Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Paul Manata on Calvinism

Paul Manata over at Triablogue is arguing that my objections to Calvinism bear no weight because they appeal to moral intuitions. He says that I begin from intuitions, and the Calvinist begins from Scripture. He is saying that if we're going to argue about Calvinism versus Arminianism or anything else, I should fight like a real man, based on Scripture passages, rather than like a girlie man, employing moral intuitions.

Or rather, I am arguing on the basis of moral intuitions, which are human and fallible, as opposed to God's Holy Word, which is infallible and inerrant.

There are several problems with this construal of the situation. First, even if Scripture is inerrant (and what that amounts to needs to be clarified), exegetes and Bible scholars are not infallible. There is no consensus amongst biblical scholars that the standard Calvinist proof texts really prove Calvinism, or that the Arminian or even universalist proof texts to not support those doctrines.

I think that Calvinist interpretations of passages that teach God's love for all people do violence to the meaning of those texts and essentially trivialize them. Paul no doubt thinks the same of Arminian interpretations of Calvinist proof texts. There isn't going to be any slam dunk here.

But it's when I back away from the exegeses of particular texts and look at what all of this means for God character. In Calvinism is false God's goal is the eternal salvation of every human creature. There is plenty of mystery concerning what God does to achieve that ultimate goal, but that goal is consistently pursued in all his works. "His mercy is over all his works," says the Psalmist, (Ps. 145: 9), something a Calvinist in going to have trouble consistently saying. This makes it possible to explain why some evils exist, others are mysterious, but here at least goodness is a fairly clear idea. The kind of goodness that God instills in me as I conform my life to his image is a reflection of the character of God, especially as revealed in Christ. The picture is morally coherent.

I don't mean that God is obligated to do what we are obligated to do, but rather God's character as a good being must be the kind of character that we are supposed to have. "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus."

But what are we asked to believe if Calvinism is true? We are asked to believe that God decreed the deeds of everyone before the foundation of the world. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Pol Pot, the 9/11 attacks, and the entire content of Dawkins' The God Delusion were all decreed before the foundation of the world. The CD was made in eternity and plays out in time, just as it was intended. The deeds that are sinful are nevertheless deserving of everlasting punishment for the humans who perform them, even though the creatures who perform them cannot do otherwise, given those decrees. Of these sinners, God elects some to everlasting life and the rest he allows to suffer the "just deserts" of their sins, which is, as indicated earlier, eternal suffering in hell. God could have decreed that no one ever sin, or God could have decreed that everyone receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but apparently it results in greater glory to himself if he damns, probably, the vast majority of the human race, especially those where the Gospel hasn't reached. Nevetheless, God is a perfectly good being. The acts we perform which merit us eternal punishment if we perform them are the same acts that God Himself ordained before the foundation of the world. Even though performing those acts as humans deserves everlasting punishment, decreeing those same actions before the foundation of the world is simply an exercise in "the potter's freedom."

Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help. It could all be OK, but then I could be a brain in a vat, Hitler could have been a nice guy who had a good reason to do what he did, and Elvis might still be alive.

If I were to have an argument with Jeffrey Dahmer about his, uh er, culinary practices, and I were to say that I found his actions reprehensible, he could say, "I just don't share your intuitions. Of course I suppose I could quote to him out of a book with leather covers that says "Thou shalt not kill," but there are lots of purported holy books out there.

There are, of course, some intuition pumps that can be used here to raise doubts about the moral acceptability of all of this. One picture that is often used is one in which makes it sound like a bunch of sinners just showed up in God's courtroom, all deserving punishment. God punishes some according to their deserts, and then others he saves by his grace through the sacrifice of Christ. What gets left out of the picture is the fact that these people are sinners wholly and completely as a result of God's eternal decree. On my view, which I know not everyone shares, these people are simply not responsible for their actions, because they had no choice, given the past, to do what they did. Even if they can be held responsible, isn't there an "accessory before the fact" in their sins? Think of a Nazi commandant who gets Jews in his concentration camp to commit capital crimes and then executes them for those crimes.

Another intuition pump that Paul uses is the idea that criminals like child molesters deserve to be punished and put away. If this is so horribly wrong, then why should any of us "child molesters" get into heaven through Christ paying the penalty for our sins? It's the Calvinists, in spite of their ardent denials which border on out-and-out subterfuge to me, who make God the author of sin. Paul thinks I have a low view of sin. What??? I have such a high view of sin that I don't think God ever decrees it. I don't think God would decree sin because, also, I have a high view of God.

Paul references a book called "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God." Doesn't that title tell you a lot? God's love for humans is a difficult doctrine? On my view, that's the easy part.

I have a serious problem with any action retributively deserving everlasting punishment, since all sins only to a finite amount of damage. The reply is that they are against an infinite God, but do we give tougher penalties for people who commit crimes against, say, the President? Hell is possible not because someone retributively deserves it on my view, but rather, because someone continues to freely rebel. God can't make someone happy without a submitted will, and God can't guarantee that without making the submission unfree. At least, on my incompatibilist view.

There are some elements in Paul's post that are disturbing. He explicitly says that some people are not our neighbor and we are not obligated to love them. What about all the words of Jesus about turning the other cheek to those who seek to harm you, proying for those who despitefully use you, loving your enemies. What about the Good Samaritan, Jesus' brilliant response to those who would circumscribe the circle of "neighbor" to exclude others. If you can exegete your way around those, you can exegete your way around anything.

The Calvinists at Triablogue had some debate with me over waterboarding a few months back. But since they knew I wasn't a Calvinist, they avoided using their best argument. They could say "Look, we know these terror suspects are Muslims, which means they're probably vessels of wrath headed for the fire anyway. If we can get some information out of them, why not give them a little foretaste of the future?"

(OK that was dirty. I slap my face.)

In confronting issues of theodicy, I have to admit, like any sane, sensible Christian, that a good deal is mysterious. But if Calvinism is false I can see through a glass darkly and maybe see why a good deal of evil exists. If Calvinism is true, then I'm blind as a bat. I admit the logical possibility that it might all be justified, but then it is just possible that Elvis is at the McDonald's nearest my house.

Given the fact that there is no overwhelming biblical case for Calvinism, it seems to me that I am justified in choosing a view that is morally coherent over a view that strikes me as being about as morally incoherent as a position could possibly be.

I think I am going to rest my case here. I am sure there will be some salvo back from Paul and company, but I think I will leave the job of responding to the Calvinists to others.

41 comments:

Paul Manata said...

Hi Dr. Reppert

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/victor-reppert-on-anti-calvinism_17.html

Alan Rhoda said...

If we grant the following:

1. The Calvinist reading of Scripture is correct.
2. Scripture is inerrant.
3. Calvinism is at odd with our deepest moral intuitions.

then it seems to follow that

4. Our moral intuitions are largely unreliable.

Victor accepts (3) and denies (4), from which it follows that either (1) or (2) or both have to go.

Paul M. in his response accepts (1) and (2) and, I think, would accept (4) with some qualifications added. He does, however, take issue with (3), suggesting, if I read him correctly, that standard Arminianism is just as morally problematic as Calvinism.

For my part, I agree with Victor. It seems to me that there is a genuine moral difference between ordaining evil and knowingly permitting evil, a difference that tells in favor of Arminianism over against Calvinism. But set that aside. If Paul M. is right and Arminianism and Calvinism are morally on par (which I don't concede), then I would take that as a good reason for rejecting (2). I'm a whole lot more confident that my deepest moral intuitions are sound, than I am that Scripture (as we have it today) is inerrant.

J.A. Salinger said...

So, you're trusting your innately fallen heart over against God's divine revelation, and have set yourself up as judge of God's word rather than being judged by it.

Very troubling, to say the least...

Paul Manata said...

Hi Alan, long time no chat.

If you see my other two posts I showed how the Calvinist can answer the problem of evil argument that Victor launched.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/reply-to-anti-calvinists.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-reppert-cant-unsolve-calvinists.html

I also pointed out that one both of our views, the idea that:

(*) An innocent man pays for the capital crimes of guilty men.

Is "at odds with our deepest moral intuitions."

So, both you and Victor have no problem holding to beliefs that "are at odds with out deepest moral intuitions."

I suppose that you can say that (*) is not at odds with "your deepest moral intuitions," but then we're at a standstill and it seems that one has arbitrarily decided what counts as a "moral intuition." Virtually every atheist and non-Christian I have ever met says that this idea is problematic.

I'd also add that if we're going to go the route of the errantist, then that removes the appeals to (Victor's understanding) of God's love as found in *Scripture*. You can't just say that Scripture is errant where it conflicts with my moral intuitions but infallible when it agrees with them. You can't because your intuitions are not infallible. And so mere agreement doesn't imply infallibility. Thus this route undercuts one of Victor's bread and buytter arguments. Same with his appeal to the "love your neighbor" passages.

I also don't see the *argument* as to why what Calvinism says about God's decree is so evil. Of course, that is being *asserted* here quite a bit. As of yet I've to see an argument for this. I assume that at the end of the day it boils down to your philosophical views about libertarian freedom. So, it's not necessarily a strong moral intuition that drives the argument, but rather a philosophical position on the metaphysics of free will. So, I'd like for someone to actually spell this out. My guess is that I can show (a) that it either misunderstands Calvinism, or (b) it isn't morally reprehensible, and (c0 it definitely isn't something that goes against an *intuition*, as philosophically defined.

I'd like to point out, too, that I quoted Victor as saying "God said it. That settles it." So, if so, then this bodes in my favor. For if I have shown (like we show almost anything else) that Scripture teaches T, and Victor believes ~T, then ~~T. Thus, according to Victor's own admission, if my exegesis bears out one reading as the best possible reading, then that is what we should believe. Thus, according to Victor, "If God said {fill in Calvinist doctrine}, then that settles it."

Lastly, let's point out that Victor was offering an *internal* critique against the Calvinist. Saying that we can't offer an answer to the problem of evil. I'd like to point out that I answered this charge from within my system. The argument has never been: Given errancy, and Arminianism, and libertarian free will, the Calvinist cannot solve the problem of evil. Well, of course! But that would be like me arguing: Given the truth of Calvinism, the Arminian cannot prove Arminianism! Hardly an interesting thesis.

Alan Rhoda said...

Hi Paul,

You offer

(*) An innocent man pays for the capital crimes of guilty men.

as a principle that all Christians are committed to that is nevertheless at odds with our deepest moral intuitions. I'm not sure that works. (*) seems to presuppose a penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, and not all Christians accept that. The moral government and Christus Victor theories may be viable alternatives.

Regarding moral intuitions and libertarian freedom, it's not correct to suggest that the moral intuitions driving anti-Calvinism are themselves driven by a commitment to libertarian freedom. Just the reverse. To a very large extent, commitment to libertarian freedom is driven by moral intuitions to the effect that a person must have some direct or indirect control over whether he or she does something wrong to be moral responsible for it.

Finally, let me just make clear that I'm not denying inerrancy. What I do deny is that inerrancy cannot in principle be rationally denied. If the Bible, properly interpreted, were to run directly counter to our deepest moral intuitions, then I would take that to be a fairly strong argument against inerrancy.

Paul Manata said...

Hi Alan,

From reading many atheological works, unbelievers have problems with all the various forms of atonement Christian have offered. So, I'd only need tweaking.

Also, if the penal view is best supported by the exegesis of Scripture, then appealing to the other theories won't work.

As two your point about libertarian freedom, we could debate this, especially given theological arguments that libertarian free will stems from sinful desires rather than moral intuitions (see works by Calvin, Edwards, Owen, et al.). But I assume that debate wouldn't be fruitful, especially in a combox.

So, I'll simply point out that (semi-) compatibilist notions of moral responsibility have no problem fitting your constraint that agents "have some direct or indirect control over whether he or she does something wrong to be moral responsible for it." And so since we do have *some* direct or indirect control over our actions, we can, on Calvinist assumptions (and yours) be held morally responsible. I'd also point out, as I'm sure you're aware, that there are compatibilist and incompatibilist arguments to the effect the libertarian free will does not provide us with the control needed to ascribe "free" to an action.

Lastly, I'm glad to hear you aren't denying inerrancy. If so, then my argument goes through. For *if* the Bible *inerrantly* teaches T, and *if* your (admitted?) fallibly moral intuition says ~T, then ~~T is the most rational position to take. I take this to be a sound argument.

So, I'm just not seeing where Victor has succeeded in his internal critique. I've shown my view to be consistent.

He can offer an external critique, but then so can I. Given Calvinism, then his view is problematic! This isn't an interesting way to argue. If his points are true, then why waste time arguing about why we can't solve the problem of evil and just post on why Calvinism is factually false. If PAPs and LFW and universalism and unlimited atonement are true, and if reformed notions of the decree are false, then Calvinism is false. So, who cares if we can't solve the problem of evil? That seems like a tangential issue. So, let's not forget the context of dialogue this started out as. I fear the ground of the original discussion is slowly shifting and thus the context my answers should be read in is not being taken into account.

Best,
Paul

John W. Loftus said...

The interesting thing to me is that Manata wants to exclude me from this argument because I'm an atheist, and yet on this issue Vic is making the same argument that I have repeatedly made. It makes no difference who makes an argument at all! The argument stands or falls on it's own. It's simply bogus to claim what he does. by diverting the issue to something I believe is a red herring. Q.E.D.

Besides, Calvinism has other deeply serious problems.

When given your philosophical argument, Vic, and comparing that to Manata's historically conditioned interpretation of a historically conditioned text, your argument wins hands down.

Watch out Vic, since we agree on this you will have to distance yourself from me quickly, with force, so they don't think we're in the same bed. ;-)

Josh Hickok said...

Paul said:

An innocent man pays for the capital crimes of guilty men.

Is "at odds with our deepest moral intuitions."

--------------------------------

I'm not so sure that it is at odds with out moral intuitions. I think it is at odds with our deep-seated selfishness, but it doesn't seem to be wrong. I have to think about that a little more.

J.A. Salinger said...

Dr. Reppert,

Having Loftus' approval and agreement on your position is a defeater for you right off the bat. Don't you think you should re-examine your position?

I know I would question myself were that to happen to me...

steve said...

"But what are we asked to believe if Calvinism is true? We are asked to believe that God decreed the deeds of everyone before the foundation of the world. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Pol Pot, the 9/11 attacks, and the entire content of Dawkins' The God Delusion were all decreed before the foundation of the world."

Victor,

What's the moral difference between saying that God decreed the Holocaust and saying that even though God foresaw what would happen if he did x, and could have prevented it had he refrained from creating the conditions which precipitated the Holocaust, that he went ahead and created the sufficient preconditions in full knowledge of the inevitable outcome, although it was within his power to do otherwise?

If you're going to appeal to moral intuitions, then how would the moral intuitions of an atheist regard your alternative as any improvement over Calvinism?

Anonymous said...

"Also, if the penal view is best supported by the exegesis of Scripture, then appealing to the other theories won't work."

Atonement theories do not need to be mutually exclusive.

steve said...

"The CD was made in eternity and plays out in time, just as it was intended."

Victor,

What is your alternative?

i) That God had no intentions for the world? That he had nothing specifically in mind when he chose to create the world?

Or:

ii) That God had intentions for the world, but the world didn't turn out the way he intended it to be? The outcome caught him off-guard?

Josh Hickok said...

"What's the moral difference between saying that God decreed the Holocaust and saying that even though God foresaw what would happen if he did x, and could have prevented it had he refrained from creating the conditions which precipitated the Holocaust, that he went ahead and created the sufficient preconditions in full knowledge of the inevitable outcome, although it was within his power to do otherwise?"

The obvious answer is that there is another (free) agent involved that brings evil about.

steve said...

"The deeds that are sinful are nevertheless deserving of everlasting punishment for the humans who perform them, even though the creatures who perform them cannot do otherwise, given those decrees."

Victor,

Bracketing my commitment to Scripture and Calvinism for the moment, and just working from raw intuition, I don't find your objection morally problematic.

Are you claiming that agents are blameless in case they couldn't do otherwise even if they wouldn't do otherwise?

Intuitively speaking, freedom to do otherwise, if morally relevant at all, is only relevant in case the agent would have done otherwise.

And if he wouldn't do otherwise, then it makes no difference if he could do otherwise.

Even this would need to be glossed. To do otherwise doesn't necessary mean that an agent chooses good over evil. Rather, he might choose a different evil.

So, for your intuitive objection to have any traction whatsoever, you need to demonstrate that, according to Calvinism, (i) the damned would have done otherwise if given the chance (whatever that means), and (ii) they would have chosen good over evil.

steve said...

Josh Hickok said...

"The obvious answer is that there is another (free) agent involved that brings evil about."

How does that exculpate God if God could prevent another (free) agent from bringing that about?

If you put a woman in a jail cell with a rapist, and you knew the outcome (which is predictable), would that let you off the hook because another free agent carried out the deed?

Remember, we're working off of pure moral intuition now.

steve said...

"God could have decreed that no one ever sin, or God could have decreed that everyone receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but apparently it results in greater glory to himself if he damns, probably, the vast majority of the human race, especially those where the Gospel hasn't reached."

Depends on what you mean by "results in greater glory."

As Wilhelm a Brakel explained a long time ago, what this means is not that God is the beneficiary, but that the elect are the beneficiaries. It doesn't add anything to God's glory. It is better to be fallen, and then redeemed, than to be unfallen.

steve said...

alan rhoda said...

"I'm a whole lot more confident that my deepest moral intuitions are sound, than I am that Scripture (as we have it today) is inerrant."

Alan,

If your last ditch argument against Calvinism is that Calvinism is Scriptural, but Scripture is erroneous, then I appreciate your concession. It doesn't come down to how we interpret Scripture. That's a red-herring.

To reject Calvinism, you must also reject the witness of Scripture.

Victor Reppert said...

Steve: But that's not what Alan said. He said that he is more certain that the moral intuitions that he has that oppose Calvinism are more certain to him that he claim that Scripture is inerrant. C. S. Lewis implied much the same thing in his letter to John Beversluis. He was saying that if a conflict were established between inerrancy and the moral intuitions that underlie his rejection of Calvinism, he would reject inerrancy rather than his moral intuitions.

John W. Loftus said...

Paul, on your blog you asked me to provide evidence that you are obnoxious so I did. You ARE obnoxious. Your father Gary initiated a conversation with me and began it by apologizing for your behavior. He also told me you "misremembered" your home life when you described him as a violent man (which is a nice way to describe another word for it), and he basically said there's no getting through to you. So why should I try to take the time to dispute your exegesis? You know the arguments. You know the Arminian books. What more can I add to them?

You ask me how I can argue against your historically conditioned interpretations, and on the other hand laud Reppert's arguments?

Easy. I laud Vic's philosophical arguments about this. Those arguments are more sure than your historically conditioned interpretations. Besides, when it comes to the actual historical data, you and I are doing two different things. Surely a wanna-be like yourself should realize this. But...

There is a huge difference between trying to establish some historical interpretation in the past precisely as claimed, and trying to show that such a claim is false. It’s much easier to dispute a historical claim than it is to be able to say what the correct one is. Most always there are alternative scenarios, many of them reasonable, leaving room for plenty of doubt. The person trying to establish some interpretation in the past cannot eliminate every possible alternative scenario.

What I’m doing isn’t establishing what interpreattion of the historically conditioned texts is the correct one. You are, silly.

Cheers.

J.A. Salinger said...

Dr. Reppert,

C.S. Lewis was wrong on that issue. I, for one, don't read Scripture through his spectacles (although I deeply appreciate him).

And you should delete the above classless post by Loftus...

JAS

Josh Hickok said...

Hey Steve,

"How does that exculpate God if God could prevent another (free) agent from bringing that about?

If you put a woman in a jail cell with a rapist, and you knew the outcome (which is predictable), would that let you off the hook because another free agent carried out the deed?

Remember, we're working off of pure moral intuition now."

I don't know if that situation is entirely analogous. I would of course blame God if he put people in a situation where sin MUST happen, but I don't believe that this is what happened.

Victor Reppert said...

Let's stay on topic and away from ad hominems, shall we?

Ilíon said...

JAS: "And you should delete the above classless post by Loftus..."

VR: "Let's stay on topic and away from ad hominems, shall we?"

Mr Reppert, I haven't read all the comments, so it may well be that I am mistaken in my presumption that you are referring to Mr Salinger's comment as an 'ad hominem.'

If that is what you are referring to, it is *not* an 'ad hominem.' You surely ought to know this, being a professional and all.


And, all things considered, the comment may perhaps even be justified as an opinion, no matter how "rude" it seems to the tender-hearted.

Victor Reppert said...

I had Loftus in mind primarily when I posted. I don't really need to hear on here what Loftus may have said to Paul's father. Because there was some relevance in John's comment I let it pass with a warning rather than deleting the comment, as Mr. Salinger suggested.

John W. Loftus said...

Well, since Paul banned me from commenting on his posts because of the above comment, and claimed that I called him names (let the reader decide for himself) I'm actually thinking of writing a front page post at DC about Paul, his obnoxious ways, and my discussion with his dad. For those of you who don't know, Paul has dogged my steps in some of the most obnoxious ways and even claiming that as an atheist I'm the scum of the earth. I just think it's time we set the record straight, is all.

John W. Loftus said...

Paul's treatment of me derives from his Calvinism, so I think this is relevant. As one whom God has reprobated Paul has the needed justification for treating apostates like me as scum. It's what his heavenly father would do...

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you, John.

Victor, do you think it is appropriate to allow Loftus to use your forum as a platform to attack Paul?

John W. Loftus said...

Anon, care to identify yourself? As I said, Paul's behavior towards reprobates like me is part of his Calvinism, so why shouldn't that be said, especially when his dad basically calls him a liar. I'm merely responding to years of abuse by him,

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Paul, LET'S PLAY
"5 QUESTIONS"

1) Do you agree that the rival schools of...

Open Theology
Arminian Theology
Calvinist Theology
(to which I might add Catholic Theology which simply lets the Magisterium decide what's true)

...have all been around for centuries without a resolution ending their conflicting interpretations?

2) Do either of you think theology advances over time? Or might not theology have some inherent limitation such as those we see when we consider the realm of philosophy--because like theology all the major schools of ancient Greek philosophical thought are still with us without a resolution ending their conflicting interpretations?

3) Do both of you agree that God's promise that the Holy Spirit will lead Jesus's followers into all truth, is true? Or are either of you perhaps secretly considering that the other is not a "true" follower of Jesus? Do you both pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit before discussing matters pertaining to God's truth?

4) What do each of you think has to happen to convince the other of the absolutely superior (or relative) truth of the other's interpretation? How much hope do either of you hold out at your respective ages of (being in your 40s or 50s) that such a thing will happen?

5) What difference in other areas of one's life, or afterlife, do you suppose it makes?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Paul,

WHY I AM NOT AN ARMINIAN
http://www.amazon.com/Why-I-Am-Not-Arminian/dp/0830832483/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208581401&sr=8-1

WHY I AM NOT A CALVINIST
http://www.amazon.com/Why-I-Am-Not-Calvinist/dp/0830832491/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208581401&sr=8-2

See also the endless discussions at Christian webforums on the topic. Calvinism by the way is undergoing quite a revival among Baptists at seminaries according to a recent Christianity Today article. But then again, the entire range of theological opinion is wider today than ever before. Can't get much wider than "Open Theism," or much narrower than classical Calvinism.

Though J.P. Holding at Tekton seems to defend a position somewhere in the middle, and has debated Calvinists such as James White of Alpha Omega Ministries and Steve Hays in limitless displays of disagreement over at Theology Web, and in articles at Holding's apologetics site.

Edward T. Babinski said...

I'm curious, has Paul Manata employed any version of the slippery slope argument and contended that a step away from Calvinism and toward Arminianism is a step, albeit not necesesarily a fatal one spiritually, toward unbelief? Just wondering.

Perhaps a rejoinder to that might be to contend that an Arminian who takes a step toward Calvinism is also stepping toward something negative, toward a more firmly mind-controlling faith for obsessive compulsive theologians, and for people who are into a form of spiritual S&M type of thinking ("everything good is from God alone, everything bad is from me alone") that is also adopted by people who seek to feel completely and absolutely justified, even superior to others, who are damned beyond saving or even caring. Or like the Calvinist who wishes to rule over his family with seemingly sadistic precision, being sure to break the wills of his children for God's sake, etc.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I had Loftus in mind primarily when I posted. ..."

As I said, I hadn't read all the comments and recognized that my presumption might have been incorrect. (And I almost never read any comment by Mr Loftus, especially if it's more than a couple of sentences long.)

One of my pet peeves is the incorrect hurling of the charge of making an 'ad hominem' (*) ... and, all things considered, I really don't intend to read Mr Loftus' post to see for myself if it does indeed contain an 'ad hominem' argument.


(*) 'Ad hominem' is a technical term; it has a precise meaning. And it doen't mean "So-and-so is a big meanie!" or "I strongly disapprove of the bluntness of So-and-so's expressed opinion."

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?

Anonymous said...

You people drive me crazy; all these strange arguments. All you have to do is read Romans 9:8-24. And so what if God is sovereign over everything, (including the human soul), isn't He God? How much more, we who are called, should we live our lives in praise and thanksgiving.

Jerry said...

You start with:

"But what are we asked to believe if Calvinism is true?"

And then proceed with a lot of moral arguments, which I would be in agreement with Manata, that don't amount to anything.

You have a distorted view of God as it pertains to his character. God is good and is the standard of goodness. You are imposing a human standard of good upon God because it doesn't fit what you think is "good" -the common Arminian trick.

If he has ordained evil events to occur, and will ultimately judge men for those evil deeds, it is perfectly within Gods choice to do so and perfectly in harmony with Scripture. It will not be in violation of his goodness for God alone is good (Mark 10:17,18).

You are doing as the atheist does, using yourself as the standard for morality and goodness, and imposing it upon Scripture. And succumbing to that invention, do grave error to the character of our thrice Holy God through faulty interpretations of Scripture.

Also, you seem to be suffering from a bit of skepticism regarding Scripture and its interpretation by men. Because of this invention, you seem to hold to another standard, the "greater minds than I have not come to a solid interpretation of passages (ie. Calvinist/Arminian controversies) therefore neither can I, and I will impose that on others, so neither can they."

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