paul truly believed that, what would be the point in his exhortations? “Hey, you guys need to do a better job of having God do good things for you!” The no-free-will doctrine simply doesn’t make any sense here, when considering the rest of what Paul says. It only makes sense on a literal reading in isolation.

      Response: No, I think you’re off topic on this one. What Paul is saying is man can’t do God’s will here, as a matter of fact, natural man is hostile towards God. Like I told John, the rebellion you see everyday in the media demonstrates such. They don’t want Christ to be in Christmas.

      JP: Not quite, no. Compatibilism would say that YOU are the computer. You are operated by “software”, and given any specific input, a specific result will *always* output. There is no way to overcome hard-wiring. This is determinism, plain and simple. The only difference between compatibilism and hard-core determinism – the only concession that it makes – is that it actually allows for options. But having options does not make someone “free” if they can only choose them given certain conditions that are also out of their control.

      Response: I think you’ve been reading anti calvinist arguments who’ve set up straw men. Not at all. God doesn’t program us, he operates through man’s will in order to bring about a desired outcome. That’s why they are compatible. Like in Isaiah 10:6-7. God sends the Assyrians against Israel, but then tells them that it was not their intent to do his will, even though they wanted to go against Israel.

      So Assyria’s will was to destroy Israel for their own purpose, God’s will was to punish Israel for his own purpose. The outcome was Israel got punished, so what God predestined took place through the will of an unwilling vessel.

      JP:Man WAS programmed by God – surely you concede this? So, according to you, the programming was changed. Changed by man? Surely we don’t have the power to change our own programming, because that smacks of (libertarian) free will. So, if the only thing we can say about the Fall is that Adam and Eve were presented with a genuine choice, but that choice was determined by factors beyond their control, who was responsible for those factors?

      Response: Not sure what you mean by programmed. But I would argue that again the two are compatible. What Adam choose was compatible with what God predestined. Adam made a real choice, he really wanted the fruit. What I think in these situations is that God didn’t restrain Adam’s choice. He could of, as he does sometimes, but in order for their to be a Messiah coming later, he allowed Adam’s choice to take place.

      JP:Here’s a better analogy: imagine a street full of zombies, but otherwise physically functional (they can see, taste, feel, etc.). These zombies hate “Steve” because their hard-wiring was corrupted as the result of an experiment gone awry. Who conducted the experiment? “Steve” did.

      Response: Well it wouldn’t be an experiment gone awry because God predestined the fall.

      JP:“Steve” now chooses to wake some up to come live with him in his beach estate. In order to do so, however, he has to drain the blood from his body, run it through a machine to gain certain properties, then return it.

      Response: But in this case, the fact that God saved any is a miracle because he has the right not to save any.

      JP: In the process, he actually dies, but then returns to life as most of the blood returns to his body. The blood that wasn’t is used as The Cure. The Cure is sufficient to save all the zombies, but “Steve” decides to burn most of them alive. Why? Because he wants to demonstrate to the others how awesome he is. Those who “Steve” has chosen then sing his praises.

      If that doesn’t sound like Calvinism, I’d like to know why. If it does, I’d like to know why/if we’d consider “Steve” as “good”.

      Response: Because of the fact that he didn’t have to save any. In a court of law, God would win any case against any human. The fact he choose any when he didn’t have too is mercy.

      JP: I still don’t know how this demonstrates that God is just or good. It certainly doesn’t demonstrate free will. The fact that there is “an appointed time” for evil doesn’t strike you as a bit disturbing? It’s one thing to say that God can use evil for good, another to say that evil is part of God’s will.

      Response: Using evil for God is saying that evil is a part of God’s will. God uses evil for his purposes as well. Look at the story of Joseph. God used the evil of his brothers to make him ruler over a nation, to form Israel, and later a Messiah was born through the nation.

      JP:This passage does not say that God wants to show us what we were saved from, only that God chooses to show His wrath because He *MIGHT* (“what if…”) have wanted to “make the riches of His glory known” to those who he had “prepared in advance” for glory. How is he making that known? By destroying everyone else, apparently.

      Response: Yeah, but notice it says they were prepared before hand. God wants to demonstrate both his wrath and mercy. But we’ll see both.

      JP:I do get that Calvinists want to affirm that people are responsible for their own predicament. And so, if God saves us, that would seemingly make us appreciate Him all the more. I just don’t get why He can’t do that for everyone. The only reason He wouldn’t is if for some reason He wants those He saves to appreciate He didn’t send them to Hell. But, according to Calvinism, He never was going to send to Hell! So, that was not a fate they were saved from! The whole thing is just wildly inconsistent and/or arbitrary, if not logically contradictory. But it has Biblical support, so…

      Response: Put it this way, those God doesn’t choose, don’t care. They hate him, they despise him, no love lost. The fact God saved some is a miracle because I sure as heck don’t deserve it. God wants to display both his grace and his mercy and when I’m in heaven and see his wrath that I escaped, I’ll appreciate it all the more.

    • John

      @Kelton: “Hey John, well the problem is, that is what it actually says. I don’t think there is any other way to interpret that passage. Natural man cannot do God’s will.”

      Well, if you insist on being so literalistic, it doesn’t say how you transition from being “natural” to spiritual. I think the Arminian says you can take that first step of faith, and from there acquire the Holy Spirit and so forth. The Calvinist says, nope, even taking that first baby step is part of God’s law, so therefore, we can’t do it. Perhaps that is technically true. But since the passage doesn’t explicitly tell us if we should take it that far, it raises the question of whether we should limit it in light of other passages that exhort us to faith as the first step towards a new holy life.

      In other words, it is the same old story. Which theology you end up with depends on which verses you choose as central, and which thereby inform and colour your interpretation of other verses you consider less central.

      And again, I do the kid test. If I said this to my son, I’d assume he understood me as exhorting him to change his mind, and apply his spirit to God, so that he could obey God’s law. He wouldn’t assume that I am saying to him “I know I’m talking to you, but don’t bother listening, because you can’t do anything about it, you are captive to your sinful nature!”. Of course not!!!! He would understand me to mean, repent! Change your mind! Then you’ll be able to discern the things of God and obey them.

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      “… man is free to choose whatever he wants. It’s just that he never wants the things of God.”

      What you have is a libertarian definition of free will here! Yes, in this sense, man is truly free. However, this is not how you defined it earlier, saying that “man always chooses according to his greatest desire.” That is not the same!

      We have to account for how desires form. The determinist/compatibilist actually does this better than the libertarian, IMHO. A determinist would say that our desires are formed by a combination of nature/nurture, but that this confluence of factors ultimately determines someone’s choice. In other words, if somehow you could guarantee two people shared the same genes and environment, they would make the same choices. Every time. If you don’t believe this, then you aren’t a determinist. If you aren’t a determinist, then you aren’t a “compatibilist” in the commonly-understood sense.

      In any case, if you want to assert libertarian free will is compatible with divine sovereignty, you have a pickle. You’ve already stated that mankind is *incapable* of desiring God on his own, and that man *must* choose according to his greatest desire. So, how does this desire form? Can a person affect it by using their own willpower? It doesn’t seem like freedom if our desires form apart from our will, and then we are controlled by them.

      “…people do right things but for the wrong reasons, they don’t mean to please God.”
      So, when Abraham believed God, and it was counted as righteousness for Him, he actually did this for the wrong reasons? And when David was a man after God’s own heart, he wasn’t actually trying to please God? C’mon man, you are re-interpreting the plain reading of the Bible in light of an uber-literalistic reading of ONE passage.

      “What happens is God doesn’t do it for us, he changes our hearts so now when we choose, we choose the things of God. Man choosing according to his strongest desire.”
      It doesn’t matter, the result is the same: we do not deserve the credit. We are not free in any sense of the term. That is fine if it’s true, but the implications for morality should be obvious. There is no reason to credit Abraham with righteousness if nothing He did was ultimately the result of his own doing. Likewise, there is no (just) reason to hold Adam & Eve morally culpable (much less everyone else!) if they choose according to their strongest desire, and their desires formed apart from their (free?) will.

      “… it says the mind set on flesh is unable to submit to the law of God. In other words, man can’t choose God like so many want to believe.”
      You are dodging the question. The point is, the opposite would seem to be the case for the mind governed by the Spirit, no? So, if it is impossible for the mind governed by the flash to submit to the law of God, then it would seem reasonable to conclude that it is impossible for the mind controlled by the Spirit to NOT choose the law of God. Yet Paul isn’t addressing them as such. Likewise, he doesn’t address unbelievers as if they are unable to respond. What can we conclude from this do you think?

      “God doesn’t program us, he operates through man’s will in order to bring about a desired outcome.”

      Again, you’re avoiding the questions I’ve asked. Where does the “will” come from, exactly? And God DID, in fact, “program” man & woman originally, no? He created our nature, and set up the environment (nurture). So, when Adam & Even went to choose, how is it that their greatest desire wasn’t to please God? Saying God simply operated through their will while trying to distance His role in creating it is awfully convenient. Unless He didn’t create it. Or unless He created it to operate independently. Which of those options do you find compatible with Calvinism, because you have to choose one. If you think their will was created to be independent, then certainly God can still operate through their will to achieve certain ends – but welcome to the Arminian or Molinist camp.

      “Not sure what you mean by programmed.”

      What isn’t to understand about this?

      “But I would argue that again the two are compatible.”

      Well, you can’t argue for compatibility unless you know what I mean, right? I think you know exactly what I mean, you just don’t want to concede that if Calvinism is true, we are all programmed to operate a certain way. Our choices are output that are determined by specific input, and if the input is the same, so too will the choices. This concept is not compatible with libertarian free will. It is not compatible with moral responsibility.

      “Adam made a real choice, he really wanted the fruit.”

      WHY did he want the fruit. This desire must have been greater than obeying God. But this desire must have arisen in him somehow. Either it is a part of his free will, in which case he bears the blame, or it is part of his nature/nurture, or a combination I suppose. But if his free will is simply to do what he most desires, the combo doesn’t help here. The critical question is this: if his desires form as part of his nature/nurture, then does that process DETERMINE his choice? You say “Yes” to this. So, then, Adam had a specific input that determined a specific output. That this output was a “choice” is not helpful. Computers make real choices too; no one considers them free. The only way around saying Adam was programmed is try to claim that randomness could somehow intervene, but then that obviously undermines sovereignty again.

      “ … he allowed Adam’s choice to take place.”

      A concept that is just as compatible with Arminianism. The question is whether the choice was freely made or not – and if so, in what significant sense.

      “…the fact that God saved any is a miracle because he has the right not to save any.”

      We generally acknowledge that there is a moral obligation to save those who are able to save. One can try to subvert this by saying that God has no moral obligations, and that may be true. But supposedly our moral intuitions come from God, yes? So if our moral intuitions conflict what we consider the nature of God to be, then either there is a significant problem with our moral intuition, or a problem with how we are considering God. Call me crazy, but I do not think the problem lies with considering it a moral obligation to save those who we can.

      “In a court of law, God would win any case against any human. The fact he choose any when he didn’t have too is mercy.”

      This is ridiculous. You aren’t really answering my question. I’m not disputing the fact that God shows those whom he spares mercy. I’m not even claiming that God is morally obligated to save any. I am claiming that, given such a scenario, there’s ample reason to consider such a person/being capricious/arbitrary, and precious little to support that they are “good” – much less *perfectly* good!

      “Look at the story of Joseph. God used the evil of his brothers to make him ruler over a nation, to form Israel, and later a Messiah was born through the nation.”

      Right, but from an Arminian perspective, the evil wasn’t part of God’s plan, even though He can still use it for Good. Thus it is much easier to contend that God actually is good. The Calvinist claims that God wants the evil, uses the evil. Much more difficult to claim that a being who wills for evil is good. But, at least He’s completely sovereign, right?

      “Yeah, but notice it says they were prepared before hand. God wants to demonstrate both his wrath and mercy.”

      Yes, I specifically pointed that part out. This doesn’t help your case! Saying He *might* have just wanted to demonstrate both his wrath and mercy doesn’t mean that He wants to show what He saves people from – because if sovereign election were true, then they were never in danger of His wrath in the first place!

      “Put it this way, those God doesn’t choose, don’t care. They hate him, they despise him, no love lost. The fact God saved some is a miracle because I sure as heck don’t deserve it. God wants to display both his grace and his mercy and when I’m in heaven and see his wrath that I escaped, I’ll appreciate it all the more.”
      That you don’t find this to be an absolutely disgusting sentiment is just mind-boggling to me.

      That God saves some is a “miracle”, sure. But it would be like Jesus restoring a blind man’s vision in one eye, so that he can simply perceive light and motion. Or removing one lesion from a leper. Still a miracle? You bet. Would it make you think this is an awesome God? If you thought that was all He was capable of, then sure, because obviously that is still more than others are. But that isn’t what Calvinists affirm! No, Calvinists are ready to say that God is perfectly capable of saving everyone. He just chooses not to, because He wants to demonstrate His wrath. And that’s “good”, because it’ll make you feel better about not being one of those people – despite the fact that you never had a chance to be one of those people.

      I’m not sure that’s even the biggest problem. The biggest problem may be that somehow looking at others suffering is not going to dampen your experience in eternity, but enrich it. Look at those suckers burn, sister, Hallelujah that’s not me! Praise God, isn’t it awesome, the way He burns some, and not others?! Most people come away from visions of suffering with appreciation they are not in that situation because they are simply trying to salvage what good they can from an awful situation. But not so here. No sir, because here there never was any danger of being in that predicament, because God had chosen you from the beginning. Here it is simply “good” to appreciate God’s wrath being inflicted upon others. You know, because they deserve it, being people that He made and all. Here, there is no “awful” situation, it is simply good to watch others burn. SMH

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      “Oh no He ordains sin too. He rendered the fall of Adam immutably certain while not being in any culpable for it’s evil. He can do that ya know.”

      No, I don’t know that. And neither do you. What I do know is that IF morality is something that is written on our hearts because it is something that emanates from God’s nature, then culpability is directly related to intention and responsibility. Now, you can try to claim that God writes this on our hearts ONLY for us, that none of it is binding on Him. But then we lose the connection that is also *reflective* of Him.

      It also seems to me that you are conceding that the Confession is wrong. The Confession holds that God is not the “author” of sin, even though he ordains *everything*. So, there must be some significant difference between “author” and “ordain”. Yet you arequite clear that God very much wrote this story in advance, with sin being immutably certain. In what way, then, did God NOT write this story? How is He not the author?

      In any case, I will grant that you can be consistent. Because if determinism is true (and in your perspective it obviously is), then morality is relative and/or arbitrary. You would, I assume, claim that whatever God commands is “good”, and we just have to like it. Sacrifice your firstborn? Do it. Save the virgin POW’s for yourselves? God said it, so it’s good. There is nothing inconsistent about that, I grant you that. Heck, it even has Biblical support.

      “It is the most unfortunate of misconceptions to view the cross as having been ordained to remedy sin. I tell you nay. The fall was ordained so that there could a be a cross.”

      This is just wordplay. Surely there was a reason for this? And surely this was related to a purpose for the cross. It isn’t as if the cross was meaningless.

      “This is so utterly basic to my understanding of reality that it governs all else. This is called renewing your mind, having the mind of Christ and taking every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

      Got it. Your understanding of reality = having the mind of Christ. Nothing problematic there. Moving on.

      “A child does not know what his father knows, but he knows his father knows it.”

      No, a child doesn’t. You’ve never seen a child give a parent the skeptical eyebrow? In fact, most times kids simply start asking more questions. And God forbid one of them not be consistent. Because they’ll notice. And that’s a good thing.

      Of course, none of that is to say that kids don’t trust their parents. Of course they do… depending on the kid. And the parent. A parent who consistently utters nonsense is not going to get very far, and – yes – eventually the children will learn to stop asking questions. But not because of trust.

      “That’s one of the freeing and beautiful things about the reformed faith. The gospel in other words.”

      Gotcha. So when Jesus was preaching the “good news”, what He actually meant was TULIP. Yes, Jesus seemed to emphasize Romans 9 a lot.

      “In your quest to help God out you have stripped His Word of it’s power.”

      If I have done so, my only consolation is that I did not do so out of my own free will. It was my destiny, after all. That’s the Reformed faith! Good news everyone – most of you were doomed before you were born! But it’s OK, because your flaming carcass will serve as a wonderful, appreciative moment for a small minority of elect.

      “It’s not my job to convince anybody. It’s my job to Tell them.”

      BS. You’re job is to “make disciples”, according to Jesus. Last I checked, Paul seemed to be interested in persuasion. Last I checked, Jesus was interested in persuading Thomas. You are an ambassador for Christ. Ambassadors do dabble somewhat in the art of diplomacy and persuasion. That involves a lot more than just spewing hateful invective at those who disagree with you.

      Faith may begin with hearing, and hearing with the Word of God – but that is just the beginning. My guess is even you think we should do more than quote random Bible verses at people, which technically would be consistent with that passage. But not the entirety of scripture.

    • B. P. Burnett

      C. Michael Patton, I have no idea what you mean by “They [responsibility and sovereignty/determinism] are not contradictory, only mystery.” What does it mean to be a mystery?

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg – Concerning your second point in your post to me.

      I do not see how I implied the question of Romans 9:19. In fact, I thought I had referenced Romans 2, with God’s impartiality in judgment, as being inherent in the argument of Romans 9-11. The question arises only if one has a sense of entitlement to God’s salvation – which is exactly what the Jews in Jeremiah’s time argued (via the temple). Paul seems to be framing a similar argument in Romans 9. Romans is a very detailed argument from Jewish scriptures. Of the 89 times Paul uses scripture in his writings, 59 of them are in Romans. The only other place the vocative “O Man” is used in Romans is Romans 2:1-3, where the reference is to the man who judges another in hypocrisy – doing what he condemns the other of doing. You have the same sense here, where the individual is judging God for his condemnation of those born into Israel but lacking faith. The God here is the same impartial judge of Romans 2.

      If Israel does not have faith, then God has every right to judge them and to choose those of faith above another. That is the paradigm God has established with Abraham (Romans 4). This is seem quite clearly in Paul’s conclusion to Romans 9, which is found in Romans 9:30-33. Israel’s failure is not because of some election or lack of election on God’s part. They are elect (11:28). Israel’s failure is because they lacked faith. Gentiles who had faith in the Messiah are declared righteous – just like Abraham. One’s lineage is not relevant to whether one discovers the righteousness of God.

      The potter reference goes back to both Isaiah and Jeremiah. (I often think Jeremiah is leveraging Isaiah’s metaphor of the potter.) Isaiah consistently uses the metaphor to describe God’s making and molding of Israel – not individuals. Jeremiah suggests a remolding of Israel on the basis of its disobedience to the covenant. But Jeremiah also suggests that Israel can be redeemed and remolded again if it repents.

      My point is this. The “O Man” in both of these places is the interlocutor, who is representative of a particular position from within Judaism, a view which in this case, is claiming the right to God’s grace in terms of the covenant with Israel. But no one (particularly those without faith) has the right to God’s grace. Otherwise, it simply would not be grace at all. God is free to choose Gentiles or Jews and it is His criteria that counts, not ours. I think we can agree here. But the discussion does not end at verse 21 or 29. Paul draws an explicit conclusion we must acknowledge and accept. He does not conclude that Israel was not elect. He later explicitly states that they are, in spite of their unbelief. His conclusion is that they failed to obtain the righteousness of God because they strove in the wrong way. This, of course, excludes the remnant of Israel.

      Perhaps you should consider that one can be elect, yet not saved. That is how the covenant with Israel operated. God chose them to be his people, but there was a criterion for blessings and wrath within the covenant.

      Again, thank you for commenting.

    • Bob Anderson

      Correction –

      I wrote – ” Of the 89 times Paul uses scripture in his writings, 59 of them are in Romans.”

      That should say “51 of them are in Romans.” I actually think that there are more allusions to the Jewish Scriptures that are commonly cited.

    • @ John: My point was “THIS” is not the forum for an ad hoc debate on the “history” of Calvinism, and especially the Anglican history & theology therein. Which you appear to be simply lacking in? I could have brought forth (quoted) the Anglican Articles 1615 (Archbishop Ussher), but I am sure Michael does not want me to press into this. Note, I brought forth much earlier the idea of the “Infralapsarian”, which is the majority of the Reformed Creeds. As the quote by the great theological historian Philip Schaff. I could have gone to the Mercersburg Theology (19th century), which was itself a Protestant effort and quest for a Reformed Catholicity. See the book by W. Bradford Littlejohn, with foreward by Peter Leithart, ‘The Mercersburg Theology and The Quest for Reformed Catholicity (Pickwick Pub. 2009).

    • John I.

      Incidents like the recent shooting in Newtown put the inadequacies of Calvinism front and centre. According to Calvinism, before the universe was created God had already determined every event. God had determined that little kids would be shot multiple times by Lanza and die painfully and full of fear. However, it Calvinists allege that despite determining this event God is not morally responsible because he has interposed Lanza between himself and the morally evil actions of Lanza and the evil that the children’s deaths represent.

      So Lanza is morally responsible even though there is no possibility whatsoever that he would do otherwise. I don’t buy that this is what God has revealed in his Word. It has been inevitable, as foreordained by God, for millions of years (or thousands if you’re Young Earther) that these specific children would die on that specific day in that specific manner at the hands of that specific killer. I don’t buy that God’s Word reveals that that he has that sort of nature.

      I also don’t agree with Greg that we just throw up our hands and believe. If that were so, we’d have no apologetic to believers in the various religions or cults. Furthermore, that is not how God reveals himself. God reveals himself using language, using logic, using reason. And his Word indicates that we are to use these gifts of his in our attempts to understand and relate to him.

      And nowhere in his Word does God indicate that irrationality is a criterion of the validity of his revelation or of a set of theological beliefs. And if that were true, then the Calvinist has no response to the Arminian. The Arminian just has to respond in kind, “our set of beliefs is more true because our belief entails a great deal of mystery–and even irrationality and contradiction from the Calvinist point of view.” Calvinists can’t allow for irrationality and then claim that Arminianism is false.

      Finally, even though human free-will is not the crux of the issue for Arminians, it is important to note that the definition of free-will used by Calvinism bears no similarity or relationship to the definition used either by Arminians or ordinary average people around the world.

    • Btw John, I was not seeking to be “arrogant” as pointed! Again, this subject is in my place and genre somewhat as a classic Reformed Anglican. And I have been in this place for close to 35 years, and a regenerate Christian for over 40. So yeah, I am going to be “pointed”, and fervent! 😉

    • I should note, that in my close to 35 years as an Anglican, I have been an Anglo-Catholic also (6 years or so? I was raised Roman Catholic). And here I was in a group of Anglican and Orthodox dialogue, mostly clergy. I say this just to point out that I have had my EO contact and studies. Which as I have noted I am close to the Orthodoxy on the Trinity of God and Christology! I almost went to Orthodoxy several years back, but I realized it was more of a reaction against the liberal Anglicanism. And I just could note see their lack in the Pauline doctrine’s of both Imputation and Adoption.

      Indeed we all come from somewhere!

    • @John I., Before we start attacking “Calvinism” here in general life and application, we had best understand it, historically and theologically, and it is simply varied! As I noted both the “Infralapsarian”, and God’s “contingencies”… see here the Anglican Article 1615. Also our modern R.C. Sproul has written on God’s contingencies.

    • @Articles

    • There is really no other theology that comes near to understanding our fallen and broken world, than an Augustinian Calvinism! This challenge is upon us! I think this is Michael’s desire with this article, and the “two pills”! Thanks again Michael! These are days and times of deep water!

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      According to the Westminster Confession of Faith given above these two assertions are made:
      1. God causes (ordains) all that comes to pass
      2. God is not the cause (author) of sin

      The logical contradiction (aka tension/mystery) is clear. If #2 is true then #1 is logically false. God cannot logically cause all things and not cause all things.

      JP: … in what significant sense is man’s will “free”? Stating that that there are real options available to a person does nothing to demonstrate freedom.

      Kelton: Oh easy, man is free to choose whatever he wants. It’s just that he never wants the things of God.

      and this:
      Greg: In other words God had predetermined the movement of every last subatomic particle AND decision of men from eternity, including and ESPECIALLY as relates to the redemption and perdition of every individual by name, face and DNA.

      @Kelton / @Greg
      How can “man is free to choose whatever he wants” be true, unless whatever man wants = what God wants. Doesn’t God cause (ordain) all that comes to pass? At least as the first/primary cause if not the secondary cause?

      @Kelton:
      What happens is God doesn’t do it for us, he changes our hearts so now when we choose, we choose the things of God. Man choosing according to his strongest desire.

      How is God changing our hearts (aka desires) so we choose what He wants us to choose not doing “violence to the will of the creatures”? Since prior to God changing the heart, that heart wanted nothing to do with God?

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      Read through Genesis 20 based on this interaction.

      JP: Most (not all) would agree that if our actions are determined, they are not free. And if they are not free, it becomes difficult to justify that we are responsible for decisions. This is not a problem for those who want to emphasize God’s sovereignty. It is a problem if you want to exclude sin/evil from God’s sovereignty.

      Kelton: I don’t think so, because God restrains man’s evil until the intended moment and then either allows man to sin or not. Much like he did with Abemelech, God stopped him from sinning. God restrains man’s sin and then uses it to accomplish his purpose.

      Kelton:… God stops Abemelech from sinning against him. God overrode his free will so to speak and restrained his evil.

      Kelton: No read the passage, God stops him from doing what he wants to do. (God literally stops his so called free will). God restrains man’s evil until the appointed time.

      Not sure how the Gen 20 passage is a clear case for determinism/compatibilism and man’s responsibility?

      First this account (IMO) can be read as Abraham and Abimelech freely choosing as LFW agents throughout the narrative. I may be wrong about that, but what in the text requires me to adopt a compatibilist reading? And even if I adopt a compatibilist reading how does that require I infer that the agents are responsibile for determined actions?

      If God ordains/determines/causes all things then I assume a reasonable description of this passage as a Calvinist would go something like this:
      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abraham (thru secondary cause of fear) to tell Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Abraham could not do otherwise.
      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abimelech (thru secondary cause of attraction) to take Sarah. Abimelech could not do otherwise.
      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abimelech (thru secondary cause of fear) to release Sarah. Again, Abimelech could not do otherwise.

      However, if God does not cause (determine) all things but does sovereignly allow for LFW, then God allowed Abraham to choose between two options. Abraham could have chosen to trust that God would keep His promises in the Abrahamic covenant and tell Abimelech that Sarah was his wife. Instead Abraham chose out of fear to tell Abimelech that Sarah was his sister.

      Then God acted to protect His overall plan of redemption because Abraham’s LFW choice directly affected God’s plan regarding how the nation of Israel would come to be and ultimately how the Messiah would be sent.

      Abimelech could have chosen between two options. He could have kept Sarah, making him responsible for his death so that God’s plan would ultimately be protected. Or he could return Sarah, which Abimelech wisely chose and was allowed to live.

      What am I missing?

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert
      -“There is really no other theology that comes near to understanding our fallen and broken world, than an Augustinian Calvinism!”-

      Perhaps you can elaborate on this? What is it about Calvinism that understands our world better than, say Arminianism or Molinism? Does Calvinism make more sense of events like those in Newtown, CT than do these other ideologies, and – if so – how?

    • JB Chappell

      @MikeB

      -“What am I missing?”-

      Easy: Romans 8-9! Don’t you know that, as a Christian, you’re supposed to interpret the rest of the Bible through Paul? And these two chapters in particular? 😉

      @Bob (directed to Greg)
      -“Perhaps you should consider that one can be elect, yet not saved. That is how the covenant with Israel operated. God chose them to be his people, but there was a criterion for blessings and wrath within the covenant.”-

      OK, I saw your comment in my e-mail, but I don’t see it on the website. Which is a shame, because I thought it was a fantastic summary of Paul’s discussion here, thanks.

      Interesting note that I’d add regarding whether or not it’s possible to be “elect” and not be “saved”: Jesus mentions the elect in just such a way in the Olivet Discourse.

      Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

      So is it possible that even the elect can be led astray? Seems to me that even Jesus left it as an open question. Just a thought. I know some (Calvinists) would interpret this as Jesus insisting that this ISN’T a possibility. Thus, there is an interesting pattern developing: when Paul and Jesus seem to crack open a door of possibility/uncertainty by using the word “if”, Calvinists insist on shutting it, because it simply *must* be a rhetorical device.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Sinners don’t care nearly as much about what you know as they do about how you live. Even if they don’t consciously realize it.”-

      Well, this may be one of the only things you said that I agree with, but it was well said! Agree 100%.

    • @JB Chappel: Of course this is my theological opinion, but Augustine with Calvin/Calvinism simply but profoundly sees the depth of sin in this thus broken, fallen world, and still within the life of the believer, also. The Judeo-Christian theology sees this reality most fully! This is one of first biblical presuppositions!

      Historically we can see this with Augustine and Pelagius/Pelagianism, debate. Btw Pelagius was a Brit. And he believed human nature was capable of obedience and perfection. And of course Augustine knew this was not true, both by revelation and experience. And we can see Pelagius is still rather friendly received with the EO. Again the Pauline Doctrines surely seem closer to Augustine, noting too Augustine’s battle with the Donatists, etc. We should see and read Augustine’s great work: Causa Gratiae, in the end Augustine really thought that his fight with and against the Pelagians was the “Fundatissima fides”, ‘the most firmly established faith’. Here was, as later with Calvin, a cast-iron case! The causa graitae, the’case for grace’. This work btw was Augustine’s high-water mark in his literary career!

      And in and with Calvin, we can see many of Augustine’s thoughts pressed in and near/with Scripture!

      Sorry this is quick and rather short, but you can read between the lines surely. The battle is always within the doctrine/doctrines of Grace!

    • Kelton

      @JP Chappell

      JP:What you have is a libertarian definition of free will here! Yes, in this sense, man is truly free. However, this is not how you defined it earlier, saying that “man always chooses according to his greatest desire.” That is not the same!

      Response: Sure it is, man never desires God so man never chooses God.

      JP: *Snip* In other words, if somehow you could guarantee two people shared the same genes and environment, they would make the same choices. Every time. If you don’t believe this, then you aren’t a determinist. If you aren’t a determinist, then you aren’t a “compatibilist” in the commonly-understood sense.

      Response: I shortened it up a bit to stay within 1000 characters. By determinism I just simply mean that God predestines all events. I think your more thinking of materialism’s view of determinism here.

      JP: In any case, if you want to assert libertarian free will is compatible with divine sovereignty, you have a pickle. You’ve already stated that mankind is *incapable* of desiring God on his own, and that man *must* choose according to his greatest desire. So, how does this desire form? Can a person affect it by using their own willpower? It doesn’t seem like freedom if our desires form apart from our will, and then we are controlled by them.

      Response: Sure man can affect their desires by their own will. Say like if they are trying to lose weight or something and they use willpower to stop eating. But when it comes to sinning, man revels in sin and loves it. He doesn’t want to stop.

      JP: So, when Abraham believed God, and it was counted as righteousness for Him, he actually did this for the wrong reasons? And when David was a man after God’s own heart, he wasn’t actually trying to please God? C’mon man, you are re-interpreting the plain reading of the Bible in light of an uber-literalistic reading of ONE passage.

      Response: Nope, God changed their hearts so that they now desired God. Man chooses according to his strongest desire, when God changes a man’s heart they now desire him.

      JP: It doesn’t matter, the result is the same: we do not deserve the credit. We are not free in any sense of the term. That is fine if it’s true, but the implications for morality should be obvious. There is no reason to credit Abraham with righteousness if nothing He did was ultimately the result of his own doing.

      Response: Sure it was, because Abraham chose according to his strongest desire, he chose God.

      JP:Likewise, there is no (just) reason to hold Adam & Eve morally culpable (much less everyone else!) if they choose according to their strongest desire, and their desires formed apart from their (free?) will.

      Response: Nope it’s chosen according to their will. Man’s will is bound by sin and as a result he freely chooses to sin.

      JP: You are dodging the question. The point is, the opposite would seem to be the case for the mind governed by the Spirit, no?

      Response: Well you misread the passage. It’s just talking about submitting to God’s law.

      JP: So, if it is impossible for the mind governed by the flash to submit to the law of God, then it would seem reasonable to conclude that it is impossible for the mind controlled by the Spirit to NOT choose the law of God. Yet Paul isn’t addressing them as such. Likewise, he doesn’t address unbelievers as if they are unable to respond. What can we conclude from this do you think?

      Response: Well sort of, when God draws you, you will submit to God’s law and never fall away.

      JP: Again, you’re avoiding the questions I’ve asked. Where does the “will” come from, exactly? And God DID, in fact, “program” man & woman originally, no? He created our nature, and set up the environment (nurture). So, when Adam & Even went to choose, how is it that their greatest desire wasn’t to please God?

      Response: Adam and Eve weren’t under total depravity, their will was different than ours is now.

      JP: If you think their will was created to be independent, then certainly God can still operate through their will to achieve certain ends – but welcome to the Arminian or Molinist camp.

      Response: No, I just don’t think their will was bound, ours is until God changes it.

      JP: What isn’t to understand about this?

      Response: Doesn’t compute, lol.

      JP: . Our choices are output that are determined by specific input, and if the input is the same, so too will the choices. This concept is not compatible with libertarian free will. It is not compatible with moral responsibility.

      Response: Sure it is, because men are actually making choices, just like when you pick your favorite ice cream, you really choose cookie doe.

      JP: WHY did he want the fruit.

      Response: Adam’s will is different than ours is. He was not bound by sin.

      JP: A concept that is just as compatible with Arminianism. The question is whether the choice was freely made or not – and if so, in what significant sense.

      Response: It’s after the fall that man’s will became bound. Not prior to it.

      JP:Call me crazy, but I do not think the problem lies with considering it a moral obligation to save those who we can.

      Response: Sure, but that’s because we don’t know who the elect are.

      JP: I am claiming that, given such a scenario, there’s ample reason to consider such a person/being capricious/arbitrary, and precious little to support that they are “good” – much less *perfectly* good!

      Response: I think the mistake you’re making here is that you think people want to go to heaven, they don’t they hate him, God could send everyone to hell and still be considered perfectly good.

      JP: Right, but from an Arminian perspective, the evil wasn’t part of God’s plan, even though He can still use it for Good. Thus it is much easier to contend that God actually is good. The Calvinist claims that God wants the evil, uses the evil. Much more difficult to claim that a being who wills for evil is good. But, at least He’s completely sovereign, right?

      Response: But that’s not what the text says, the text says God meant it for good. Doesn’t say it was outside the plan and God had to adjust. God uses evil for good and uses it to shape up into the person he wants us to be. Without evil you’d never know things such as compassion, mercy, or heroism

      JP: Yes, I specifically pointed that part out. This doesn’t help your case! Saying He *might* have just wanted to demonstrate both his wrath and mercy doesn’t mean that He wants to show what He saves people from – because if sovereign election were true, then they were never in danger of His wrath in the first place!

      Response: If he wants to demonstrate it to them then that’s the only option for doing so. We’ll be in awe of his anger.

      JP: That you don’t find this to be an absolutely disgusting sentiment is just mind-boggling to me.

      Response: LOL.

      JP: That God saves some is a “miracle”, sure. But it would be like Jesus restoring a blind man’s vision in one eye, so that he can simply perceive light and motion. Or removing one lesion from a leper. Still a miracle? You bet. Would it make you think this is an awesome God?

      REsponse: Of course, he doesn’t have to do any of that.

      JP: If you thought that was all He was capable of, then sure, because obviously that is still more than others are. But that isn’t what Calvinists affirm! No, Calvinists are ready to say that God is perfectly capable of saving everyone. He just chooses not to, because He wants to demonstrate His wrath. And that’s “good”, because it’ll make you feel better about not being one of those people – despite the fact that you never had a chance to be one of those people.

      Response: And remember, they don’t want him, they hate him. They’d rather be in hell without him than in heaven with him.

      JP: You know, because they deserve it, being people that He made and all. Here, there is no “awful” situation, it is simply good to watch others burn. SMH

      Response: Please, they are in hell giving God swearing at God, blaspheming his name, they don’t love God, if they could get rid of him they would.

    • John

      Since the topic of this thread is “tension” so forth, I have a challenge for the Calvinists. Even if I assume that somehow, everything is determined by God, etc, why should I believe in the “P” in TULIP? Y’all know that there is way better scriptural support for the notion that believers fall away than the notion that they don’t.

      Furthermore, there is a massive philosophical problem if they don’t, because we all know that they *seem to*, and we’ve all seen atheists talk about how they experienced the same things in the Christian life that we do, and now they don’t. So if you have to say that they deceived themselves in thinking they were Christian and elect, then y’all could be deceiving yourselves too. So nobody can ever have any way of knowing if they are a Christian. Sure, if you are a Christian you will remain so. Great. But you don’t know if you are one, so it’s not very comforting.

      So what about it? Why should I accept “P”?

      @JB Chappell: Some really good thoughtful posts there!

      @Fr Robert: Even Leithart seems to admit that something practiced according to the Vincentian canon, everywhere, always and by all must be considered catholic. He argues that there aren’t many such things. Whatever. But I come back to paedo-communion was definitely catholic and practiced by all, yet is not practiced by you and him. So I reject any attempt to acquire the term “catholic” without a good consistent argument!

    • @John: The etymology of catholic is simply universal/universality. I think it is used biblically and theologically in the sense of a comprehensive quality! Thus the early church and even after is about this quality or fulness and truth, which is as our Lord said, “in spirit and truth”! And the Church must always renew itself here… ‘Ecclesia semper reformada est’.

      Again the true Church is always both visible & invisible, but foremost invisible with Christ above, on the Throne of Grace & Glory! HE is the Mediator, alone! (1 Tim. 2:5-6)

    • John

      @Fr Robert: If catholicity just refers to the universality that supposedly just exists and includes you and me, then how can you possibly “recover catholicity”?? You can’t recover it, it just is.

      But if catholicity refers to something more specific – i.e. the things that are or were actually universal to the whole church, then you are not catholic.

      Which way do you want it?

    • John I.

      Gee, somebody on this thread seems to have had a stick poked in his eye. Whatever.

      The Calvinist description of God is of one who is weaker, less capable, less omnipotent, and less creative than that described by Arminians. The Calvinist God cannot create any being who is a “prime mover” or “originator” of her own actions. God cannot only beings who are bags of chemicals that, like machines, have only one possible output for a specific set of inputs.

      The Calvinist human is incapable of doing anything other than what is described as her “strongest desire”. Moreover, the Calvinist God can only exert sovereignity in a world where He has determined the exact course of all events, including the occurance of every specific horrid evil. Every rape, every beating, every massacre, every suffocation, every torture here on earth, the nature of every torment in hell, the identity of all persons who would consciously suffer forever in hell. God foreordained all these things, and then allegedly insulated himself from moral responsibility for all this evil by interposing other conscious beings–humans. And to ensure that all the evils he foreordained would take place, he determined their every action. There is nothing that any human can do that God has not determined to occur before creating the world.

      Calvinism proposes no tension in God’s sovereignty. What God has decreed will come to pass, and everything that comes to pass has been decreed by God.

      The alleged tension only arises because God’s revelation of himself does not support such beliefs about his sovereignty. Consequently, Calvinists take take a biblical concept–God presenting people with a choice to follow him or not, and redefine all the relevant concepts.

      The Calvinist “freedom” is not the freedom to choose one thing or another, or another, but only the ability to do something without a physical obstruction. That is, if I want to leave the room and do so because the door is unlocked–then the Calvinist says I am free. But if I want to leave the room and the door is locked, then I am not free–simply because something is preventing me from doing what I desire.

      The Calvinist would never say that I am free to stay in the room even though the door is unlocked and my strongest “desire” is a desire to leave. Nope. It is inevitable that I will get up an leave.

      The Arminian, however, points to a much deeper meaning of freedom, and to a created being that is very much like God in her ability–a gift from God–to be a prime mover and originator of her choices and actions.

      The Arminian does not describe God in terms of a being who, eons ago, determined that a five year old in Connecticut would stare terrified at a rifle barrel and then feel the slugs throw her back against the ground as they ripped through her flesh and then bleed to death in intense pain. When the agonized parent cries out “why”, God’s response is “because I determined to, that’s why; because I need to show my justice I need evil to punish.” That God is the one described by Calvinism.

    • lol Neither, from your supposition! Indeed Christ is always that greatest “comprehensive quality”! HE is the Universality of the Church in Himself! Risen, Ascended above…prophet, priest & king forever!

    • JB Chappell

      “As a parent I would take the greatest of comforts in knowing that the brutal death of my child had a holy righteous purpose in the providence of my holy righteous master.”

      I think this is a double-edged sword. It is true that a benefit of Calvinist thought is that there is purpose in all. An Arminian might say that God works evil for good, but nonetheless there was no actual purpose other than a deranged lunatic doing something terrible.

      The other side of the sword is that a Calvinist has no confidence that their child is elect. For all they know, the “holy righteous purpose” that their child’s death served is so that others’ experience in heaven can be enriched while they watch the poor child burn.

      If that brings anyone comfort, then they are sick in the head.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“There are mountains of evidence of a God who never loses, through the whole of scripture from Gen. to Rev.”-

      Agreed! But a “God who never loses” does not need to be a Calvinist. The Arminian or Molinist conception of God never loses either. In fact, one could make an argument that the Arminian view especially is a God who legitimately “wins”, whereas the Molinist or Calvinist views essentially reduces Gods work to a stage play. One can try to argue that there is value in it, but there is no “winning” in entertainment.

      -‘My contention is that that God then governs what we see there about man and not the other way around.’-

      Not sure what you mean here. I would accept that man does not govern God, but obviously that’s not what Arminians or Molinists claim. As for man governing himself, that depends on what you mean. It certainly seems obvious to me from reading scripture that God grants us the freedom to obey or disobey. In that sense, we do “govern” ourselves.

      -‘… but I haven’t yet gotten from any of them an answer to why 2+2=4 which translates as “why are we axiomatically bound to pragmatic certainty while having literally no objective reason for that certainty to exist?” Without faith that is.’-

      “Faith”, as you are using it (although you insist on not defining your terms), is not an objective reason either. It is blind acceptance. So, as you admit, everyone simply blindly accepts certain facts to be true. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that I have no objective reasons to assume 2+2=4. I also have no objective reasons to believe my brain is not in a vat right now, and everything I see/feel is an illusion. I could be in a Matrix for all I know, where in the “real” world, 2+2=5.

      What you have not demonstrated, and what you cannot demonstrate, is how faith “fixes” this uncertainty. Faith is – I repeat – NOT an escape from uncertainty. Blind acceptance and presumption of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior does nothing to “fix” or “escape” the uncertainty that I might still just be a brain in a vat. Jesus Christ can be Lord, 2+2=5 are not necessarily mutually exclusive claims. If you want to demonstrate otherwise, feel free. Insisting that others *justify* their (allegedly) blind acceptance of facts while you do the same, also without justification, is fundamentally hypocritical.

      So stop insisting that no one else can *prove* why 2+2=4 is somehow a point in the presuppositionalist’s favor. Unless you can also do so, it remains a properly basic belief for everyone.

      Stop pretending as if faith removes doubt from the equation. Faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is not certainty of things for which there is no evidence. Faith is action in accordance with belief. This is why faith without works is dead.

      Faith is the bridge between uncertainty and action. We live in uncertainty, but we still “leap” to action. Why? Not necessarily because we are certain of anything, but because we have “confidence” or “assurance” about that which we cannot see. There no “blind” leaps, because everyone believes something for a reason, even if those reasons are terrible. So there is no “blind” faith.

    • Bob Anderson

      “As a parent I would take the greatest of comforts in knowing that the brutal death of my child had a holy righteous purpose in the providence of my holy righteous master. Or? You say what?”

      I do not think this is an adequate answer. Do you declare the murder of children, the loss of a child, as part of God’s grace?

      How do you tell a parent whose child has died violently that this is part of God’s providence?

    • JB Chappell

      @Bob A.

      -“How do you tell a parent whose child has died violently that this is part of God’s providence?”-

      Easy!

      “There, there Mr. Anderson. I know you’re grieving, but it will be OK in the end. After all, there’s still a relatively small chance that your child was elect. And if not, your child is burning in Hell for eternity, which will give some Calvinist quite the sense of appreciation for God’s wrath.”

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“The trouble is that the bible does.”-

      No, your interpretation of the Bible does. And, as you have stated so succinctly, your interpretation of the Bible is not open to question.

      -“God’s purpose is indeed itself holy righteous and good.”-

      This is true, but as a Calvinist, these words are hollow. Because what “holy righteous and good” mean is “whatever God does.” It is tautologous. And, as you have pointed out, tautology is not knowledge. You know literally nothing about God’s so-called goodness.

      -“I’m fine with that because I trust Him.”-

      Not knowing anything about God’s goodness, I am curious why.

      -“I don’t feel I’m owed intellectual, emotional or ethical answers satisfying to myself.”-

      If there is a danger in asking questions, it is in being perceived as if we feel w are entitled to answers. Do not confuse the lack of satisfaction with the lack of answers or given answers as a sense of entitlement to answers. I realize that God is not entitled to answer my questions. My purpose in asking questions is simply to find out *if there are* satisfactory answers. Because if so, so much the better. If there are not, then I also want to know why. If I cannot know why, then I must live in that uncertainty, and of course we do with many questions. But that doesn’t mean I have to be satisfied with mystery, or that I am obligated to accept irrational explanations.

    • John

      @Greg: “There are mountains of evidence of a God who never loses, through the whole of scripture from Gen. to Rev.”

      Never loses? So if I find one time when he “loses” as you put it, then you concede? Well, the bible does say that God changes his mind. No reason to change your mind if you weren’t “losing”. Of course the Calvinist will write it all off as an anthropomorphism or something. That’s great, but don’t tell me about the mountain of evidence God never loses, if when a verse is quoted contrary, you just choose to write it off. Just admit up front the mountain of evidence is not true.

      —–

      It seems to me its hard for a Calvinist to criticise Westboro baptist church and their antics in this massacre. It means they are really right. This massacre is only God’s will and God’s judgement against sin. And if that’s the truth, then proclaiming it loudly must be the gospel.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“I live in absolute certainty. Everybody does…”-

      No. Everyone does not. There are people absolutely afflicted with doubt in the world. If you are absolutely certain about everything, then fair enough, but I highly doubt that you have not experienced doubt at some point in your life.

      -“ but I do it intentionally and not merely by necessity of creation.”-

      Forgive me, but I have no idea what you mean by this. There is no “necessity” to live in absolute certainty. I live my life as if the sun will come up tomorrow, but I am not certain that it will. Pretending that you know it will is not the same thing as being certain. If you are certain the sun comes up tomorrow, then you are a prophet.

      -“In fact much of my posting here thus far has been copying and pasting from previous work I’ve done.”-
      I have no doubt. Perhaps you need to more seriously consider the fact that your responses are inadequate. I have read many of them now, and you do not actually justify any of your own positions. Tearing down others’ viewpoints is all well and good, but that does not simultaneously bolster your own.

      [Hebrews 11:1-3] is the most concise and foundational definition of faith in the bible. “The conviction of things not seen” sounds suspiciously blind don’t ya think?

      No, it does not, depending on what you mean. This is why I keep asking you to define your terms. Most people, when referring to “blind faith”, mean this: someone believes something for no reason at all. Nobody does this. People believe things for reasons, even if they are bad reasons. As a child, I may have simply believed in Santa Claus because my parents told me. But, my parents were a trusted source. Likewise, in Hebrews, the writer refers to OT saints who trusted their reliable source. Now, if by “blind”, you simply mean something that cannot be empirically tested or verified, then sure – Hebrews 11:1-3 is perfectly consistent with that.

      Note too, that each instance of these OT Saints exercising faith requires *action*. The fact that they were certain about anything is not mentioned. Confidence is not certainty. Neither is assurance. In fact, in one case, belief is not even mentioned:

      5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…

      Why was Enoch taken “by faith”? Because he walked “faithfully with God” (Genesis 5:24). What does that mean, in a Calvinistic sense? That God overrode his free will, so that he desired only God? How is that a virtue? No, here the virtue is clearly right action in accordance with right belief. As it is with every other saint mentioned. So, yes, Hebrews 11:1-3 is a succinct statement that addresses the belief aspect of “faith”. Looking at scripture as whole, however, it is quite clear that it involves action.

      Belief not in accordance with action is not faith. If I believe that a chair will support my weight, but I do not sit in it, do I actually have faith in it? If I sit in the chair fully expecting (or with no expectation at all) that it will not support my weight, have I exercised faith? No, most likely that was simply hope.

      Admittedly, part of the problem here is that often the authors of scripture use the term ambiguously. “Faith” is sometimes used synonymously with belief, right action, and even right action + belief, mystically-obtained knowledge, or even “the” faith – religion itself. There’s probably more. James and Paul clearly were emphasizing different usages of the term. So while I do think that the way I define “faith” is most consistent with how scripture uses the term to describe the *virtue* of faith, I acknowledge that it can be used differently. But, then we need to be clear about how we’re using it.

      What it is never used to describe, however, is belief without evidence. If you believe that this is so, it is not on any scriptural basis.

      -“… old testament saints whose entire lives were wrapped up in believing a promise for which the ONLY evidence WAS the promise itself.”-

      You are extrapolating FAR too much from the text here. Hebrews 11 mentions too many people to get into too much depth here, but let’s consider Rahab:

      Joshua 2:9-13 I know that the LORD has given this land to you …

      Awesome! She’s got faith! It must have been completely unsupported by evidence, right?

      … We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.

      Oops. Clearly, her impressions were being supported by some evidence. So this isn’t “blind” faith. None of the examples are.

      You specifically mention Abraham being told to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Let’s ignore the interpretation that Abraham was simply willing to sacrifice his son and that this obedience is what was looked at as favorable (James 2:21-23). No, let’s focus on the alternative interpretation, that Abraham “knew” that God would preserve his son, because God had promised him a son.

      Is it the case that the ONLY evidence for this promise of God was the promise itself? Obviously not! Abraham had a son! So, clearly, God had demonstrated that he could work miracles. That is what we call evidence. Furthermore, God had clearly worked in other numerous ways in Abraham’s life. Abraham had reason to trust God.

      A better case can be made for “blind” faith, with the other Abraham story.

      8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

      So, is it the case here that the ONLY evidence Abraham had available was the promise itself? Did he really have no evidence to believe this promise”? Well, let’s see, God himself came and spoke to the man, apparently. Is that not reason enough to be motivated to do something? Furthermore, we simply aren’t informed about Abraham’s prior experience with God. To assume that Abraham had no prior interaction or evidence is to make sweeping assumptions about the scripture.

      So, again, I would insist that if are speaking of faith as a virtue, then it necessitates belief + action, does not connote “blind” belief, and in fact I would say that such a thing does not exist. All of this things are supported by scripture.

    • JB Chappell

      -“Is 2+2 certainly 4?”-

      Is the correct spelling “theater” or “theatre”?

    • JB Chappell

      Oh, my bad, I thought we were asking irrelevant questions!

      In my mind, yes, 2+2=4. It is as certain as anything can be certain. Which is to say that nothing is absolutely certain.

    • JB Chappell

      I’m sorry, I must have missed the part where you actually proved your point. There is a necessity to live in absolute certainty BECAUSE…?

    • John

      @Greg: For the benefit of some observers of your debate here, can you explain what you mean by certain? There are things that people believe are certain, but actually they are not. Because they are wrong. There are things that are certain, but in my mind they are not certain, for any number of reasons, including lack of information. There are things that can be demonstrated to be certain, via science or logic (although there is a dependency on your reasoning skills). There are other things that are beyond the scope of being certain about, either because we lack the technology at the present time, or because they are simply beyond the realm of things that we can be certain about.

      Precisely what kind of certainty are we talking about? Then can you explain to me what the basis of the certainty is? (for bonus points, you could tell us how far the certainty extends in terms of knowledge of the faith).

    • JB Chappell

      Furthermore, I find it very odd that the “New Atheists” are lumped in with those who use Aristotelian epistemology and Arminians. Perhaps there’s a common denominator there, but I suspect it’s simply “People who Greg accuses of being postmodern liberals”. Aristotelian logic is the foundation of classical theism, and a New Atheist would reject it very quickly, no doubt. Furthermore, there still is no support for the notion that a Calvinist theology or presuppositionalist assertions can provide, much less require, absolute certainty about anything.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Tell me what your life would life would look like if 2+2 were NOT certainly 4.”-

      It would look exactly like it does now.

      -“Deny that. I dare ya.”-

      You keep forgetting the part where you have to SUPPORT your own assertions! You’ve done NOTHING this entire time to actually bolster your case. You just make hit ‘n’ run assertions. Please explain how Jesus Christ would not be Lord if 2+2=5. I dare ya.

    • JB Chappell

      “Knowledge and doubt are inseparable to man. The sole alternative to “knowledge-with-doubt” is no knowledge at all. Only God and certain madmen have no doubts!”

      – Martin Luther

    • There are so many ad hoc and even logical fallacies on this blog post! Btw, Calvinism in general is simply the belief in the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty! This is a biblical presupposition, taken both from the Jewish OT and the Apostolic NT. Indeed this was simply John Calvin’s baseline!

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Absolute certainty IS the human condition by creation.”-

      Another assertion requiring justification.

      -“Presuppositional Calvinism accounts for it and nothing else does. This will take a while if you wanna keep goin, but your head IS in my noose. Do not kid yourself.”-

      I look forward to you actually presenting a justification for your argument.

      -“I could not possibly care less what ANY historical thinker says in this regard in the context of this discussion.”-

      Unless we’re talkin’ Van Til, can I get an Amen?!!

    • @Greg: That position is another logical and historical fallacy! WE all come from some “place”! Even Calvinists!

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“You are then standing by your assertion that nothing can be known for certain?”-

      For the love of God, just defend your argument! I will happily concede that you’ve proven me wrong if/when you do. I am honestly intrigued at what you have to say. I must be a sucker for punishment.

    • @Greg: Note, I am a “Calvinist! 😉 Note too, I am a Creedal Christian, and historic Churchman! Such is biblical and theological Protestantism! We can’t do this without some aspect of the Church, either! I hope ya get my points? 🙂

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“If JB Chappell has taken the position out of hand that NOTHING can be known for certain, then why, pray tell, would I spend the time attempting to “prove”, that is, render certain, anything to him?”-

      Probably because I’m not certain of it. But I’m willing to be proven otherwise.

    • Kelton

      @Mike B:

      MB: According to the Westminster Confession of Faith given above these two assertions are made:
      1. God causes (ordains) all that comes to pass
      2. God is not the cause (author) of sin

      The logical contradiction (aka tension/mystery) is clear. If #2 is true then #1 is logically false. God cannot logically cause all things and not cause all things.

      Response: Well, I would argue that things that God allows to happen is apart of what he ordains to happen. In other words, God doesn’t have to force anyone to sin, but allow them to do so when he wants them too would also fit what he ordains.

      Mike [email protected] / @Greg
      How can “man is free to choose whatever he wants” be true, unless whatever man wants = what God wants. Doesn’t God cause (ordain) all that comes to pass? At least as the first/primary cause if not the secondary cause?

      Response: Easy, just look Gen 50. Joseph’s brothers intended on killing Joseph, God intended on training him to run Egypt. So we have man wanting one thing, God wanting another, so God took their evil intentions and used it for good.

      MB: How is God changing our hearts (aka desires) so we choose what He wants us to choose not doing “violence to the will of the creatures”? Since prior to God changing the heart, that heart wanted nothing to do with God?

      Response: Easy, imagine a dead man (Eph 2). God calls that dead man to life. Is that doing violence to the dead man? No, what God does is raise us up from spiritual deadness to spiritual aliveness so that we now choose him.

    • John

      @Fr Robert: “Calvinism in general is simply the belief in the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty”

      Sovereignty is just a word, like all the abstractions discussed around here, until the details are fleshed out. I’m sure everyone here believes in “God’s sovereignty”, yet we argue.

      @Greg: I think 2+2=4, but I’m not certain. However I’ll continue to insist on $2 change when I give $4 at the shop for a $2 item, because I’m pretty sure about it, even if not certain. How exactly would my life change if I’m not certain? I’m not seeing it.

      Greg, what EXACTLY are we certain of? You are saying that certainty is the human condition? Not about everything, surely? Surely not. Really? Or just certainty about some things? If so, which are those special things we have absolute certainty about? I mean, if you’ve got such absolute certainty, it should be trivial for you to list all those things. You are certain about bits of Christian dogma perhaps? Which ones?

    • John

      @Kelton: “Easy, just look Gen 50. Joseph’s brothers intended on killing Joseph, God intended on training him to run Egypt. So we have man wanting one thing, God wanting another, so God took their evil intentions and used it for good.”

      That doesn’t really tell us much though. Did God see that Joseph’s brothers were going to do evil, and thought, hey I can turn this to good? Or did God foreordain from the beginning of the world that Joseph’s brothers would do this thing? Or did God say, I want Joseph to go to Egypt, and I notice Joseph’s brother’s are going to do this thing, I can use this as a way to get him to Egypt? We aren’t really told. Gen 50 tells us God can use evil for good, it doesn’t tell us Calvinism. Even if Gen 50 did teach absolute predestination for this one event, it wouldn’t tell us if this was a general rule for all creation.

    • Kelton

      @Mike B

      MB: Read through Genesis 20 based on this interaction.

      MB: Not sure how the Gen 20 passage is a clear case for determinism/compatibilism and man’s responsibility?

      Response: Because it demonstrates that God does override man’s free will. If free will is what people think it is, then God should have allowed Abemelech to have his way. But what God does is restrain man’s sin and allows only what he wants to allow for whatever purpose he may have.

      MB:First this account (IMO) can be read as Abraham and Abimelech freely choosing as LFW agents throughout the narrative. I may be wrong about that, but what in the text requires me to adopt a compatibilist reading? And even if I adopt a compatibilist reading how does that require I infer that the agents are responsibile for determined actions?

      Response: Because of the intent of Abemelech’s heart. He isn’t trying to do God’s will, but ends up doing it anyway because God stops him dead in his tracks. So we see what God predestined and what Abemelech does are actually in harmony.
      ————————————–

      MB: If God ordains/determines/causes all things then I assume a reasonable description of this passage as a Calvinist would go something like this:
      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abraham (thru secondary cause of fear) to tell Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Abraham could not do otherwise.

      Response: Nope, God allowed Abraham to lie and tell Abimelech that she was not his sister, Abraham wasn’t going to do otherwise.

      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abimelech (thru secondary cause of attraction) to take Sarah. Abimelech could not do otherwise.

      Response: Nor did he want to do otherwise.

      – God (as the primary cause) caused Abimelech (thru secondary cause of fear) to release Sarah. Again, Abimelech could not do otherwise.

      Response: Well God also appeared to him in a dream.

      MB:However, if God does not cause (determine) all things but does sovereignly allow for LFW, then God allowed Abraham to choose between two options. Abraham could have chosen to trust that God would keep His promises in the Abrahamic covenant and tell Abimelech that Sarah was his wife. Instead Abraham chose out of fear to tell Abimelech that Sarah was his sister.

      Response: But now you have a God who is waiting to see how man reacts and altering his plans around whatever man does.

      MB:Then God acted to protect His overall plan of redemption because Abraham’s LFW choice directly affected God’s plan regarding how the nation of Israel would come to be and ultimately how the Messiah would be sent.

      Response: Well if God already knew what Abraham was going to do prior to that then he wouldn’t have to alter anything.

      MB:Abimelech could have chosen between two options. He could have kept Sarah, making him responsible for his death so that God’s plan would ultimately be protected. Or he could return Sarah, which Abimelech wisely chose and was allowed to live.

      Response: Except your point doesn’t deal with the fact that the text says God stopped Abemelech from sinning. So what we have here is clear indication that God does override man’s so called free will to accomplish his purpose.

      What am I missing?

    • Kelton

      @John

      John:That doesn’t really tell us much though. Did God see that Joseph’s brothers were going to do evil, and thought, hey I can turn this to good?

      Response: I don’t think so, God elsewhere tells us things like he ordains all things like Isaiah 46:10.

      John: Or did God foreordain from the beginning of the world that Joseph’s brothers would do this thing?

      Response: Probably more like it.

      John: Or did God say, I want Joseph to go to Egypt, and I notice Joseph’s brother’s are going to do this thing, I can use this as a way to get him to Egypt? We aren’t really told. Gen 50 tells us God can use evil for good, it doesn’t tell us Calvinism. Even if Gen 50 did teach absolute predestination for this one event, it wouldn’t tell us if this was a general rule for all creation.

      Response: Well you have to remember it’s not just about Egypt. God used this whole thing to train Joseph to be able to run Egypt. So he was over his brothers, over the potipher’s house, over the jail cell and then over Egypt. God was training him all along and used their evil intent to accomplish this.

      But if you take this verse along with Isaiah 46 and a whole host of others, I think you get a clear picture that God is a lot more sovereign than we give him credit for.

    • John

      @Kelton: “So what we have here is clear indication that God does override man’s so called free will to accomplish his purpose.”

      Since in Calvinism man is a machine with predictable outputs. Given certain inputs, the outputs are inevitable. Since God made man how he is, and he therefore ordains the outputs. How is it even interesting to discuss God “overriding” man’s free will? Because it wasn’t free to begin with. It was exactly what God made it to be. Since God knew what he was going to do, how can we even talk about what man’s will would have been in a hypothetical future that was never to be? We’re just substituting one illusory non-free “free will” with a new illusory non-free “free will”. Makes you wonder what the point was. God could just foreordain you with a will which would change its mind, and repent under conditions A, B and C. Hey maybe he did. Tis called Arminianism.

      @Greg: Am I a Christian? Yes I believe so. Of course Christian is just a word, and we don’t know if we agree on terms.

      Is certainty about 2+2=4 really a good benchmark for these discussions? Even if I am certain 2+2=4, I’m not certain what 23456+65574 equals. If I get out a pen and paper, I might make a mistake. If I use a calculator, it could have an error in the circuits. I could check quite a few times and get a high degree of certainty, but not 100%. Most things are not as trivial looking as 2+2.

      Again, if you have such certainty, please list for us all the things you are certain about.

    • John

      @Kelton: “Response: I don’t think so, God elsewhere tells us things like he ordains all things like Isaiah 46:10.”

      Isaiah says he knows the end from the beginning. Not the bit in the middle. I think it is general human intuition that a powerful God can make the end turn out how he wants. The debated bit is whether all the middle bits are how he wants too.

      “But if you take this verse along with Isaiah 46 and a whole host of others, I think you get a clear picture that God is a lot more sovereign than we give him credit for.”

      I don’t think anybody here wants to debate that God is really powerful, and can do what he wants. The hotly contested part is if he ordains sin. In fact, the debate is whether God is a bigger God if he ordains even sin, or if he is a more powerful God if he can actually allow there to be “first mover” creatures, that he responds to, and *still* gets the outcome he wants.

    • John

      @Greg: “Are you certain that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead?”

      Well let me respond to that with a question. It may seem like an odd question, but I think it gets to the heart of the matter. How would I know if I am certain? I think human beings are continually in the process of questioning everything around them. I might go through long periods not questioning that the sun will come up tomorrow, but then one day I might see a cosmological documentary, and I might rethink that. Does the mere fact I rethought something mean I am not certain? Some would say it does. In short, I’m not certain how I could know if I am certain about something, because I don’t know what I will discover next. Some of my behaviour would indicate I am certain. Other parts of my behaviour might sometimes make it look like I’m not so certain. Tell me how to find out the answer to your question, and I will most certainly provide it to you!!!

      Greg: “Assuming the equation is executed accurately ANY mathematical problem IS certainly true.”

      Assuming!!!! Yes, assuming anything is correct, then it is certainly true! No argument there. ha ha.

      “The engineers that build the stuff we trust our lives to all the time are also certain as is everybody that gets in a car or airplane.”

      Really? I don’t think they are certain. I think they do their best given their knowledge, and have a high confidence. I don’t think they are certain.

      “Don’t lemme down now. Ya jist gotta gimme an argument about how their stuff breaks sometimes. It’ll be perfect.”

      Well, whether it breaks would indicate whether they were wrong, not about whether they were certain. People can be certainly wrong. It’s called hubris.

      “Either everything is certain or nothing is. Why? Because all knowledge is interdependent”

      I’d probably agree with that. Thus I’d vote for “everything is uncertain”, if given only two choices. Frankly, if you want to go there, then you MUST lose, because you don’t know everything. If one little bit of knowledge can throw everything, and if you don’t know everything, ergo, everything for you is uncertain. I think you just defeated yourself.

      “Our certainty derives from the one true and living non contingent all governing God for whom nothing is uncertain because everything is ultimately His will. ”

      That would be great if you knew everything God knows. But you don’t.

    • Tore Bostrup

      The trouble with both sides is they forgot to “lean not on your own understanding”. Everyone who argues based on reason rather than scripture is badly mistaken. The truth is – we don’t truly understand. Reading the Bible gives me the understanding that the Holy Spirit allows me at the time. But I have learned one thing – God doesn’t reveal all at once.

      However, I do believe that there is a lot of false teaching in churches today. And so I turn first to scripture, not to man and his arguments, to increase my understanding and for instruction. Don’t get me wrong – I also listen to others for their interpretation of scripture. And I quite enjoyed Adrian Rogers’ sermon “Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not!” on the subject.

      But I belong to the one church – the body of believers in Christ. Not to the body of Calvinists, and not to the body of Arminianism. Focusing on the issue of election – which we don’t fully understand – and which is divisive – takes our focus from the Kingdom of God.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg: John beat me to the punch, but here you are anyways…

      -“Assuming the equation is executed accurately ANY mathematical problem IS certainly true.”-

      Given certain assumptions, anything can be made to appear certain. The problem is, the assumptions aren’t certain.

      -“Either everything is certain or nothing is.”-

      I dunno, smells like a false dichotomy to me. Even if one thing can be known for certain (“something exists”, for example), that doesn’t mean that all knowledge can be derived from that one certainty. But, admittedly, I have not looked into the “problem of the one and the many”.

      -“Our certainty derives from the one true and living non contingent all governing God for whom nothing is uncertain because everything is ultimately His will.”-

      His certainty does not equal our certainty, however. And you have not demonstrated how God makes anything certain for us. Citing a confession does not make something true. And, yes, you violated your own principle!

      -“God is the one and only source of certainty because He and He alone is entirely independent and non contingent.”-

      These are unrelated concepts. That God is independent of us does not mean He offers us certainty. That God is a necessary being does not mean He offers certainty for us. But I would grant that IF there is a source of certainty, it can ONLY come from God.

      If God exists, and He is a necessary Being, if He created the universe, etc., then – yes – we can posit that God is the ground of existence, and that if God is good and desires for us to reliably ascertain reality, then He can provide us with such certainty. He is capable. But, obviously, there are many hypotheticals here.

      -“I am certain of everything in a derivative sense of intentionally adopting His certainty as my own by faith.”-

      Please explain how this process works. You cannot possibly be sure that you are adopting “God’s certainty”. Not only does this not make any sense, it’s completely unbiblical. Faith is no guarantor of certainty. How many times did Jesus say “if you have faith AND do not doubt”? Didn’t he ask Peter “Oh ye of little faith, why did you doubt?” Note that in the latter phrase doubting does not negate the presence of faith (however minute it may be). They are not mutually exclusive! So, when Jesus says “have faith AND do not doubt”, He actually seems to be asking for certainty… IF you want to cast mountains into the seas and wither fig trees with a rebuke. Since you have assumed God’s own certainty, I will assume that you are capable of these things! I will await the YouTube video…

      -“OR, I can, like every unbeliever and Arminian, have faith in my own finite AND sinful logic to provide the source of my certainty which is laughable.”-

      Except that we’re not claiming we’re certain. We’re claiming that we have degrees of certainty, given certain assumptions!

      -“OR, I can simply deny that certainty is possible anywhere like every thinking modern atheist/skeptic non Christian ends up declaring once we get ways down this road.”-

      I know plenty of atheists/skeptics who would argue that we can know things for certain.

      -“To them absolute uncertainty is preferable to moral accountability to the living God.”-

      I would ask you how moral accountability works on system with no free will, but we can save that for later. 😉

      And go get some sleep, bro

    • JB Chappell

      @Tore

      -“Reading the Bible gives me the understanding that the Holy Spirit allows me at the time.”-

      The problem that I see with this is that reading requires some reason. Comprehension doesn’t come magically, otherwise those who couldn’t read would know the same things the rest of us do.

      There isn’t any way around it, revelation has to be subject to reason. Otherwise we wouldn’t even know it was revelation. Test everything.

      -“But I belong to the one church – the body of believers in Christ.”-

      Well said!

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“I’ve never heard an Ariminian prayer from a person with a credible testimony. ‘Oh Lord I thank thee that thou hast blessed me with a glorious free will whereby I have chosen more righteously and wisely than my unbelieving neighbor’.”-

      That’s because it makes no sense to thank God for something He did not do (make my choices for me). It does, however, make perfect sense to thank God for salvation and so many other things that He provides for us.

      It should also be noted, I have never heard a Calvinist say, “Thank you Lord, for causing so many to sin and cause so much suffering for others, that way I understand your wrath better!”

    • John

      Hmm, Greg says he is CERTAIN and he does not doubt. Jesus says if you do not doubt you say to a mountain “throw yourself into the sea” and it will happen.

      I think we can scientifically test Greg’s claim. Which mountain will you be throwing into the sea, Greg? Everest would be impressive, but any ‘ol one will do.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“God doesn’t cause anybody to sin. NO Calvinist has EVER taught this.”-

      Of course not! Because it is completely unbiblical!

      Instead, the Calvinist will draw every conclusion EXCEPT for the one that follows from the rest: if God is the cause of everything (or if he “ordains” or “authors”… WHATEVER terminology you want to use), then He HAS TO BE the cause of sin, unless God can do nonsense. If God can square a circle, then – sure – He can cause everything, but not sin.

      Calvinists teach everything else, because it has Biblical support, but can’t teach what obviously follows from it, because it is completely unbiblical. Rather than reasonably concluding that there must be some problem with their exegesis (problem can’t be with them!), there must simply be some sort of “mystery” to it all. But not “logical contradiction”. Because, you know, there ‘s no formal contradiction in saying “ALL of everything” doesn’t preclude “NOT something”.

      In any case, the prayer doesn’t actually sound any better if one softens the terminology. In any case, if there’s a point to be had here, it’s that all of us are probably inconsistent to some extent. James tells us to be thankful for trials and tests, but I’d wager most of us aren’t. 😉

    • JB Chappell

      @John

      -“I think we can scientifically test Greg’s claim. Which mountain will you be throwing into the sea, Greg? Everest would be impressive, but any ‘ol one will do.”-

      Methinks Greg will claim that these sorts of things stopped with the apostles. How convenient, if so. But I could be wrong. I’m not certain 😉

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      Unless we’re talkin’ Van Til, can I get an Amen?!!

      LOL. Amen!

    • John I.

      How does God “allowing” things to happen, such as allowing humans to sin, get him off the hook?

      In order for God to “allow” something, he has to create the circumstances and the chain of causation first. He has to set it all up before there is anything that can be “allowed” to happen. Furthermore, in order to foreordain events, he has to render them certain.

      The Arminian has no such problems. The Arminian agrees that God could create a Calvinist type world if he wanted to, but the Arminian believes that God has revealed in his Word a different kind of world.

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      Will try to respond in a series of comments given the character limits… 🙂


      1. God causes (ordains) all that comes to pass
      2. God is not the cause (author) of sin
      The logical contradiction (aka tension/mystery) is clear. If #2 is true then #1 is logically false. God cannot logically cause all things and not cause all things.

      Response: Well, I would argue that things that God allows to happen is apart of what he ordains to happen. In other words, God doesn’t have to force anyone to sin, but allow them to do so when he wants them too would also fit what he ordains.

      Help me out. I think this is where we can get confused and talk past each other. Calvinists like to use words like ordain, author, determine, predestine, permit, and allow.

      So let me ask, what does it mean to ordain, author, determine, or predestine all things that come to pass?
      Basically do you accept meticulous sovereignty and determinism or not?

      Because if you do, then how can anything be “apart from what He ordains” if He also ordains all that comes to pass? Does “all that comes to pass” really mean “all”?

      The non-Calvinist view does not accept determinism so it is this view that would more logically assert that God sovereignly allows/permits people to commit evil/sin apart from His plan because He gives them the ability to have a LFW choice.

      Thanks for helping a brother trying to understand.
      MikeB

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      I think the prior comment and responses will provide clarity on these other questions, but the Joseph story may prove to be a good Scriptural case study.


      How can “man is free to choose whatever he wants” be true, unless whatever man wants = what God wants. Doesn’t God cause (ordain) all that comes to pass? At least as the first/primary cause if not the secondary cause?

      Response: Easy, just look Gen 50. Joseph’s brothers intended on killing Joseph, God intended on training him to run Egypt. So we have man wanting one thing, God wanting another, so God took their evil intentions and used it for good.

      John: .. Gen 50 tells us God can use evil for good, it doesn’t tell us Calvinism. …

      Response (to John): Well you have to remember it’s not just about Egypt. God used this whole thing to train Joseph to be able to run Egypt. So he was over his brothers, over the potipher’s house, over the jail cell and then over Egypt. God was training him all along and used their evil intent to accomplish this.

      But if God caused (as the primary cause thru ordaining/authoring/determining) the brothers (as the secondary cause of hate,pride) to sell Joseph into slavery to bring about all you say above then He also planned and wanted that event to happen right?

      His motives and purposes might be different (train Joseph, rule) than the brothers motives and purposes (get rid of Joseph) but they both wanted Joseph to be sold into slavery.

    • Logic alone will never lead us into the doctrine and mystery of God, we must somewhat use it, but God alone transcends it! I like scholastcism myself, especially the Reformed Protestant version, but as Michael has been seeking to show, God’s mystery trumps all and always! Even in 2+2 = 4. Do two parallel lines meet in infinity?

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      [part 1/2]

      MB: Not sure how the Gen 20 passage is a clear case for determinism/compatibilism and man’s responsibility?

      Response: Because it demonstrates that God does override man’s free will. If free will is what people think it is, then God should have allowed Abemelech to have his way. But what God does is restrain man’s sin and allows only what he wants to allow for whatever purpose he may have.

      Response: Except your point doesn’t deal with the fact that the text says God stopped Abemelech from sinning. So what we have here is clear indication that God does override man’s so called free will to accomplish his purpose.

      God is sovereign (though we understand that very differently) and being all powerful can override man’s LFW. The non-Calvinist/Arminian just doesn’t see this happening all the time. God allows/permits man to commit a lot of evil and sin without overriding these choices.

      In this account we see that God’s redepmtive plan was going to be affected and God intervened. He did stop Abimelech from sleeping with Sarah so there could be no question that Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah. However notice that Abimelech would not even have been aware that he would be committing adultery based on the information he had. Nor was his intent to stop the nation of Israel from being formed as God intended. It was Abraham’s choices and sin that God had to deal with.

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      [part 2/2]


      Response: Because of the intent of Abemelech’s heart. He isn’t trying to do God’s will, but ends up doing it anyway because God stops him dead in his tracks. So we see what God predestined and what Abemelech does are actually in harmony.

      Abimelech’s intent was based on his seeing an attractive (and from his point of view) available woman whom he took into his harem. But if God ordained that he take Sarah then in effect isn’t he doing God’s will since that is what God wanted him to do?

      However, I interpret this as God’s predestined plan to have the nation of Israel come thru Isaac the son of Abraham and Sarah being protected when God gave Abimelech a LFW choice – 1) give her back and live or 2) die. Despite Abimelech having a LFW choice God’s predestined plan was protected.

      Response: Nope, God allowed Abraham to lie and tell Abimelech that she was not his sister, Abraham wasn’t going to do otherwise.

      allowed or determined?

      Response: But now you have a God who is waiting to see how man reacts and altering his plans around whatever man does.

      Response: Well if God already knew what Abraham was going to do prior to that then he wouldn’t have to alter anything.

      God knew that Abraham would choose to lie (foreknew), allowed him to make that LFW choice (sovereign), and knew that He would have to act to protect His predestined plan of redemption (foreknew). Because Abraham choose freely (and could have chosen otherwise) he is responsible for his actions. As is Abimelech.

      This is different than God “ordained/determined/caused” Abraham to lie which is why we are having this ongoing discussion. How would Abraham (since he is actually the one who sinned here) responsible for the sin if God caused it through his fear and he could not do otherwise?

    • John I.

      RE FRA @ #31

      To say that God is beyond logic is to make him so transcendent that he cannot relate to us and we cannot understand who he is.

      Logic is part of God’s character, and he can no more be illogical than he can lie. When he created, he endowed his creation with this aspect of his character. Our physical world is logical and understandable, because it reflects God. We can communicate and use reason and logic because we are images of God.

    • Who said God is “beyond” logic? Not me, but He does simply transcend it, and often! What human logic is there is in the “theologia crucis”? Again, religious man’s logic is more towards the “theologia gloriae”! As Luther knew!

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg – You are not making much sense here. You say –

      “I KNOW 2+2=4 AND WHY. I have been given the mind of Christ Himself by faith.”

      Then you turn around and say, “Everybody IS certain that 2=2=4 regardless of what kinda screwball denial they engineer to attempt to say otherwise. This is true for those still dead in the 1st man Adam because of the remaining image of God in them broken though it is sin. They CANNOT avoid God no matter what they try.”

      Your knowledge cannot be based in the mind of Christ if those who are separated from Christ also share this knowledge. I understand your point about the imago dei, but how that is defined is a well argued topic.

      It seems to me that you are on a slippery slope here, with a highly deterministic system that might actually lead to a mystical view of God, where humanity itself is just a derivative of God’s mind.

      As for Romans 1 – I do not see God mocking anyone in this chapter. Where did you get that idea from?

      It seems to me that Romans 1 teaches that we CAN know God, that he reveals his invisible attributes to us, but we reject them. This is a willful rejection of knowledge, not a lack thereof.

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg, you said –

      “My conscious and deliberate acknowledgement of how and why 2+2=4 is the philosophical component of resurrection in Christ. It has been transformed from a repugnant knowledge from necessity, being forced upon me inescapably and from which I once desperately hid, to a joyous knowledge as my Lord and master has freed me to use it properly to His glory.”

      So are you saying you actually tried to hide from the fact that 2 + 2 = 4?

      How is 2+2=4 a moral statement?

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Arminianism shows a spiritual reality, that Calvinist intellectual theory cannot truly deny.

    • Michelle

      Somehow, in the mystery of God, the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man touch, and the result is salvation.
      Men and women who are far more intelligent than I am have grappled with this issue for thousands of years. I simply admit that I am not going to be the one to settle the debate.
      It seems to me that it is far more valuable proclaiming the Gospel than arguing about how precisely a person comes to accept the Gospel.
      Am I saved because I chose God, or because God chose me? Yes.
      If we must have a label, then why not the label “Calminians” or CALminians?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      The Irrationality of Calvinism = The Irrationality of the Cross.

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg – I am just trying to understand your position.

      I really do not think numbers have much to do with the knowledge of good and evil.

      However, you have not addressed my question about how you see God mocking in Romans 1.

    • Funny, some are pro-Arminian and some pro-Calvinist (as myself), but the issue is the Holy Scripture, and the doctrine of God In Christ! As I have noted in history we can see some of this in the positions of Augustine verses Pelagius! And here btw, Wesleyan Arminianism is certainly closer to Calvin, etc. And too, people should read John Wesley’s great thesis on the doctrine of Sin!

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Reverend Robert, Pelagius had a point; so much in fact they conspired to silence him. What did they not want to come to terms with?

    • Greg

      @greg ” In my own derivative dependent finitude I KNOW NOTHING. Being now raised together with Christ Jesus and taking every though captive to Him I KNOW that my Father KNOWS everything and therefore by faith so do I, even that which is out of the reach of my creaturely limitation”

      It seems like what you are saying, is that you don’t know much at all, but because you believe in God, and he knows all, somehow you by fiat can claim possession of his certainty.

      1) you can’t redefine reality so that you have certainty that you don’t really have just because you know that God does have that certainty. (I wish you could, then I’d be certain of next week’s lotto numbers).

      2) it sounds like your true realm of certainty is actually extremely limited. Maybe it’s only that God exists. Maybe it’s a little wider than that. Either way, your assertion was that even ONE point of uncertainty makes everything uncertain. If we accept you on that then, you don’t even have that one certainty. That God does, doesn’t help you. Ate you sure you don’t want to retract that all or nothing claim?

      Let’s go back to Ro 1. Lets be extremely generous with your interpretation and assume it means that all men ought to be certain of God’s existence and some rudimentary things about his nature. Fine, we’re all Christians here, nobody is particularly wanting to debate that. But that hardly means men have the ability to be certain about much else, let alone be certain about everything. I know, because nex week’s lotto numbers elude me. So what really is your point in regard to this thread?

    • John

      @greg ” In my own derivative dependent finitude I KNOW NOTHING. Being now raised together with Christ Jesus and taking every though captive to Him I KNOW that my Father KNOWS everything and therefore by faith so do I, even that which is out of the reach of my creaturely limitation”

      It seems like what you are saying, is that you don’t know much at all, but because you believe in God, and he knows all, somehow you by fiat can claim possession of his certainty.

      1) you can’t redefine reality so that you have certainty that you don’t really have just because you know that God does have that certainty. (I wish you could, then I’d be certain of next week’s lotto numbers).

      2) it sounds like your true realm of certainty is actually extremely limited. Maybe it’s only that God exists. Maybe it’s a little wider than that. Either way, your assertion was that even ONE point of uncertainty makes everything uncertain. If we accept you on that then, you don’t even have that one certainty. That God does, doesn’t help you. Ate you sure you don’t want to retract that all or nothing claim?

      Let’s go back to Ro 1. Lets be extremely generous with your interpretation and assume it means that all men ought to be certain of God’s existence and some rudimentary things about his nature. Fine, we’re all Christians here, nobody is particularly wanting to debate that. But that hardly means men have the ability to be certain about much else, let alone be certain about everything. I know, because nex week’s lotto numbers elude me. So what really is your point in regard to this thread?

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor: Pelagius and his theology were later condemed by Rome and Catholicism. I have read my share of both Augustine and Pelagius, and most certainly in my opinion Pelagius and Pelagianism were as Rome contended, certain heresy. See btw Augustine’s work here, Causa Gratiae.

      There was no conspiracy here, but theological differences, and the desire for orthodoxy, in the West. We should note again however, that the East and Orthodoxy, are somewhat friendly with Pelagius.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Reverend, Pelagius was not outside of a relevant context. His points are valid, and they disturb you.
      As history would have it; it was Rome and that Church of Ceasar that would be condemned. I am skeptical about revering patriarchs to the point of a sainthood that co-reigns in heaven, anyway.

    • @Wesley: You are of course entitled to your opinion, but YOU cannot speak for me! And this does not “disturb” me, as it is just simply wrong biblically and theologically! I am not an Anglo-Catholic, or really Roman Catholic friendly, but a Protestant, and Reformed Anglican. I am an old “theolog” myself. So read and think carefully mate! 😉

    • Kelton

      @ John:
      John: Since in Calvinism man is a machine with predictable outputs. Given certain inputs, the outputs are inevitable. Since God made man how he is, and he therefore ordains the outputs. How is it even interesting to discuss God “overriding” man’s free will?

      Response: Nope, man isn’t a machine at all, he just chooses according to his strongest desire. My point was that if you believe in libertarian free will, then what do you do with this passage where God over rides someones so called free will?

      John: Because it wasn’t free to begin with. It was exactly what God made it to be. Since God knew what he was going to do, how can we even talk about what man’s will would have been in a hypothetical future that was never to be?

      Response: Well in this case, the text tells us. Abemelech wanted to sin and God stopped him.

      John: We’re just substituting one illusory non-free “free will” with a new illusory non-free “free will”. Makes you wonder what the point was. God could just foreordain you with a will which would change its mind, and repent under conditions A, B and C. Hey maybe he did. Tis called Arminianism.

      Response: No because it’s not a change of mind, it’s a spiritual resurrection so to speak that makes a man want to choose God. Eph 2.

    • Kelton

      @ John:
      John: Isaiah says he knows the end from the beginning. Not the bit in the middle. I think it is general human intuition that a powerful God can make the end turn out how he wants. The debated bit is whether all the middle bits are how he wants too.

      Response: Actually, it says “he makes known the beginning from the end.” And from the beginning that which has not happened yet. So it’s pretty clear, he knows the middle, ending and the beginning.

      John: I don’t think anybody here wants to debate that God is really powerful, and can do what he wants. The hotly contested part is if he ordains sin. In fact, the debate is whether God is a bigger God if he ordains even sin, or if he is a more powerful God if he can actually allow there to be “first mover” creatures, that he responds to, and *still* gets the outcome he wants.

      Response: And the answer to that is found in Isaiah 46:10. God ordains all events, nothing is outside of his will.

    • Kelton

      @ Mike B
      Mike B:

      So let me ask, what does it mean to ordain, author, determine, or predestine all things that come to pass?
      Basically do you accept meticulous sovereignty and determinism or not?

      Response: predestination pretty much deals with God’s plan for humans decreed from eternity. And it also includes whatever comes to pass, the confusion you find is that it sort of becomes synonymous with election. So yes, I accept sovereignty (not sure what meticulous sovereignty is) and determination.

      MikeB: Because if you do, then how can anything be “apart from what He ordains” if He also ordains all that comes to pass? Does “all that comes to pass” really mean “all”?

      Response: Yeah I think so, I don’t think anything happens outside of his will.

      MikeB: The non-Calvinist view does not accept determinism so it is this view that would more logically assert that God sovereignly allows/permits people to commit evil/sin apart from His plan because He gives them the ability to have a LFW choice.

      Thanks for helping a brother trying to understand.

      Response: Yeah I understand, I don’t subscribe to that view. Too many verses that seem to go against it.

    • Kelton

      @Mike B:

      Mike:
      But if God caused (as the primary cause thru ordaining/authoring/determining) the brothers (as the secondary cause of hate,pride) to sell Joseph into slavery to bring about all you say above then He also planned and wanted that event to happen right?

      Response: Yep.

      Mike B: His motives and purposes might be different (train Joseph, rule) than the brothers motives and purposes (get rid of Joseph) but they both wanted Joseph to be sold into slavery.

      Response: Yep. Just for different reasons, which against shows that God uses the evil intents of mean to bring about his purpose.

    • Kelton

      @ Mike B: God is sovereign (though we understand that very differently) and being all powerful can override man’s LFW. The non-Calvinist/Arminian just doesn’t see this happening all the time. God allows/permits man to commit a lot of evil and sin without overriding these choices.

      Response; Sure but he still uses those choices to bring about the result that he wants.

      Mike B: In this account we see that God’s redepmtive plan was going to be affected and God intervened. He did stop Abimelech from sleeping with Sarah so there could be no question that Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah. However notice that Abimelech would not even have been aware that he would be committing adultery based on the information he had. Nor was his intent to stop the nation of Israel from being formed as God intended. It was Abraham’s choices and sin that God had to deal with.

      Response: But it clearly shows that God does override man’s supposed free will and gets rid of the idea that God never interferes with man’s free will and he just sits back and allows things to happen etc. In actually God stops man will all the time, if he didn’t we’d be wiped out as a race because we’d ultimately kill ourselves.

    • John

      @Kelton “Nope, man isn’t a machine at all, he just chooses according to his strongest desire. ”

      How is that different to a machine? I think I could write the machine code for it:

      10 evaluate possibilities
      20 evaluate pleasure from possibilities
      30 do most pleasurable thing
      40 goto 10

      “if you believe in libertarian free will, then what do you do with this passage where God over rides someones so called free will?”

      And my point is, of it wasn’t free to begin with, but just an inevitable outcome of God’s decree, how silly is it God needs to override his own decree?

      The whole point of free will is that people can be influenced. That God can do so more effectively than me hardly is an argument against will.

      “Well in this case, the text tells us. Abemelech wanted to sin and God stopped him.”

      Actually, I’m pretty sure the text is saying that he did NOT want to sin, but he could have inadvertently by not knowing Sarah’s situation. We can only speculate how God “stopped him sinning”. Maybe he gave Sarah a headache. It doesn’t say he changed Abimelech’s will.

      “No because it’s not a change of mind, it’s a spiritual resurrection so to speak that makes a man want to choose God”

      And Calvinists oft quote Ezekiel 36:26 in support, but always ignore Ezekiel 16:19 -“make yourself a new heart”. Synergism. The two sides to the coin that scripture teaches when Calvinists only want to see one side.

    • Kelton

      @Mike B

      [part 2/2]

      Response:
      MB: Abimelech’s intent was based on his seeing an attractive (and from his point of view) available woman whom he took into his harem. But if God ordained that he take Sarah then in effect isn’t he doing God’s will since that is what God wanted him to do?

      Response: Yep, and that’s how it goes, God uses the intention of man to accomplish his will and purpose. It’s just Abemelech isn’t trying to do God’s will.

      MB:However, I interpret this as God’s predestined plan to have the nation of Israel come thru Isaac the son of Abraham and Sarah being protected when God gave Abimelech a LFW choice – 1) give her back and live or 2) die. Despite Abimelech having a LFW choice God’s predestined plan was protected.

      Response: Except God over rode his LFW. So it can’t be LFW if God stops it.

      MB: allowed or determined?

      Response: What God allows is apart of what he determines because he restrains man’s sin.

      MB:God knew that Abraham would choose to lie (foreknew), allowed him to make that LFW choice (sovereign), and knew that He would have to act to protect His predestined plan of redemption (foreknew). Because Abraham choose freely (and could have chosen otherwise) he is responsible for his actions. As is Abimelech.

      Response: Except, when Abimelech choose freely, God stepped in and said “nope.” And God doesn’t have to protect his plan, (Isaiah 55:11)

      MB:This is different than God “ordained/determined/caused” Abraham to lie which is why we are having this ongoing discussion. How would Abraham (since he is actually the one who sinned here) responsible for the sin if God caused it through his fear and he could not do otherwise?

      Response: Because of the intent of his heart was not to do God’s will.

    • John

      @kelton “So it’s pretty clear, he knows the middle, ending and the beginning.”

      Knowing is not the debated point.

      “Response: And the answer to that is found in Isaiah 46:10. God ordains all events, nothing is outside of his will”

      Yes, god does what he wants in Isaiah. But sometimes what God wants is to let man exercise free will. You have a presupposition that God can’t want that.

      “God uses the intention of man to accomplish his will and purpose.”

      You are proposing two very different scenarios. One that men do what they wanted to do anyway, and Good wants them to do it, even if sinful, because he brings good of it. The other that men’s plans would break God’s plan, and he has to step in to change wills, and make everything turn out how he wants. Those are two very different views of how things go, and Calvinists often argue whichever seems to help their case without realizing it.

    • Kelton

      @John
      John: How is that different to a machine? I think I could write the machine code for it:

      10 evaluate possibilities
      20 evaluate pleasure from possibilities
      30 do most pleasurable thing
      40 goto 10

      Response: Except a machine doesn’t have a soul nor a conscious.

      John:And my point is, of it wasn’t free to begin with, but just an inevitable outcome of God’s decree, how silly is it God needs to override his own decree?

      Response: He didn’t. I just think people define free will incorrectly.

      John: The whole point of free will is that people can be influenced. That God can do so more effectively than me hardly is an argument against will.

      Response: Nope, it just means people have a faulty definition of free will.

      John:Actually, I’m pretty sure the text is saying that he did NOT want to sin, but he could have inadvertently by not knowing Sarah’s situation. We can only speculate how God “stopped him sinning”. Maybe he gave Sarah a headache. It doesn’t say he changed Abimelech’s will.

      Response: It says, “I stopped you from sinning against me.” Doesn’t matter if it was inadvertent or not, sin is sin and God stopped him.

      John: And Calvinists oft quote Ezekiel 36:26 in support, but always ignore Ezekiel 16:19 -”make yourself a new heart”. Synergism. The two sides to the coin that scripture teaches when Calvinists only want to see one side.

      Response: Do you mean Ezekiel 18:31? Anyway, if so we can talk about that one tomorrow. Have to run, but it’s just a false proverb God is refuting.

    • Kelton

      @ John:

      Ok before I go to bed.

      John: Knowing is not the debated point.

      Response: Actually it says declaring or making known. The reason he can do this is because he’s in control of all this. Eph 1:11.

      John: Yes, god does what he wants in Isaiah. But sometimes what God wants is to let man exercise free will. You have a presupposition that God can’t want that.

      Response: Depends on how you define free will. I have no problem with God allowing man to make choices, I just don’t think man has the ability to choose him. And whatever choices man makes, he either allows it for his purpose or restrains it for his purpose.

      John:You are proposing two very different scenarios. One that men do what they wanted to do anyway, and Good wants them to do it, even if sinful, because he brings good of it. The other that men’s plans would break God’s plan, and he has to step in to change wills, and make everything turn out how he wants. Those are two very different views of how things go, and Calvinists often argue whichever seems to help their case without realizing it.

      Response: Not at all ,God restrains man’s evil until the appointed time. When men devise evil plans, God uses their intentions to bring about his plans by restraining when and to what degree they will be effective. Much like the cross, Jesus walked through mobs basically whenever he felt like it. God was restraining their evil, until the appointed time. Christ could not have died any earlier or later. But according to Acts 4:27-28. God predestined this to occur.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Reverend Robert, intellectual theory can impede reality–and the reality of Christ–in ones mind.
      As for your Catholicism; we Protestants will be here long after the complex about, not only an Anglicans identity, but all of Protestantism, as it has been manipulated by Rome.

    • John

      @Kelton “Except a machine doesn’t have a soul nor a conscious.”

      Conscience or consciousness? Anyway, how do you know if a machine can have one or not, and what is a conscience in your world view except an emotion that effects which things are pleasurable, lowering the utility of certain activities? Just one more subroutine in the machine.

      “Doesn’t matter if it was inadvertent or not, sin is sin and God stopped him.”

      I can stop you doing stuff as well. Does that prove anything? No.

      “Actually it says declaring or making known.”

      Same thing. They both amount to knowing.

      “The reason he can do this is because he’s in control of all this. Eph 1:11.”

      (A) running off to a whole new book is not impressive exegesis.

      (B) there is no textual or thought link between these passages or concepts.

      (C) eph 1:11 says he has to “work out” everything according to his will. How he achieves that and what his will is is the point of dispute. We say sometimes his will is to allow men free agency. That is his will.

      “You have a presupposition that God can’t want that.
      Response: Depends on how you define free will”

      I don’t think it does depend. You have this presupposition, end of story. God can’t want libertarian free will to exist. Any passage that refers to god doing his will is presuppositionally assumed that his will is not to allow libertarian free will. In fact Calvinists are often seen to argue that libertarian will is logically impossible for God to implement.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      John, you are libertarian free-will, whether you like it–or not. Such is the essence of Christ to man,and man to Christ. The belief that free-will is in opposition to Christ is erroneous. Authoritarian notions of the will are of license and tyranny… Either man is not free in Christ;and thus not free. Or he is Satanic without a struggle, yearning for grace.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Not to an Armnian who operates his mind independently of God’s, like Adam did and Eve did in response to the serpent.”-

      If Adam & Eve’s mind operated independently of God’s, it’s because God wanted it that way (if you’re a Calvinist). Regardless, this is simply another unverified assertion. Assumptions are not certain. If they were, they would be knowledge. Knowledge is justified, true belief. If something is “justified”, there is no reason for it to be an assumption.

      -“Did God really say that?”-
      Anyone who doesn’t ask this question is a fool.

      -” And even if He did, why are you assuming God is right?”-
      Assuming a traditional notion of God, anyone who would ask this is a fool.

      -“All these assumptions based on God’s Word are a bit tenuous at best.”-
      Assumptions are not “based on” anything. Conclusions based on “God’s Word” are extremely tenuous, because people simply assume that it is, in fact, God’s Word.

      -“…’Enough with this presupposing the certainty of God and His word already’. You’ll dispute that, but it IS EXACTLY what he was telling them.”

      Yes, I will dispute that. It’s not in the Bible, as a matter of fact. What is in the Bible is that the serpent told them something that God hadn’t, and they believed it. Perhaps they should have asked more questions. In addition, I would actually agree with you here that when God Himself tells you not to eat something… don’t eat it!

      You don’t realize the insult it is to God when you tell Him that He has left you in ultimate uncertainty do you?

      No, because it is clear to me that if God wanted everyone to be certain about His existence, He could easily accomplish that. The fact that He hasn’t done that means that, for whatever reason, God remains hidden to a certain extent. It is to this hidden-ness that Paul is referring in Romans 1.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“His invisible attributes, eternal power AND divine are not just vaguely visible, but CLEARLY seen.”-

      Please explain how *invisible* attributes are “clearly seen”.

      The critical part to me here is this: …”being understood through what has been made.” Paul says that we are without excuse because even if God now does not specifically reveal Himself to all of us (divine hiddenness), we *should* at least come to know God through “natural revelation”.

      Paul had just discussed God’s judgement and is clearly addressing the age-old question of “what about those who have never heard the Gospel”. Paul draws the conclusion that God has provided enough evidence that all people can be held accountable.

      -“What is God to think when He makes Himself unavoidably and certainly revealed, even in significant details of His being and nature and then you turn around and slap Him in the face by saying that NOTHING, including Him, is certain?”-

      I don’t know what He thinks about that, but I’d imagine even God acknowledges the limits of human reason. That there can be no certainty does not mean that ALL doubts are *reasonable*. This is Paul’s point. We are without excuse. A reasonable person following the evidence will draw some general conclusions about God (He exists, He is powerful, knowledgeable, etc.). That these things can be “clearly seen” does not mean they are certain; in fact, it is because of the limits of our reason that they cannot be. But that does not mean we have an excuse (according to Paul).

      “In the beginning God created the heavens and he earth” but in such a way that His having done so is uncertain to His creatures made in His image and likeness?”

      Yes. God *could* have made it more obvious, could He not? But He didn’t.

      -“You are THE quintessential poster boy for VAn Til’s “autonomous man”… I implore you, forsake this stiff necked rebellion and enthrone your master…”-

      To be honest, it seems to me more…

    • JB Chappell

      Sorry, was cut off there. I was going to say that it seems like you want me to enthrone “your boy” Van Til.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“The idea of moving a mountain was a not uncommonly used metaphor of the day to signify the great trials of life.”-

      Surely, you cannot find this to be a satisfactory response. First of all, I think the idea that this was a metaphor for overcoming difficult to be unsupported. BUT, despite that, I think it is obvious that Jesus spoke often in hyperbole. Let’s simply agree that it was a proverbial expression.

      The problem here is that Jesus supported such a difficult notion with so many other sayings! Besides referring to the proverbial mountain, He stated that they would also be able to wither fig trees. Please don’t try to claim that, too, is a metaphor. Jesus also said to His disciples that they would do greater things than He did (did they?). Jesus said Peter could walk on water if he did not doubt? Also metaphor/hyperbole? So, the difficulty for you, not being a cessationist (which I would agree is the more Biblical approach), is that you claim to have God’s own certainty/faith, and yet I would imagine that you are not doing greater things than He. It is one thing to try and fail, yet I imagine too that you be even reluctant to be put to the test.

      Nothing personal, but I think the proof is in the pudding. Vague references to answered prayer are not helpful. If you cannot walk on water with your certainty in God’s power, then there’s no reason to think Peter could… OR, that you’re not *really* certain.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“A non deterministic God is a contingent one and contingency is the opposite of certainty.”-

      Let’s break this up: 1) “A non-deterministic God is a contingent one…”

      A contingent being is one that could have been otherwise. It is not “necessary” for it to exist. We are contingent beings. I think. Yet, the Calvinist would claim that we are deterministic beings. So, it seems difficult to support the notion that contingency/necessity and determinism are in any way related. This position needs to be justified.

      2) “…contingency is the opposite of certainty.”

      No, the opposite of certainty is UNcertainty. Or doubt. I *think* what you are trying to say is that contingency opens the door for uncertainty because of the possibility that things could have been otherwise. That, I think, is probably true. But “opening the door” is not to say that it is equivalent.

      Because necessity does not make anything certain, so far as I can see. Despite the fact that nothing could be otherwise, that does not mean that a necessary being would know this.

      The fact remains, however, that we are contingent beings. I do not HAVE to exist. I know of no one who would argue that *everything* is necessary. In fact, every theologian I know would confirm that if there is a necessary being, it is God and God only. But perhaps that is simply betraying my ignorance. Nevertheless, if there is contingency, then there would seem to be uncertainty.

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton, you wrote to John:

      -“Depends on how you define free will. I have no problem with God allowing man to make choices, I just don’t think man has the ability to choose him. And whatever choices man makes, he either allows it for his purpose or restrains it for his purpose.”-

      What you are describing here is a situation where man’s will is sometimes controlled and sometimes free (“allowed”). In other words, you are an Arminian. Hate to break it to you.

      Granted, it is probably a far more restrictive version than any Arminian I know. But, if you allow for free will more than in-name-only (like most other Calvinists), then you are no Calvinist. Calvinist acknowledge “free will” or “human freedom” only because they have to, but then redefine “freedom” to mean “free to do whatever God sovereignly wills”. In other words, they’ve defined “freedom” to be opposite of what the word is supposed to mean.

      I suspect that Calvinists have the same frustration with Arminians and “sovereignty”. It should be noted (on both sides) that there are degrees of freedom and sovereignty. It isn’t as if these concepts are all-or-nothing propositions.

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert

      Re: Pelagius

      From what I have read, I would say that both Augustine and Pelagius needed correction. It seems to me that Pelagius was more influenced by the OT, and Augustine by Paul. Obviously, that is overly simplistic.

      -“There was no conspiracy here, but theological differences, and the desire for orthodoxy, in the West.”-

      “Conspiracy” is a bit inflammatory. But do you not think it a bit coincidental that Pelagius was generally denounced when Augustine represented his teachings, and not himself? Seems problematic, especially when the majority of what we have left is from Augustine.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Greg, no Arminian believes that he acts beyond God. Nor do we advocate that one can act without God–in such a way; even a heathen cannot do that. It may be of some concern as to how one can act with God; if that one does not believe. Still this does nothing against even full-throttle Palegianism. The Arminian promotes the understanding that creation’s natural law has a provision for man. That provision can make, or break. By being born to life in the world man has asserted God’s will–simply by such an introduction. Yet he is responsible for more then the Calvinist, or Lutheran would like to think.

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      [part 1/2]

      I am going to walk through some of the latest responses. Along the way I may be assuming things you accept based on different responses you have made. If I mis-state anything please let me know, as I am not trying to mis-reprent only synthesize and understand. Thanks for this dialogue.


      MikeB: Basically do you accept meticulous sovereignty and determinism or not?

      Kelton: … So yes, I accept sovereignty (not sure what meticulous sovereignty is) and determination.

      meticulous sovereignty = a view of sovereignty where God determines all things, basically theistic determination as opposed to naturalist view of determination (ie) Dawkins, Hitchens.

      Arminians (despite some claims to the contrary) accept God’s sovereignty as well. They just don’t accept a meticulous/determinism view of it. In a nutshell, God does not determine all things that come to pass. However, in the Arminian view of sovereignty God is in control, holds the universe together, allows sin to occur but because He allows man LFW it eliminates God as the cause. God also intervenes at times when LFW choices would affect His plan of redemption (ie) see comments on Abraham/Abemelech the other day.


      MikeB: Because if you do, then how can anything be “apart from what He ordains” if He also ordains all that comes to pass? Does “all that comes to pass” really mean “all”?

      Kelton: Yeah I think so, I don’t think anything happens outside of his will.

      I am going to equate “nothing happens outside of his will” with “He causes all things that come to pass” since you accept determinism. And keeping terms consistent will help us make sure we are clear in what we mean and intend to communicate. Going back to the original two premises I would think that you would agree with this statement since that is the basic definition of determinism:

      #1 God causes (determines/ordains) all that comes to pass

      This is saying more than God allows/permits…

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      [part 2/2]

      And since evil and sin occur yet God determines/causes all things then evil and sin would logically be included in the “all that comes to pass”. If they are not then God does not cause all that comes to pass, He only causes some of the things that come to pass.

      So that logically yields:

      #1 God causes (determines/ordains) all that comes to pass
      #2 therefore God causes (determines/ordains) the sin that occurs

      Now, most don’t like premise #2 and advocate the following:

      #1 God causes (determines/ordains) all that comes to pass
      #2 God does not cause (determines/ordains) the sin that occurs

      I understand that in compatibilism the person that sins (Abraham, Abimelech, Joseph’s brothers) does so because of their desires/will. But because of determinism those desires/will and the sin that results are determined/caused by God.

      Based on this response below you would seem to agree with that idea:


      MikeB: But if God caused (as the primary cause thru ordaining/authoring/determining) the brothers (as the secondary cause of hate,pride) to sell Joseph into slavery to bring about all you say above then He also planned and wanted that event to happen right?

      Response: Yep.

      However, the second presentation of the argument contains a logical contradiction that can seemingly only be removed by denying determinism.

      Am I missing something?

      MikeB

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Greg

      How am I answering back to God? I am attempting to read and rightly divide the Word. To be a good Berean and search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

    • @Wesley: I really dislike people (on the blogs) who are both historically & theologically ignorant, and seek also to judge and put words in other peoples mouths! It seems your ignorance of historical Anglicanism is profound! Again Sir, do your homework before you engage with me at least! I would suggest reading Diarmound MacCulloch’s book and bio: Thomas Cranmer, A Life. As to the Anglican Articles 1615 (Archbishop James Ussher).

    • @JB.. Let me suggest reading Peter Brown’s classic Bio: Augustine of Hippo. See chapter 29: Pelagius And Pelagianism, as chapter 30, Causa Gratiae.

    • Btw JB, I have simply never heard of Augustine being called “simplistic”! 😉 If believing in the Text and authority of the Bible and Holy Scripture is “simplistic”, then surely I am here! In fact, I like to call myself something of a “Biblicist”!

      *I don’t say this too often on the blogs, but I hold both the D. Phil., and the Th.D. The former I did at the end, on Luther’s Ontology of the Cross. And the latter, I did on Roman’s Studies, especially Romans chapter 7. So I am surely “Reformational” and Reformed!

    • These were done or finished in the mid 90’s, I later taught in Israel in the late 90’s. Note too, I am a Gulf War 1 Vet (RMC, Royal Marine Commando, officer..Recon). I share the latter, since it had such a profound effect on me personally and theologically! And aye, I am Historic-Pre-Mill (with the PD…a “Biblical” Zionistl 😉

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg: “Therefore when a man is most conscious of himself he is then also most clearly confronted by the God whose image he bears. I called that “mocking” for dramatic effect. I wouldn’t go to the mat over that point and no part of my arguments here depends on it.”

      Yes, I have always found Calvinists to be a bit dramatic. 😉

      I think the point of Romans 1:18f is that human beings reject the revelation of God that God provides universally to all persons.

      I think from God’s perspective, he desires that the sinner repent. That is why “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” (Rom 10:21 NRS)

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Greg

      [Think I lost my last attempt to submit comment]

      On this we agree –> that we are to worship God who saved us while we were sinners and enemies by grace thru faith in Jesus. Amen!

      Notice that I am not questioning God and calling Him unjust or unfair in how He carries out His will. I am pointing out a logical contradiction in the Calvinist view. Big difference. I am also seeking to better understand this view from those who hold it.

      Now, if there were no other possible and plausible interpretations of Scripture other then what Calvinists offer here then we might be stuck regarding being able to understand these topics based on what is revealed. But there are alternative views that are capable of being supported by Scripture.

      Various comments have hit this pretty well, but God wants us to examine the Scriptures and use reason to understand Him as revealed in His Word and nature. Acts 17 makes that pretty clear. Paul went to the synagogues to reason, and to Mars Hill to reason, and the Bereans searched and compared what Paul taught with what the Scriptures said.

      As to other views on Romans 9, Bob Andersen covered that already …
      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/12/the-irrationality-of-calvinism/comment-page-3/#comment-79008

    • John

      @Greg: Your argument about 2+2 and contingencies is so abstract and philosophical, that its whole basis is questionable, but let’s assume that somewhere in there you have the right idea.

      I still think its flawed for the following reason. The reason that you claim one has to know everything to have certainty about anything is that in this universe everything is interrelated. We are all part of the same space-time. Everything effects everything else, gravitationally and in all sorts of other ways. So perhaps it is a reasonable statement that to know anything for sure, you must know everything. I’m not certain of that, but let’s go with it.

      The trouble is, God lives outside space time. Thus he operates in realms where he is TOTALLY independent of what goes on in our universe. He could, theoretically at least, be 100% sure of stuff within his own realm, whilst leaving open contingencies in ours.

      To get even more specific, I could design a computer chip and a computer that works perfectly, that always adds 2+2=4, and which I prove mathematically will always run software according to the proper rules. There are no contingencies, because I as the designer, figured it all out in my hermetically sealed laboratory, with no contingencies. However, I could then ship this computer out to my users, who will run software on it that I never imagined. Sure, it will for sure run the software correctly, and for sure always add 2+2=4, but the details of what software will be run, and why it will add 2+2 to be 4 may be contingent on others. I am still an uncontingent being within my realm and within my laboratory. But I choose to ship my uncontingent device to some contingent beings to do stuff with.

      Your error is to equate God’s reality with our reality, when actually, there is a hierarchy of reality. In the Warcraft computer game, the correctness of the rules of reality is not dependent on the contingency of how people play the game.

    • John

      @Greg: I’m not sure how that response really is any kind of response.

      Since in this day and age we have simulated realities, we should be able to think fairly clearly about what you are proposing. Simulated realities and games like Warcraft allow contingent beings interact within a framework of simulated laws of physics and rules. If I am playing the game, and I observe that these “laws of physics” and “rules” always work, what does it say about the designer of the game? Does it mean he is contingent or uncontingent? No, it doesn’t say anything about that at all. It might say that he is uncontingent in so far as his relationship to the warcraft universe is concerned – i.e. he created the warcraft universe out of nothing. But it doesn’t say if he is or is not uncontingent in his own universe – maybe he is, or maybe he isn’t. Nor does it say if he will always act uncontingently in his relationship to the warcraft universe. In fact he probably won’t. He’ll observe what goes on in the game, and if things are going awry, he might intervene. But the existence of these contingencies really has no impact of the reality that he is the creator of the game, and the reality that the rules of the game work, they always work, and they are inviolable because I as creator made them so.

      Also, I have to point out that the theology of the old testament especially presents a picture of a God that is contingent with respect to the world. I really think it is unarguable that the OT presents this view and that the Jews, reading the OT could have nothing other than this view, if they were good biblical students. Why did God mislead us so in his Word?

    • John I.

      Re: “You, as yourself a contingent being, CANNOT EVER under any circumstances for the rest of eternity become capable of an illustration that properly portrays a God who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” and “works all things [in it] according to the counsel of his will”. ”

      Incorrect. God made us in his image with the ability to do this very thing. Our portrayals are necessarily limited by not being infinite, but that does not mean that they are inaccurate or seriously misleading. Greg’s theology is so transcendent that he “out-Barths” Barth, and hence is not compatible with God’sown revelation of himself.

      Besides which, he is getting this thread totally off track.

    • John I.

      and what is up with the bizarre headers that I see on my posts when I submit them?

    • John I.

      Does this website hate Google Chrome?

    • John I.

      Testing Firefox headers

    • John

      @Greg: If your response is that you don’t like my realistic illustration, because the situation with God is different, then you are basically admitting that your mind is inadequate to be philosophising about such things. You don’t really have revelation about this theory of God being incapable of contingency, and I think you conceded that the OT seems to teach contingency. So your last hope was really air-tight philosophising. But you can’t do air-tight philosophising when you have to assume that things with God don’t work like anything we can imagine in this world, and you have to philosophise what those rules might be. People can only philosophises from their experience. All the avenues available to you are cut off – direct revelation, and philosophising based on the rules of this world.

      I’m not seeing any “torn veil” as far as the NT revealing that God never acts contingently. I think lots of the NT has a very contingent feel. Just off the top of my head the parable of the wedding feast where he has to go get new people to attend. What is your proof text that nothing is contingent? Isaiah? Nowhere near good enough.

    • John

      John I: I’m seeing the wierdness thing too, on Safari. I think we just have to ignore until someone fixes.

    • John I.

      Re Greg @ #42

      What you are not getting Mike is that there is a logical contradiction in 2+2 equaling 4 on the Arminian view.

      ?
      And what would the contradictory premises or conclusions be? I haven’t read any in what Greg has posted.

      The contingent God of Arminian soteriology is not capable of independent certainty and therefore provides no basis for ANY knowledge whatsoever.

      Again, “?”

      How is it so that the Arminian view describes a God who is not capable of independent certainty? I’ve not seen Greg put forward an actual argument to prove this conclusion of his. The same goes for his bald assertion that the God described by Arminius has no basis for knowledge.

    • Jon Visser

      Calvin was a heretic. His theology was completely against what the early Church fathers taught. Calvinism (especially Baptists) is another form of the Donatist heresy that Augustine fought against. What does Calvinism have in common with church practice before his time? Nothing. What was the point of church? The sacraments. He changed the meaning of them or removed them from what every church father held dearly as part of orthodox Christianity. Why would anyone want to follow an iconoclastic/gnostic heretic like Calvin. His followers destroyed Bibles, churches, musical instruments. Why would anyone argue for Calvinism? It’s like arguing Joseph Smith to Paul.

    • John I.

      re greg @ #1 (301)

      ““Inadequate” is the word I used and they are. Wholly inadequate.”

      Asserting something does not make it true. Provide examples or illustrations, or stop trolling.

    • John I.

      Re Greg’s asserting that he has provided support for his conclusion (@ #2 / 302)

      I’ve been following this thread, and have not read a supporting argument in favour of your conclusion, but it is possible that I missed it. Please provide a reference number to the paragraph that I should read, or a bit of text so that I can conduct a search for it.

    • kelton

      @ John

      John: Conscience or consciousness? Anyway, how do you know if a machine can have one or not, and what is a conscience in your world view except an emotion that effects which things are pleasurable, lowering the utility of certain activities? Just one more subroutine in the machine.

      Response: Because a machine is not self aware nor does a machine have a will.

      John: I can stop you doing stuff as well. Does that prove anything? No.

      Response: Yes it proves men don’t have libertarian free will and God just sits back and allows them to do whatever they desire.

      John: Same thing. They both amount to knowing.

      Response: Not really, it amounts to him “Making known.” Not him knowing. He’s declaring it because he’s in control over it.

      (A) running off to a whole new book is not impressive exegesis.

      Response: Wasn’t doing exegesis, but rather answering your thoughts about God knowing the middle.

      (B) there is no textual or thought link between these passages or concepts.

      Response: Right, but you brought up whether or not God knew the middle, and that verse answers that question.

      (C) eph 1:11 says he has to “work out” everything according to his will. How he achieves that and what his will is is the point of dispute. We say sometimes his will is to allow men free agency. That is his will.

      Response: I don’t know how you figure this when it’s clear that he stops men from their so called free will in order to bring about the desired outcome.

      John:“You have a presupposition that God can’t want that.

      Response: Nope, just reading the verse.

      John: I don’t think it does depend. You have this presupposition, end of story. God can’t want libertarian free will to exist. Any passage that refers to god doing his will is presuppositionally assumed that his will is not to allow libertarian free will. In fact Calvinists are often seen to argue that libertarian will is logically impossible for God to implement.

      Response: No…

    • kelton

      @JP

      JP: What you are describing here is a situation where man’s will is sometimes controlled and sometimes free (“allowed”). In other words, you are an Arminian. Hate to break it to you.

      Response: LOL, that’s funny. No I’m no where near an Arminian. In other words, God sometimes restrains man’s chooses and sometimes he doesn’t.

      JP: Granted, it is probably a far more restrictive version than any Arminian I know. But, if you allow for free will more than in-name-only (like most other Calvinists), then you are no Calvinist. Calvinist acknowledge “free will” or “human freedom” only because they have to, but then redefine “freedom” to mean “free to do whatever God sovereignly wills”. In other words, they’ve defined “freedom” to be opposite of what the word is supposed to mean.

      Response: No I mean their free will under the concept of choosing according to their strongest desire, not Libertarian free will. Like when Jonathan Edwards said “Our choices are determined by what we think is most desirable at any given moment.”

      JP: I suspect that Calvinists have the same frustration with Arminians and “sovereignty”. It should be noted (on both sides) that there are degrees of freedom and sovereignty. It isn’t as if these concepts are all-or-nothing propositions.

      Response; Maybe so, but I don’t think we’re frustrated, call it a hunch.

    • kelton

      @ MikeB

      Mike: meticulous sovereignty = a view of sovereignty where God determines all things, basically theistic determination as opposed to naturalist view of determination (ie) Dawkins, Hitchens.

      Response: Sure, got it.

      Mike: However, in the Arminian view of sovereignty God is in control, holds the universe together, allows sin to occur but because He allows man LFW it eliminates God as the cause. God also intervenes at times when LFW choices would affect His plan of redemption (ie) see comments on Abraham/Abemelech the other day.

      Response: Sure but if God interferes with man’s free will then man doesn’t have free will.

      MikeB:
      #1 God causes (determines/ordains) all that comes to pass
      This is saying more than God allows/permits…

      Response: I think whatever he allows, is apart of what he ordains.

    • John

      Greg: “That’s one of my main weapons. ALL men LIVE as if 2+2 is an utterly unassailable certain fact. Of course they do LOL! IT IS.”

      I’m not sure why the observation that all men live with a certain belief automatically provides fodder for any argument. I’ve just so happened to be reading some Romanian history lately. Because of vampire theories, when weird stuff happened, villages would sometimes dig up the graves and drive stakes through them. I guess all men were living like it was an unassailable fact that there are vampires. I’m sure there is a lot of stuff that men assumed as unassailable fact, that is now known not to be unassailable.

      What is 2+2=4 anyway? I mean, its just some squiggles on paper. Why does 2+2=4? Is it because God made it so? Or is it really because men defined “4” to be that number you get when you add 2 and 2? I can define some squiggle, let’s say “~~” to be the temperature in New York at midday Christmas 2012, and guess what? It will be! Does 2+2=4 in other dimensions? Some scientists reckon that inside subatomic particles there might be 16 dimensions or something. Does 2+2=4 in there? Maybe that rule is so inviolable that it does. I don’t know about such things. Yes, for now, I always assume 2+2=4. I don’t know if its an inviolable truth. That may be my ignorance of mathematics or high philosophy. That’s great, but that proves my point. We’re all ignorant. Your certainty about 2+2 might be more like the vampire killing villagers if we knew it all.

    • kelton

      Mike BL
      And since evil and sin occur yet God determines/causes all things then evil and sin would logically be included in the “all that comes to pass”. If they are not then God does not cause all that comes to pass, He only causes some of the things that come to pass.

      Response: Correct, I just think God uses evil and sin for a greater good.

      Mike B: I understand that in compatibilism the person that sins (Abraham, Abimelech, Joseph’s brothers) does so because of their desires/will. But because of determinism those desires/will and the sin that results are determined/caused by God.

      Response: For a greater good. God uses the sins of men to bring about a greater good. i.e. Joseph and his brothers. They intended evil, but God predestined to use their evil intent to bring about a good.

      Mike B:However, the second presentation of the argument contains a logical contradiction that can seemingly only be removed by denying determinism.
      Am I missing something?

      Response: Maybe, I’m not seeing it. The idea is that God predestines all events. Man intends one thing to happen which is not God’s will. Yet God intends on another thing to happen and uses man’s sin to bring about what he wants to happen for a greater good.

      So like the cross, God predestined Christ would die on the cross. The Jews intended for Christ to die because they hated him. God intended for Christ to die for our salvation. God used their intent (which was not intended on doing God’s will) to bring about his goal which he predestined before hand. Read Acts 4:26-28

      26:for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

      They did not want to do God’s will, their intent was to kill him but God used their intent to murder him to bring about salvation. Make sense?

    • John

      @Kelton: “Response: Because a machine is not self aware nor does a machine have a will.”

      Prove it. First you’ll have to clearly define those terms, then define a test for it.

      “Yes it proves men don’t have libertarian free will and God just sits back and allows them to do whatever they desire.”

      That I could stop you doing something is proof you don’t have libertarian will? Really. What exactly would be the contrary proof if libertarian free will were true? If you’re making this a scientific thing, I want pass and failure conditions.

      “Response: Not really, it amounts to him “Making known.” Not him knowing. He’s declaring it because he’s in control over it.”

      It might be, but that goes beyond what the text says. The text speaks only of knowledge.

      “Response: I don’t know how you figure this when it’s clear that he stops men from their so called free will in order to bring about the desired outcome.”

      (A) If he does, Eph 1:11 doesn’t say anything about it.

      (B) Even if God does override free will sometimes, that doesn’t prove free will doesn’t exist. In fact, you’ve got to presuppose some kind of free will existing before God would be bothered overriding it. You and I might disagree on the nature of that will, but the fact it is overridden doesn’t tell us what it is.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      JB Chappell, man has a will and if he dies not exercising it in God; he falls to Satanic manipulation of that will. He cannot be a spiritual force unto himself. If man exercises without God he is 1. depraved as a heathen, yet can reason goodness at least as carnal as possible, or in a way as only God can do, even though that individual may nor profess Christ. 2. He is dead spiritually…and on his way perhaps to a physical death that is a consequence of such self-destruction. As for mere Natural Law; man is alive and as autonomous as far as he knows in a matter of the flesh.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      – Hypothetical conversation –

      Greg: “God said you need to be certain about everything.”

      JB: “Did God really say that?”

      Greg: “Yes, He commanded you in 2 Greggalonians. How dare you question God. You have now sinned.”

      JB: Eh?

      That was the conversation that played out in my head after your response. I’m assuming that’s not what you had in mind, so perhaps you could elaborate.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Pardon, i meant: ‘if he does not exercise it in God’… I am saying that such a thing is impossible. One way or the other; and that Pelagius, nor Arminius ever made the argument against God’s will.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg OK. Thanks for the clarification. Here is how that conversation should have gone down.

      God says (to JB): “Don’t eat from that tree. I get to make that decision and you don’t”

      […later on…]

      Serpent says: Did God really say that?
      JB Chappell says: Good question, best to be sure that others aren’t speaking for God. But, yes, I can attest to you that He did, He spoke directly to me.
      Serpent says: But how can you be sure? Perhaps your brains are in a vat, and some psycho just wants you to think that.
      JB: YOUR brain is in a vat.

      Point is, if what you’re trying to point out is that if by asking “Did God really say that?” and you already know what the answer is (as the serpent ostensibly did), then OK, it’s sin because you’re attempting to deceive. If, on the other hand, you are asking because you honestly aren’t sure (because you weren’t privy to the conversation), then it’s a perfectly reasonable question. And, in fact, I’d say that one is obligated to ask it. Otherwise, this may happen:

      Pelagius: You know, JB, God says you have the ability to be a good person.

      JB: OK, sounds good!

      Augustine: You fool!!!

    • JB Chappell

      @S. Wesley McGranor

      Forgive me, but I’m still not sure what you’re trying to say.

      -“man has a will and if he does not exercise it in God; he falls to Satanic manipulation of that will.”-

      What do you mean by “exercise it in God”?

      -“He cannot be a spiritual force unto himself.”-

      Again, not sure what this means.

      -“As for mere Natural Law; man is alive and as autonomous as far as he knows in a matter of the flesh.”-

      Not sure what Natural Law has to do with anything…?

      -“…and that Pelagius, nor Arminius ever made the argument against God’s will.”-

      What do you mean by “never made the argument”? Do you mean that they never *successfully* made the argument, or that they never even tried?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      I’m saying what really matters is that Adam and Eve already knew the answer.

      Well, I’d disagree about the “certain” part, but nevertheless I’d agree that they *knew* what God had told them, and that God had told it to them. And we agree that (I assume) that they had every reason to trust God, and no (good) reason to trust the serpent.

      The point is that our first parents were lead directly into the jaws of death by refusing to stand on the certainty that God had already given them.

      I think we’d agree that the solution to this problem is not to pretend we’re certain about what we think God tells us. (see: Harold Camping, Westboro Baptist, etc.).

      Men will deny that certainty rather than bow to the all sovereign God whom that certainty reveals.

      I think you put too much stock into certainty, especially given that you cannot demonstrate that it’s possible, much less that even you have it! Men (such as myself) do not deny certainty because they do not want to “bow”, they deny certainty because it seems like it doesn’t exist, that there isn’t anything we cannot doubt – EVEN IF that doubt is extremely remote. But I have emphasized repeatedly: that something CAN be doubted, does not mean that such a doubt is plausible. In other words, just because something is uncertain, does not make it unreasonable. Bowing before a sovereign God is perfectly reasonable.

      All the while depending on it even for their denial. Even you. Yes you are. I’m not trying to make you angry…

      I’m not mad, I’m… disappointed. I am less than underwhelmed at the quality of your argumentation thus far. That is not meant to be a slap in the face, as I will cut you some slack in that I realize you’ve been trying to respond to numerous people, along different lines. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that so far the only somewhat-developed argumentation you’ve provided for God providing us certainty *initially* was from Romans 1. The rest is assertions.

    • John I.

      RE Greg @ #316 “Ya gotta think with me here bud.”

      The discussion would be more pleasant without the condescension, and also without the faux low-brow familiarity. Since convergence in speech characteristics usually occurs when people engage in conversation, for reasons of social cohesion, the pointedly different style (low brow, chummy, overly familiar, condescending) indicates rudeness and a desire to hold oneself apart from, and above, the other conversation partners.

      I’ve read Greg’s posts on pages 5 and 6 of this thread, and (to paraphrase Inigo Montoya) “I do not think the words mean what he thinks they mean.” Greg is stiff necked and rebellious himself in his belief that he does have absolute certainty and that he has so correctly understood God.

      Greg gives far too much weight to the natural revelation entailed in mathematical formulae such as “2 + 2 = 4”, and too little to God’s own revelation.

      Furthermore, his position (the significance of rationality and logic to the truth of Calvinism) is directly contrary to CMP’s, who avers that Calvinism is more true because it is more irrational. Greg’s obviously not too concerned about that, but we now have a thread in which two Calvinists take opposing positions: Calvinism is more true because it is more irrational, and Calvinism (at least of the Van Tillian presuppositional sort) is more true because it is more rational. Rather like matter and antimatter, though unfortunately without the same result.

      So, CMP is wrong because he is to uncertain about the truth of the free will / sovereignty issue (though he prefers Calvinism because it is more irrational), and all Arminians (or at least Chappell) are also wrong because they make room for contingency (of the wrong sort) and uncertainty (which is always wrong).

      I feel like I’m in a time warp and reliving the Van Till / Clark controversy. Interestingly, Herman Hoeksema wrote a

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      Your argument/assertions, hinges around the fact that people LIVE like they are certain about things. You think that actions are betraying people’s words. First of all, this is so misleading, because so many people would, in fact, claim that we can know things for certain – even unbelievers. So, it is patently not the case that people cry “foul” over certainty because they don’t want to submit to God.

      Regardless, the fact that people do so pragmatically hardly entails that this is so ontologically. People live like the sun will come up tomorrow. People live like bad things won’t happen to them. That they live as such does not entail a certain reality, does it?

      To be honest, when I offered you the “nothing can be known for certain”, I thought for sure you’d come back with “that’s a self-defeating claim”. Because of course, it seems to be a claim to certainty. And, to qualify it with “but I don’t know that for certain”, means that there is still a possibility for certain-hood that seemed to be denied initially. In any case, I would have claimed that arguing for self-defeating assertions is using “human logic”, which you’ve already stated is tautologous and cannot be considered “knowledge”. So, by your standards anyway, it seems pointless to even argue.

      The futility of reason is, I guess, why you turn to “faith”, but that isn’t helpful. Simply saying that *you* feel certain because you have faith does nothing to provide the rest of us with it. And we all claim to have faith as well, so why wouldn’t we have received this certainty as well…? Guess we’re not elect.

      Even arguing from scripture is problematic because, quite obviously, it relies on our interpretation. Which is quite fallible (or do you disagree?). I think you are in a pickle, sir. Your entire argument rests on a subjective claim to certainty. That you have developed a whole philosophical system around your own subjective experience is probably why no one else seems to understand you.

    • JB Chappell

      @John I.

      Calvinism is more true because it is more irrational, and Calvinism (at least of the Van Tillian presuppositional sort) is more true because it is more rational.

      I don’t think this is a fair assessment of what CMP was saying. He was very clear that he did not think revelation leads to any *formal* irrationality (outright logical contradictions). He would insist, apparently, that any appearances to the contrary could be worked out. And, I think he is right, insofar as people then to start re-defining terms to mean something other than what they initially did.

      So, I don’t think CMP would say that Calvinism is more correct because it is more irrational, I think he would say that it is more correct because it is better supported by scripture, and any tensions left over simply have to be embraced or appreciated as “mystery”.

      It is not clear to me that, since he thinks that revelation trumps reason, if scripture DID lead to a formal logical contradiction (which I would contend creation ex nihilo is), whether or not he still would insist that we should follow scripture, or if he would use that contradiction to say “well, we got something wrong, apparently”.

      That God can be “trans-rational” is, I think, beyond dispute. It’s a possibility. But it’s clear to me that this aspect of God is only used as a last-ditch excuse to hold to orthodoxy. And it is also clear to me that this could then be used to excuse all manner of other things. For instance, what kind of evil can be excused when we say “God is trans-good.” If, on the other hand, rationality is part of God’s nature, there actually is an obligation to take reason as far it can take us.

      Why that obligation would exist if God is “trans-rational” is unclear to me.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Despite the fact all this effort has gone into these posts seemingly for naught, I’m not sorry I came here and participated.”-

      For what’s worth, neither am I. Like I said before, I am genuinely interested in what you have to say. Your perspective is… unique. 😉

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“I’ll start with pragmatic certainty. That is, the objectively inescapable experience of 2+2 equaling 4 along with all of the sprawling vaaast applications of it on every level of our lives.”-

      If by “pragmatic certainty” you mean “is taken for granted in practice”, then I am completely willing to grant that there is pragmatic certainty about a great many things. This practice does not necessarily conform to reality (ontological status), however. If that’s not what you mean, then I do not know what you mean.

      -“If whatever it is about the universe that makes 2+2=4 were to cease right now I wouldn’t be able to finish this sentence.”-

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s no way to demonstrate this.

      -“There could also be no gravity holding me to this seat…”-

      Gravity cannot exist if 2+2=5? Gravity is a force. It’s strength can be measure in numbers, but why believe that if numbers or relationships between numbers changed, that the actual strength of the force would change?

      -“That’s not even mentioning the biochemistry that my physical being operates under.”-

      You are a contingent being. You could exist otherwise. How do you know you couldn’t exist under a different set of rules? Or no rules?

      -“All of this lives or dies together with 2+2=4.”-

      Greg, this has been the crux of your argument, and so far it is a monumental failure. The fact that “math works” is a wonderful testament to the *comprehensibility* of our universe, perhaps even the hallmark of design. But what we have to ask ourselves is this arithmetic a description and reflection of our reality, or it is a necessary condition of it? You are *assuming* it is the latter, without giving evidence that you’ve considered the former.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -”The denial of what I just said borders on insanity and not one person who has or ever will live can fire so much as one synapse in intelligibility if it weren’t true.”-

      Well, my daughters were pretty young, and they didn’t understand that 2+2=4. In fact, even when they were taught it, they weren’t certain of it. Yet, the universe continued to exist. What should be obvious from this that there is a difference between how things are, and how we understand them. It may be as you say: perhaps the world would unravel if 2+2=5. That doesn’t mean I’m certain that 2+2=4. How do I know the world really hasn’t unravelled?

      -”Why are we enslaved to this pragmatic certainty?”-

      Things are NOT enslaved to pragmatic certainty. One can live your life in relative uncertainty, yet adhere to inductively-perceived patterns. I cannot live my life as if it will end today. I simply cannot. At some point, I will probably betray that idea and do something as if it had some effect on tomorrow. That does not mean that tomorrow is guaranteed to come.

      -”Seeing that we ARE contingent beings and that contingency is by definition uncertain….”-

      Contingency is not “by definition” uncertain. Let’s not confuse common parlance with philosophical terms. There are philosophers who would argue contingent facts can be known with certainty. Contingency, however, is the state of depending on something else.

      -”… then we CANNOT ourselves be the source of this pragmatic certainty.”-

      Wrong. We can be the source of pragmatic certainty, just as I can be the source of many other forms of pragmatism. A contingent being, however, is NOT going to be the ultimate source of anything.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -”Don’t you see that the source of this pragmatic certainty IS our God who alone is uncontingent and independent?”-

      No, i don’t. As I said before, the concepts are unrelated. God can be independent and completely uncertain. It depends on His properties. God could be necessary and completely ignorant. It is only when we add the property of “omniscience” to God that suddenly He is certain about everything. But are we certain that He is omniscient, and (perhaps more important) what that actually means? I’m “sure” you are Greg, but that’s about it… 😉

      -”The serpent lured him into autonomous independence by using the very uncertainty that you are here trying to convince me is the best we can hope for.”-

      The problem with this line of reasoning is that you are ignoring that the serpent was RIGHT. That the serpent had bad intentions is, of course, bad for Adam & Eve and the rest of us. One can use the truth to accomplish certain ends. In any case, the Bible says nothing about Adam and Eve being uncertain or not. You are reading into the text.

      -”If God makes so much as one decision ultimately dependent upon what He observes external to His own will then He is contingent too and we have no grounds for believing ANYTHING to certain.”-

      That doesn’t follow. The nature of a thing doesn’t seem to change in such a way. You can’t go from “impossible not to exist” to “depending on something else to exist”. This is a logical contradiction. If a being does not have a will, then anything it does is out of the necessity of its nature, and so anything else that follows also necessarily occurs. A being can be necessary and, if it has a (free) will, make contingent decisions. But this contingency requires *other* things, which requires God to create. What these decisions are based on afterwards simply doesn’t matter, it doesn’t magically change the essence of God. It just makes the Calvinist uncomfortable.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -”By “certainty” I do not mean being fully persuaded that this or that particular historical event can be brought to pass in response to my believing prayer.”-

      So… are you UNCERTAIN that what you pray for will happen…? Because, according to you, that will unravel all of existence….

      -”That sort of certainty cannot be subsumed under either pragmatic or objective certainty as I have thus far explained.”-

      Sorry, but this is awfully convenient. So many different kinds of certainty, so little time…

    • John

      @Greg: are the basic laws of logic and things like 2+2=4 so basic and profound that even God is bound by them? Could it be that in heaven 2 angels come through the left door and 2 through the right door, resulting in 5 angels?

      I honestly don’t know the answer. But if you say God is so bound, then you can’t really say that 2+2=4 by God’s command, which I think is your point. It is 4 because it cant be other, On the other hand if God is not so bound, then you can’t be sure if there are times and places in this universe where God has made 2+2=5. Either way I think your thesis fails.

    • John I.

      Greg, in one of your comments I think you mistook John’s comment for mine (John I.). Just an FYI to you and other readers that “John” and “John I.” are not the same person.

    • John

      “Just an FYI to you and other readers that “John” and “John I.” are not the same person.”

      That assumes that for sure 1+1=2, and we haven’t quite established that yet! 🙂

    • Bob Anderson

      John: “That assumes that for sure 1+1=2, and we haven’t quite established that yet!”

      I always assumed 1 + 1 = 10. (binary)

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton


      MikeB:
      #1 God causes (determines/ordains) all that comes to pass
      This is saying more than God allows/permits…

      Kelton: I think whatever he allows, is apart of what he ordains.

      How can something be apart from what is ordained if everything is ordained? Or did you mean “a part of” (as in inclusive)?

      Also are you purposely avoiding the word “cause”? Do you equate ordain with cause? If not can you define ordain from a deterministic view point for me?


      MikeB: And since evil and sin occur yet God determines/causes all things then evil and sin would logically be included in the “all that comes to pass”. If they are not then God does not cause all that comes to pass, He only causes some of the things that come to pass.

      Kelton: Correct, I just think God uses evil and sin for a greater good.

      Kelton: For a greater good. God uses the sins of men to bring about a greater good. i.e. Joseph and his brothers. They intended evil, but God predestined to use their evil intent to bring about a good.

      Whether God uses evil and sin for good is not in debate. Whether God causes it is.

      Do you equate predestine with cause? If not can you define predestine from a deterministic view point for me?


      Kelton: Maybe, I’m not seeing it. The idea is that God predestines all events. Man intends one thing to happen which is not God’s will. Yet God intends on another thing to happen and uses man’s sin to bring about what he wants to happen for a greater good.

      The fact that God’s intent/purpose and man’s intent/purpose for evil and sin are not the same is not in debate. Whether God causes it is.

      I think the problem is we keep using words like ordain and predestine without defining them within a deterministic context.

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton


      Mike: However, in the Arminian view of sovereignty God is in control, holds the universe together, allows sin to occur but because He allows man LFW it eliminates God as the cause. God also intervenes at times when LFW choices would affect His plan of redemption (ie) see comments on Abraham/Abemelech the other day.

      Kelton: Sure but if God interferes with man’s free will then man doesn’t have free will.

      Depends on what you mean by interfere.

      In the cases we have examined I don’t see God interfering with man’s LFW. I see God affecting the outcomes and consequences of the choices that man made through LFW. Big Difference.

      Abimelech chose to take Sarah into his harem as a LFW choice.
      God visited him in a dream and gave him a choice. No change was made to his will.
      Abimelech just had another LFW choice to make.

      However, even if by “interfere” you mean override the will/desire that a person has replacing it with a new will/desire, that does not mean that if God were to do this in isolated cases that LFW does not exist at all. It might means it did not exist in that scenario/circumstance. Why would the suspension of LFW in an isolated case prove the non-existance of LFW?

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      I always assumed 1 + 1 = 10. (binary)

      LOL. Proving in the end that definitions really do matter.

    • I am always quite amazed when the subject of Calvin and “Calvinism” come up, just how ignorant people are about both! Not to mention just the stupid statements people make, especially towards John Calvin! Would that people would simply read the latest and better bio’s on Calvin, like Bruce Gordon’s “impressive” book & bio: ‘Calvin’, (Yale University Press, 2009…398 pages).

      And yes, I have it, and have read it!…Grand Book!

      Get to it Jon Visser!

    • Btw, 2 and 2 is 4. We call it Math! 😉

    • @Greg: First, my father RIP, was a scientist and physicist (moderate Irish Roman Catholic and WW II Vet. RAF fighter-pilot..spitfire), so he had a good and certain effect on me. But, I also had a greatgram, who was a born-again Christian (PB or Plymouth Brethren), and she no doubt had a greater effect on my interior life and faith! Yes between the two, I had an intellectual bent. But thank God He pressed that to HIS place of the gift of faith in a Sovereign God In Christ!

      As to Creation, I am NOT a “theist evolutionist”! But tend to the Old Earth Creation, but I am somewhat open to the Young Earth, for we just don’t know, fully? The Bible does not give the age of the earth! Note, we must always respect biblical “genre”!

      Btw, I love Van Til, and his student John Frame! And I am an Anglican Reformed, and would be closer to a neo-Calvinism, which is where I would see a John Calvin! 🙂

      And note too btw, I am an “eclectic” and even somewhat an eccentric Irishman, and something Anglo-Irish (my education theological). 😉

    • Note too, I am I think, a young 63! 😉 Still have me hair, about 155lbs at 5’11, and always a bootneck (RMC, Royal Marine!) Aye, pride was part of my father’s gift and person, so I was taught to push it… on just about every level! I am my Father’s Son! 😉

    • @Greg: Note too, I am not really a card-carrying Reformed in every context, as I am most certainly an Historic Pre-Mill, Post-trib, and one that sees much of the PD (Progressive Dispensationalism). And I am even something of a “Biblical” Zionist.

    • @Greg: Nobody can hurt my feelings, and thank God being a pastor-teacher is not about that anyway. 😉 Yes, I can understand your feelings or position about evolution, I too hold to a historical Adam & Eve! However, I can see a “theological framework” in Genesis chapters 1-3. But certainly Creation itself must be a reality, even if we cannot understand all of the mystery, (Heb. 11:3).

      John Frame was of course one of Van Til’s students, so Frame certainly knows Van Til. But he does take Van Til to places of his own. Not a big problem for me, as no one theolog or teacher is infallible, not even Calvin, nor his teacher Augustine! I am not a fan of the in-house overt Reformed debates, I mean we must have debate, but it should always be as within the Reformed family, etc. For example, I like much of the Federal Vision, or FV, but I can still be critical. Heck I am an Anglican Reformed, we have a long history.. even there, as being somewhat in-flux. 😉 Btw, I also like Gordon Clark, who tends to be on the other end here. Again, there is no infallibility here, so we should respect the Reformed dialogue! Note, too, that Clark was Historic Pre-Mill.

      And just more fuel for you, but sadly Alister McGrath is also neo-evolutionist. Of course he was an atheist before coming to Christ, and too he was/is a scientist himself.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      We are Arminians cannot undermine God; nor is it our way. However, the Calvinist undermines himself and God, by theorizing his faith to forsaking who he is as a man, and who God is as creator. We have it correct–in the extreme.

      Lutherans like to take a middle way officially; but against the reality of man; that still supports even full-throttle Pelagianism.

      For all the Augustinian glory is not worth wasting the four hundred years before him.

    • I was right on about you, just ad-hoc and even ad hom! Take it down the road! No dialogue in you, not to mention any proper historical theology! Good Lord deliver us.. from “your way”!

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg: “I’m workin on a couple things for these guys and an eventual answer for Bob on Romans 9. I have like ten other things going on so it may take a little time.”

      Looking forward to it. There is no short discussion on that, but you must frame your analysis with respect to Paul’s conclusions, particularly in Romans 11.

    • Bob Anderson

      btw – This forum is not a sufficient place for an analysis of Romans 9. You might want to consider email or another site.

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert

      I did not mean to refer to St. Augustine’s (or even Pelagius’) theology as “overly simplistic”, only my summaries! But thank you for the reference.

    • kelton

      @Mike B

      MikeB: How can something be apart from what is ordained if everything is ordained? Or did you mean “a part of” (as in inclusive)?

      Response: Because I think a lot of what he does is restrain evil and when he doesn’t restrain it he is allowing it to happen but when he wants and to what degree he wants.

      Mike B:Also are you purposely avoiding the word “cause”? Do you equate ordain with cause? If not can you define ordain from a deterministic view point for me?

      Response: I don’t think I am. Just not the first word I would use in describing how God operates I guess.

      Mike B:Whether God uses evil and sin for good is not in debate. Whether God causes it is.
      Do you equate predestine with cause? If not can you define predestine from a deterministic view point for me?

      Response: Predestination is simply God’s plan for humans beings and whatever comes to pass in time and space, decreed by him in eternity. So sometimes he restrains evil sometimes he allows it, sometimes he hardens peoples hearts sometimes he softens it.

      MikeB: The fact that God’s intent/purpose and man’s intent/purpose for evil and sin are not the same is not in debate. Whether God causes it is.
      I think the problem is we keep using words like ordain and predestine without defining them within a deterministic context.

      Response: Well, no God doesn’t cause people to sin. But rather he uses their sin to bring about a greater good.

    • kelton

      @Mike B

      Mike B: Depends on what you mean by interfere.
      In the cases we have examined I don’t see God interfering with man’s LFW. I see God affecting the outcomes and consequences of the choices that man made through LFW. Big Difference.

      Response: Mike, God says he stopped him from sinning. Interfere means stopped. Wouldn’t allow it. He couldn’t if he wanted too.

      Mike B: Abimelech chose to take Sarah into his harem as a LFW choice.
      God visited him in a dream and gave him a choice. No change was made to his will.

      Response: Mike, where does it say God gave him a choice? It says, “behold you are a dead man because you’ve taken a married woman.” That’s a threat. God kept him from sinning against him, Abimelech couldn’t have done otherwise.

      Mike B: Abimelech just had another LFW choice to make.
      However, even if by “interfere” you mean override the will/desire that a person has replacing it with a new will/desire, that does not mean that if God were to do this in isolated cases that LFW does not exist at all. It might means it did not exist in that scenario/circumstance. Why would the suspension of LFW in an isolated case prove the non-existance of LFW?

      Response: Because in LFW, God is suppose to be sitting back and just watching because he loves us so much he doesn’t want to interfere with man’s choices. And of course this isn’t just an isolated incidence.

      Proverbs 21:1
      The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

      As a matter of fact, what most people don’t realize is that when you pray that God changes someone’s heart (i.e. make them a believer) You’re praying that God interferes with their so called Free will.

    • Bob Anderson

      Greg: “It is the pinnacle of arrogance to demand that the things of God fit between my ears before they can be true.”

      Then how do you know that what you are saying is true?

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      The only place where I see this discussion being of practical interest is in relation to evangelism. What difference does holding to an Arminian, Calvinist, or Lutheran understanding of this issue make in how one approaches obeying Christ’s command to “Preach the Gospel to all the creation” and His statement that “you will be My witnesses…to the end of the earth”? Does it make any difference whatsoever, or does each system bring with it differing levels of accountability for preaching the Gospel?

      I know that my opening sentence will bring some push-back, but I say it because, beyond the subjective comfort that any of these systems brings to your living this life, I cannot see where the level of God’s involvement in our decision-making process is as critical as it is in what appears to be the most significant decision one will make in life. Whether one believes in “decision evangelism” or not, we all agree that no one joins a church by osmosis, everyone who is in any church that any of us belongs to, came to be there because someone invited them to “come.”
      Of these three systems, which tends to lend itself to more aggressive outreach, and which to more passive outreach?

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Reverend, you self-defeated institution cannot stand.

    • In reality true Evangelicalism is not a church per se, but a movement! But surely historic Evangelicalism is classically Reformational! And thus here is too the Reformed Theology, along with of course Lutheranism, is again historical. We can see this with both Reformed and Lutheran Creeds. The church of the Reformers and the Reformation is always “historical”, theological and confessional! Btw, did the Formula of Concord change Luther’s doctrine of Predestination? Now that’s a debate!

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      Mike B:Also are you purposely avoiding the word “cause”? Do you equate ordain with cause? If not can you define ordain from a deterministic view point for me?

      Response: I don’t think I am. Just not the first word I would use in describing how God operates I guess.

      Response: Predestination is simply God’s plan for humans beings and whatever comes to pass in time and space, decreed by him in eternity. So sometimes he restrains evil sometimes he allows it, sometimes he hardens peoples hearts sometimes he softens it.

      Determinism is a view of the world that is based on “cause” and the idea that all that happens could not happen any other way.

      A theistic determinist (aka Calvinist) starts with God as the prime mover who both established a plan/decree of what must come to pass and then is the first cause for all that comes to pass. You seem to want to distance yourself from this view in your responses.

      If it was not for the determinism, there would be no need for the tension described in the OP. The problem is that the logical conclusion is that if determinism is true and God is the prime mover of determinism (sovereign) then how could He not be the cause of sin.

      Response: Well, no God doesn’t cause people to sin. But rather he uses their sin to bring about a greater good.

      That is an excellent description of Arminianism and LFW.

      MikeB

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      Response: Mike, God says he stopped him from sinning. Interfere means stopped. Wouldn’t allow it. He couldn’t if he wanted too.

      There may be times where God does do this, however the text does not require your interpretation where the method by which God stopped Abimilech from sinning was by changing his will or desire. The threat/warning gave new information to the king and required him to make another choice. The text allows for an interpretation where Abimilech could have chosen to keep Sarah in his harem. The result would have been something like a fatal heart attack on the way to the bed chamber.

      Response: Because in LFW, God is suppose to be sitting back and just watching because he loves us so much he doesn’t want to interfere with man’s choices. And of course this isn’t just an isolated incidence.

      Actually, if you really wanted to look at the world that way it could better describe the Calvinist view. God established a plan before the foundation of the world and all that must come to pass. He started off the causal chain reaction than “sat back and watched” it unfold.

      In the Arminian view, God interacts with man as he makes LFW choices. Sometimes He allows them to reap what they sow other times He intervenes. Sometimes He restrains evil sometimes He allows it, sometimes He hardens hearts sometimes He softens them.

      Kelton: As a matter of fact, what most people don’t realize is that when you pray that God changes someone’s heart (i.e. make them a believer) You’re praying that God interferes with their so called Free will.

      That is why I try to pray that God would send His Spirit to illuminate their understanding of spiritual things and convict them of sin (theirs), righteousness (something they don’t have but need), and the coming judgment (John 16) so that they will respond to His offer of salvation by faith.

      MikeB

    • kelton

      Mike B:

      Mike B:A theistic determinist (aka Calvinist) starts with God as the prime mover who both established a plan/decree of what must come to pass and then is the first cause for all that comes to pass. You seem to want to distance yourself from this view in your responses.

      Response: No I agree with that. I thought you were asking me if I thought God caused sin in the sense that God is actually causing individuals to sin. that is why I went on to explain about God restraining man’s evil.

      MikeB:If it was not for the determinism, there would be no need for the tension described in the OP. The problem is that the logical conclusion is that if determinism is true and God is the prime mover of determinism (sovereign) then how could He not be the cause of sin.

      Response: I think he predestined the fall, sure.

      Mike B:That is an excellent description of Arminianism and LFW.

      Response: no, because I think God also restrains man’s evil and often interferes with their so called free will.
      MikeB

    • @Wesley: AS my post about Evangelicalism, here the Reformational and Reformed churches stand! I am an Evangelical Anglican priest/presbyter, and semi-retired. But if one reads the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, as the Anglican Irish Articles 1615, one can see that historic and classic Anglicanism is with the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and the Book of Common Prayer, as the legacy and history of the Elizabethan Settlement.

      Yes, sadly today modernism, postmodernism and just apostasy are what we see, epecially in the CoE, as the American ECUSA, etc. But, GOD does have some faithful Anglican Christians, thanks be to God!

      Btw, and just what is your “ecclesiastical” history? as YOU re-approach mine!

    • MikeB (@g1antfan)

      @Kelton

      Kelton: Well, no God doesn’t cause people to sin. But rather he uses their sin to bring about a greater good.

      Mike B:That is an excellent description of Arminianism and LFW.

      Response: no, because I think God also restrains man’s evil and often interferes with their so called free will

      Me too (though have a different view of interfere). 😉

    • John

      @kelton “Response: Because in LFW, God is suppose to be sitting back and just watching because he loves us so much he doesn’t want to interfere with man’s choices. And of course this isn’t just an isolated incidence.”

      And in Calvinism, God already ordained men’s choices, so why the need to have a second punt at influencing the outcome?

      As far as I see, men by default think they have free will. Things in scripture that seem to say God overrules that sometimes would not have been interpreted by their Jewish readers to say that God determines it all the time. The very fact that God seems to do something to stick his nose in sometimes, actually gives the opposite impression, namely that when is is not interfering our free will is effective. The rules of good exegesis, namely interpreting like the original readers, would seem to be on our side.

      “Response: no, because I think God also restrains man’s evil and often interferes with their so called free will.”

      But, in Calvinism, God constructs an evil Robot army, programs them with software whereby he knows exactly what they will do and when they will do it. Then he lets them loose and occasionally overrides one to lessen the damage. How is it different to say to the Robot army “go kill”, than to program the software of the robot army, predicting where and when they will go kill, them letting them go and say “do whatever you want, totally your choice”, knowing full well the choice is exactly determined my your software, and what will happen? It’s a real struggle to differentiate those scenarios, and any court would pass the same sentence on both methods.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg, I could be wrong, but it sounds like you’re getting wore out, bro

      -“God has rendered certain and unchangeable from the foundation of the world whatsoever comes to pass.”-

      Unsupported assertion. And unscriptural.

      -“That includes Adam’s sin and the Connecticut school shooting.”-

      Then why believe God is good?

      -“He has done this by divine mechanisms accessible and understandable only to himself while being neither the tempter to nor the author of sin.”-

      Translation: “It’s magic. I realize none of this makes sense, but I will call you a postmodern liberal if you don’t believe it.”

      -“I have no idea how that works and very honestly don’t care anymore.”-

      Translation: “Trying to reconcile the irrationality of my beliefs makes my brain hurt, but I will still insist I’m right and everyone else is wrong.”

      -“I have believed and been arguing this for so long it doesn’t even cause me tension at this point.”-

      Translation: “I’ve made peace with any cognitive dissonance I may have had, because I’ve stopped thinking about how I might be wrong, and keep focusing on how I’m right!”

      -“It just… is.”-

      Tautology. Which, according to Greg, is not “knowledge”.

      -“It is the pinnacle of arrogance to demand that the things of God fit between my ears before they can be true.”-

      Indeed it is. Of course, that isn’t what people claim. What they claim is that we can’t *understand it to be true*, unless it makes sense. ANd if you cannot understand it to be true, it is difficult – if not impossible – to justify such a claim. But I don’t know anyone who would deny outright the possibility that God is “transrational”. But I don’t think many of those who would hold to such a claim appreciate the implications.

      -“My God ALWAYS wins.”-

      Controlling the outcome of a contest from the beginning isn’t “winning”.

    • JB Chappell

      -“If there were ever to be even one soul in hell whom He really wanted in heaven then his is the most abysmal loser of all time.”-

      Depends on what the name of the game is, isn’t it? If the purpose of the game is to allow entry into Heaven for those who choose it, then how has God lost?

      To Bob, you replied:

      -“In short the answer is trust.”-

      Trust? Trust isn’t something that is needed when one has certainty! If you trust, you are not certain. Which is it? Or do you also not care about contradicting yourself?

      -“The written word of almighty God declares that men are accountable and that God has already predetermined their fate.”-

      This “written word” says a lot of things, that are then interpreted to mean other things.

      -“I simply trust that that’s true and leave His secret counsel to Him.”-

      Translation: “I trust my interpretation is true, ignore any cognitive dissonance, insist on being right, and denounce any who disagree as the tool of Satan.”

      -“I should have been struck dead and cast forthwith into the hottest part of the lake of fire for crimes I committed right in His face AFTER I knew better.”-

      Why? God would have already brought events about that would have made what you did impossible to avoid. Any “choice” you made would have been the direct result of factors controlled by God, not you.

      -“You won’t find me wagging my finger at Him demanding He explain Himself to me.”-

      This is perhaps the most pernicious caricature occurring, and symptomatic of your arrogance (which I do believe is unintentional). No one here is demanding answers from God. People are *asking* for answers from YOU. It is truly enlightening that you would conflate the two.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      I realize the above two posts are quite snarky, and so I want to clarify that the intent is not to be a jerk. Rather, I am hoping to make it more clear how you are actually coming across to others. While I realize that you keep insisting that you don’t mean to be arrogant, you have admitted that you simply won’t consider others’ point of view. You have stated you would attempt to raise the level of argumentation, yet you do less argumentation and more insisting. And while you offer bad arguments, contradict yourself, and admit you could care less if you don’t make sense, or what others think, you declare that others who attempt to work these things out are the tools of the Devil. You don’t answer to me, of course, but I would re-assess your policy of not examining your own beliefs and perhaps consider more carefully what scripture has to say on judging.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Then God doesn’t really want everybody saved does He?”-

      This is more of a problem for Calvinism than it is for Arminianism or Molinism. God can desire for all to be saved, while still leaving the decision up to them. Just as their is a distinction for Calvinism on different kinds of God’s “will”, so there is for other ideologies.

      But it is more problematic for Calvinism to hold that God wants everyone to be saved, yet God controls every aspect of existence, and somehow doesn’t end up with what He wants. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like “winning”.

      -“I have said that the Roman Catholic Church and theistic evolutionists are the tools of Satan.”-

      My apologies for misconstruing what you said. Sincerely. Nevertheless, my point remains. What reasons have you for declaring their are the tools of Satan? That they don’t agree with your doctrines? Or because of their fruits? I know plenty of people in both groups whose fruits are more admirable than many evangelicals. It is a rather broad brush you are painting with, friend.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Would you prefer that I be dishonest with you?”-

      Absolutely not. Feel free to tell me how you feel, but do not presume that your feelings amount to knowledge. As much as you feel that a loss of certainty is what has ruined the church, I feel just as strongly that if even half of the church acknowledged that feelings do not equate to knowledge, we would have a much more ecumenical, unified church that was a heckuva lot better testimony to the world than the fractured, contentious institution it is now.

      -“I AM certain.”-

      You’ve convinced yourself of this. And you’ve insulated yourself from criticism by not bothering re-evaluate anything. Call me crazy, but burying one’s head in the sand after one draws a conclusion does not seem to be the spirit of “Test everything.” Furthermore, we’ve already highlighted instances where your certainty could be put to the test, but you’ve begged off, trying to draw some kind of distinctions with “certainty”.

      -“This was once known as conviction.”-

      Conviction does not require certainty.

      -“Assuming you end up in heaven? Who made the defining difference? You or God?”-

      Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt 😉 I guess this depends on what we consider the “defining difference”. But, given that neither Heaven nor I would exist without God, I’d have to say that God makes the defining difference.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Are you certain that neither you nor heaven would exist without God?”-

      Nope! Not knowing what Heaven is, exactly, it is really impossible to say how it can or cannot exist with any certainty. As for me, while I think it is extremely implausible, I can’t rule out the possibility that we are all formed in some other, non-designed way. And, of course, all this also depends on how we define “God”.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“How bout for now whether heaven is exactly. Are you certain of that?”-

      I assume you mean whether Heaven exists or not? No, I am not certain that Heaven exists.

      -“Are you sayin that the existence of heaven is implausible?”-

      No, I was saying that I think non-design explanations for existence are implausible. In other words, I think that I am here, and the universe is here, because of God’s design.

      -“So then you are allowing for the possibility that this whole God and Jesus, sin and redemption thing isn’t true?”-

      I think it is a *possibility*, yes.

      -“Are you then saying that you allow for a legitimate definition of God that precludes the necessary and therefore certain existence of heaven?”-

      I don’t know of any definition of “God” that includes the existence of Heaven. But there are definitions of God that would preclude anything at all existing without Him (pantheism, for example).

      -“And if you do then you have serious trouble my friend.”-

      Oh, I don’t doubt (pun intended) that you think I’m in serious trouble… Although I’m not sure to what you were referring, when you said “if you do”.

    • John

      @Greg: “I do believe you are very wrong though and are missing God’s best for your life.”

      LOL. A bit of irony there. A Calvinist telling me that I am stopping God doing his “best” for me.

      “I AM certain. You don’t like that. It appears arrogant and presumptuous. I understand. This was once known as conviction. Today it’s the unpardonable sin.”

      You still haven’t told us exactly what you are certain about. From what you’ve told me, the only thing you are certain about is that there is a God who knows everything. Maybe I’m wrong.

      In any case, if you really are certain, and not just taking certainty as your philosophical position, you are a rare breed. Such people do exist, but the other 99.9% of the population, christian or otherwise, look at them in wonder, sometimes admiring, sometimes as fools, but not relating much. Anyway, no matter how clever and compelling your philosophy of certainty is (and I’m not really convinced yet on a philosophical basis), you can’t really talk somebody into being certain. So I wonder how useful a construct it is anyway.

      “Lemme ask you and the Johns. Assuming you end up in heaven? Who made the defining difference? You or God?”

      Ahh, a question that is endlessly fascinating to Calvinists. The trouble is, asking the wrong questions can lead you down the garden path to the wrong answers.

      I would suggest that people end up exactly where they want to be. The other day I had a chat with the flatmate of a friend who goes to my church. He came to church once, and was now kinda making fun of me, saying how he really wanted to go to hell, and how much fun it would be in hell. One could think of it as an opt-out system. God gives men salvation, but some don’t want it. To which he says, take what you want then.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Please understand that my incessant droning on about 2+2= 4 is just an example of mathematical certainty.”-

      A certainty which, just like logic, is based on faith. You make it such a point of emphasis that men’s reason ultimatelt tautological. Why? Because, taken to the extreme, it becomes self-referential. One cannot demonstrate the validity of reason without, well, reasoning.

      The same goes for arithmetic. Tell me, Greg: how is it that math escapes this circularity? Can you explain why 2+2=4, without using math? No, you cannot. But don’t take that as a personal failure; after all, neither can anyone else.

      What this means is that ultimately math is tautological as well. And, as Greg insists, tautology is not “knowledge”. That’s right: 2+2=4 is not knowledge. If it is not knowledge, how can it be “certain”?

      Greg would insist that the only “escape” here is faith. I’d agree that faith is necessary – otherwise uncertainty would paralyze us to inaction – but deny that faith provides any *valid* certainty. Faith simply bridges the gap between uncertainty and action. We may act as if things are certain, because they are so useful, but there is nothing that cannot be doubted. Including math.

      That I never spend a minute seriously doubting that 2+2=4 is not evidence that it cannot be so, in the same way that it is not evidence for polytheism that so many aboriginals never doubt that their pantheon of spirit-gods exist. If (alleged!) certainty could be used as evidence for truth, there would be mutually exclusive claims considered “Truth”. For those not opposed to embracing “mystery”, I guess that’s not much of a problem. I mean, why care about such contradictions if God is “transrational”…?

    • John

      @Greg: “It represent the whole logical world we all live in as if it were certain. It IS certain. I know it, you know it. You know you know it. I know why I know it and I know why you know it.”

      Can you expand on this idea you have that we live in a “logical world”? By that, do you mean the whole modern scientific understanding there is, whereby everything around us conforms to rules? Science, all the way from gravity, e=mc^2, etc etc, the whole structure of the universe that makes it predictable, because we can figure out these rules, from 2+2 all the way to e=mc^2 and beyond to wherever it takes us? Is that what you mean by the logical world?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“JB Chappell is certain it is too, but refuses to admit it because not being a moron he sees that this certainty leads him into the arms of the all governing God.”-

      Well, perhaps I am a moron, because I do not, in fact, see that. As I said before, I would acknowledge that any full-fledged certainty that can be had would seemingly have to come from God. I happily concede as much. That does not, however, mean that God must be “all-governing” in a Calvinistic way. It probably means that God must omniscient. But being omniscient does not entail any form of sovereignty. One can be an omniscient deity, but be of the Deistic variety.

      -“He’s not havin that. Even though he is whether he likes it or not.”-

      I would welcome the concept, were I convinced it was true. There is a lot to like about being certain of one’s beliefs, Greg, so it isn’t simply that I don’t like the idea, therefore I don’t believe it. Nevertheless, it does need to be pointed out that being certain, or at least inappropriately confident, of one’s ideas is also incredibly *dangerous*. Wouldn’t it be nice, if when the 9/11 bombers were told that they’d go to Heaven to meet 70-some-odd virgins that they had asked “Did God really say that?” Wouldn’t it have been nice, if when slave-owners in the South had been told the Bible teaches blacks were cursed that they had asked “Did God really say that?” Wouldn’t it have been nice, if when Galileo made his observations and religious leaders told him that scripture disagreed that they stopped to ask “Did God really say that?” Etc. Etc.

      I am comforted that Greg has seemingly picked somewhat benign positions to be certain of (his own certainty, mostly), but nevertheless it is perhaps one of the most ill-fated phenomena in the world: to be “certain” of things.

    • John

      @Greg: “In short John yes, but I need sleep and no the quantum sciences do not nullify this.”

      🙂 How do you know the quantum sciences don’t?

      I’m curious about a few things though. The ancient world didn’t really have such a strong notion that everything conforms to mathematical rules. Can you really insert a modern understanding into an ancient religion and ancient text… not just as a side show, but as your very foundational argument?

      Anyway, if the notion that everything conforms to strict rules is the lynchpin for your views, what would be the failure scenario? I mean, since you’re overlaying science on this whole thing, we need a hypothesis and success and failure conditions. You see, it occurs to me that the Christian religion believes in miracles and answered prayers and a whole bunch of stuff that specifically defies these laws of science. So when the world conforms to strict math, its a sign of God. But when the world doesn’t conform, it’s also a sign of God. I think it may be that God is revealed in those things as you say, but its a lot subtler than just saying “2+2=4… see I win”. When God makes 2+2=5 it’s a stronger sign of God, than when it equals 4.

    • JB Chappell

      @John

      -“When God makes 2+2=5 it’s a stronger sign of God, than when it equals 4.”-

      It’s a Christmas miracle! And, after all, if God is “transrational”, why can’t He also be “trans-math”…?

    • John

      Greg, I know the ancients weren’t totally ignorant of science and things like that. However, there was FAR more care taken to, for example, appease the gods to get a good harvest, than to do science on this problem, compared to today. Surely you’d have to agree with that?

      And the thing is, this is basically a Christian viewpoint. We pray, hoping God will answer our prayers for a good harvest. We don’t just assume that it will all be determined purely by the laws of physics.

      I mean, the whole reason we believe in this Christian thing, is because of a guy who stepped out of a boat and didn’t sink, contrary to what we expect. The ancients were impressed by this, not really because they understood the physics of gravity, and what it would take to defy it. Rather because people are basically pattern recognising creatures. They notice that people sink in water. If someone doesn’t sink, then they are different to normal. Now days we could think about this miracle in more specific terms than that he did something unusual.

      In Christianity, 1+1=5000 if you have 2 fishes and need to feed 5000. From that point of view, I think Christians pray daily that 2+2 will equal 5 or 5000. Not in the purely mathematical sense. But then again, the pure math sense is only interesting because of its correspondence to what we experience, and we don’t want to experience 2+2=4, and we believe if we pray hard we won’t.

      If anything, I’m disappointed when 2+2=4 because God did not reveal himself in that case. The whole bible is a collection of stories about when the laws of science and math did NOT apply. That’s the only reason the book is interesting.

    • John

      “EVERYTHING is a sign of God.”

      Oh. Everything.

      So, evidence for evolution is a sign of God. I see. The recent massacre is a sign of God.

      I guess you can take whatever to be a sign of whatever, but it doesn’t mean it logically follows.

      If a world that strictly obeys rules is a sign of God, why did we need miracles?

      “God is SUPER logical.”

      That may be, but scripture doesn’t say so. Or is this you philosophising “in independence from God’s word” and thinking for yourself? You should stop that, don’t-cha know?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“That’s why the only possibility of accounting for ANYTHING, including 2+2=4 is to access the source who does not suffer from this limitation.”

      I assume by “accounting” you mean “making certain”? There are numerous other ways of “accounting” for why 2+2=4. Blind luck, metaphysical necessity, etc. But while these are possibilities, they are – of course – not certain.

      -“JB will jump in here with “WE CAN’T DO THAT!!!”-

      I will not say it is *impossible*, if that’s what you mean by “can’t”. Nor would I say it’s “not allowed”. There are no rules against it, as far as I know. What I would say, however, is that if one is going to try to convince others that one has/had direct access to God Himself, you better be able to come away with something a bit more than just a subjective experience that amounts to simply declaring “I’m certain now, shame on you for not being like me!” So far you haven’t provided anything.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Poppycock I say. we DO DO THAT. Sinners by inescapable necessity of design and saints by being made new creatures in Christ.”-

      So, if a saint still claims that they are uncertain, what is the problem? Did it not “take”? Are they still lost? Are they not “elect”?

      In any case, you are just making assertions again. Not only is it clear that not everyone grounds their rational nature in God, it should also be clear that doing so gets us nowhere. I realize I’m not going to make any ground on the former point, because you are simply presuming what you are arguing for in the classic presuppositionalist mode of begging the question. However, perhaps I can point out how “grounding” or “accounting for” math or reason in God makes no sense.

      First of all, what does that even mean? Do you check with God when adding 2+2 and make sure He gives you the green light when you answer 4? Hardly. No, rather it is simply a presumption that because God is the source of everything, then He is the source of math and reason. But that hardly accounts for how we know our reason and math aligns with His reason and math. How do we know they are the same? We don’t.

      Rather than simply admit this, you want to claim, in a fantastically unscriptural way, that God has provided you with His own certainty. I can do nothing to sway you from your own personal experience. All I can say is that to claim that others lacking your own subjective experience is the reason for the “downfall of the church” is a remarkably self-important notion.

      -“I contend, in agreement with Van Til, that the failure to recognize and embrace this been the downfall of the western church.”-

      Oh, please. Everybody has been raving about the downfall of the church since day 1. The same issues that faced Paul, the church faces today. Except now, about 1/3 of the earth’s population would claim allegiance, or at least some type of identification, with Paul’s faith.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      You’ll have to be more specific, i.e. express the church’s “downfall” in a way other than “people disagree with me!” What, exactly, has this lack of certainty caused that certainty would fix? It certainly hasn’t caused signs and wonders to cease, because you claim certainty, yet still don’t claim to work miracles.

      It seems to me that either you are making a largely self-defeating argument here, or you are claiming that the population of “saints” is much smaller than even the most fundies of fundamentalists would accept. If saints receive God’s certainty when regenerated, why so many who don’t know that?

      What’s more likely, that so many are wrong about being uncertain, or that a few are deceived about their certainty? Call me crazy, but the track record of those who claim certainty about things doesn’t seem so good.

      The other option, of course, is that they really aren’t saved. I am curious if you take that road.

    • JB Chappell

      Greg, in your response to John’s claim that ancient people were uncertain you state:

      -“Read Aristotle’s metaphysics for a mind bending object lesson in why this is simply not true.”-

      Aristotle was noted for being far more cautious and qualifying his claims than Plato was. Plato would be the go-to guy for claiming certainty. In any case, Aristotelian logic is what much of classical theism (Christianity and Islam) is based on, and you were claiming how they were misguided. So, you’ve defeated your own argument here.

      -“The Hebrew scriptures are one long statement of divine certainty starting from the first verse.”-

      This is ridiculous. That things are written without qualification does not render them statements of certainty. It is simply a matter of convention. The fact that there are two creation stories should be Clue #1 for why the author(s) may not have been entirely certain about what they were writing. The reason you see “divine certainty” in the text is because you assume it is there in the first place.

      -“Don’t confuse the children of Israel’s unbelief in making a golden calf with their utter certainty in their knowledge of metallurgy that allowed them to do it.”-

      Right. Because you were there, observing the craftsmen? How do you know they weren’t a bit uncertain in their craft? You have taken begging the question to new heights. How you do not see that you simply are assuming the very thing you need to prove is beyond me. When someone else does it, it’s tautological and not “knowledge”. When you do it, totally OK.

      In another response to John, you said:
      -“Super meaning on a divinely exalted level utterly unattainable and not even directly accessible to us.“

      But isn’t it your claim that God is imparting his certainty to us (most of us just don’t know it)? Or is “certainty” not part of the “SUPER”? In any case, it should be obvious that God can be omniscient, but not SUPER logical, if by that you mean He can violate the rules of logic.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“EVERYTHING is a sign of God.”-

      Have you heard the expression that an explanation that explains everything, explains nothing?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      Well, you certainly seem to be impressed by other quotes. If you disagree with the axiom, I would be curious why. The point is that if there literally nothing that can falsify a concept, then that concept probably isn’t defined too well.

      Keep in mind, I’m not denying that God is the ultimate source of everything. But that doesn’t mean that literally anything can be used as evidence for His existence.

    • kelton

      @John:

      John: And in Calvinism, God already ordained men’s choices, so why the need to have a second punt at influencing the outcome?

      Response: because as men make those choices, God either restrains their choices in order for the desired outcome or he allows their choices for the desired outcome.

      John” The rules of good exegesis, namely interpreting like the original readers, would seem to be on our side.

      Response: Do you really think the original audience reading this

      Proverbs 21:1
      The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

      Would walk away with the idea that man has libertarian free will?

      John: But, in Calvinism, God constructs an evil Robot army, programs them with software whereby he knows exactly what they will do and when they will do it. Then he lets them loose and occasionally overrides one to lessen the damage.

      Response: LOL, no where near Calvinism. God can’t create something evil, evil is not something to be created. God never overrides for less damage, he restrains because of his mercy, it’s when he doesn’t restrain, that’s his wrath.

      John: How is it different to say to the Robot army “go kill”, than to program the software of the robot army, predicting where and when they will go kill, them letting them go and say “do whatever you want, totally your choice”, knowing full well the choice is exactly determined my your software, and what will happen? It’s a real struggle to differentiate those scenarios, and any court would pass the same sentence on both methods.

      Response: because in this scenario, the humans (not robots) aren’t intending on doing God’s desire. So they are not programmed like robots, they are trying to do the opposite of God’s will and God uses their intentions to bring about his will.

      • John

        @Kelton: “Response: Do you really think the original audience reading this

        Proverbs 21:1
        The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

        Would walk away with the idea that man has libertarian free will?”

        If I had to look at this verse and opt for Calvinism or Arminianism, I’d choose Arminianism. The “king” in this verse doesn’t seem to be exercising Calvinist style free will. i.e. choosing to do what gives him the most utility according to his innate nature. Rather, God is overriding his will in this case. And as I said, the fact that God needs to override free wills to get what he wants occasionally, rather than just let men do what their will tells them to do by nature, as nature and environment are ordained from the foundation of the world, it looks more Arminian to me. That God needs to override free will occasionally seems to speak to the reality of free will when God is not overriding it.

        “Response: LOL, no where near Calvinism. God can’t create something evil, evil is not something to be created.”

        Well, God created this universe, and it is in large part evil. So, I think we’re back again with the word games where God is the author of sin, except that… he isn’t. For reasons unexplained.

        “God never overrides for less damage, he restrains because of his mercy, it’s when he doesn’t restrain”

        He restrains evil that he himself ordained. That’s real nice of him.

        “Response: because in this scenario, the humans (not robots) aren’t intending on doing God’s desire. So they are not programmed like robots, they are trying to do the opposite of God’s will and God uses their intentions to bring about his will.”

        But in Calvinism, God foreordained their will, and he foreordained their environment. So how is that different to a robot? It’s even more like a robot than a robot, because even a robot doesn’t always have its entire working environment foreordained for a predicted…

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      -“… God either restrains their choices in order for the desired outcome or he allows their choices for the desired outcome.”-

      This makes no sense. The desired outcome *is never in doubt*. So God isn’t restraining choices, He is only eliminating options. If before me is Door 1, 2, 3 and I want to choose Door #2, God should *never* have to eliminate options 1 & 3 if He is sovereign in the Calvinist sense. Because then, it has always been predetermined that I would choose Door #2.

      I don’t know why you think it is morally significant that God sometimes eliminates options that were never going to be chosen, and sometimes doesn’t. If you think there is ever the possibility that I would want to choose Door #2, but God wants me to choose Door #3, so He then eliminates Doors 1 & 2, then – again – I say to you that you are an Arminian. Because in that case God is overriding someone’s free will.

      Re: Proverbs 21:1 … the point of that verse is that Kings have no free will? At most, that’s what one could take from that. In any case, I haven’t heard anyone dispute that there isn’t any scriptural basis for Calvinism at all. There is: that’s what makes the issue so contentious. But obviously non-Calvinists would hold that the preponderance of the evidence seems to be in favor of people make decisions that aren’t already predetermined.

      Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, *choose* you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

      That would seem a rather weird verse with a Calvinist twist:

      “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, don’t worry about it: it’s probably you’re not elect, and God already decided that you weren’t going to serve the Lord… but as for me and my house, it has been predestined for us to serve the Lord.”

      No, it seems more clear that Joshua thinks that he not only has a choice, but that his (and others) options are truly open-ended – and so would the original…

    • JB Chappell

      @Kelton

      -“God can’t create something evil, evil is not something to be created.”-

      It’s this kind of obfuscating language that isn’t helpful. Even if we take a privation view of evil (which didn’t really exist until Augustine, and so is extremely doubtful that any original reader of scripture would have thought in these terms), it is clear that even if “evil cannot be created” per se, it’s quite obvious that it can be brought about in some way.

      It’s not the light’s fault that darkness exists in its absence. But if that light also creates a structure causing a shadow to be cast, who is responsible for the shadow?

      -“… in this scenario, the humans (not robots) aren’t intending on doing God’s desire. So they are not programmed like robots…”-

      If humans aren’t intending to do something, it’s because a series of unfortunate events have inexorably led them there. And who is responsible for this series of unfortunate events, if God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      “…due to this brokenness in sin, being so ABSOLUTELY wrong about how and why he’s right about it.”

      Not sure what regurgitating this quote is supposed to do. There’s not even a name attached to it, so I don’t even know how much weight to give to it. 😉 In any case, it’s simply more assertions.

      I think the excerpt above is misleading, however. I’m not sure people have been so wrong about why they’re right, as they simply don’t care why they’re right, because what they do *works*.

      Regardless, claiming people are wrong about why they’re right is claiming some very special knowledge. It’s claiming that one knows why people are right. Ostensibly, this means whoever made this quote knows exactly why God’s math = our math and why God’s logic = our logic. That’s some heavy special revelation right there. Back in the day, they would have made sure someone had some accompanying signs and wonders before claiming they know what God knows.

      Hmmm… I wonder if I could say that it is the “downfall of the church” that claiming special revelation without any justification isn’t frowned upon…?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg – feel free to respond in the morning!

      -‘Please tell me which statement you have ever made to me that is not an “assertion”.’

      I think I probably ask more questions than you do. But fair enough, I do provide some assertions as well. However, I usually attempt to offer some sort of support behind my claims. There are several assertions in your quote, yet you provide no corroborating evidence or support. Of course, you may have done so elsewhere, I acknowledge as much. But, I would have been far more interested in that evidence than in the (unsupported) assertions.

      At this point, it should be fairly clear what you need to provide support for:

      – How it is that you “know” everyone who claims to be uncertain, really isn’t
      – How presupposing Biblical God escapes the uncertainty of men’s attempts to gain knowledge
      – Faith = certainty (You tried Hebrews 11, but if that’s all you have I think it’s inadequate)
      – How faith in God = God giving people His own certainty (you tried Romans 1, but again, even if we grant Paul is saying people were *originally* certain – and I don’t – it does nothing to establish such certainty is possible to attain again)
      – Why none of these things are in scripture, yet you claim them critical to the faith

      These all seem like key cogs to your “argument(s)”, yet I can only remember substantive attempts on your part to support 3 of them. Otherwise, all you do is keep insisting they are true.

    • John

      @Greg: I’m not thinking about whether you are talking down to me or not. So don’t worry about it.

      Do the scriptures describe a “super-logical God”? The trouble is Greg, you’ve lectured us that the laws of logic were created by God. If that’s the case, then they don’t necessarily apply to God, seeing as he lives outside the created realm. If your thesis is right, then logic is not a sign of God. Logic would be at best a sign of not-God – i.e., the created order. Of course the created order is I think partly a sign of God, but I think it is partly not also. Because as has been pointed out, God is “hidden” in this creation, and also because the bible says that it is a fallen world, ruled by Satan. So when we see Satan at work, then its not really a sign of God. We are not always certain which things are caused by God and which by Satan. For all I know for sure, God created a universe where law does not apply, and men can move mountains into the sea when they want, by pure thought and faith. Then Satan came along and enforced some laws to keep men in bondage. Sounds far fetched probably, but I can’t think off hand of any scripture that enlightens us about such things.

      I don’t know how you can be certain that 2+2 always applies. Newtonian physics was once thought to be certain. Then we found it breaks down in extreme gravity and speed. Maybe 2+2=4 breaks down inside a black hole. If so, you would have no way of knowing.

    • JB Chappell

      @John & Greg

      John wrote: “I don’t know how you can be certain that 2+2 always applies.”

      http://bit.ly/RcjVJW

    • John

      I think, therefore I am?

    • John

      Because I can’t think of any contrary argument. Of course, you might suggest one, and turn my certainty to uncertainty.

    • John

      @Greg: I have to come back to the question I asked you before: If per-se I was certain of that, how would I know? What is the test?

    • kelton

      @JPChappell

      JP:Because then, it has always been predetermined that I would choose Door #2.

      Response: I think you misunderstood what I meant. I mean, that God restrains their actions. Man chooses to sin (like Abimelech) and God either allows him to do so or he stops him. But Abimelech only wants to sin.

      JP: I say to you that you are an Arminian. Because in that case God is overriding someone’s free will.

      Response: Read the above, remember man only chooses according to his strongest desire. God either stops him from sinning (Abimelech) or allows it for his own purpose (Joseph and his brothers.)

      JP: But obviously non-Calvinists would hold that the preponderance of the evidence seems to be in favor of people make decisions that aren’t already predetermined.

      Joshua 24:15
      That would seem a rather weird verse with a Calvinist twist:

      “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, don’t worry about it: it’s probably you’re not elect, and God already decided that you weren’t going to serve the Lord… but as for me and my house, it has been predestined for us to serve the Lord.”

      No, it seems more clear that Joshua thinks that he not only has a choice, but that his (and others) options are truly open-ended – and so would the original…

      Response: LOL, no that’s not how we take that verse. Joshua doesn’t know who the elect are. He is, as we are commanded to preach the gospel to all and allow God to do the working on their hearts. Hey man, that was funny. Good one.

    • kelton

      @JB Chappell:

      JB: it’s quite obvious that it can be brought about in some way.

      Response: Well sure, but I do think Augustine was dead on in his observations however. It may not have been defined that way prior to him, could be that it wasn’t really thought about as a important topic prior to him.

      JB:It’s not the light’s fault that darkness exists in its absence. But if that light also creates a structure causing a shadow to be cast, who is responsible for the shadow?

      Response: Well if I’m reading you correctly, that would be like saying, “well if God never created Satan and humans there would be no evil.” Well of course, but that’s the difference, unlike a structure we do have a will, it’s just bound.

      JB:If humans aren’t intending to do something, it’s because a series of unfortunate events have inexorably led them there. And who is responsible for this series of unfortunate events, if God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense?

      Response: Have to disagree, if humans really want something, they can want something independent of unfortunate events. Desires are not just reactions, they are what we really truly want.

    • kelton

      @John:
      John: That God needs to override free will occasionally seems to speak to the reality of free will when God is not overriding it.

      Response: I think the idea there is like a farmer who puts irrigation ditches where he wants them where he wants the water to flow to do the most good. God guides the hearts of a king in the same manner. So while the king may want one thing, God channels his choices to do what he wants. Capatibilism

      John: Well, God created this universe, and it is in large part evil. So, I think we’re back again with the word games where God is the author of sin, except that… he isn’t. For reasons unexplained.

      Response: Depends on what you mean by author. If you mean God predestined sin (i.e. the fall) sure, if you mean that God causes man to sin, then no. But the thing is God uses evil for good.

      John: He restrains evil that he himself ordained. That’s real nice of him.

      Response: Absolutely, because if he didn’t we’d wipe ourselves out. Without evil, there are certain moral characteristics that we’d never know about that is critical for our development. Such as mercy, you and I would never know mercy without evil, but God uses this to shape up into being more Christ like.

      John: But in Calvinism, God foreordained their will, and he foreordained their environment. So how is that different to a robot? It’s even more like a robot than a robot, because even a robot doesn’t always have its entire working environment foreordained for a predicted…

      Response: because he doesn’t program them. In a program the robots don’t have intentions, it just does what it’s programmed to do. With us, we have intentions, and we’re not trying to do what God wants us to do, we want to do our own thing, just God uses our intentions to get what he wants.

    • John

      @Greg: “How do you form so much as a single rational thought on the basis of what you have been telling me since we’ve met? How?”

      Glad you’re counting the hours for my reply. 🙂

      I don’t think the world works like that Greg. It’s only in the realm of religion that people seem to start thinking that they need a sophisticated epistemological basis before they can proceed in life. In all other areas, we proceed like a small child. We proceed through life based on experience and expectations. The small child has no certainty its mother will feed it, but it hopes for it, and with repetition expects it. But it has no reason for certainty. It proceeds the best way it can. We could call it the Empirical approach to living life.

      Should religion be different? Well, of all the religions, Christianity I think is one of experience. It was not born out of clever reasoning, but out of an experience of God. We believe in it, not because of how clever one can reason about its truth, but because we belong to a people who experienced it. It’s just as foundational to our life, as being fed is to the small child, but we proceed because of experience and empiricism, not because of mathematical proof.

      The small child proceeds on the hope and assumption that its mother will feed it, because it must be so. Not because it has epistemological certainty.

    • John

      @kelton: “because he doesn’t program them. In a program the robots don’t have intentions, it just does what it’s programmed to do. With us, we have intentions, and we’re not trying to do what God wants us to do, we want to do our own thing, just God uses our intentions to get what he wants.”

      You’re going to have to prove these assertions. Define what an “intention” is. Show that a robot can’t have one. In what way does a robot want to do what its creator wants? It doesn’t. It does what its program says, regardless of what its creator wanted. I don’t see the difference between a program and an intention.

    • Btw, Descartes famious (‘Cogito ergo sum’ / I think, therefore I am), and from here some call him the Father of modern philosophy. And we should note too, that he was educated in a Jesuit College. He was a French mathematician. He starts with a Cartesian dualism, separation of mind and matter, it was here that Descartes rigorously saw that it takes divine despensation to define the two. And btw, this is physics for Descartes, and his epistemology. Just a bit of history!

      And in some manner, actually somewhat presuppositional on the doctrine of God!

    • kelton

      @ John

      John: You’re going to have to prove these assertions. Define what an “intention” is. Show that a robot can’t have one. In what way does a robot want to do what its creator wants? It doesn’t. It does what its program says, regardless of what its creator wanted. I don’t see the difference between a program and an intention.

      Response: Intention would mean to determine to act in a certain way mentally. If something is programmed, then it can’t determine to act a certain way, it just does what it is programmed to do. Which is what it’s programmer wants it to do.

    • John

      @Greg. If you feel certain, more power to you and more blessings to you. That kind of certainty is either supernatural or foolishness depending on your view. Don’t get me wrong, I think certainty is wonderful, but you can’t argue your way or reason your way there. You are certain by faith, not by way of perfect reasoning. As I was saying, what we know is empiracle, not by proof. Nothing wrong with empiracle, it’s how we humans normally work. But it’s not the same kind of knowledge as mathematical proof.

    • John

      @kelton “Intention would mean to determine to act in a certain way mentally. If something is programmed, then it can’t determine to act a certain way, it just does what it is programmed to do. Which is what it’s programmer wants it to do.”

      That might apply to very basic programming, but more sophisticated programming can choose means to achieve a particular outcome. Not just do x y z without prior evaluating outcome.

    • John

      @Greg

      I mean that a worm works on the basis of what works. A worm does what a worm does because it works for the worm. It’s not much different in human affairs. If we just look at even what happened between Jesus and the local populace, people followed Jesus because it worked for them. They needed healing or hope or salvation or whatever. It wasn’t based on sophisticated logic or epistemology.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      “… where in the scripture [is] it taught that this doubt in God’s word that you are here espousing is pleasing to Him?

      I don’t think anyone claims that doubting God’s Word is pleasing to Him, when in fact one *knows* that it is God’s Word. But that is the whole question – how does one come to this knowledge? Does God give you that certainty before the “faith” that gives you God’s own certainty? I sone supposed to infer it, based on evidence? Or if someone simply comes along and says “this is God’s Word”, are you supposed to believe them. Call me crazy, but I do not believe gullibility to be a virtue (Matthew 10:16).

      -“Please show me in scripture where I should follow you in this doubt and I will.”-

      1 Thessalonians 5: “20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.”

      No need to test anything if we are certain prophecies are God’s Word, right?

      Or how about Gideon asking for signs to assure himself of God’s will? Or how about Jesus working miracles to establish His authority? How about Jesus letting Thomas feel His wounds? Or how about the apostles and Paul doing the same? All of this is consistent with an expectation and tacit approval of healthy skepticism.

      -“A wonderful Christmas to everybody btw.”-

      Same to you, and yours!

      -“The day when many Christians rejoice in the uncertain hope…”-

      “Hope” wouldn’t be hope, if it were certain, now would it? It would be knowledge, and knowledge is not a virtue.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Worms are not created in the image of God…”-

      Technically, this is an argument from silence. Men are created in the image of God, this much is taught in scripture. It isn’t taught that worms were not. Nevertheless, I’d agree that the implications is the people are special, and worms are not 😉

      -“… and are not moral agents…”-

      How do we know this?

      -“… and are therefore by definition incapable of epistemology by design.”-

      I assume you draw this conclusion based on your idea of “the image of God”. But it should be noted that this concept is hardly elaborated on in scripture. Nothing about what scripture says regarding “the image of God” can be taken to mean that animals would be incapable of epistemology or moral agency.

    • JB Chappell

      Greg, has it not occurred to you that the reason there are no “Amen’s” following your refrain is that nothing you have said is supported by logic, evidence, or scripture?

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Just for the record: On behalf of Pelagius who is not here to represent himself, and knowing that the Church existed 400 years before Augustine; Pelagius never denied original sin. He complexly and yet evidently stated that man is not entirely–or is to one degree or another–depraved. As a consequence of the fall. He never –and no ‘Free-Willer’ ever– considered salvation without Christ; as if man can save himself.

    • JB Chappell

      @S. Wesley McGranor

      -“… Pelagius never denied original sin. He complexly and yet evidently stated that man is not entirely–or is to one degree or another–depraved.”-

      Based on what little I’ve read, I think it depends what we mean by “original sin” when we say that Pelagius didn’t deny it. I think it is definitely the case that he would have denied Total Depravity.

      -“As a consequence of the fall. He never –and no ‘Free-Willer’ ever– considered salvation without Christ; as if man can save himself.”-

      I’d agree. Even if someone was perfect, that gains them nothing if God doesn’t choose to accept that person. He isn’t obligated to do so.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      Re: 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, you asked:
      -“Tell me how you do this if you would please.”-

      Consider Harold Camping or the Mayan doomsday prophecies. Some (admittedly a precious minority), apparently, would have considered these “Word(s) of God”. So, if someone were to come to me and say “God says that the end is nigh!”, just like they have been for the last 2000 years (if not longer), I would want to know “Did God really say that?”.

      So one question is whether there is any (good) evidence to support the claim. In both these cases, there was at least some evidence. In the case of the Mayan prophecies, I think it is clear that there was never any good evidence to support the claim. Of course, that doesn’t make them wrong… just no compelling reason to grant my trust.

      In the case of Harold Camping, the evidence offered was a very strained, highly literalistic reading of scripture. The exegesis was extremely flawed so EVEN IF we had reason to trust that the scriptures he used were “God’s Word”, there was no good reason to accept his particular interpretation as inspired.

      Of course, that simply deals with evidence. One can simply “test” by simply waiting to see if prophecy (if it’s prophetic in nature) comes to pass accurately. If not we also have reason not to trust these sources in the future.

      Which raises another question, which is whether or not the prophecy is from God. This is related to the above question, but asks for specific reasons to think that the source might be reliably communicating something from God Himself. To me, this involves asking “if true, is this something only God could have known?”. So, for instance, if someone correctly “prophecies” that the sun will come up tomorrow, I may have had reason to trust that what they were saying is true, but no good reason to think it was from God.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg, re: Pelagius you asked:

      -“but do you understand at all the implications of what you just said. I’ll be gone for a while again.”-

      I don’t know, because I don’t what you have in mind. I’d like to think that I do. The implications of what I said are as follows:

      – That (if Pelagianism is true) it is possible for people to live morally perfect lives. Seems like there is OT support for such a notion.

      – That living a morally perfect life does not “earn” God’s acceptance. I also think that there is scriptural warrant to the effect that God’s favor is granted. Now, He can, of course, say that if one does X, Y, and/or Z that it will result in His favor being granted. This can provide the illusion that His favor has been earned. But, such a notion would entail, that God was somehow obligated to spell out such prerequisites.

      – God has no such obligations. This is a pretty standard theistic claim. So, with this, God was never obligated to spell out doing X, Y, or Z will result in His favor, nor is He even obligated to grant favor to begin with. As such, even meeting X, Y, and/or Z is not “earning” salvation, as it is only by God’s grace that He grants favor, that we exist, that we know about X, Y, Z, and etc etc etc

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Greg, i will defend Pelagius with the sword of Christ. He was undermined; because he undermined the wishful thinking and ideals of those that fancied otherwise.
      No mere heretic; and no mere misunderstanding. He never even took witchcraft into account. Know look at the West and their dismantled, dilapidated condition and say:

      Hurray for Pelagius vindicated of heaven! For in the negative all of Protestantism hails him.

      Nay lo Calvinist, man is no force unto himself as Satan takes the will of man–unto his embrace!

      Lord Christ, take my will, not to abandonment; but to you–and with you Lord Jesus.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“I’m asking whether you’re saying that God would damn a sinless man.”-

      I do not speak on behalf of God; so I do not, and cannot, say what He would or would not do. I can tell you what I think a “Good” God would do, but that would just be my opinion. I can tell you what I think the Bible says, but that would be my interpretation.

      In any case, if God did torture morally blameless people for eternity, who would you be to question God (Romans 9), right?

    • Indeed the biblical doctrine of God demands both God’s Transcendence and Immanence! And both the terms “transcendent” and “immanent” are relative to the created word, God is transcendent “to it” and immanent “in it”. But indeed GOD is always, as Barth, following of course Calvin, pressed God the “Totally Other”! Transcendent foremost! This was Paul’s Doctrine of God… always the Immutability of God! (1 Tim. 1:17)

    • *created world

    • Here is a fair quick overview of Pelagius…

      http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/people/pelagius.htm

      I have read several of Gerald Bonner books here, as well as one I liked by BR Rees: Pelagius, A Reluctant Heretic. (Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 1988) Of course I am an Augustinian! 😉

      @Wesley: It appears you are an EO?

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert

      -“Indeed the biblical doctrine of God demands both God’s Transcendence and Immanence!”-

      Agreed!

      -“And both the terms ‘transcendent’ and ‘immanent’ are relative to the created world, God is transcendent ‘to it’ and immanent ‘in it’.”-

      Herein lies the conundrum. Is rationality part of the “created world”, or is it part of His nature? Those claiming that God is “trans-” or “SUPER-” logical would seemingly be referring to rationality as part of the created world. As such, God transcends it.

      This may be true, no question. However, the more people use this claim, the more I am convinced that they don’t appreciate where it leads. For instance, most people would claim that God cannot do nonsense. It is part of a lot of theodicies, in fact. God cannot prevent all evils while allowing for free will, cannot create a stone heavier than He can lift, etc. None of this is true if God can transcend reason. If God can transcend reason, then there is no reason to say that God cannot do anything. God can square a circle, for instance. He can even violate His own nature.

      So, while acknowledging that the “trans-rational” God is a possibility, it seems to me obvious that rationality is a part of the created order, whether by His nature or choice. As such, it can tell me things about Him. It is not as clear that “trans-rationality” is part of the created world, and so if we are going to appeal to it, we would need adequate justification, and then be consistent with this idea. Not many are, as so many would prefer instead to follow reason wherever it leads, until it leads to ideas that are inconsistent/contradictory, then they appeal to the principle of “trans-rationality”. In other words, they like to cherry pick.

    • JB Chappell

      Greg,

      -“Here we have an Ariminian claiming that I believe that God can do literally anything and still be the God of the scriptures.”-

      Please point out where I said this.

      -“Yet he then turns around and declares that God can damn righteous men to eternal perdition out of pure caprice.”-

      Again, please demonstrate your claims. Where have I said this?

      -“… aghast at the very thought of a God who condemns where there is no sin.”-

      You appear to have me confused with someone who claimed this actually happens. I have not done so. You asked me whether God would damn a sinless man. I said God has no obligation to show such a man mercy. Do you disagree?

      Likewise, I said that God has no obligation to torture such a man for eternity. Do you disagree?

      I then stated that I could offer you my own opinions on what a “good” God would so or what scripture says God does, but passed. You seem to have taken quite a bit of liberty with what I have said.

    • @JB: I cannot get to the depth of this great issue here on a Blog. But, in more modern thought one should look at the great debate between Emil Brunner and Karl Barth. The issue of so-called Natural Theology! Btw, WIPF and Stock has a book: Natural Theology, with letters or replies from both: Brunner and Barth. There is also a fine book by Stephen Grabill: Rediscovering The Natural Law In Reformed Theoligical Ethics, Eerdmans, 2006.

      Myself, I tend more toward John Calvin himself, which Brunner comes somewhat close, but too Barth does have some high ground here! See btw, an old classic by THL Parker: Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, (my copy is an old 1959 revised edition, 1959). A grand book!

    • *That latter book is also Eerdmans.

    • And btw, I could argue the Wesley brothers all day long as closer to Calvin & Luther, noting just John Wesley’s Journal itself! Here I speak more towards their agreement with the Reformers as to Justification. The Wesley’s were Anglican Protestants!

      I have many old sweet books on the Theology of the Wesley brothers! One of my favorites is by an American Methodist scholar: Dr. William Ragsdale Cannon…The Theology of John Wesley, etc. (Abingdon, 1946). Cannon was one time dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Greg, we inherited the sin of Adam. Although it was not a sin as you, or i would make autonomously. Original Sin was collective; on behalf of all of mankind. It is the only time that mankind will inherit such a thing. After that one must sin either by himself, or with another; in order to receive sin’s penalty.
      You might be an Emergent, or just curious. I was raised non-denominational, and i seen the corruption of the institutional churches. However, i do not want them to wither, i want them to be renewed.

    • Rick

      No, the God of the Bible cannot damn a man in whom there is no sin – He would cease to be just and cease to be God.

    • Rick

      Not sure what those warnings were about so reposting. No, the God of the Bible cannot damn a man in whom there is no sin – He would cease to be just and cease to be God.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Can the God of the bible damn a man in whom there is no sin? Not WILL he, but CAN he?”-

      The God of the Bible is “good”. A problem exists here, however, in that the Bible does not express very clearly WHY God is good. Does He simply “know” what is good & evil, as in Genesis 3:22, or is whatever He does simply “good” by definition (which is, unfortunately, how too many portray it)? This is obviously Euthyphro’s dilemma.

      To “split the horns” of the dilemma, it is said that God’s *nature* is ” perfectly good” or even “goodness itself”. Therefore, there is neither an external standard that God needs to adhere to (avoiding the first horn), nor is God’s goodness completely arbitrary (avoiding the second horn). There are a few problems with this: 1) while God being “good” is scriptural, the idea that His nature is “goodness itself” is not supported by any scripture (that I know of) and 2) while technically avoiding the horns of the dilemma, it still amounts to whatever God does, is “good” by definition – IF He cannot violate His own nature – and 3) we still only know “good” by revelation and/or intuition.

      So, if we grant the following:

      – God’s nature is perfectly good
      – God cannot violate His own nature
      – God’s goodness approximates my own understanding of “good”

      THEN I would say that *NO*, God cannot torture a morally blameless man for eternity. Such a notion is simply incompatible with “goodness” as I know it. But therein lies the problem. Is there any reason to believe that our moral intuition is an accurate reflection of God’s character?

      There is an additional problem: the 2nd premise above hinges on God being rational by nature. If God is “trans-rational”, then there is no reason to think that God CANNOT violate His own nature. Of course, it may still be that He *would not*. But that is not what you asked me.

      BTW, Greg I have no problem answering your Socratic questions. However, it would be nice…

    • JB Chappell

      … if you reciprocated. (sorry, got cut off).

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Pardon me Greg, i have been reading rather loosely. I am glad you have bias for the Emergent.
      I would like to add that God is the head of reason. If you are curious as to if he truly is; then ask him.

    • JB Chappell

      @John & Greg

      -“Actually that question was to JB John LOL!!”-

      Couldn’t help thinking this was a Godfather III moment for John…

      “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

      • John

        “Couldn’t help thinking this was a Godfather III moment for John”

        LOL, it’s worse than that. Some other guy is posting as “John” on another thread, and Greg is saying “finally, John we agree on something”. I don’t have the heart to tell him and get dragged in there.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“JB go ahead n ask. The next one is all yours. I will answer as best I can.”-

      I was referring mostly to questions you have left unanswered. If you look back, I ask you numerous questions in my replies, and you consistently fail to answer them, and instead respond with a question of your own. It is not out of bounds to respond with additional questions, but it does seem courteous to at least address the questions asked of you as well.

    • Rick

      John
      Even though it was by imputation that Christ had to be made sin; nevertheless, He who knew no sin had to be made sin in order for salvation by substitution to be just – which at the cross it seems like an innocent One was condemned (yet He had to be made sin for God to be just).

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“Scripture REPORTS boundaries on what God can and cannot do by virtue of His nature either requiring or preventing it.”-

      Please provide an example of scripture reporting something cannot do, or reporting something God’s nature requires.

      -“You have serious problems with the authority of God…”-

      Ha! That is laughable. Because I disagree with you, I have problems with God’s authority? Don’t put yourself on too high a pedestal, bro.

      -“… and His Word JB.”-

      Ah, well that depends on what you mean by “His Word”. If by that you mean “the Protestant Bible”, then it is true that I do not share the same “high” view of scripture that evangelicals do. However, I am perfectly willing to carry on a conversation with scripture being authoritative, so that isn’t the problem here.

      -“Are you actually telling the people here that God is not good…?”-  

      Here is where you failing to answer my questions rears its ugly head again. Instead of actually addressing what I actually wrote, you are taking too many liberties by reading (waaaaay too much) into it. When have I said God isn’t good?

      -“I don’t care what problems the pagan philosophers of the world have wrestled with in this sense.”-

      Who’s talking about pagan philosophers? Not me. I’m referring to your brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a philosophical difference between character and nature. Scripture is clear on the character of God, silent on His nature. You extrapolate from one to the other, in another example of reading too much into things.

      -“Please give me one of your questions that you prefer so I can answer it.”-

      Again, I have already asked you several questions and you’ve addressed none of them, much less answer them.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“I’m saying without assuming the God of the bible first neither you nor any other created being can ask any question at all.”-

      This makes no sense at all. I’m fairly certain that there are some aboriginal tribes who have never heard of “the God of the Bible”, and yet they are perfectly capable of asking questions. So, either you accept that the presumption of YHWH is unnecessary, or you accept that they are, in fact, presuming YHWH – and so I suppose don’t need the gospel.

      -“You would neither exist nor be endowed with the intellectual equipment to be aware of 2+2 equaling 4.”-

      If God doesn’t exist, then presumably this is all true. But that doesn’t mean that we need to assume God’s existence to make thought possible. These are two unrelated ideas. Assuming God’s existence does not make my brain “go”.

      -“We REQUIRE by necessity of created finitude that we begin with a first principle that IN AND BY OURSELVES is unprovable and yet can account for our knowledge of ANYTHING whatever.”-

      Let me translate the jargon here, and tell me if I have faithfully captured the essence of what you mean: “Because we are finite, we need to assume an unprovable first principle that is capable of accounting for all knowledge.”

      What should be obvious is that the dependent clause does not follow from the conditional. In other words, simply because we are finite does not mean we *need* to assume anything, much less ONE thing that can account for everything. It would be equally valid to simply say “Because we are finite beings, our knowledge-gaining efforts are limited”.

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“You have thus far preached to me the false gospel of pure pagan skepticism…”-

      Is this to be distinguished from Christian skepticism, or is all skepticism “pagan”? Because I’m fairly certain that it is not wrong to doubt. You seem to be very skeptical of what I say, for example.

      -“…centered on yourself as the final arbiter what can and cannot be known…”-

      Not sure what you mean by this. Clearly, I am not the final arbiter of what can be known and what cannot, because there are plenty of people that know things that I do not. That I do not know something is hardly grounds for believing it cannot be known. Furthermore, that I don’t think things can be known with absolute certainty does not mean that I think we cannot know anything at all. Knowledge does not require certainty.

      -“… and what is and is not good.”-

      “Good” is a flexible word. I know what things seem “good” to me, but I would hardly assume that they are all “good” to you. I do not deny that there is an “objective good” or standard in God whereby we can compare our own conceptions. However, it is clear that we do so in a subjective way (otherwise we’d all agree).

      -“Do you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, eternally begotten Son of the eternal Father God fully, and alone for your escape from eternal damnation? Yes or no?”-

      Yes. See, Greg, that is what we call “answering a question”. (<– and that is what is called a "hint"). It is interesting that you use the word "trust", however. Do you know why?

      -"That is a serious question because what you are espousing is not Arminian Christianity. it is as I say, pure skeptical unbelief."-

      I've never claimed to be an Arminian, have I? I just don't agree with Calvinism (at least not fully). In any case, you need to specify how I am advocating for "unbelief". "Uncertainty" does not equate to "unbelief".

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“Yes all skepticism is pagan”-

      Then perhaps defining what you mean by this term would help. I think it is obviously not, as scripture teaches to doubt/question certain things, you obviously doubt/question certain things (old-earth creationism, for example), etc. So I assume you must mean something other than “doubting or questioning things”. The dictionary definition is:

      —A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety. See Synonyms at “uncertainty”.—

      A questioning attitude seems very consistent with “test everything”.

      -“uncertainty most definitely IS unbelief.”

      With “uncertainty” simply being defined as “the state of being uncertain” (thanks, dictionary), here is what “uncertain” means:

      1. Not known or established; questionable: domestic changes of great if uncertain consequences.
      2. Not determined; undecided: uncertain plans.
      3. Not having sure knowledge: an uncertain recollection of the sequence of events.

      As opposed to “unbelief”:

      —incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of religious faith—

      For good measure, “incredulous” is defined as:

      —unwilling to admit or accept what is offered as true : not credulous : skeptical—

      From this, it should be quite clear that “skepticism” is much more related to “unbelief” than “uncertainty” is, but nevertheless none are the same. If you consider them to be, it is because you define them differently, and I think it is important for you to articulate how this is so.

      -“Are you Catholic JB?”-

      Roman Catholic? No. My mom’s whole family was RC and from “the North”, and my dad’s whole family was Baptist and from “the South”. As you might imagine, they had to meet in the middle. They started with a Methodist Church, but evolved quite a bit. You name the denomination, I’ve probably been in one of their churches. Currently I attend a non-denominational church (with Baptist ties).

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“I don’t care about dictionary definitions”-

      I suspected as much, but if you don’t hold to accepted definitions, then you need to explain what you mean. An entire Wikipedia entry discussing numerous different iterations of philosophical skepticism doesn’t help much, I’m afraid.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“In this commitment to live in surrender to my beautiful Lord Creator, it is my great joy and privilege to allow HIM to tell ME how and what to think.”-

      And how do you know when God is telling you something, as opposed to your own mind, or the Devil?

      -“The living Word in my heart testifies to the written Word in my hand that it IS the Word of almighty God.”-

      If you remember a while back, I asked you how your argument boiled down to anything more than a subjective experience (another question you ignored). It seems relevant to ask again.

      -“They invariably simply agree with you guys who say you believe in the same God I do. They and you declare that NOTHING can REALLY be known at all. That IS skepticism.”-

      No, that is not skepticism. Simply declaring it to be so, does not make it so Greg. What you describe is a VERY specific form of skepticism known as “academic skepticism”. And before you get excited and think that you get to declare all scholars as pagans, the “academic” here refers to a specific Greek philosophical school of thought. No doubt there are some today who would hold to it, but again, it is not my contention that “nothing can be known”. I believe in knowledge, and that we can attain it. But I hold that knowledge does not require certainty, and that the knowledge we have is provisional (always subject to more/better information).

      • John

        @Greg “”The living Word in my heart testifies to the written Word in my hand that it IS the Word of almighty God.”

        I think I know what’s going on here Greg. You’re a mystical Christian! The experience in your heart is the foundation of your faith. I think I suggested that a while back, but you ignored it and kept going on about 2+2. I don’t have a problem with mysticism either. In fact, Christianity differs from other religions in that it is based on a personal experience of the incarnate God. chrisitianity is the mystical religion, par excellence.

        The problem Greg, is you are wrapping up a very mystical viewpoint in a scholastic wrapping paper by talking about 2+2 and certainty. Yes, mystical people are certain, but not in the scholastic sense of 2+2. That’s why I think you are getting everyone confused. My suggestion is to embrace the fact you are a mystical Christian and drop this 2+2 stuff. Express your mysticism in the traditional way.

    • […] Michael Patton on the Irrationality of Calvinism. […]

    • Proper Biblical Theology always includes epistemology, and the approach of proper biblical mystery. Btw, just a note, but John Calvin’s writings are full of his understanding of God’s “mysteria fidel”: the mysteries of the faith, these doctines known by revelation that transcend the grasp of reason. Calvin loves God’s mystery and great transcendence.. Sensus Mysticus!

    • kelton

      @ John:
      That might apply to very basic programming, but more sophisticated programming can choose means to achieve a particular outcome. Not just do x y z without prior evaluating outcome.

      Response: Sorry, I had a very busy week at work. But what you’ve written is different than intent. What you’ve rendered here is more of how a computer can solve a problem of sorts. Intentions are willful desires to act in a certain way, that takes place in the mind. Computers don’t intend on doing anything, they just do whatever they are programmed to do. Our intentions are deep inside of us to act in a manner that we decide.

      • John

        @kelton ” Intentions are willful desires to act in a certain way, that takes place in the mind. Computers don’t intend on doing anything, they just do whatever they are programmed to do. Our intentions are deep inside of us to act in a manner that we decide.”

        LOL, you are the Calvinist, and I am not, right?

        So these “intentions” that “we decide”, they are not because of an external “programmer”, they come from the force of self alone, is that right? They are not because of the structure of our mind, our genetics or environment?

    • JB Chappell

      @Greg

      -“The only thing that’s certain is KNOWING HIM. Not just ABOUT Him.”-

      I’m confused again. I thought 2+2=4 was certain? And please explain how one can know someone for certain without knowing anything about them for certain.

      -“Imagine a computer where most of the apps refuse to acknowledge their dependency on the certain operation of the OS.”-

      Well, such programs would be fatally flawed indeed. In fact, I’d say they were in need of a “savior” – someone who could fix the code.

      -“I’m sayin “look here folks, we DO live in this operating system and we ARE enslaved to it to function at all.”-

      I’m not completely following the analogy here, to be honest. If you are saying that we are “enslaved” to the OS that God has programmed, then fine. The question is who wrote the software; or more importantly, who broke the software? The Calvinist would have us believe that God wrote all of it, but it somehow is still the program’s fault for breaking. How dare that program have faulty code!

      -“What’s disturbing is the ones who DO say they believe in the creator designer, yet go about acting as if THEY are in a position to question the operating system…”-

      Please explain what the alternative is. We are in a position to ask questions. We have the ability to ask questions. Should we refrain? If any program, whether it be trojan or not, inputs “Word of God” is the program obliged to “accept”? Or would it be better to run some malware checks – especially knowing the software has vulnerabilities?

      -“There is only ONE who is NOT in this OS and who is therefore NOT subject to it though He designed built and operates it all. Guess who that is?”-

      If you believe that God built/programmed according to His nature, and therefore His works are a reflection of such, then this claim becomes problematic. God is not “subject” to His own works, but if there is dissonance between what He has done and who He is, then this is worth investigating,…

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“And yessir , it is God”s eternal decree that your mind be thus locked.”-

      Well, according to Calvinism anyway.

      -“And yes further sir, that is YOUR problem LOL!!”-

      Yes, because what could be more “good” than decreeing someone’s mind be locked, then roasting them aflame for all eternity because of it! The sulfury smell of God’s burning wrath wafting up to Heaven will provide others with such a deep-seated appreciation that they were spared such a fate. An appreciation, of course, they were programmed to accept.

      -“I tell you the truth in Christ.”-

      No offense, Greg, but a cursory examination of Christ’s teaching will reveal not much favorable to Calvinism, which pretty much is rooted in Romans 8-9 (and/or Van Til, apparently), through which the rest of scripture is filtered. And, it cheapens the word “truth” to simply water it down to mean whatever a subjective experience tells you. Subjective is, by definition, applicable only to you. So, by “truth”, you must only mean “true for Greg”. Unless that is just another “mystery” I need to (mindlessly) accept

      -“Nothing is more natural for me than to simply accept .”-

      It is natural to accept what our senses tell us, I admit. That is why it is so difficult for hallucinators to accept that what they perceive isn’t real. But, of course, I would think even you would admit that our senses are not “certain” – they are easily deceived.

      Accept WHAT, Greg? That is the question. Mindlessly accepting whatever your subjective experiences tell you is different than a schizophrenic mindlessly following the voices in his head, how…? How is that “test(ing) everything”…?

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“…we are nonetheless commanded to “KNOW” by faith is quite disconcerting”-

      Can you please cite an example of Christians being commanded to “KNOW” something *by faith*?

    • JB Chappell

      Greg, you seem to write well enough, do I’m going to assume you’re not ignorant of basic English grammar rules. The content I asked for is obviously lacking in English. Is there a command in Hebrew here that I’m not aware of?

    • JB Chappell

      Closer Greg, but there’s no command to *know* anything, only believe.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“You are not certain whether God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth? Is that right?”-

      That is correct. But I believe it.

      -“The demons know more than you do?”-

      Why shouldn’t they?

      And, of course, none of this is relevant to whether or not the Bible contains a command to know things through faith. It was a simple request, Greg: where is such a command? (hint: it isn’t there).

      Here’s an interesting, and relevant, anecdote for you: Some LDS folks dropped by my house the other day to proclaim their message. I generally try to be courteous, so I invite them in, offer them a drink, etc. I listen to what they have to say, and engage them in conversation. I make it a point to say that there’s simply no good evidence to suggest that any of the Mormon-specific claims they tout are true.

      Do you know what their response is?

      It’s that we are talking about GOD’S WORD, here. I just need to read it, and I’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling that tells me it’s true. (Or not, if I’m pre-destined not to I suppose – but we didn’t get into that). This is, apparently, called “faith”.

      So, facing the cold hard facts that there really aren’t any good reasons to believe what they do, their fall-back is consistently their existential experience. Of course, I cannot deny them their experience; I have no reason to believe that they are lying about their warm fuzzies. I have every reason to believe that warm fuzzies are no basis for believing anything. But by removing evidence from the equation, they hang themselves by their own petard. I cannot disprove their claims via evidence (or so they think)… but neither can they offer anything to convince.

      This is the problem you are having. Every significant claim you offer is unsupported. You would claim this is OK, because we are simply supposed to accept God’s Word. But when faced with the nagging question: “Did God really say that?”, you can offer nothing but warm…

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      … fuzzies.

      Again, I ask you: how is your approach different than a schizophrenic who follows the voices in his head? How is your approach different than the Mormons?

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“And every atheistic skeptic I’ve debated in the last 20 years believes EXACTLY as you do . Now what?”-

      It’s a fair point. My approach does have much in common with many, if not most, atheists. Obviously, they don’t believe *exactly* as I do, however. The difference, of course, is that there is a demonstrable track record with evidentialism (or whatever you want to call it), which both theists and atheists recognize, whereas the track record of your approach is… ?

      -“BTW, Mormon’s aren’t supposed to drink alcohol and they most assuredly will NEVER do so publicly while on their mission.”-

      Geez, dude, “drink” can just mean some water or soda. Lighten up.

      -“… I know all about their testimony of the “burning in the bosom”. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything I’m talking about.”-

      Then you need to explain the difference. I have asked you to do so several times now, and it seems rather UNcoincidental that you have avoided doing so.

      -“I’m reporting God’s truth.”-

      Mormons say the same thing, based on the same reasoning. How am I supposed to know who’s right? Is the warmier, fuzzier feeling more correct?

      -“…a mentally deranged person is entertaining delusions that exist only in their own defective mind. “-

      And how do you know some of your subjective experiences aren’t delusions? Because your subjective experiences tell you so?

      -“To deny the certainty of the creator God when the apostle flatly declares that “His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen…”-

      Again, please feel free to let me know how one “clearly sees” God’s eternal power. Or divine nature. We’ve been over this already: it’s “clearly” a figure of speech – another point, by the way, that you neglected to address. Paul’s point isn’t that we are, or need to be, certain of anything, but that God has revealed enough of Himself so that people are without excuse.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“That prayer would naturally flow from the humanistic doctrine you have been vainly attempting to knit with the Word of Almighty God.”-

      Yes, that crazy “humanist” doctrine that is nowhere to be found in the Bible… oh, except when it refers to people as “blameless” and “righteous”, etc. Regardless, that prayer would only be uttered by someone who misunderstands pretty much everything I’ve said. Let’s take it from the top:

      -“Oh Lord I’m not actually sure you’re really there and have no more certainty concerning your word than an LDS heretic or mental defective….”-

      Unfortunately, you’ve mistaken your own position with mine. See, you are just as certain of “God’s Word” as a Mormon, Muslim, etc., and just as certain of your own subjective experiences as someone with hallucinations might be. The problem is, that for someone who would be on the outside looking in, would have no way to distinguish who may be more right or wrong based on anything you’ve said.

      -“… I thank you for my glorious free will whereby I have clearly chosen better than my wretched neighbor who not being as wise and righteous as I remains in his sin”-

      Why would I thank God for my choices? I would thank God for circumstances/opportunities that might influence choices. In any case, if it’s not possible to make choices more wise than other choices, why is wisdom so emphasized in scripture I wonder…?

      • John

        Greg: let’s say for the sake of argument that general revelation tells us there is a god, and he makes 2+2=4. That doesn’t actually get you far does it? To find out what God says you will have to make choices about what if anything is his word. At that point you have to retreat to either evidentialism or warm fuzzies. Wouldn’t you agree?

    • John I.

      I propose: “Tiribulus is delusional and so we have no reason to believe what he says.”

      Tiribulus cannot provide any acceptable reasons for us (i.e., those who disagree with him) to believe that what he asserts is true, because he does not have any common ground with us and has not been able to use our beliefs to show us that we are wrong.

      He may as well be speaking Lakota, because what he states is not “intelligible” given a different set of beliefs. To have an intelligible discussion the parties have to agree on some presumptions–even if it is only hypothetically in order to investigate whether the presumptions and the beliefs that build on them are coherent.

      For example, when Tribulus states that he is ”I’m reporting God’s truth” how are we to know that? I don’t believe him and see no reason why I should.

    • John I.

      Tiribulus, why should I believe your assertion that “The image of God . . . is THE common ground all of us share”?

      I think that you have deluded yourself that it is so, but I see no reason to trust or believe your delusion. You are making many bare assertions, but I see no reason to accede to any of them. Your assertions are merely evidence that molecules acting according to the four fundamental forces of nature can result in patterns of pixels. There is no such thing as a “2”, nor a “4” and you can’t point to one.

      Why should I believe that your representation of what you believe to be reality is anything close to what is actually out there? Your perspective is one based solely on a “me, myself and I” view of reality that circles about you because it is defined by you, by the presuppositions the you make up.

      You are at a loss for how to proceed, because your paradigm of “reality” is wrapped around you and so has no connection to others. It’s meaningful to you, because you believe it, but not to me because I don’t.

      You’re convinced of your paradigm, but I have no reason to be unconvinced of mine.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“The image of God and it’s inescapable interaction with it’s environment…”-

      I’d agree that “the image of God” is something we all share. It is common ground. It is not clear that this “image” has any “interaction”, however, nor is it clear that it serves as the basis for any epistemology. This is another unsupported assertion that you have failed to address more than once.

      -“The Word of God is not an accept[ed?], but a commanded reason…”-

      So, when you say the “Word of God”, you mean anything that anyone claims is the “Word of God”…? The Koran? Book of Mormon?

      -“… and if you people don’t see biblical assertions as commands to believe then I actually AM at a loss for how to proceed.”-

      Assertions are not commands. Why do you insist on obfuscating language? Assertions are not commands. Commands are not questions. Questions are not declarations. Etc. So, yes, when the Bible “asserts” that there are four corners to the earth, I do not consider that a command of “wholesale surrender to a specific paradigm” of flat earth.

      As for how to proceed, perhaps you could start by reviewing some of the previous posts and actually address the questions you’ve conveniently neglected to answer.

    • John I.

      Tiribulus’ presuppositionalism and fideism is a humanistic doctrine that he without success attempts to tie to scripture, but is found nowhere in scripture.

      When I read the Bible, it teaches its readers to believe because of history and because of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. It doesn’t teach presuppositionalism, a philosophical error that arose during the humanist renaissance and repeated the errors of the anti-realist Greeks.

    • JB Chappell

      @John I.

      -“You are at a loss for how to proceed, because your paradigm of “reality” is wrapped around you and so has no connection to others.”-

      Well said!

    • This “Tread” is getting very weighted mates! Seeking to do some kind of philosophical debate on the blogs, actually can’t be done, at least properly. My opinion away. Scripture presupposed and exegetical is better, and here we can add some scholastic thoughts for help. That’s the Reformational and Reformed approach anyway.

      Btw, I think Greg is seeking to express something the Presuppositional Theology of Cornelius Van Til? If any wish to really get to this, they should read something from one of his students here, i.e. John Frame’s book: Cornelius Van Til, An Analysis of His Thought.

      Keep on truck’in mates! 🙂

    • John I.

      Tiri. states, “The elimination of presuppositions would result in absolute autonomous, objective, self contained, internal certainty.”

      No, it is the use of presuppositions that result in absolute autonomous, objective, self contained, internal certainty. Presuppositions are a humanist, man-created way of reasoning and dealing with the world.

      No where in scripture does God every call his people to operate by presuppositions, or to be presuppositionalist. God calls his people to live a certain way on the basis of his prior acts on their behalf.

      Now, it does appear self evident that it is not possible to think or communicate without using presuppositions, and presuppositions are a form of knowledge, but when God calls his people to test matters (e.g., spirits, the Bereans testing teachings) it is a direction to be iterative and recursive in the acquisition of truth and a relationship with God. That is, there is a continual testing and retesting of thoughts and beliefs in light of God’s revelation both natural (physical world, logic) and supernatural (scripture).

      Presuppositional”ism”, per se, is unbiblical.

    • John I.

      Fr. Robert, may I respectfully request that you use actual, full, English sentences? instead of fragments? I find your posts so difficult to make sense of that I have long ago stopped reading them and just skip over them. If you don’t want to, it’s up to you of course and I’m not suggesting that you stop posting, only that you communicate more clearly and in a manner that is easier to grasp.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“I suggest we all stick to the nature, being and providence of the creator and sustainer of all that is, instead of ourselves.”-

      This sounds great, but unless there’s some sort of mechanism specified, it’s meaningless. How does one “stick to the nature… of the Creator”? What does that even mean? Unfortunately, you haven’t demonstrated how this works, other than “take the Bible extremely literally, and stop poking holes in my arguments”.

      You claim that having “faith” will result in God providing someone with His own certainty. Besides the fact this is incredibly vague, it is also unscriptural. Just as problematic, however, is the fact that this claim is grounded in your experience. It is a subjective experience – one that is not shared by a number of other Christians, apparently.

      So, Greg, you have to take a step back and examine whether your experience is unique. You have to consider that just because you experienced something, that doesn’t mean everyone else is required to experience the same thing. You have to consider that, given that you are obviously intentionally avoiding certain questions/issues, that perhaps your point of view is more flawed than you’d like to admit. You have to consider that, if your “arguments” rely on convoluting the English language, perhaps that’s why no one else seems to understand what you’re saying.

      Once again, I will ask:

      – Where does scripture *command* that we have to know things via faith?
      – How does your argument boil down to anything more than your own subjective experience?
      – How is one supposed to know what the “Word of God” is?
      – What is the scriptural basis for using the “image of God” as grounding epistemology?
      – How is is simply accepting whatever is claimed to be “God’s Word” consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:21?

    • John I.

      Tiri writes, “The image of God and it’s inescapable interaction . . . , is THE common ground all of us share.”

      So, how does one cash out that statement? operationalize it? How does that function in the area of communication between persons?

      Greg fails to cash out his assertion and so it is left hanging. It is therefore communicatively and rationally irrelevant to those of us who cash out God’s existence differently.

      To me, I envisage a picture of Greg as a lone guru on a hilltop shouting out unintelligible glossalalia with a sign on his neck that states in many languages “What I say is truth”. Terrific for him, if he’s right, but irrelevant to the rest of us who go about our business in the valleys and plains around him. Greg’s way of “reasoning” is an iconoclastic way that bears no relation to mine.

    • @John I, That’s funny mate, I am sure YOU got my wee point, or you would not be firing back in such harsh manner! The problem is, that YOU just don’t fair so well yourself in your blog answers & manners, YOUR “presuppositions” are showing! 😉

    • John I.

      A Psalm by someone who was not a presuppositionalist:

      Psalm 88 (NIV)

      1 Lord, you are the God who saves me;
      day and night I cry out to you.
      2 May my prayer come before you;
      turn your ear to my cry.
      3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
      and my life draws near to death.
      4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
      I am like one without strength.
      5 I am set apart with the dead,
      like the slain who lie in the grave,
      whom you remember no more,
      who are cut off from your care.
      6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
      in the darkest depths.
      7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
      you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
      8 You have taken from me my closest friends
      and have made me repulsive to them.
      I am confined and cannot escape;
      9 my eyes are dim with grief.
      I call to you, Lord, every day;
      I spread out my hands to you.
      10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
      Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
      11 Is your love declared in the grave,
      your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
      12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
      or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
      13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
      in the morning my prayer comes before you.
      14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
      and hide your face from me?
      15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
      I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
      16 Your wrath has swept over me;
      your terrors have destroyed me.
      17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
      they have completely engulfed me.
      18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
      darkness is my closest friend.

    • John I.

      Fr. R.

      I wasn’t intending to be harsh, but a blog comment lacks nuance. Also, I did not get your point (again), which is why I asked for clarification (and a real sentence). And my comment to you was not about your philosophical presuppositions, or mine. However, I do thank you for the sentences in your reply.

    • @John I: Indeed the nature of the blogs can be one-sided! And seeking real dialogue is very rare here!

      Btw, views on “biblical and theological presuppositions”, are somewhat different from the general idea of human “presuppositions”, this is the point of a Van Til and John Frame! Sadly, our presuppositions often are just “suppositions”, rather than the authority, and certainly the shape of the “Sola Scriptura” of God’s Word! Yes, the Reformational and Reformed Theology stand much more on God’s Presuppositional Authority & Word, rather than mere evidence, of itself. Indeed God’s “evidence” is based on His own revelation… ‘I am’!I would maintain this is surely “Pauline” as “Johannine”, etc.

    • John I.

      Re Tiri’s defense_VanTil.html he directs us to in his comment above.

      First, he wrongly portrays Arminians and Arminian beliefs in his use of them as his foil to demonstrate the superiority of Van Til’s epistemology and defence of christianity.

      But even overlooking his biased and character assassinating approach to Arminianism, I do not find his presentation of Van Tillian arguments convincing. I don’t buy into their (Tiri, van Til) rhetoric and world view, and the article gives me no reasons to give up my rhetoric.

      In his article Tiri claims, “Mr. White [the prototypical Calvinist presuppositionalist] would define man, and therefore his freedom, in terms of Scripture alone.” But this claim is not, in fact, true. Mr. White’s definitions arise from the social concerns of the pre-industrial and industrial revolution, of an over-belief and over-confidence in a mechanistic perception and reconstruction of the natural world, and of a need to define an “us” over against a dehumanized and descralized “them” and to put that difference into violent terms and forms of power.

      Arminius endeavoured to be scriptural and to subject all writings to analysis and criticism in light of scripture, both his own and that of others. He himself wrote, “First. That it may openly appear to all the world that we render to the word of God alone such due and suitable honour, as to determine it to be beyond (or rather above) all disputes, too great to be the subject of any exception, and worthy of all acceptation.
      Secondly. Because these pamphlets are writings that proceed from men, and may, on that account, contain within them some portion of error, it is, therefore, proper to institute a lawful inquiry, that is, in a National Synod, whether or not there be any thing in those productions which requires amendment.”

      All catechisms and confessions were to him an obvious work of men, pious though they may be.

    • John I.

      Fr. R. states, in a post that is in the spirit of Tiri’s, “Yes, the Reformational and Reformed Theology stand much more on God’s Presuppositional Authority & Word, rather than mere evidence, of itself. Indeed God’s “evidence” is based on His own revelation… ‘I am’!I would maintain this is surely “Pauline” as “Johannine”, etc.”

      But in fact this approach is directly contrary to what God indicates in his scripture we are to do, and contrary to those examples that He does provide. For example,

    • @John I: We are not going to solve this East/West, nor Refomational verses Rome/Orthodox divide here on the blogs! I can state my positions, and you can yours. I have read perhaps more Eastern fathers and theology than I can now even remember? I still have selves of EO writers and theology. I respect much here! But, I will simply never be convinced that Holy Scripture is not THE authority, itself in the life of the Church! Just that simple! That is simply what is the issue for the presuppositional thinker & theolog about the Holy Scripture, it is its OWN authority under God! I would even admit to some degree that the Reformation itself secured the position and shape of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura! But, from out of the great authority of the Word of God itself! It came to the only historical and logical conclusion, as we can see in 2 Peter 1: 19-21!

    • Indeed the New Birth comes by the Word of God itself! (1 Peter 1: 21-25) Note how Paul says: “It pleased God, by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21) The word here translated “preaching,” – kerygma – signifies not the action of the preacher, but that which he preaches, i.e. his “message”. And Christ, both the Logos & the Rhema, is that Person & Message! It is here that we see the beauty of Luther’s doctrine (from St. Paul), the doctrine of the cross, or as Luther stated in the Lat