Thursday, August 06, 2009

Do Arminians claim that the Calvinistic God is the Devil?

I think some of the angry responses on the part of Calvinists to Arminians has to do with the moral objection to Calvinism that Arminians often use, which sometimes is expressed by the claim that the Calvinistic God is as bad or worse than the devil.

This is tricky and something I should probably address. I take it Calvinists say that the actions of Satan are predestined before the foundation of the world by God. That being the case, if you buy into the kind of incompatibilist theory of moral responsibility that an Arminian typically does (responsibility is traceable to the originating cause), then God is responsible for everything the devil does. Given this picture of things (and an Arminian might agree with Kant that compatibilism is a "wretched subterfuge"),

Now Calvinists think that intermediate causal agents are responsible for their actions, and, at the same time, God does have a good reason for predestining Satan to perform all the evil actions he performs, including those actions which cause people to sin their way into hell. So, God is in the clear, and Satan is not.

Working from their own understanding of moral responsibility, it is easy to see why Arminians can end up saying "Your God is the devil." The Wesleys did that, and it cost them their friendship with Whitefield. Put thus, the objection puts the Calvinist's back up, and things tend to get acrimonious from there.

Maybe the Arminian should say "Given our understanding of who is responsible for what, an understanding we consider to be the fact of the matter, the Calvinistic God turns out to be as bad as the devil." I think that is not quite the same as saying "Your God is the devil."

As strongly as I object to Calvinism, I see no good reason to suppose that Calvinists did not come to be Calvinists out of a Berean intent to search the Scriptures to see if these things are true. Of course there are psychological motives on all sides that are not transparent even to ourselves, but I have no more reason to doubt a Calvinist's account of why he is a Calvinists as I am to doubt an Arminian's account of why he is an Arminian.

118 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I have no more reason to doubt a Calvinist's account of why he is a Calvinists as I am to doubt an Arminian's account of why he is an Arminian.

But there's a bit of a disparity here, isn't there? I haven't met an Arminian yet who is willing to give up his libertarian assumptions when he comes to the Bible. But if you ask him to show where Scripture teaches libertarian free will, he can't. He just takes it as implicit. Or he points to places where people make choices, as if this proves a libertarian action theory. So Arminians, by their own admission, are Arminian not because of what Scripture says, but in fact because of their philosophical commitments.

Calvinists, on the other hand, are typically the opposite. Indeed, most Calvinists I know are strongly sympathetic to libertarian theories of the will, and treat them as intuitively obvious. It is only because Scripture openly and obviously contradicts such theories that these people are Calvinists at all. One merely needs to point to God's use of Pharaoh in Exodus—hardening his heart so that he would sin, while still holding him accountable for that sin—to see that libertarian action theory is false and unbiblical. So Calvinists, in contrast to Arminians, are Calvinists because of what Scripture says, despite any philosophical commitments they have.

Frankly, I find your deigning to believe that Calvinist are really arriving at their position by studying the Scriptures both ironic and hypocritical.

Gordon Knight said...

If we take the "hardening of the heart" passage at face value, it is presented as the *exception* rather than the rule. So I don't see how this passage, however interpreted, demonstrates LFW is unbiblical. If we are all hardened one way or another, why is Pharoah a special case?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Hi Gordon. It doesn't matter if this is an exception or not—the case against libertarianism, and for compatibilism, is still proved. Arminians say that we can't be held morally accountable for actions we didn't libertarianly choose. But Scripture gives us an example where Pharaoh is held accountable for actions he didn't libertarianly choose. So, even if this isn't normative, the objection against a compatibilist view of the will still collapses—as does any argument for a libertarian action theory which relies on maintaining moral accountability. That's what's at issue here; viz, "Given our understanding of who is responsible for what, an understanding we consider to be the fact of the matter, the Calvinistic God turns out to be as bad as the devil."

Given the example of Pharaoh, the Arminian case is just unsustainable. Or, if the Arminian thinks it is sustainable,then by his own standards God is as bad as the devil in his dealings with Pharaoh. Does that just make God occasionally evil under the Arminian view? Is this okay? I mean, what does it take for Arminians to realize that the reason they think God is the devil is because they are judging him according to the devil's standards?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the more reasonable conclusion that both the Calvinist and the Arminian are wrong? The Arminian's view of freedom and responsibility is unbiblical, and the Calvinist's view of freedom, responsibility, and divine sovereignty entail that God is a devil; therefore, biblical theism is false.

normajean said...

Perhaps we read these texts poorly or too westernly. One theologian explains: “In Hebrew thought they have this extraordinarily strong sense of divine sovereignty in which everything that happens in a sense can be attributed to God. But they don’t see this as antithetical or exclusive of human freedom by any means. A beautiful illustration of this is the story of Saul’s suicide in 2 Samuel and Chronicles. In Samuel it describes Saul as he sees the Philistines about to take him and so in order to avoid capture by the Philistines Saul falls on his own sword and commits suicide. In the Chronicles account we have the same story with Saul committing suicide but the Chronicler adds this commentary, “thus the Lord slew Saul” (1 Chronicles 10:14).”

And so there is a sense that both Saul and God are responsible for the suicide – Saul more directly of course. Part of this Jewish manner seems to be an understanding of God’s directive will (a will in which he is the effective cause of an event) and a permissive will (a will in which he permits the acts of his creation).

There are countless Jewish examples of this in scripture. We might remember the Joseph story where he acknowledges both the will of men and God. And I quote, “”As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50:20). I don’t think we want to interpret a Jewish understanding of sovereignty in such a way as to obliterate human free agency thereby relieving men from responsibility. The Jews didn’t, why should we? Joseph seemed to understand that it was his brothers who sold him into slavery but that God used it for a greater purpose.

Aaron Snell said...

normajean,

“In Hebrew thought they have this extraordinarily strong sense of divine sovereignty in which everything that happens in a sense can be attributed to God. But they don’t see this as antithetical or exclusive of human freedom by any means."

This is exactly what Calvinism teaches. The "Hebrew" view you quoted is the Calvinist view (for example, see here, specifically chapters II and V).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the interesting answer Dominic Bnonn Tennant.

I'm not familiar with the story, what happened to the Pharaoh? Is it clear from the text that what happened to him happened as a result of him violating his moral duties? Did god determine his actions in a general way for a certain time or was it a single action?

I agree with Gordon Knight that this passage suggest we have libertarian free will under normal circumstances. Why should god have to "harden his heart" if he fixed all his actions anyway? And if "hardening his heart" refers to the act of creating pharao, then why is it mentioned in this particular text but not in others?

I'm also quite sceptical about reading straightforward metaphysical truths out of the bible. Is the Calvinist doing justice to the bible and the people who wrote it if he bases his theory of responsibility upon this passage?

normajean said...

What I wrote doesn't preclude LFW. If the nominal Calvinist agrees, then so much the better =)

normajean said...

Aaron, I noticed that my second paragraph was unclear (that's what I get for copy pasting). When I wrote that there is God's directive and permissive will, I meant that in these cases, God is seen to permit not direct the events of men. But for a Jew, God still remains responsible since it is He who allows the events to obtain. Here again, freedom or LFW isn't eliminated.

Kyle said...

The trick for a lot of Calvinists is to make a clear distinction between the concepts of predestination in terms of election and providence, vs. fate. Predestination that amounts to fate is more of a Muslim belief than a Christian one, and yes, Allah is surely the devil.

I'm happy to call myself a Calvinist, so long as I'm allowed to insist that predestination is limited to incidents of providence (though there be many) and election. Go any further, and I start to turn Arminian again.

mattghg said...

I haven't met an Arminian yet who is willing to give up his libertarian assumptions when he comes to the Bible [...] So Arminians, by their own admission, are Arminian not because of what Scripture says, but in fact because of their philosophical commitments.

Bit of a jump there, Bnonn. You presumably have met Arminians who are Arminian because (in their view at least) Scripture teaches that limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints are false?

Am I the only one who thinks that the questions of LFW vs compatibilism and Arminianism vs Calvinism are partially dissociable, at least in principle?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

mattghg, obviously I haven't put the question to every Arminian I've met. But the ones to whom I have put the question made it clear that their commitment to libertarian freedom was the overriding factor behind their rejection of the doctrines you mention. In other words, a priori Scripture can't teach those doctrines, because that would be unjust on libertarian assumptions—therefore, it does not teach them. "Whatever it says, it can't teach that!"

I have also met Arminians who are so committed to libertarian freedom that, when pressed by the logic of their position, they admit they'd be willing give up doctrines like God's knowledge of counterfactual free choices rather than their commitment to libertarian freedom. (For the logic, see, eg here.) This is why I argue that open theism is merely consistent Arminianism.

Anonymous said...

When God hardens Pharoah's heart, does he literally reach in and start monkeying with Pharoah's emotions and reasoning, or is it something more subtle than that?

Jason Pratt said...

{{As strongly as I object to Calvinism, I see no good reason to suppose that Calvinists did not come to be Calvinists out of a Berean intent to search the Scriptures to see if these things are true.}}

Agreed. Or at least out of an honest misunderstanding of portions of scripture which seem to be confirmed by finding further testimony.


Regarding Pharaoh: there is a running theme in the OT and NT both, to the effect that when people insist on making a choice wrongly, God may choose on His side of things to confirm them in that choice for a time in order to work out story details (so to speak). The Mosaic Pharaoh was already on the path by his own choice; God made sure he stayed on it despite flipflops.

It should be noted, though, that at the time of Christ (and afterward for several centuries at least) the rabbis were teaching (as is still found in the Talmud) that after the wipeout of the chariots, God stopped hardening Pharaoh's heart; at which time he gave glory to God and left behind his throne to wander the land as a penitent until he became the ruler of Ninevah. Consequently, when Jonah arrived generations later, either the same Pharaoh was still in place (being miraculously preserved) or his descendants had been warned to repent when given the opportunity. Thus the rabbis explained (as a sort of creative speculation) why the ruler of Ninevah was so willing to so quickly lead his city in a penitential reformation at the facetiously (and even rebelliously) minimal preaching of Jonah.

(Not exactly a 'biblical' explanation, so far as I've ever heard; and certainly not one with a shred of historical credence, though that was never the point to the rabbinic midrash on it. But once one knows this data is in the cultural background, it isn't hard to see a reference to it in Rom 9! Which wouldn't require St. Paul to be vouching for the historicity of it, either, only appealing to it in principle.)


More importantly, any notion of hardening the heart of a person either directly undermines the popular Calvinist retort that God isn't personally responsible for the iniquity of the non-elect (thus is Himself a doer of final and permanent iniquity not merely an allower of temporary injustice until He can accomplish rectification); or else it directly indicates that the person in question was not in fact non-elect after all: the hardening is a comparative with a prior state of having a choice, but a person can only have a choice to do good or evil if he is given the ability to seek the good by God through means of the Holy Spirit.

But that is a privilege vouchsafed only to the elect, in Calvinism.

(If God empowers a person to seek righteousness, then they could be expected to be eventually saved from sin, reconciled with God and redeemed, thanks to divine perseverance--even if, like King David or St. Peter, they sometimes choose the evil instead of the good and even grievously so. Much of the point to Calvinism is to reassure Christians that their salvation cannot be lost but is graciously assured while explaining how and to some extent why some people nevertheless are hopelessly damned instead. A theology which, not incidentally, is just as dependent on the application of philosophical commitments, as Arm or Kath soteriologies. There is no hard and fast distinction between believing due to 'what Scripture says' and due believing to logical commitments which transcend any set of data.)

Whether a Calvinist will want to acknowledge divine perseverance of salvation for "God hardened" villains, is another question. {s} There is, however, some obvious Biblical precedent for at least some God hardened villains being in fact saved by God. (Joseph's brothers being the recently relevant example.)

JRP

Anonymous said...

I was preordained to be an Arminian.

Jason Pratt said...

Sadly, some Calvinists would translate that to "being non-elect". {s}

But not all Calvinists would, thank God.

(Despite the opposition between Wesley and Whitefield, which ruined their operating friendship 'here below', they both continued to think very highly of one another as Christians. Whitefield believed Wesley was clearly of the elect; Wesley preached Whitefield's funeral sermon. Their opposition is illustrative in many ways, for better as well as for worse. {s!})

JRP

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

"Sadly, some Calvinists would translate that to 'being non-elect. {s}"

Name some.

Mike Darus said...

One observation to which there seems to be no exception:

Calvinists cannot state the Arminian position correctly and likewise, Arminians cannot state the Calvinist position correctly (Victor is the worst). It seems that in a real philosophical discussion, this would be the best place to start.

Another point: There is not a single Calvinist doctrine. There are many variations. Not all Calvinists believe that God preordained everything. To elect those who will be saved, God does not need to decide when every leaf should fall.

normajean said...

Again, WESTERNERS and all else should stop reading these texts with the crappy hermeneutic, "it means what it says, says what it means." The wooden literalist may be frightened, but these texts (the so-called Calvi proof ones) do not frighten me one bit =)

normajean said...

Again, WESTERNERS and all else should stop reading these texts with the crappy hermeneutic, "it means what it says, says what it means." The wooden literalist may be frightened, but these texts (the so-called Calvi proof ones) do not frighten me one bit =)

Joshua said...

Some prominent Calvinist theologians have directly stated that God is the author of sin, so one cannot say that this is simply an Arminian slur.

However, it is important to note that not all Calvinists would agree with the idea that God is the author of sin.

steve said...

Joshua said...

"Some prominent Calvinist theologians have directly stated that God is the author of sin, so one cannot say that this is simply an Arminian slur."

Name the prominent Reformed theologians (plural) who have done that. Supply quotes, citations, &c.

Jason Pratt said...

Roughly 15 years ago, a group of pastors in the Southern Baptist convention decided that they should reform the prevelant Arminianism among SBC churches and restore (or create) a presbyter-supported authoritative hierarchy in individual congregations; as well as reforming the congregations to Calvin’s version of Reformation theology.

The imposition of hierarchical authority was important as a tool of ensuring that the theological reformations would also occur and stay in place. So the strategy agreed to by these men, was to dissolve the deaconate body and authoritatively appoint (from their positions as pastor) a set of ‘elders’ whom they could trust to, basically, toe the line and rubber-stamp whatever else the pastor wanted to do in the church. Appeals to scripture were made in order to convince the congregations to allow this without firing the pastor, and those who questioned the propriety of this initial move were warned that to oppose this would be the same as opposing God Himself (since in the very Word of God it said this was supposed to be done, etc.)

This first stage in the strategy was very important, and if the pastor couldn’t pull it off then he had to be prepared to resign and move to a more ‘reformable’ church. (More to the point, if he didn’t pull it off the congregation would probably vote to kick him out and find someone else!)

Once the deaconate body had been hierarchically ‘reformed’, the second stage was to begin heavily preaching Calvin’s version of Protestant reformation theology. Not necessarily so bad in itself; but in order for the ‘reformation’ of the church to be complete, dissenters in the congregation had to be weeded out; first from the deaconate of course (which would have already been done by this point), then from teaching positions.

Had the process stopped there, it might have been merely sad or distressing for those in the congregation who believed the particularly Calvinistic portions of the doctrine were in error; they could have continued to attend a church where they strongly disagreed with what was being taught, or they could move somewhere else. And after all, leaders of a congregation do have a responsibility to ensure that subordinate leaders are in doctrinal unity insofar as possible; otherwise the congregation will not be providing a unified witness.

However... (part 2 coming up. {wry s})

Jason Pratt said...

However: in order to completely ensure solidarity and the removal of doubt in these doctrines among any remaining members, pastors in this group (and this was part of the strategy, too, from the beginning) were to eventually paint dissenters, whether they left or stayed, as intransigent rebels against God. Any apparent doctrinal fidelity was a Satanic sham; any apparent agreements they might try to make in communion with the new hierarchy was a Satanic sham; any apparent fruits of the Holy Spirit they might be manifesting were Satanic counterfeits.

The point to this final stage of the strategy was to re-position any real opposition against the pastor among the church as being something that ‘the elect’ would never do, and to re-position any departures as an active expulsion of the ones departing from among the congregation of ‘the elect’, separating the wheat from the tares as it were. (For those who aren’t aware, tares look much like wheat until they mature whereupon they show noxious and even poisonous fruit instead of wholesome grains.)

The the ‘reformation’ of the congregation would be completed.

I know for a fact that this happened for a period of time on some limited scale roughly 15 years ago, because I know a family who lost their longtime family church in Arkansas this way. I and my family learned about it after the third and final stage was well underway; the ones being finally denigrated as reprobates (in the Calvinistic sense), because of their Arminianism, had been shocked and worried about the slower processive stages prior to that point, and so had done some research to find out just where this pastor was getting his ideas from. (They found a public position statement for the group on the internet presenting the strategy, in somewhat softer sounding terms, for any pastors to consider who wished to join the coalition. Unfortunately I can no longer find it on the net for reference; but I hope this means the strategy has been quietly killed off and is no longer being promoted.) Along the way this family found other churches who had recently suffered the same excoriation of the ‘non-elect’. But they themselves found out too late to do anything about it.

I was called in after the fact, to evaluate whether our own pastor at the time, who had signed a petition being in support of the group, was about to run the same strategy in our own church. Fortunately, he showed no indication of trying to establish the first step, the dissolving of the deaconate and the executive appointment of elders, although his autocratic tendencies made my family extremely watchful that this would be attempted.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The Bible seems insufficient basis to answer the question, to claim one example proves the general case is strange even via fundamentalist exegesis. (Unless the claim is that there is one example of X in the bible, but obviously that doesn't establish that X is always the case!).

Jason Pratt said...

Examples of this attitude (if not this particular strategy of congregational ‘reformation’) can be multiplied; though thank God they seem to be relatively rare.

Augustus Toplady compares Wesley to Satan and to the Pharisees condemned by Christ in the Temple, and declares that Arminianism leads back to the pit from which it came (along with Roman Catholicism). I do not personally know many Calvinists who would consider those Pharisees and Satan as being among the elect.

Christopher Ness writes of Arminianism coming from the mouth of Satan intending to carry the whole church away with him by flooding the church with it. So, how many of the elect in the church do Calvinists expect to end up in hell with Satan? A few? Many? Some indeterminate amount? I had understood the number to be ‘zero’.

Dr. C. Matthew MacMahon, writing his introduction to the life and beliefs of James Arminius, while refusing to consider all Arminians non-elect, insists "It is a deceiving doctrine of demons wrought up from the pit of hell, where, in the consummation of the age, it will be cast for all eternity with the devil that spawned it and the false teachers who propagated it." Those who may accidentally hold it out of being misled, may still be of the elect (he allows). Those who propagated it are false teachers and certainly to be with the devil in hell for all eternity. He has no question of this, and teaches no dubiousness about it. How many false teachers and devils eternally in hell, are of the elect, according to Calvinist theology? Again, my understanding was that this was not a dubious or indeterminate number.

Moreover in this article he basically states that the only Arminians who aren’t damned, i.e. hopelessly non-elect, are those who don’t really believe what Arminians teach but only confusedly think they are Arminians. Those who really do believe Arminianism are believing a “damning heresy”. How many elect do Calvinist theologians routinely teach are damned by the heresy they believe?


Are these only rhetorical overkills being indulged in by Calvinist teachers who would otherwise go on to allow that dedicated Arminian teachers may easily be of the elect (even if they die as Arminian Christians)? I certainly hope so; but the problem is that audiences in the pew aren’t trained to expect such language to be only hyperbolic overkill for poetic effect. Consequently, it isn’t unusual for Arminians on the internet to receive correspondence from Calvinist laity declaring their sure and certain hope that the Arminian will be rotting in hell along with his damnable doctrine.

But to be honest, I don’t think these are examples of artistic hyperbole for emphasis effect.

Again I want to emphasize: it is not my impression that the majority of Calvinist pastors, scholars, teachers or authors teach this. It does, however, happen.

JRP

Anonymous said...

BDK,

DBT used it to *disprove* a premise

Joshua said...

@Steve - I have some verbatim quotes at home, which I'll comment here later tonight. FWIW, I consider myself a Calvinist, but I think that some of these statements blaming God for evil are just plain idiotic.

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

“Augustus Toplady compares Wesley to Satan and to the Pharisees condemned by Christ in the Temple, and declares that Arminianism leads back to the pit from which it came (along with Roman Catholicism). I do not personally know many Calvinists who would consider those Pharisees and Satan as being among the elect”

Surely you don’t think that’s a serious interpretation of what he said. If we follow the link, in what respect does he compare Wesley to Satan and the Phariseees? In terms of shared character? No. In terms of their common fate? No. Rather, in terms of their industriousness.

But while we’re on the subject, here’s an Arminian epologist who doesn’t hesitate to compare Calvinists to Pharisees:

“When it comes to light that a teaching is clearly contradicted by biblical fact, its proponents will often try desperately to find some way to make the facts fit their doctrine, stretching the limits of believability and sanity. Others try instead to simply cloud the facts or cast doubt upon the clear meaning of the words of scripture, effectively nullifying what the word of God is saying so they won't be forced to deal with the facts therein. Chief among the earthly enemies of Christ were the Pharisees, who held their traditions and the teachings of the elders higher than the word of God. Often they would employ parts of doctrine they had themselves added to God's words to nullify or 'get around' the clear commands of God, such as honoring and caring for one's parents. Christ said to them concerning their doctrinal errors: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Matthew 15:6). Thus, if a doctrine requires that certain commands of God or the clear statements made in scripture be made meaningless or 'explained away' in whole or in part, it is a sure bet that such doctrine is in serious error.”

http://www.indeathorlife.org/soteriology/calvinism/reformedchallenge.php

Edward T. Babinski said...

How is God NOT responsible in SOME way? There was no pre-existant matter one could blame, only God creating everything directly and solely out of HIS will, power and wisdom.

Can imperfection come out of Perfection?

Invoking freewill also solves nothing. Doesn't God have freewill? Don't the righteous in heaven have freewill? But if they cannot sin throughout eternity, then there is no incompatibility between having freewill and being sin free, so how the heck did sinning and evil start when all of creation came directly and solely out of GOD?

There are no answers to such questions, only faith.

The Calvinist at least acknowledges God is the "all-creator" and is playing at creating righteous and sinners all because He simply wants to do so.

We're wind up toys, and God is playing soldier with us, crushing some with tanks, having others march over their slain bodies. For eternity. Hallelujah.

C. S. Lewis thought such a view was appalling, and didn't want to wake up one day in heaven and recognize that THAT was what God was REALLY like, "deceive yourself no longer." At which point he said it was like finding no difference between Satan and God.

But really if God is the all-creator, and everything came directly and solely out of His will, power, and wisdom, then how CAN you distinguish between God and Satan?

You can't start with the highest creating everything, and wind up with pieces of shite in the mix somewhere further on down the line. You can't start with Perfection generating everything and then suddenly imperfection enters the picture.

Philosophy does not provide answers to such questions.

In fact such questions almost make extinction after death seem like the biggest grace of all, to finally get away from such nonsense propositions piled on top of nonsense propositions in theology.

Or I hope for something better, without being able to argue in favor of it. If there's a via negativa, I hope we all wind up on such a path toward the deus abscondus, the hidden god, and that this cosmos with all the churning galaxies, is a work in progress, though all the animal suffering and diseases do seem rather pointless.

Jason Pratt said...

As to the comparison of Calvinists to Pharisees by Arminians, I certainly don't deny it; but that wasn't the topic you asked me to talk about. A topic I had thought was known well enough among Calvinists, too, since I can even more easily find Calvinist teachers warning Calvinists not to consider dedicated Arminians to be non-elect. They wouldn't have to warn about that, if there wasn't some serious inclination to do so. (Dr. MacMahon makes for an interesting combination of examples there; his caution to fellow Calvinists is real enough, but is predicated on a distinction between real and merely confused Arminians.)


{{Surely you don’t think that’s a serious interpretation of what [Toplady] said.}}

Actually, yes. He was comparing them in terms of their shared character, and their fate; the elements are there in the text.

The point of Toplady's retort is to say that he isn't going to stop inveighing against Wesley due to an appeal to the man's industriousness (or "laboriousness"). Why won't he do so? Because... and here is the comparison to the laboriousness of Satan and the Pharisees being condemned by Christ. (Plus a comparison to mere honest industriousness, which Toplady considers Wesley’s work far inferior to.) Wesley is no more laborious than they are, is he? But those asking for restraint from Toplady on this ground would not expect him to ease up in their case, right? No moreso than Jesus eased up on them out of respect for their laboriousness.


Are you seriously saying you see no character comparison between Wesley's laboriousness, and the laboriousness of Satan and the Pharisees who are also traveling around incessantly, the Pharisees seeking to make one proselyte (whom they then make twice as much of a son of hell as they are) and Satan going to and fro on the earth walking up and down on it?


For those who haven't read the link, here's the paragraph:

"It has also been suggested, that 'Mr. Wesley is a very laborious man:' not more laborious, I presume, than a certain active being, who is said to go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it: nor yet more laborious, I should imagine, than certain ancient Sectarians, concerning whom it was long ago said, 'Woe unto you Scribes, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte:' nor, by any means, so usefully laborious, as a certain diligent member of the community [whose honest labor Toplady goes on to describe by quotation from a newspaper.]"

This is immediately after declining to ease up on opposing Wesley due to the man's age, on the basis that Roman Catholicism is still older than Wesley: "Is that any reason why the enormities, either of the mother or the son, should pass unchastised?" (Keep in mind, Toplady concludes his short paper with the inference that not only does Arminianism come from the same pit as Roman Catholicism and leads its followers back to the pit from which it was dug.)


How does this not count as a rhetorical comparison of Wesley to the character and mission of Satan? How does this not count as rhetorical comparison of the fate of Wesley who is working so hard to make converts and teaching, and Satan (and the Pharisees) working hard to make converts and teaching?

Or do Calvinists teach that there is a hopeful chastisement for Satan (not to say the condemned Pharisees) who might yet be saved from sin, from which chastisement he should not be spared? (Maybe Toplady himself was teaching this, and so his comparison of chastisements due to each person was in parallel? I would be glad to think so, but I have my doubts. {s})

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Ed: {{Invoking freewill also solves nothing. Doesn't God have freewill? Don't the righteous in heaven have freewill? But if they cannot sin throughout eternity, then there is no incompatibility between having freewill and being sin free, so how the heck did sinning and evil start when all of creation came directly and solely out of GOD?}}

Rather too much to try answering in a comment post (especially with the new character limit.)

I do start addressing these issues directly, from the perspective of metaphysical analysis, in this chapter, however.

JRP

Joshua said...

@Steve - the only reference I could find in my notes is to Edwin Palmer, in "Five Points of Calvinism", where he says, "The Bible is clear: God ordains sin". I had a note from Jonathan Edwards that rubbed me the wrong way as well, but I cannot find it.

In any case, the Palmer quote isn't all that strong, since one must ask whether Palmer means "all sin", or "some sin". Obviously, there are clear occasions in the Bible where God "ordains" sin. If Palmer were instead arguing "all sin", I would object. However, from the context, he is almost incoherent, so it's hard to tell what he really meant.

Of course, Zwingli, in "Providence", also argued that God is the author of sin.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“Maybe the Arminian should say "Given our understanding of who is responsible for what, an understanding we consider to be the fact of the matter, the Calvinistic God turns out to be as bad as the devil." I think that is not quite the same as saying "Your God is the devil."”

This is a better representation of the Arminian view. Arminians do not believe that calvinists are **literal Satan worshippers** or Satanists (calvinists do not worship the devil never have: it is **Satanists** who worship the devil ranging from the Anton Lavey Hollywood types that are visible and want to be seen as Satanists as well as the real hard core Satanists who are secretive and into seeking spiritual power).

The Arminian believes that the scriptures properly interpreted portray the God of the bible with a great and noble character. A character in which he is good, loving, gentle, merciful, patient with sinners, not delighting in the death of the wicked, desiring the salvation of all and providing Jesus as an atonement for all. The Arminian then sees what calvinists claim about what they believe that God is doing and see a discrepancy, a **contradiction** between the character of God as revealed in the bible versus the character of God if he does what calvinists claim and believe that he does.

A clear example is their view of the pre-selection of most human persons to be damned. These “reprobates” as they are termed by calvinists were preselected for damnation, never given a real opportunity for salvation, and God ensures (if all events are predecided and predetermined by God) that they be precisely the persons they are, commit every sin that they commit, and then at the final judgment God sends them to hell for eternal punishment for being the persons and doing the very actions which He predecided and ensured that they would be and do. The Arminian sees this claim and believes that the person who does **that** to human persons does not have the character of the God revealed in the bible. A good and loving and merciful person would not do that to human persons. But a person who does this, and in some cases, for some calvinists, gets pleasure from doing so, this person has character that is more like the character of the devil revealed in scripture, than the character of the God who reveals Himself in scripture.

Robert

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

"Roughly 15 years ago, a group of pastors in the Southern Baptist convention decided that they should reform the prevelant Arminianism among SBC churches and restore (or create) a presbyter-supported authoritative hierarchy in individual congregations; as well as reforming the congregations to Calvin’s version of Reformation theology."

Out of curiosity, I drew Tom Ascol's attention to your allegation. His reply: "This charge is so far off the charts that I probably won't dignify it with a response."

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

“As to the comparison of Calvinists to Pharisees by Arminians, I certainly don't deny it; but that wasn't the topic you asked me to talk about.”

I was just curious to see if you apply the same yardstick to Arminians and Calvinists alike, or if your objection was to simply smear the Calvinists. You rose to my low expectations.

“Since I can even more easily find Calvinist teachers warning Calvinists not to consider dedicated Arminians to be non-elect.”

And I can do the same for Arminianism. Billy Birch, whom Reppert recently plugged, has publicly stated that the typical Calvinist is not attracted to the Gospel.

“Are you seriously saying you see no character comparison between Wesley's laboriousness, and the laboriousness of Satan and the Pharisees…”

Not if we pay attention to the actual wording of the text–which you yourself cited. Toplady’s point is that Wesley’s industriousness is not inherently virtuous since evil agents can also be industrious. That’s what he confines his comparison to.

Now, for all I know, Toplady may have thought Wesley was damned. But you can’t get that from the material you cited.

And Toplady was the only bigwig Calvinist you cited.

Anonymous said...

Dominic Bnonn Tennant,


said:
But if you ask him to show where Scripture teaches libertarian free will, he can't. He just takes it as implicit.

And what about "Limited Atonement"?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Anonymous, limited atonement is a poor example for you to cite, for three reasons:

Firstly, there are plenty of Calvinists—myself included—who find the biblical evidence for it lacking to begin with. So Calvinism doesn't select necessarily for a strictly limited view of the atonement. Arminianism, on the other hand, selects exclusively for libertarianism.

Secondly, limited atonement is a prima facie logical consequence of the other doctrines of grace, which Calvinists do exegete from Scripture—and the case for them is air tight. Libertarianism enjoys no such status, being an a priori presupposition imposed on Scripture. In terms of logical status, they're at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

Thirdly, limited atonement can be plausibly reconciled to its scriptural contradictories. That isn't the case for libertarian freedom (even prima facie), as I've already shown.

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

Bnonn: But what about this.

1) Unless libertarian free will is true, then God is the originating cause of sin.

2) God is not the originating cause of sin.

3) Therefore, libertarian free will is true.

1 looks self-evident, and 2 seems to me to be biblical. And the argument is valid. QED.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, two things.

Firstly, the term "originating cause" is completely opaque to me. I'm not familiar with it in the nomenclature of discussing causality. Do you mean "remote" or "ultimate" cause? I will take it that you do.

Secondly, in that case, I can only assume that you simply did not read my comments in this thread. (2) is manifestly not biblical—that is what my entire exchange here has been about. It amazes me that you could have failed to notice this. Where, in Scripture, do you find (2)?

So in fact your argument is unsound. However, it is easily corrected:

1. If libertarian free will is true, then God is not the remote cause of sin.

2. God is the remote cause of sin (from Scripture; see examples below).

3. Therefore, libertarian free will is not true.

Examples:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them.” (Exodus 10:1)

“But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.” (Deuteronomy 2:30)

“For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Joshua 11:20)

“And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.” (Judges 9:23)

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” (2 Samuel 12:11-12)

“And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’” (1 Kings 22:22)

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:1) “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)

“O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.” (Isaiah 63:17)

“And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9)

“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6)

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:40)

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18)

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

“For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17)

Victor Reppert said...

If you really do take these passages to imply that God is the complete and sufficent cause of sin, what sense do you make of James 1:13.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

When I think of something hardening, I think of someone's resolve to do something they want to do being hardened. So, if I have to perform a difficult and dangerous combat mission, I may need to have my heart hardened so that I can follow through and not give in to fear. Because fear is precisely the motive Pharaoh would have had to go ahead and accede to the demand that the people be allowed to go. He surely would not have let his workforce of slaves out of his country out of the goodness of his heart, or out of obedience to the rightful commands of God. No, it was selfish motives on both sides of the question here.

God may present occasions for sin, but are they necessary and sufficient conditions for sin? A straightforward reading of James 1:13 suggests otherwise.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor—did I say that these passages indicate God is the "complete and sufficient" cause of sin? Your reading comprehension consistently fails to impress. I said that God is the remote or ultimate cause of sin. I can't imagine how you'd get the two confused. For God to be the complete and sufficient cause of sin he would have to be the sinners themselves. Do you really think that I hold to some kind of pantheism, or perhaps a weird form of Christian idealism?

When I think of something hardening, I think of someone's resolve to do something they want to do being hardened.

I have no problem with that definition. My original argument works perfectly well if you plug it in:

1. God commands Pharaoh.

2. God hardens Pharaoh so he cannot obey the command.

3. God holds Pharaoh morally accountable for his disobedience.

Does this comport with a libertarian view of moral accountability?

Victor Reppert said...

What you should call into question is not my reading comprehension but my clarity. My phrase "full and sufficient cause" simply means that the decision by God is sufficient to produce the effect. Given God's action, one and only one possible outcome could occur.

Of course on a Molinist view God could use his middle knowledge to determine that some action on his part was the right action, and if he looked into his "middlescope" and saw something different, God might have acted differently. So it is not clear that in these passages, God's actions are unconditioned.

We may become, through our sinful actions, render ourselves unable to listen to God's commands apart from the action of what Wesley called prevenient grace, in which case Pharaoh could be still responsible for his inability to respond to God's command. In any event, he would never have responded to the command out of obedience to the righteousness of God, but rather out of fear.

If you take the Calvinist position and reject libertarian free will, it seems that what we find in James 1:13 comes out false. Not only must we say that we were tempted by God, God guaranteed before the foundation of the world that we would succumb to the temptation.

I'm not sure anybody has the whole Bible taped. I don't think you it really is possible to take one's beliefs entirely from Scripture, independent of what you think to be plausible in other contexts. Indeed, I think central claims of Christianity true because they comport better with background knowledge than does Mormonism or Islam. But a "revelation positivist" in both those religions would be stuck there, because they would never be able to go adopt an independent standpoint from which they could reject these belief systems.

I do believe in searching the Scriptures, what I do not believe is that it is possible to come to the Bible in some neutral manner, and the claim that one is getting one's doctrine solely from the Bible is probably not going to be correct in any event. I did say that I think that Calvinists are severe in supposing that they reached their beliefs based on Scripture, however, I don't think they reached their beliefs based on Scripture independent of other kinds of background information. Indeed, belief in the plausibility of biblical claim must, at some level, be based on other types of information. Otherwise, why the Bible and not the Qu'ran?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

What you should call into question is not my reading comprehension but my clarity. My phrase "full and sufficient cause"...

I was trying not to be overly offensive—but if you'd prefer me to assume that you're just all-around inept at your trade, I will. Philosophy, after all, is all about clarity. Notably, you can't even quote yourself correctly—you didn't say "full" before.

...simply means that the decision by God is sufficient to produce the effect.

But God's decision is not sufficient to produce the effect. God's decree doesn't bring about anything in and of itself.

Given God's action, one and only one possible outcome could occur.

Under your own view, the same statement applies to every human act. Given God's action in instantiating this world out of all possible worlds, no other possible world could have occurred. Does this mean that you believe that God is the "complete and sufficient cause" of all human acts? How does that square with your libertarianism?

Of course on a Molinist view God could use his middle knowledge to determine that some action on his part was the right action, and if he looked into his "middlescope" and saw something different, God might have acted differently.

Of course, on a Molinist view, God's middle knowledge really has no ontological basis whatsoever and is really just a brainfart hacked onto Christianity in an attempt to save the incoherent presupposition of libertarianism.

We may become, through our sinful actions, render ourselves unable to listen to God's commands apart from the action of what Wesley called prevenient grace, in which case Pharaoh could be still responsible for his inability to respond to God's command.

But this is irrelevant, because God explicitly states that it is he who is hardening Pharaoh's heart. Sure, Pharaoh hardened his own heart—because God caused him to do so. That's what Exodus says, and the language couldn't be plainer. Go read over Exodus 9-11 if you're in any doubt.

In any event, he would never have responded to the command out of obedience to the righteousness of God, but rather out of fear.

That doesn't sound very Arminian. Quite the contrary. Anything which does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23), therefore Pharaoh would have to be born again to obey God in righteousness. That sounds like Calvinism. What happened to prevenient grace?

If you take the Calvinist position and reject libertarian free will, it seems that what we find in James 1:13 comes out false.

Not to point out the obvious, but if you take the Arminian position and reject compatibilist free will, it seems that what we find in Exodus 9-11 comes out false. More importantly, what bearing does James 1:13 have on my view at all? Does God tempt Pharaoh in Exodus? Even in 1 Kings 22:22, it is not God who tempts, but the evil spirit under God's direction. Do you think James just forgot about that?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I'm not sure anybody has the whole Bible taped. I don't think you it really is possible to take one's beliefs entirely from Scripture, independent of what you think to be plausible in other contexts.

That depends on what you mean. If you're talking about core doctrine, as you seem to be, then you're simply wrong. Wrong and stupid. You're trying to imply that Scripture's meaning is ambiguous or unclear—or, at least, that one may be reasonable in misinterpreting it in light of one's other beliefs. But that's a lie from the pit. You're projecting onto the Bible a flaw which is, in fact, merely your own documented inability to surrender your unbiblical intuitions to the word of God.

Otherwise, why the Bible and not the Qu'ran?

The fact that you ask this question suggests that maybe you should just pick another religion that suits your intuitions better—rather than continuing this predictable grind of intellectual dissonance between what you believe, and what the Bible teaches.

Robert said...

Bnonn wrote:

“Secondly, limited atonement is a prima facie logical consequence of the other doctrines of grace, which Calvinists do exegete from Scripture—and the case for them is air tight.”

What an exaggeration, what an overstatement: the so-called “doctrines of grace”, calvinistic beliefs, have arguments that make them “air tight.”????

Not even close.

If one surveys church history as a whole, one finds that previous to Augustine the whole church held to the common understanding of free will (philosophically termed libertarian free will). So for the first four centuries of church history, the time closest to the era of Jesus and the apostles, no one was teaching calvinism nor denying the common sense understanding of free will. Even Augustine himself in his book on free will took the libertarian position, though he later changed. And it was later changes in his thinking that were then further developed and systematized by the reformers. Then when you look at church history from that time on, while some have held calvinistic beliefs, the vast majority in all traditions whether they be Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or other Protestants, have all rejected calvinism. This does not fit the claim that calvinism is an “air tight” case.

I can poke huge holes in any of the calvinist’s beliefs including the acronym TULIP. So Bnonn’s claim that an “air tight” case for calvinism can be made is both false and an extreme exaggeration.

Take “T” Total depravity as an example. The bible properly interpreted presents that when Adam fell into sin in the garden this brought about “spiritual death” (i.e., being separated from God due to sin) upon all of subsequent mankind. Sin became a universal presence in the experience of mankind effecting every aspect of mankind. So sin has touched upon and tainted everything in connection with mankind. And this sin separates us from God and forces our need for a way of overcoming this sin barrier, a way that we cannot accomplish on our own. Now that is what the bible says.

But the calvinist **goes further**, in their conception of depravity, it means that sin has so effected us that we cannot have a faith response to the gospel **unless** regenerated first. This the bible ***never*** says or presents. The bible never says that we are incapable of a faith response unless regenerated first. The bible does not teach that regeneration precedes faith and that regeneration produces or causes or necessitates saving initial faith. These are all claims by calvinists that come from their system of theology but are never stated in the bible. The calvinist takes what the bible says about the effects of sin on mankind, but then they overreach this evidence and conclude that we cannot have a faith response unless regenerated first.

What they completely leave out in all of this is that it is true that we are not able to have a faith response solely on our own. But God does not leave us on our own, he sends the Holy Spirit, who is God, who is a member of the trinity who powerfully works in individual sinners to enable (without necessitating) a faith response. On our own we cannot have a faith response, but when the Spirit works in us we are then enabled to have a faith response, though we can and sometimes do resist the work of the Spirit who seeks to lead us to Christ for salvation.

One can find this **overreaching** of the biblical evidence by the calvinist with any calvinistic belief that one wants to name. The bible verses cited are not sufficient to reach the conclusion that the calvinist wants. This is not an “air tight” case, but wishful thinking on the part of the calvinist.

Robert

steve said...

Since Reppert keeps bringing up Jas 1:13 as a prooftext against Calvinism, without, however, bothering to exegete his prooftexts, here is part of Moo's interpretation of v13. I don't see anything in his interpretation which is at odds with Calvinism:

“No solid line should be drawn between v12 and v13, as if James drops the topic of testing to take up the issue of temptation. His concern, rather, is to help his readers resist the temptation that comes along with the trial. For every trial brings temptation…Thus testing almost always includes temptation, and temptation is itself a test…The OT often makes clear that God himself brings trials into the lives of his people…But while God may test or prove his servants in order to strengthen their faith, he never seeks to induce sin and destroy their faith,” D. Moo, The Letter of James, 72-73.

steve said...

Robert said...

"But the calvinist **goes further**, in their conception of depravity, it means that sin has so effected us that we cannot have a faith response to the gospel **unless** regenerated first. This the bible ***never*** says or presents. The bible never says that we are incapable of a faith response unless regenerated first. The bible does not teach that regeneration precedes faith and that regeneration produces or causes or necessitates saving initial faith."

Notice that Robert is substituting assertions for arguments. Here's an exegetical argument for the priority of regeneration:

http://www.9marks.org/CC/article/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598016%7CCIID1731702,00.html

Robert said...

Bnonn wrote:

““Libertarianism enjoys no such status, being an a priori presupposition imposed on Scripture. In terms of logical status, they're at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

Thirdly, limited atonement can be plausibly reconciled to its scriptural contradictories. That isn't the case for libertarian freedom (even prima facie), as I've already shown.””

He has got it completely backwards here. It is not the ordinary understanding of free will, the belief that we sometimes have choices (that is an a priori presupposition imposed on Scripture), it is the philosophical/theological/calvinistic assumption that God has predecided all outcomes and predetermined every event which occurs. This assumption of exhaustive determinism (ED) is imposed by necessatarian calvinists upon the scripture in order to force the bible to fit the calvinistic system.

Note that Bnonn believes that he has refuted the existence of libertarian free will (LFW) by his appeal to one bible situation (the hardening of Pharaoh). Bnonn seems to believe that he has somehow logically refuted the existence of free will as ordinarily understood by citing this one counter example. He also provides 15 separate bible verses that he also seems to believe refutes the existence of free will.

Allow me to bring in an analogy that will show where his logic falls short. Imagine a large organization with an Information Technology department with an IT specialist named Stewart. Now say myself and some co-workers sometimes run into computer problems where we then call Stewart on the phone and ask him to fix the problem on our computers. Ordinarily we control and direct the mouse which directs the cursor on the screen and in effect controls what we do on our computers. But Stewart is also able to access our computers and once accessed he then literally takes over the control of the cursor, he now controls the mouse and whatever gets clicked on the computer screen. Ordinarily we have many choices when it comes to working on our computers by means of our keyboards and mouse. But when Stewart takes over, he, not us, controls and directly manipulates the cursor.

In logic the distinction is sometimes made between Always, Never, and Sometimes. And let’s call Stewart’s “takeovers” of our computers “interventions”. And with regard to Stewart’s interventions there are three possibilities: (1) the Stewart Always intervenes (SAI) possibility in which Stewart is always directly controlling and manipulating our cursors; (2) the Stewart Never intervenes (SNI) possibility in which Stewart never directly controls and manipulates our cursors; and (3) the Stewart Sometimes intervenes (SSI) possibility in which sometimes we control our cursors and Stewart does not, and sometimes Stewart controls our cursors and we do not.

Now I need to make some comments about these different positions in regards to matters of proof. If you prove SAI, then you have refuted SSI (and vice versa). Since myself and my coworkers all have experienced Stewart’s interventions, this logically rules out SNI, because we all know that in fact Stewart sometimes intervenes in our computers. And we need to ask: what would prove SAI? If we shared say 15 instances in which Stewart took over our computers, is that sufficient to prove SAI (that he ALWAYS does so)? Can you prove a universal such as SAI with particular instances? And also how would you refute SAI, how many counter examples must you provide to refute it? SAI while stated as a universal positive can also be transformed into a universal negative (i.e. if Stewart Always intervenes, then there is never ever an example in which we control the cursor and he is not intervening completely and directly controlling the cursor.

Robert

Robert said...

With this analogy in mind I can show where Bnonn’s argument falls short, how it fails to prove his exhaustive determinism and refute the existence of the ordinary understanding of free will. Bnonn in effect believes in SAI, that Stewart is always intervening in our computers (that God always and directly controls our wills and so we never ever have a choice, we never ever have LFW). Bnonn suggests or implies in his comments about LFW that proponents of LFW believe that God never interferes with the human will (so he suggests that Arminians and other proponents of LFW hold to SNI). But that is not our position, that is a caricature trumped up by many, many calvinists. They believe that if you hold to LFW then you must also hold that God never ever intervenes in the human will. But that is a straw man, we have read the bible, we are well aware that at times God intervenes in the human will (for examples as he did with Pharaoh). We do not hold to SNI.

Rather our position is SSI, that ordinarily we sometimes have choices, we sometimes have free will, but simultaneously God sometimes intervenes in the human will.

Returning to Stewart from IT directly controlling and manipulating our cursors. Bnonn believes that Stewart always does so and that we never have free will as ordinarily understood. Bnonn also argues that non-Calvinists believe that Stewart never ever controls our cursors. But Bnonn has intentionally misrepresented our view. We don’t deny that Stewart ever directly controls the cursor, we just believe that when He does so, it is the exception and not the rule. Ordinarily we control our cursors by means of our mouse. But sometimes Stewart does take over and control our cursors.

Bnonn presents 15 instances of Stewart taking over the cursor and concludes that this refutes our position that we ordinarily control the mouse but sometimes Stewart controls the cursor. Do Bnonn’s 15 instances prove the universal that Stewart always intervenes and controls our cursor? No, not even close. Logically you cannot argue from some particular cases (he provides 15, but let’s say he provided many more)that therefore we deduce that Stewart **always** directly intervenes and controls our cursor. You cannot prove a universal positive with merely 15 instances.

On the other hand, as proponents of the SSI view, we don't have to prove any universal at all. We also know what would in fact refute Bnonn’s SAI position (since he holds the universal positive that Stewart always intervenes and directly controls the cursor, that transforms into the universal negative clam that there is never ever a situation in which Stewart does not directly control and manipulate our computer cursors, which amounts to, when it comes to having choices, THAT WE NEVER EVER HAVE ANY CHOICES). And how do you go about refuting the universal negative inherent in Bnonn’s SAI position? Any counter example refutes his universal negative. We don’t have to prove that God never ever intervenes in the human will (that would be proving the SNI position which is not our view), we need only show that at times we have choices. Because if we ever have a real choice, where we can do this or do that (with neither option being necessitated for us), then we prove the SSI position (because we already know and grant that sometimes Stewart takes over our computers) we are only arguing that ordinarily he does not take over our computers that we have control over the mouse and so we have choices sometimes.

Robert

steve said...

Since the hardening of Pharaoh has been introduced as a test-case for or against libertarianism, here's an exegetical study:

http://wmson.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/beale-hardening-tj.pdf

Robert said...

If I had experienced 1,000 hours on the computer where I had control of the mouse and so had choices in regards to where I would put the cursor or what I would click, and 1 hour in which Stewart had taken control of my computer. Should I conclude that SAI is true? No. Should I conclude that SNI is true? No. The rational and logical conclusion based upon the available data, would be to conclude that ORDINARILY I CONTROL MY COMPUTER, BUT THAT SOMETIMES STEWART TAKES OVER MY COMPUTER. Or what if it were 1,000 hours in which I had control of the mouse and 15 hours in which Stewart controlled the computer, intervened in the computer? The rational and logical conclusion would still be the SSI position (that ordinarily we control our computers but that sometimes Stewart controls our computers).

If you understand this analogy then you can understand why Bnonn’s logic is so off base. In our daily experience as well as in the bible, people ordinarily have choices, they have free will as ordinarily understood. But the bible, as it records God’s activities (some but not all of course) also records some of the instances when God directly intervenes in the human will. As one of my professors said about the book of Acts it is like a “highlight film” presenting the highlights but not every event that ever occurred during that time frame. The highlight film is of course going to contain a disproportionate amount of instances of divine intervention.

It is similar to God doing miracles in nature (some would claim that this never happens, some believe that God is continuously doing miracles and some believe that sometimes God does miracles sometimes he does not). God designed nature and the laws of nature. So ordinarily He is not doing miracles in nature, ordinarily the laws of nature are operating quite well without any divine interventions. And yet God does sometimes intervene and do miracles in nature. Do we conclude that since God sometimes does miracles in nature that he is always and continuously doing so? I know no one who makes this claim. As believers do we argue that God never does miracles in nature? No, true believers will believe that God has at least done some miracles. So what is the best and most reasonable position in regard to God miraculously intervening in nature? The some and some view, the view that sometimes he chooses to do miracles and sometimes he chooses not to do miracles. I see real parallels between this and the issue of libertarian free will. God designed us to be capable of sometimes having and making our own choices. But he also sometimes intervenes in the human will. Granting that he does so, is not affirming that we therefore never ever have a choice. In fact both our daily experience as well as the bible present the some-some view when it comes to God’s interventions in the human will (i.e., ordinarily we have choices, but sometimes God intervenes in the human will). Making up a list of interventions by God in the human will does not prove that we never ever have a choice (does not prove exhaustive determinism to be true, does not prove calvinism to be true). On the other hand, both our daily experience and the bible also provide instances where we have a choice. And if there are any instances of us having a choice, having free will as ordinarily understood, then SAI, or exhaustive determinism is false.

Robert

Victor Reppert said...

Steve, your quotation from Moo's exegesis of James helps my position. So, God never seeks to induce sin or destroy faith. Really? So what on earth happened to our friend John W. Loftus or all the other ex-Christians who have left the fold? If Calvinism is true, God pushed the buttons before the foundation of the world and they fell away. No amount of subterfuge can dissolve away this implication of Calvinism.

It's the same thing with exegeting John 3:16. We are told "the world isn't everybody, it is those in darkness." Fine. Where are all the reprobates, or the vast majority of them? In the world, just defined. The Calvinist exegesis puts numerous lost people within the scope of God's love. Now there are Calvinists who are willing to accept this obvious consequence of Scripture and try to deal with it, but apparently there are other Calvinists who don't accept this implication.

Look, I'm not claiming I can harmonize all of Scripture. I am saying that libertarian free will derives support from some passages of Scripture. Since it is the Calvinist who is saying their position is proved by Scripture, therefore the burden of proof is on them to prove that Scripture is fully and completely on their side. They must either do that, or admit that Scripture leaves the question of predestination unsettled.

steve said...

Victor,

You missed the referents. "His people." "His servants." God doesn't test that subset of individuals to destroy their faith.

Victor Reppert said...

But in order to figure out whether this applied to you, you would have to know if you were elect. And there are people who are servants who leave the fold.

Victor Reppert said...

And God does not cause the elect to sin? That would mean that the elect would never be caused to sin. But they do sin, so if God causes everything, he causes their sin as well.

steve said...

Victor,

Are you posing an exegetical question or a philosophical question? As Peter Davids points out in his standard commentary on the Greek text, James isn't offering a theodicy. "His focus is practical rather than theoretical" (p81).

You're not going to find an answer to you question in Jas 1:13–since your question moves beyond exegetical theology into the realm of philosophical theology. If you want a philosophical answer, then we can engage the question at that level.

As Dominic pointed out, the Bible distinguishes between divine agency and intermediate agency, viz. sending an evil spirit to mess with Saul.

You might find that Biblical "buffer" philosophically unsatisfactory, and at a philosophical level you might be right–since it wasn't meant to offer a metaphysically profound harmonization.

Victor Reppert said...

VR: I'm not sure anybody has the whole Bible taped. I don't think you it really is possible to take one's beliefs entirely from Scripture, independent of what you think to be plausible in other contexts.

Bnonn: That depends on what you mean. If you're talking about core doctrine, as you seem to be, then you're simply wrong. Wrong and stupid. You're trying to imply that Scripture's meaning is ambiguous or unclear—or, at least, that one may be reasonable in misinterpreting it in light of one's other beliefs. But that's a lie from the pit. You're projecting onto the Bible a flaw which is, in fact, merely your own documented inability to surrender your unbiblical intuitions to the word of God.

VR: If what seems correct to me is clearly supported by some passages of Scripture, but is difficult to reconcile with others, don't I have a good reason to think that the ones that are easy to understand from my point of view mean what they naturally appear to mean, while others that don't make so much sense? I don't think "neutrality before Scripture" is psychologically possible or even desirable. We don't come to the Bible as a blank slate. I didn't, you didn't, no one does. But some people pretend to. It's bad epistemology.

VR: Otherwise, why the Bible and not the Qu'ran?

Bnonn; The fact that you ask this question suggests that maybe you should just pick another religion that suits your intuitions better—rather than continuing this predictable grind of intellectual dissonance between what you believe, and what the Bible teaches.

VR: Nonsense. What I was arguing is that the Christian message has to be initially plausible for us to consider it to be true, and then we look to the Bible for further development and clarification. Christianity has historical support that other religions don't have. Everyone, Calvinists, Arminians, Universalists, Open Theists, etc., have passages of Scripture that are difficult for their positions. If I were an intellectual masochist I would find the view that fit with my intuitions the least and would try to make myself accept that, so that by golly I could then say I wasn't trying to follow my intuitions. But why do a thing like that, if I don't have to? Some Biblical passages are clearer than others. Bible readers like Wesley and Whitefield came to opposite conclusions about Calvinism.

It looks very clear from Scripture that God loves every person and wants them to be saved. The case for this is strong that many Calvinist exegetes agree. But, like Piper, they offer an explanation for it (the two wills doctrine), which turns out to be incoherent. Further, the concept of love, even if it includes the infliction of suffering, is always aimed at a good final result for the person who is loved. Otherwise, the word love doesn't make sense. So if you humpty-dumpty enough terms, sure, you can reconcile every passage of Scripture with Calvinism. I can do the same for universalism, or for Arianism, if I wanted to.

As I said, Calvinists have the burden of proof here. And so far as I can see, they haven't shouldered it.

Victor Reppert said...

But if a text has philosophical entailments, and you buy inerrancy, then those philosophical entailments have to be true, even if the text is not aimed at establishing these.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

If what seems correct to me is clearly supported by some passages of Scripture, but is difficult to reconcile with others, don't I have a good reason to think that the ones that are easy to understand from my point of view mean what they naturally appear to mean, while others that don't make so much sense?

Sure. But where is a libertarian understanding of moral accountability "clearly supported" in Scripture? Show me a single passage which appears to support such an understanding more clearly than the counter-example of Exodus 9-11. I'm waiting with baited breath for you to do something which no other libertarian has been able to do in all my years of asking.

It looks very clear from Scripture that God loves every person and wants them to be saved. The case for this is strong that many Calvinist exegetes agree. But, like Piper, they offer an explanation for it (the two wills doctrine), which turns out to be incoherent.

In what way is the two wills doctrine incoherent? An assertion like that just looks deliberately contentious, sans argumentation. I don't personally like the "two wills" language; I think there are less confusing ways of putting it. I'd say that God's eternal purposes may entail contingent situations which, by their nature, evoke in him straight-forward desires which "conflict" with the original purposes. That's not incoherent; it just demonstrates that God, like ourselves, can entertain complex desires.

Anonymous said...

Victor,

"So, God never seeks to induce sin or destroy faith. Really? So what on earth happened to our friend John W. Loftus or all the other ex-Christians who have left the fold?"

How do you square that with something like:

2 Thess 2:8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Robert said...

[part 1 - analysis of Schreiner]

Steve Hays wrote:

“Notice that Robert is substituting assertions for arguments. Here's an exegetical argument for the priority of regeneration:

http://www.9marks.org/CC/article/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598016%7CCIID1731702,00.html”

Hays brings up Tom Schreiner’s essay (appropriately titled: ““Does regeneration necessarily precede conversion?”) as exegetical ***proof*** that regeneration precedes faith. Schreiner’s piece is short and rather easy to dispose of, so let’s look at it. And consider that Hays thinks this is strong proof for his false belief that regeneration precedes faith. If we look at Schreiner’s essay carefully we see just how weak the calvinist argument that regeneration precedes faith really is! I will quote Schreiner with quotation marks around his words and add some comments of my own:

In answer to his own title Schreiner answers:


“The answer to the question is “yes,” but before explaining why this is so, the terms “regeneration” and “conversion” should be explained briefly.”

Asserts his conclusion, but this proves nothing, only that he holds this view.

“Regeneration means that one has been born again or born from above (John 3:3, 5, 7, 8). The new birth is the work of God, so that all those who are born again are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 ESV here and henceforth). Or, as 1 Pet 1:3 says, it is God who “caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Pet 1:3). The means God uses to grant such new life is the gospel, for believers “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23; cf. Jas 1:18). Regeneration or being born again is a supernatural birth. Just as we cannot do anything to be born physically—it just happens to us!—so too we cannot do anything to cause our spiritual rebirth.”

Regeneration is the metaphor of new birth used in describing a person’s conversion. Conversion is a larger category that includes regeneration. When the bible speaks about us being born via, or through the gospel, this is language condensing or summarizing the process of conversion (i.e., the person must first hear the gospel, understand the gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit, and then the person must receive Christ by faith (Jn. 1:12, cf. Col.2:6-7, Acts 16:31] and be saved, this is the conversion experience). There is no conversion or being saved unless the person exercises faith.

“Conversion occurs when sinners turn to God in repentance and faith for salvation. Paul describes the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 1:9, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Sinners are converted when they repent of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, trusting in him for the forgiveness of their sins on the Day of Judgment.”

This is correct except that what is left out is that conversion does not happen after regeneration. What he has to prove is that **regeneration precedes faith**, he has cited absolutely no bible text that says that. In fact there are only two bible verses in the New Testament that have the word regeneration in them and neither verse says anything about regeneration preceding faith. This is a theological fiction created by the calvinist like Schreiner in support of his system.

Robert

Robert said...

[part 2 analysis of Schreiner]

“Paul argues that unbelievers “are dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1; cf. 2:5). They are under the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph 2:2-3). Every one is born into the world as a son or daughter of Adam (Rom 5:12-19). Therefore, all people enter into this world as slaves of sin (Rom 6:6, 17, 20). Their wills are in bondage to evil, and hence they have no inclination or desire to do what is right or to turn to Jesus Christ.”

All of this is absolutely true **before and apart from** the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit however comes and reveals Christ to the person, reveals their sinful condition, their need for salvation, gives them understanding of the gospel message which they have heard preached to them, etc. etc. Apart from the work of the Spirit no one can desires to come to Christ in faith. But that is just it, **apart from the Spirit**. With the work of the Spirit in the individual everything changes. The desire that a person has to turn to Christ for salvation only is present if the person has experienced the supernatural work of the Spirit.

“God, however, because of his amazing grace has “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5). This is Paul’s way of saying that God has regenerated his people (cf. Tit 3:5). He has breathed life into us where there was none previously, and the result of this new life is faith, for faith too is “the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).”

These expressions are all expressions for conversion. Before conversion we are seen as “dead in our sins”, after conversion we are seen as “made alive” or resurrected. Paul was using the analogy of physical resurrection for conversion of the Christian (we were dead now we are alive). Schreiner makes a mistake here on Eph. 2:8 (following Augustine who made this same mistake) as the text does not say that faith itself is the gift, it says salvation is the gift.

Note so far he as given absolutely no biblical text stating that regeneration precedes faith. Now we come to his actual “proof” and watch how weak it really is.


Robert

Robert said...

[part 3 analysis of Schreiner]

Before we look at his argument, some comments about the book of First John are in order. The apostle John wrote this short letter for people who were **already Christians**. No where in the book is the process of conversion described nor does it talk about how a person comes to have saving or initial faith in Christ nor does it talk about how a person is justified. The apostle John assumes these things are already true of these people so he is not talking about justification (as for example the apostle Paul talks about in Romans), rather, he is concerned with sanctification (how you live as a Christian after you have been saved/converted/regenerated. John states the main purpose of his letter in 1 Jn. 5:13 where he states: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” “These things” being what a saved person will do. The purpose then is to give assurance of salvation to already regenerated persons by providing clear indications of what truly saved persons will do. So he is saying to people who are already Christians, here are tests to see whether or not you are a Christian. John then is talking about assurances or ***evidences that a person has already been saved*** rather than ***how to become a believer***. This is important because calvinists seeking to proof text from certain verses in this epistle completely ignore the context and intent of John in writing what he wrote.

Throughout the letter John gives a formula with a definite structure for them to test themselves. The formula is this: “Since you are saved/born again/converted/regenerate persons, X will be true of you.” Examples = since you are saved, you will love God. Since you are saved, you will love other believers. Keep this in mind when you see Schreiner’s attempt to proof text from passages in 1 John.

“Several texts from 1 John demonstrate that regeneration precedes faith.”

First of all, none of these texts says that saving or initial faith is preceded by regeneration. Second, none of these texts says that regeneration caused or produced saving or initial faith. Third, and most importantly, none of these texts is discussing or referring to initial faith and how it came about.

“The texts are as follows: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29). “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).”

None of these statements has anything to do with initial faith or how the person came to faith in Christ. All follow the same formula: if you are saved/born of God then (1) you will practice righteousness (2:29); (2) you will not make a practice of sinning (3:9; (3) you will love other believers (4:7); (4) you will believe that Jesus is the Christ and you will love other believers (5:1). If you look at these verses you will also see they also present couplets of contrasting pairs such as If you saved/born of God then you will love others, and if you do not love others then you are a liar and are not saved/born of God. If you want it stated another way: John is talking about family resemblances, characteristics that will be true of all who are members of God’s spiritual family.

Robert

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Haha, Robert, you need to find something better to do with your time mate. What are the chances that anyone actually reads your missives? Even someone not fully aware that you're a Calvinism-hating troll?

Robert said...

[part 4 analysis of Schreiner]

“We can make two observations from these texts. First, in every instance the verb “born” (gennaĆ“) is in the perfect tense, denoting an action that precedes the human actions of practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, loving, or believing.”

Or course conversion/being born again had to precede these actions, regeneration had to come before these actions, because John is talking about sanctification (now that you are saved, hence the perfect tense, what actions will you now do demonstrating that you are truly saved?). But note John is NOWHERE discussing or describing the initial conversion experience (he presupposes this and then argues that that [conversion] being true of a person, what will follow in the person’s lifestyle/sanctification. John is not talking about initial faith here, he presupposes they have already experienced initial faith and is now arguing what should follow in the life of an already saved person.

‘Second, no evangelical would say that before we are born again we must practice righteousness, for such a view would teach works-righteousness.”

He is correct, none of us would say that **about** initial faith, about justification about how one first gets saved (our works have nothing to do with our justification as Paul makes absolutely clear in Romans and
Galatians). And that is again the point, 1 John is not concerned with initial faith, with justification through initial faith, it is talking about SANCTIFICATION or once you have been saved. But note the fact that Schreiner brings this in here shows he is off track on the passage, why bring up justification and that evangelicals do not believe in justification by works when discussing passages in 1 John which have nothing to do with justification or justification by works????

“Nor would we say that first we avoid sinning, and then are born of God, for such a view would suggest that human works cause us to be born of God.”

Again he brings in justification and he is correct none of us believes that we must avoid sinning in order to be justified. On the other hand the apostle John **is** talking about sanctification and here it is important that you stop sinning and demonstrate that you are saved because you no longer practice sin as you did before. The fact that Schreiner himself brings up the idea of avoiding sinning shows that he should know that 1 John is not talking about justification but about sanctification. But he is proof texting for calvinism so this is ignored and lost on him.

“Nor would we say that first we show great love for God, and then he causes us to be born again.”

Again, same mistake being repeated, none of us believes that we are justified because we show a great love for God. Showing a great love for God is demonstrated in your sanctification when you live out your new life by doing things that honor God and bless people. But you do not do them in order to be saved, justification, initial faith, but because you already are saved.

“No, it is clear that practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, and loving are all the consequences or results of the new birth.”

Get ready for the big leap. John throughout 1 John is not discussing justification at all, but sanctification, hence he is emphasizing things that you are doing (or should be doing). And practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, and loving are choices that the Christian must choose to do. These things do not happen automatically because of the new birth. If the new birth necessitated all of these things then every Christian would be doing all of them all of the time never missing a beat. But in fact Christians do not always do them (does this indicate wrong choices on their part; or that something else in them is stronger than the new birth?).

Robert

Robert said...

[part 5 analysis of Schreiner]

“But if this is the case, then we must interpret 1 John 5:1 in the same way, for the structure of the verse is the same as we find in the texts about practicing righteousness (1 John 2:29), avoiding sin (1 John 3:9), and loving God (1 John 4:7).”

The structure is the same: since you are born again/saved you will believe that Jesus is the Christ. But **when** is this believing occurring? Is John talking about how you **first come to faith** or about **once you have already come to faith** what you then do?

“It follows, then, that 1 John 5:1 teaches that first God grants us new life and then we believe Jesus is the Christ.”

Like a good magician Schreiner has us focused on the effect that he wants (he now argues that this verse is talking about how we first became Christians, justification, he wants to believe that we first became Christians because God first regenerated us and then this regeneration produced or caused our initial faith, the faith through which we were justified) while distracting us from where the trick occurs (he has pulled 1 John 5:1 out of its context, an entire book discussing and describing SANCTIFICATION, and wants it to appear to be referring to JUSTIFICATION or how we first got saved). If you know magic and know the trick he is perpetrating you can see right through the whole guise. And you will not be fooled by this trick.

Robert

Robert said...

[part 6 analysis of Schreiner]

“We see the same truth in Acts 16:14. First God opens Lydia’s heart and the consequence is that she pays heed to and believes in the message proclaimed by Paul.”

He assumes that 16:14 refers to regeneration. But the text says only that the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. But that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does in every person who eventually becomes a Christian, they have their hearts opened by the Spirit so that they can understand spiritual things sufficiently to then choose to respond in faith to the gospel message. The text has no word for regeneration present, Schreiner simply reads in his calvinism (i.e., a person cannot understand spiritual things unless God has elected them and then opened their heart to believe via regeneration, but that is just his theology it is not the text of 16:14). I do a lot of evangelism and I can relate cases where someone in fact had their heart opened, they understood the gospel the Spirit worked in them, and yet at that time they did not become believers (but became believers at a later time, or in some cases never did believe after having their hearts opened).

“Similarly, no one can come to Jesus in faith unless God has worked in his heart to draw him to faith in Christ (John 6:44).”

John 6:44 is saying that unless you experience the work of the Spirit in your life you can never come to Christ in faith (but noncalvinists believe **that**, and **that** alone does not prove calvinism).

“But all those whom the Father has drawn or given to the Son will most certainly put their faith in Jesus (John 6:37).”

The calvinists **assume** that only those preselected for salvation will be drawn and experience the work of the Spirit who leads them to Christ for salvation (they assume their doctrine of unconditional election and then read it into the passage). The bible never says this, it is only an assumption read into the text by calvinists. Also, the apostle John explicitly says in John 12:32 regarding the drawing of men, that all will be drawn through the cross of Christ (though we know that not all will end up believing as the bible is clear that some will be eternally separated from God).

“God regenerates us and then we believe, and hence regeneration precedes our conversion.”

He now simply repeats his belief his assertion, WHICH HE NEVER EVER GOT CLOSE TO PROVING FROM SCRIPTURE AND FROM HIS PROOF TEXTING ATTEMPTS FROM 1 John. He never proved his case and his case was extremely weak when carefully evaluated.

“Therefore, we give all the glory to God for our conversion, for our turning to him is entirely a work of his grace.”

Yes we do give God the glory for our conversion, for our salvation, because we know that he initiated it, it was his work alone that enabled us to have saving faith, and his actions were completely undeserved by us and are rightly described as grace. We never would have trusted in Christ for salvation without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. We never would have desired Christ or desired salvation or recognized our own sinfulness and need for a savior without the work of the Holy Spirit.

Robert

steve said...

Robert said...

“Then when you look at church history from that time on, while some have held calvinistic beliefs, the vast majority in all traditions whether they be Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or other Protestants, have all rejected calvinism.”

Robert recently admitted that he subscribes to eternal security. However, eternal security is very much the minority report in historical theology. Therefore, Robert is being duplicitous–as usual.

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“And God does not cause the elect to sin? That would mean that the elect would never be caused to sin. But they do sin, so if God causes everything, he causes their sin as well.”

Depends on how you define “cause.” If you’re using a counterfactual theory of causation, then in Calvinism, Molinism, Arminianism, universalism, and open theism, God is the cause of sin. The mere act of creating the world is a sine qua non of sin.

If you think Jas 1:13 rules out divine “causation” of sin (thus defined), then Jas 1:13 rules out Calvinism, Molinism, Arminianism, universalism, and open theism. What’s left?

“But if a text has philosophical entailments, and you buy inerrancy, then those philosophical entailments have to be true, even if the text is not aimed at establishing these.”

You mean like predestination texts of Scripture, whose philosophical entailments exclude libertarian freewill?

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“Further, the concept of love, even if it includes the infliction of suffering, is always aimed at a good final result for the person who is loved. Otherwise, the word love doesn't make sense.”

i) That’s not an objection to Calvinism, per se. That’s an objection to any position short of universalism.

ii) It also disregards the concept of justice. You act as if Scripture only uses a remedial theory of justice rather than a retributive theory of justice.

iii) It also commits a basic semantic fallacy by confounding sense and reference. What loves means and who is loved are separate issues.

“It looks very clear from Scripture that God loves every person and wants them to be saved. The case for this is strong that many Calvinist exegetes agree.”

I can quote non-Calvinists who offer interpretations of Arminian prooftexts which are consistent with Calvinism (e.g. Lincoln in Jn 3:16, Towner on 1 Tim 2:4, Bauckam on 2 Pet 3:9, &c.).

Jason Pratt said...

Taking a break temporarily from the main discussion for yet another attempt at clarification:

JP: {{I know for a fact that this happened [in the SBC] for a period of time on some limited scale roughly 15 years ago}}

Steve Hays: {{Out of curiosity, I drew Tom Ascol's attention to your allegation.}}

Tom Ascol, for those who may not be aware, is Executive Director of Founders Ministry, a fairly influential group which is also dedicated to reforming the Arminianism prevalent among SBC churches. Founders Ministry is very active today on a broad scale, unlike the group acting on a limited scale roughly 15 years ago which I was describing.

My surviving notes do indicate that this cabal of pastors considered themselves working in conjunction with FM, but I have zero evidence that FM is even interested in creating what amounts to a presbyterian restructuring of local congregations, much less the extravagant mindgames these pastors were playing.

In hindsight, I should have probably included a disclaimer that FM isn’t the same group that was operating on a limited scope roughly 15 years ago (and apparently not today). But I thought anyone familiar with FM would figure out from those details that I couldn’t possibly be talking about FM; and I didn’t want their name even attached to this group by the group’s own association. (Plus there’s the 4096 wordcount limit now; I have to trim-edit more than I used to.)

You did tell Tom, when you were drawing his attention to my non-allegations concerning his group, that I was talking about a group of pastors operating on a limited scope 15 years ago that don’t appear to be operating now (or for quite some time), which consequently couldn’t possibly be Tom’s group, right Steve? I want to be sure I’m understanding his reply in the proper context.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Steve: {{Toplady’s point is that Wesley’s industriousness is not inherently virtuous since evil agents can also be industrious.}}

Industrious in doing the same things that Wesley happened to be industrious in doing (unlike the honest laborer in the second half of the paragraph): going around all over the country trying to make disciples.

{{That’s what he confines his comparison to.}}

Nope; as noted in my previous comment, in exceeding detail, Toplady’s analogy begs comparison to why he should not be expected to ease up on such an industrious person. (See that comment for those details.)


To which, however, I will also add that Wesley certainly provoked Toplady by publishing an abstracted version of Toplady’s translation of a Latin treatise on Calvinism, laced with contemptuous remarks at Toplady’s expense (as an ideological tractate), and effectively misquoting Toplady at its culmination. (Aside from the question of whether the misquote accurately gauged the gist of Toplady’s position, there is no doubt that Wesley fabricated his rhetoric in such a way as to lead readers to suppose Toplady himself had written such a thing.) Nor was Wesley’s side of the exchange of papers and correspondence which followed, exactly free of acrimony. Moreover, Toplady is one of those extreme anti-Arminians who did also warn his readers not to consider Arminians en masse to be damned non-elects.

Pursuant to this, in his culminating part of the famous exchange between them (which piece can be found here, by the way), “Whom do I condemn? whom do I impiously consign to future punishment? I condemn no man. I dare not pronounce concerning any man's eternal state. Herein, I judge not even Mr. Wesley himself.”

To this I will even append Toplady’s final words to Wesley from the end of that exchange, “May your name, sir, after all that you have done, be found at last in that Book of Life, against which you have so daringly exclaimed!”

This he says: of a man whom he afterward (in other material) compares to Satan and the Pharisees of the Great Condemnation, in the fashion also described--of which there is also no doubt as to the content.

At least one of these sets could be fairly said to be rhetoric for sake of appearance.

And for charity’s sake, I am willing to consider the Satanic comparison to have been the false and misleading rhetoric, and the refusal to condemn Wesley the true spirit of Toplady’s attitude and teaching toward Arminianism and toward dedicated Arminians teachers.

Jason Pratt said...

But the problem is that the Satanic comparison is not (in the text originally quoted) directed toward Wesley’s character faults per se; Wesley is there simply presented as being a missionary for a system that came from hell and will lead its believers back to where it came: and not only incidentally a missionary of such, but a missionary of the same kind as Satan and the condemned Pharisees. Moreover, this tract was released sometime after the one where Toplady insisted he did not judge Wesley and hoped for his salvation--but evidence for that salvation involved Wesley’s abandonment of the doctrines that Toplady rejected (or thought he was rejecting). If Wesley nevertheless continued to his death (soon-expected, due to his age), then...?

Perhaps Wesley taught the same thing of Toplady; not only that Toplady was teaching a “Hellish Doctrine” which would return “down to the Pit from whence it came” “at Thy command” (per a hymn earlier written by Charles Wesley and reprinted by John Wesley in the Arminian Magazine sometime after the most famous parts of the polemical exchange between the two men--and which the tractate I originally quoted is probably referring to in retort), but that Toplady himself is to be compared in his quality and fate to Satan and other surely condemned persons. I don’t know that he did, but if evidence showed up for that I wouldn’t be overly surprised.

But neither was final Arminian condemnation of dedicated Calvinists what you asked me to provide examples of, Steve.

(However, in order to continue representing the other side of the account, allow me to volunteer this information: that there appears to have been some conspiracy among Arminian Methodists at Toplady’s death, which Wesley either wittingly or unwittingly abetted, to the effect that Toplady recanted his position and expressed a desire to reconcile with Wesley, even proclaiming a brief statement from the pulpit on the matter; to which his biographer William Winters spent considerable space rebutting. On the balance, I am inclined to believe Winters, including that at the near-death pulpit statement Toplady actually reaffirmed his opposition to Arminianism and refused to reconcile with Wesley. Afterward, Wesley seems to have spread a further rumor based on hearsay, to the effect that Toplady died uttering such horrible despairing blasphemies that one of his attendent ladies joined an Arminian congregation of one of Wesley’s followers--which Winters also spends time rebutting in detail.)

JRP

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

"You did tell Tom, when you were drawing his attention to my non-allegations concerning his group, that I was talking about a group of pastors operating on a limited scope 15 years ago that don’t appear to be operating now (or for quite some time), which consequently couldn’t possibly be Tom’s group, right Steve? I want to be sure I’m understanding his reply in the proper context."

i) I didn't "tell" him anything. I merely emailed in the links to your two-part comment.

ii) I'd also note that you're missing the point. The point is not whether you were targeting his group. The point, rather, is that I suspect he knows a wee bit more about the modern history of Calvinists in the SBC than you do. Therefore, he's in a position to evaluate your claims. Your claims don't have to be about his group for him to be qualified to evaluate your claims. That shouldn't be difficult for you to grasp, but for some reason it is.

Jason Pratt said...

Steve: {{I was just curious to see if you apply the same yardstick to Arminians and Calvinists alike, or if your objection was to simply smear the Calvinists.}}

It’s odd that if my objection was simply to smear Calvinists, that I would stress numerous times (before my most recent round of comments I mean), that I’m talking about a relatively rare strain of Calvinistic behavior.

Maybe if your expectations were higher, you would have noticed details like that.

To give a pertinent example:

JP: “Since I can even more easily find Calvinist teachers warning Calvinists not to consider dedicated Arminians to be non-elect.”

Steve: {{And I can do the same for Arminianism. Billy Birch, whom Reppert recently plugged, has publicly stated that the typical Calvinist is not attracted to the Gospel. }}

Um... how does this remark from Billy Birch count as an example of an Arminian teacher warning Arminians against considering Calvinists to be non-Christians? That certainly does happen, and I’m as glad it does as I’m glad to see when Calvinist teachers warn Calvinists not to consider Arminians non-Christian; but Billy, from your report, seems to be teaching something more like the opposite of what I was talking about in the quote you referenced.

Had you bothered to read more closely, you would have seen that I was exonerating the majority of Calvinist teachers compared to a “rare” (my own previously used word) minority.


As for holding either side to the same standard: it ought to be blatantly obvious that I cannot approve either side teaching the final hopeless condemnation of anyone, especially of each other. (I wouldn’t be much of a universalist if I did approve of it. {lopsided g}) That includes when Arminians (if they occasionally do, which wouldn’t in the least surprise me) teach the hopeless condemnation of Calvinists as Calvinists per se.

Indeed, I would say Arminians have less excuse to do so, on their theological grounds, than Calvinists; since theologically an Arminian shouldn’t be expecting anyone to be hopelessly damned until after death but for everyone to be being sought for salvation by God.

Whereas if Calvinism is true, then there must be some number of non-elect, whom God never even intended (much less ever has acted) to save or even to give any remote amount of true goodness to at all (via the Holy Spirit), who are walking the planet at any given time; and even if forbidden to actually judge whether one or another person is such a non-elect, the Calvinist will still have a strong practical temptation to trying to figure out who they are. It shouldn’t be surprising if Calvinists occasionally fall to that temptation, even when teaching other Calvinists.

I will reiterate once again, however (although you seem determined, if not pre-determined {g}, to ignore when I say such things), that I do NOT find Calvinists, especially Calvinist teachers, usually doing such a thing but RATHER THE REVERSE.


{{And Toplady was the only bigwig Calvinist you cited.}}

I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to be citing only Calvinist “bigwigs”. But thank you for at least admitting that the other professors I cited were teaching this. {s}


And now back to the regularly schedule discussion (which I will leave to the principals already engaged in it.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

{{The point, rather, is that I suspect he knows a wee bit more about the modern history of Calvinists in the SBC than you do.}}

So, I am to take his word of having no knowledge of such things, as trumping the testimony of people I know who went through such things? Hm.

I may know a wee bit more about the modern history of Calvinists in the SBC than he does.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

By which I mean, not slightly more in total, of course.

To be fair, someone who hasn't been connected to such events as I was (through friends of my family), can weigh Tom's testimony in the balance on the other side. Nor do I recommend countenancing a conspiratorial suspicion along the lines of "naturally he wouldn't admit to knowing about any of that etc." I was expressly NOT making "allegations" toward FM, however.

(So perhaps it was Tom who didn't read or understand my qualifying exclusionary data; since by your report he seems to have thought I was accusing FM of this.)

JRP

steve said...

Robert said...

"This is a better representation of the Arminian view. Arminians do not believe that calvinists are **literal Satan worshippers** or Satanists (calvinists do not worship the devil never have."

That's true. After all, Wesley said that what Calvinists worship is even worse than the devil. So, for Wesley, it would be an improvement if Calvinists were garden-variety devil-worshipers.

Victor Reppert said...

Look, the Calvinists in this debate are saying that they have a proof from Scripture that their view is correct. This requires exegetical arguments that predestinarian passages are consistent only with Calvinism and that passages apparently showing a difficulty for Calvinism have explanations that are consistent with Calvinism. That is what it takes to satisfy a burden of proof here.

I am not claiming to satisfy a burden of biblical proof here. All I need is to show that Scripture is inconclusive. Inerrancy is plausible only if you are willing to say, with respect to many passages of Scripture, that you do not entirely know what is going on, but trust that there is a logical explanation somewhere.

Bnonn seems deeply offended that I might suggest that Scripture leaves the question of Calvinism unsettled, because it is "core doctrine." I have trouble believing that he would say such a thing. When I think of core doctrine, I think of doctrines like the Incarnation, or the Trinity, etc., which have defined Christian orthdoxy over the centuries. Does he really mean to equate Arminianism with the docetic view of Christ or the denial that Jesus was fully God and fully man? This leaves us with the serious question for Calvinists: If Calvinism is true, why are there so many Arminians?

I should say that IF you think you can settle the debate by what I call narrow biblical arguments, then you have to not only have Calvinist proof-texts, but you also need good answers to difficult passages. I don't think that Calvinists have that. James 1:13 and John 3:16 are good examples why this is the case.

Calvinists like to point to examples within salvation history where the sinful actions of some person (Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Pharaoh), make important events in salvation history possible. In particular, these are events that lead up to the cross, which potentially benefits everyone, including the malefactors in these stories. It makes sense that these cases might provide some mystery with respect to the moral responsibility of these agents. Hard cases make bad laws, however. If the biblical case is good that God wants people not to sin, is genuinely grieved by their sin, wants them to be saved from their sin, etc., then the only reasonable explanation for the fact that they do in fact sin is a doctrine of libertarian free will. This is what I would call a broad biblical argument as opposed to a narrow biblical argument. It is the forest, not the trees, that cause problems for Calvinism.

I have been meaning to work through Walls and Dongell's analysis of the "two wills" response by Piper, Dabney, etc. to the problem of the sincerity of God's concern for the lost. I think this is the most interesting and plausible response to the problem here, but I think it fails for the reasons that Walls and Dongell say that it does.

Calvinists tend to overestimate our ability to make Scripture transparent, but leave us with a God whose intentions toward humanity are completely opaque. I see a lot of opacity in Scripture, but I do have an overall picture of the character of God that seems to me to be morally coherent.

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...
“Look, the Calvinists in this debate are saying that they have a proof from Scripture that their view is correct. This requires exegetical arguments that predestinarian passages are consistent only with Calvinism and that passages apparently showing a difficulty for Calvinism have explanations that are consistent with Calvinism. That is what it takes to satisfy a burden of proof here.”

That’s just plain silly. Every Protestant theological tradition which lays claim to sola Scriptura as its rule of faith has the same burden of proof. So your contention is clearly reversible:

Look, the Arminians (universalists, Molinists, open theists, &c.) in this debate are saying that they have a proof from Scripture that their view is correct. This requires exegetical arguments that their (allegedly) libertarian prooftexts are consistent only with Arminianism and that passages apparently showing a difficulty for Arminianism have explanations that are consistent with Arminianism. That is what it takes to satisfy a burden of proof here.

Why do we even have to explain that to you?

“I should say that IF you think you can settle the debate by what I call narrow biblical arguments, then you have to not only have Calvinist proof-texts, but you also need good answers to difficult passages.”

Once again, the reasoning is patently reversible:

I should say that IF you think you can settle the debate by what I call narrow biblical arguments, then you have to not only have Arminian (universalist, Molinist, open theist) prooftexts, but you also need good answers to difficult passages.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Calvinists like to point to examples within salvation history where the sinful actions of some person (Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Pharaoh), make important events in salvation history possible. In particular, these are events that lead up to the cross, which potentially benefits everyone, including the malefactors in these stories. It makes sense that these cases might provide some mystery with respect to the moral responsibility of these agents. Hard cases make bad laws, however.

When all else fails, appeal to mystery eh. That's what real philosophers do. Only there is no "mystery" here. The situation could not be more clear-cut. p or not-p. Either these agents are morally responsible, or they are not. Does Scripture say that they are, or that they aren't? Similarly, either God is right and just to hold them accountable for their God-caused actions, or he is not. Does Scripture say he is, or that he isn't? So tell me, what is unclear? What is mysterious?

You can't deal with the arguments I've given which definitively disprove a libertarian theory of moral accountability, so you're appealing to "mystery". But it should be clear to everyone that, in doing so, you're really just conceding your own error. What the appeal to mystery boils down to is an admission that God can hold people accountable for actions which he caused them to do—contra your libertarian view—and that you find this mysterious. But we already knew that. The issue isn't whether you can make sense of it, but whether it is true. Since you implicitly admit that it's true by your appeal to mystery, and since its truth necessarily disproves your libertarian theory of accountability (or else you wouldn't need to appeal to mystery), your appeal is just a disguised confession that (i) Scripture falsifies the view of accountability which you started out defending; and (ii) you find its own teachings about accountability impossible to understand. Since Scripture doesn't require you to understand this, however, I have no need to argue further. What matters is that we both now agree that libertarian accountability theory is false. Let's move on.

Mind you, I really also have to point out that your facile appeal to mystery cuts both ways. If you consider the mystery card a valid move to cover up a scriptural disproof of your view instead of reasoning rigorously to the truthful conclusion (however much you may dislike it), then you have no right to expect better from your opponents. If it's legitimate for you to appeal to mystery to preserve your libertarian views, then it's legitimate for a Calvinist to appeal to mystery to preserve his predestinarian views. James 1:13? Oh, that's a mystery. (Of course, I've already dealt with James 1:13—I have no idea why you think it's the magic bullet you think it is, given that its meaning is pretty plain and doesn't contradict anything in Calvinism.) John 3:16? Oh, that's a mystery. Given the rules of the game you've established, I have no need to point to all the scholarly exegesis of these passages which demonstrates how they do, indeed, comport with the Calvinistic view. I just have to appeal to mystery.

Incidentally, the issue at hand here is purely your libertarian theory of moral accountability. Calvinism itself is not at issue. The doctrines of grace are not the issue. I'm purely concerned with the fact that the libertarian accountability theory you're pushing is manifestly disproved by certain cases in Scripture. And if it's disproved in even one case, then it's an untenable theory.

steve said...

“[VR] I don't think that Calvinists have that. James 1:13 and John 3:16 are good examples why this is the case.”

I’ll have more to say about Jas 1:13. For the time being, I’ll note that this isn’t the first time you’ve cited Jn 3:16. I responded to your appeal by citing a standard commentary on John by a commentator (Lincoln) who is not, to my knowledge, a Calvinist–whose interpretation is consonant with Calvinism. Did you offer a counterargument? No. As usual, you simply repeat yourself as if no one every replied to your appeal.

“If the biblical case is good that God wants people not to sin, is genuinely grieved by their sin, wants them to be saved from their sin, etc., then the only reasonable explanation for the fact that they do in fact sin is a doctrine of libertarian free will.”

If you really think that God doesn’t want anyone to sin, then why do you think he created sinners in the first place? Do you think creation was a metaphysical necessity? Are you a necessitarian? Isn’t that a self-defeating way to defend libertarianism?

And if libertarianism is true, then why didn’t God instantiate a possible world where free agents freely choose to do good rather than evil? If you think free agents have the freedom to do otherwise, then isn’t there a possible world which samples their good choices?

“Calvinists tend to overestimate our ability to make Scripture transparent, but leave us with a God whose intentions toward humanity are completely opaque.”

That’s a rather idiosyncratic accusation. Critics of Calvinism normally complain that Calvinism is only too clear on God’s intentions towards humanity (either you’re elect or reprobate), and they reject it because they think it’s clearly wrong.

Victor Reppert said...

It is rather odd to hear complaints about the appeal to mystery at this point. Look, we ask the question "Why in the world would God instantiate a world with reprobates when he could just as easily instantiate a world with no reprobates, in other words, a universalist world?" Who does it benefit? Does it benefit the blessed in heaven? Do we really need reprobates over in hell so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? God can't impress it on them any other way? You've got to be kidding me. Does God benefit, because he gets to exercise his wrath against sinners as well as his mercy to the elect? Doesn't wrath and love come out of the same source, a love for righteousness? Does God need to damn people in order to convince himself he hates sin? This is just incoherent. Is it a favor to the damned, that they receive the just punishment for their sin? Spare me from such favors. So why do it? What earthly or heavenly good does it do God, the holy angels, the fallen angels, the elect, the non-elect, etc. It seems just so totally pointless. To make matters worse, God creates us in such a way that we care deeply about the salvation of others. But it turns out God has chosen, before the foundation of the world, to frustrate the sincere prayers of people who want their loved ones saved. God might love me, but hate my daughter. Or vice versa. One could complain that God's actions appear mean to us, (of course they do), but what bothers me is that they appear completely senseless.

When I ask this question, I get the mystery maneuver. God has a reason, and we humans are completely clueless as to what it could possibly be. It's in the secret will of God and that's, well, secret. On the assumption of libertarian free will, there are a number of partial theodicies that explain a good chunk of the world's evil, and while there are leftover difficulties, you at least have reason to suppose that there are answers to the rest of it, even if you can't see it. God's will is the eternal good of everyone, that good can be achieved only if the creature responds freely, many pains are used by God to induce us to freely obey him, but it is at least possible that for some disobedience will be permanent. We can fit more stuff in here, of course. Replace this with compatibilist free will, and God could have created us in such a way that everyone freely does what is right.

It looks to me as if a position like this has the burden of proof. A reading of Scripture that makes the motives for most of what God does completely obscure has a heavy burden of proof in comparison to one that makes evil and suffering at least halfway understandable.

I'm not saying I can't reconcile the relevant Scriptures with incompatibilism, but if I can't, then I've got to say that it makes more sense to me to say that these Scripture passages are obscure than to say that God's motivation for everything he does is totally obscure.

Of course there are problems with anti-Calvinist responses to the problem of evil, which is why there are atheists who think the problem of evil provides good evidence against theism. But it seems perfectly obvious to me that if Calvinism true there are ways in which God could, and should have done things that are better than the way He did them. What is more, while I see a very good prudential reason for loving and obeying God if Calvinism is true, (you don't tug on Superman's cape) I have a lot of trouble finding a moral reason to obey him.

If I graded my classes like a Calvinist, I wouldn't be able to keep my job. That is, if all the tests I gave were so hard that everyone failed by merit, but then I had mercy on some and not on others because, after all, I was the teacher and could do that, the students I "reprobated" with Fs would be in the dean's office complaining about capricious grading. And with good reason.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, what does any of that have to do with the fact that your libertarian accountability theory is falsified by Scripture? Even if Calvinists do appeal to mystery with regard to reprobation (and I personally don't), that's an entirely different kind of appeal than the one you made as regards accountability. Your appeal was basically an admission that your view is falsified by Scripture but you want to stick to it anyway. The Calvinist's appeal would be an acknowledgment that his view is upheld by Scripture, but he does not understand the reasons for it.

Anyway, reprobation has nothing to do with the issue at hand. As usual, you're diverting the topic when you have no argument. And your noseeum objection, along with the self-refuting nature of your position, has been pointed out many times in the past. For example, your statement: "But it seems perfectly obvious to me that if Calvinism true there are ways in which God could, and should have done things that are better than the way He did them." If this is true, it applies equally to any form of Arminianism short of open theism. If you want to become an open theist universalist, just do it. Stop being such a pansy, and either submit to the Bible, or discard it in favor of your intuitions. This constant flirting with heresy is just tiresome. Take a stand man.

If I graded my classes like a Calvinist, I wouldn't be able to keep my job. That is, if all the tests I gave were so hard that everyone failed by merit, but then I had mercy on some and not on others because, after all, I was the teacher and could do that, the students I "reprobated" with Fs would be in the dean's office complaining about capricious grading. And with good reason.

Right. So you really want to be a Pelagian open theist universalist. So just come out of the closet already.

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“Do we really need reprobates over in hell so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? God can't impress it on them any other way? You've got to be kidding me.”

Which is exactly what the Bible says. For example “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:22-23).”

Moving along:

“Is it a favor to the damned, that they receive the just punishment for their sin?”

Why do you think punishment is supposed to do the offender a favor? Should we be doing Charles Manson a favor?

Maybe we should lock you up with Charles Manson overnight to see if that has an effect on your moral intuitions.

“But it turns out God has chosen, before the foundation of the world, to frustrate the sincere prayers of people who want their loved ones saved.”

Once again, Victor, that objection is hardly confined to Calvinism. It’s not as if God answers the prayers of everyone who wants their loved ones to be saved under Arminianism, Molinism, Lutheranism, Catholicism, open theism, Eastern Orthodoxy, &c.

Why don’t you have the simple honesty to stake out one consistent position, then defend it against every opposing position?

Instead, you pretend to be noncommittal, then deploy every opposing position against Calvinism. I’m flattered that you think Calvinism is the creed to beat, but it’s duplicitious to play theological hopscotch the way you do.

“God might love me, but hate my daughter. Or vice versa.”

Yes, God might love Charles Manson’s mom, but hate her precious son. And what you do find so outrageous about that, exactly? Do you love Charles Manson, Victor?

“When I ask this question, I get the mystery maneuver.”

From whom? Not from me.

“God's will is the eternal good of everyone, that good can be achieved only if the creature responds freely, many pains are used by God to induce us to freely obey him.”

Suffering frequently turns people against God. Take the street girl who’s gang-raped. Do you really think that’s the best way to induce her to freely obey God? And you presume to talk about coherence, do you?

“If I graded my classes like a Calvinist, I wouldn't be able to keep my job. That is, if all the tests I gave were so hard that everyone failed by merit, but then I had mercy on some and not on others because, after all, I was the teacher and could do that, the students I ‘reprobated’ with Fs would be in the dean's office complaining about capricious grading. And with good reason.”

Well, Victor, that comparison is quite revealing. So you grade like a Pelagian rather than a Calvinist. Fine. Nothing wrong with a meritocracy in higher education. (I take it that you oppose affirmative action.) But if you think that analogy carries over to soteriology, then you’re a simon-pure Pelagian.

You also need to explain how you harmonize your Pelagianism with your universalism. Does universalism operate according to the merit system?

Victor Reppert said...

You're really not going to like this, Bnonn, but incompatibilism seems a lot more evident to me than inerrancy. Inerrancy has a lot of problems quite apart from the Calvinism issue. So, if you prove that they conflict, inerrancy goes.

Sorry.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

At least now you're being honest about your true colors. You're not going to like this either, but I don't take the profession of someone puts his intuitions above inerrancy very seriously. Just as I don't take the profession of theological hopscotch players very seriously. You have an affinity to a quasi-Christian position for philosophical reasons. That doesn't make you a genuine Christian, though—as these discussions have gradually proved very clearly.

Sam said...

Hope none of you mind an atheist barging in here.

"but incompatibilism seems a lot more evident to me than inerrancy . . . So, if you prove that they conflict, inerrancy goes."

This is what I've been saying to theists for years now. That there is being like the Trinity, or a fully god fully man being, just seems whacked-out to me. If Christianity teaches these things, Christianity goes. My theist friends just don't seem to get my worries.

"It seems just so totally pointless."

I've been saying that for a while too. Look at all the evil in the world. It seems just so totally pointless. That it is pointless is a stronger intuition than that there could be some good, so I just say God probably doesn't exist.

Sam

Victor Reppert said...

The problem with the "Calvinist grader" is he's got two different systems for two different set of people with no reason for selecting one group for one kind of treatment over another. That's what I would call a "respecter of persons," which, last time I read the Bible, it said God was not.

Bnonn, I am not sure that any non-Calvinist satisfies your account of what a Christian is. "Are you saved" is not an argument for anything.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Well Victor, you're welcome to read the series I wrote on that exact topic.

steve said...

Well, Victor, you say that as if, in a pinch, you can throw the Bible overboard to keep the ship afloat and save the champagne. But if you jettison the inerrancy (or reliability) of Scripture, it’s not as that you can save the cargo or the passengers by that expedient.

Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. God reveals himself in history by what he says and does. Words which interpret his deeds. Captions which decrypt the picture.

The reason Protestants affirm sola Scriptura is not because we have a fetish for paper and ink. Rather, it goes to our source of knowledge. Are we in a position to know that what we believe in or hope for is true? That’s only as good as our source of information.

You keep invoking the love of God. And you try to use that as a wedge issue to leave the door wide open for universalism. You also invoke the love of God to ditch the retributive theory of punishment in favor of the remedial theory of punishment.

If, however, we have no reliable revelation from God, then how do you know that God is love? How do you know that God loves everyone? How do you know that God will save everyone, or intends to save everyone, or intends to save anyone at all?

Without a reliable revelation, what are you left with, Victor? If we were to judge the outcome by the world, the world is not a very loving place. How would you extrapolate from our sublunary experience to universal salvation–or anything remotely approaching universal salvation?

Unless you can prove universalism from Scripture, you have no reason to believe that universalism is true, or probably true, or plausibly true.

Apart fro revelation, the nature of the afterlife is, at best, a blank. And if we were to extrapolate from this life to the afterlife, we’d expect the hereafter to be an extension and intensification of the disparities and asperities we find in the here-and-now.

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“The problem with the ‘Calvinist grader’ is he's got two different systems for two different set of people with no reason for selecting one group for one kind of treatment over another.”

Well, Victor, if you wish to press that metaphor, then according to the Reformed version, all the students were cheaters. Every student cheated on the exam.

The next question is, what should be done? The teacher could flunk the whole class. That would be a just and justifiable course of action.

He could also pardon every student and give every student an “A”.

Or he could pardon half the students to give them a second chance, a chance to learn from their mistake–while he flunks the other half to send a message, a warning to the other students not to be presumptuous.

However, your metaphor trivializes the issue. And that’s what I like about opponents of Calvinism. When we tediously peel back the layers, the core objection always comes down to the fact that opponents of Calvinism don’t take evil seriously. They can’t bring themselves to see evil as truly culpable.

If everyone is guilty, then there’s no injustice in treating offenders unequally. Inequity is only unjust in case the parties have just claims. Claims to better treatment.

If no one deserves any better, then God wrongs no one by giving some offenders their just deserts while showing mercy to others.

You fail to grasp either justice or mercy. That’s why you remain a stranger to the Gospel.

“That's what I would call a ‘respecter of persons,’ which, last time I read the Bible, it said God was not.”

Which you conveniently rip out of context. Rom 2:11 makes the point that Jews are not exempt from the principle of retribution according to works. You have completely subverted Paul’s point. Paul is not stating that God must be indiscriminate in whom he forgives. The passage is about the basis of judgment, not salvation.

Victor Reppert said...

And what if we can't prove anything from Scripture on this issue? What if it turns out that regardless of what position we take, we have to give some "forced" interpretations of at least some passages, interpretations that we would never accept except as a way of preserving our own favored positions, be it Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism, Universalism, etc.

I think there are theories of inspiration that fall short of Chicago-style inerrancy,(I guess that kind of sounds like pizza) that nonetheless do permit the Scriptures to speak authoritatively. Many people in the history of the Church have operated with at least far less literalism than a contemporary inerrantist works with. "Inerrancy or chaos" arguments have some surface appeal, but surely there is a way to avoid pinning ourselves into an excessively literalist bind.

Nor have I opposed inerrancy here. I have just said that incompatibilism seems more evident to me than inerrancy. I haven't admitted that I have to choose between the two.

But let's take my views on the Amalekite massacres. I can't defend them myself, so either there's something I don't understand about the situation, or the massacres were wrong. Why must I suppose that I understand everything that is going on there?

Contrary to what you suppose, I accept a retributive theory of punishment. However, retribution is invariably finite, and is compatible with a secondary redemptive purpose. It only becomes infinite in the face of continued disobedience. Indeed, the secondary redemptive purpose must be there if the punisher loves the one punished.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

However, retribution is invariably finite, and is compatible with a secondary redemptive purpose. It only becomes infinite in the face of continued disobedience. Indeed, the secondary redemptive purpose must be there if the punisher loves the one punished.

This is deeply confused.

1. According to whom is retribution invariably finite? Where's the argument or evidence? Since guilt is not temporally finite (it does not end), is it not more reasonable to suppose that perfect retribution upon guilt is not temporally finite either? More importantly, all the biblical evidence points to God's retribution upon sin being infinite. So what is the basis for your assertion?

2. Lacking any reason to think that retributive punishment is temporally finite, there is obviously an incompatibility between exhaustive retributive punishment, and remedial punishment. If punishment is intended to be remedial, then it cannot be exhaustively retributive. Conversely, exhaustively retributive punishment precludes the possibility of remediation.

3. Even if your assumption is true that retributive punishment becomes temporally infinite only in the face of continued disobedience, what evidence do you have to suppose that continued disobedience is not inevitable? Presumably, since you know that disobedience in this life lasts all the way up until death, you are assuming that hell entertains a remedial aspect. But if, in this life, in a world packed with common grace and goodness, man continues to sin invariably and often from birth to death—if, indeed, "anything which does not proceed from faith is sin"—then what possible reason could there be to imagine that the situation will improve in hell? It appears wantonly absurd to suppose that people in hell will eventually stop sinning altogether, and thus allow remediation to occur. In fact, the only plausible scenario is that people in hell, deprived of any grace whatsoever and subject to constant torment for their wrongdoing, will become progressively more depraved and ungodly, and thus further and further from any possibility or hope of remediation. I think Steve is right. You seem to have virtually no appreciation of the nature of evil whatsoever.

4. Re a redemptive purpose being necessary if the punisher loves the punished: is there any evidence that God loves those in hell? I agree that there is good evidence that he extends a common love to all men in this life; is there such evidence that he extends this similarly in the next? I don't think there is.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,[part 1]

You have repeatedly made the claim that the calvinists eisegete things into your own comments in order to make your comments to appear to be as mistaken as possible. This is no surprise as they also eisegete or read in things into scripture imagining that the biblical texts lend support to their false beliefs and their false system of theology.

Steve Hays quotes you as saying:

“Victor Reppert said...

“Do we really need reprobates over in hell so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? God can't impress it on them any other way? You've got to be kidding me.””

Hays then writes:


“Which is exactly what the Bible says.”

The bible never ever says that the saints will be in heaven or eternity appreciating the graciousness of their salvation by means of the damnation of the “reprobates.” There is no bible verse that ever says this though calvinists like Hays wish it were so.

Hays continued by quoting Romans 9:22:

“For example “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:22-23).”

Now note that Hays claims this verse supports his claim that the saints will benefit from the damnation of the “reprobates”. Look at the verse as quoted by Hays: where does it say in the verse that the saints are in Heaven? No place in **that** verse. Does it say the “reprobates” are in hell in that verse? No. In fact they **cannot be in hell** because God is patiently enduring them. When is God patiently enduring nonbelievers? During their time on earth. After the final judgment the nonbelievers are eternally separated from God and God will not be patiently enduring them then. So this explicit reference to God patiently enduring them, **must** be occurring during their time on earth. And if this is so, then Hays’ point that their condemnation in hell is a benefit to the redeemed IS NO WHERE TO BE FOUND IN THIS VERSE!! There is another major problem with Hays’ weak attempt to proof text here. Calvinists like Hays ASSUME that this passage and section in Romans is describing unconditional election of some to heaven and others to hell. But no reference is made in these verses to ETERNITY. And if we think about it logically and actually look at the verses, we find that it describes not God’s actions in ETERNITY but his actions in TIME involving actually existing persons. In eternity God may make plans, but the human persons involved in those plans DO NOT YET EXIST. These verses in Romans speak of God patiently enduring actually existing persons. Again, when is that happening? Can it be in eternity when these persons do not even exist? NO. It has to be in time when these human persons are alive on this earth. But if it is referring to actually existing human beings on this earth and God’s actions in time involving these actually existing human beings, then it cannot be referring to God’s actions in eternity. I guess Hays just missed that simple fact about this passage. But that is what happens when you ignore the intended meanings of biblical texts and instead are engaging in proof texting.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Victor [part 2]

And look at how Hays quotes the verse. He quotes it as saying: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,”. He leaves something out, something that if present in the verse changes the meaning of this verse drastically. Consider how the New American Standard bible, a reliable translation, translates these words and see what is present which Hays left out: “What if God, ALTHOUGH willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” Hays presents it as if God is demonstrating his wrath and making his power known by PATIENTLY ENDURING THESE PEOPLE. That does not make sense. The NASB properly includes the word ALTHOUGH because a contrast is present. The text is talking about God’s actions in time not in eternity. The text is saying that God is perfectly willing to demonstrate his wrath against sin and His power by directly intervening against it, BUT instead, He is patiently enduring these nonbelievers.

In other words if God operated according to strict justice, he could show wrath and power against sinners by immediately destroying them for their sins. But God does not operate strictly by justice against sin because in fact He loves people and wants to see them saved. So even though he would be perfectly just to respond with wrath and power against sin and blot out sinners: instead he patiently endures them, allows them to continue to live. And why might he desire to do that? Because God loves the world so that he even gives sinners more opportunities to get saved.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Victor [part 3]

And these vessels of wrath are not just nonbelievers in general as calvinists assume (they assume this because they want to believe that God intentionally reprobates most of mankind, according to their system), they are in fact in the context of Romans 9-11, unbelieving Jews. They are in fact the very people that the apostle Paul begins Romans 9 being deeply concerned about their salvation. In Paul’s time, the Jews as a whole had rejected their messiah (what Paul later in the Romans 9-11 unit will describe as a "partial hardening", a hardening that is not irreversible), Jesus, and Paul is explaining how this could be so and yet God is still keeping his promises (cf. Romans 9:1-6). Paul talks about God’s patience with sinners in Romans 9:22, the apostle Peter speaks of this same patience of God in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance”. Earlier Peter has noted that skeptics would come along saying things are just going on as usual why hasn’t Jesus come back yet? (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3-5). One reason that Jesus has not come back yet is to give more people an opportunity to repent and get saved.

Hays tried to proof text from Romans 9:22 in support of his false belief that believers will relish the damnation of reprobates and that this verse is talking about **that**. Carefully examined however, the verse is seen to have nothing to do with saints in heaven or saints relishing the damnation of reprobates, nor is the verse talking about unconditional election (it cannot be talking about God’s actions in eternity because it is talking explicitly about God’s actions in time in history when he is patiently enduring the vessels of wrath.

So you see Victor this verse properly interpreted says absolutely nothing in support of Hays wishful thinking and of his calvinistic system. Now calvinists will often attempt to proof text from this verse as well as others in Romans 9 but that is all that it is: proof texting (ignoring the actual context and the actual intended meanings of the biblical texts, starting with an a priori and then seeking for something that might support the already preconceived notion). But look at the verse, there is nothing whatsoever there in support of Hays’ claims. Victor the calvinist eisegesis which you noted is done with your words is also done with biblical texts and Romans (:22 is a great example of it.

Robert

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

Regarding the Amalekites, you’re conflating two distinct issues: the veracity of Scripture and the interpretation of Scripture. So I’m not clear on where you think you’re going with that example.

At the interpretive level, the Bible says that event happened, and it says God gave the orders. I don’t think any OT scholar, whether liberal or conservatives, denies that. What the Bible claims to be the case is not in doubt. The point at issue is whether we’re prepared to believe the claim.

Your previous position had been: “All I need is to show that Scripture is inconclusive.”

That would be a hermeneutical position. Since the Bible is “obscure,” it doesn’t single out Calvinism to the exclusion of alternate ways of reading the Bible (e.g. open theism, universalism).

When, however, you shift to inerrancy, and use the case of the Amalekites to illustrate your point, you’re using as argument which is at odds with your previous argument. The “problem” with the case of the Amalekites is not due to the “obscurity” or “opacity” of Scripture. It’s not as if any interpretation of that account is “inconclusive.”

Rather, it’s a question (for you) of whether the claim is true or false. Did it happen the way the Bible says it happened” Did it happen as a result of a divine command?

That is not a hermeneutical question. Rather, that’s a factual question.

If you don’t think the Bible is a reliable source of information, that unreliability doesn’t make room for universalism–or whatever view you’re promoting. Rather, if God hasn’t disclosed the nature of the afterlife, then we have next to nothing to go on regarding our hopes and fears and expectations for the life to come.

If you distrust the Bible, then what are you left with, Victor? Your life experience? But how is your life experience sufficient to underwrite your belief in a loving God? Much less universalism?

At best, you’d be in a situation like Ecclesiastes where, if you could only judge by appearances (“under the sun”), it would be hard to discern any consistent moral pattern in history.

steve said...

At some point I may respond to Robert’s characteristic distortions. But for now I’d like to draw attention to his priorities. Robert is a single-issue troll. He’s obsessed with Calvinism. He’s like a celebrity stalker. All he ever writes about is Calvinism.

Ironically, Robert is more fixated on Calvinism than I am, and I’m a Calvinist. But unlike Robert, I blog on a wide variety of issues.

The only position that Robert ever bothers to criticize is Calvinism. If someone promotes open theism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes universalism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes Darwinism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes atheism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes abortion, Robert is silent. If someone promotes Catholicism, Robert is silent. If someone attacks the Bible, Robert is silent.

It’s not as if Robert has a gun to his head, which prevents him from discussing two things at once. Robert could criticize both. He could criticize Calvinism and open theism. He could criticize Calvinism and universalism.

But no. He goes from blog to blog, writing long, repetitive comments on the evils of Calvinism while passing over everything else in silence.

For Robert, any enemy of Calvinism is an ally. And Robert will never ever say anything to strain that alliance.

If George Tiller were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Tiller. If Bin Laden were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Bin Laden. If Ted Bundy were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Bundy. If Anton LaVey were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend LaVey. If David Duke were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Duke.

Which one of us has been speaking up in defense of the unborn? Me? Or Robert? Me. That’s who.

You don’t see Robert posting long comments criticizing liberal views of abortion, or liberal abortion laws.

Robert’s moral and theological priorities begin and end with attacking Calvinism. Any friend of Calvinism is his enemy, while any enemy of Calvinism is his friend.

Robert pays lip-service to the universal love of God, but Robert is a hater. And his hatred dictates his alliances.

Robert said...

[Response to Hays part 1]

Steve Hays once again engages in one of his personal attacks making all sorts of false claims. He apparently also thinks that he is God and that he has the ability to know my heart and know all of my activities. I want to clarify a few things here (not for the sake of Hays but for others who may be reading this).

Hays wrote:

“At some point I may respond to Robert’s characteristic distortions. But for now I’d like to draw attention to his priorities. Robert is a single-issue troll. He’s obsessed with Calvinism. He’s like a celebrity stalker. All he ever writes about is Calvinism.”

Yes I will be looking forward to seeing his attempt to prove that Romans 9:22 teaches what he suggests, seeing as I completely dismantled his proof texting from this verse in a previous post.

Regarding my “priorities”, how does Steve Hays of all people **know** my priorities? God knows my priorities, I think I know them, and my close friends and family know them, but Steve Hays? I don’t think so.

Regarding being a single issue troll. I frequently post on Arminian sites and here on this site on the issues of Calvinism and Arminianism. If I am posting on Arminian sites and here on issues related to Arminianism, then what does Hays expect me to be posting on?

There is another problem with Hays’ analysis: he does not know what I do with my time nor what my personal commitments are. Again, he is in no place to say what my priorities are or even how I use my time. But he is so arrogant that he is going to engage in his personal attacks and false claims anyway.

Let’s also get something else straight here. Hays and I find ourselves in very different circumstances. I am married with a family and various commitments including my job (which is full time and involves prison ministry), my spouse and family, my local church, my friends, and other commitments. So I do not have nearly the time available to me that Hays has on his hands. Steve Hays lives with his mother, is single has no children and is not involved in local church ministry to any significant extent. He literally spends hours on the computer and so of course can spend hours speaking on all sorts of topics. I believe that he even considers his hours and hours on the computer to be his “ministry”.

“Ironically, Robert is more fixated on Calvinism than I am, and I’m a Calvinist. But unlike Robert, I blog on a wide variety of issues.”

Actually I blog on other issues as well, Hays just does not see what I am doing. Regarding blogging on “a wide variety of issues” I guess if like Hays I had his commitments then I could blog as much as he does as well.

“The only position that Robert ever bothers to criticize is Calvinism.”

Not true, again, Hays is not (at least I hope not, unless he is the fourth member of the trinity which is news to me! :-)) always looking over my computer when I am on the computer. So how does he know this to be true??

Robert

Robert said...

{Response to Hays part 2]

“If someone promotes open theism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes universalism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes Darwinism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes atheism, Robert is silent. If someone promotes abortion, Robert is silent. If someone promotes Catholicism, Robert is silent. If someone attacks the Bible, Robert is silent.”

Again not true. I have challenged open theism in other places. One of the reasons that I don’t comment much about open theism here or even at a place like Triablogue is that I don’t believe in “reinventing the wheel”. Others have done lots of good work in these areas, so I do not need to do it again. Does Hays want resources that argue convincingly against open theism? (I can recommend excellent books and persons for him) Universalism? (I can recommend excellent books and persons for him, by the way David writes these really long posts on universalism and others do quite well in showing the problems with universalism so why should I reinvent the wheel here?) Darwinism? (I can recommend excellent books and persons for him, Victor have you read the book I brought up to you yet? Stephen Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL? Great book against Darwinism). Atheism? (I can recommend books and persons for him, David Hart the Eastern Orthodox theologian that I like has a great new book on the New atheism, David Berlinski’s book THE DEVIL’S DELUSION on it is great). Abortion (I can recommend great books and persons for him, a couple people I know personally, Scott Klusendorf and Greg Koukl are really good in this area). Catholicism? (you get the picture) Apologetics? (I can recommend great books and person for him, I knew Greg Bahnsen before his untimely death, great exponent of presuppositional apologetics, they recently found an unpublished manuscript of his that I hear is very good) Cults? (I can recommend excellent books and persons, I knew the later Walter Martin personally) Islam (Hays did not mention that one, and while I do not agree with their Calvinism Bob Morey and now James White are working in this area as are others, this one I have to deal with more than ever in the prisons as Islam is making strong inroads there). I share these things to show that I have some familiarity on these issues and in some situations I do talk about these things. Just because Hays does not see it or hear it, does not mean that I do not do it. And when is the last time that Hays was present in a prison when I was answering questions or preaching or teaching and going against things like Islam, Atheism, etc.? Oh that’s right, NEVER.

Robert

henry said...

[Response to Hays part 3]

“It’s not as if Robert has a gun to his head, which prevents him from discussing two things at once. Robert could criticize both. He could criticize Calvinism and open theism. He could criticize Calvinism and universalism.”

Actually in a sense I do have a gun to my head, it is called other priorities and commitments. Again, unlike Hays who has hours and hours to spend on the internet, I don’t have the time. Take the example of universalism here on Victor’s blog. Jason Pratt writes a lot of posts, often long ones, I don’t have time or interest in dealing with these posts (so I allow others to deal with them including Hays).

“But no. He goes from blog to blog, writing long, repetitive comments on the evils of Calvinism while passing over everything else in silence.”

I frequently post at Arminian sites such as CLASSICAL ARMINIANISM, ARMINIAN PERSPECTIVES, ARMINIAN CHRONICLES, etc. If I am posting on those sites and those are the sites that Hays sees me posting on, then why is he surprised that I am frequently discussing the errors of Calvinism? And again how does Hays know that I do not discuss other issues in other places and other contexts? He doesn’t. But he is so arrogant that he makes these false claims, claims that he is in no position to make unless he is God (Oh I forgot he thinks he is the fourth member of the trinity so He knows exactly what I am doing at all times and in all contexts, :-) ).

“For Robert, any enemy of Calvinism is an ally. And Robert will never ever say anything to strain that alliance.”

Again Hays displays his ignorance here. One of my mentors is a calvinist, a very godly man whom I greatly respect (though of course I disagree with his Calvinism, surprise!). So I know that Calvinists can be both believers and have good Christian character. I also know other calvinists whom I respect so I know that they are not all evil, not all jerks. On the other hand, some like Steve Hays **are** jerks. I also know from these other calvinists that Hays can do much better. Or can he? If he is just a jerk in his character, perhaps that’s what God predetermined for him to be and so he just can’t help himself.

Robert

Robert said...

[Response to Hays part 4]

“If George Tiller were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Tiller. If Bin Laden were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Bin Laden. If Ted Bundy were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Bundy. If Anton LaVey were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend LaVey. If David Duke were an anti-Calvinist, Robert would defend Duke.”

Is Hays just losing it here? Is he mentally ill? When have I ever said or suggested that anyone as long as they are “anti-Calvinist” is a friend of mine or someone whose every action ought to be defended? Where in the world does Hays get that notion? Evil people are evil people regardless of what they profess or claim about themselves. Working with inmates I am quite aware of the depths of human depravity. With inmates I do not excuse their conduct or their crimes, I call them to do better, to make better choices. I have repeatedly challenged Steve Hays to interact with believers and nonbelievers in the way the bible tells us to do so, but he chooses to do otherwise. He chooses to act like a jerk and constantly violate what the bible says about how we are to speak, with no evidence of repentance or remorse.

“Which one of us has been speaking up in defense of the unborn? Me? Or Robert? Me. That’s who.”

Another prideful comment from Hays. Again, how does he know what I have said or not said in other contexts than the internet regarding ANYTHING??? And again why do I need to reinvent the wheel and come up with other arguments against abortion when friends like Klusendorf and Koukl are doing quite well in that area? Do I have to post on as many topics and in as many places as Hays in order to be acceptable to the Lord? Is that what makes one an acceptable Christian? Is that what Christianity is all about? Who is Hays to sit in judgment over me like he is attempting to do? I would remind Hays that God says that he hates pride and gives grace to the humble. And again, it is easy for Hays to make these claims that he posts on some of these subjects more than I do WHEN HE LIVES AT HOME WITH HIS MOTHER, WITHOUT A WIFE, WITHOUT CHILDREN, WITHOUT LOCAL CHURCH INVOLVEMENT, JUST SPENDING HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS ON THE INTERNET.

Robert

Robert said...

[Response to Hays part 5]

“You don’t see Robert posting long comments criticizing liberal views of abortion, or liberal abortion laws.”

Again, I have much less time on the internet then Hays does. And others provide plenty of arguments against abortion.

“Robert’s moral and theological priorities begin and end with attacking Calvinism. Any friend of Calvinism is his enemy, while any enemy of Calvinism is his friend.”

Again, how does Steve Hays know what my moral and theological priorities are?

Is he even in the place to judge me on this?

His arrogance here is astounding and reprehensible. I do not have to give an account of myself to him. He is the one who hates everybody who disagrees with him. He is the one who is arrogant and hateful and judgmental. Just look at his words attacking me. And I will add another thing, if other calvinists really cared about the truth and really cared about doing the right thing, then why aren’t they correcting Steve Hays for this kind of behavior? I guess it is OK as long as he is attacking someone who questions their Calvinism.

“Robert pays lip-service to the universal love of God, but Robert is a hater. And his hatred dictates his alliances.”

It is because I believe that God really loves the world and wants all to be saved that I am involved in prison ministry (contrary to Hays’ theology where God actually hates most human persons and eternally damns them for his pleasure). It is because calvinism gets it so wrong on the love of God that I challenge calvinism and show it to be a man made invention and a false system of theology.

Hays says that: “Robert is a hater. And his hatred dictates his alliances”. Again Hays is lying and misrepresenting things. And yet again he is pretending to be God. Hays does not know my heart but claims that I am the one that hates. I suggest that anyone who wants to know the truth just look at how Hays interacts with both believers and unbelievers. You want to see a hateful and arrogant person in action, just look at how he interacts with people. And I remind Hays and everyone else that the Lord is watching all of this, and it is to Him that we must give account.

Robert

steve said...

“Regarding being a single issue troll. I frequently post on Arminian sites and here on this site on the issues of Calvinism and Arminianism. If I am posting on Arminian sites and here on issues related to Arminianism, then what does Hays expect me to be posting on?”

Reppert posts on lots of issues other than Arminianism. Like abortion. And hell. And inerrancy. Robert leaves lots of comments on Reppert’s blog. I don’t see him leaving long comments on abortion or inerrancy or hell (to take just three examples).

And the fact that you spend so much of your time at Arminian sites corroborates my point about your priorities. Bashing Calvinism is your numero uno priority. That takes precedence over anything else.

“Again, he is in no place to say what my priorities are or even how I use my time.”

We see how you use your time on the Internet. That’s for sure.

“I am married with a family and various commitments including my job (which is full time and involves prison ministry), my spouse and family, my local church, my friends, and other commitments.”

Since Robert conceals his true identity, we only have his word for that.

But assuming, for the sake of argument, that what he says is true, it corroborates my point. He uses what spare time he has to bash Calvinism. A single-issue troll. Why doesn’t he stick up for the unborn? Or defend the doctrine of hell. Or defend the inerrancy of Scripture?

“Steve Hays lives with his mother, is single has no children…”

Notice that Robert is a gossipmonger. He levels personal accusations based on third-hand information. According to Scripture, it’s sinful to be a gossip. Yet that doesn’t prevent him from repeatedly violating this Biblical prohibition.

I’ve read some of his gossipy comments before. He once claimed that I was short: 5 foot 7. He then attributed a Napoleon complex to me based on my short stature.

Actually, I’m 5 foot 10 1/2. So much for his theory. That’s one of the problems when you rely on 3rd hand information.

“One of the reasons that I don’t comment much about open theism here or even at a place like Triablogue is that I don’t believe in ‘reinventing the wheel.’ Others have done lots of good work in these areas, so I do not need to do it again.”

A completely disingenuous excuse since Robert also thinks that others have done lots of good work rebutting Calvinism, yet that doesn’t prevent Robert from “reinventing the wheel” in his Johnny-one-note attacks on Calvinism.

“On the other hand, some like Steve Hays **are** jerks. I also know from these other calvinists that Hays can do much better. Or can he? If he is just a jerk in his character, perhaps that’s what God predetermined for him to be and so he just can’t help himself.”

I see. So Robert says that some Calvinists are “jerks.” This from very same guy who is constantly lectures us on why we should always be gentle and kind and respectful to those we disagree with. Here, Robert shows his true colors.

“He chooses to act like a jerk and constantly violate what the bible says about how we are to speak.”

And does what the Bible say about how we are to speak include calling those we disagree with “jerks”?

This is the real Robert, beneath the sanctimonious veneer.

“Again, I have much less time on the internet then Hays does.”

For someone who doesn’t have much spare time to spend on the internet, Robert spends and awful lot of time on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Who is Henry?

It looks like Robert was responding to Steve in 5 parts, yet at response 3 we see Henry instead of Robert. Why? Are Robert and Henry the same person?

If they are the same why the change and if there not the same where did Henry come into the picture?

Victor Reppert said...

My initial post was designed to provide a way for Arminians to improve the tone of the Calvinism debate.

My abject failure is noted.

Robert said...

"Who is Henry?"

I posted on a friend's computer, his google account name is "Henry". My google account name is Robert. Each time that I posted my responses I typed in Robert under Name/URL, except apparently on one of them, hence the name "Henry" appeared. I not my friend wrote all five posts.

Robert

Berny said...

hahaha

Robert accidentally posted using his other name.

ROFL

What a loser.

Robert, if you can bring in somebody, anybody, that your quackjob objections to Calvinism have ever persuaded, I'll personally create a google account for you that merges both of your names ("Robert/Henry") and purchase a domain name (roberthenry.com) for you along with a hosting plan for your convenience.

Conclusions from this post: Jason Pratt is a dishonest moron who got his card pulled; Robert is more of a joke than ever; and Reppert continues to demonstrate the argumentative abilities of an undergrad on the issues of Calvinism and Arminianism.

Lurker said...

See, Robert, I told you and everyone you were Henry and me. You called me a liar and said Calvinists were evil devils. Here's something you wrote once after denying you were Henry:

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

At May 15, 2008 7:17 PM , Robert said...

I must point out that someone pretending to me has posted claims against the Triabloggers. I do not know Lurker personally and I doubt his name is Robert. This is obviously a dumb ploy by calvinists who have nothing better to do with their time than use insults to smear me by making me look like a hypocrite. I think everyone will agree with me that inventing a person with a stroke as a sympathy ploy is beyond anything any Christian should do. That's why we know the Triabloggers are behind it.

Triabloggers constantly create sock puppets because they are deceptive, evil people. Calvinism causes this wicked attitude. You cannot trust anything that a Triablogger says, even if one posts under my name and pretends to attack them. It's all part of Satan's ploy.


\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

Ouch!

To the Robert who posted before me, I challenge you to depart from your wicked ways and repent. You are a tool of the devil!

mattghg said...

My initial post was designed to provide a way for Arminians to improve the tone of the Calvinism debate.

My abject failure is noted.


For real :(

Jason Pratt said...

Well, that was sufficiently trollish, Bern.

'Got my card pulled?' -- in what sense? I do have other projects I'm working on this week (none of which have anything to do with debating Calvinism), and what little presence I had on this thread was a result of a comment I made concerning a danger that most Calvinist teachers seem to be aware of: the temptation to consider dedicated non-Calvinists as non-elect. Steve (in a backhanded sort of way) admitted that two of my sources were in fact teaching this to their readers; and my analysis of Toplady's comment in that particular tract was far more in-depth and detailed than anything Steve ever did. (Rebuttal attempts from Steve which continue to selectively refer to limited portions of the data, accounted for in my analysis, continue to be insufficient. Possibly he's done more in-depth work elsewhere, but I don't know about that yet.)

'Being a moron?' -- I wasn't the one who identified the cabal I was talking about with FM, despite my clearly stated details which should have eliminated FM from suspicion from the outset.

'Being dishonest?' -- I continually qualified my statements out the wazoo, including in Calvinists' favor where appropriate. I allowed that people who haven't had my experiences would be justified in taking Tom's denial into account (assuming in his favor that he had actually read what I wrote and so realized I wasn't talking about FM.) I even voluntarily provided more information about the Toplady/Wesley debate for context about why Toplady would be acting so splenetic; basically defending Toplady (as far as I could) against Wesley in the process. I also went out of my way, repeatedly, to emphasize that this habit I was describing and decrying is relatively rare among Calvinists (for which I thanked God). And I pointed out that, logically (and theologically) speaking, any Arminians trying to make the same claim in reverse had much less excuse for doing so than a Calvinist could be said to have.


But perhaps you only bothered to read Steve's replies, and so got your impression that way. {shrug}{s}

JRP

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

"I wasn't the one who identified the cabal I was talking about with FM, despite my clearly stated details which should have eliminated FM from suspicion from the outset."

You know, Jason, you suffer from serious reading deficiency. Did I say you were talking about FM? No. I said rather, that Tom Ascol is qualified to know about the history of Calvinists in the SBC. What is there that you can't grasp about that explanation?

Jason Pratt said...

Meanwhile, I think it might be worthwhile for everyone to go back and read Victor's initial post. I'll all-cap the point to make it clearer for anyone who can't understand obvious context very well:

VICTOR IS CRITICISING ARMINIANS FOR SLOPPY OR OVERCONVENIENT RHETORIC WHICH NATURALLY TICCS OFF CALVINISTS AND NO FAULT TO THE CALVINISTS FOR BEING TICCED OFF THEREBY!!!

The discussion has deviated very substantially from there. Starting with Dom's accusation of Victor's post as being hypocritical and ironic (which is the whole point of the very first comment.)


So, how many of the participants in this thread have criticised misbehavior by people on their own side of the theological aisle in protection of people on the other side? Calv or Arm either one? I know Victor has and does. I can point to where I've done so (though not in this thread particularly). Anyone else? Not saying you haven't, just curious whether anyone else has done and does do what Victor does with some regularity.

Steve? Robert? Have you ever made a point of defending your theological opponent for attacking you in the harshest language, Robert? Have you ever made a point of allowing that in God's eyes your theological opponent may be further ahead than you in the kingdom of God, Steve? Would either of you even be willing to do so in principle, for each other (for example)?

I know Calvs and Arms (and Kaths, too {g}) who are willing to do both. How about y'all? Dom? Anyone else in the discussion? I've done so, in both ways, in regard to Steve more than once; I know Victor has done so in the first case (at least generally speaking) and I fully expect he can and has done so in the second case. (I've never actually disputed with Dom or Robert, so the topic has never come up with me there.) Who else here does these things?

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Less a reading deficiency than a memory lapse. My apologies. You did indeed say that, and I should have remembered, so as to give you (and Tom) the benefit of the doubt and not to have phrased my comment the way I did.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

{{I fully expect he can and has done so in the second case}}

I don't mean that I fully expect Victor has done this in regard to Steve specifically, by the way. Though that would be good, too. {g}

JRP

87c5ec58-9c21-11e5-b458-5f460eb3c90f said...

Frankly, anyone that can follow a doctrine of a man(Calvin) that burned people with greenwood at the stake for their non believe in Calvinism are no different than the followers of Jim Jones or Charles Manson. Calvinists please dont lie and say it didnt happen because there is multitudes of evidence that it did happen.

Calvinists pithily use Pharoah as their 'example' of God giving man no choice in the matter of salvation without thought that Pharoah already considered himself the sun god and by default by blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, had already made his choice against God way before God stated that He hardened his heart for the final time.
There is a plethora of Scripture that clearly states 'whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved' without qualification that he be preordained to be saved.

Indeed I will never call Calvinists brothers in Christ because the god they worship, one that would send people to hell without their involvement in the decision, isnt a god that rational person would follow. Calvinism is no different than any other cult.