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?

Attempting to Look God Eye to Eye

Theological gurus call this “cataphatic” theology. Cataphatic theology emphasizes 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” (reference needed). When we have to understand everything, we attempt to trade our finitude for infinitude.

Accepting Mystery as a Primary Epistemic Category

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 to explain the mysteries of the world, form societies to discuss the nuances of our faith, or engage in excessive arguments. For these, accepting mystery is their primary epistemic category.

The Dangers of Both Apophadic and Cataphatic Theology

I don’t mean to characterize either people from the east or the west. Of course, so far, I’ve spoken in generalities. Each of these characteristics, taken to extremes, can lead to down a dark path. Apophadic theology can lead to 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. Cataphatic theology can lead to arrogence and mischaracterization as we force pieces of our theological puzzle in places they don’t belong or we introduce foreign pieces to the puzzle to make it fit together.

Finding Balance in the Secret Things and the Things Revealed

Deuteronomy 29:29:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

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.

My Intent so Far

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- Closed System?

Calvinism is not a closed, rationality-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 sometimes true. Often, Calvinists do attempt to fit things into a system and engage in questionable, logic-driven hermeneutics to do so.

The Tension Allowed in Calvinism

However, I think we need to 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.

The Central Issue

Calvinism centers on one primary doctrine: God’s sovereignty in predestination. While the general doctrine 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 unconditional election in the same way as a Calvinist.

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.

Calvinist’s View of Election

The Calvinist says that God’s predestination is individual and 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. Election is not arbitrary. It is not a flip of the coin. It is simply that His reason is not found in us. It is his “secret” and “mysterious” will that elects some and passes over others. Once one believe this, for all intents and purposes, whether he or she calls themselves such, they are in the Calvinist camp.

The Arminian View of Election

The Arminian says that God’s predestination is conditioned in us. God elects either the person who chooses Him, Christ Himself, the Gospel, or the best possible world. All of these are options. In the end, his election is actionable, ultimately, because the faith of the predestined. For the majority of Arminians, here is how it works: God looks ahead in time, discovers who will believe and who will not, and then 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: Against Calvinism

The Arminian Solution

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 individuals, then people don’t have responsibility in their choice, good or ill. Therefore, in order to make things fit, the Arminian defines (re)divine election or predestination in such a way to make it fit with their understanding of human libertarian freedom. The Arminian says that God’s choice is based on man’s choice. Alternatively, as I said, they say God’s choice is for something else like Christ, the Gospel, the Church, the best possible world (it gets confusing, I know).

Therefore, we have achieved consistency. The tension is solved. There is no tension. No mystery. Cataphatic theology trumps what seems to be an apophatic mystery. The “secret things are exposed. We have looked behind the curtain of God.

The Calvinist Solution

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 (although, some, unfortunately, do).

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 of individuals?” We have no answer. We have an option that the Arminians don’t. We can get off our stool and stop trying to look God eye-to-eye. We can and should 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 and how people are truly   responsible for their rejection of him, we will trust that His gavel is just.” We will redefine neither divine election nor human responsibility to make them fit a more rational or logical system.

Revelation Over Reason

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 responsibility 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. ”

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.

The Mystery of Divine Election

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 hererodoxy (I do not believe the Arminian view is heretical in the proper sense).

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: For Calvinism

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. While Calvinism is not irrational in the former sense, it does cause tension as it recognize God’s ineffibility in the doctrine of election.

Let the assault begin . . .

Course Recommendation: The Theology Program Soteriology

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    502 replies to "The Irrationality of Calvinism"

    • @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 Latin: the “theologia crucis”! (1 Cor. 2: 1-5)

    • JB Chappell

      @John I.

      -“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’.”-

      Thankfully, what Greg believes is fairly benign, socially speaking. So, he can be compared to such a “guru”. Unfortunately, the methodology he espouses is incredibly dangerous. People all over the glove simply accept the “Word of God” in the same manner he says we should, but instead of being a Calvinist message of “maybe you’re elect, maybe you’re not”, it is a message of “Kill the infidel” or “God hates [insert perjorative label here]”.

      There is of course, danger in “lean[ing] on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5-7). But, of course, this is why I would claim uncertainty is proper. Acknowledging that things are uncertain is a result of acknowledging that there are limits to human understanding, which leads to placing trust in God.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      RE: the document you posted to, we could go another 1000 rounds on everything that is wrong with that, I’m sure. I’m not sure exactly why you posted it, but it obviously doesn’t answer any question that I posed (or anyone else).

      You stated you wanted to be courteous and answer my questions, as I have taken the time to deliberately answer those you direct towards me. Please demonstrate your sincerity by *directly* answering the questions posed to you in Comment #9 (p. 12).

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert

      -“But, I will simply never be convinced that Holy Scripture is not THE authority, itself in the life of the Church! Just that simple!”-

      Well, rarely are things that simple 😉

      What is “Holy Scripture”? Or, if you prefer, how do we know what is “scripture”, and what isn’t?

      Being a sharp guy, I’m sure you know where that line of reasoning is headed. We don’t possess the “scriptures” because of something that scripture told us (i.e., 1 Thessalonians did not tell us to accept 2 Thessalonians as “scripture”). Canons were formed based on a number of factors and criteria… in other words, *evidence* was needed to accept them.

    • JB, To save time and space, let me press and recommend the fine book here by Michael Kruger: Canon Revisited, Establishing The Origins And Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012). Indeed the Word of God always self-authentics Itself!

      *Note that both Mike Horton and John Frame have written blurbs for the book (on the back).

    • JB Chappell

      @Fr. Robert

      I wouldn’t be worried about te space so much as the time, which i understand is valuable!

      The first problem with “self-authentication” in this case is that it doesn’t mean anything. I could be wrong, but I suspect that this will be just another incoherent “mystery” one is forced to accept.

      To see why this is, consider any actual example of a so-called “self-authenticating” document. For instance, government publications are often considered as such. But we actually know what a “government publication” is; and, in fact, legal statutes will generally describe how such a document is to be recognized. Likewise, if one considers a notarized document to be “self-authenticating”, we normally know what such a seal looks like.

      But to say “scripture is self-authenticating” does not any such direction. And, if we ground such a notion in a subjective experience (such as the witness of the Holy Spirit) what you end up with is a remarkably divergent set of official documents, which – of course – is exactly what happened in church history.

      The second, and related, problem is that the “self-authentication” of scripture is not a concept found in scripture. That all “scripture is God-breathed” does not, once again, tell me what scripture is.

    • JB Chappell

      note also that the sef-authetication of scripture usually relies on the witness of the Holy Spirit, which actually calls into question whether it is actually self-authenticating. In any case, is it not convenient that this witness is also said to be “self-authenticating”?

      • John

        Even if we assume for a moment that scripture is self authenticating on the level of the individual, and this is our epistemological foundation ( and I’ve posted here on the problems of that before ), the fact that Muslims and Mormons make the same argument means we can’t consciously know if our self-authentication experience is more valid than theirs. We can claim it is. We can bluster that it is. But since we don’t walk in anyone else’s shoes, it’s just fancy talk. Even if it is true, it’s kind if pointless to discuss it, no? If it all boils down to personal authentication which is all predestined, then all we need is basic evangelism. Give everyone a bible, and then leave it alone. God and self authentication can do the rest, the trouble is, no Christians behave like that is true, even Calvinists.

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      Whether the Bible authenticates itself, I don’t know…one thing I do know, is that once I was blind, but now I see…
      I trust that all of you recognize the passage of Scripture to which I have just alluded…
      However God brought it to pass, the fact is that it did not take long for the various congregations to recognize what was holy writing, and what was not. The Word, the Water and the Blood, and these three agree in one. Somehow, the baptized believer recognizes the Word of God, to the point that he turns away from Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, the Bhagvad Gita, and the Qur’an, putting his trust in those words which testify of Christ – the Old and New Testament.
      Fellows, I think you all will go around and around this mountain for the next 40 years, and will get no closer to finding rest than you are now. If you keep doing the same thing, hoping for a different result, what are you?

      • John

        “However God brought it to pass, the fact is that it did not take long for the various congregations to recognize what was holy writing”

        Depends how many hundreds of years you consider “not long”. Since Christian groups still don’t agree, I’m not sure what you mean. In fact, I’m not sure if the Syrian oriental church ever accepted the Petrine epistles, revelation, Jude, James etc. if they did then it was *really* recent.

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      “The standard United Bible Societies 1905 edition of the New Testament of the Peshitta was based on editions prepared by Syriacists Philip E. Pusey (d.1880), George Gwilliam (d.1914) and John Gwyn.[12] These editions comprised Gwilliam & Pusey’s 1901 critical edition of the Gospels, Gwilliam’s critical edition of Acts, Gwilliam & Pinkerton’s critical edition of Paul’s Epistles and John Gwynn’s critical edition of the General Epistles and later Revelation. This critical Peshitta text is based on a collation of more than seventy Peshitta and a few other Aramaic manuscripts. All twenty seven books of the common western canon of the New Testament are included in this British & Foreign Bible Society’s 1905 Peshitta edition, as is the adultery pericope (John 7:53-8:11). The 1979 Syriac Bible, United Bible Society, uses the same text for its New Testament. The Online Bible reproduces the 1905 Syriac Peshitta NT in Hebrew characters.” –

    • John

      The east Syrians closed their canon with 22 books ( the same ones Chrysostom cited ). The west Syrians added the other 5 books around the 7th century. So depending whether you think “never” or “7 centuries” constitutes “not long”. If I have to wait individually that long for enlightenment, I’ll be dead.

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      Well, I am not going to join you two in this incessant debate that is going nowhere. John just looks for reasons to disagree, while Greg keeps trying to convince that his way is THE Way, without success. At some point, one of you needs to walk away. I only entered over the issue of Scripture, and if John wants to try to use the Syrians, whose bible position did not hold sway over much of the Christian community, I have said all that I am going to say. The Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” If he disagrees with what the Church holds as foundational to its knowledge base, I wish him well, but I am not going to waste anymore time trying to convince him that EVERYBODY isn’t wrong BUT him. Only God can bring a man to repentance, and if a person resists that, there is nothing anyone else can do.

      • John

        Delwyn: I brought up the Syrians as an argument against personal inspiration and authority about what is authoritative. If you want to say consensus is authority, that’s a whole different thing! The problem here is Greg starting from the base foundation that what he feels is the word of god, is the authority. You would disagree with that too, no?

        • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

          Just as the child recognizes the voice of the father, so the Church recognizes the Word of God. Just like I don’t know how my knew the voice of my father, so I don;t know how the Church recognizes the Word of God, but I know that it does, just as I do. When I read the works of the LDS, I knew that I was not hearing the Word of Christ, and I took an antacid to take care of the heartburn. I offered the two young men some, too.

    • John I.

      To paraphrase a post, “pity Greg with his 3 pound brain who will go on exalting his own will over God’s”

      Greg has taken an approach to knowledge and certainty that is neither found in, based on, or supported by the Bible nor by God’s past dealings with us, nor by his general revelation. Greg asserts that his approach, begun in the renaissance and further developed by Van Til, is superior to the approach taken by God over several thousand years. What sheer arrogance.

      I too rest at peace and in the certain promises of God.

      re posts 24 & 25 (574 & 575) by Tiri

      Tiri’s rejection of the pragmatic use of evidence is an insolent attack on God’s revelation and on his very own practice. Throughout the OT God continually repeats to Israel the evidence of his past faithfulness as a reason for them to trust that he will continue to be faithful to it. Jesus, in dealing with Thomas does not go all presuppositional on him but tells him to put his hand in his (Jesus’) side. Really now, shouldn’t Tiri get in line with how God actually deals with us?

      The noetic effects of sin upon Tiri’s mind is evidenced by his inability to understand Psalm 88, and his arrogant human knowledge claim that it exemplifies a sterling presuppositionalist. The writer of the Psalm eloquently expresses despair and distance from God, with no reliance on or peace from a presuppositionalist understanding of God / theology / scripture. If what Tiri argues were true, then this Psalm–a revelation from God–would have shown how to have the presuppositionalist peace that Tiri claims to have. But it does not, for Tiri’s claims are false ones built upon modernist and humanist philosophy.

      On the article: Tiri, please note that I lumped you and Van Til together as you adopt his view. It was the viewpoint I was addressing, not the authorship, and I was responding to your post in which you adopted his view. Really, let’s get beyond the trivial nit-picking and focus on substantive…

    • John I.

      I’m being pragmatic and realist, dealing with natural evidence the way God does and reveals himself to do: it is God, not me, that asserts that the natural world evidences his existence. So, when I use the term “self-evident” I mean it in the way God asserts that his existence is evident in the obvious things that all humans can perceive, that is, evident to humans or self-evident. If you prefer a different term that means the same thing, go ahead and suggest it.

    • Again, for John And JB, I would challenge them both to the said book (Canon Revisited, etc.) by Michael Kruger (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, academic dean at Reformed Theology Seminary, Charlotte, NC). This book is just solid, and when we talk about “self-authenticating” we are of course tlaking about, as Jesus said: “spirit and truth”! We can see for example that the Letter to the Hebrews brought itself into this place!

      As too books/letters like 2 Peter, and even the Revelation! And indeed the Holy Scripture…”God Breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, which is foremost the OT to the New), is always its own “presupposition” in the doctrine and authority of God, the Almighty! When we “fight” with God’s Text and Canon, as even the historical Church (the latter to degree), we are “kicking against the pricks”, as Jesus said to Paul! (Acts 9: 5)

      Btw, JB, we must not reason alone, as the “world” or this “age”, but again see as St. Paul says with “spiritual discernment”, noting again 1 Cor. 2: 10-14. And for this, we simply must be regenerate!

      Rock on Delwyn! Reason must express belief and submission to God!

    • And GOD is not a pragmatic or realist, but a Sovereign and Holy God, ‘Totally Other’! Until we approach and come to THIS, we will never really touch the “unknown” God! Indeed the “red” pill first!

    • JB Chappell


      -“Just like I don’t know how [I] knew the voice of my father, so I don’t know how the Church recognizes the Word of God…”-

      Well, it seems to me rather obvious how a child recognizes the voice of his/her father. It’s a voice that is (ostensibly) heard from the beginning, and once mental activity develops to a certain point, the word “father” can be attached to it.

      Now, of course none of us (I assume) understand the inner workings of these cognitive processes. But at least we have a general idea, and it is clear that a face can be associated with the voice.

      This is obviously not the case with what we’re describing as “self-authentication”, unless people are having radically different spiritual experiences than what have previously been described to me. God doesn’t present Himself to us and say “by this Voice you shall know me”. The “self-authentication” referred to in regards to scripture would be more like a random stranger talking to someone, and that person being able to know who they are, despite never having heard their voice.

      -“… but I know that it does, just as I do.”-

      “Knowledge” is justified, true belief. If you cannot account for why/how you “know” something, then using the term is inappropriate. At the very least, it seems you should provide a working definition for what is meant by “know”.

      -“When I read the works of the LDS, I knew that I was not hearing the Word of Christ…”-

      But obviously others feel differently. So do you somehow have a better-honed “Christ-sense” than others, or do others trump you in this regard? If two kids recognize two different voices as “Father”, how are we to know which one is correct if the methodology is “self-authentication” – essentially, “just knowing”.

      -“At some point, you are engaging in fruitless debate…”-

      Sure, at some point. But what may seem fruitless to you (and you certainly seemed to be implying as much), may not be so to others. Why…

    • Here is the German Lutheran Koberle’s book, written in the mid 60’s as I remember? For the lastest German Lutheran , and rather conservative scholar, see Uno Schnelle (note his nice book: Apostle Paul, His Life and Theology (Baker Academic, 2005 in English)

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“…because you’ve been telling me this whole time that we can’t KNOW anything. That was you right?”-

      No, that was not me. In fact, I’ve been claiming quite the opposite. I know you’re not actually interested in considering anything I say, but at least you could demonstrate that you are interested in understanding before you rebut. “Knowing” does not require certainty according to any epistemology I am familiar with, and you’ve limited your certainty to “knowing” God, so if it did, you’d know relatively little as well – including 2+2=4.

      BTW, still waiting on answers to those questions, Greg.

    • JB Chappell

      @Tiribulus (Greg)

      -“You need to get familiar with God’s.”-

      It’s still not clear what this actually means, nor why it is necessary. You would claim that we are all using God’s “OS”, whether we realize it or not. So, regardless if I acknowledge it, apparently I am familiar with it, yes? So with that, what’s left is for me to determine why I need to acknowledge it. My guess is you would offer the following:

      1. It’s true
      2. God will provide me with “His certainty”

      Unfortunately, you offer #1 only as a question-begging assertion, and #2 is simply a testimony of a subjective experience.

      -“I just don’t know how to respond to somebody calling themselves a Christian while telling me that God has designed them to be uncertain about what he commands them to believe.”-

      I’m not claiming that we are *designed* to be this way. It is only if you believe that we are Fallen by design, that you would believe that. I suppose that follows from Calvinism, but that’s not what I’m defending. I’m simply describing how it is, not how how things are meant to be.

      But you’re shooting yourself in the foot again. If God “commands [us] to be believe” certain things, then obviously we do not have knowledge of these things. Believing is something done in the absence of knowledge. And if there is an absence of knowledge, then obviously there’s no certainty.

      -“I have said that without the knowledge of God there cannot be knowledge of anything else, including 2+2=4.”-

      You have said that, yes. You also boiled down your certain knowledge to 1 thing:

      “The only thing that’s certain is KNOWING HIM. Not just ABOUT Him.”

      You wrote that on page 11, comment #18. So is that NOT the only certain thing? Or does knowledge not require certainty?

      I’m still waiting on so many answers, Greg; you’ve made quite a habit of ignoring them. But I’m specifically referencing the questions I posed on page 12, comment #9.

    • John

      Greg: hmm, I thought you could have told us a bit more.

      Anyway, are you certain of the canon of scripture? ( if so, how? ).

      How much certainty do you have about your interpretation thereof? ( if you have such certainty, how much, and how come? )

    • John

      So… Just to get down to the nitty gritty, how are you CERTAIN that 3 John is scripture? Not just, what evidence is there, but what makes you CERTAIN.

      So, what facts broadly speaking do you list under “reformed soteriology” that you consider you cannot be wrong about? A reformed ordus salutes? TULIP? What? And how did you get to be CERTAIN about it? Not just, “I think I’m right” or even “I have strong confidence in my interpretation”, but actually CERTAIN?

    • […] as actually being a strength of the system, specifically over and above Arminianism. In this newest post, Mr. Patton levels many unfair and unfounded criticisms against Arminian theology and […]

    • John

      I’ll wait patiently Greg, while you struggle with all the uncertainty in your life about when you can get time to explain what you are certain about.


    • John

      I did a google search on “existential certainty” “metaphysical certainty” and got only about half a dozen results. Apparently that’s not a common distinction. In fact, I would have thought metaphysics was “about physical reality” and existential is “about what exists”, which sounds like the same category to me.

      Anyway, I’m just sorry I extracted some of your attention without actually getting an answer! 🙂

      ( BTW, I *AM* certain about what tie to wear to church. 🙂

    • The Jesus Realm

      […] as actually being a strength of the system, specifically over and above Arminianism. In this newest post, Mr. Patton levels many unfair and unfounded criticisms against Arminian theology and […]

    • […] as actually being a strength of the system, specifically over and above Arminianism. In this newest post, Mr. Patton levels many unfair and unfounded criticisms against Arminian theology and […]

    • @Greg: # 19, not a bad statement for the believer! (Election of Grace!) 😉

    • John

      Actually, I thought I was certain about the tie thing, but after I wrote that, it started playing on my mind, now I’m not sure anymore. So was I ever really certain, but then became uncertain? Or was I never really certain, I just hadn’t contemplated it long enough?

      Anyway Greg, I recall you saying that if you were uncertain about even one thing, everything was uncertain. But now you say you have a lot of existential uncertainty.

      Still hoping for an answer to my other questions sometime….

    • […] a post highlighting C. Michael Patton’s post on “The Irrationality of Calvinism”, a post I interacted with in a 5 part series.  In looking over the comments I discovered […]

    • […] ago, I discovered a post highlighting C. Michael Patton’s post on “The Irrationality of Calvinism”, a post I interacted with in a 5 part series.  In looking over the comments I discovered an […]

    • […] ago, I discovered a post highlighting C. Michael Patton’s post on “The Irrationality of Calvinism”, a post I interacted with in a 5 part series.  In looking over the comments I discovered an […]

    • Sonny Craig

      Lots of words, and little solutions. Such is the traditional approach to theology in Christianity, which is flawed fundamentally in its most foundational concepts. I say this as a true believer, not a higher critic, or skeptic, but a Bible-believing theologian. Is it so shocking that 500 year-old epistemology is going to have serious flaws in it? Newton was a genius of divine stature, he wrote the Principia, for God’s sake. Yet do we teach the luminiferous ether exists? No. Calvinists do not believe in Sola Scriptura, they believe in Sola Calvin, i.e Sola Calvin’s Institutes. They work tirelessly not to be found in contradiction of the Institutes, lest the be labeled heretics, as I once was, excommuicated on The HIghway in the mid-90’s for the mere mention of Scotus’ “hypothetical question” which Calvin banned from discussion. (google “sonny craig, presuppositional crreationism” and you’ll end up on a website where I posit a real theodicy which does solve the free-will Calvinist/Arminian problem, they are both wrong). But let’s not attack the Calvinist here, let’s show why the Arminianist answer of foreknowledge cannot work: Foreknowledge assumes God looks into the future, see the actions of secondary agents of causation (us, or the Devil, but mainly Adam for the purpose of discussion), and then plans accordingly. The question is most poinantly raised in the creation account. Did Adam have a real choice in the Garden between those two trees? Calvinism says no and yes at the same time. God acts to predestinate the work of the Cross, Christ’s redemptive work is primary to Adam’s choice, and designs/defines his action. Adam must choose to sin in order for Christ to come and die on a Cross. Yet Man is fully responsible. Most people, except the Calvinist, find this proposition nonsense. But Foreknowledge is no answer either. There is a doctrine even more primary to the nature of God than all others, and that is His Immutability. God does not change. (cont…

    • Sonny Craig


      God does not look forward to the actions of His creatures, and “plan accordingly.” This not only shoots down the Arminianist relianace on Foreknowledge as a solution to theodicy, it wreaks havoc on ideas such as Intelligent Design. God did not create black holes, and planet killing comets, and galaxies colliding together, this is a consequence of The Fall, and the Curse of Sin and the Ground. The Fall is Evolution, so debunking real evolution (molecules to man is, of course, false theology, but is real empirical data, I show why directly from the Bible in three examples that are irrefutable) becomes an exercise in denying what the Bible teaches clearly. “Thorns and Thistles” is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Entropy. Death is not only the mechanism of change, adaptation, descent with modification, and speciation, hence “evolution”, it is the mechanism of The Curse of Sin, Death, and the Ground. It connects the Moral and the Material. The quest to empirically prove Empiricism wrong is self-contradictory, a denial itself of the supernaturalism the Bible is based in, for God is Transcendent. I could go on, but you get the idea. Christian apologetics is totally flawed on the two first questions to jump off the pages of the Bible, Creation, and Free-Will. Thus, why should they listen to us when we talk of ultimate Ontology, questions of ultimate salvation? No, they will listen to the religion of Scientism, because it is self-correcting and advances epistemological understanding. (Presuppositional Creationism is the first and only Christian cosmology in the history of the Church to propose dysteleology as the center of a creation model, according to Robert Bradshaw, an expert in Christian history of creationist thought, also reviewed by Dr. John Munday of Regent University, math and science professor and Reagan science advisor. I am currently writing “Quantum Theology” live on Facebook, it’s public so you do not have to befriend to see it, FB…

    • Sonny Craig

      I am the original author of Presuppositional Creationism, c. 1996. Before this the terms “presuppositional” and Creationism” cannot be found in the same sentence in any Christian work in history, that much Bradshaw verified. Later, in 2001, Andrew Sandlin wrote a composition book of arguments for creation from presuppositional apologetics, but the concepts of mine cannot be utilized in Reformed theology, due to theological core differences. Only the concept is advanced, the argument on their side boils down to “the scientists presuppositionas are flawed” at which point the Creationist, having dismissed methodological naturalism (the scientific method) with a wave of the hand, then launches into staid, old debunked apologetics and continues to lie for God to their audiences. Mark Rushdoony (I knew his father, as well as David Chilton, personally) attempted to hijack my concept and title when he called on theologians (WTS covenant theology initiates, rather) to create a “presuppositional creationism” in a open letter in 2004 or 05 (i’d have to pull my reply to verify date). I offered Rushdoony a license to my copyright for $1 and authorial creadit in every work utilizing my work, to which he never replied, and I never saw him use the term again, but I haven’t really cared to look. My model is antithetical to Covenant/Reformed theology at it’s core ideas of supra- (or even sub-) lapsarianism, they are not compatible, unless the Calvinist accepts my theodicy and solution of a MWI (many worlds interpretation, used in the Standard Model of Physics, also known as multi-verse theory). Only my solution invokes only two universes, or possible histories (timelines, what have you). A universe where Adam fell, our current one, and a real potential history where Adam obeyed. The result solves the problem of a lack of Christian methodology for doing science, I won’t go into how here, I’m out of time and space, and have taken up enough of your valuable time. Thank you,…

    • JB Chappell

      If black holes, colliding planets, etc. are the result of the Fall, then these are, in fact, the work of God. Or was God not the one pronouncing the Curse(s)?

    • Sonny Craig

      I posted three posts and you graciously allowed two, but the supression of the second gutted the point I was making about God’s Immutability. I’ll brief it here while honoring your caution to review the rest first before publishing, I agree my points can be upsetting to the Christian public, to have their most cherished apolegetic crushed in an virtaul instant (i’m reffering to my comments about ID, teleology and dysteleology:

      God does not look forward to the actions of His creatures, and “plan accordingly.” This not only shoots down the Arminianist relianace on Foreknowledge as a solution to theodicy…… the comment posted above reveals the lack of understanding of the consequence of foreknowledge to the doctrine of immutability.

    • Bob Anderson

      “But Foreknowledge is no answer either. There is a doctrine even more primary to the nature of God than all others, and that is His Immutability…. (from second post) God does not look forward to the actions of His creatures, and “plan accordingly.” This not only shoots down the Arminianist reliance on Foreknowledge as a solution to theodicy, it wreaks havoc on ideas such as Intelligent Design. ”

      How are you defining “foreknowledge” and what is the basis of this definition?

    • Sonny Craig

      I suppose I’ll have to qualify my comments until the moderator gives me the go ahead to speak further on the theology is detailed in the comment he did not allow. This way I respect his editorial rights.

      As to your question, the difference is huge, that though God pronounced the curses, the assignment of prevenient design and consequences to the issues of freew-will and predestination are stark between a God who creates evil (if you’ll grant my defintion of evil, here for a moment) and one who controls the consequences of the free-will choice of His creatures. There is a big difference between being unable to chose and course of action, and being unable to control the consequences of those actions. God is relieved of the accusation of being the author of evil in my theodicy, while the supralapsarian position, and sub-lapsarian positions of both Calvinism and Arminianism (soft-determinism) leave these problems in Christian epistemology in place, and it is my contention that all three Chirstian hermeneutical approaches (Catholic, Calvinist, and Arminian) places an impediment to Calvary and biblical interpetation in light of biblical theology, an unecessary and inaccurate one before those to whom the Gospel is preached in the modern age. Epistemololgy has changed in human history since the biblical examples of Gospel preaching in the NT. Eyewitness testimony is no longer credible in the quantum modern age, as Empiricism and DNA testing, for example, sets me free while eyewitness testimony (to the doctrine of the Resurrection, for example) is highly suspect. The Gospel as taught in the NT has all the elements of salvation included of course, and there is a balanced mixture of empirical approach (circumstantial argumentation) and faith propositions (presuppositionalism). However, as modern science and epistemology has developed, this mixture has changed, according to developing technology and cultural evolution (if you will). In the modern era, we should not…

    • Sonny Craig

      …in the modern era, we should not compromise on the disctinctives of Christian philosophy and biblical theology, but the application of the preaching of the Gospel elements may need to be altered from the methodology employed by Christ and the Apostles to account for these changes in epistemology in our culture, or whatever culture we are addressing the life-saving Gospel to. It’s the same question missionaries have faced, making the Gospel not only understanable to their target audience, but effectual as well, in terms of the Holy Spirit’s synergy with the one receiving the everlasting Word of Life. In the early Church, it may have been 1/2 presuppositional faith approach, and 1/2 empirical approach. In the modern era, it may require better explanations, or more qualified ones, and a different mixture. Also, it is my contention, and I can’t detail this contention until the moderator gives me leave, that Augustinianism and Thomism is no longer an accurate approach, in other words Christian apologetics has not kept pace with modern epistemology, and hence is well behind the average hearer of the Gospel today in terms of that hearer’s knowledge base. Better explanations are need, and it is my contention the Church (both Catholic and Protestant) made an error in exalting the Thomist philosophic school and making the Scotist school the haunt of heretics. Scotist philosphy employs hypothetical thinking and is the precursor to the modern scientific method, hypothesis and falsification. Presuppositionalism and presuppositional apologetics (what you would call Van Tillianism) developed in the Church, while modern science developed critical thinking through hypothesis and falsification. I don’t have to tell you which one is winning the debate.

    • Sonny Craig

      Also, I will not be found engaging you in a technical debate, and I’ll tell you why. I am qualified to have that discussion, but have spent the past two decades as a reductionist attempting to find language to make complex theological ideas comprehendable to the average hearer. I have no allusions that I will take a WTS Reformed theologian and turn him into a Scotist. But my model of Presuppositional Creationism is based in Van Tillian apologetic principles. The Hypothetical Question, my model of theodicy, is based in Scotism. The two together solve in my opinion, at least in a seminal form of basic idealism, the problem we face in Christianity in discussing Creation and Free-Will, the first two questions posed by the Bible in Genesis. I am a Schaferrian (I knew him and was discipled by him for a shirt time before his death. I am a Christian committed to Grammatical-Historical hermeneutics, but I modify this hermeneutic to account for some Scotist ideas that help frame these discussions into a more effective explanation. My theology may not have the technical depth of an R.J. Rushdoony or R.C. Sproul, but technicality is not my goal, comprehension and remaining faithful to non-apparent biblical theology is. (I also knew Rushdoony, btw). My theology is anti-thetical to Covenant and Reformed Theology, but I grant that these theologies are far superior in presentation, than say a Dispensational one (although all hermeneutical schools are dispensational in premise, even if it is just two dispensations as in Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Works and Grace). I have knocked out some pretty fundamentally challenging ideas in my work, and consider them seminal ideas in the realm of lay theology, but I do need the professional theologian’s help in expanding these ideas technically. I have been working for fifteen years to find that help, but you can imagine the resistance on the part for Theology to believe it needs fundamental change.

    • @Greg: Amen! Humility is a reality for all of us!

    • Bob Anderson


      Perhaps it would be wise to identify who you are addressing with your responses.

      This topic area certainly needs a new thread. Perhaps we could get CMP to allow you to post your proposition (not your whole thesis) for discussion.

      A few suggestions first. Do not presuppose the capabilities of your audience. Too many times I have found that posters assume the lack of study or lack of intelligence (which is what they are really suggesting) of those reading. While the breadth of theology is wide, there are those who study and pursue deeper knowledge just as you claim for yourself.

      Second, you are coming off a bit condescending here. Do you really think what you are doing is novel and groundbreaking? Then present it with humility, not arrogance.

      Finally, it seems to be that you also are clinging to old paradigms of theological reasoning. To casually declare both Calvinists and Arminians wrong without some level of explanation seems a bit too casual for my taste, particularly in that thread by a Calvinist about Calvinism. (I am not from that camp.)

      Perhaps you could answer my prior question in the other post.

    • Sonny Craig

      This is why I don’t even bother with Christians, no matter how politie and rational and empathetic you try to be, they find nothing but offense in anything that does not smack of their astoundingly redundant theology.

      Thank you, moderator or whatever (I have not bothered to identify the characters here yet), but I’m not going to sit here and be inquisitioned by thinkers who regurgitate the very theology that got Christianity into the position it is today, completely irrelevant to modern society and unable to grasp how irrelevant it is.

      Talk about humility, I insulted no one here and showed nothing but respect (though I was wrong about the editing, I was unfamiliar with your format and thought one shaded post of mine was not visible, I was wrong, I think). Pride is not only self-unaware, it projects their own sin on others and is amazingly blind to their own nastiness, claiming it of others while it spews out their own mouths. Asps all. Maybe not all, but enough to make me flee the den of snakes.

    • cherylu


      Goodness me, you come here out of the blue and now are calling people asps and snakes?? Have you by any chance read the blog rules for this site??

    • Bob Anderson

      Sonny: “This is why I don’t even bother with Christians, no matter how politie and rational and empathetic you try to be, they find nothing but offense in anything that does not smack of their astoundingly redundant theology.”

      This is a rather surprising statement, since both here and on your website you claim to be in the class that we would designate as “Christian.”

      To suggest that Christianity as it stands today is irrelevant to modern society seems a bit extreme in my book. Modern society is moving quickly towards into a very ungodly state (antichristian, in fact), but that does not suggest that Christianity needs to change. I think we all need to understand Christianity in its ancient form much better to truly understand the message of our faith.

    • Preach it my brothers Bob & Greg! 😉

    • Bob Anderson

      Frankly, his topic area seemed rather interesting. Too bad he felt he had a need to bow out.

    • As Greg noted, I’d rather have faithfulness than something new and interesting! But then we (Greg & I) have something of a Calvinist tight book here. Not a closed book, but one biblically tight! 😉 After all this blog post was something “Calvinist”! I am smiling… 😉

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