Friday, April 18, 2008

Examining Calvinism

A website devoted to a critical analysis of Calvinism.

3 comments:

Josh Hickok said...

Vic, you may be interested in the newly minted Society of Christian Evangelicals: http://arminians.org/

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Vic

I suspect Paul and yourself are speaking at cross purposes, or lacking some essential level of communication.

For instance you [Vic] composed two posts that discussed the way Jesus & Paul both expressed sadness that many were nor listening to Jesus's words nor following the Lord. This disturbed both Paul and Jesus very deeply. It was as though both Jesus and Paul were treating those people as if they had a choice to make and that J&P were extremely sad that those people were making an incorrect choice.

But a Calvinist might say that that is simply the way God the Author is portraying things for the sake of us, His characters, putting on a show of sadness at people's poor choices, but that human-like reaction of Jesus or Paul didn't matter as much as the Calvinistic fact that Jesus, being God, knew full well (at least the divine part of him knew) that there is only election by God or non-election by God, so the ultimate "choosing" involved is God's, and neither God nor the elect in the next life need ever feel the least bit of sorrow for the non-elect whose names were never written in the book of life, and who were created just so God could be pleased by (not filled with sorrow over) their eternal damnation.

So Paul and you don't see eye to eye on whether or not Jesus & Paul's sorrow over people's bad choices was genuine or not. Maybe that's something you need to make clearer to Paul.

Personally, I suspect that Jesus & Paul may not have fully grasped nor fully worked out the apparent incongruity between their teachings on "the elect" (as Jesus calls them in the Gospels), divine favor (grace) and foreknowledge, and taken that into account when it came to their sorrow and urgency over the need for everyone to choose to follow the Lord.

As for alternative feelings there are a few places in the Bible that depict rejoicing over the sight of the "unrighteous" receiving judgment. But when exactly is a Calvinist supposed to be sorrowful over people's bad choices, and when is a Calvinist supposed to be rejoicing that God is being glorified by a person's damnation nearing completion?

(Of course some theologians interpret passages on the "joy of seeing the unrighteous or non-elect suffer" as being more reflective of the human emotion known as schaedenfreud instead of reflecting a lesson in divine joy over the sorrows and damnation of others. Though Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards would not agree with such an interpretation, but instead taught that the joy was genuine and one should be unashamed to feel it, even at the sight of eternal damnation of one's fellow human beings.)

If I may propose my own view, it is that the mind is such an amazing juggler of concepts and ideas that both Arminians and Calvinists can play round with the Bible's many stories and different depictions of Yahweh and Jesus, juggling them in their minds until both Arminians and Calvinists can find ways to explain away whichever parts of Scripture don't fit their theologies. I've seen it done for instance with passages related to the creation and shape of the cosmos. (See my online piece, "Varieties of Scientific Creationism" Babinski)

I also know that there are difficulties when attempting to take ancient stories told about Yahweh, Elohim, over the centuries, and transfer them to a strictly philosophical frame of understanding where "God" has certain unchanging philosophical attributes and by definition is so perfect and infinite in all ways that God needs nothing, not even to create, since by definition perfection needs nothing. And God is everywhere and doesn't have to "come down from heaven" to "see" what men are doing at the tower of Babel, etc.

Philo of Alexandria is one such person who attempted to meld the stories of his ancient Jewish people with Greek philosophical definitions of the Theos/Logos. The early church father Origin also attempted such a melding of the Hebrew stories with the Greek philosophical mind, finding a host of "meanings" in the Hebrew stories that the original authors probably had never considered. Other early fathers who were Platonists, neo-Platonists, likewise played with such a mind-meld of ancient stories and Greek philosophical definitions of the Theos/Logos.

Lastly, I wonder what J.P. Holding thinks of Calvinism and where his view would fit in between yours and Paul's? Holding has had some run ins with Steve Hays and James White (strict Calvinists).

And I wonder if you are willing to go so far in his Arminian view to consider that Open Theism might be true?

Edward T. Babinski said...

A Primer For Young Calvinists

www.edwardtbabinski.us/religion/calvinist.html