Friday, May 23, 2008

Exegete this!

How do Calvinists analyze John 3: 16?

66 comments:

Paul Manata said...

You don't know how we do?

How does Kim make an account of reasoning? Bet you know. You study your opponents, don't you?

So, are you admitting to not studying Calvinist arguments but jumping head long into a critique of them?

We have done tons of exegesis of John 3:16. You could consult some of it, know our argument, and then come up with a post that *advances* the discussion.

I mean, you act as we should be saying: "John 3:16?? What? I've never read that. Here, let me see. Oh, I see, God loves the world that he sent his son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Ahhhhhh, that explains it! Okay, I'm not a Calvinist anymore."

I mean, it's not like that verse isn't up at every single football game. We're aware of it, Victor.

Oh and btw, here's a hint, Calvinists affirm that "whosever believes" in Jesus will have everlasting life.

Paul Manata said...

and btw, that link doesn't provide was with a scholarly *exegesis*

Victor Reppert said...

Ok, who do you think does the best analysis of it? In looks as if Calvinists are split between whether the world includes the lost or not. If "the world" is "the elect world" then "world" can't possibly mean the same thing it does in John 1: 10-11, and this is a problem. If you include those predestined for hell in "the world", then God loves the lost. But how could God really love the lost if he didn't really send Jesus for them and they are predestined for hell. That makes no sense either.

There's an argument here, Paul. The fact that you have tons of exegesis on the matter doesn't mean you can meet the argument.

Paul Manata said...

Victor, has it ever occured to you to see how *John* uses the term 'world?' This would include not only the Gospel, but his letters too.

For example, he writes in 1 John 5:

19We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

But John *wasn't* included believers here!

In fact, we know that John uses "world" in a *qualitative* way quite often, actually.

Paul Manata said...

As Andrew Lincoln explains in his recent commentary on John:

“Some argue that the term ‘world’ here simply has neutral connotations—the created human world. But the characteristic use of ‘the world’ (ho kosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones—the world in its alienation from and hostility to its creator’s purposes. It makes better sense in a soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all” (154).

Paul Manata said...

and don't you find it odd that Jesus would die for every single person so that they could get "saved" but *before* he says that he saus in Jn. 6 that *no one* is able to come to him *unless* the Father draws that person, and then Jesus will raise that person up on the last day?

So, at best you have a Jesus who plays a cruel prank.

Also, some Calvinists might read Jn. 3:16 as speaking about the the *worth* of Jesus death. His death for the world is of enough worth that it could potentially save all, though it is only applied to some.

That's not my view, but you have to underastand that Jn. 3:16 doesn't get you to Arminianism, full stop.

I also claim that if Jesus claimed his "mission" was to come down and save everyone, then he failed. It's also means-end irrational given that if Jesus knew not all men would be saved, why die for them and "try" to get them saved? Would you "try" to jump to the moon? Would't training at the gym for that event be a means-end irrational activity?

And, this one is right up your alley:

http://www.christianlogic.com/brianbosse/wp-content/uploads/john-644.pdf

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

Calvinists have done lots of **attempted** re-interpretations of John 3:16. I say **re-interpretation** because their attempts are not aiming at determining the proper interpretation of the verse, but rather are aimed at maintaining and defending the calvinist system. They deal with the verse in exactly the way the cults deal with verses teaching essential Christian doctrines like the trinity or deity of Christ: they explain away the verse so that it (at least in their minds) no longer threatens their system.

That word "world" has different meanings in different contexts. In the gospel of John it often refers to the group of people in opposition to God (as it does here in John 3:16). Now the key thing to note is that this set is a fluctuating set of human persons, meaning its number changes, it does not remain static. This is because Christians before they are saved are also part of this set of persons. Christians come out of the kingdom of darkness (a synonym for the "world" that opposes God) into the kingdom of light (God's kingdom consisting of his people).

Christians begin our existence being part of the world, if we accept the gospel we come out of that world to serve God. When the bible says that God so loved the "world" it demonstrates the amazing love of God even for those in opposition to him (it is similar to the statement that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”). Now some people will come out of that world to become Christians, but some will **never** come out of that world to become believers (unless you teach the false view of universalism; but the bible teaches a clear demarcation between the saved and the unsaved, cf. Matt. 25:31-46). So the issue becomes whether or not Jesus was given for, or died for, even those who never eventually become believers and leave the "world"?

Calvinist "exegesis" fails in accounting for these distinctions. They cannot take the verse to be saying what it clearly seems to be saying. So, like the cultists they reinterpret the verse so that it does not retain its proper meaning. For the calvinist it cannot be saying that God loved the "world" (including people who will never come to be Christians). So in some way their forced “exegesis” of the verse must lead to the conclusion that Jesus did not die for those who never will come to Him in faith. If you want to see some real eisgetical (i.e. exegete means to read the meaning out from the text; eisegete means to read the meaning you want into the text) gymnastics look at calvinist interpretations of John 3:16. Noncalvinists, whether they be Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants or Independents, have no problem with this verse. And because of this verse we can say that God loves you and Jesus died for you, to anyone we come in contact with. The little jingle “Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so” is the truth, a truth based upon verses such as John 3:16. A truth that calvinism must deny.

Robert

0 Point Calvinist said...

They don't. They just change the meaning of words.

Robert said...

Manata likes to describe the noncalvinist view of God’s plan of salvation as being a **failure** (if God wants everyone to be saved and they don’t all get saved then God “failed”). He also likes to couple this point with the idea of if God foreknows everything then why even make an attempt to save those who **will** not be saved. Here he presents his same old broken record arguments:

“I also claim that if Jesus claimed his "mission" was to come down and save everyone, then he failed. It's also means-end irrational given that if Jesus knew not all men would be saved, why die for them and "try" to get them saved?”

One of my mentors tells me of a Catholic priest who on Christmas goes to the worst part of a large city in the US and freely gives out money/bills to those who will accept his free and gracious offer. Some do not accept this offer, they think it is a trick or a set up of some kind, so they freely reject the offer. In their case they did not get the money. Who failed? The priest whose plan was to give the free gift to whoever received it, or those who freely rejected the free gift?

Or take another example, two immigrant parents come to this country and work for years at menial and hard jobs to save money for their not yet born children, so their children can go to college in the US. After years of hard work and sacrifice they have the money and offer to send their son, when he reaches the appropriate age, to college if he desires to do so. It is their free gift to him, they did all the work, it was their plan. Now if the son rejects this offer and chooses not to go to college. Did the parents fail? Did the Son fail?

And lastly this claim that it is irrational for God to try to save those whom He foreknows will never come to believe. My bible teaches that God’s nature is love. It also says that love does not seek its own, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. If God’s nature is really love and He loves like this, then He loves everyone because that is his nature to love. The whole gospel is predicated on the idea that Jesus died for sinners, for those in rebellion against him (those who were of the “world”) whether they respond in faith or not. That is the way love is, the way God is, and we can even see it in people who love their unlovable and rejected children. Look at a mother’s love for her convict son who has done all sorts of atrocious things, who has not changed or shown remorse for his crimes. Yet his mother still loves him as her child. Now if human persons can (and do) love in this way, don’t tell me that God whose very nature is love, whose love is infinitely greater, does not and cannot be this way to his own creatures.

Calvinists tend to be weak in the area of love and it is no wonder as their theology precludes God’s love for certain people. If you are of the elect then you are lucky and God will love you. But if you are a reprobate, God never loved you, and planned from eternity for you to be sinful, and then to be condemned for eternity for being and doing exactly what God wanted you to do. Most Christians reject this theology because it does not fit their moral intuitions, nor does it fit what God himself has revealed about himself.

And you can see how the difference plays out in comments like those of Manata. He wants to argue that God’s plan of salvation is a failure and that God is a failure if everyone is not saved. He wants to argue it is a waste to make an effort towards those who will never be saved. What he leaves out of the equation which is no surprise considering his theology: is the love of God. And if you read his posts you will see someone who mocks love and mocks God as a failure. God is not the failure when the gospel is rejected, human persons make the choice to reject and so they bear the responsibility. God came up with the plan of salvation, we did not. God came up with a plan that can save all if people will choose to trust him. God reaches out to all even those who reject him, because that is the kind of person he is. Calvinists like Manata don’t understand these things and mock these things based upon their system. I will take the God revealed in the bible (such as in John 3:16) over the man-made calvinistic system any time. We know that God loves the world, because Jesus really went to the cross for that world. And that fact cannot be changed by anything the calvinists try to come up with. God is not the failure, the calvinistic system is, because it misrepresents God and reinterprets scripture according to its own logic.

Robert

Mike Darus said...

Paul saide: "Also, some Calvinists might read Jn. 3:16 as speaking about the the *worth* of Jesus death. His death for the world is of enough worth that it could potentially save all, though it is only applied to some."

I am in this group. There is no L in my TULIP.

Mike Darus said...

Robert said: "because their attempts are not aiming at determining the proper interpretation of the verse, but rather are aimed at maintaining and defending the calvinist system"

Robert, it is not helpful to attribute poor intentions to others. I find that their stated intention is to define a coherant system for all the relevant data in Scritpure.

I agree with you that there is danger in a system. One way to escape this "God in a box" tendency is the Eastern Orthodox approach that calls the free will sovereignty a mystery and a paradox; and they are content with that. Sometimes I envy that approach.

steve said...

I'd add that, according to Jn 3:16, the atonement is limited to believers.

Keep in mind, too, that Manata didn't quote from a Reformed commentator. To my knowledge, Andrew Lincoln is not a Calvinist. You don't have to be a Calvinist to understand that the Johannine usage of the word kosmos is consist with limited atonement.

Paul Manata said...

Robert,

Of course my "failure" rhetoric is used to even the score when I read here about my "devil" or "Omnipotent Fiend" God. Calvinists can name call too. Arminians don't have the market cornered.

Anyway, Robert and I already discussed the "failure" argument ad nauseum:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-love-is-this.html

If he can't advance the discussion from his performance there, I don't see why I should respond since I don't think what I *previously* said has been rebutted.

Paul Manata said...

"Robert said: "because their attempts are not aiming at determining the proper interpretation of the verse, but rather are aimed at maintaining and defending the calvinist system"

Robert asks people to deal charitably with him but then he pretends I have impure motives when I approach the text. Robert is Robert's worst enemy. Nothing worse than a hypocrite.

"And lastly this claim that it is irrational for God to try to save those whom He foreknows will never come to believe. My bible teaches that God’s nature is love. It also says that love does not seek its own, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Of course that's means-end irrational. I don't sit and pine away for something I *know* I will never ever not ever get. I mean, maybe 5 yr. olds do. My son thinks he's Indiana Jones. But I never thought God was like a 5 yr. old.

Of course Robert wants to act as if I don't think God is loving. But of course this is just his debate tactic. Not only do I think God is loving, I also think God's love for those he saves is a special love. God doesn't love everyone in the same sense. I don't love my wife like I do my friends wife. It's a special love. A more deep and intense love. So, to use Robert's analogy: if we humans can love people on different scales and at different levels, why can't God?

Robert likes to use rhetoric to win. He says Calvinists tend to be "weak" in areas of God's love. But of course I can use rhetoric too. Robert doesn't have the market cornered. I am strong in my conception of God's love: "Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." You see, I don't have a "playa" Jesus. My Jesus is a faithful husband. He doesn't "give himself up" for many wives just like I don't "give myself up" for different women!

On my view, I defend that "greater love" that Jesus talked about. None greater could be expressed than a man lay down his life for his *friends*. But of course the greatest love I could show my wife or son would be negated if I shared it with non- wives or children.

And then of course I don't view God as unjust. It's against my moral intuitions, you could say. I don't have a Jesus who pays the penalty of sin for all men and then punishes many of them in hell. According to my moral intuitions, you don't require double-payment for crimes.

Of course Robert will reject all of this, but I've only done what he does. I took his debate style and used it against him. I turn up the rhetoric, set things up just right, and then hold my hand up as the winner.

Robert wonders why we don't debate him like we do some other people? That's because Robert is a dishonest opponent. He acts rude and then complains about our Christian character when we raise good arguments.

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

I have spent some time on your website, but there is so much there that I have hardly scratched the surface. So if you have something pertinent, direct me to it or summarize if possible.

My question does not relate to John 3:16 per se but is a follow up to my earlier observation.

Do you think that there are Scriptures showing that God has wanted people to do things that they did not do and wanted people not to do things that they did, in fact, do? It seems to me that there are plain instances of both in the Bible, but maybe I shouldn't assume that you think so too.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not sure Lincoln's point is anything more than neutral from the standpoint of the debate over Calvinism. It may be the wickedness of the world that makes it amazing that Christ came for the people in the world, but if anything that would tend to limit the atonement to the wicked and not the righteous, if indeed the atonement is limited.

And, by the way, "You're only saying that to make it fit your system" is what anyone can say to an opponent who is trying to come to terms with a passage that is difficult for their own system.

Paul Manata said...

Hi Darek,

Yes, I do believe people resist God's will.

For example, I believe it is God's will that all men act morally. Yet we know people don't do this.

Of course as a Calvinist I make disctinctions between types of willing.

There is some willing that cannot be resisted.

Paul Manata said...

Victor,

I think the *qualitative* rather than *quantitative* point, as well as John's own use of the term 'world' in many passages, are sufficient defeaters, for me, to you point. You can't very well defeat *limited* (quantity) atonement by reference to *quality*.

And, on your terms, you'd have to say that believers were under the control of the evil one in 1 John, but he explicitly states that they are not.

But, if "whole world" means "ALL" then you can't get out your taxi when the ride gets bumpy. You got to take that thing all the way to the airport, baby!

steve said...

victor reppert said...

“I'm not sure Lincoln's point is anything more than neutral from the standpoint of the debate over Calvinism.”

Which is all a Calvinist needs. We don’t need an interpretation of Jn 3:16 which entails Calvinism. We only need an interpretation of Jn 3:16 which is consistent with Calvinism. And if the interpretation comes from a commentator who has no vested interest in scoring points for Calvinism, so much the better.

“but if anything that would tend to limit the atonement to the wicked and not the righteous.”

It’s not distinguishing between the wicked and the righteous. Everyone is “worldly” in Jn 3:16. Christ came for “worldly” people. The point is the *kind* of people.

Jn 3:16 is neutral on the scope of the atonement. It doesn’t teach either limited or unlimited atonement.

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

Thank you.

>>For example, I believe it is God's will that all men act morally. Yet we know people don't do this.<<

Do you think there are there instances in the Bible where God desired wicked men to repent, but they did not?

Paul Manata said...

You're welcome Darek,

God "commands all men everywhere to repent For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed." (Acts 17:30-31).

Since "all men" are required to "repent," and since not "all men" will be in heaven, and since if you do repent you will go to heaven, then, yes: God wants (preceptivley) some people repent that nevertheless do not.

Paul Manata said...

Victor,

Have you checked this out yet:

http://www.christianlogic.com/brianbosse/wp-content/uploads/john-644.pdf

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

>>God wants (preceptivley) some people repent that nevertheless do not<<

Maybe you better make clear, because I notice a word in parentheses and I sense a fudge. Does God actually desire some people to repent who will not? Is their repentance something that God wants to happen?

Paul Manata said...

Darek,

Why would you say you "sense a 'fudge?'" I sense precision.

The Reformed, as well as others, have noted two senses of the "will of God." His preceptive will and his decretive will. We find this view taught in Scripture. So, rather than "fudging," we are just making sure categores are used appropriately.

Now, either you were not aware of this, and so you should study it before you call it a "fudge," or you were aware of it and so you're being obtuse. So, if we are talking "preceptively" then, yes, Gid wills (wants) it to happen. If we are talking with respect to his decretive will, then, no, God does not will (or want) it to happen.

Similarly, an atheologian may ask me if Jesus is God. I will say yes. Then, he may ask, "Did Jesus learn?" I may respond, "Well with respect to his human nature, he did." Would that be "fudging" on my part or "clarifying?"

Robert said...

Hello Mike,

You wrote:

“Paul saide: "Also, some Calvinists might read Jn. 3:16 as speaking about the the *worth* of Jesus death. His death for the world is of enough worth that it could potentially save all, though it is only applied to some."

I am in this group. There is no L in my TULIP.”

Every orthodox believer (I do not consider universalism to be the orthodox teaching of the Christian church) agrees that the death of Christ was sufficient to save all but efficient or only applied to believers. But where **in** the text of John 3:16 does it discuss “the worth of Jesus death”? Isn’t the text simply declaring that God so loved the world that He gave His son for that world?

Mike you also wrote:

“I agree with you that there is danger in a system. One way to escape this "God in a box" tendency is the Eastern Orthodox approach that calls the free will sovereignty a mystery and a paradox; and they are content with that. Sometimes I envy that approach.”

Why do we need a system that we have to make the bible verses fit into?

Why can’t we just interpret the passages and see what our conclusions are, and if there appears to be a problem just frankly confess that our conclusions are derived from the bible and we don’t know how it all fits together?

Robert

Robert said...

Steve Hays wrote:

“It’s not distinguishing between the wicked and the righteous. Everyone is “worldly” in Jn 3:16. Christ came for “worldly” people. The point is the *kind* of people.”

I don’t buy that. That is taking “kosmos”/”world” in Jn. 3:16 as if it is an **adjective** (“worldly”) when in fact it is a **noun** (world). The Greek text does not say that:

“For God so loved the WORLDLY that he gave his only Son . . .

It says: “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only Son . . .

“World” in John 3:16 refers to a specific set of people, it does not refer to a kind of person. If we look at other places where John uses “kosmos” we do not find it used as an adjective but as a noun. Here it is a noun and so refers to a set of persons.

“Jn 3:16 is neutral on the scope of the atonement. It doesn’t teach either limited or unlimited atonement.”

That statement is false if “kosmos” is a noun and not an adjective in John 3:16. If it is a noun, which it is, then it refers to a set of people. That set of persons consists of both people who eventually will become believers as well as people who will never become believers. If that set of people does in fact contain some who will never become believers then the passage most definitely supports the so-called “unlimited atonement” view. So the verse is not neutral at all.

Robert

Saint and Sinner said...

"Why can’t we just interpret the passages and see what our conclusions are, and if there appears to be a problem just frankly confess that our conclusions are derived from the bible and we don’t know how it all fits together?"

Are you going to apply that logic to John 14:28 and the Deity of Christ?

There's no such thing as a system-less reading of Scripture. Everyone brings their presuppositions to the text (which BTW would include their Western culturally-influenced, personal, subjective, and emotive "intuitions").

Saint and Sinner said...

Robert said, "If we look at other places where John uses “kosmos” we do not find it used as an adjective but as a noun. Here it is a noun and so refers to a set of persons."

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)

Here, the noun, world, is being used as a descriptor (like an adjective!) of all that is evil within human society.

So no, world does not have to mean (and doesn't mean) every single last human being.

Robert said...

Hello Darek,

You wrote:

“Maybe you better make clear, because I notice a word in parentheses and I sense a fudge. Does God actually desire some people to repent who will not? Is their repentance something that God wants to happen?”

The calvinists make a distinction between the will of God that predetermines every event that comes to pass (sometimes called the “secret will” or “decretive will”, etc. I will simply call it WILL A for discussion purposes). So every event that ever occurs as part of the history of this actual world occurs because of Will A according to the calvinist. God also expresses Himself in scripture. This will is sometimes called his “preceptive will” or “moral will”. I will simply call it WILL B for discussion purposes. WILL A always occurs and can never be violated. WILL B does not always occur and can be violated.

Every act of adultery that occurs in the world’s history is ordained by God, decreed by God and is part of WILL A. On the other hand, in scripture one of the ten commandments is that we should not commit adultery. This commandment is part of WILL B.

God says in scripture that everyone should repent (WILL B). But God only predetermines that the elect repent (Will A). The two wills become problematic because you have God saying many things in scripture which supposedly express His will, which he completely contradicts in his secret will/WILL A. God says that he desires the salvation of all (in scripture). So the calvinist takes that to be part of WILL B. But according to WILL A God only desires the salvation of the elect. WILL B then is quite misleading as it really is not what God ultimately wants, what He ultimately wants is part of WILL A.

Derek what you are sensing as “fudging” is simply the calvinist working according to his theory of WILL A and WILL B. Think about it Derek and see if you can see some problems with this theory.

Robert

Robert said...

Saint and Sinner wrote:

[["Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)

Here, the noun, world, is being used as a descriptor (like an adjective!) of all that is evil within human society.]]

In 1 John 2:15 “kosmos” is again a noun and is not translated as “worldly”: “Do not love the worldly nor the things in the worldly. If anyone loves the worldly, the love of the Father is not in him.”

You also wrote:

“So no, world does not have to mean (and doesn't mean) every single last human being.”

Jesus was never part of the WORLD referred to in John 3:16, so technically it does not have to mean every single last human being. But “kosmos” is a noun in John 3:16 and so refers to a set of people. The issue is whether or not that set of people includes any human persons who will never come to become believers? If the set of persons designated as WORLD includes such persons, then the atonement theory of calvinists is false and their theology that attempts to limit God’s love and attempts and intentions to save only to those who eventually become believers is also false. Now I know for a fact that some people who were once part of that WORLD come out of it and become believers. The burden of proof for the calvinist is to show that all of the people that make up the set of persons referred to as WORLD will eventually be saved. If even one person from that set of persons never gets saved, then Calvinism’s limited atonement view is false as its theology that God only desires and attempts to save the elect is refuted by John 3:16 (because then God gave Jesus for someone who never did get saved).

By the way Victor made reference to this point at the very beginning of this thread when he wrote:

“In looks as if Calvinists are split between whether the world includes the lost or not. If "the world" is "the elect world" then "world" can't possibly mean the same thing it does in John 1: 10-11, and this is a problem. If you include those predestined for hell in "the world", then God loves the lost. But how could God really love the lost if he didn't really send Jesus for them and they are predestined for hell. That makes no sense either.

There's an argument here, Paul. The fact that you have tons of exegesis on the matter doesn't mean you can meet the argument.”

Yeh there is an argument here all right, does WORLD in John 3:16 include the lost or not?

Robert

Saint and Sinner said...

"The two wills become problematic because you have God saying many things in scripture which supposedly express His will, which he completely contradicts in his secret will/WILL A."

Refutation: 2 Chronicles 18:20-22

18:20
"Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'How?'
18:21
"He said, 'I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, ***'You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.'***
18:22
"Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you."

Although God has commanded that no one should lie, in His providential will, he permits the wicked to lie so that what He has ordained will come to pass.

Secondly, repentance is man's ***duty*** regardless of whether he is able to actualize it. To say that the command to repent cannot be a *genuine* command unless the sinner is able to actualize it simply begs the question in favor of the libertarian view of responsibility.

Saint and Sinner said...

"In 1 John 2:15 “kosmos” is again a noun and is not translated as “worldly”: “Do not love the worldly nor the things in the worldly. If anyone loves the worldly, the love of the Father is not in him.”"

That's exactly what I said. However, it is being used in such a way as a descriptor of *what* (i.e. a noun) is 'worldly' (an adjective). It does not refer to a specific people group or an extent of people. That would be a category error. Thus, Christ was not even addressing the extent of God's love but the magnitude of it (i.e. in spite of sinfulness).

Saint and Sinner said...

In other words, Christ is saying, "God so loved that those who were wicked that He gave His only begotten Son..."

The emphasis is on the magnitude of God's love compared with our sinfulness, being by nature children of wrath.

steve said...

robert said...

“I happen to know Vern Poythress personally, and he is a calvinist, a man of integrity and character, and we get along just fine (though of course I disagree with his calvinism, but I appreciate him and his solid testimony for Christ).”

“They deal with the verse in exactly the way the cults deal with verses teaching essential Christian doctrines.”

Therefore, Vern Poythress deals with the verse in exactly the way the cults deal with verses teaching essential Christian doctrines.

“Calvinists tend to be weak in the area of love and it is no wonder as their theology precludes God’s love for certain people.”

Therefore, Vern Poythress tends to be weak in the area of love and it is no wonder as his theology precludes God’s love for certain people.

“God reaches out to all even those who reject him, because that is the kind of person he is. Calvinists like Manata don’t understand these things and mock these things based upon their system.”

God reaches out to all even those who reject him, because that is the kind of person he is. Calvinists like Vern Poythress doesn’t understand these things and mocks these things based upon his system.

steve said...

robert said...

“I don’t buy that. That is taking “kosmos”/”world” in Jn. 3:16 as if it is an **adjective** (“worldly”) when in fact it is a **noun** (world). The Greek text does not say that.”

Robert doesn’t bother to consult or quote any standard lexical reference works. If we turn from his amateurish assertions to the scholars, here’s some of what they have to say:

“The characteristic meaning in Christian Greek is a bad sense of worldly affairs. ‘The world’, says Sasse…is now a convertible term with ‘darkness’,” N. Turner, Christian Words, 499. Turner goes on to contrast this with an “otherworldly” outlook (500).

“In the Johannine theology one finds again the basic elements of the Pauline understanding of kosmos in the extreme and intensified radicality of the estrangement and ungodliness of the kosmos…In the statements regarding the kosmos in Johannine theology the concern is with the nature of the world that has fallen away from and is ruled by the evil one,” EDNT 2:312.

So the cosmic aspect of Jn 3:16 is neutral on the scope of the atonement. However, the faith aspect limited the atonement to believers.

Manata has been citing 1 Jn 5:19 as a parallel. I’d just note that in this verse, we have both “world” and “all” side-by-side. If any text could establish absolute universality according to Arminian hermeneutical principles, this would be it. Yet, as Manata points out, the text immediately exempts the subset that belongs to the first clause (“we know that we are from God”) from the subset that belongs to the second clause (“and the whole world lies in evil”).

Rob Grano said...

What I find interesting about these discussions over Calvinism is the lack of any appeal, on either side, to patristic thought, East or West. What convinced me to reject Calvinism was not so much the contemporary arguments on both sides, or even the Reformation debates, but a thorough study of the Pelagian and 'Semi-Pelagian' controversies of the early church.

To put it simply, there was no Calvinism in the patristic era. Calvinists can take certain passages from the fathers and make them sound Calvinist (St. Augustine and his followers often get this treatment) but just as they have to do exegetical gymnastics with Scripture, they have to do the same with the fathers. Even the Synod of Orange in A.D. 529, which vindicated certain aspects of Augustinian theology, did not accept it wholesale, and certainly was not a "Calvinist" council. One wonders, then, why, if it's "plainly taught in Scripture" no one held it for the first 1,500 years of Christian theology.

As Victor said on another thread, Calvinism cannot be proven from the Scriptures 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' It also cannot be demonstrated to have any sort of solid theological pedigree in church history. Surely, when you put these two things together, it should be enough to find Calvin's system suspect.

This debate can never be solved solely by exegesis, as attempting to do so presupposes that the historical-critical method, or its corollary, the historical-grammatical method, is the only way that truths of faith can be discovered. For a corrective to this thinking, I recommend, for starters, Andrew Louth's book "Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on The Nature of Theology."

Robert said...

Hi Rob,

I appreciated and agree with your post.

I myself like the Wesleyan quatrilateral: that we should consult four sources when coming to our conclusions (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience). The discussion here has been on John 3:16 which involves Scripture and reason.

You are brining in Tradition when you write:

“What I find interesting about these discussions over Calvinism is the lack of any appeal, on either side, to patristic thought, East or West. What convinced me to reject Calvinism was not so much the contemporary arguments on both sides, or even the Reformation debates, but a thorough study of the Pelagian and 'Semi-Pelagian' controversies of the early church.

To put it simply, there was no Calvinism in the patristic era. Calvinists can take certain passages from the fathers and make them sound Calvinist (St. Augustine and his followers often get this treatment) but just as they have to do exegetical gymnastics with Scripture, they have to do the same with the fathers. Even the Synod of Orange in A.D. 529, which vindicated certain aspects of Augustinian theology, did not accept it wholesale, and certainly was not a "Calvinist" council. One wonders, then, why, if it's "plainly taught in Scripture" no one held it for the first 1,500 years of Christian theology.”

Yes one of my problems with calvinism is that like you said between the New Testament and Augustine everybody was a noncalvinist. I think Augustine was a major culprit in setting the stage for the invention of calvinism and its refinement by the reformers.

I also believe that if you apply the quadrilateral to calvinism it fails and is refuted in all four areas. Victor has been emphasizing the reason and experience aspects of the quadrilateral against calvinism. John 3:16 and other biblical passages provide the scripture argument against this false and man invented system of theology.

Robert

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

>>So, if we are talking "preceptively" then, yes, God wills (wants) it to happen. If we are talking with respect to his decretive will, then, no, God does not will (or want) it to happen.<<

In speaking about those who do not respond to the offer of repentance, let's say that God both desires them to repent and desires them not to repent. You don't think that these desires are equally weighted, do you? As best I understand it, Calvinism would say that what actually occurs reflects the stronger or more effective [insert specialized theological term as needed] of God's desires. So that if the person goes on sinning, God's greater desire is for them to go on sinning.

But surely to say that God desires anyone's continued sin seems to conflict with the proposition that God absolutely hates sin. God may desire to reveal someone's sin and make it plain to all. Or God may desire that, given a person's persistence in sin, the sin's effects be redirected toward a good end. But those interpretations allow us to exclude God's desire for the sinfulness to be there.

For example, I have a hard time with the claim that God wanted Joseph's brothers to hate him. But given the fact that the brothers did hate Joseph, God may have desired that the sin be channeled to serve a good purpose.

All who were called to follow Jesus had to repent. So when Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up his possessions, he was asking him to repent of his trust in his possessions. But the young ruler did not repent. Does this mean that Jesus desired the man's continued sin more than he desired the man's repentance? I doubt it. For one thing, Scripture tells us that Jesus felt love for the young man (Mark 10:21).

Could the love that Jesus had for the young ruler--love that was rejected--be related to the love of John 3:16? Is there any connection at all between the two?

steve said...

robert said...

“I also believe that if you apply the quadrilateral to calvinism it fails and is refuted in all four areas. Victor has been emphasizing the reason and experience aspects of the quadrilateral against calvinism. John 3:16 and other biblical passages provide the scripture argument against this false and man invented system of theology.”

Of course, this is completely duplicitous. If Robert could win the argument fair and square on scriptural grounds alone, he wouldn’t need to take refuge in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. It’s because Robert’s own theological system is a “man invented system of theology,” that he can only defend it by using a three-against-one stratagem: having lost the exegetical debate, he tries to leverage the outcome by appealing to extrascriptural factors to trump scripture.

Saint and Sinner said...

rob said, "What I find interesting about these discussions over Calvinism is the lack of any appeal, on either side, to patristic thought, East or West."

Answer:
http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2008/04/influence-of-greco-roman-culture-on.html

To quote Alister McGrath:

“The earlier patristic period represents the age of the exploration of concepts, when the proclamation of the gospel within a pagan culture was accompanied by an exploitation of both Hellenistic culture and pagan philosophy as vehicles for theological advancement. This tentative exploration of the conceptual world is particularly well illustrated by the rise and subsequent decline of the Logos-Christology. The use of such concepts in Christian theology was not, however without its risks: it was not sufficient merely to baptise Plato and Plotinus, for the tension which existed between the essentially Hebraic concepts which underlie the gospel and the Hellenism of the medium employed in its early formulation and propagation remains unresolved. Whilst it is evident that some form of adaptation may be necessary in order to give the gospel more immediate impact on its introduction to an alien culture, it is equally evident that such an adaptation may result in both compromise and distortion of the characteristic and distinctive elements of the gospel. An excellent example of the influence of a Hellenistic milieu upon Christian theology is provided by the doctrine of the [apaueia] of God, which clearly demonstrates the subordination of a biblical to a philosophical view of God.…Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Greek fathers had formulated a teaching on human free will based upon philosophical rather than biblical foundations. Standing in the great Platonic tradition, heavily influenced by Philo, and reacting against the fatalisms of their day, they taught that man was utterly free in his choice of good or evil…It is quite possible that the curious and disturbing tendency of the early fathers to minimize original sin and emphasize the freedom of fallen man is a consequence of their anti-Gnostic polemic…Justin’s anti-fatalist arguments can be adduced from practically any of the traditional pagan refutations of astral fatalisms, going back to the second century B.C.”
–Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2nd edition (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, reprinted 1998), pp.17, 19, 20.

Saint and Sinner said...

darek said, "For example, I have a hard time with the claim that God wanted Joseph's brothers to hate him. But given the fact that the brothers did hate Joseph, God may have desired that the sin be channeled to serve a good purpose."

Answer:
Psalm 105:25
“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants.”
Commentary:
Psalm 105 summarizes Biblical history from the time of Abraham through Deuteronomy. Here, the inspired psalmist informs us that the evil intentions of the new Pharaoh, recorded in Exodus 1:8-10, had their ultimate cause in God. God took His common grace that restrains the evil of men’s hearts away from Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would commit the evil acts that would eventually lead to the exodus and the conquering of Canaan. Pharaoh hardened his own heart, but at the same time, by taking away His common grace, it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Saint and Sinner said...

rob said, "As Victor said on another thread, Calvinism cannot be proven from the Scriptures 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'"

That's a tendentious statement. The first time I went through the Old Testament, I came away concluding that Calvinism was obviously true. It was hardly avoidable:

Exodus 4:11
“The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’ ”

2 Samuel 12:11
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.”
Commentary:
Although it was Absalom who committed these evil acts of adultery (and was held accountable for such), God was the ultimate cause of these acts and used them for good (i.e. David’s punishment).

2 Samuel 17:14
“Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring calamity on Absalom.”
Commentary:
To quote Robert Morey: “This passage is remarkable. It answers the questions, “Why did Absalom and all the men of Israel choose not to listen to Ahithophel when he was the clearly the wisest counselor in their midst? Why did they choose to take Hushai’s advice instead?” The text states that God caused them to choose Hushai because He had ordained to defeat Absalom. They chose what He ordained them to choose.” (emphasis his) –Dr. Robert A. Morey, The Nature and Extent of God’s Knowledge, 2nd Edition (Las Vegas, Nevada: Christian Scholars Press, 2002), pp.65-66.

Job 14:5
“Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.”

Psalm 105:25
“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants.”

Proverbs 16:4
“The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

Proverbs 16:9-10
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment.”

Proverbs 20:24
“Man's steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way?”

Proverbs 21:1
“The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Ecclesiastes 7:14
“In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider--God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.”

Ecclesiastes 9:1
“For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.”

Isaiah 45:7
“The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”

Isaiah 63:17
“Why, O LORD, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage.”

Lamentations 3:37-39
“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?”

Ezekiel 14:9
“But if the prophet is prevailed upon to speak a word, it is I, the LORD, who have prevailed upon that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel.”

Amos 3:6
“If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?”

Habakkuk 2:12-13
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence! Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing?”

The list goes on and on...

Saint and Sinner said...

darek said, "But the young ruler did not repent. Does this mean that Jesus desired the man's continued sin more than he desired the man's repentance? I doubt it. For one thing, Scripture tells us that Jesus felt love for the young man (Mark 10:21)."

That's a bad example since some commentators believe that the rich young ruler is actually Mark.

Darek Barefoot said...

S & A

>>That's a bad example since some commentators believe that the rich young ruler is actually Mark.<<

That's an inadequate response unless you can provide some Scriptural basis for it.

BTW, there are a great many Scriptural texts to the effect that the Lord loves justice and righteousness and hates lawlessness, injustice and sin. Both explicit and implicit. This ought to be beyond disputing.

In Jeremiah God says that the Israelites had burned their own children in the fire, though he had not commanded it nor had it entered his heart (Jer 7:31). Yet they did it. Calvinists have not come to the point where they claim that the Lord desired the Israelites to burn their children more than he desired them not to, have they?

Darek Barefoot said...

Meant to address that last one to Saint and Sinner (S & S). Sorry.

Darek Barefoot said...

S & S

>>Psalm 105:25
“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants.”
Commentary:
Psalm 105 summarizes Biblical history from the time of Abraham through Deuteronomy. Here, the inspired psalmist informs us that the evil intentions of the new Pharaoh, recorded in Exodus 1:8-1, had their ultimate cause in God.<<

Exodus says that the growth of the Israelite population provoked the suspicious anger of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians (1:7-10). If God caused the Israelites to multiply, then by doing so he provoked the Egyptians--given the Egyptians existing sinful propensity. Here again, we need not attribute to God a desire for the Egyptians to be sinful, but a desire, given their sinful nature, to channel it to a good end.

Saint and Sinner said...

"That's an inadequate response unless you can provide some Scriptural basis for it."

Again, that's the opinion of several commentators, and I don't have the time to go find them.

"BTW, there are a great many Scriptural texts to the effect that the Lord loves justice and righteousness and hates lawlessness, injustice and sin. Both explicit and implicit. This ought to be beyond disputing."

Yep.

"In Jeremiah God says that the Israelites had burned their own children in the fire, though he had not commanded it nor had it entered his heart (Jer 7:31). Yet they did it. Calvinists have not come to the point where they claim that the Lord desired the Israelites to burn their children more than he desired them not to, have they?"

Again Darek, there are two so-called 'wills' in God. I cited the passage in 2 Chronicles 18:20-22 above showing that God has two wills. God has commanded His creatures not to do evil and would never do so ("it never entered into [His] heart..."), but He has also, in His providence, allowed evil creatures to commit evil acts so that His plan would be furthered ('You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so' -2 Chronicles 18:21).

Saint and Sinner said...

"Exodus says that the growth of the Israelite population provoked the suspicious anger of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians (1:7-10). If God caused the Israelites to multiply, then by doing so he provoked the Egyptians--given the Egyptians existing sinful propensity. Here again, we need not attribute to God a desire for the Egyptians to be sinful, but a desire, given their sinful nature, to channel it to a good end."

I think that I can agree with that to an extent. However, the Psalm specifically states that God is (at least the ultimate) cause of Pharoah's hatred.

God did not just come along, see that Pharoah had hatred toward the Israelites, and decided to fix the mess. No, it was His purpose to make Pharaoh jelous and hate the Israelites. This was so that God's power might be displayed and false religion mocked in the Ten Plagues.

It is true that Pharoah freely willed his jelousy and hatred, but God was the ultimate (and purposeful) cause.

Saint and Sinner said...

The same goes for Genesis 50. God did not come along and fix the mess. He purposefully gave Jacob those dreams so that Jacob would boast to his brothers which would cause them (yet, freely) to sell him into slavery.

All this was purposed by God so that the whole family would survive the famine.

In the prescriptive sense, God hated what happened, but in His providential will, He wanted it to happen so that many lives would be saved.

Robert said...

Steve Hays incredulous and nasty as usual wrote:

“Of course, this is completely duplicitous. If Robert could win the argument fair and square on scriptural grounds alone, he wouldn’t need to take refuge in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience.”

“Winning the argument fair and square on scriptural grounds alone” is an interesting claim. It is not about “winning an argument” (except for debaters and sophists), it is about considering the available evidence as best we can and then coming to rational conclusions. If you are not afraid of the truth, and/or you have the truth, you don’t need to fear either questions or further information. Something that is true will be confirmed by more evidence while something that is false will tend to be disconfirmed (truth is like a diamond with different facets all part of one diamond all valuable and all together not conflicting). I can’t stand what happens when the courts will say that evidence is inadmissable or the jury will disregard (X). If you really want the truth, then bring it all in. Also if you are a Christian then you are already in contact with ultimate truth, which is not some abstract speculation or argument, but a person, the God who reveals himself in scripture.

Also regarding “winning an argument” on scripture, if someone’s mind is made up and they will do whatever they can to defend and maintain what they believe (even if it is false and not reality) then you will not “win the argument”. Just try “winning the argument” with a well trained cult member. You cannot persuade a made up mind that is committed to a falsehood no matter what evidence or reasoning you throw at it. That is one of the reasons the bible talks about being teachable and listening to the council of others, if we make up our minds in disregards of the available evidence we become what the book of Proverbs describes as fools or scoffers. That is where it helps to be humble and to seek to learn from others. If you are prideful and think you alone have the truth, that you are incapable of error, and that everyone else is wrong you are simply a fool.

I have Christian friends who are scientists and I envy how they handle things with peer review and so on when seeking the truth on something. And since the truth is taken to be objective, and out there, outside of the individual mind, anyone can research it, and others who are investigating it honestly will confirm the truth with other lines of evidence. Theologians on the other hand tend to develop their own systems which they then seek to defend and maintain rather than modify as the evidence suggests. When I was in seminary, Bultmann had a system, Tillich had a system, Rushdoony had a system, etc. etc. and most of these guys have been shown to be wrong and misguided.

“It’s because Robert’s own theological system is a “man invented system of theology,” that he can only defend it by using a three-against-one stratagem: having lost the exegetical debate, he tries to leverage the outcome by appealing to extrascriptural factors to trump scripture.”

First of all, while I have certainly have presuppositions, I do not have a system. My friends kid me about being eclectic, because I will accept anything from any source or direction, **if it is in fact true.** So I am difficult to pigeonhole. I want the truth more than my own pet system. If you want a label call me a biblicist.

And since I know that seeking the truth involves taking in evidence from all directions, if you want the truth, the Wesleyan quadrilateral is itself a useful and practical truth (Christians should consider all four sources of information when developing their conclusions). I also make a distinction between essential Christianity and nonessentials. If you use the quadrilateral I believe you will end up with the essentials as they are confirmed and corroborated by each other (as Reid said the same designer made both the mind and the sense faculties so both should be reliable though not infallible). And these essentials are held throughout Christian circles whether it be by the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Independents, the early church and the Fathers. And these essentials including the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. do not include calvinism.

Oh, and I haven’t “lost” the exegetical debate, the bible verses confirm my noncalvinism. And the confirmation is also seen by reason, experience, and church tradition.

Robert

Darek Barefoot said...

S & S

>>He has also, in His providence, allowed evil creatures to commit evil acts so that His plan would be furthered ('You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so' -2 Chronicles 18:21).<<

Sure, but God's allowance of sins in order to direct them to a good end need not mean that he desires his creatures to be sinful. Or, more precisely, that he desires his creatures to be sinful more than he desires them not to be.

>>He purposefully gave Jacob those dreams so that Jacob would boast to his brothers which would cause them (yet, freely) to sell him into slavery.<<

I agree. God gave Joseph the dreams knowing that in their already existing sinfulness his brothers would act a certain way (cf. Deut 31:21b). Genesis even gives us a clue about the character weaknesses of the brothers (37:2). That doesn't mean that God desired the brothers to have sinful hearts in the first place. Isn't it more deferential to God's holiness to say that God came upon the mess of the brothers' sinful hearts and then made something good out of it than to say that the greater of God's desires was for their hearts to be sinful?

Also, notice that while God inspired Ahab's false prophets to give him the message he wanted to hear (Ps 18:26), he at the same time gave Ahab an oracle of the truth through Micaiah. God dealt with Ahab in keeping with Ahab's obstinacy (cf. 2 Thess 2:10-11).

You do say "cause (yet freely)." I agree, again. But in Calvinism, the unregenerate will can only go one way and the regenerate will can only go another. Where there is inevitability, I'm not sure "freely" retains any meaning. But I admit this brings in issues not directly in view in Joseph's story.

Saint and Sinner said...

"Sure, but God's allowance of sins in order to direct them to a good end need not mean that he desires his creatures to be sinful. Or, more precisely, that he desires his creatures to be sinful more than he desires them not to be."

Again, in what sense do you mean "desires". In the prescriptive sense, He desires that no one sin. In the providential sense, He most certainly desires that they accomplish their wickedness (of which they are responsible) which will further His plan.

"Isn't it more deferential to God's holiness to say that God came upon the mess of the brothers' sinful hearts and then made something good out of it than to say that the greater of God's desires was for their hearts to be sinful?"

No, because a.) that's not what the text actually states and b.) that doesn't affect His holiness since He is not the one sinning or doing the tempting.

Also, didn't God know beforehand what the effect of giving the dreams to Joseph would do?

"But in Calvinism, the unregenerate will can only go one way and the regenerate will can only go another. Where there is inevitability, I'm not sure "freely" retains any meaning."

There's a bit more to Calvinistic free-will than that (i.e. semi-compatibilism rather than hard determinism), but I'm sure that Paul and Victor have already beat that one to death.

Saint and Sinner said...

"Sure, but God's allowance of sins in order to direct them to a good end need not mean that he desires his creatures to be sinful."

Put another way, did God WANT (or "desire") that Job's family be killed, lose his fortune, lose his health, and his wife leave him?

In one sense, hell no!

In another sense, the text states specifically that God gave Job into Satan's power (Job 1:12). Why? So, that God may be glorified in the love and obedience of His servants toward Him (contrary to Satan's statements in 1:9-11).

Paul Manata said...

Hi Darek,

"In speaking about those who do not respond to the offer of repentance, let's say that God both desires them to repent and desires them not to repent."

So you mean God preceptively desires them to repent and decretively desires them not to?

"You don't think that these desires are equally weighted, do you?"

Why not? God gives full weight to his decree and to his precepts.

For example, God fully wants no men to murder innocent people.

But, in order to save man, God decreed the death of Jesus (from the foundation of the world). He fully wanted this.

The proof that we have equal weight is that God held the murderers fully accountable for a murder.

Examples could be multiplied.

"As best I understand it, Calvinism would say that what actually occurs reflects the stronger or more effective [insert specialized theological term as needed] of God's desires."

What *actually* occurs doesn't have anything to do with what *ought* to have occurred. You're begging questions against reformed categories.

And, Calvinists only claim that it is the *outcome* of the decree that God wanted. You're confusing parts and whole. God has a good reason for the evil he allows. So, he ultimately wants the end he will bring. That doesn't mean he likes the parts.

"But surely to say that God desires anyone's continued sin seems to conflict with the proposition that God absolutely hates sin."

Hating sin is a moral category (holiness, righteousness). So in this case, preceptive matches God's moral nature.

"God may desire to reveal someone's sin and make it plain to all. Or God may desire that, given a person's persistence in sin, the sin's effects be redirected toward a good end. But those interpretations allow us to exclude God's desire for the sinfulness to be there."

I can exclude God's desire for sin not to be there, preceptively.

In the other sense, the *desire* isn't sinful. So God has no evil intentions. It is a decree for bringing about the greatest good. Indeed, without decreeing to willingly permit the fall, God could not have decreed Jesus' atonement, and thus God could not have brought about "the greatest love" (i.e., a man lay down his life for his friends).

"For example, I have a hard time with the claim that God wanted Joseph's brothers to hate him."

I have a hard time with a lot of the Bible. That's what happens when we take a religion that is revealed to us as a unit by a God whose thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. God's not in the business of giving us an "easy" revelation. Otherwise, why reveal the Trinity and the Hypostatic union? Indeed, if you hold to inerrancy, most libertarians have a "hard time" seeing how God could guarantee an inerrant word given men wrote freely (i.e., the dictation theory is false).

"All who were called to follow Jesus had to repent."

As Acts 17 says, all men whatever are commanded to repent. Even those God *knows* will not.

"So when Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up his possessions, he was asking him to repent of his trust in his possessions. But the young ruler did not repent. Does this mean that Jesus desired the man's continued sin more than he desired the man's repentance? I doubt it."

Decretively or preceptively? It's alright for you not to like or agree with our doctrine, but you can't beg questions against it. (And, all you know is that the rich young ruler didn't repent *then*).

"For one thing, Scripture tells us that Jesus felt love for the young man (Mark 10:21).

Could the love that Jesus had for the young ruler--love that was rejected--be related to the love of John 3:16? Is there any connection at all between the two?"


a) Again, we don't know if the rich young ruler ever ended up trusting in Jesus.

b) It could be related. See above for how we have argued for how "world" should be best understood in Johannine thought, though.

Dr. R. S. Clark points out:

“Before God's will is revealed in Scripture or actuated in the history of salvation or providence, no human knows what God has decreed from all eternity. Therefore it is cupidity to try to guess what God's secret will before it is realized in history. Nevertheless, God reveals that he has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, and he even sometimes reveals exactly what he has decreed before it happens (e.g., Deut 28 and 30). These declarations of what will transpire do not mean that God is unable to also make moral demands upon his creature, even though the future is predestined (e.g., Deut 30:19), even when the moral demands seem to contradict what we know from Scripture to be his decree. It is because of this tension between God as he is in himself (in se) and as he is toward us (erga nos) that theology distinguishes between God's decretive and preceptive or moral will.

This distinction between God revealed (Deus revelatus) and God hidden (Deus absconditus) has a long history in Christian theology.”

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

>>So you mean God preceptively desires them to repent and decretively desires them not to?<<

No, I think you mean that. Your contention (correct me if I am wrong) is that it is biblical to say that God desires sin to occur, wills sin to occur, and approves of sin when it occurs as long as we insert the word "decretively" before the aforesaid.

Since God does not insert the word "preceptively" before declaring that he hates lawlessness, loves righteousness, that he is holy, etc., nor does he quickly add that "decretively" it is a whole different story, I think you are supplying huge interpretive qualification where I would fear to tread.

>>For example, God fully wants no men to murder innocent people.

But, in order to save man, God decreed the death of Jesus (from the foundation of the world). He fully wanted this.<<

Did he fully want the evil-heartedness and sin that led to the crucifixion? Or rather, given that evil, did he want the supremely loving answer to it represented by the sacrifice of his Son?

>>The proof that we have equal weight is that God held the murderers fully accountable for a murder.<<

Except those whom he did not because they repented and put faith in Christ, I'm sure you mean.

>>And, Calvinists only claim that it is the *outcome* of the decree that God wanted.<<

Wanted preceptively or decretively? Decretively, I'm guessing.

>>You're confusing parts and whole. God has a good reason for the evil he allows. So, he ultimately wants the end he will bring. That doesn't mean he likes the parts.<<

Well, we're getting closer to agreement here, but a bit farther from what I understood your position to be. God decreed not merely the whole but the parts. He decreed the means as well as the end. If I understand you correctly, decretively he wanted all of it, parts as well as whole, means as well as end. Decretively he likes it all perfectly well, preceptively he doesn't like the sin and evil parts. Otherwise, there's less to disagree about ;)

>>I have a hard time with a lot of the Bible. That's what happens when we take a religion that is revealed to us as a unit by a God whose thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways.<<

Notice, I said I had a hard time with the claim that God wanted Joseph's brothers to hate him, given what the Bible says about God's attitude toward sin. But the Bible doesn't say that God wanted them to hate him, it says that God intended the hate toward a good end. Did God foresee their hatred, allow it, and direct it toward his own ends? Yes, and if that is all it means to say he "wanted it decretively" then maybe it just amounts to the terms we prefer using.

In consideration of God's holiness I hesitate to say God "wants" or "desires" sin in some way, nor do I believe Scripture ever puts it exactly that way.

The sins of Israel grieved God's holy Spirit (Isa 63:10), but I doubt that either of us wants to say he was grieved preceptively but pleased decretively.

The context of the statement that God's ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55) is that God's capacity to forgive and his compassion are so wide and great, not so narrow and cramped (cf. 2 Sam 24:14). In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the grumblers complain about the generosity of the master, not his stinginess.

>>In the other sense, the *desire* isn't sinful. So God has no evil intentions. It is a decree for bringing about the greatest good. Indeed, without decreeing to willingly permit the fall,<<

You put "desire" in quotes. Maybe "desire" is not appropriate? Perhaps God can decree without desiring? "God has no evil intentions," meaning, God can decree evil without intending it?

By "Decreeing to willingly permit the fall" I think you mean "decreeing to permit Adam to fall willingly." Either way it's a mouthful. Why not just "decretively willing Adam to fall"? It seems to me that you are using these other words to put a buffer between God and the sin of the fall. I applaud the effort. Maybe it's as much agreement as we can expect on this.

>>"All who were called to follow Jesus had to repent."

As Acts 17 says, all men whatever are commanded to repent. Even those God *knows* will not.<<

By saying all who followed Jesus had to repent, I was merely saying that in calling the young ruler to follow him Jesus was implicitly calling him to repent. Of course God knows not all will heed the call to repent.

>>a) Again, we don't know if the rich young ruler ever ended up trusting in Jesus.<<

The account gives us sufficient information to learn the point that the holy Spirit, through the evangelist, wants to teach us.
This scripture just doesn't lend itself to a Calvinistic interpretation, but one scripture seldom settles anything.

I've probably flogged this long enough.

We could really get going if I gave my objections to the use of Rom 9 to support unconditional election, but I don't have the time and energy, nor does this blog have the space!

Rob Grano said...

“Of course, this is completely duplicitous. If Robert could win the argument fair and square on scriptural grounds alone, he wouldn’t need to take refuge in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience.”

Which statement, of course, presupposes that the only way to win a theological argument "fair and square" is on scriptural grounds alone. Sts. Irenaeus, Athananius, Basil, Chrysostom, etc., call your respective offices.

"To quote Alister McGrath..."

Who is simply wrong. He needs to read Pelikan's works, especially "Christianity and Classical Culture." And if he's read them already he needs to do so again. The old "patristic-writers-were-more-Hellenistic-than-Biblical" dog won't hunt anymore, given the work of Pelikan, John Behr, Andrew Louth, etc. In addition, it presupposes a Reformed Protestant-rooted "development of doctrine" notion that Catholics, Orthodox, and Wesleyan Christians reject.

Besides, if what McGrath says is true, why is Augustine miraculously excluded from this criticism, as if he and his followers somehow managed to avoid being tainted by Hellenistic thought? To argue that Augustine's thought reflects NO Hellenism is ridiculous, and to argue that it reflects only the "good" aspects of Hellenic thought is to beg the question.

normajean said...

Darek, many thanks for your thoughts once again. In the past, I've enjoyed your mind body stuff; I now enjoy your philosotheological insight. Blessings,

norma

Saint and Sinner said...

"Who is simply wrong. He needs to read Pelikan's works, especially "Christianity and Classical Culture." And if he's read them already he needs to do so again. The old "patristic-writers-were-more-Hellenistic-than-Biblical" dog won't hunt anymore, given the work of Pelikan, John Behr, Andrew Louth, etc. In addition, it presupposes a Reformed Protestant-rooted "development of doctrine" notion that Catholics, Orthodox, and Wesleyan Christians reject."

Answer:
He has read Pelikan, I assure you. Pelikan most certainly disproved Harnack. The church fathers were not so influenced by Greco-Roman culture that they were more Greek than Christian.

But Pelikan was and is not the last word on the subject. There is little doubt that the church fathers were influenced in significant ways by a Greek philosophical ontology.

The influence was not total, but it was there. For instance Justin Martyr's work on free-will had but one citation of Scripture in it, and the rest of the work was filled with the standard philosophical arguments against astral fatalisms that could be found in Plato and Philo.

It's simply not enough to declare that the early fathers "baptized" Plato.

"In addition, it presupposes a Reformed Protestant-rooted "development of doctrine" notion that Catholics, Orthodox, and Wesleyan Christians reject."

Well, if it presupposes that, then you are obviously also begging the question against our development framework by appealing to your own historical theology framework. [BTW: Many Roman Catholics accept the development of doctrine.]

"Besides, if what McGrath says is true, why is Augustine miraculously excluded from this criticism, as if he and his followers somehow managed to avoid being tainted by Hellenistic thought?"

Actually, he doesn't exempt Augustine.

steve said...

rob grano said...

“Which statement, of course, presupposes that the only way to win a theological argument ‘fair and square’ is on scriptural grounds alone. Sts. Irenaeus, Athananius, Basil, Chrysostom, etc., call your respective offices.”

And you reject Sola Scriptura because you’re Roman Catholic, right? I’m not. Neither is Reppert.

Of course, it’s not as if the Greek Fathers were Roman Catholic either.

Paul Manata said...

Hi Darek,

"No, I think you mean that. Your contention (correct me if I am wrong) is that it is biblical to say that God desires sin to occur, wills sin to occur, and approves of sin when it occurs as long as we insert the word "decretively" before the aforesaid."

Well I said that because I was supposing you didn't want to beg any questions against us. I assume I was not wrong in that supposition. So, either you mean it, or you use questionable, question begging terminology.

Second, I only use these distinctions when an objector brings up a problem. Surely you know that this is a fairly common practice. Indeed, it's pretty much the history of Christian theology.

"Since God does not insert the word "preceptively" before declaring that he hates lawlessness, loves righteousness, that he is holy, etc., nor does he quickly add that "decretively" it is a whole different story, I think you are supplying huge interpretive qualification where I would fear to tread."

This is oversimplified and misleading. Theologians use all sorts of terms, make all sorts of qualifications, etc., by employing *terms* not found explicitly stated in the Bible. We are giving *terms* to the *meanings* we find expressed.

You're objection here strikes me as about as good as if an Arian/Monophysite/Nestorian et al. had said:

Since God does not insert the term "with respect to his human nature" before declaring Jesus grew in knowledge, was *located* in Jerusalem, etc., nor does he quickly add that "with respect to his divine nature" when speaking of his acts of omniscience, it is a whole different story, I think you are supplying huge interpretive qualification where I would fear to tread.

"Did he fully want the evil-heartedness and sin that led to the crucifixion? Or rather, given that evil, did he want the supremely loving answer to it represented by the sacrifice of his Son?"

Again, so you don't beg any questions (cause you keep doing it), I assume you mean this in the *decretive* sense? Yes, he fully "wanted" that since he fully wanted to save men through Christ.

Also, the *text* clearly says that Jesus' death was *decreed* and *foreordained* or *planed* before the foundation of the world.

So, the only way that Jesus (saving) death could be brought about was through *murder*. Hence, God fully decreed murder. And, he fully gives precepts which prohibit it.

"Except those whom he did not because they repented and put faith in Christ, I'm sure you mean."

In a blog comments section I'm assuming you will fill in the necessary *obvious* qualifications.

Your comment would be like me saying:

*Assuming* that any did, in fact, come to Christ.

If none did, then my comment goes through.

"Wanted preceptively or decretively? Decretively, I'm guessing."

Well, yeah. God never gives moral precepts allowing murder.

"Well, we're getting closer to agreement here, but a bit farther from what I understood your position to be."

Right. Because as you have stated, you haven't read my position and you also seem uninformed as to the Reformed distinctions on this matter.

"God decreed not merely the whole but the parts."

Right. For a good reason. The whole is good. That doesn't mean the parts are.

"If I understand you correctly, decretively he wanted all of it, parts as well as whole, means as well as end. Decretively he likes it all perfectly well, preceptively he doesn't like the sin and evil parts. Otherwise, there's less to disagree about ;)"

I wouldn't say that "decretively he _likes_ it." I don't use categories like that.

In Navy SEAL training we had a saying: you don't have to like it, you just have to do it. That S does X doesn't mean S likes X. That's just fallacious, Darek.

Anyway, for one statement from a reformed scholar:


“So does it follow from such knowing and willing permission of evil that the universe is in every detail as God intends it to be? This is an interesting question, but it is unclear as it stands. There is no reason to think that God intends the details of the universe separately; there is one divine will, which encompasses all events. It would be fallacious to suppose that the divine attitude is the same with respect to every detail of what God wills…As Aquinas put it, “God, and nature, and indeed every causal agent, does what is best overall, but not what is best in every part, except when the part is regarded in its relationship to the whole.” We may suppose that when God knowingly and willingly permits certain events he does so in furtherance of some wider consideration wholly consistent with his character with respect to which they are a logically necessary condition. And likewise some of those things which he causes are means to some further end. It is a fallacy to think that because some arrangement is wise, every detail of that arrangement, considered in isolation, is wise.” (J. Beilby & P. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (IVP 2001), 182.)

"Notice, I said I had a hard time with the claim that God wanted Joseph's brothers to hate him, given what the Bible says about God's attitude toward sin."

Darek, part of your problem is the emotionally loaded meaning you're giving to terms like "wanted."

"But the Bible doesn't say that God wanted them to hate him, it says that God intended the hate toward a good end."

If they didn't hate him and do what they did, then God's greater good wouldn't have been accomplished. God wants his greater good to be accomplished. So in that sense, he wanted them to hate him (sticking with your "wanting").

So, he had to want it in *some sense*. And this is what I have been saying. God decrees the evils because he wants the great good that he planned to bring out of the evils. Without the evils, the greater good doesn't happen.

Without the fall - no need for Jesus. No need for the instantiation of "greater love has no one than this." So, given that God is love, and given that God wants the greatest love to be brought about, God must, in some sense, want the means required to bring about that greatest love.

As you can see, then, my distinctions are fully Biblical, and actual required by the text. In my view, if God did not want the evils to occur IN ANY SENSE, then they would not have. My God is omnipotent and will allow nothing that he doesn’t want to allow in any sense of the term imaginable.

"Yes, and if that is all it means to say he "wanted it decretively" then maybe it just amounts to the terms we prefer using."

Well, maybe. As I said, my terms have a fairly long history.

All I'm doing now is defending your claim that I was "fudging."

You wanted to know if it was God's will that all men repent and if people ever denied that will.

My answer is that people deny the preceptive will all the time, never the decretive.

"In consideration of God's holiness I hesitate to say God "wants" or "desires" sin in some way, nor do I believe Scripture ever puts it exactly that way."

Darek, I was using *your* terms.

Furthermore, to deny that God desires or wants sin IN ANY WAY is just foreign to my ears. If I don't want something to happen IN ANY SENSE OF THE WORD, then I'll do my best to stop it. The difference between God and me is that God can actually prevent what he doesn't want (in any sense).

"The sins of Israel grieved God's holy Spirit (Isa 63:10), but I doubt that either of us wants to say he was grieved preceptively but pleased decretively."

God is "pleased" decretively because his plan is good.

The fall of Israel brought riches to the nations.

"You put "desire" in quotes. Maybe "desire" is not appropriate?"

Not “quotes,” *asterisks*.

""God has no evil intentions," meaning, God can decree evil without intending it?"

Darek, that's clearly an equivocation.

God can intend the evil he decrees with his intentions *being* evil.

"By "Decreeing to willingly permit the fall" I think you mean "decreeing to permit Adam to fall willingly." Either way it's a mouthful."

So is hypostatic union a mouthful. So is perichorisis. So is the archtypal/echtypal distinction. So are many terms and distinctions in philosophy.

And, no, I mean *willingly permit* not *Adam to fall willingly* (even though he did).

Willing permission is yet another one of the terms we've used for over a thousand years Darek.

It is meant to distinguish it from the *bare* (or mere) permission of Arminian theology.

"Why not just "decretively willing Adam to fall"? It seems to me that you are using these other words to put a buffer between God and the sin of the fall. I applaud the effort. Maybe it's as much agreement as we can expect on this."

I think much of this is uncharitable rhetoric. Employing question begging epithets under the guise of honest inquiry.

You ask, "Why not just "decretively willing Adam to fall?"

Because Arminians and atheists have required more qualification. I wouldn't say anything myself. I don't have a problem with any of it myself.

So, willing permission is to invoke the concept of negative governing rather than positive governing.

These things you could find out by studying our own works. This was part of Reppert's problem. He came in and attacked something he had clearly barely studied. That brought about all the troubles he had in the debate.

"By saying all who followed Jesus had to repent, I was merely saying that in calling the young ruler to follow him Jesus was implicitly calling him to repent. Of course God knows not all will heed the call to repent."

But why make a point about "implicit" calling of people to repentance? Since all men are, then a particular man's calling would be a natural deduction.

And, yes, God knows not all will repent. But yet he commands them to.

Even on your view, God decided to create a world, set it in motion, decree it, etc., where people would not repent. He still commands them to repent. Since God wanted this world, he obviously, in some sense, wanted a world where some men didn't repent, yet he also, in some sense, wants them to repent. Extrapolate this argument to fit any myriad of positions you may hold.

Seamless logic. :-)

"This scripture just doesn't lend itself to a Calvinistic interpretation, but one scripture seldom settles anything."

An assertion unsupported by your *arguments*. Supported by your Arminian preconceptions, to be sure.

"I've probably flogged this long enough.

We could really get going if I gave my objections to the use of Rom 9 to support unconditional election, but I don't have the time and energy, nor does this blog have the space!"


I'm sure we could get going.

Here's a post where I offer resources for understanding the Calvinist argument from Rom. 9

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

I'm sure you'd agree that it is best to really know a interlocutor's position before critiquing it.

Best,

PM

Paul Manata said...

I wrote: God can intend the evil he decrees with his intentions *being* evil.

I meant: God can intend the evil he decrees withOUT his intentions *being* evil.

normajean said...

It's good to know we ALL philosophize biblical texts we know are not nearly as explicit as we pretend them to be. I thought Arminians only did that - *shrug* learn something new everyday.

normajean said...

Paul, have you read the Asbury crew on Romans? They're pretty good.

Darek Barefoot said...

Paul

I've read Luther's _The Bondage of the Will_, the Westminster Confession, and excerpts of Calvin in various articles pro and con over the years. It still seems to me that understanding the putative scriptural basis of each TULIP point according to such historical documents gives the essentials of your position. To the extent that I've fallen short in knowing some of the specialized terms, I will do my best to measure up in future.

I think it is also important to be able to translate or restate formal theological terms in ordinary language to flesh out their full implications. That's not an exercise in insincerety.

>>"We may suppose that when God knowingly and willingly permits certain events he does so in furtherance of some wider consideration wholly consistent with his character with respect to which they are a logically necessary condition."<<

True. That sin, suffering, and damnation are logical necessities of bringing forth a free and glorious new creation is certainly my position and, I believe, Victor's. Exactly how the nature of choice (Josh 24:15) figures into this logical necessity is, as far as I can tell, the bone of contention. Hence my mention of unconditional election at the end of my last post.

I went and dutifully read most of the articles on Romans 9 that you listed above, skipping only over obvious repititions and items about corporate election that are of little relevance one way or the other. I'll offer a response and try to be as brief as possible.

In Romans Paul is tackling the issue of how God can bless the Gentiles apart from their meritorious keeping of the Law. This is utterly contrary to Jewish assumptions. The Gentiles believers have faith in Christ, but faith is not a meritorious work of the Law. Paul goes back to Abraham. God justified Abraham because of Abraham's faith in the promise. How could God do that? His sovereign grace. Faith is not a meritorious work. It does not earn anything. It underwrites no claim against God. God simply exercises his sovereignty to justify the man of faith. And since faith is not meritorious, the man of faith can do no boasting (Rom 3:27).

But Paul wants to trace a line of faith "descent" that does not correspond in lock step with fleshly descent, with obvious implications for Gentile inclusion. He had a clear proof text to show that God justified Abraham as a man of faith, but he did not have as clear a text for the descendant of Abraham whose name became synomymous with the blessing: Jacob/Israel. By the time we get to Romans 9, Paul has established just two routes to justification. You can hypothetically earn it through meritorious works of the Law (though no one actually did, save Christ) or God can sovereignly bestow it on you (through Christ) as a man of faith, as with Abraham.

So if Paul can show that someone is blessed apart from meritorious works of Law, then the sovereign grace upon faith must be at work--there are just no other possibilities in Paul's thinking. He finds that he can do that in the case of Jacob. God blessed Jacob before he had even been born, and this proves that meritorious works cannot be the reason. Why? It's in the nature of the figure Paul has drawn upon earlier, that of contractual earning. If you do the meritorious works, you can get "paid" your blessing. When does a contract worker get paid? AFTER he does the work. We see this principle in the vineyard parable--work first, then payment--as well as, not coincidentally, the sovereign choice of the master to dispose of his wealth as he pleases (Matt 20:1-16).

By making known the blessing upon Jacob in advance, God removes the possibility of a basis in meritorious works. Therefore the blessing upon Jacob is God's sovereign grace toward a man of faith. Can this be due to foresight of Jacob's faith? Paul doesn't say, but it's a reasonable interpretation. Paul mentions God's foresight of the Gentiles' faith in a similar context in Galatians 3:8.

God's blessing does not "depend" upon the one wishing or running, because merely "wishing" or "willing" is not a meritorious work of the Law. "Willing" without performance makes no claim on God. Paul has shown in chapter 7 that the man who merely wishes or wills but cannot perform is lost (7:18, 24). And the "running" will always fall short, as the case of fleshly Israel demonstrates (9:31-32).

God exercises his sovereign right to harden whom he chooses--the proud and arrogant (Mk 4:25; Jn 15:24; Jas 4:6)--and exalt the humble faithful (Matt 3:9; 18:4).

Unconditional election in the Calvinistic sense is not required for any of this to make sense. Paul writes from the viewpoint of the absolute unmeritoriousness of faith, which seems to be widely overlooked in most treatments of Rom 9 that I have seen.

Joel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Grano said...

"And you reject Sola Scriptura because you’re Roman Catholic, right? I’m not. Neither is Reppert."

Actually, I rejected sola scriptura while still an evangelical Protestant. I became Orthodox eventually, but it took about four years of continued reading and study. In any case, my beef with Calvinism isn't primarily over sola scriptura, but with the exegetical hubris that Calvinists tend to manifest related to the supposed invincibility of their system. In fact the system is viewed as invincible only because it is viciously circular. It posits something along the lines of "Based on historical/grammatical exegesis of Scripture alone we conclude that the only way one can attain to theological truth is by historical/grammatical exegesis of Scripture alone."

This is not your standard sola scriptura argument but something far more theological insular. Calvinists have built for themselves a sort of theological/ideological box through which no counterarguments, however valid, are allowed to pass, because ultimately the box is the thing. In this sense, debating Calvinists is akin to debating Mormons and JW's -- not only are they unable to remove their Calvinist lenses while engaging in debate, they fully expect their opponents to put a pair on.