Monday, August 06, 2007

Calvinism and psychoanalyzing

With respect to leaving the fold, I do not know if the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance requires that we psychoanalyze all those that leave the fold and say that they were insincere, Because people like Loftus will say that their beliefs were sincere and their behavior no doubt suggested that they were real believers. If an atheist believes in the wishful thinking theory of religious belief, and say that everyone who believes just can't stand the idea that there will be no afterlife, then I think they should take the counterevidence seriously when C. S. Lewis says the last thing he wanted to believe in was an afterlife, and that he became a believer based on his assessment of the evidence. You can surely doubt the adequacy of his assessment of the evidence, but it's wrong to say that he really wanted to believe in an afterlife when the evidence suggests that he didn't want this at all.

But similarly, when an atheist says that they really believed in the past and left the fold later, then to say that didn't really believe but deep down inside was an atheist all along, then I've got a problem with that, too.

Does the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance require that we analyze people on the Debunking Christianity website (all of whom claim to be former believers) in this way? If so, this is troubling for the Calvinist view. But maybe their view doesn't have these entailments.


Anonymous said...

I think this is akin to those who claim people are born gay. [I do think people have a genetic disposition with regard to this, just like alcoholics, but even then, kids are not born drinkers. Something triggered them to drink, which need not have happened]. But when a former gay person later denies he is gay, I believe him.

Now there is a point at which self-deception can creep into the psyche of a person, C.S. Lewis, me, and those who claim to be formerly gay. That's what Calvinists have to wrestle with. They must try to make sense of all of the evidence, both Biblical, and those who claim to be former Christians, like myself.

But they'll never convince me. I maintain that to think we didn't believe with as much (or more) commitment to the Christian faith is but one of many delusions they have.

Mike Darus said...

1) Calvinists will wonder why you consider sincerity a factor? They would contend that faith cannot be measured by the degree of sincerity.
2) Calvinists will also wonder why you want to analyze the belief of others to determine whether it is genuine. Psychonalisis they could consider absolutley worthless.
3) Calvinists would eagerly deny that everyone who professes to be a believer is a true believer. Not only is it possible to fool others that your are a believer, it is possible to fool yourself.
4) It is not necessary to determine who on the Debunking Christianity website is an unbeliever and who is temporarily straying. Both classes would be expected to act the same way. You have to wait untill the end of the game to get the final score.

Victor Reppert said...

My critique of Calvinism is conditional--if it requires saying that someone didn't really believe something when it seems to them and to others that they did, then something has gone awry. It could be that someone could believe oneself to be a believer, be sincere about it, but have it turn out that God didn't actually grant that person saving grace even though they were trusting Christ to receive it. This position looks also tough to maintain, but I am open to construals of the Calvinist position that don't have untoward consequences.

Anonymous said...

This is Norman Geisler's book which strives to maintian a halfway house. He argues someone can lose her salvation, but that it isn't likely (some half-way house, eh?). link.

Mike Darus said...

I don't think you have to be a Calvinist to allow that some who say they believe, acutally don't really believe. There must be a host of individuals throughout history that professed to be Christians but did not posess saving faith.

It is a little trickier to say that some who think they are true believers may not actually be true believers. We tend to hope that our own opinion about the faith we hold means something. But Jesus did not give much comfort on this issue in Matt 7 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,"

I can sometimes think like a Calvinist. It is a great system because it has a lot of internal consistency This is one reason I have my doubts it is right. I prefer to believe that the truth is much more complex.

Victor Reppert said...

A way out for the Calvinist might be to say that some people have faith of a sort in Christ, but not saving faith.

Anonymous said...

In The Grace of God, The Will of Man, (ed. by Clark Pinnock), William Abraham claims that there isn't much by way of a practical difference between Calvinism and Arminianism when it comes to their respective views on Election. The Calvinists really cannot claim to know for sure they are among God's elect, while Arminians do not know they will remain among the elect.

Abraham argues the dispute to a great extent "is a verbal one." These competing theologies are interested in two different questions. "The Arminian focuses on whether one can know NOW that one is a child of God; the Calvinist focuses on whether one will ultimately be saved in the future" (p. 239).

I no longer worry about either position.

steve said...