Where does Arminianism come from?

“Arminianism trumps biblical sentences with metaphysics.”

–John Piper, “How A Roman Catholic Anti-Calvinist Can Serve Today’s Poet-Calvinists” (DesiringGod.org)

183 Responses to Where does Arminianism come from?

  1. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 3:53 pm #

    What total trash. Calvinists have absolutely no right to point to the mote in the Armenian eye on this of all things. If Piper wants to teach his flock to enter more deeply (and responsibly) into mystery, he has my full support. But to act like this is a hallmark of his position against his opponents is to court the absurd. I’m actually really surprised at Piper – he should know better than to say this. The idea that we can be led to believe that an appreciation for deep Christian mystery is somehow lacking in any way, shape, or form in an Armenian like John Wesley or C. S. Lewis is, well, truly mysterious.

  2. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    Now that I’ve said this, I wonder if in my vehemence, I’ve acted inappropriately. I am a pseudonymous blogger, and as such should take great care in criticizing people who have their reputations publicly online (lest I be a cowardly sniper). In this case, I am responding to a denigrating remark he has made toward Armenians which I think beneath him, but it may be over the line. Denny, I’ll let you, as the man with the delete button, be the judge.

  3. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    The deeper appreciation of mystery is found in Arminianism which asserts that God knows all things without having to initiate ALL things, especially temptation and sin. This is based in Scripture

    Calvinism asserts that God initiates ALL things but still claims that he does not initiate temptation to sin. This is not compatibilism but contradiction.

  4. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm #

    Since when does Calvinism say that God “initiates” all things? As far as I know, Calvinism asserts that Satan is the father of lies, not God.

    Again, we have the mystery…if God allows something to happen doea that mean He initiated it?

  5. Ferg May 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    Sometimes I wonder are posts like that put here to start an argument. I’m not even going to bother.

  6. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 28, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    I chose the term “initiates” as a synonym for the Calvinist understanding that God is “the principle cause of events.” [Calvin, Institutes, XVII, 6]

    Calvin also says “That men do NOTHING save at the secret INSTIGATION OF GOD, and do not discuss and deliberate on ANYTHING but what he has PREVIOUSLY DECREED with himself and BRINGS TO PASS by his secret DIRECTION, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture.” [Institutes, XVIII, 1] (all caps added by me)

    If Calvin meant what he said there, then my reasoning from that statement is that God is the principle cause or the initiating cause of all things internal or external to man, including that initial lust for sin.

    If Calvin or Calvinists would back off of the “NOTHING” or “ANYTHING” then I would not have a problem. My point is that some things, especially sins, are initiated by a principle causation which begins in human beings or Satan. God allows these creatures to “initiate” the sin, but He in no way instigates it or decrees it, He only “allows” it. Sin happens because limited finite creatures initiate its entry. God’s foreknowledge is not God’s predestination. That is where the mystery lies.

  7. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 28, 2008 at 5:21 pm #

    Both of the quotes come from Book I:

    [Calvin, Institutes,I.XVII, 6]

    [Institutes,I.XVIII, 1]

    I am not sure if this is the proper citation method. I would appreciate any corrections regarding how Calvin’s works should be cited in reference.

  8. Truth Unites... and Divides May 28, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    “Arminianism trumps biblical sentences with metaphysics.”

    Why can’t Piper express his own opinion?

  9. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 6:19 pm #

    Ferg,

    I do not want to argue…just a friendly debate :o)

    David,

    I agree with you that God is NOT the cause of all things. BUT, since God is sovereign and chooses to allow events to happen, ultimately God ordains that those events (or sins) be. If I believe the mystery exists between our responsiblity and God’s sovereignty.

  10. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 6:21 pm #

    Oooops, take the “If” out of my last sentence in #9

  11. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    Why can’t Piper express his own opinion?

    Is anyone suggesting that Piper’s freedom of speech be revoked? No one is objecting to Piper expressing his opinion – they are objecting that the opinion is so laughably off the mark. If Piper-style Calvinism is one that eschews rational constructs for mystery, then folks, there is no theology on Earth that does otherwise. If it’s a development, it is most certainly a welcome one, but he’s fooling no one in reading the deeply Catholic G. K. Chesterton and saying “Oh yeah, double-predestination best-of-all-possible-worlds Calvinism is steeped in mystery.” Give me a break.

  12. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Kevin,

    Can you explain the nature of the mystery between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? What two truths do you hold firmly in place, and what connection is shrouded in mystery?

    I ask because it is very important for the disciplined Christian not to use mystery as an excuse for overlooking a genuine contradiction. Can you explain why this qualifies as mystery and not contradiction?

  13. Truth Unites... and Divides May 28, 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    Piper: “But his celebration of poetry and paradox undermines his own abomination of the greatest truth-and-mystery-lovers around today, the happy Calvinists.

    Nothing in this Calvinism-abominating book came close to keeping me from embracing the glorious sovereignty of God. On the contrary, the poetic brightness of the book, along with the works of C. S. Lewis, awakened in me an exuberance about the strangeness of all things—which in the end made me able to embrace the imponderable paradoxes of God’s decisive control of all things and the total justice of his holding us accountable.

    One of the reasons that Calvinism is stirring today is that it takes both truth and mystery seriously. It’s a singing, poetry-writing, run-through-the-fields Calvinism.”

    I still don’t see how his opinion is so laughably off the mark.

  14. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    TUAD,

    Because it is not the Calvinism that we non-Calvinists see. I can not think of another Christian movement that could be less aptly described that way – of embracing mystery. The Christian rationalist, who has to have every minute bit of theology carefully systematized and defined, is your stereotypical Calvinist. If Piper wants to buck the trend, more power to him, but you folks just aren’t going to come across as believable when you act like this has been a defining centerpiece of your movement (and indeed, use it as one more theological clubs to beat down the Armenians), when our experience is so far to the contrary it’s not even funny.

    Two of my closest friends are Calvinists – and they are wonderful, Godly people. I went to a Calvinist High School, and am grateful for what I learned from them. But to say that “mystery” is one of their defining characteristics is like saying that the world-famous vivid Calvinist religious iconography is the center of their worship. It’s beyond parody.

  15. Truth Unites... and Divides May 28, 2008 at 8:18 pm #

    “The Christian rationalist, who has to have every minute bit of theology carefully systematized and defined, is your stereotypical Calvinist.”

    The key word is “stereotypical”. WFO, you are seeing Piper through your filtered glasses that produces stereotypes. Take off your glasses and that’ll take away your sterotypic vision that you have of Calvinists.

    Besides, have you ever considered that some things that people embrace as mystery aren’t really mysteries? And yes, by the same token, some things that people embrace as rational, should really be embraced as Godly mystery.

    Extend Piper and Calvinism some grace.

  16. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 8:52 pm #

    TUAD,

    I know these people…I know them well. I’ve lived with them. I love them, really I do. But I’m not about to smile and nod when they get triumphalistic about what is surely, if anything, their particular besetting sin, and start bashing another group who is far less guilty of it. No sir. “Thou art the man.”

  17. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 9:07 pm #

    WFO,

    Thank you for asking. The two truths I hold to are:

    1. God is the Sovereign Lord
    2. Man is responsible even when “response” is impossible (i.e. when we are spiritually dead in our sins we are still responsible for responding to a spiritual truth because those who do not respond in faith get punished for eternity)

    This is seemingly a contradiction (to our sinful, legalistic nature) and thus a mystery. I hold that God’s Word is Truth and it does not try to explain this “mystery” to us so we must not try either.

  18. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    Hi Kevin,

    Here is what I’m struggling with, and maybe you can help address it. Mystery, in so far as I understand it in theology, has to do with being given images that, if taken naively, would lead to contradiction, but, when held in tension, lead you into deeper truth. Hence, we understand Jesus to be fully human, and fully divine, while calling him some sort of half-man half-god hybrid (surely the naive assumption) is heresy. We understand the one God existing as three persons in the trinity, and may not confound the persons or divide the substance.

    But what I’m a little wary of is using mystery as an excuse for a simple contradiction. For instance, one might say that I hold to:

    1. The Nazis kill the Jews in a horrible holocaust.
    2. What they did was noble and just.

    Calling this a “moral mystery” is…um…shall I say pretentious?

    So with God and man. I really don’t see how, if God preordained man before the foundations of the world to fall, to rebel against him, and to be damned to eternal punishment for it, while some are preordained to repent, and are saved for it, that he may be glorified for his justice in damning those he preordained to damnation and saving those he preordained to salvation, that this is a moral picture of God. Even many Calvinists, from what I understand, reject the picture of double-predestination. I don’t see how calling it “mystery” is much more than a cop-out. Does that make sense?

    Now, one might formulate it in a way that the mystery is a little more genuine. For instance, you might say that God is sovereign over all, but man is responsible to choose the right, and how that sovereignty is worked out in those autonomous choices is a mystery (as an aside, it is interesting to me that the sovereignty of Christ is exercised most perfectly from the “throne” of the cross, which might give us a hint as to the nature of the mystery of the sovereignty of God – that it doesn’t necessarily overbear and obliterate our wills and autonomy). That seems a little more reasonable – because the mystery is not in the ethics, but in the actual nature of the deep realities. And perhaps you can rework your statement to be a little more like that. But do you see my concern?

  19. Faimon May 28, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    Calvinist High School? Really?

    At least I could’ve told my parents, “Hey, don’t blame me! That D was predetermined!”

  20. Stephen Newell May 28, 2008 at 9:32 pm #

    WFO,

    From one “non-Calvinist” to another, let me say the reason most of us “non-Calvinists” get so upset and refuse to actually listen to the other side, which you’ve so ably written in your previous comment:

    Here is what I’m struggling with…
    in so far as I understand it…
    I really don’t see how…
    from what I understand…
    I don’t see how…

    This is especially true of the vast majority of the ad hominem attackers of Calvinism in the blogosphere (which, thankfully, you are not one of them). We “non-Calvinists” need to quit making our own understanding the norm by which we look at Scripture. Proverbs 3, anyone?

    Once “non-Calvinists” give up their false exegetical control over Scripture and allow it to speak for itself, we’ll realize that we really have nothing to fear about “those dang Calvinists!”

  21. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    Faimon,

    And yet, in the mysterious justice of God, you’d still be grounded. 😉

    Stephen,

    I’m having a hard time deciphering the tone of your comment. What parts were facetious?

  22. Truth Unites... and Divides May 28, 2008 at 9:46 pm #

    Can Calvinism vs. Arminianism be shorthanded down to Monergism vs. Synergism?

    If I’m not mistaken, Calvinists are monergists. And Arminians are synergists.

  23. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    WFO,

    “Our understanding” does not stand up against Ephesians Chapters 1 and 2. “As far as I can see” it says we are chosen be Gof before the foundation of the world and the faithwe have is not of ourselves, it is a gift from God. Even when were dead is our trespasses He made us alive together with Christ…by grace you have been saved.

    It seems clear to me although it did not seem that clear about 1 1/2 years ago.

  24. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    man my typing is BAD. chosen “by God” not “be Gof”

  25. Wonders for Oyarsa May 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    So Kevin, you’re choosing not to engage my comment?

  26. Kevin J May 28, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    WFO,

    Please give me until tomorrow when I can more fully understand what you wrote. I am a little tired tonight. Thanks for understanding…good night.

  27. Stephen Newell May 29, 2008 at 4:16 am #

    WFO said: I’m having a hard time deciphering the tone of your comment. What parts were facetious?

    *quizzical look on Stephen’s face*

  28. D.J. Williams May 29, 2008 at 7:16 am #

    To respond to WFO’s question about what the difference is between mystery and genuine contradiction…

    If God’s Word teaches both truths, then it is not contradiction, and thus we embrace as mystery. I really don’t see how this is any different in principle than the example of the dual nature of Christ you brought up. Why, in your mind, is that doctrine an acceptable mystery while compatiblistic reformed theology is simply contradiction?

  29. Truth Unites... and Divides May 29, 2008 at 7:25 am #

    Me: “WFO, you are seeing Piper through your filtered glasses that produces stereotypes. … Extend Piper and Calvinism some grace.”

    WFO: “But I’m not about to smile and nod when they get triumphalistic about what is surely, if anything, their particular besetting sin, and start bashing another group who is far less guilty of it. No sir.”

    WFO, what exactly is this “particular besetting sin” of Calvinists and of Pastor Piper that you are so vehement about? Are you utterly sure that you’re not making a false accusation of sin?

  30. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    WFO, what exactly is this “particular besetting sin” of Calvinists and of Pastor Piper that you are so vehement about? Are you utterly sure that you’re not making a false accusation of sin?

    TUAD, you’re too much. I’m saying that the particular thing Piper is accusing Arminians of is more characteristic of his camp than the Arminians. Isn’t it interesting that you immediately defend Piper as having a right to his opinion, but my “thou art the man” is not showing him grace? A very selective grace you have there, TUAD – for only the elect, I suppose?

  31. Truth Unites... and Divides May 29, 2008 at 7:57 am #

    WFO, can you be more specific? What exactly is the particular besetting sin of Piper and Calvinism?

    Your response is unclear.

  32. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    TUAD,

    The need to see every jot and tittle of theology clearly defined and systematized, such that the overall theological model is airtight and waterproof. Constructing such a model becomes the goal of theology – which is a sort of “scientific method” for which scripture is the “data”.

  33. Darius May 29, 2008 at 8:23 am #

    I’m not getting involved in a thread that went from 1 to 31 comments overnight… suffice it to say, amen Piper.

  34. Darius May 29, 2008 at 8:26 am #

    Oooh, I can’t pass up on comment #32.

    WFO, the New Testament writers and even Jesus make it fairly clear that every jot and tittle of theology must be clearly defined and that anyone who strays from that theology must be called out as a false teacher. If fighting false teaching is such a huge issue in the NT (and it is), then one must know what right teaching/theology is.

  35. Darius May 29, 2008 at 8:28 am #

    As rational beings, it behooves us to fully understand the text upon which we stake our souls. If even one bit appears to contradict, then we must determine where we’re going wrong in our reading.

  36. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    If God’s Word teaches both truths, then it is not contradiction, and thus we embrace as mystery. I really don’t see how this is any different in principle than the example of the dual nature of Christ you brought up. Why, in your mind, is that doctrine an acceptable mystery while compatiblistic reformed theology is simply contradiction?

    I certainly wouldn’t suggest that reformed theology cannot, in principle, embrace mystery. However, I am wary of using “mystery” as a sort of “get out of jail free card”. Would you not agree that it is dangerous to invoke mystery to shore up bad theology? That flat-out contradictions ought to be a signal that something is wrong? If we can agree on this principle (that it should not be abused), then we can then talk about the responsible invocation of Christian mystery.

  37. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 8:36 am #

    As rational beings, it behooves us to fully understand the text upon which we stake our souls. If even one bit appears to contradict, then we must determine where we’re going wrong in our reading.

    Thank you, Darius.

    Ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A. This is what I’m talking about. This is both the strength and weakness of reformed theology, and it is very much in tension with embracing mystery.

    I’ll leave y’all to work this out, but I would very much caution you against using this particular club to beat the Arminians with. You have plenty of others in your arsenal that have far less unintended irony.

  38. Darius May 29, 2008 at 8:57 am #

    Actually, you completely miss the point, WFO. Just because we have to fully understand the text doesn’t mean that we can’t notch certain ideas and aspects up to “mystery.” For example, take the apparent contradiction between God’s choosing us and our responsibility for our “choice.” We can’t, like Arminians do, just ignore that contradiction and choose one over the other. We compare with the rest of the Scriptures and see that God CLEARLY makes the choice who is saved, yet He is also JUST in sending people to hell for choosing not to believe in Him. That is a mystery.

  39. Adam Omelianchuk May 29, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    “We compare with the rest of the Scriptures and see that God CLEARLY makes the choice who is saved, yet He is also JUST in sending people to hell for choosing not to believe in Him. That is a mystery.”

    Where is the mystery? There are too many conditions asserted in that sentence to leave room for one, which is the entire issue of the controversy. An Arminian response is quite simple: If God desires to save all then it is contradictory to say that God would want to only save some. Calling a contradiction a mystery just doesn’t work.

  40. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    WFO,

    It seems to me that you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth:

    From one side you say that Calvinists have an “airtight” theeology and must have it all figured out.

    From the other side you say that Calvinists should not use “mystery” as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for the seeming contradictory teachings of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty.

    So, WFO, which is it? Do Calvinists have to have it all figured out or do you agree that there is “mystery” in Calvinism?

    It seems to me that Arminianism is trying to do away with this “mystery” by saying such things as:

    “Here is what I’m struggling with…
    in so far as I understand it…
    I really don’t see how…
    from what I understand…
    I don’t see how…”

  41. Truth Unites... and Divides May 29, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    WFO: “[Calvinism] need to see every jot and tittle of theology clearly defined and systematized, such that the overall theological model is airtight and waterproof. Constructing such a model becomes the goal of theology – which is a sort of “scientific method” for which scripture is the “data”.

    Exhibit A for your confession that you hold to a stereotyped caricature of Calvinism.

  42. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Exhibit A for your confession that you hold to a stereotyped caricature of Calvinism.

    If having one for my lifelong best friend and best man at my wedding is a stereotype, then I daresay I’m at a loss for how I could avoid such stereotypes.

    I do not say that all Calvinists do this, but that it is strong tendency they should guard against, and certainly not something they should pride themselves as being “better than the Arminians” on.

  43. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    Hi Kevin,

    So you’re still not interested in engaging my comment?

  44. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    I’m just glad that I don’t worship a duplicitous God. A God who rejoices in the suffering of man, yet tells us to come to him and he will give us rest. A God who says he does not take delight in the death of wicked men, yet rejoices in their going to hell. A God who has particular love for children yet loves when they are kidnapped and raped and defiled to the worst lengths – glory to him for all this. Glory to the God who says he wants all men to be saved yet loves to send them to hell, by HIS own bidding. even if as some may say we have moral responsiblity in the midst of it, it still does matter a bit as God still causes it to happen.
    I’ll never understand the hypocritical ogre God of calvinism.

  45. Darius May 29, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    Ferg, you don’t even know what Calvinism is. Your misrepresentation is amazingly ignorant of anything resembling Calvinism.

  46. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 9:53 am #

    you’re right I have no idea. no idea at all. Does God rejoice in everything? according to Calvinism he does. You cannot deny that. Everything he does is for his own glory. So therefore if a child is raped, he rejoices in it. Some will say that the will of God is upset etc, but the mysterious, secret will of God is delighted because what happened is what he wanted to happen.

    all you need to do is answer the question, is God happy with all his decisions, and all things that happen according to his will?

  47. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 9:57 am #

    I apologise for the last line in post 44. genuinely, it was way too harsh. sorry guys.

  48. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    Now Ferg, don’t you go and prove Piper’s point after I’ve spent so much energy refuting it. 😉

  49. Darius May 29, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    Yes and yes. And yet that doesn’t mean he rejoices in child rape.

    Let’s take a look at Job. God wasn’t happy that Job was suffering, but He chose to allow Satan to harm him according to His perfect plan. Again, Ferg, like most Arminians, you (unintentionally) set your own human understanding up as a god, and if God can’t fit into our neat little box of human comprehension, He must be the one who is wrong.

  50. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    WFO,

    You said in comment #18:

    “as an aside, it is interesting to me that the sovereignty of Christ is exercised most perfectly from the “throne” of the cross, which might give us a hint as to the nature of the mystery of the sovereignty of God – that it doesn’t necessarily overbear and obliterate our wills and autonomy”

    In your statement there is an assumption that we have “autonomy”. Even though you do not say “free” will I am assuming that is what you mean by autonomy.

    Until I see scripture that proves autonomy (or free will) I will never be able to formulate the mystery the same way you have. Scripture says we are resonsible for our actions but does not say that we are totally free to choose those actions (as far as doing what is right). Consider the following verses:

    Jeremiah 10:23 – 24 (ESV) I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.

    Please do not use the worn-out argument that this is “proof-texting”. If you do not agree with these verses “out-of-context” then please show why.

  51. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    There’s a big difference in allowing Satan to harm him, and actually making Satan harm him, which is what a Calvinist believes. And actually according to Calvinist beliefs he does rejoice in all things, as it is his will. So therefore he does rejoice in a childs rape as it is according to his will. you cannot escape this. well, I hope you can, but i don’t think you can!!! I remember listening to a John Piper eulogy for a child who died and I was shocked at his message to the parents to thank God for his will in taking their child in horrific circumstances. But, in another way I was impressed at how unapologetic a calvinist Piper is for taking his beliefs to the extent that he does. Piper knows that his beliefs take him to the level that we must look to God in our suffering because he caused it. (somehow he gets comfort in that – i don’t).

  52. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    yeah sorry WAO!!! I should have left you to it. I love how you speak with grace and humility. I think I’m pretty sensitive at the moment as I was just at a family members funeral. I should probably have stayed out of this!

  53. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 29, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    Okay, Ferg has given us a list of comparative statements which he uses to charge Calvinism with a false view of God. Darius calls it misrepresentation. Let’s take the statements one by one and ask the Calvinists among us which one of them is a misrepresentation of the Calvinist position. [Note: I have converted the statements into complete individual sentences, supplying the appropriate subject and converting the verb tense where necessary]

    God rejoices in the suffering of man

    God tells us to come to him and he will give us rest

    God says he does not take delight in the death of wicked men

    God rejoices in their going to hell.

    God has particular love for children

    God loves when they are kidnapped and raped and defiled to the worst lengths – glory to him for all this.

    Glory to the God who says he wants all men to be saved

    God loves to send them to hell, by HIS own bidding. even if as some may say we have moral responsibility in the midst of it, it still does matter a bit as God still causes it to happen.

  54. Darius May 29, 2008 at 10:19 am #

    Ferg,

    Sorry about your family member!

    Let’s look at this issue from a more practical angle: earthly parenting. As a parent, I have to sometimes punish my daughter for her wicked behavior. I definitely don’t delight in her punishment or temporary suffering, but I have to do it to love her properly. Now I am NOT saying that something like child rape is necessarily punishment or correction from God, don’t get me wrong. But much suffering in this world (especially of Christians) consists of God loving us and wanting us to mature in our faith. And the NT calls us to praise and thank God in EVERYTHING, the bad with the good. After all, God is NOT withholding His goodness so much as holding back the tides of evil. Without God, every child would be raped and murdered.

    Furthermore, we have to understand that our physical existence/comfort is not the most important thing in our (eternal) lives. God’s reward in heaven will make our earthly suffering look like a pin prick, even the worst kind. As Dostoevsky wrote,

    “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”

  55. Truth Unites... and Divides May 29, 2008 at 10:36 am #

    Denny Burk asks in blogpost title: “Where does Arminianism come from?”

    John Piper writes: “Arminianism trumps biblical sentences with metaphysics.”

    So to answer Denny’s question, would the answer be… the metaphysical assumptions (in his eisegesis of Scripture) by Jacob Arminius?

  56. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    Kevin,

    You seriously want me to bring out every scripture where God extols man to choose the right, and man is praised for doing it and condemned for not? Every scripture where God says, “since you have chosen this, therefore I will do this”? Take the Fall of man for example. Nowhere in the text is it even implied that God was doing the choosing instead of Eve. The serpent tempted, Eve ate, Adam ate, and God cursed. It’s Calvin’s metaphysics that then go on to say that God planned the whole eating of the fruit for his glory – the Genesis narrative does not say this.

    Take Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Here God puts Abraham to the test, sees his faithfulness, and lavishes praise. If anything, there is a tone of tension – acting almost as if God didn’t know which choice he would choose, so that he was ecstatic with rejoicing when Abraham is found faithful. “Now I know that you will not withhold your son, your only son from me.” Of course this sort of language poses a challenge to just about any metaphysical formulation of omniscience, and I understand the importance of not letting a single image dominate all philosophy, but the fact remains that Abraham’s freedom to obey or deny is presented as if he were an autonomous agent – something possessing a freedom analogous to the freedom of God (some might say even an “image” of it). Just like Adam.

    Let me ask you this, Kevin – does your Calvinism require determinism?

  57. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 29, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    My post # 6 noted that Calvin has said God is “the principle cause of events”. I take that to mean: God is the first cause of events, the initial cause of events. All events, good or evil. This means not just allowing events to happen from some other principle cause but instead He is the principle cause of ALL events, even child rape.

    The second quote in my comment above noted that Calvin said God instigates/previously decrees/brings to pass/directs all actions of people. Regarding the thoughts of a child rapist to actually engage in the sin of child rape, who is the one who instigates it/brings it to pass/directs these thoughts? Who is the principle cause of the event of these thoughts? The rapist or God?

    If the rapist, and God only allows it, then God is not the principle cause of ALL things, but only SOME things, maybe MOST things, but not ALL things. Arminianism has no problem with this assessment, and if that is what Calvinism actually teaches then there is no conflict between these two theological systems on this point.

    Does Calvinism still assert that God is still the “principle cause” of the event of the thought to commit child rape? I quoted Calvin above, would anyone like to respond to what Calvin said?

  58. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    WFO,

    Just because we are encouraged to choose dose not prove that we have self-determinism. I believe that God provides, by His grace, the power to accomplish what He commands. This is what Jeremiah is crying out for in Jeremiah 10:23-24. Jeremiah knows that it is God’s grace that allows us to make right choices by the gift of faith. Only what is done out of faith is not sin. Faith is not generated by our own self-determinism…it is a gift of God and we must cry out for it daily.

  59. D.J. Williams May 29, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    WFO,

    To echo Kevin’s #58, look at Genesis 50. God says that the brothers intended their actions for evil and they are held responsible for their wickedness. However, we are told that God intended their actions (active, same word used to describe the brothers’ side) for good. God is at work causing events to take place, yet man is responsible for his own choices in those events. How is this so? Don’t know. Bam – mystery.

    What would you say that Proverbs 21:1 means?

  60. Truth Unites... and Divides May 29, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Spurgeon: “I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.”

    Read it all at: A Defense of Calvinism

  61. Darius May 29, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    Nice comment, DJ. We could also use Job as an example… Satan intended evil, but God intended good (maybe not to Job’s children in this physical world, but definitely ultimate spiritual good, which is vastly more important).

  62. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    From Comment # 61 “Satan intended evil, but God intended good”

    But was God the principle cause behind Satan’s intent of evil? or in other words, did God intend for Satan to intend evil so that God could intend good?

    Two questions:

    (1) Did God start the process of evil intention so that he could then redeem it and produce greater glory for Himself?

    (2) Or, in contrast, did God allow the evil process to start out of the hearts of finite creatures but He chose to work redemptively so that His greater glory would be shown in His conquering of an evil of which He was not the principle cause?

    Arminianism would answer “no” to # 1 and “yes” to # 2.

    How would Calvinists answer the questions?

  63. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm #

    One more note…if faith is self-produced then wouldn’t that make faith a work and justification would be by works and we would be able to boast? Just something to think about in light of Eph 2:8-9

    Ephesians 2:8 – 9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

  64. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm #

    before we continue, would anyone like to answer the questions asked back in posts 51, 53 and 56? Darius, thanks for your kind sentiment.

  65. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    David,

    Just because God is not the “principle cause” of something does not mean that He did not “ordain” that it happen. If God allows something to happen then it must be according to His will. If God is the Sovereign and nothing happens but according to His will then it must also stand that all things are according to His will…good or evil…whether or not He is the principle cause of it.

    The mystery lies between His sovereignty and our responsibility, not between our so-called autonomy and God’s sovereignty. Self-determinism for humans is not a biblical doctrine. Therefore, a mystery can not exist between human self-determinism and God’s sovereignty.

  66. CH May 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    David,

    How about this: God decreed that humanity would fall in order that he may bring glory to himself through redemption, therefore, he allowed the evil process to start in order to redeem them and produce greater glory for Himself.

  67. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

    What I hear you say, Kevin, is that the mystery is in the morals, and not the mechanics. The mechanics are defined down to a “T”; the morals seem monstrous, but if we have faith we will see that in some mysterious way God is also just. If anything, I would want to say the opposite – that we can see clearly the justice of God even if the deeper mechanics and methods are hidden from us.

  68. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    D.J. Williams,

    God is at work causing events to take place, yet man is responsible for his own choices in those events.

    Not only that, but man is at work causing events to take place. All is assumed. What I am curious about is why Calvinism needs to go ahead and obliterate human freedom. Why not have both, and let the mystery remain there – surely the most natural place for it, in that even now we don’t understand human agency.

    As far as interpreting the passage in Genesis, I think there is a very natural disagreement here. You say that God actively caused the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery – God did the evil for good. I would attribute the evil to the brothers and the good to God – the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, God saved Egypt and the world through Joseph. What I am reluctant to do is attribute the evil of the world to God, as if God in any way “needs” evil to achieve his righteous purposes.

    Put another way, Joseph is comforting his brothers with the goodness that God has done in the midst of their evil. But I don’t see that he is somehow saying that the evil they did is therefore justified, and indeed God’s action rather than theirs. I take it as more of him saying: “look at how your evil cannot thwart the goodness of God on us – thus you have nothing to fear from me.”

    But, again, this is a natural disagreement for us.

  69. CH May 29, 2008 at 12:41 pm #

    I agree that God does not rejoice in the rape of a little child, and his justice towards those who do such things will one day show this.

    However, think of this…it is infinitely more unfair, cruel, and disgusting, how Christ was treated and ultimately crucified. That the Holy son of God would be treated such a way by his sinful creation is a far greater injustice than child rape. And yet in this unspeakable injustice the greatest expression of God’s love was being shown. Was it in the actions of evil men themselves? No, it was in what was being accomplished by those actions. In the evil actions of men God accomplished the work of redemption. This is why scripture says it pleased the Father to crush the Son.

    Is a child being raped an act of love by God? Does he rejoice in it? No. However, I firmly believe that in his sovereignty God will accomplish his will through the actions of all men. And as Piper has so eloquently written, if bringing glory to God is the greatest good, and being allowed to know him, fellowship with him, and worship him is the greatest experience we can have, then any evil or suffering that accomplishes this in our lives, no matter how bad, is ultimately an act of God’s love toward us.

  70. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 29, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    Kevin J.

    Thanks for beginning to respond.

    You said “God is not the ‘principle cause’ of something.”

    But Calvin says that God IS the principle cause of events (see comment # 6).

    I do believe God ordains all events, but the exercise of his ordaining power is sometimes in His instigation of events and sometimes in His allowing of events instigated by others. This is the Arminian position in this matter. If this is your position then you are Arminian as to this point. If Calvinism agrees with this, then this part of the debate must be removed from the discussion since there is agreement on both sides. That is, if Calvinists would agree that God is NOT the principle cause of ALL events, only SOME/MOST, then the conflict from my perspecive has been greatly lessened.

    Yes, all things occur according to His will, but the Arminian wants to be sure that it is clarified that God does NOT instigate some things, even while God rules in sovereignty over all occurences. God is NOT the principle cause of evil temptations.

    What I am asking Calvinists to rebuke is Calvin’s comments that I noted in comment # 6 above.

    Either clarify what Calvin really meant in using language such as “nothing” and “anything”, or say that he was wrong or unclear or naive or illogical or inconsistent or whatever you wish to say about the matter.

    In summation, if you are saying that some things happen because God allows them, not instigates them, then we are in agreement.

  71. CH May 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm #

    Ferg,

    I too have known the pain of losing several close family members (two in less than a year), and they were both surprising, tragic losses. I have also had evil done to me that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

    But it is faith in God’s sovereignty that is my strength. In fact my belief in God’s sovereignty has been fueled by the evil and suffering I have experienced. It is only a God who is sovereign over the actions of men and the events of life that can offer hope and comfort.

    I don’t understand the ways of God, but I do take comfort in knowing he is using all things to accomplish his purposes, and those purposes are good.

  72. CH May 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    David,

    First of all, one does not need to agree with everything Calvin said in order to be, what I think is a better term, “Reformed”. Johnathan Edwards certainly did not agree with everything Calvin wrote.

    But to your question…I think you have to understand what Calvin meant by INSTIGATES. Reformed theology acknowledges secondary causes (physics, gravity, nature, sin nature, etc) at work in the world, but argues that God is sovereign over them. By INSTIGATES I believe that Calvin is talking about the way in which God moves history along.

    James clearly teaches that God does not cause men to sin, it is what is in their hearts already. Yet at the same time we are not “masters of our own destiny” in that God is moving us all toward his desired end (apologies to all of you Open Theists :)). So here is the mystery, behind our choices, behind the “natural order” God is working to bring about his will.

    Again, I would ask you to consider the Cross. God did not cause these men to kill Christ, it was in their hearts already, yet God INSTIGATED in that their actions God brought about his decreed will.

  73. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm #

    David,

    To this point I agree. If Calvin were alive I would have to ask him what he meant by principal cause. Since God created all beings and not all beings are perfect, does that make God the principal cause of all their actions? I think that might be what Calvin meant. Could God had not created Lucifer with NO Truth in him? Of course. But God chose, for His own redemptive purposes to create Lucifer with no Truth in him. This had to be done to bring about His eternal purpose in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1-3).

  74. Darius May 29, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    Hmmm… I guess I am pretty close to saying that God instigates ALL things, David. For example, Joseph was given dreams by God that, at the retelling of them to his brothers, made his brothers more infuriated with him and ultimately led to his enslavement. But that doesn’t let the brothers off the hook, since their hearts had to be already in such a place that they willingly sold their brother. Likewise, in one of the most clear cases of God causing apparent evil when He could have simply avoided it, He hardened Pharaoh’s heart in response to Moses. Now Pharaoh is still responsible, since he was at enmity with God to begin with. However, God chose to harden his heart even further which ultimately led to the deaths of thousands of children. What if God has chosen to soften Pharaoh’s heart? The Israelites would have been freed without the Passover. But God’s glory (and that of His people) would have been less. We worship and serve a God who is PRIMARILY concerned with His own glory. It is by His amazing grace that He offers us, His mere lump of clay, any glory at all.

  75. D.J. Williams May 29, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    WFO,

    I would attribute the evil to the brothers and the good to God – the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, God saved Egypt and the world through Joseph.

    So would I.

    What I am reluctant to do is attribute the evil of the world to God, as if God in any way “needs” evil to achieve his righteous purposes.

    Me too.

    But I don’t see that he is somehow saying that the evil they did is therefore justified, and indeed God’s action rather than theirs.

    I don’t see that either. You say you understand Calvinism because of your friends, but you’re not demonstrating a knowledge of my position with your statements.

    I take it as more of him saying: “look at how your evil cannot thwart the goodness of God on us – thus you have nothing to fear from me.”

    But that’s not what he actually says. He says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” He says that God ‘meant’ (an active, not passive [like ‘allowed’] verb, the same word he uses to describe the brothers’ active role in the actions) it for good. What is the ‘it?’ In context, we can only say that the ‘it’ refers to the evil actions of the brothers. Joseph is explicitly saying, “God intended your evil actions for good.” There’s no way around that. Is the evil God’s? Nope, it is attributed to the brothers, 100%. But how can that be, if God ‘meant’ it, if he ordained that it be? I don’t know, but Scripture affirms both truths, and thus I do as well. That’s the very definition of mystery.

    And again, what does Proverbs 21:1 mean?

  76. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    Do you take it then that Joseph is implying that, were it not for the brother’s evil actions, God’s salvation would not have been attained?

    Proverbs 21:1 certainly asserts the power of God to direct the hearts of kings. Does this mean that the king has no freedom to resist or conform to this direction? Does this mean that the king could not serve God’s purposes in a way for the benefit of his people rather than their destruction?

    The obliteration of human freedom is what makes the responsibility of man so “mysterious”. Why not affirm both the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man and let the mystery reside there?

  77. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 29, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    Ironically, comments # 69-71 sound more Arminian than they sound like the statement of Calvin that I noted in comment # 6 above.

    One reply notes that evil is in the hearts of men already (comment # 69) and God used that for His larger purposes. I have no problem with that. The men started the evil, God responded to it by working it toward a greater purpose.

    Comment # 70 defined principle cause in more general terms of God’s initial choosing to create rather than the specific notations that Calvin seems to indicate about constant instigation in ALL things.

    Comment # 71 seems to define principle cause in the instigation of a entire story.

    But what I’m trying to note is the details of every event within the movement of the story. Does God instigate ALL details? Both the evil intending and God’s redemption of it?

    I reassert the questions I noted in comment # 62.

    (1) Did God start the process of evil intention so that he could then redeem it and produce greater glory for Himself?

    (2) Or, in contrast, did God allow the evil process to start out of the hearts of finite creatures but He chose to work redemptively so that His greater glory would be shown in His conquering of an evil of which He was not the principle cause?

    Arminianism would answer “no” to # 1 and “yes” to # 2.

    How would Calvinists answer the questions?

    I don’t expect Reformed theologians to approve everything that Calvin said. What I want to know is whether they affirm the specific statement of Calvin:

    “That men do NOTHING save at the secret INSTIGATION OF GOD, and do not discuss and deliberate on ANYTHING but what he has PREVIOUSLY DECREED with himself and BRINGS TO PASS by his secret DIRECTION, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture.” [Institutes, Book 1.XVIII, 1] (all caps added by me)

    Does Reformed Theology adopt this as essential to the Reformed system? If it does, then I do not see how the system can avoid the implication that God is the instigator of all the thoughts of a person including the ones that are sinful.

    If Reformed theology wants to say that SOME thoughts are instigated FIRST by a finite creature, and God THEN RESPONDS to them to work them toward greater good, then Arminianism is Reformed at that aspect and we have no disagreement on this issue.

  78. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    WFO,

    You said “The obliteration of human freedom is what makes the responsibility of man so “mysterious”. Why not affirm both the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man and let the mystery reside there?”

    My reasoning as to why the mystery does not reside there is because Scripture does not let it reside there.

  79. D.J. Williams May 29, 2008 at 2:08 pm #

    Wonders,

    Do you take it then that Joseph is implying that, were it not for the brother’s evil actions, God’s salvation would not have been attained?

    Nope. Joseph isn’t playing “what if?” He’s telling us what has taken place. Joseph tells us what happened, that God ordained it, that the evil is the brothers’ and not Gods, and that God did so for his good purposes. I have zero interest in the hypothetical.

    Proverbs 21:1 certainly asserts the power of God to direct the hearts of kings. Does this mean that the king has no freedom to resist or conform to this direction?

    Does a stream of water have the freedom to change where it flows? That’s the comparison Scripture makes, isn’t it? Let’s allow the proverb to speak for itself.

    Why not affirm both the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man and let the mystery reside there?

    Because I don’t see the freedom of man (in the libertarian sense) affirmed anywhere in Scripture.

  80. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

    The amazing thing about sovereignty of God over the actions of man is that man ALWAYS does what they/we want to do. With careful analysis have anyone here ever done anything they did not want to do?

  81. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    Let’s allow the proverb to speak for itself.

    And then lets take the image and universally apply it to the annihilation of all human freedom such that responsibility itself becomes a mystery?

    Because I don’t see the freedom of man (in the libertarian sense) affirmed anywhere in Scripture.

    What would such a thing look like if it were affirmed, other than what is there? What could human freedom look like, other than God giving humans choices, being delighted when they choose the good, and wrathful when they choose the evil? What would a conversation between God and a free moral agent look like, besides this:

    “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

    What would human freedom look like, besides God’s wrath at Adam’s disobedience:

    “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
    of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
    cursed is the ground because of you”

    And when man obeys:

    In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

    What would you need to suspect free will, other that God saying “if you do this, I will do this, otherwise I will do this” and then saying “if you had have done this, I would have done this, but you did this, so I will do this”?

  82. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    If we are self-determining creatures (except in regards to evil) then grace would no longer be grace…it would be payment to us for our good choices.

  83. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    I’m amazed that one can put so much weight on Proverbs 21:1.
    What about Proverbs 12:21
    No harm befalls the righteous,
    but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

    If read as a universal law like you have made Proverbs 21:1 out to be, it is complete rubbish. As a general principle, it is true, but as a universal law, it’s nonsense.
    I don’t think it’s wise to attribute Proverbs 21:1 as saying that every decision made by every leader is from the hand of God.

    Like everything with Calvinism, it needs to be taken to it’s full extent. Therefore if you hold firm to Proverbs 21:1 as a universal law, you have to agree that God delighted in the holocaust. Why has no calvinist here agreed with statements like this when you know that your theology points to it?

  84. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    If we are self-determining creatures (except in regards to evil) then grace would no longer be grace…it would be payment to us for our good choices.

    I do not agree with this statement. It’s like saying if I was a homeless man living in a dump and a millionaire came up to me and offered me a mansion to live in that I somehow had a part to play. I could say no, but if I say yes, he’s not rewarding me for saying yes, he’s giving it to me because he offered it to me, not because of my good choice. I accepted it, but i definitely didn’t deserve it.

    I know full well, I don’t deserve the salvation that the Father, Son and Spirit have given me however I accept it and am grateful that he has rescued me because he delights in me and he rejoices over me with singing.

  85. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    general principle vs. universal law? That statement is too vague for response.

    Does the Bible say that God delights in the death of the wicked (such as the holocaust)? Does God will things to be that He may not delight in? I think so. Just to say that all things happen according to God’s will does not mean that He delights in all that happens.

  86. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    Ferg,

    The problem with you analogy of the homeless man and the rich man is that, in reality, we are DEAD spiritually and CAN NOT respond to the offer of salvation without God first making us alive with Christ…by grace we have been saved.

    I would agree with your analogy if the homeless man was dead and the rich man raised him from the dead and carried him to his new mansion. THAT is true grace.

  87. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm #

    Hi Kevin,

    I understand the distinction between God willing something and God delighting in it (though it does pose a problem to your prior argument about people only doing what they want to do). However, do you think you could formulate why God would will something he does not delight in?

  88. Darius May 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    WFO, to go back to my previous parenting analogy… I don’t delight in punishing my daughter, but I will delight in the girl and woman that will help her become later in life.

  89. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for asking the question just before I did WOA!

    Kevin, we could go around in circles. I believe I actually had a free choice in choosing to accept Christs offer of salvation. You believe that I didn’t. Does that principle not contradict the statement that we have free choice in the midst of God’s determined plan? I believe that God’s love is not coercive, no matter how you romanticise it, you believe that it is. Because like you said – he picked you up as a dead man and all of a sudden, you’re in a mansion you had no choice in being in. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love that. I love that God would do that. The only problem with that is that there are plenty more ‘dead’ people out there that God hasn’t just left there, but has woken up and thrown them in the fire to prove that he is a just God.

  90. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    ditto Darius, etc…

  91. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    But Darius, in your case you are not completely sovereign, and so have constraints of the freedom of other wills. According to a Calvinism that denies free will, God has no such constraints, so the analogy does not hold. God is infinitely free, and so may will his delight without hindrance. So why would he do otherwise?

  92. CH May 29, 2008 at 3:14 pm #

    David,

    Some clarification…

    In me saying evil is already in the hearts of men I am speaking in the sense of “in the present”. I would also qualify that statement by saying God decreed that evil would reign in the hearts of men. Did God cause men to fall, no. Could they have not fallen, no to that as well. How’s that for paradox. 🙂

    God is not reactionary, what he has decreed will come to pass, or better yet, what has come to pass he has decreed. I would answer yes to the question of whether God is in the details (a sparrow cannot fall apart from the Father), but I also acknowledge that he works through secondary causes as well.

  93. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:15 pm #

    Ferg,

    You say “The only problem with that is that there are plenty more ‘dead’ people out there that God hasn’t just left there, but has woken up and thrown them in the fire to prove that he is a just God.”

    This is the problem with our human-centered view of salvation. God chooses not to save everyone but only elects certain ones to show his grace to…due to nothing on their part.

    I did leave out one important part of the analogy…all the dead man could say when he was resurrected by the rich man was “thank you, thank you, thank you”. He could not say that he was glad that he made the right choice to accept the rich man’s offer.

  94. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    Darius, I appreciate your analogy, but I don’t fully understand it. You are correcting your daughter as a father should do for behaviour she has chosen to do of her free will. However, we are talking about a Father who supposedly controls EVERYTHING. you don’t control everything your daughter do. however you say that God controls everything man does.

    God, has told men not to rape. However, rape happens. and it happens probably every minute of ever day. If he is in control of everything ,he then makes a man rape a little girl. and this is why? to make her into a better woman? to make her parents thankful for his grace that their other kids weren’t raped? to thank God for his mercies that she wasn’t killed???

    I do apologise for using the basest of analogy but I think that is what a discussion like this should use. there is no point in talking about God causing trials etc, when we can call them for what they really are, rape, incest, abuse, genocide, disease, famine etc

  95. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    Oh yeah,

    Ferg,

    God does not “wake up” the dead before throwing them in hell. He takes the dead and throws them in hell without ever resurrecting them to life.

  96. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Everyone,

    We must understand that ANYTHING less than eternity in hell is BETTER than we deserve. Even living a life after being molested is BETTER than we deserve. To say that God is unjust in allowing terrible things to happen to us sinners is a slap in the face of God. We must be careful here…accept the grace God has shown the each and every one of us.

  97. CH May 29, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Free will is a misnomer…it doesn’t exist. We are all constrained by something.

  98. Darius May 29, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    I’m not saying my analogy is without its weaknesses or should be limited in its scope… I’m merely pointing out the fact that I, as a human, can do something for the ultimate good of another without delighting in it. Where the analogy breaks down is that my daughter is not my enemy, whereas all people are enemies of God and deserve His wrath. Furthermore, God isn’t choosing to bring evil onto an otherwise good world and humanity. Rather, He organizes and controls evil that already exists for His good purposes. The obvious reply to this is that He should just get rid of evil completely, and the answer to this is simple: He will. Until then, He can’t be Just and Holy and just sweep evil and sin under the rug.

  99. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm #

    If a family member of yours dies and isn’t a believer in God, do you give him praise that his will has been done and he has thrown them in to hell because, well, he just feels like it according to his secret decree??

    and i don’t think there was any need to correct my sentence of God ‘waking’ people up before sending them to hell, it smelled of pretense. You may not have meant it but it came across badly.

  100. Darius May 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    Exactly to comment #95. What some commenters are neglecting is the fact that humans deserve much worse than some temporary physical suffering in this world (even something as horrible as rape or torture). Also, we are mere clay, who are we to tell our potter that we have rights to certain comforts?

  101. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    Darius, again I appreciate what you’re saying, however you also need to remember that in your theology God created evil. it’s not that he just uses it, but he made it. He made Satan with the purpose that he does what he does. You can’t just say that he uses evil and controls everything without extending it to the fact that he makes it all happen.

  102. CH May 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm #

    Ferg,

    Is it wrong of God to punish people with hell?

  103. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Ferg,

    Sorry, I did not mean it. But I did want to clarify that unsaved people are actually walking dead people (spiritually speaking) and can not respond to the gospel unless they are resurrected spiritually and exercise their new found faith.

  104. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Kevin, I’m glad you’re not my pastor! I mean that with grace, but I’m so glad. A comment like yours in 95 is exactly why I’m leaving my reformed church. If my wife is kidnapped and raped, I fear so so much what my pastor would say and I fear it would be a long the lines of what you said, that I deserve far worse!!!

    God Is LOVE!!!!

  105. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:31 pm #

    God IS love, but not ONLY love. All true love comes from God…but don’t limit God to ONLY be love. That is not ALL of His nature

  106. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm #

    CH, no, i don’t believe so. however, i don’t believe that he rejoices that they go there or that he plans, before they were even born that they would go there. they go there of there own bidding as they have rejected the gospel. remember it’s Gods will that all men are saved, however some reject that and end up eternally seperated from our Father.
    Kevin, I appreciate that. I knew you didn’t mean it…but like i said it came across bad and I appreciate your point. total depravity etc!

  107. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    Love actually is ALL of his nature. his wrath and justice etc all flow from his love. his anger and so on last a moment, but his favour and LOVE last a lifetime. God Is Love. period. John says it, I repeat it. God is not duplicit. there are not two sides to God. one side. Love.

  108. CH May 29, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Ferg (and anyone else),

    I have a few questions just so I can understand your positions better:

    What is your explanation for why evil exists? Did God know Adam would sin before he created him? If so, why would God bother to create man in the first place? In order to keep people from hell wouldn’t it have been better to not go through with it? Is the cross a contingency plan or was it God’s plan all along?

    Did God know before hand who would accept Christ and who would reject Him? If so why did God create those who would reject Him?

    I am genuinely interested in your answers. I really want to understand how your view of God’s relationship to evil makes God out to be any less cruel than the Calvinist view.

  109. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

    Ferg,

    So, according to #106, God lovingly throws people into hell since this eternal wrath flows from His love?

    What about the kid that was running with a kid golf club in his hand and fell and it broke off and went through his heart and killed him. Was this due to free will? Was it not a circumstance that God could control? Is it possible that this could have been mercy because this kid had undiscovered cancer that would kill him more slowly? Who are we to say what is mercy and what is wrath? Let’s all let God be God and quit trying to “get Him off the hook” by blaming all bad circumstances and evil on free will.

  110. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    CH,

    I have asked the same questions before. I am looking forward to their answers as well.

  111. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    CH, and others, I appreciate the tone of this discussion. I think the only disrespectful comment was one that I made! and may I say that theology aside, I don’t doubt anyones genuine faith and love of Jesus.

    I think God wanted a genuine love relationship and wanted us to share in the loving relational experience of the Trinity. I believe that in his amazing sovereignty he decided to give us free will so we can join him in a loving relationship. He doesn’t want robots who do whatever he please, he wants people to genuinely love him back. He takes risks, for the sake of love. With risk, comes hell. Comes the fact that people reject him, spit in his face, however it’s worth it for those who love him back. Evil is a result of our wrong decisions and choices due to the nature of how God created the world with a realm of free will.
    As it says in scripture, I believe that God wants everyone to come to repentance and like it also says in scripture God has wanted those who turn from him to look upon him and receive his love and forgiveness and freedom and fulfillment, however some don’t. My answer to the question did God know before hand who would accept Christ and who would reject him, I hesitate in saying I don’t know because I believe he doesn’t. I know this opens up a whole new conversation that perhaps we shouldn’t go down. Like most of us here, I want to learn, I open to the spirits leading in my view on my relationship with my Father, however at this point after studying and through my own relationship this is were I am at.
    I think in some ways it’s a riskier scarier way of thinking that things happen that God doesn’t control, however I take huge huge comfort to now that when a close family member is abused as a child that God did not cause it to happen for his greater glory, but that he weeps with her and me and in the situation he will work all things he can for his glory. this world is fallen, but yes I do firmly believe that Christ has won the victory. for now, we press on…

  112. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    CH,

    For a non-Calvinist take on the problem of evil, I highly recommend the work of the Eastern Orthodox theologian David Hart in The Doors of the Sea.

  113. Tom May 29, 2008 at 4:17 pm #

    “Because I don’t see the freedom of man (in the libertarian sense) affirmed anywhere in Scripture.”

    I do see it in 1 Cor. 10:13. If you deny some measure of free will (at least in Christians), it seems that you also need to deny that any true Christian is capable of sin.

  114. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    Tom,

    Our regenerated spirit does not sin after being born-again. Our flesh DOES sin (old nature) and is at odds with our regenerated spirit (indwelt by the Holy Spirit). See Romans 7 for this explanation. Our flesh is being freed from sin (sanctification) but will not be totally free in this life.

  115. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    any thoughts on what i said kevin?

  116. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    Ferg,

    Sounds like you are on your way to (or already there) open theism. Greg Boyd is probably one of your favorite authors.

  117. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 5:34 pm #

    thats it? are you disregarding what I said? are you not going to bother to answer?

    do you think I’m too far gone into a wrong thinking about our Father to even talk to?

    I’m fascinated that you argue back and forth for 100 or so posts and then all of a sudden you just make a statement about me and thats it!

  118. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    Ferg,

    I do disagree with most of what you said. I do not see anywhere in the Bible that God created us so He would have people who would genuinely love Him back. That sounds like God actually is lacking something or someone and was not perfectly happy before creation. I DO see that we were created to show off His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places:

    Ephesians 3:8 – 11 (ESV) To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in£ God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord

    Sorry to seemingly cut you off like that. I am at work and my time is divided. By the way, I used to believe the very way you do now.

  119. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 5:59 pm #

    Ferg,

    Think about this.

    God asks us to love like Him. So, how does God love? By accepting only those who accept Him? Or does He set His electing love on those who do nothing to deserve it…including asking for it?

    It actually sounds immature to say that I will forgive or love you only if you ask me to and love me back. If you don’t love me then I don’t want you.

    How are we to love? Unconditionally…not based on anything including their acceptance of us. Do we have the right to choose who we will love? No, we are not God. Only God has the right to choose whom He sets His electing love on.

  120. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    i appreciate that. but again, you forget to say that God also chooses not to lavish this love on some people.
    I believe that God lavishes his love on all, wants all to come to a faith in him through Jesus. For God so loved the world, not for so God loved the elect.
    you’re saying that God pretty much forgives unconditionally too as he chooses those who he loves, therefore he programs them to ask for forgiveness so he can show his mercy.

    I know I’m not going to change your mind whatsoever, I just don’t understand the consequences of your view of God. I can’t see it matching up with Jesus. It seems like Jesus came to undo the work of his Father by healing people and showering his love of the dejected. I know I keep going back to the darkest examples, but I can’t see Jesus deciding it would be for my ultimate good or his glory that someone close to me would be abused. (falling on a golf club is something completely different – thats an accident, an abuse of a little child is an abomination of the worst kind).
    I would have no idea in how to comfort someone if I knew that God was the author of their suffering. I could tell myself that it was satan or human nature or whatever, but we know that ultimately if God sovereignly controls everything, it is his will that they suffer.
    I appreciate the dialogue.

  121. Ferg May 29, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    i’m off to bed, as it’s late in Ireland. I’ll pray for revelation from Jesus throughout the night, or for a visit to the third heaven so I can ask some questions. I’ll have the answers for you in the morning!! :o)

    oh and yeah, I love Greg Boyd. I’m sure you love John Piper and Don Carson, but I won’t hold that against you :o)!!!
    peace…

  122. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    You are funny. I like that and I do love you in the Lord. Good night.

  123. Kevin J May 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm #

    Ferg,

    A couple questions to ponder:

    1. If God does not know beforehand who will come to a saving faith in Jesus, how did He choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world?

    2. Also, if the God’s eternal plan has been to unite all things in Jesus, how could this have been done if God did not ordain sin entering into the world?

    3. Also, how could this plan be “eternal” if He did not know these things were going to happen?

  124. Stephen Newell May 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    Ferg,

    I want to add one more question for you to ponder.

    The Bible does not teach that God’s attributes flow out of his love, but his holiness. The Old Testament ought to make that clear at the very least. How, given this truth, can you supersede God’s holiness with his love?

    Again, I say as I did way back near the beginning of this thread: we non-Calvinists need to stop looking at Scripture from our own understanding and let it speak for itself.

  125. Wonders for Oyarsa May 29, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    I wonder how many Calvinists here would agree with Stephen – that God’s holiness is the wellspring of all his other attributes, and pride of place should be given to holiness rather than covenant love?

  126. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    Tom said…
    I do see it in 1 Cor. 10:13. If you deny some measure of free will (at least in Christians), it seems that you also need to deny that any true Christian is capable of sin.

    “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Cornithians 10:13

    How exactly does this passage teach that humans have the ability to freely chose whatever they want without any contraints (libertarian free will)? Please explain, because it seems that the passage is talking about God’s grace rescuing us from a propensity to sin.

  127. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 7:00 am #

    Ferg said…
    “If read as a universal law like you have made Proverbs 21:1 out to be, it is complete rubbish. As a general principle, it is true, but as a universal law, it’s nonsense.”

    Proverbs 21:1 clearly tells us that God causes kings to make whatever decisions he wants. Forget “universal law vs. general principle.” Even as a general principle, how does that square with your notion of free will?

    Also, I echo Kevin’s concerns in #122. If you’re going to go so far as to say that God doesn’t even know who will choose to accept him (which, I’ll admit, is a necessary step in any attempt to “get God off the hook” – I can at least respect you for being willing to follow your theology to its logical conclusion, which is inevitably open theism), then how do you square that with Scripture’s statements that we have been predestined and elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world? How do you interpret Ephesians 1:3-10? Acts 13:48? John 6:44?

  128. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    WFO,

    Sure, I’d agree with the statement in #124 in as much as his holiness is clearly his most lauded attribute in Scripture. I believe it’s a both-and, though, more than an either-or.

  129. Wonders for Oyarsa May 30, 2008 at 8:25 am #

    in as much as his holiness is clearly his most lauded attribute in Scripture.

    This is far from clear to me. A quick search, for instance, shows the word “holy” coming up less often than “love” in the Old Testament in the ESV (to say nothing of the NT). Furthermore, most of the uses of “holy” have to do with various things becoming holy – the meat of the sacrificed animal, the sabbath day, the instruments of worship, etc.

    Going through the narrative of the OT, I see little centered on the revelation of the Lord’s holiness compared to that of his love (even jealous love) and covenant faithfulness. This is the key thing that distinguishes the Lord from the gods of the nations – here is a God who loves mankind: he is slow to anger, and rich in love (there’s that word again) but this is from goodness and not mere laxity (as is evidenced by his justice in not pardoning the guilty). The other gods – Chemosh, Baal, Molech, were certainly thought to be “holy” by their worshipers – you had much to fear in their presence, and things set apart to them were forfeit. But these gods were in it for themselves – they did not lavish grace upon mankind and call a people out to be a platform of redemption.

    If this is strong in the OT, it is overwhelming in the NT. If the Son is the exact representation of the being of God, and the fullest revelation of him to us, logically one must say (if you are correct) that the core of Jesus’ revelation is the holiness of God. While this might be true of Mohammed, it is not true of Jesus. If anything, Jesus was a revelation of the nearness of God – God with us – a God who would throw himself into the midst of the iniquity of his people to bear their curse and forgive their sin – a God who would go to the depths of hades to save his people from death. The angles may cry “holy holy holy” but the Son draws mankind into the eternal love of the trinity.

    The only thing I can think of is that you must be defining “holiness” in a much broader sense than scripture is using.

  130. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 8:45 am #

    Wonders,

    What is God’s love if not a direct result of his holiness? He is perfectly good and righteous, and an implication of this holiness is that he loves perfectly. The fact that “love” wins a word search count over “holy” hardly means anything. As you yourself admitted, what do we see the angels doing? Every time, without exception, that we are treated to a glimpse of the praises being offered to God around the throne of his glory, what is the refrain? It’s not love, love, love. His holiness is proclaimed with primacy. His love is a result of his perfect holiness. God’s love is not what distinguishes him from the gods of the nations, it’s the fact that he is God and they’re not. Show me where the Scripture ever proclaims that God is better than other gods because he is loving. It proclaims “I am the LORD, there is none other.”

    As I said, I’m not denigrading the love of God by saying this. I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy here. God is perfectly holy and perfectly loving.

  131. Wonders for Oyarsa May 30, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    The love of God comes from the triune nature of God – God is love because in him the Father loves the Son in the unity of the Spirit before all worlds. There is love in the godhead before there is anything “other” than God to be “profane” or “common” relative to his holiness.

    You seem to be equating “holiness” with “goodness” and “righteousness” which is not how I would define the word.

    how me where the Scripture ever proclaims that God is better than other gods because he is loving.

    “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”

    Here it is the nearness and righteousness of the Lord that distinguishes him from the gods of the nations.

    “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart.”

    Here it is specifically his love and faithfulness that distinguishes him.

    Now, of course God is holy when the gods of the nations have a sham holiness with no real substance behind them. But the difference is that they are at least thought to be holy, whereas they are not even thought to love mankind.

    But please, define holiness for me. This may be largely semantics (though I think my own are closer to the language of the scripture.)

  132. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 30, 2008 at 9:11 am #

    I wonder if there is any significance to the phenomena that “holy” is an adjective in the statement “God is holy” whereas in the statement “God is love,” love is a noun. I know of no biblical statement stating that “God is holiness.”

    Does this give any insight into what may be a logically prior (not chronologically prior) quality of God’s being?

  133. CH May 30, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Please explain to me how we could describe the nature of God’s love without making a recourse to his holiness.

    Holiness is the ground for all of God’s attributes. His love is a holy love, his justice is a holy justice, his omnipotence is a holy omnipotence. His sovereignty is a holy sovereignty 😉

    What could Moses not look on God without being struck dead? Because of God’s love? No, because of his holiness.

  134. CH May 30, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    Wonders,

    How would you define holiness?

    But even more importantly, how does your definition jive with how scripture defines holiness?

  135. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 9:31 am #

    Wonders,

    Thanks for the texts – in my zeal to make a point it appears I spoke foolishly (and it’s not the first time).

    I maintain my point, however, about the praise offered to God in heaven. Do you not find this constant, endless refrain significant?

    What is holiness? It is God’s complete ‘otherness’ because of his perfection. This encompasses his righteousness, goodness, and love.

    I do feel, by the way, that this discussion has peeled off into a red herring of sorts – as if we reformed types do not believe that God is perfectly loving. I know no reformed persons who would say that.

  136. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 30, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    I know full well that Reformed interpreters believe that God is loving, but I ask is there significance to the biblical statement that “God is love” or is this a another way of saying “God is loving”.?

    Here’s something to think about (and it is not a red herring, in fact it is essential to all Arminian/Calvinist discussions):

    Does God’s complete “otherness” only come into view at creation? To whom was He “other” before the creation? Unless we want to assert that there is “otherness of being” within the Trinity, it seems that “holiness” became an emphasized quality of God’s being at the creation. Before creation, the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) existed in an interrelationship which we would probably characterize as “love”. What is the problem with this analysis? And what implications does it have for the discussion?

  137. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    DJ, did you not read my whole post? What about the other proverb? If it is taken the way you read, then no harm befalls the righteous. which in turn means that no harm will ever befall me, that is simply not true. Let’s not use me as an example though, lets use Paul, he was a righteous man and many harms befell him, hence my point of it being a principle is nice, that the righteous are protected more by God, however this is not always the case. Just like the other proverb that God can work through kings but not every single thing they do is from his hand. again, I’m astounded that you think God thinks its awesome to direct Mao to slaughter 50 million people, stalin to slaughter 23 million people, hitler 12 million…you get my point.

  138. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    In regards to the specific verses of predestination, you believe it’s individual, I believe it’s corporate. when paul says in ephesians that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, he immidiately specifies that this predestination was for us to be holy and blameless before him in love. Paul does not say that we were individually predestined to be in Christ (or not).
    As I’ve said before, scripture tells us that if it were up to God alone and not him deciding to give us a real choice to enter into a real love relationship with him he would save everyone (1 timothy 2:4, 2 peter 3:9).
    paul is saying that whoever chooses to be in Christ is predestined to be holy and blameless.

  139. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    the question asking do i not believe that God ordained that sin would come into the world I genuinely think is the strangest question to ask. Do i believe that God is completely good in all he does, loves us beyond measure, yet ordains sin, causes it to happen and is somehow not responsible? i don’t get it. you say it’s a mystery, i say it’s wierd to think that God makes people sin.

  140. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    David said…
    “Does God’s complete “otherness” only come into view at creation? To whom was He “other” before the creation? Unless we want to assert that there is “otherness of being” within the Trinity, it seems that “holiness” became an emphasized quality of God’s being at the creation.”

    ‘Otherness’ is simply a way for us as finite, sinful human beings to comprehend God’s perfect righteousness. As I said, what makes him ‘other?’ It is his perfect righteousness, which encompasses his goodness, love, and justice. These things are what makes God holy. He has been holy long before the world was created. As I said, every single time we are granted a glimpse into heavenly worship of God, what is the refrain? The creatures in heaven are constantly praising God as holy, holy, holy. So no, holiness is not relevant only in light of creation. Again – I affirm God as perfectly loving and perfectly holy, and I think you do as well. So how exactly is this relevant?

    Per your question on “God is love,” no, I see nothing in the phrase that would give love any sort of ‘trump card’ status. The point that John is making is that God epitomizes love – it cannot be realized apart from him. Would you suggest that perfection and holiness can be realized apart from God? If you don’t, then I don’t see the point. Whether we’re using a noun or an adjective, the point is the same.

    What are you trying to achieve by playing God’s love as greater than his holiness? That somehow, when the two are in conflict he sides with love? Why can’t we just affirm with Scripture that he is perfectly holy, perfectly loving, and the two are not in conflict?

  141. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 30, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    I do not see the two in conflict, in way shape or form. I do not even see one as greater than the other.

    I do find it interesting that you keep using the phrasing “perfectly loving” why not use “God is perfectly love” this would give the phrase a more biblical ring.

    You said:

    ‘Otherness’ is simply a way for us as finite, sinful human beings to comprehend God’s perfect righteousness.

    Surely you’re not saying that the concept “holiness” or “otherness”/”set-apartness” [this being the basic lexical concept of qdsh (Heb.) or hagiosune (Grk.)]
    is a concept that came into being at creation so that “finite, sinful human beings” could comprehend a pre-creation quality of God?

    So if holiness is only a finite creature’s understanding of righteousness, then what does “righteousness” mean?

  142. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    Ferg,

    Of course I read your whole post. Of course proverbs are not universal rules. I specifically said that the question of “universal rule vs. general principle” was irrelevant to my question. Let me try to simplify it…

    The point of Proverbs 21:1 is that god causes kings to make decisions just like a man can cause water to flow in the direction he desires. Here’s my question – if we have free will, how can this ever be the case, since if God causes a man to do something then that man is by definition not acting according to his free will?

    Ferg said…
    “As I’ve said before, scripture tells us that if it were up to God alone and not him deciding to give us a real choice to enter into a real love relationship with him he would save everyone (1 timothy 2:4, 2 peter 3:9).”

    Scripture doesn’t say that. Scripture simply says, “He desires all to come to a knowledge of the truth.” You’re reading quite a bit into that passage. I fully embrace 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. I don’t see anything in Scripture about a “real love relationship.”

    Ferg said…
    “paul is saying that whoever chooses to be in Christ is predestined to be holy and blameless.”

    Look at verse 5. There, he says that he “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” There, we are specifically predestined for adoption. How are we adopted as sons? Through salvation. So, if God doesn’t even know who is going to choose him, how can he predestine anyone for adoption?

    Again, what about Acts 13:48? How can a certain number of people in a city be have been appointed for eternal life if God doesn’t know who will be saved? For that matter, how can he tell Paul in Acts 18:10, “I have many in this city who are my people,” when Paul has made no converts there so far and God really doesn’t know if the people will accept the gospel or not? Is he making a guess?

    How can Jesus say in John 6, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” We see here that nobody can come to Christ of their own will unless the Father draws them. So, the only way your position remains tenable is if God draws everybody. Scripture never says he does, so you’d have to assume that. However, the verse precludes that assumption by saying, “And I will raise him up on the last day.” Who is the “him” in this verse who Jesus says with certainty will be raised up on the last day? The same “him” who is drawn! There is nobody else grammatically present! Thus, those who are drawn are raised up – in other words, saved. How do you deal with this passage?

    I know I’ve thrown a lot out there, man, but I’ve gotta say – I’ve seen no exegesis of Scripture from you. I’ve seen you reference verses and say “the Bible says this” while giving your own interpretive paraphrase. How do you deal with the meat and potatoes of these verses?

  143. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 10:54 am #

    David, what makes God holy?

  144. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    God is perfectly love. Now why is the difference interesting?

  145. CH May 30, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    God’s ontological status as Holy was true of his character before creation. He is “other” regardless if there is someone to compare him to or not. Our understanding of God’s holiness, our saying he is “set apart” is a way of understanding his nature and our relationship to Him.

    In other words holiness is not “only” a finite creature’s understanding of righteousness, it is the very essence of God, whether we understand it, or are aware of it, or not. It is a a reality irrespective of the created order.

  146. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    If you don’t see one as greater than the other, then why on earth are we having this discussion?

  147. CH May 30, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    And Ferg, if you want to really dive in, tackle Romans Chapter 9.

  148. CH May 30, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    And Ferg, if you want to really dive in, tackle Romans Chapter 9. 🙂

  149. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers May 30, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    I typed something but it may have disappeared. Have to go lead a funeral service. Be back later.

    I am enjoying the discussion.

    Blessings and Peace

    David

  150. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    David,

    Grace to you, bro. I am likewise enjoying the discussion.

  151. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    DJ, thanks for the lengthy post. I guess it’s about our overall interpretation of the character of the Trinity.
    You believe every single thing is ordained by God, I don’t. You still haven’t answered my ‘tough’ questions about God causing sin, and him wanting genocide, and rape and abuse etc.
    we could have an exegesis party with scriptures, you’re right there are some toughies like CH has pointed out. Romans 9. I do have an interpretation of it, but i’d be here all day.
    I can give you verses aswell…

    Genesis 6:6, is this verse true, is amos 7:6 true or is God being disingenuous.
    Do you not see that Moses believed God did not have everything set in stone or he would not have asked him to change his mind Ex. 32:32.
    David was the same in 2 Sam 12:21-23.
    Hezekiahs illness in 2 Kings 20:1-6.
    Isaiah 63:10 – people went against the holy spirit and grieved him.
    Jer 18:7-8 says God will genuinely respond to us.
    Answer lamentations 3:33 where its says God does NOT bring grief to men.
    in mark 6:6 Jesus is amazed at peoples lack of faith.
    matt 23:37 – jesus wants israel to come to him, but they didn’t.
    2 peter 1:10 – make your calling sure. don’t fall away as the writer in Hebrews asks too.

    you see where I’m going with this. We could throw verses at each other all day, but it does I believe come down to our overall view of scripture.

  152. Wonders for Oyarsa May 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    What are you trying to achieve by playing God’s love as greater than his holiness?

    If you look at the history of this discussion, it is in response to someone who wanted to do just the opposite.

    There are a lot of deeper reasons why I think we object to this overzealous defense of God’s sheer transcendence (as if he needed any) – it really does smack the outside viewer as reminiscent of Islam. I do think “separateness” or “otherness” a good definition of holiness, but I think that definition only meaningful with regard to created beings. God transcends the world because he is the maker of the world, and it is fully dependent on him for its being. The angels call him holy because they see him as holy in the heavens, wrapped in inapproachable light. But the numinous transcendence of God is a statement about our relationship to him. He sets things apart as “holy” as he is holy, but it’s always in the context of created things.

    Yet his love exists before all worlds, before any angels, before all created things. His love flows from his very triune essence – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is God, not something that distinguishes God from us or from anything, but God himself, whether transcendent or immanent.

    And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Though the angels see the holiness of God, and extol him day and night, the love that God pours out in the gospel onto man is something even they long to look into.

    Mohammad knew of the holiness of God – as did many of the ancient pagans. They knew that holy places were dark and frightful, and that dread hung over the great power of the gods. But this is paltry knowledge indeed compared to the goodness of the Lord expressed most fully in the lavish love of Christ, who would save his people from the depths of Hades and give them victory over the grave. And his first and foremost desire was that “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” This is the life of the triune God that he draws us into – a unity which bridges the otherness of holiness, and brings us to the glory God had with Christ before all worlds.

  153. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    WAO, thank you for that post.

  154. Wonders for Oyarsa May 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm #

    Hi Ferg,

    Thanks for the compliment. By the way, it’s “WFO” – Wonders FOR Oyarsa. 😉

  155. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    ha, oh yeah sorry. I wonder what I was unconsciously thinking that made me put an A in there. That man Lewis had some mind!

  156. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    1) Genesis 6:6/Amos 7:6 – I gave you a pretty detailed desription of these types of issues a while back in comment #113 here…

    http://www.dennyburk.com/?p=1808#comments

    In summary here, yes, Genesis 6:6 is true and so is Amos 7:6. God is expressing sorrow, not regret. Think about the alternative interpretation – is God here saying “Wow, I screwed that up. If I had it to do over again…”

    2) Exodus 32:32 – God calls us to pray. He also declares very strongly in Isaiah 46:9-10,

    “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
    saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

    Hard to get more clear than that. Yet God calls us to pray, having ordained that our prayers are often the means by which he accomplishes his purposes. Do I understand how this works? No – thus the mystery that we’ve been discussing.

    3) 2 Samuel 12:21-23 – See #2. Notice also that David says he doesn’t know whether or not God will be gracious. Nowhere is it implied that God doesn’t know.

    4) 2 Kings 20:1-6 – See my comments about Numbers 11:1-2 in the above linked post’s comment #113. God calls us to make real choices with real consequences, but the same God also “is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”
    (Numbers 23:19)

    5) Isaiah 63:10 – Of course people rebel against God, you and I do it all the time. This rebellion grieves God’s heart. This doesn’t mean that we’re outside of his control. Did Pharoah not also rebel against God? Yet Romans 9 tells us that this was fully in God’s control. Likewise with Joesph’s brothers in Genesis 50. You’ve got to do some hermenutical backflips to say that either of those passages portrays God as reactive in those situations rather than ordaining things for his eternal purpose. However, the responsibility for the evil in both situations is placed squarely on the people in question, not God. Once again, I don’t fully understand this interaction and rest in God’s mystery, the very topic Denny’s post discussed.

    6) Jeremiah 18:7-8 – See #2, as well as my comments on #113 of the previous thread. Also, please note that the immediate context of this passage is God proclaiming his absolute sovereignty, the fact that as a potter does whatever he wishes with clay, so God does whatever he wishes with us – a theme repeated in Romans 9.

    7) Lamentations 3:33 – This passage is speaking to the fact that God doesn’t take pleasure in inflicting suffering, much like in Ezekiel 33:11. He isn’t a sadist. To help illustrate why I interpret the passage this way, let’s assume your interpretation is correct and God never brings suffering on people. Why the heck did he give Satan free reign over job? Why did he ordain that Joseph be sold into slavery (as the text says, God “meant” that for good – he intended it, actively ordained it)? Your interpretation makes God look pretty moronic considering the decisions he made in those circumstances. You may say that Satan committed the evil against Job, not God (and you would be right), but it’s very clear that God gave him the green light and determined what exactly Satan could do. What was God thinking?

    8) Mark 6:6 – Yes, Jesus was amazed by the people’s unbelief – in an emotional sense. This is the same as when we “watch in amazement” as a huge event takes place. Do you really think Jesus is here thinking, “Wow, didn’t see that coming. I really thought this whole gospel thing was going to work. What now, Father?” Ferg, please, I implore you as your brother in Christ – think about the implications of your arguments here. You may feel you’re getting God off the hook, but the God you’re left with isn’t much of a God at all.

    9) Matthew 23:37 – See #5. Jesus is lamenting over the rebellion of the Israelites. He is expressing deep and real sorrow. He’s not saying, “Wow, I’ve been trying really hard, guys, but you keep screwing it up.” When I read passages like Isaiah 46:9-10 I don’t get the idea that God subscribes to the “As long as you did your best, that’s what counts” philosophy. Our best just isn’t good enough. Are you really prepared to say that God’s best isn’t good enough?

    10) 2 Peter 1:10 and Hebrews warning passages – This is a very real warning to check ourselves and make sure the faith we proclaim is genuine. It’s entirely possible to be so clouded by sin that we decieve ourselves into thinking that we are in God’s grace when in fact we are not. Yet, read the passage! What are we to make sure? Our calling and election. We are to test ourselves by examining our lives to see if we really have been called and elected by God to salvation, as we claim. In fact, Paul is here admonishing individuals to look for proof that they have been elected. How do you square this with you concept of “corporate predestination?”

    Ferg, I absolutely disagree that this discussion is about throwing verses back and forth – as if Scripture is pitted against itself. I’m quite willing to engage with all of Scripture in my journey of faith, and I hope I’ve demonstrated that with this post and my other one to you. Having seen all these passages, I’m still more convinced than ever of God’s absolute sovereignty in all things, including salvation. I would ask you to do the same. How do you make sense of Acts 13:48? John 6:44? Isaiah 46:9-10? Numbers 23:19? Job 23:13-14? Daniel 4:34-35? Acts 18:10? And yes, Romans 9? I’ve interacted with every verse you’ve brought up. This issue is important enough that, as one who 7-8 years ago was making many of the same arguments you’re making now, I would implore you to do the same.

    Apologies for any (likely) typos. That was a big one.

  157. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    WFO,

    I absolutly agree with everything you just said about the riches of God’s love. Like I’ve said, it’s both-and, not either-or.

  158. Ferg May 30, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    thanks so much DJ for the long and well thought out (and well argued) post. It’s much appreciated and I can genuinely feel your concern for me as a brother. Speaking of brothers, my brother and his wife are going to be here for dinner very soon so I cannot respond right away. I will though.
    peace…

  159. D.J. Williams May 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    Enjoy your weekend, Ferg – and thanks for the cordial discussion. Sadly, this topic usually doesn’t generate that.

  160. Tom May 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    “Tom said…
    I do see it in 1 Cor. 10:13. If you deny some measure of free will (at least in Christians), it seems that you also need to deny that any true Christian is capable of sin.

    “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Cornithians 10:13

    How exactly does this passage teach that humans have the ability to freely chose whatever they want without any contraints (libertarian free will)? Please explain, because it seems that the passage is talking about God’s grace rescuing us from a propensity to sin.”

    I do not hold to that definition of free will, nor do I believe that the Bible teaches it. But neither do I believe that we are irresistibly predetermined in every action we do; otherwise, saying that we are always “able” to not sin has no meaning.

  161. brian l. May 30, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

    159 comments, lol…..

  162. Brent June 3, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    That’s an interesting claim. I applaud any theologian – and Christian in general – who is willing to forsake rationalism for the mysteries of God.

    I do, however, agree with those who have pointed out that an embrace of God’s mystery is typically not the defining characteristic of Calvinists – in my experience only. I can’t, of course, speak to Dr. Piper’s experience.

    I also think that the Arminian’s claims to mystery are equal; it would certainly be a “mystery” if an all-powerful, all-knowing and sovereign God allowed people the freedom/free will to make their own choice of heaven or hell.

    In my experience (limited to about 1.5 years as a five-pointer myself, so I can’t speak for everyone), it was “rationalism” itself that led me to Calvinism (and that was the argument of those who convinced me): If God is sovereign, then everything is under his control, and that includes who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Ergo, predestination, and ergo, Calvinism.

    In short, I guess, some Christians bow to rationality and some bow to mystery, but that line can’t be drawn in the same place as the Calvinism/Arminianism line.

  163. Ferg June 3, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    I haven’t forgotten to reply DJ, it’s been a really busy couple of days and as you know, my reply will take some time. be prepared for your world to be rocked though!! :o)

  164. David (not Adrian's son) Rogers June 4, 2008 at 11:03 am #

    Every theological system will have to appeal to mystery at some point. The only way not to appeal to mystery is to have the full knowledge that God Himself has. And none of us will ever achieve that. The point of differentiation is not whether the system has mystery but where in each system of theological construction does one make the appeal to mystery. As I see it:

    Calvinism appeals to mystery at the point of realizing a “paradox” occurs in having God be the principle cause of all events without God being the author of sin.

    Classic Arminianism appeals to mystery at the point of realizing a “paradox” occurs in having God know all events beforehand without those events being absolutely logically determined by the nature of His perfect foreknowledge.

    Open Theism (which does not have to be the logical end of Arminianism) appeals to mystery at the point of realizing a “paradox” occurs in having God claiming foreknowledge of some events but not others and yet God still foresees His ultimate plan.

    In my journey of theological conclusion the least biblical of the constructions is Open Theism, then Calvinism, and the one with the least problems in its appeal to mystery is Classic Arminianism.

    I come to this conclusion because in examining the biblical passages, I have yet to see Calvinist exegesis explain certain Classic Arminian interpretations away, while the ones to which they appeal for their system are based more in the presuppositional acceptance of their system rather than the best contextual genre-aware exegesis. (I know that I have my own presuppositions and I try my best to combat that)

    I know that these comments are getting long and realize that rigorous exegesis is not easy in back and forth comments, but I will receive any bibliographic recommendations with the graciousness in which they are recommended.

    Blessings and Peace,

    David

  165. D.J. Williams June 10, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    This is in response to Quixote’s questions concerning Calvinism as it relates to the evil of Joseph Kony…

    Quixote, was Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers sad? Was the destruction of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians sad? Was the brutal beating and crucifixion of Christ sad? Yet, you’d be hard pressed to demonstrate from Scripture that these events weren’t directly ordained by the hand of God. Thus, of course I can (and do) mourn Kony’s atrocities as heart-wrenchingly sad while at the same time affirming that they are a part of God’s eternal plan.

  166. Quixote June 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    Yuck.

  167. Ferg June 10, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    I just wrote a lengthy post on Romans 9, and also on your comments in relation to Joseph and his brothers but it got deleted. I’m on my way out to dinner so if I get time this evening I’ll write it again.

  168. Darius June 10, 2008 at 12:59 pm #

    What’s “yuck” Quixote? DJ is spot on; are we as Christians willing to take the bad with the good knowing that the Bible clearly states that God uses it all for His good purposes? I could lose an immediate family member and while I would be heart-broken about it, I could take comfort in the fact that God has a greater plan in mind.

  169. D.J. Williams June 10, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

    Ferg,

    You have my sympathies. Few things are as frustrating as assembling a thoughtful post only to have it somehow get lost in cyberspace. I almost always hit “copy” before I hit “submit” for just that reason.

    Quixote,

    If you really think Calvinism as it relates to Kony’s atrocities is an issue that needs to be addressed (as you wrote on the original post), then please interact with my thoughts on a level slightly deeper than “yuck.”

  170. Quixote June 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    I think Kony is an issue that Calvinists need to address, and the way in which you addressed it makes me say “yuck” at the deepest most visceral level.

    I realize that you are biased toward Scripture and society in favor of Calvinism, but can’t you admit that there is a difficulty reconciling Kony (and Denny’s post about it) with the nature of God as represented in Calvinism? If you can’t even see that there is a dichotomy to be wrestled with, not to be remedied with blithe proof texts, then I feel my “two-cents’ worth” wouldn’t be worth much.

  171. Quixote June 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Darius,

    Is your personal comfort what’s at stake here?

  172. Darius June 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm #

    No, a right view of God is at stake.

  173. D.J. Williams June 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm #

    Quixote,

    Disclaimer – It’s impossible to discuss realities like Kony’s atrocities without turning human tragedy into talking points. That to say, if anything I write in discussing these things should come off as glib, please know that is not my intention. I’ve been doing quite a bit of theological and emotional wrestling the past couple days, which I’ve detailed in a post yesterday on my blog.

    Honestly, what is the difference between Kony’s atrocities and my “blithe proof-texts?” You say that the horrible details of deep suffering Denny recounted cause problems for those of us who say that a good God ordains all things according to his will. Yet…

    What of a young man whose own brothers toss him into an empty well, then sit for a meal why they discuss his fate, eventually deciding to sell him as a slave, which will cause him to spend around 20 years languishing in varying degrees of misfortune? Is this not also deep suffering?

    What of God’s covenant people being decimated and destroyed by a godless pagan nation, suffering such horrible atrocities as the ripping open pregnant women and the brutal killing of infants? Is this not also deep suffering?

    What of the incarnate God-man being beaten senseless for hours on end, mocked, spit upon, then dragged through the streets, nailed to a beam, and left to die in a humiliating public display? Is this not also deep suffering?

    Yet the Scriptures tell us that, in the first instance, “God meant (notice the word is active, not passive, and the same word used to describe the brothers’ actions) it for good.” In the second case, the brutal nation of Assyria (who was every bit as horrific as Kony) is called by God, “the rod of my anger,” and “my fury.” In the third case, though the actions are described as happening at the hands of wicked men, it is first stated that Christ had been “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The Scriptures testify that these events were all horrific, but that God was in total control of each and they happened according to his definite plan. What makes Kony’s case fundamentally different than these? If you think Kony poses a quandry, then you must deal with these passages. They are comparable examples, not “blithe proof-texts.”

  174. Darius June 10, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    I’m not “biased toward Scripture and society in favor of Calvinism,” I’m biased toward reading Scripture for what it says and nothing more. I couldn’t care less if that’s called Calvinism or whatever name you want to throw at it. The Bible says that God is in complete control of the universe, and that nothing happens outside of His will. The God you appear to worship is a small god who is only in control of circumstances of which you approve. Furthermore, you seem to put way too much value in or emphasis on this fallen, physical, TEMPORARY life and little value in the life to come and how this life is nothing compared to eternity and the wonders God has in store.

  175. Quixote June 10, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    DJ: I’ll read your blog post and go from there if possible.

    Darius: You gleaned a lot about me from my two-liner comments. Wow. But I really don’t know how to respond to you. Other than to say that while I am NOT a Calvinist, I don’t dismiss the fact that my own “brand” of theology still has mysteries too deep to fathom and questions too infinite to answer. If you can’t see the problems of Calvinism, then my debating them has no point.

  176. Ferg June 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Romans 9 – first of all the view that God determines who will and will not recieve mercy contradicts scriptural teaching that God’s love is universal, impartial and that he desires everyone to be saved (Acts 10:34; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
    I would believe then that this implies that we are misinterpreting the passage of Romans 9 if it leads us to believe that God has predestined some to heaven and some to hell.
    In Pauls summary of Romans 9, what does he say? Does he say “The sovereign God determines who will be elect and who will not and no one has the right to question him”.
    No he doesn’t. He states
    “Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.”
    Paul explains what he’s been talking about by appealing to the morally responsible choices of the Isrealites and the Gentiles. The Jews did not “strive” by faith, though they should have (Rom 10:3)
    Paul says the Jews “were broken off because of their unbelief” (Rom 11:20), THIS is why they have now been hardened (Rom 11:7,25) while the GEntiles who seek God by faith have been “grafted in” (11:23). God’s process in hardening some and having mercy on others is not arbitary: God expresses “sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.”
    The analogy of the potter if read in light of its old testament background deosn’t inply that the potter preordains everything. Jeremiah, that the passage is related to has the opposite connotation. This analogy is about how the Lord is able and willing to adjust his plans with people just as the potter revies his plans for a vessel once his orignal plan was spoiled (Jer 18:4-6).
    The analogy is not about how the clay is passive in the hands of the potter, but rather the wise potter has the authority and power to revise things according to what the clay does. If people turn and follow him repenting of their sins, God revies his plans to fashion them as a vessel of judgement, just as if man turns from following him, he revises fashioning them as a vessel of mercy.
    Why would God need “great patience” if the vessel was “spoiled” of God’s own fashioning?? (rom 9:22). Why would he say “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Rom 10:21Isa 65:2) if he was the one who had decided they be that way?
    We must remember that the main premise of chapter 9 is not to show that God chooses who will and will not be saved, the issue Paul is wrestling with in chapters 9-11 is whether or not “the word of God (his convenental promise) failed” (Rom 9:6). Paul was addressing the Jews notion that God had failed in his convenant of works by giving the christian message of salvation by faith in Christ. Paul refutes this by pointing out that God’s covenental promise was never about works. this is why “not all Israelites truly belong to Israel” and “not all of Abrahams children are his true descendants” (Rom 9:6-7). You can be a Jew and not belong to God’s covenant, for it is faith and not works that make one a true Israelite. God can choose whoever he wants without consideration for their works – if he chooses to have mercy on sinners simply because they have faith, that is his devine perogative, if he chooses to harden people because of their unbelief that too is his perogative. God’s criterion of justice does not have to answer to ours.
    As Christ is God, if Romans 9 is read with a calvinstic view it must be concluded that behind the image of God dying in love for humanity, is the real God who creates many humans for the sole purpose of displaying his eternal wrath. The beautiful news of God’s outrageous love in Christ conceals the horrifying news of God’s equally outrageous hatred. If this is true, then John 3:16 must read “for God so loved SOME of the world” tha the gave his only son. The rest are gladly being prepared for eternal wrath and destruction.
    It seems that that calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 replaces the glorious picture of God in Christ loving undeserved sinners with a picture of a deity who arbitarily fashions people for eternal destruction – and then punishes them for being that way. It exhanges the picture of God who reigns supreme in self-sacrificial love and incredible wisdom for a picture of a God who reigns by sheer power.

  177. Truth Unites.. and Divides June 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm #

    Synergistic theology has offered prooftexts such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim 2:4 for centuries; consistent exegesis of the text of Scripture has refuted the synergistic agenda from the very beginning. I have provided exegesis for these passages previously. But today I’d like us to consider the philosophical implications of the synergist agenda.

    Does God really will that every individual be saved? Why, then, is not every individual saved? The answer that is given is that God did not will to save every individual monergistically, but willed to save them synergistically. In other words, rather than saving every individual–or any individual–efficaciously by sovereignly altering the sinful will, God chose to save men–if any man–by granting to him the authority of his eternal destiny. In short, God desired to save people through their “free will.” This concept raises a few philosophical–as well as a number of Biblical–questions. First, given this theology, it is a wonder if God truly wills for anyone to be saved. A Biblical doctrine of the complete depravity of man assures us that the idea that God would leave salvation open to the unaltered, “free” will of man is one that is destined for a failure. If our perspectives are Biblical, no one would be saved. But synergists, of course, deny this perspective.

    However, let’s grant the synergistic understanding of what it means to be dead in sin. We are still caused to question whether or not God really wills that anyone be saved. Apparently, his will to allow people to authoritatively choose their own condemnation trumps his will to save them. In order to avoid universalism, hidden beneath the apparently (as in appearance) noble principle that God wills to save every individual is God’s somehow-stronger will to grant them autonomy. While synergists love to promote the emotion-targeted viewpoint that God does not have the freedom to love and save whom he pleases, as he pleases, what they really love about synergism is the synergism; though they claim that the supposedly “chief attribute” of God is love, what they really like about God is the notion that he has released them from the absolute sovereignty of his will and replaced it with a will that desires most to see man exercise his will autonomously. For the synergistic God, what he wants most is not to see everyone saved, but to see everyone exercise his will in an ultimately authoritative manner–whether that results in their condemnation or in, if by some reason in them, their salvation.

    Of course, the God of monergism loves to see people exercise their wills. He has created them with wills. But the God of monergism is also a theologically-informed God; he knows the reality of depravity. Therefore, the God of monergism deemed it fit that he would save whom he pleases efficaciously. When God wants to save them, he wants to save them. And he does save them. He saves them through their choice, but their choice is based in his choice. He alters their wills. He controls both the ends and the means that is required to save whom he wills.

    The God of synergism, however, is a God that controls neither the ends nor the means. Or, he acts like he controls both, but, in reality, controls neither. He speaks as if he has the power to control the ends: “I desire that everyone be saved.” But both he and man know that such a decree is not control, but merely a hopeful statement. If such a decree concerned a matter of control, or, put another way, if God meant what he says, it would be accomplished. But the God that cannot control the ends is also the God that cannot–or at least does not–control the means. God has removed control of the means from his hands and placed it in the hands of sinful creatures. It is a wonder why the synergist God is so unwise as to believe that sinful creatures can control salvation better than he can. But because God has given up control of the means; because for some reason the will of his which carries the most weight is his will to give up control over accomplishing his will, he has lost all control over the ends. The synergist God isn’t a God that wills to save everyone; it is a God that wills to save no one. The mere chance that someone is saved is not because God has fully and completely accomplished his will; the mere chance that someone is saved is because man was somehow able to do that which God could not do–or, at least, for some unholy reason, did not do.

    But synergism finds this pleasing to the eye. Perhaps even now some of my synergist readers are responding to this with a confused mind, wondering what the problem actually is. “So what?” they might think. “What’s wrong with the notion that God loves man so much [yeah, right] that he wanted to give them free will?” But this is the fundamentally flawed, unbiblical assumption upon which all synergism is based. Giving to man the authority over his eternal destiny is not love; If I were to give the keys of my car to my toddler and say “drive,” that would not be love. But it would be even worse if I gave the keys of my car to an escaped convict, put a grandmother in front of the car, and said “drive.” It takes an overly-exalting view of man to be at ease with the notion that God would hand over the “keys of salvation” to man. It is only after radically redefining the depravity of man, so that man comes out looking like someone fully capable of initiating a will to be saved, when the concept of “free will” becomes comfortable. And if such is the case, it is any wonder why men are condemned. If men are so capable of handling such autonomy, it makes me terribly curious why some use their autonomy in such an extremely foolish manner. “Ah, but you forget the reality of sin” might be the response. Exactly! Synergists cannot have their cake and eat it too; they can’t argue that man has the ability to handle autonomy but then argue that he lacks the ability to handle autonomy at the same time. Surely God is not ignorant of this.

    Excerpted from: The Philosophy of Monergism

  178. D.J. Williams June 12, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    Ferg,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I read through it last night and have spent some time chewing it over. I want to attempt to offer an equally thoughtful response.

    First off, I have to disagree with your presupposition that Acts 10:34, 1 Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9 disqualify the reformed doctrine of predestination. If you’re going to make that claim, you’ll have to make sense of not just Romans 9, but also the many other passages I pointed out in my previous post. The idea of election is inescapable in Scripture (and you’ve dug yourself a deeper hole by saying that God doesn’t even know who will be saved in the end, thus denying yourself the classical Arminian interpretation of the election passages).

    With Acts 10:34, you must take into account the rest of Paul’s sentence in verse 35, where we see that he is speaking of partiality as it concerns Jews and Gentiles. God does not love all people in exactly the same way. D.A. Carson’s The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God has been extremely helpful to me on that front. It clocks in at under 100 pages, is very accessible, and I heartily recommend it. Consider, if God does love all people in exactly the same way, then what on earth does Romans 9:13 mean, especially considering the lengths that Paul goes to in order to emphasize that this reality is not based on any actions by the two?

    I completely agree with and embrace both 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. God desires for all to be saved. However, we both understand that this will is subservient to a greater desire in God, since obviously all people are not saved. For you, God places his desire for human self-determination above his desire that all be saved. For me, God places his zeal for his own glory (and the satisfaction that gives to us) above his desire that all be saved. So, you cannot insinuate that you believe those verses but Calvinists don’t – we both place a caveat on that verse. That said, I believe the reformed view is Biblically defensible and the Arminian view is not – largely based on the many passages I laid out in my above post (Acts 13:48, John 6:44, Isaiah 46:9-10, Numbers 23:19, Job 23:13-14, Daniel 4:34-35, Acts 18:10). And, though I appreciate your thought in addressing Romans 9 (something many Arminians aren’t willing to do – which I can attest to having been a member of a Wesleyan church myself for 8 years), I think you miss several key points that undermine your exegesis.

    Your opening comments setting Romans 9 in the greater context of the Jew/Gentile discussion of chapters 9-11 is largely spot-on. We can’t ignore the reasons that Paul launched into the discussion in chapter 9. Yet we also can’t lose the trees for the forest, either. Paul makes several specific statements that create problems for your position. Notice even Romans 10:3, which you cited in defense of your position, “Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it.” Paul here says that the Gentiles have been accepted by God though they didn’t even seek to be. They didn’t do anything to attain the righteousness they received! They didn’t even desire or pursue it!

    There is merit to your appeal to Jeremiah about the potter and the clay, but Paul here is not making the same point Jeremiah makes. He explicitly says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” He’s saying that God can do whatever he wants with his creation, and we have no right to object. You ask why God would need “great patience.” My answer – he doesn’t! He owes us nothing, and could immediately damn the whole of the human race and be entirely just. Paul here is making the point that God is actually showcasing his great mercy by bearing his vessels of wrath with great patience so that we who are vessels of his grace can see his glory more clearly. That’s exactly why he would say “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” I would ask how “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” even fit into your theological framework, since you would say (it seems) that God hasn’t prepared anybody for any destiny, but is waiting to see what our response is to his offer. In fact, Paul points out that the entire reason for Pharaoh’s existence was so that God could demonstrate his power to his people by crushing him. How do you get around these realities?

    Ferg, you spend your final two paragraphs talking about what the Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9 seems to indicate – let me tell you as one who holds that interpretation that your assumptions are simply not true. God’s love is not a façade hiding an ugly reality. His love is quite real, and I’ve come to have a deeper appreciation for the depth of his love since I’ve come to a reformed understanding of soteriology. That’s not a slam against you or any other Arminian, that’s just the reality that I’ve experienced in my Christian walk. The fact that God “desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” is not incompatible with the God presented in Scripture who “has mercy on who he wills and hardens who he wills” – without respect to anything they do. I would recommend John Piper’s very thorough article “Are There Two Wills of God?” You may not be a fan of Piper, but I would encourage you to give his article a serious read.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1580_Are_There_Two_Wills_in_God

    I look forward to the chance to discuss these things further, and I pray that God would draw us both to a deeper knowledge of his glory and grace.

  179. D.J. Williams June 12, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    Hmm, looks like my response didn’t make it through.

  180. D.J. Williams June 12, 2008 at 10:09 am #

    Let’s try again…

    Ferg,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I read through it last night and have spent some time chewing it over. I want to attempt to offer an equally thoughtful response.

    First off, I have to disagree with your presupposition that Acts 10:34, 1 Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9 disqualify the reformed doctrine of predestination. If you’re going to make that claim, you’ll have to make sense of not just Romans 9, but also the many other passages I pointed out in my previous post. The idea of election is inescapable in Scripture (and you’ve dug yourself a deeper hole by saying that God doesn’t even know who will be saved in the end, thus denying yourself the classical Arminian interpretation of the election passages).

    With Acts 10:34, you must take into account the rest of Paul’s sentence in verse 35, where we see that he is speaking of partiality as it concerns Jews and Gentiles. God does not love all people in exactly the same way. D.A. Carson’s The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God has been extremely helpful to me on that front. It clocks in at under 100 pages, is very accessible, and I heartily recommend it. Consider, if God does love all people in exactly the same way, then what on earth does Romans 9:13 mean, especially considering the lengths that Paul goes to in order to emphasize that this reality is not based on any actions by the two?

    I completely agree with and embrace both 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. God desires for all to be saved. However, we both understand that this will is subservient to a greater desire in God, since obviously all people are not saved. For you, God places his desire for human self-determination above his desire that all be saved. For me, God places his zeal for his own glory (and the satisfaction that gives to us) above his desire that all be saved. So, you cannot insinuate that you believe those verses but Calvinists don’t – we both place a caveat on that verse. That said, I believe the reformed view is Biblically defensible and the Arminian view is not – largely based on the many passages I laid out in my above post (Acts 13:48, John 6:44, Isaiah 46:9-10, Numbers 23:19, Job 23:13-14, Daniel 4:34-35, Acts 18:10). And, though I appreciate your thought in addressing Romans 9 (something many Arminians aren’t willing to do – which I can attest to having been a member of a Wesleyan church myself for 8 years), I think you miss several key points that undermine your exegesis.

    Your opening comments setting Romans 9 in the greater context of the Jew/Gentile discussion of chapters 9-11 is largely spot-on. We can’t ignore the reasons that Paul launched into the discussion in chapter 9. Yet we also can’t lose the trees for the forest, either. Paul makes several specific statements that create problems for your position. Notice even Romans 10:3, which you cited in defense of your position, “Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it.” Paul here says that the Gentiles have been accepted by God though they didn’t even seek to be. They didn’t do anything to attain the righteousness they received! They didn’t even desire or pursue it!

    There is merit to your appeal to Jeremiah about the potter and the clay, but Paul here is not making the same point Jeremiah makes. He explicitly says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” He’s saying that God can do whatever he wants with his creation, and we have no right to object. You ask why God would need “great patience.” My answer – he doesn’t! He owes us nothing, and could immediately damn the whole of the human race and be entirely just. Paul here is making the point that God is actually showcasing his great mercy by bearing his vessels of wrath with great patience so that we who are vessels of his grace can see his glory more clearly. That’s exactly why he would say “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” I would ask how “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” even fit into your theological framework, since you would say (it seems) that God hasn’t prepared anybody for any destiny, but is waiting to see what our response is to his offer. In fact, Paul points out that the entire reason for Pharaoh’s existence was so that God could demonstrate his power to his people by crushing him. How do you get around these realities?

    Ferg, you spend your final two paragraphs talking about what the Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9 seems to indicate – let me tell you as one who holds that interpretation that your assumptions are simply not true. God’s love is not a façade hiding an ugly reality. His love is quite real, and I’ve come to have a deeper appreciation for the depth of his love since I’ve come to a reformed understanding of soteriology. That’s not a slam against you or any other Arminian, that’s just the reality that I’ve experienced in my Christian walk. The fact that God “desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” is not incompatible with the God presented in Scripture who “has mercy on who he wills and hardens who he wills” – without respect to anything they do. I would recommend John Piper’s very thorough article “Are There Two Wills of God?” You may not be a fan of Piper, but I would encourage you to give his article a serious read.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1580_Are_There_Two_Wills_in_God

    I look forward to the chance to discuss these things further, and I pray that God would draw us both to a deeper knowledge of his glory and grace.

  181. D.J. Williams June 12, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    I submitted a comment, and it hasn’t shown up. Yet, when I try to re-enter it, the site says “duplicate comment detected.” Denny, what happened?

  182. D.J. Williams June 12, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Ferg, if you’ll send me your email address to djwilliams@hazelwoodchurch.net, I’ll get my response to you that way.

  183. Ferg June 12, 2008 at 10:37 am #

    cool, will do. thanks DJ

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