Thursday, April 24, 2008

A question for Calvinists

I have a question for Calvinists, which I would like to see taken as a request for clarification rather than an attempt at refutation. All the Calvinists in this discussion have told me that they are not theological voluntarists. I take it that theological voluntarism is the view that something is Good because God does it or commands it, and in this instance a being is entitled to the appelation "God" in virtue of His superior power. On that view the idea of an Omnipotent Fiend, to use Lewis's terminology, would be a contradiction in terms. But if you are not a voluntarist, it could certainly turn out that Omnipotent One is not good, and not worthy of worship. Although you believe that the Omnipotent Being is worthy of worship, the great Cosmic Nightmare might turn out to be true, and it could turn out that the Being in charge of everuthing just isn't good.

One question I might now ask is in virtue of what is the "God" of Scripture, as understood by Calvinists, thought of as good, if not His power. What characteristics does the Omnipotent One have that we should worship him. Of course Scripture says that Omnipotent One is good. But, of course, if Scripture is the word of the Omnipotent One, that is precisely what we should expect. It's just the Almighty's spin machine. The Almighty says He is good, and Clinton said he was telling the truth. What else is new? We need some characteristics of the Omnipotent One that provide us with grounds that we are not dealing with an Omnipotent Fiend.

Now, let's suppose that a thorough study of Scripture reveals to me that Calvinism is in fact true, that is, the being in charge of the universe is indeed a Calvinistic God who has predestined some to eternal life and some to everlasting punishment. The Omnipotent One does exist, and God is a reprobator. At first, as I discover this, I ask myself if I might be mistaken in thinking that this reprobating deity would not be good. However, depressingly for me, my intuitions don't budge. It seems true all right that the Omnipotent One has predestined some to heaven and some to hell, but I find that I can't worship Him. I remain convinced that the creature can say to the creator "Why hast thou made me thus." As John Stuart Mill puts it:

I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.

Given the fact that I have now agreed that Calvinism has the facts right, how do you now persuade me that this is right. Yes, I am headed for a showdown with the Almighty in which I stick my finger in the Almighty's face and tell him that I won't worship him since I can't see him as good. Prudentially, I ought to change my mind. But if the world were ruled by an Omnipotent Fiend, then these same considerations would still be present. Is ultimately the reason I ought to worship God the reason given by Jim Croce in the 1970s??

And they say you don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off an 'ole Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim

If my reading of Scripture leads me to call into question whether or not God is good, it seems question-begging to say that, of course, God in Scripture says He is good. Of course Scripture says God is good, it's God's word.

I am consistently told that I shouldn't lift my moral intuitions up above the Word of God. This works so long as I remain convinced that God is good. Dispelling doubts about God's goodness by appealing to Scripture seems blatantly question-begging.

So my question is this: if we assume that predestination is true, on what basis do we believe that the Predestinator is a good being? If we pose the question that way, it looks as if appeals to Scripture are going to beg the question. You wouldn't dare appeal to my intuitions, now would we? You can't appeal to sheer power, without becoming a voluntarist, which you say you aren't. So how do you appeal to me in this situation. You tell me.



45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I take it (and correct me if I misunderstand) that your basic thesis is that God can't be good if he pre-ordains some to damnation (the old double predestination idea).

I like Tolkien's response to evil in the world metaphorically in his Lord of the Rings series. Gollum seems to toy with the idea of redemption in the middle of the story but ultimately is focused on doing what is wrong. And yet, Gollum has a purpose in the story. Without Gollum the ring never would have been destroyed despite the protagonist's best efforts.

God is good because he loves his people and is developing us into the people we can fully be. We are chosen, just as Scripture teaches in Ephesians 1 (Calvin was just being Scriptural as he developed his theology).

But what of those whose purpose is not good in this world? I don't think it is as simple as a math equation and Scripture also repeatedly teaches us not to judge. I place that in the hands of a graceful God.

I hope this helps,
Tom Paine

Jason Pratt said...

Playing devil's (well, Calv's {g}) advocate for the moment:

I suspect their reply is going to be that it wasn't your reading of Scripture that was primary grounds for doubting the goodness of God, but your moral intuitions (such as they are) which, in combination with your judgment, created the conflict. Just take scripture straight ahead as it is read, and don't think about apparent discrepancies--those are only your fallible and indeed perverted imagination.


(And if they themselves don't always take scripture straight ahead as it is read, and if they exercise themselves to resolve apparent discrepancies in various ways (e.g. analyzing in terms of relative contexts, or reading one kind of scriptural statement in light of another kind of statement, on some ground of superior principle), then that isn't anything to the point; how dare we expect them not to do that, when all reasonable people do? {wry g})

JRP

normajean said...

JP, I’ve met a consistent flow of new school Calvies (and atheists) guided by a muddleheaded “it means what it says, says what it means” hermeneutic, who largely abuse Paul’s letters. It’s a case of western mind eisogesis and imposition to ancient near east literature. My mother is from those areas and chuckles when westerners can’t think beyond a verse.

Victor Reppert said...

I am trying to point out that appealing to Scripture to provide reassurance of concerning the goodness of God begs the question. It is tantamount to saying "God says that God is good." Of course he does. If am Omnipotent Fiend existed, the Omnipotent Fiend would say exactly the same thing.

Scripture can correct my moral intuitions so long as I remain convinced that it is derived from a good God. Once divine goodness is actually in question, Scriptural appeals beg the question.

normajean said...

Victor, not everyones moral intuitions tell us that a "good" God entails Universalism, Calvinism, Arminianism or etc... Perhaps, I'm not understanding you.

Anonymous said...

Victor, since my first post didn't appear to connect for you, let me answer it this way: what do you define as good? For me, it would be someone who cares for me, someone who forgives me, and someone who wants to be in relationship with me. Parents, spouses, and children are the easiest to come to mind.

If you accept the Biblical account of God - he does all this and more for humanity. I don't believe God is good simply because there are verses in the Bible which explicitly say such. I believe God is good because of what I see him do in the Bible.

As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Tom Paine

Darek Barefoot said...

I agree that the Calvinists are up against it here. However, none of us get off scott free on this issue.

It was one of the existentialists (was is Kierkegaard or Sartre?) who asked how Abraham could know that it was God who was commanding him to sacrifice his own Son. Couldn't the horrific nature of the request be taken by Abraham as evidence that its source was not God?

Somehow Abraham knew both that it was God who did the commanding and that the command was for him to slaughter his son. But Hebrews 11:17-19 implies that Abraham understood the command as a test of faith, and that if God asked for Isaac's life it was only because somehow he could give that life back. God did not demand blood for its own sake, he demanded absolute trust. The author of Hebrews is able to analyze the narrative in favor of God's goodness, but not effortlessly.

Obviously there are areas in which God's goodness will be transparently evident in the fullness of time but for the present must be trusted.

Before Abraham's unquestioning obedience regarding Isaac, he had called upon God's goodness regarding Sodom: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Gen 18:25). He did not say, "Shall not the Judge do whatever he does?" So our idea of goodness must overlap significantly with the goodness of God.

Victor Reppert said...

I am trying to a conception of the relationship between God and the good from Calvinists. If they go voluntarist, they can dissolve this problem, though in a very problematic way. What I am arguing is that we can't write a blank check to revelation and believe anything we might possibly find in some source of revelation if our conception of the relation between God and the good allows for the possibility that we are dealing with an Omnipotent Fiend. If voluntarism is true, then Omnipotent Fiend is an oxymoron.

normajean said...

“If we assume that predestination is true, on what basis do we believe that the Predestinator is a good being?”

The Calvinist is within her epistemic rights to believe in a “Good Predestinator” because her believing may flow from a justifiable intuitional assumption about God and morally sufficient reasons for predestinating at all. Insofar as God has morally sufficient reasons for predestinating, then all the objections seem to be undercut and defeated.

As an aside, the Arminian shouldn’t be shaken by a predestinarian landscape because predestination isn’t an ugly doctrine needing defense. If it was, we’d have Molinism, Craig and Witherington to clear the muddy waters.

As my pastor explains:

Perhaps the single most overlooked fact about predestination is its biblical purpose. What I mean by this is not its theological purpose which is the salvation of souls. Rather, what is overlooked is its purpose in regard to why Paul wrote about predestination in the first place. The two places where Paul writes about predestination are in Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 1-2. In both of these sections of Scripture Paul is making a case for the inclusion of Gentiles into the household of God. In both of these sections of Scripture Paul refers to the “mystery” that has been hidden and now revealed (Eph. 1:8-10 and Rom. 11: 25). He explicitly describes what that mystery is in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:4-6 "4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."

You may be aware that the Apostle Paul had a ministry-long battle with both Jews and Jewish-Christians in regard to the salvation of the Gentiles. Many Jewish-Christians believed that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians. Paul, based on a revelation from Jesus, resisted this idea and proclaimed salvation to the Gentiles by faith. Predestination was one of Paul’s key arguments for the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s family. Put in the vernacular, predestination was Paul’s “battering ram” doctrine against Jewish-Christians who wanted to restrict the salvation message to God’s Old Testament chosen people. In simple terms, Paul was saying that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion and nobody can argue with God. Your arms are to short to box with God.

The problem arises with predestination when people turn its purpose on its head. To Paul predestination meant that God has sovereignly thrown open the gates of heaven to all of humanity and wants His (as Jesus said in Luke 14:23) “house full.”

Unfortunately, some people now want to re-define predestination as a restrictive doctrine. The impression one gets from this redefinition of predestination is that God is a miser in heaven choosing a few special “elect” out of humanity and consigning the rest of the world to hell. According to this view God does this because it proves He is in charge and that He is a glorious God. However, such a view of God violates the love-drenched spirit of the New Testament and would likely horrify the Apostle Paul. Paul gloried in predestination because it validated extreme evangelism. A proper understanding of predestination puts it in its biblical context as connected to the mystery of Jew and Gentile being saved. It is a generous and wonderfully outrageous doctrine of God’s love for all of humanity. All humans are now invited to come to God’s salvation banquet--the blind, the lame, the rich and poor, all are welcome.

1 Tim 2:3-6 "3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men"

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, I think this is a question which warrants a thoughtful answer. I hope I have managed that:

http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/?p=69

Regards,
Bnonn

Robert said...

I went to read what Bnon says on his blog and note the conclusion. He first quotes Victor and then comments on Victor’s words:

“Therefore, when you say—
The Omnipotent One does exist, and God is a reprobator. At first, as I discover this, I ask myself if I might be mistaken in thinking that this reprobating deity would not be good. However, depressingly for me, my intuitions don’t budge. It seems true all right that the Omnipotent One has predestined some to heaven and some to hell, but I find that I can’t worship Him.
—the only answer that can be given from a Christian perspective is that you are not a Christian. The internal testimony of the Spirit, enlightening the mind and causing us to believe God’s word because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) is sufficient to compel one to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate some and elect others. Therefore, if you find after much scriptural study that you cannot accept the truth of God’s word, it would be manifest that you are a “natural person”, who “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). That would be an abject state of affairs indeed, however, and I pray that it is not so in your case.”

Note carefully that he argues here that if one rejects the doctrine of reprobation as taught by calvinists one is not saved, not a Christian, a "natural person". He says: “The internal testimony of the Spirit, enlightening the mind and causing us to believe God’s word because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) is sufficient to compel one to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate some and elect others.”

According to him, the testimony of the Holy Spirit and us having the mind of Christ is “is sufficient to ***compel*** [my emphasis] one to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate [this is calvinism not the bible but he is claiming that the doctrine he wants to believe is what the bible teaches] some and elect others.” He is now claiming that if you reject THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF REPROBATION you do not have the Holy Spirit, nor do you have the mind of Christ and you are not saved (the “natural man” is an unsaved person).

That means that myself and **all** other Protestants as well all Catholics (or “Kaths”), Eastern Orthodox, and notables including including C.S. Lewis, Arminius, Wesley, I.H. Marshall, etc. etc. none of us is saved, we are all nonbelievers going to hell.

Anybody want to challenge my claim that many five pointers do not have love for other Christians now?

I am not surprised by this “reasoning” as I have seen this before. The Triblogue gang specifically Steve Hays has gone on record saying that me and friends of mine are false teachers and hell bound because we challenged calvinism.

This again shows the bad and divisive fruit that springs forth from the false and unbiblical calvinistic doctrine of reprobation.

Robert

normajean said...

From 1 Corinthians 2 Bnnon concludes: —the only answer that can be given from a Christian perspective is that you are not a Christian.

“The only answer” if one doesn’t accept your philosophical landscape is that one is “not a Christian”? You’re kidding, right?

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul goes on to accuse the Corinthian BELIEVERS (for he calls them brethren) of being psuchekos. He introduces a new word in v. 1 to describe them—sarkinoi or “men of flesh” (NAS) meaning not simply that they are made of flesh but that they are dominated by it.

It’s clear what we have here is a situation where Paul felt frustrated because he felt that by this time the Corinthians should be learning the didache or higher wisdom of God, but they still had need of the kerygma or basic facts of Christianity because they were allowing themselves to be dominated by the flesh and it’s sinful desires. It’s worth noting that Corinth was considered a grossly immoral place. So this extreme-Calvinistic dogma that people cannot understand the gospel so as to believe is simply eisegesis at its best.

And so perhaps, Bnnon, your flesh is choking out the truth of scripture and work of the Holy Spirit in your life. It may well be the case that God’s Holy Spirit was seeding in you an intuitional appeal that would have led you to a proper understanding of scripture. That is, it’s not necessarily the case that you are unregenerate. You may well be a muddleheaded Christian.

By the way, crack open any Barclay, Wright, or other pop biblio commentaries and you'll find quickly that my thought on 1 Corinthians 1 is spot on. Christians need to read beyond the one or two verses.

Peace

normajean said...

Victor, I ran across an audio interview you had with “Reasons to Believe” but I can’t seem to get the link on their site to open. Do you have another active link I can access?

Many thanks.

Darek Barefoot said...

However it may factor into this discussion, C. S. Lewis thought that the notion of an omnipotent fiend was incoherent. He said that when faced with an apparently omnipotent evil being we would, in effect, have to condemn him in the name of Him who is the real ground of being and source of the concept of goodness. Sorry but my memory won't fetch the reference right now!

Anyway, I think the source of the conflict may lie in God's perceived motivation in awarding eternal outcomes. Calvinists are understood to imply that God is not under logical necessity to produce a final result in which some are saved and others condemned, but he does so anyway--almost on a whim, the whim being designated the inscrutable will of God or something similar.

Arminians quite obviously think logical necessity is why God arrives at the final result, i.e., the logical necessity of evil coming in with genuine choice.

But there are Calvinists who are willing to stretch terminology to such an extent that one wonders what the argument still is. I know. I just had a discussion with one--a conservative reformed pastor--last night. It just isn't the case that all Calvinists pound these points with the same ferocity or parse terms exactly the same way. Of course, the reformed creeds may not be as flexible as some reformed thinkers would like . . .

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Gentlemen, please re-read what I said. I said that if Victor came to the certain conclusion that Scripture teaches God's reprobation, yet still could not accept this, that would be evidence of his not being elect. That is, he would be unable to accept a scriptural teaching about God because of his own natural intuitions—the very definition of someone not reborn of the Spirit, according to Paul.

I did not accuse Victor of being reprobate; nor have I said that anyone who disbelieves that Calvinist doctrines are taught in Scripture is not saved. I was providing an answer to Victor on his own terms, which included the assumption that he intellectually accepted Calvinism (for the sake of argument). For an answer to the question of who I consider genuine Christians, you would be better to go to the study on my blog than to try to infer it from some very specific comments on a very specific, hypothetical situation.

Please, read more carefully before jumping to conclusions.

Regards,
Bnonn

normajean said...

okay, bnonn. good enough

Paul Manata said...

Hi Dr. Reppert,

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/answer-to-repperts-question-for.html

Robert said...

Bnonn now says that I just did not read his words carefully enough, that I just jumped to conclusions. Well let’s look at his words again and ask some questions.

Here are the words again, his setting up and citing of Victor’s words followed by his response to these words:

“Therefore, when you say—
The Omnipotent One does exist, and God is a reprobator. At first, as I discover this, I ask myself if I might be mistaken in thinking that this reprobating deity would not be good. However, depressingly for me, my intuitions don’t budge. It seems true all right that the Omnipotent One has predestined some to heaven and some to hell, but I find that I can’t worship Him.
—the only answer that can be given from a Christian perspective is that you are not a Christian. The internal testimony of the Spirit, enlightening the mind and causing us to believe God’s word because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) is sufficient to compel one to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate some and elect others. Therefore, if you find after much scriptural study that you cannot accept the truth of God’s word, it would be manifest that you are a “natural person”, who “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). That would be an abject state of affairs indeed, however, and I pray that it is not so in your case.”

Note the first words in response to Victor’s words: “—the only answer that can be given from a Christian perspective is that you are not a Christian.” So he quotes some one and then his first words in response are: “the only answer” that is pretty exclusive. “that can be given from a Christian perspective” this further explains why it is the **only** answer. “is that you are not a Christian”. If someone cites my words and then says the ONLY ANSWER that can be given in response, IS THAT YOU ARE NOT A Christian, I would rightfully conclude they are saying that I am not a Christian. Is this just more semantic calvinist word games? Humpty dumpting again?

After making this declaration that the **only** conclusion “is that you are not a Christian.” He then seems to attempt to bolster this point with the following appeal to the work of the Holy Spirit: “The internal testimony of the Spirit, enlightening the mind and causing us to believe God’s word because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16)”. Every Christian has the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:9). Bnonn speaks of the work of the Spirit, he enlightens the mind and causes us to believe God’s word and leads us to having the mind of Christ. No Christian would deny this work of the Spirit. But then look at what he adds, explicitly claiming to be the work of the Spirit: “is sufficient to compel one to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate some and elect others.” He says that the work of the Spirit in enlightening the mind, causing belief and giving us the mind of Christ “is sufficient to compel one to”. Compel means to force.

So the work of the Spirit is sufficient to force one to WHAT? “to recognize the rightness of God’s decree to reprobate some and elect others.”

So the Holy Spirit according to Bnonn forces us to recognize the rightness of the calvinist doctrine of reprobation if we are true believers?

So what of all of us who reject the “rightness of the calvinist doctrine of reprobation? Are we overcoming the compelling force of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God and if he compels the true believer to recognize the rightness of the calvinist doctrine of reprobation, then how are we resisting Him? It must be because we are not believers, because according to Bnonn the Spirit forces or compels the true believer to recognize the rightness of the calvinist doctrine of reprobation.

Does Bnonn now take back his claim that the Spirit compels believers to recognize the rightness of the calvinistic doctrine of reprobation?

If he does, then why did he at first claim that the Spirit compels this recognition? If he does not, then why does he deny that he claims that all those who reject the calvinistic doctrine of reprobation are unsaved persons? You cannot have it both ways. Or again is this humpty dumpting of words, just more calvinist word games?

Consider his next words: “Therefore, if you find after much scriptural study that you cannot accept the truth of God’s word, it would be manifest that you are a “natural person”,”. He says that if you study scripture a lot and cannot accept the truth of God’s word, then it would be “manifest that you are a ‘natural person’. In the context of Corinthians, the “natural person” is an unbeliever. So Bnonn is saying that if you have studied scripture much but do not accept it that that suggests that you are not a believer. He has just previously stated that the Holy Spirit compels/forces the true believer to recognize the “rightness of the calvinist doctrine of reprobation”. So in the immediate context of his own words, say you have studied the bible for decades as some of us have, and we do not accept the calvinistic doctrine of reprobation, that means (1) you have not been compelled by the Spirit to recognize this doctrine (which further suggests you are not a believer) and (2) that you have studied the bible a lot and are a “natural person”/unbeliever.

Bnonn then attempts to further strengthen his claims by citing what scripture says about the “natural person” or unbeliever: “who does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).” The Corinthian passage says of the unbeliever/”natural person” that they do not accept the things of the Spirit of God and they are not able to understand these things. And I remind us all again, in the context here, of his own words, he has made the claim that the Spirit compels belief in the rightness of reprobation. To reject that suggests that you are a unbeliever or “natural person.” He even tells us why folks will reject the calvinist doctrine of reprobation, according to him, they are “natural persons” and 1 Cor. 2:14 is true of them.

It is ironic because a couple of times I have had cult members (in both cases they were Jehovah’s Witnesses) cite these very verses and use this very reasoning towards me when I rejected one of their Watchtower organization teachings. Why did the JW’s cite 1 Cor. 2:14 at me? They were suggesting that I was not a believer and as such, that is why I rejected their teaching and was incapable of accepting it. If the cults use this verse in this way, then why is Bnonn doing exactly the same thing, but with reprobation and calvinism? I have been there, done that! Bnonn is engaging in exactly the same kind of argument that the cults do to attack those who question or disbelieve their teachings. Except that Bnonn got caught with his hands in the cookie jar and is now backpedaling, saying that I just didn’t read him carefully enough jumped to conclusions. I know the proper meaning of the Corinthian passage, I also know that the Holy Spirit does not compel us, believers, to recognize the rightness of reprobation and unconditional election. This is an outrageous and false claim made by a five point calvinist who wants us to think that his doctrine of reprobation is both biblical and righteous, when in fact it is neither.

Then note his parting shot: “That would be an abject state of affairs indeed, however, and I pray that it is not so in your case.””

What would be an abject state of affairs? That Victor (and the rest of us noncalvinists) are not compelled by the Spirit to recognize the rightness of reprobation? That Victor (and the rest of us) are “natural persons” who reject the calvinist doctrine of reprobation because 1 Cor. 2:14 is true of us?

Robert

normajean said...

I'd urge Robert AND Bnonn to reconsider 1 Cor 2. The brethern in that section are believers who are being scolded for immaturity and flesh living.

Anonymous said...

Robert complained that Bnonn implied that Reppert wasn't acting like a Christian (though this shifts the goal post since Reppert's question said that he *granted* the Bible taught Calvinism. If Robert thought the Bible taught something, and he refused to believe it, what would Robert say of Robert?..anyway), but note that he likens Bnonn to a *cult* member. (I'm just answering Robert at his own level here. Doing to him what he does to others.)

Robert's hostility towards Calvinists is evident in all his massive tomes in these comment threads. His double standard blatant. It's a fairly clear case of psychological projection.

His wordy, invective filled posts are a turn off. It's obvious he has an agenda. He will take any opportunity to put down the Calvinist and build up his position.

I also find it interesting that he's trying to act as if he and Victor have so much in common over the Calvinist. Robert makes much of his orthodoxy. He makes sure to rail against the "false teachings" of the Calvinist. Speaks up every chance he gets. But where his his robust defense of orthodoxy, of the Bible, in light of Reppert's Universalism? Robert mentions not a word. This lends more evidence to the idea that Robert is simply here on a "crusade." Robert's not about defending truth, he's about knocking the Calvinist. He even sided with the Universalists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and non-Christians over the Calvinist. How would Arminius, a protestant, feel about that.

So, when one is engaged with someone on a "crusade," with someone who has an "agenda," it's best to move on to those who are interested in dialogue rather than dogmatic shouting matches.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Thanks Anonymous.

Jason Pratt said...

NormaJean: {{In simple terms, Paul was saying that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion and nobody can argue with God. Your arms are to short to box with God.}}

That was a pretty good comment, btw. {g}

Incidentally, Anon, I don't think Victor is a Universalist (yet). He just knows some orthodox universalists (Tom Talbott and myself among them; whom Victor has criticized in turn elsewhere, in the past, not-incidentally, as Tom mentions in his books) and appreciates our input--just as we appreciate his.


A close reading of Victor's original post here, will show that he agrees in principle with Bnonn (at least) that if Scripture is the sufficiently accurate self-declaration of God, and if Victor comes to the conclusion that God through Scripture is testifying to His Calvinism (categorically speaking), and if Victor's intuitions still get inextricably in the way of worshiping such a God; then (so he agrees) Victor must in some sense be condemned by this God.

(Note: not that Victor is actually agreeing that Scripture does ultimately testify this way, as I think Bnonn correctly understood the case to be hypothetical. Note 2: Victor and others are using the term "reprobate", which frankly would be universalistic if it was applied according to its constituent meaning, along with a few other popular judgment words such as "retribute" and its cognates; but I understand that they mean condemned in another sense than that, so I'm going with the more general term instead. {s})

What Victor was trying to point out at the end, is that this hypothetical situation would still obtain in its particulars (as given) if God was actually a fiend instead. There would be no way for anyone to tell the difference; and moreover it would make no difference whether anyone was able to actually tell the difference or not!

This condition would apply equally well the other way around, too: someone could have an unshakeable intuition that he is one of the "elect", and yet still not be one of the people God intends to save from sin (much less hell) after all. (I've mentioned before, in recent months back when Tom Talbott was guest-posting with Paul Manata and Steve Hays, that no one should call Calvinists pessimists; they're wildly optimistic about their own chances! {g})

The problem is that if God never intends or intended to save certain people at all, then He could easily provide them with seeming assurances otherwise for whatever-inscrutable purposes of His own. There would absolutely be no way to tell the difference, and any perceived 'faithfullness' of the believer, or trust in God, would be worth nothing toward the salvation of such a person. Appeals to scriptural testimony would be worthless, too, for exactly the same reason. There would be absolutely no way to reliably distinguish God from a Cartesian demon; it would only happen that at the end, some people who got 'saved' also happened, not by accident, to have x-beliefs--just like those other people who didn't get saved and who also had x-beliefs, also not by accident.

Have Paul M, and Dom Bnonn, been addressing this issue? I don't see how they could be doing so in any fashion that would be worth anything under the intrinsic solvency of their positions; but if they haven't been addressing this topic, then I submit that they have missed a crucial point to Victor's example and line of questioning here (if not elsewhere.)

Have I gotten the point correctly, Victor?

JRP

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Jason, you raise a question which I personally consider to be a very good one, and one which I have been debating in the comment stream of Gene Bridges' article 'The Warrant To Believe'. Briefly, I do not answer this question in the same way the Triablogue chaps do. Or, put more bluntly, I do not believe that the Triablogue chaps can answer this question satisfactorily, because their view of limited expiation entails a limited promise of salvation to a limited group of people, with no possibility of objective assurance on the part of any particular individual that he is a member of that group.

That said, there is a venerable Reformed view of the atonement which regards the expiation as unlimited, and thus applicable to everyone; though only applied to the elect. This provides a genuine ontological reality to which the general gospel call can refer, and in turn an objective basis for the assurance of salvation. So although I would agree that your objection holds water against the limited expiation folk in the Reformed tradition, which I believe includes Paul (much as I love him and agree with him on most other things), there is another view within that tradition against which the objection gains no traction at all.

Regards,
Bnonn

steve said...

dominic bnonn tennant said...

“I do not believe that the Triablogue chaps can answer this question satisfactorily, because their view of limited expiation entails a limited promise of salvation to a limited group of people, with no possibility of objective assurance on the part of any particular individual that he is a member of that group.__That said, there is a venerable Reformed view of the atonement which regards the expiation as unlimited, and thus applicable to everyone; though only applied to the elect. This provides a genuine ontological reality to which the general gospel call can refer, and in turn an objective basis for the assurance of salvation.”

Dominic,

Unless universal atonement entails universal salvation, how would universal atonement constitute an “objective” ground of assurance?

If universal salvation is false, while universal atonement is true, then the net effect would be, not extend the objective grounds of assurance, but to remove the objective grounds for anyone whatsoever since the fact that Christ died for you is not causally connected to your salvation. On this view, Christ also died for the damned.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Steve, I'd prefer not to get into that debate here. In all honesty, I'd really prefer not to get into it anywhere, as I have seen how unfruitful it tends to be. I think I answered your question fairly clearly in my initial comments on Gene's article; you are welcome to disagree, but I'm not really willing to commit to further discussion at this point. I responded to Jason because, while I feel as he does that his objection has traction against a limited expiation view, he should be aware that not all Calvinists hold to this. I didn't mean to invite debate with those, like yourself, who hold to it. You are, of course, welcome to defend it against Jason's objection; and I leave that between you chaps.

Regards,
Bnonn

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

“[JRP said] There would be absolutely no way to reliably distinguish God from a Cartesian demon; it would only happen that at the end, some people who got 'saved' also happened, not by accident, to have x-beliefs--just like those other people who didn't get saved and who also had x-beliefs, also not by accident.__Have Paul M, and Dom Bnonn, been addressing this issue? I don't see how they could be doing so in any fashion that would be worth anything under the intrinsic solvency of their positions.”

There’s a Cartesian demon waiting in the wings to sponsor every conceivable position. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Talbott’s exegesis is correct, that could just as well be underwritten by a delusive revelation. The Cartesian demon takes fiendish delight in fostering the false hope that everyone will be saved, when, in fact, he fully intends to damn everyone instead.

Paul Manata said...

Hi Jason,

"Have Paul M, and Dom Bnonn, been addressing this issue? I don't see how they could be doing so in any fashion that would be worth anything under the intrinsic solvency of their positions; but if they haven't been addressing this topic, then I submit that they have missed a crucial point to Victor's example and line of questioning here (if not elsewhere.)

I have addressed this. I gave a link in my 8:11 post above.

I submitt hat if you read all of the posts in our entire exchange, you will be bound to agree that Victor has been the one missing and ignoring points. This isn't a slam, I'm sure he has more important things to do. Anyway...

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

I'd also add that in one of his posts Victor said the only decent justification for hell was based on a free will choice to go there, but he seemed hesitant to endorse this.

Though he may not be out of the closet, seems he's pretty close.

I'd also add that if he's not a universalist, but accepts the presuppositions inherent in TT doctrine of God's love, then seems he has problems just like the Calvinist.

God could save those people in hell by lovingly removing their self-deception makss which hinder them from making the obviously rational choice to go to heaven and be happy.

So, if Victor isn't universaist, seems that's one more argument to pile on to those I;ve given him.

Robert said...

Thank you **Anonymous** for your words, you give me more of an opportunity to clarify myself. I appreciate that, thank you.
“but note that he likens Bnonn to a *cult* member. (I'm just answering Robert at his own level here. Doing to him what he does to others.)”

1 Cor. 2:14 is about nonbelievers, so for Bnonn to cite that against another Christian is to engage in a practice that I myself have personally experienced being done by a cult member to me. I do not cite that passage against other believers, that is not right.

“Robert's hostility towards Calvinists is evident in all his massive tomes in these comment threads. His double standard blatant. It's a fairly clear case of psychological projection.”

Double standard? How about this one? I challenge calvinism and do not claim that calvinists are going to hell, while you five pointers (e.g. the folks at Triablogue claim that I am a false teacher and going to hell). You folks also engage in constant personal insults and snide put downs, I do not need to resort to that stuff, I just attack your unbiblical and false calvinist beliefs.

“It's obvious he has an agenda. He will take any opportunity to put down the Calvinist and build up his position.”

Everyone has an agenda, or haven’t you noticed that yet? And you five pointers have just as much an agenda in promoting and defending your calvinism as I do in challenging it.

“I also find it interesting that he's trying to act as if he and Victor have so much in common over the Calvinist. Robert makes much of his orthodoxy. He makes sure to rail against the "false teachings" of the Calvinist. Speaks up every chance he gets. But where his his robust defense of orthodoxy, of the Bible, in light of Reppert's Universalism? Robert mentions not a word.”

I am not sure that Victor is a Universalist and even Jason who is a universalist is not sure of this. Can you demonstrate that Victor is in fact a universalist?

“This lends more evidence to the idea that Robert is simply here on a "crusade." Robert's not about defending truth, he's about knocking the Calvinist.”

Your use of the word “crusade” is just a racy word for an agenda that someone is firmly committed to. I remind you again that you five pointers are on just as much a “crusade” to promote and defend your false theology, as those of us who oppose it are. To take just one example, you five pointers have the Founders Organization that is on a “crusade” to get Southern Baptists to be more calvinistic. On the other hand, there are others in the SBC who are on a “crusade” against calvinism (e.g., the upcoming conference on John 3:16).

Regarding about being concerned about “defending truth”. Yes, the truth is that God desires for all to be saved (2 Tim. 2:4ff), and that God so loves the world that He gave His Son John 3:16) for the sins of that world (1 Jn. 2:2). Since that **is** the truth, and since calvinism opposes these explicit and clear biblical truths and misrepresents the character of God, opposing calvinism **is** defending the truth. Truth held in common by many, many Christians across the theological spectrum.

“He even sided with the Universalists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and non-Christians over the Calvinist. How would Arminius, a protestant, feel about that.”

I side with these other folks in our shared rejection of your gruesome doctrine of reprobation. And siding with them in this regard does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything else they believe. In fact I have friends and acquaintances that are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants and we do not agree on everything though we hold the essentials in common. We are also able to disagree agreeably with one another, something many of you five pointers seem incapable of doing.

“So, when one is engaged with someone on a "crusade," with someone who has an "agenda," it's best to move on to those who are interested in dialogue rather than dogmatic shouting matches.”

So you five pointers are into honest and respectful dialogue huh? Yeh right, again just look at the Triablogue site and you will find people committed to arguing for their calvinism, not interested in true dialogue or respecting those who differ. One of the things that I respect about Victor and this site is that he argues strongly against different views while doing so in a Christian manner, without the histrionics and ad hominems that you five pointers often engage in, even nonbelievers dialogue with Victor on issues here. And that is how it should be, that you can even discuss things with a nonbeliever in a respectful manner without putting down each other’s intelligence or engaging in these juvenile insults.

Robert

Anonymous said...

So the cash value is that Robert is just the mirror image of the "5 pointer"? Nothing different in style, just substance.

Kind of makes your righteous claims that Calvinsits are the most evil being since Hitler, unloving the lot of 'em!, seem like so much propoganda.

Jason Pratt said...

Bnonn,

I mea culpa, btw, for any overhasty generalizations in identifying your position with the Triablogue defenders (viz “the intrinsic solvency of their positions”). Position distinctions are always welcome!

Note: comments here and afterward are made without specific reference yet to where PaulM says he has addressed the critique I mentioned. I’ll have to get to that later this week.

{{That said, there is a venerable Reformed view of the atonement which regards the expiation as unlimited, and thus applicable to everyone; though only applied to the elect.}}

In a fashion that doesn’t amount to the Arminian critique of (or in) Calvinism, I take it. Thus where Arms (and in our own way Kaths) would consider the atonement applicable to everyone but rejected by those whom God elects the atonement to be applicable to, you’re still with God electing to apply the atonement only to a limited few.

I can’t see, however, that this notion (if I’ve understood it correctly) ends up being logically (much less theologically) coherent, its venerability notwithstanding; for in effect you would have to be saying (again if I’ve understood you correctly) that God elects (i.e. chooses) for the atonement to be applicable to everyone and also elects for the atonement to be applied to only a few. And this allows the applicability-to-everyone to be something more than mere semantics... how, exactly?

If I choose to make something available to everyone and yet also choose to make the same something available to less than everyone, how does this make sense apart from a further factor such as the choice of co-operation on the part of some of the everyone?--a choice not reducible to my constricting them to a forced choice of a single option (such as when dictators hold ‘elections’ and only have themselves as a votable option, so that they can call themselves a republic or a democracy or a republican democracy or whatever buzzword they prefer for sake of marketing appearance.)


More to the point, this isn’t addressing the epistemic issue I brought up. Whether or not (or how) an unlimited expiation (of sin, I will suppose you mean) is limited to being applied only to the elect, such that the reconciliation (or the at-one-ment) in its unlimited applicability is limited to being applied only to the elect (leaving the non-elect without hope of the unlimited reconciliation and expiation of sin God makes applicable to them except not)--none of that, one way or another, has anything to do with an objective basis for our epistemic assurance of salvation. Not if our epistemic competency is being denigrated elsewhere so that we’re incompetent to evaluate the matters at hand. The situation remains the same: it would still only happen that at the end, some people got ‘saved’ and some people didn’t, completely regardless (except in an accidental fashion) of whatever they thought their own assurances were.

Whatever “assurance” there is in this, is only assurance from God’s perspective. It remains completely incorrigible to us. The general gospel call can refer to this ontological reality, but it will be of no use to us for our own beliefs on the topic, all possible appearances to the contrary, because there is still no way to distinguish between an accurate evaluation of truth (by a human) and enforced delusion for the inscrutable purposes of God.

Or, put another way, and perhaps more pertinently: you’re still fudging epistemic evaluation competency in your own favor in order to get your assurances. Nor is it possible to avoid doing so. The only problem comes in, when the possibility of epistemic evaluation competency is denied (typically to protect a doctrinal claim from critical challenge, not-incidentally) except where vouchsafed under special conditions that turn out to still be indistinguishable in result from a total fail.

Worse, the total fail still cannot be ruled out as something the provider of the ‘assurance’ might provide instead or even enforce, and which we even have some suspicions, under this plan, that such enforced total fails can be expected to occur. But if that’s the case, if God cannot be intrinsically trusted to act to save this-or-that person from sin, then we cannot trust Him to persist in saving us ourselves from sin--or even to have intended to save us from sin to begin with (whatever our impressions of ‘being saved’ may be to the contrary.)


Or, as Steve Hays replies (rather more briefly but much to the same point): unless universal atonement entails universal salvation, how would universal atonement constitute an “objective” ground of assurance?

To that, however, I would still adduce the same critique as above. The objective ground of assurance has to be found in the characteristics of God Himself; and will be of no benefit to us, insofar as our belief-contents are concerned (though admittedly there are more important things in reality than our own beliefs about reality), unless epistemic competency of evaluation on the topic is possible.

JRP

Anonymous said...

Robert,

As far as the universalism goes, check this one out: http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2005/10/god-is-not-willing-that-any-should.html

Also, what do you make of Victor's attack on inerrancy and the reliability of the Bible. Why not critique him. If the Bible isn't inerrant, then what hope do you have for your Arminianism?

Jason Pratt said...

Steve: {{There’s a Cartesian demon waiting in the wings to sponsor every conceivable position.}}

In theory yes; but a position invites it in, when the position relies on a denial of epistemic evaluation competency as protection against oppositional critique. Once that’s done, any real debate pro or con is over, and there can be no legitimate appeal through reasoning from data (whatever the data may be) to acceptance of the point.

The project of reasoning itself denies the Cartesian demon; but the only way that this can be done is to accept that an opponent might be able to score a point by reasoning, too, against one’s own beliefs.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Paul: {{I submit that if you read all of the posts in our entire exchange, you will be bound to agree that Victor has been the one missing and ignoring points.}}

I agree in some cases that’s true (agreeing also that this isn’t meant as a slam against Victor); but my topic was confined to one particular issue.

Thanks for the pointer to where you’ve addressed my objection; now that I know where to look, I’ll check it over and reply later (God willing and the creek don’t rise. {g})


{{I'd also add that in one of his posts Victor said the only decent justification for hell was based on a free will choice to go there, but he seemed hesitant to endorse this.}}

(I will suppose that this is in regard to my correction to Anon that Victor isn’t a universalist, at least yet.)

This is a fairly standard Arminian position, held by Arminians who have trouble accepting that God would keep acting to hopelessly torment sinners for no gain. Annihilationism would be another way of avoiding that connotation, while preserving the direct action of God in the punishment (and preserving the hopelessness of God as well). There could be hesitancies to endorse the position consonant with expected criticisms involving God’s omnipresence, etc. (or even just proper prudence about accepting a theological position on a broadly disputed topic.)

Fwiw, while I partially agree with Lewis’ idea on this, which Victor is basically following, I also strongly endorse God’s active action in punishment as well as condemnation. In any case, divorcing the punishment from God’s continuing action, is so far from being a pointer toward universalism, that I would argue it is actually exclusive to orthodox universalism. Abandoning the sinner not only introduces concepts of a multiple-IF reality (such as cosmological dualism) and a denial of God’s omnipresence (thus contravenes orthodox theology), but cuts off hope of salvation of the sinner from sin as completely as any other doctrine of God’s hopelessness (thus contravening universalism). Maybe even moreso than some such positions.

{{I'd also add that if he's not a universalist, but accepts the presuppositions inherent in TT doctrine of God's love, then seems he has problems just like the Calvinist.}}

Agreed, but that doesn’t make him a universalist yet. (Incidentally, I’ve critiqued Tom before on not synching the doctrine of God’s love with orthodox trinitarianism, or not doing so nearly strongly enough. It’s a weakness in his approach, and I hope in the future he’ll be taking steps to solidify his baseline there.)

Relatedly, while I noted with some amusement last November that a focus on particular elements of 5-point Calvinism could just as easily indicate a potential move within recent Baptist seminary toward universalism (the original analyst of the survey thought it indicated stronger Calvinism vs. Arminianism among up-and-coming trained Baptist ministers), I know better than to think that this in itself is a definite indication of a substantial body of Baptist clergy being pretty close to universalism in their own intentions and beliefs.

(In the article, I call attention to a subtle statistical spread indicating a substantial number of graduates who reject 5-point Calvinism yet who also accept one of the two key tenets most distinctive from Arminianism: the total persistence of God in salvation. So they explicitly say they aren’t Calvinists, but implicitly deny, in a technical fashion, being Arminians either. Doesn’t leave a lot of options. {g} I thought the spread was interesting, anyway.)


That being said, neither do I think Victor is attempting to solidly defend Arminianism. He seems to be weighing out options between Arm and Kath vs. Calv, at the moment; but not without excluding the possibility of accepting Calvinism if he thought objections could be properly met.

JRP

Robert said...

***Anonymous*** writes again:

“So the cash value is that Robert is just the mirror image of the "5 pointer"? Nothing different in style, just substance.”

I guessed you missed my words in the previous post so I will repeat my words again:

“Double standard? How about this one? I challenge calvinism and do not claim that calvinists are going to hell, while you five pointers (e.g. the folks at Triablogue claim that I am a false teacher and going to hell). You folks also engage in constant personal insults and snide put downs, I do not need to resort to that stuff, I just attack your unbiblical and false calvinist beliefs.”

Allow me to interpret my words for you, since you seemed to have not understood them the first time.

There is a definite double standard going on with regard to my interactions with five pointers like yourself and the Triablogers. While I attack your ideas I do not resort to your little insults and personal attacks. On the other hand, you have to resort to attacking me and ridiculing me with all of your little insults and snide comments. So know we are not the mirror image differing only in substance, we also differ in our manner of posting. I don’t need to insult you five pointers, nor do I claim that you are going to hell, to show your ideas to be unbiblical and false, but you somehow feel compelled to engage in continuous personal attacks.

“Kind of makes your righteous claims that Calvinsits are the most evil being since Hitler, unloving the lot of 'em!, seem like so much propoganda.”

I have never said that calvinists are “the most evil being since Hitler, unloving the lot of ‘em!”

While we are on this topic, the way you conceive of God’s actions makes him the worst imaginable being. A moral nightmare that makes Hitler pale in comparison. A being who takes morbid pleasure in predetermining and ensuring that the majority of the human race engages in all sorts of sins, is condemned at a final judgment for doing the very things that this god predetermined that they would do. And then on top of setting them up, these poor unfortunates, what you folks call the reprobates, He then condemns them and punishes them eternally for doing the very things he ensured they would do. This is much worse than what Hitler did. His evil was temporary and pretty direct. Your conception of God leads to a being who behind the scenes sets up most people for eternal punishment. And they never had a chance to do otherwise. Then on top of this sadistic cruelty you want to say this person is good and loving and merciful.

You also seem to forget that you’ve got the real problem with propaganda. It will take quite a lot of spin to make this being anything close to the true God revealed in scripture. You guys have to resort to all sorts of spin and semantic games, what Victor has called Humpty-dumpting to try to cover up the severe moral problems with your conception of deity.

Oh, and one more thing, you challenged me as to whether or not I defend the truth. Do you realize that your words about defending the truth and so on have little or no weight for me, since you don’t have the courage or conviction to even post by name? The people I know that are in fact telling and defending the truth as Christians are doing so openly and are not doing so Anonymously.

Robert

Jason Pratt said...

Anon: {{As far as the universalism goes, check this one out: }}

Um... as someone who commented in that thread vastly more than anyone else (maybe more than everyone else put together?), I think I can say with some certainty that neither in his original post nor in his one (brief) comment during the subsequent thread, was Victor advocating universalism. The most was that he suggested some kind of limited option after death; and he was hesitant on that!

Not at all the same thing as a belief (or even hope) that all may be saved from sin, and not at all the same thing as a belief or trust or hope that God will always persist in trying to save sinners from sin.

JRP

Paul Manata said...

Hey Jason,

Long time no chat.

If Victor isn't a self-conscious Universalist, fine.

His latest posts seem to lean *heavily* in that direction, though.

Statements like:

“What is good for Smith is good also for those who love Smith. And someone who is being perfected in love is going to love Smith.”

And:

"The more we love our neighbor as ourselves, the more we find the eternal damnation of our neighbors unacceptable.”

And:

“I realize that this is in large part Tom Talbott's argument for universalism. The only conceivable escape from it is the argument that Smith has chosen self over God, and that God could have done nothing to prevent Smith from
continuing in that choice without violating Smith's freedom. However, that’s an Arminian theodicy of damnation, not a Calvinist one.”

And:

"Finally, the summum bonum that God pursues in saving and damning is supposed to be his own glory. How in the world does damning someone eternally glorify God. How does taking voices out of the heavenly choir glorify God? Sending people to hell by a decree before the foundation of the world deprives God of glory."

And:

"But for every soul which suffers eternal punishment. we know that that sould could have been saved, and that that person's being saved would not have resulted in any other person's being lost. The final result is known, to suggest that some other final result would not have been better would be to violate every moral intuition I have."

And:

"There’s no uncertainty about predestination so long as you focus on certain passages. If you focus on others, you come out an Arminian or a Universalist. In Romans it says whoever believes and confesses is saved, in Philippians it says that eventually every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Put those two verses together and you get a case for universalism."

Seem to imply a definite attraction to Universalism, if not an outright endorsement of it.

Also, if you're going to read the posts, I would suggest reading all of them since points build on previous points. if you don't have time, I understand.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/arminian-counter-argument.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/answer-to-repperts-question-for.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/repperts-ruminations-on-reformed.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/stop-yer-blubbering.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/puzzled.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/repperts-latest-try-at-undermining.html

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

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/intuitions.html

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

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

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/answering-back-to-reppert-or-is-it-god.html

The above starts with the latest and the last one is the earliest.

Best,

Paul

Anonymous said...

Robert,

Funny you mention attacking the objective beliefs when all you've been doing here, and in other places, is knocking on the Calvinist. I've seen no interaction with Scripture by you. Just post after post after post detailing how mean and nasty those "5 pointers" are. Sorry, not sold.

Your posts seem hateful to me. That's all. You may think they do not, but then neither do the "5 pointers." Funny how the bar is always set at the level of our behavior.

My expereince is that Arminians, especially The New Arminians, are worse than the Calvinists they debate. But I guess all that is in the eye of the beholder? So why not drop all the name calling and just stick to what you said you do: "Debate Scripture without engaging in all the tom foolery."

G'day

Mick Dundee

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Jason, I must admit that I've lost track of the discussion. I don't think I've denied our epistemic competency, so I'm not sure that your critique applies to me. Have I denied it unknowingly? Are you thinking of my comments regarding the fallibility of our moral intuitions?

Regards,
Bnonn

Jason Pratt said...

Hey Paul,

The commentary is done, though I’m going to sleep on it until tomorrow. (um... until Wednesday--it’s already tomorrow this morning. {g}) Until then, and so as not to confuse replies...

{{Long time no chat.}}

I’ve been busy. {g} (Posting up a Gospel harmonization project over at the Cadre. I tried to keep the data such that Calvs, Arms and Kaths would all find things to appreciate or be challenged by. Protestants such as myself more generally, too. {g}{chomp, chomp})

{{His latest posts seem to lean *heavily* in that direction, though.}}

Not that I’m going to complain. {lol!} But I don’t think he’s there yet, either, and he may not ever be (in this life anyway).

Maybe for sake of parity he’ll debate me next (or Tom Talbott, or some other worthy universalist.)


{{“What is good for Smith is good also for those who love Smith. And someone who is being perfected in love is going to love Smith.”}}

I’m pretty sure I agree (though I may have to think about it more; I’m not naturally inclined to love Smith. {s}) But an Arminian could easily say much the same thing, and still have Smith being hopelessly tortured forever (or blipped out of existence) just the same. I would disagree that the two concept sets are actually consonant with each other--apparently you would, too (unless I’m mistaken)! But then, I’m not an Arminian.

For clarification purposes, do you mean that you would disagree, as a Calvinist proponent (not necessarily speaking for all your school, perhaps) with the statements you quoted from Victor there? And if so, how and to what degree? (I think I can take a good educated guess one of them, at least, but...)

{{"The more we love our neighbor as ourselves, the more we find the eternal damnation of our neighbors unacceptable.”}}

Sure looks universalistic to me, too!--but I know from experience that non-universalists could mean annihilation by this instead, or might really mean that they find God’s active punishment of the condemned unacceptable (and so divorce the condemned off into some pocket dimension sequestered away from even God if not from each other. At which point I would instantly have severe technical problems, specifically as an orthodox theologian, not even necessarily in favor of universalism instead. I would have somewhat less immediately severe problems with the annihilation.)


{{“However, that [conceivable escape from Tom Talbott’s argument for universalism] is an Arminian theodicy of damnation, not a Calvinist one.”}}

Yep, pretty much. Thus not really leaning •heavily• toward universalism per se, by tautology. I don’t see Victor having much problem with that conceivable escape yet, either now or over the years.

That being said, the Arminian and I could easily be in agreement here in regard to Smith and his intentions and God’s limitations in regard to His provision of Smith’s freedom.

Where the Arm and I will be strenuously disagreeing, is in the portion not mentioned by Victor: whether God will keep persistantly at Smith anyway, with hope of success. Arms signally fail at avowing this persistence, and Victor has been pretty consistent so far, I think, about rejecting or strongly doubting the persistence, too. On the contrary, he regularly lines up with Lewis on this: sooner or later God will give up because He knows the cause is lost and there’s no good in Him trying any more.


{{“How does taking voices out of the heavenly choir glorify God?”}}

That’s probably the one element of your quote from Victor that points more strongly to universalism, per se, than could be more-or-less easily matched by Arminianism (as in the case of the other sentences in that quote.)

{{“The final result is known, to suggest that some other final result would not have been better would be to violate every moral intuition I have.”}}

This looks more universalistic, admittedly, than the preceding sentence necessarily does (“But for every soul which suffers eternal punishement, etc.”) However, I also notice that Victor’s grammar is very unclear here, so I’m iffy about what he’s even supposed to be meaning. It doesn’t look positively in favor of universalism anyway.

{{“If you focus on other [scriptural passages], you come out an Arminian or a Universalist.”}}

Hardly evidence of heavily leaning toward universalism, unless by the same token (since I agree about the results of focusing on certain passages) I am supposed to be heavily leaning toward Arminianism and Calvinism! {g} (But I doubt you meant this sentence specifically as evidence in the paragraph your quoted.)


{{“In Romans it says whoever believes and confesses is saved, in Philippians it says that eventually every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Put those two verses together and you get a case for universalism."}}

By context, Victor means this specifically as an example of “focusing on certain passages”. (Notably, the Philippians verse hardly needs the Roman verse adduced to it, once “confession” is contextually understood: those who are praising God for His mighty saving acts in regard to themselves, which is what the Greek and Hebrew term both mean in the OT quite consistently, are of course themselves already saved. Duh. The use of the term in Romans, if I’m thinking of the same place Victor is, is more... complexly interesting, let us say. {g} Or challenging, if you prefer.)


{{Seem to imply a definite attraction to Universalism, if not an outright endorsement of it.}}

I think I said as much myself--though I put more weight evenly on the latter clause (in effect).

Really, most people I discuss the matter with are attracted to it; which is why they (with some admirable self-criticism) draw back with a complaint along the lines of “but it’s too good to be true”. Victor isn’t going to endorse it just because he has some attraction to it, though. (If it comes to that, I personally have a fairly strong attraction to seeing the enemies of God scattered like dust and to hear the lamentations of their women. {shrug} Perhaps notably, my rejection or at least severe caution about this attitude doesn’t amount to “but that’s too good to be true”... {g})


{{Also, if you're going to read the posts, I would suggest reading all of them since points build on previous points.}}

I took your criticisms of Victor to be valid, as a provisional position, where I thought your post overlapped my critique topically (in relation to Victor’s original post above) and I wasn’t in a position to check him myself. I’ve kept up with the debate sporadically, so I do know what the various contexts are; but because it’s sporadic neither am I focusing on merely defending Victor even in that one place. (So for example I’m avoiding his theodicy challenges and your replies, as a topical focus; worthy topics though those otherwise are. I have a pretty specific epistemic issue in mind, and I’m paying attention primarily to what you’re saying in answer, with an eye out for previous references on your part where those seem applicable.)

I appreciate the handy post-list anyway, though! I hope other people will find it useful, too. (Maybe Victor will create an index page featuring the links, as a way of redating the debate later for future classes of his. That would be my recommendation anyway; it would have to be easier than redating all the discussion posts, and your entries probably contain proper links to Vic’s entries.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom,

So long as you aren’t replying to counter-Calvinist criticism, along the line that humans are functionally incompetent (rationally and/or morally) to evaluate the situation and arrive at the true doctrine, thus explaining why Calvinism seems incoherent and/or morally suspect to the opponent--then I have no objection and my critique (and I think Victor’s as well at the end there) does not, in your case, have any particular relevance. As noted, position clarifications are always welcome! {g}

(If, on the other hand, you take the above position at least sometimes when replying to counter-Calvinist criticism, then that would be what my critique was largely about. Fallibility of moral intuitions and/or reasoning, is not exactly my problem, since after all I accept that, too.)


That’s quite aside from any criticisms I have concerning your paragraph on atonement, expiation, applicability, etc.; which, while interesting and potentially instructive as a debate in itself, does not (as I noted) address the particular epistemic issue I was critiquing. I would probably defer, at this late date in this thread, opening up a line of contention on that topic. (But my previous comments in passing, on the topic, should be sufficient as a beginning gist. Not really what I wanted to discuss at this time, though.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Paul,

While I still have a fairly long comment that I could put up, I'm inclined to hold off on it so as not to distract from the main event (the discussion between you and Victor) which has moved on through several other posts on either side at this point (May 1, 2008).

I wouldn't do things quite the same way he does (though I do agree with him on certain areas; just as I agree with you and even some of your criticisms in certain areas.) So in several ways it would be a significantly different discussion, but (even because of that) I don't think it would be fair to you, for me to drop a macro-comment into a relatively late thread.

(Plus, I'm kinda bushed myself right now, due to allergies. {g})

JRP

IlĂ­on said...

It's too bad, isn't it, that this software doesn't put a *date-stamp* on posts. Of what use is knowing the time-of-day a post was made when you don't know whether the day was last week or last year?

Jason Pratt said...

The blogging engine allows it--I always had it whenever I did a temporary Blogger blog, and we have it over at the Cadre (which is also Blogger). But not all the templates have it built-in as a comment-data feature, I guess. Victor could, in theory, add it as a function of the coding; but danged if I know how to lead him in doing it! (I have a basic idea of what would need to be done, and basically where, but beyond that...)

JRP