Friday, September 11, 2009

Calvinism and Immanuel Kant

Kant's second formulation of the Categorical Imperative says "Treat humanity in yourself and in others as an end, but never as a means." Does it bother Calvinists at all that reprobates are, according to their theology, a mere means and not an end in themselves? Thus, heaven is not a kingdom of ends, there are people who interests are completely sacrificed to the interests of others?

I raised this issue parenthetically in one of my posts last year, and I was reading over a response by Paul Manata where he answers it, and I link to that answer here.

ii) Kant justified punishment by the categorical imperative by arguing that if someone S, say, killed someone, then S is acting as if this were a universal law, and thereby agrees with his punishment; agrees it is just. So, if S sinned against God, and knew this deserved death (cf. Romans 1), whence ariseth the Kantian problem?

The question here, though, is why such a sinner exists, and it is the second formulation of the Imperative, not the first, that we are concerned with. The only way this could work would be if you said that it served the true ends of the sinner to bring it about both that he sins and is punished. And I think what you have to say is that the sinner's interests are sacrificed completely for the glory of God.

The Calvinist response, I supposed, has to be "So much the worse for Kant." Which is surely a possible answer. However, I am attempting to cash out the intuitions that underlie the negative reaction that many of us have with respect to Calvinism. Is it mere emotion or sentimentality? Or is it something else? If the Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative is a rational moral principle, then isn't there a rational difficulty with Calvinism?

The Westminister Shorter Catechism was, I take it, not written by an Arminian, and it says the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I don't think reprobates glorify God (this is different from claiming that God is glorified in their reprobation, which Calvinists do claim) and they surely don't enjoy him forever. So apparently, if Calvinism is true, God creates creatures with a true end which they do not achieve, in spite of being in complete control of them.



21 comments:

Mike Darus said...

Westiminster Confession, Chapter III, paragraph III. "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels[6] are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death."

Victor,
There seems to be a distinction between the terms "predestined" and "forordained" that permits Calvinism to pin the judgment of the reprobates on their own choice. Paragraph I includes, " nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures"

By shifting the blame to the reprobates' own acts, this relieves the accusation from God. The punishment is earned, not arbitrary.

You are also playing some word games on the "chief end" of man in the catechism. This is not about where mankind "ends up." It is about man's highest aspiration.

By the way, Trinity's pastoral candidate appears to be thoroughly Reformed.

Victor Reppert said...

I am using the word "end" as being the true goal or purpose of his existence. It is their purpose that the glorify God and enjoy him forever, and God unilaterally guarantees that their purpose is not fulfilled.

Yes, these distinctions and arguments are made. The question is whether or not they can be made coherently. In ordinary human contexts, if we find that someone committed a murder, and then were were to find out that the person committed that murder only because another person had a computer hooked up to their brain and stimulated their brain in such a way that they could do nothing but commit that murder, we would indict the controller, not the one controlled. But, when it comes to God, "That's different."

It seems that the Calvinistic God comes across a little bit like a hypocritical parent, who says "Don't do as I do, do as I say" and
"That's different", two responses I think I've managed to avoid using with our kids.

Mike Darus said...

It appears to me that the Westminister Confession denies that God controls brains when it says "nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures." How can you acuse them of something they deny?

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that you can control someone's brain without doing violence to their will. One can do that by causing them always have the desire to do what they do before they actually do it. So they will first, and then carry out their will.

The deep philosophical question hiding in this issue is whether a person can be morally responsible for their actions if some other agent brings it about that they cannot do otherwise from what they do, even if the controlling agent brings it about that the action they perform is the action that they want to perform. The compatibilist theory of free will says that you are unfree if you want to do X but are forced to do Y, but if you wanted to do Y, the fact that your action was necessitated, either by the laws of nature or by God, is irrelevant to your moral responsibility. The incompatibilist view says that if something other than yourself guarantees the outcome of your choice, such that, given those circumstances outside your control, you could not have done otherwise, then you are not really responsible for your actions.

If compatibilism is true, there can be more than one person responsible for an action. Just because the intermediate agent is held responsible, doesn't mean that the remote cause isn't also responsible.

If incompatibilism is true, then we have a possible explanation for the suffering caused by human sin. God may want us to do X, but has an interest in our acting freely, and so has to accept the possibility that we will do Y, which is, of course, a sin. If compatibilism is true, then there is no reason I can think of why God could not have instantiated the "World of Mr. Rogers," where everyone is free but God guarantees that they act rightly.

Victor Reppert said...

There are also different views of what moral responsibility amounts to. Some compatibilists think that your being responsible for your actions just means that if your behavior is wrong, then it is your future behavior that needs to be modified. It's not a question of deserving punishment.

Mike Darus said...

Now I get it, you are arguing for the free will theodicy for the problem of evil!

If you read Calvinism correctly, I think it is there too. Total Depravity does not result in an inability to choose. It results in a tendency to sin because of diminished capacity. But this is not enough to remove moral responsibility. Born sinners still sin willfully. There is freedom to sin but the freedom to live righteously requires God's intervention.

On the issue of multiple causes, Calvinism is clear that the remote cause (or influence) is not responsible. Moral responsibility lies in the effectual cause.

I think you misrepresent Calvinism when you use phrases like "guarantees the outcome of your choice" or "your action was necessitated" or "forced." There is enough free will left for a morally responsible choice.

Victor said:
"If compatibilism is true, then there is no reason I can think of why God could not have instantiated the "World of Mr. Rogers," where everyone is free but God guarantees that they act rightly."

We both know God did create such a world. It is called heaven. We are not there yet. I don't think free will is enough of an explanation for this world. Free will is certainly necessary for a loving relationship. There is a sense where God shares his glory with his creation through our mandate to advance His kingdom. We gain significance in battling the affects of sin. We are honored by His entrusting us with the welfare of others. This can only be done in the context of evil that God allows so that we have the opportunity to conquer it. It is only in our capabilities to do great evil that we also have the opportunities to do great good. We can choose to live at the edge of a volcano or on the shore of a sea that can suddenly engulf us in a Tsunami. If God protected us from all pain, volcanos and sky diving and rock climbing would be meaningless. As would health care and prison reform and diplomacy. This is more than free will, it includes risk taking and invention and stewardship and humanitarianism and evangelism. God shares his glory by delegating to us the meaningful professions and causes.

Victor Reppert said...

This, of courser requires that you reconcile Calvinism with libertarian free will. But if God's predestination is God's response to a future human free choice, then we are off the Calvinist reservation and into Arminianism.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“In ordinary human contexts, if we find that someone committed a murder, and then were were to find out that the person committed that murder only because another person had a computer hooked up to their brain and stimulated their brain in such a way that they could do nothing but commit that murder, we would indict the controller, not the one controlled. But, when it comes to God, "That's different."”

This analogy is close to that of a friend of mine. He asks us to imagine that we are at a puppet show and see one of the puppets commit the murder of someone in the audience. As the puppet is always and only doing what it is forced to do by the puppet master pulling the strings. We would not hold the puppet responsible for the murder, we would hold the puppet master responsible. Similarly, the calvinist argues for a form of control which involves the direct and complete and continuous control of human persons, they mistakenly identify this as “God’s sovereignty”. The bible presents God as being sovereign in the sense that He does as He pleases in all situations. And sovereignty must be carefully distinguished from the control desired by calvinists.

In the past I have brought up “Joe’s bad chess move” to make this same point. Robert Kane in his major book on free will calls this “Covert Nonconstrained control”/CNC type control (meaning the person is not forced to act against their will, because their will is under the direct and complete and continuous control of another person, it is covert because they do not know they are being controlled).

The calvinist attempts to minimize this by arguing that free will means that you are doing what you want to do and not being coerced to do so. My response is that there are two ways to FORCE someone to do things. One way is through coercion where you force them to do something against their will. The other way is to force them to do something because you directly, completely and continuously control their will. Calvinism does not amount to coercion (God does not have to overcome the will or cause someone to go against their will since he controls their will) but it does amount to the second way to force people to do things.

Non-calvinists seeing this have brought up the analogies of puppets, and robots and radio controlled planes and hypnotists, because all of these analogies are ways of representing the second way of forcing someone to do something. If all events are predecided by God and then history is merely actualizing what has already been decided then we are forced in the second sense, to do everything we do. We have to do what we do, it is impossible for us to do otherwise so our every action is necessitated.

“It seems that the Calvinistic God comes across a little bit like a hypocritical parent, who says "Don't do as I do, do as I say" and
"That's different", two responses I think I've managed to avoid using with our kids.”

Yeh, the Calvinistic God forces people to do things, but we are not supposed to do that. The Calvinistic God eliminates freedom, but universally people desire to be free. Human persons don’t want to be treated like mere numbers but as individuals; but in calvinism the “reprobates” are the “non-persons” with an eternal final solution (which brings up an interesting question: how is the Calvinistic God different from the Nazis when it comes to His desires to eliminate a certain class of human persons completely simply because they belong to that class of persons, a class of persons that he originated? It seems the Nazis only operated in time while the Calvinistic God operates from eternity, carries out the final solution of eliminating the reprobates during history and then eternally punishes them for being the persons and doing the actions that he wanted/controlled them to do). Human persons don’t want to be forced to do things. Human persons view demon possession as evil and yet if God does the same thing by the second form of forcing people to do things, **that** is supposedly OK.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

In response to Mike trying to minimize things from a Calvinistic perspective you responded:

“It seems to me that you can control someone's brain without doing violence to their will. One can do that by causing them always have the desire to do what they do before they actually do it. So they will first, and then carry out their will.”

Right, Kane’s CNC type control. The second way to force people to do things. Note most calvinists operate from a classical compatibilist stance (i.e. we are free if we do what we want, the person controlled by another person is doing what they want to do, aren’t they?). The Westminster confession also tries to mitigate things by saying that the person is not forced to do things (but the confession leads to the second way of forcing people to do things).

“The deep philosophical question hiding in this issue is whether a person can be morally responsible for their actions if some other agent brings it about that they cannot do otherwise from what they do, even if the controlling agent brings it about that the action they perform is the action that they want to perform.”

This is Frankfurt’s Mr. Black taken to the next level. Mr. Black only sat there ready to intervene when you might possibly do otherwise than he wanted you to do. This upgraded “controller” of the calvinists does not merely wait and intervene if his intervention is necessary to keep things in line. NO, he directly controls the will of the person. He doesn’t have to intervene because he dictates every action of the person. Not only is this second version more in control, I also believe it is more sinister. I also do not believe that the God of the bible controls us in this way. And if he did, then he says one thing in the bible and in reality controls us so that we do other things then what He claims that he wants in the bible. The bible then becomes misleading, as the true will of the controller is not expressed in the bible but in what he forces us to actually do.

Robert

Robert said...

“The compatibilist theory of free will says that you are unfree if you want to do X but are forced to do Y, but if you wanted to do Y, the fact that your action was necessitated, either by the laws of nature or by God, is irrelevant to your moral responsibility.”

And that is why some calvinists are perfectly comfortable with a world full of Stepford wives rather than real flesh and blood wives that may talk back and do things their husbands don’t want (but even this analogy falls short as if Calvinism were true then all the wives are machines as are all the husbands as is everybody else with the one exception being the controller, or we are all puppets with only the puppet master having choices).

“The incompatibilist view says that if something other than yourself guarantees the outcome of your choice, such that, given those circumstances outside your control, you could not have done otherwise, then you are not really responsible for your actions.”

I would tweak this just a bit. It is not that the person is not responsible (if the necessitarian view were true then everybody would do only and always what the controller wants us to do, and he could **still* decide to hold us accountable for what he forced us to do). It is that the person should not be held responsible for their actions if the actions resulted from CNC type control.

“If compatibilism is true, there can be more than one person responsible for an action. Just because the intermediate agent is held responsible, doesn't mean that the remote cause isn't also responsible.”

That is only if there was another person for the controller to be responsible too! :-) In calvinism the controller, God holds us responsible for actions that he forces us to do, but no one holds him responsible for what he does. That is why noncalvinists see this as God toying with humans.

“If incompatibilism is true, then we have a possible explanation for the suffering caused by human sin. God may want us to do X, but has an interest in our acting freely, and so has to accept the possibility that we will do Y, which is, of course, a sin.”

Yep, the sword of libertarian free will that cuts both ways: I can use my hand to lift up someone that has fallen or I can use my hand to make sure somebody falls.

“If compatibilism is true, then there is no reason I can think of why God could not have instantiated the "World of Mr. Rogers," where everyone is free but God guarantees that they act rightly.”

No, Victor you keep forgetting, the reprobates are created for the sake of the elect to lead them to appreciate their salvation better. I mean according to the calvinists that is what Romans 9:22-23 says remember? :-)

Seriously, if compatibilism is true, then the second form of forcing people to do things is constantly in operation. As such, the controller could force everybody to be saved (that is why some universalists like Talbott adopt compatibilism to support their view) and yet the calvinist wants there to be persons forced to be reprobates. Make no mistake however, in such a world no one ever has a choice and they do always and only what they are forced to do. And of course some calvinists have no problem with all this, because they are happy to be the lucky ones that were forced to be the elect. And some of these lucky ones are quite nasty towards those they believe to be the reprobates the unlucky ones.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Mike,

In my opinion you are not presenting Calvinism correctly. The calvinists (including Calvin, Luther, Edwards, in the past and Pipe, MacArthur, Sproul Sr, today) believe that God predetermined every event. That he first conceived of a total plan that encompasses every detail of the history of the universe (the decrees, or the blueprint). He then actualizes this total plan by directly and completely and continuously controlling everything (i.e. their conception of sovereignty) and bringing everything to pass (cf. “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”). If that is the case, then we never ever have a choice, libertarian free will never existed and cannot exist, and we are forced to do everything that we do (cf. CNC control is continually operating).

“If you read Calvinism correctly, I think it is there too. Total Depravity does not result in an inability to choose. It results in a tendency to sin because of diminished capacity.”

And if everything is predetermined as explained above, then who brought about and necessitated that Adam sin and thus bring “total depravity” into the world?

“But this is not enough to remove moral responsibility. Born sinners still sin willfully.”

If CNC control is operating then we all “willfully” do exactly what the controller controls us to do (whether it is sin or doing good), no more no less. To say that someone under CNC control is acting “freely” is to as Wittgenstein put it: make language go on holiday. :-)

“On the issue of multiple causes, Calvinism is clear that the remote cause (or influence) is not responsible. Moral responsibility lies in the effectual cause.”

Yes they may claim that, but if CNC control is operating the remote and proximate cause distinction gets swallowed up. Again at the puppet show, the puppet that murders someone is literally to use your term the “effectual cause”. But the puppet is only doing what it is forced to do by the puppet master. Just like we would be forced to do what we do because another person controls and directs our will.

“I think you misrepresent Calvinism when you use phrases like "guarantees the outcome of your choice" or "your action was necessitated" or "forced." There is enough free will left for a morally responsible choice.”

This is why I say that you are not correctly presenting calvinism Mike. The calvinism of Calvin, Luther, Edwards et al, had God “guaranteeing the outcome” because he directly controls everything so every outcome is something that he directly brings about. Mike recall also that Calvin himself said that it is wrong to say that God allows or permits anything, because he directly brings about everything.

“I don't think free will is enough of an explanation for this world. Free will is certainly necessary for a loving relationship.”

Now you sound like an Arminian: “Free will is certainly necessary for a loving relationship.” Committed calvinists don’t share that sentiment. They don’t like free will, some even detest free will, so they have to argue against its reality, claim that it is incoherent or irrational, and of course proof text against it!

“There is a sense where God shares his glory with his creation through our mandate to advance His kingdom. We gain significance in battling the affects of sin. We are honored by His entrusting us with the welfare of others. This can only be done in the context of evil that God allows so that we have the opportunity to conquer it. It is only in our capabilities to do great evil that we also have the opportunities to do great good. . . . This is more than free will, it includes risk taking and invention and stewardship and humanitarianism and evangelism. God shares his glory by delegating to us the meaningful professions and causes.”

Again Mike this sounds more Arminian than calvinist. Unless you are a calvinist that also believes in free will as ordinarily understood (i.e., libertarian free will).

Robert

Mike Darus said...

I think I will be in a good place if some think I am Arminian and some think I am Calvinist.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Mike,

You state:

There seems to be a distinction between the terms "predestined" and "forordained" that permits Calvinism to pin the judgment of the reprobates on their own choice. Paragraph I includes, " nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures"

By shifting the blame to the reprobates' own acts, this relieves the accusation from God. The punishment is earned, not arbitrary.


In fact, there only SEEMS to be a distinction between these two words. This is because the Westminster Confessions take the words "predestined" and "forordained" , which functions historically (except of course in Calvinistic theology) as synonyms, and ‘defines’ them such that the resulting ‘definition’ is no definition at all. Hence the qualifier of one half of the synonym pairing, which you point out in the WC's Paragraph 1.

This is a preferred hermeneutical method in Calvinism. Likewise, Sproul quotes Augustine as getting around the problem of evil by noting that man has freedom but no liberty. Here (in Calvinism), what has been (in the greater culture)the historically regarded synonyms freedom and liberty have been ‘defined’ in mutually exclusive opposition to each other. Indeed, if your U.S. congressman knocked on your door today and told you that in closed session of Congress last night the President decided all citizens must be notified that that they still had freedom but no longer liberty, what would you make of that statement? In fact, you could not conclude anything at all about that statement. This is because your U.S. congressman would have been expressing the dialectic (a.k.a. irrationalism).

Even so in Calvinism are statements set in array against each other. Thus, theological irrationalism would also speak of evil as a "something" which has no ontological being, or of "choice" with only one 'alternative,' and of "influence" whose albeit description is deterministic.

All such attempts deny the historical meaning of a given pair of words which have normally acted as synonyms. I believe this has been done to advance what, e.g., Sproul would call "analogical" meaning, but which, in fact, is really only mysticism. In short, Calvinism regards the transcendence of God (as it pertains to His ways and thoughts) to be in kind, not degree. The result are synonymous words used against themselves, expressed as such by those who, though they often resist the nomenclature, assume that only dialectical criticism can apply to dialectical theology.

J said...

I am attempting to cash out the intuitions that underlie the negative reaction that many of us have with respect to Calvinism. Is it mere emotion or sentimentality?

No. In fact, even the key figures of the American Revolution disliked calvinist orthodoxy. Jefferson himself referred to the insanities of Calvin.

Most reasonable people (alas, that counts out most protestants) object to Calvin's implications for Liberty. What is Liberty to a calvinist, anyway, assuming humans just follow the Almighty's a priori program, and the Almighty already knows how it will all play out, and one's decisions just appear to be meaningful? Calvin's God is the Puppetmaster--pure amoral power (and having little or nothing to do with JC). Monotheism as a whole cannot really overcome the problem of omniscience--except by the anti-rationalist leap into faith and obedience.

Gregory said...

I hope that my previous posts were not taken as a direct critique of Calvinism. That wasn't my point.

My point was this:

Presuppositionalism is rooted in Kant, not Scripture.

But suppose that you're maxim is this:

"Scripture, alone, is sufficient in all matters pertaining to faith and practice."

Quite obviously, nothing approaching apologetic methodology is ever intimated in the writings of the Old or New Testament.

The in-house debates among Calvinsts on the question of "evidentialism vs. "presuppositionalism", like the exchange that took place between Greg Bahnsen and R.C. Sproul, are philosophical disputes. What's very interesting about that debate, in particular, is what the assumed "common ground" was. Neither Bahnsen nor Sproul attempted to make an argument along this line:

"My view is true because it's an implicit/explicit teaching found in the self-authenticating testimony of Scripture."

That would have been too simple. Of course, if scripture can be cited as "evidence", then the debate is over.

Sproul, however, would not make that sort of argument because his apologetic is aimed at proving the truth of Scripture, and not merely assuming the truth of Scripture.

Bahnsen, of course, totes the Van Tillian line:

"Unless one assumes the truth of Triune God, the truth, of which, is to be found in the self-authenticating testimony of Scripture, one cannot prove anything."

To begin to look outside of Scripture, in matters of faith and practice, is to pander to the autonomous sinner. It is to reject the notion that man is wholly dead to God and in need of regeneration....and that sinful man cannot, in any way, find a bridge between man and God in general revelation. As the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland used to say "dead men tell no tales"....I might add that "dead men don't read tales", either. And, certainly, "dead men" cannot perceive God in nature.

In order for mankind to perceive God, s/he must be "elected" and "regenerated" first. God must first decree the salvation of particular men and women from eternity past. Those whom are elected will then, necessarily, undergo personal regeneration. By this shall the mind of man rise from the dead, as it were, and "see" God.

Of course, there's the intermural debates between Calvinists who are supralapsarian and those who are infra/sublapsarian.

But this presents an interesting conundrum for the Calvinist. If God elected R.C. Sproul and Greg Bahnsen, then why do they hold opposing viewpoints regarding apologetics? Or, more generally, why are Calvinists divided on eschatological and soteriological issues if God, in fact, really "elected" them? Is God schizoid?

But Scripture admonishes us with this:

"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."----(1 Cor. 1:10)

Now, I can understand why there would be divisions if men possessed LFW. I cannot, however, understand how there would be divisions if God "controls whatsoever comes to pass". Who is God admonishing to avoid divisions? Is it not they, by whom, He willed the presence of divisions to begin with when He "foreordained some to eternal life, and others to everlasting punishment?"

God wills division....but then He turns around and condemns it!! The Calvinist God is double-minded and divisive.

So, don't be surprised that "logic", "reason", "evidence" and "scripture" is a futile means of persuading a Calvinist. Because, no matter how convincing you're argument might be....no matter how persuasive the evidence might seem to you or I....the Calvinist has already rejected the basic laws of logic in favor of a world-view that implies "A is non-A".

In that case, nobody really wins the debate because nobody can win.

Robert said...

Hello Gregory,

Great stuff again.

Can I ask you a question: you seem to be quite aware of some of the thinking and disagreements among calvinists which would seem to indicate firsthand knowledge of some of these things; are you a former calvinist who was once involved in these very debates?

You discussed the disagreement between evidendentialists (like Sproul) and presuppositionalists (like Bahnsen) and made a good point that neither strictly speaking presupposes a scripture revealed apologetic methodology (since scripture reveals no such animal! :-); “Quite obviously, nothing approaching apologetic methodology is ever intimated in the writings of the Old or New Testament.”)

“Bahnsen, of course, totes the Van Tillian line:

"Unless one assumes the truth of Triune God, the truth, of which, is to be found in the self-authenticating testimony of Scripture, one cannot prove anything."”

I would agree with Van Til and his prophet Bahnsen, :-) that only the Christian world view properly accounts for certain realities. But to claim that the non-Christian cannot prove anything unless they assume “the truth of Truine God” is a bit of a stretch. I have non-Christian friends who are engineers and scientists who prove all sorts of things without this assumption.

I believe that sin is pervasive and universal in both its presence and its effects. Everything here is tainted by sin. Nevertheless, since we are all created in the image of God, since we all have minds, have the capacity to reason, have libertarian free will which makes reasoning and argument possible, etc. even the non-Christian can arrive at certain truths. The calvinists have such an extreme view of the effects of sin (i.e. their conception of total depravity) that they end up arguing like Bahnsen and end up arguing as if nonbelievers are incapable of thinking at all and incapable of understanding anything. This is simply not the case. Just look at science and engineering to see how off base this conception of depravity is. Gregory you seemed to imply this as well when you wrote:

“To begin to look outside of Scripture, in matters of faith and practice, is to pander to the autonomous sinner. It is to reject the notion that man is wholly dead to God and in need of regeneration....and that sinful man cannot, in any way, find a bridge between man and God in general revelation. As the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland used to say "dead men tell no tales"....I might add that "dead men don't read tales", either. And, certainly, "dead men" cannot perceive God in nature.”

Romans 1 does not say that the nonbeliever is incapable of perceiving God in nature. Instead it say he does perceive God in nature because God himself reveals things to him, but then rather than “going wherever the evidence leads” (to borrow Flew’s famous maxim)and ending up worshipping God and being thankful to Him. Instead they intentionally reject what they know to be true, so God then “gives them over” to what they want when they reject Him. But they had to know and understand the truth first in order to then go and be suppressing it as Paul says.

“In order for mankind to perceive God, s/he must be "elected" and "regenerated" first. God must first decree the salvation of particular men and women from eternity past. Those whom are elected will then, necessarily, undergo personal regeneration. By this shall the mind of man rise from the dead, as it were, and "see" God.”

Again, Romans 1 does not say this, it says the nonbeliever is shown things by God himself, which the nonbeliever then chooses to reject. Romans 1 says nothing about people having no perception of God or no capacity to perceive God. It says instead that they perceive things because God shows it to them, they reject what they know to be true, **then** God gives them over to what they want in their rebellion.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Gregory,

“Of course, there's the intramural debates between Calvinists who are supralapsarian and those who are infra/sublapsarian.”

Not just this one, but lots of others as well. Want to see a real doozy, check out the Reformed Baptists against the Paedobaptists with the Paedo’s questioning whether or not the RB’s are even reformed? There are some real “smack downs” going down among the calvinistas. John Frame wrote an article where he discusses 21 of these “intramural debates” between calvinists (and that is focusing on Presbyterians alone), titled: “Machen’s Warrior Children”. Gregory if you haven’t read it you should.

“But this presents an interesting conundrum for the Calvinist. If God elected R.C. Sproul and Greg Bahnsen, then why do they hold opposing viewpoints regarding apologetics?”

That is a good question one I have often asked as well.

“Or, more generally, why are Calvinists divided on eschatological and soteriological issues if God, in fact, really "elected" them? Is God schizoid?”

You would think that if he controls everything directly and completely and continuously as the necessatarians believe that at least he could have his own preselected people in agreement. But No, they are as divided and acrimonious in their divisions as any other human group.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Gregory,

“Now, I can understand why there would be divisions if men possessed LFW.”

Right, these unnecessary divisions within human groups is clear proof to me that we have LFW. People having the capacity to have and make their own choices, the capacity to think for themselves as individuals, would easily account for different opinions and divisions.

“I cannot, however, understand how there would be divisions if God "controls whatsoever comes to pass". Who is God admonishing to avoid divisions?”

Another good question. The Calvinistic god not only controls and determines everything, he controls people so that they disagree and disagree in acrimonious ways with each other.

“God wills division....but then He turns around and condemns it!! The Calvinist God is double-minded and divisive.”

That is exactly what you get when you posit the two wills of God doctrine (one will being his secret and sovereign will which decides how everything will in fact go; and the other will just being what He says in the bible; you can’t trust what he says because (to use only two examples) in the secret will he wants every murder and adulterous act to occur, but then he says in the revealed will not to murder and not to commit adultery). So he says in the revealed will that he wants believers to be united but then the secret will determines for them to be divided and at each other’s throats over non-essential doctrines like the millennium!.

““So, don't be surprised that "logic", "reason", "evidence" and "scripture" is a futile means of persuading a Calvinist. Because, no matter how convincing you're argument might be....no matter how persuasive the evidence might seem to you or I....the Calvinist has already rejected the basic laws of logic in favor of a world-view that implies "A is non-A".”

You got that right. This is seen all over the Calvinistic system. God says one thing in the bible as clear as day (e.g. He says he desires the salvation of all people and that He provides Christ as his love for this rebellious world) but the system says that he doesn’t’ desire the salvation of all and that Christ was not given for the world but only for the preselected few. The bible says that God is love, but the system says that He reprobates most of the human race before birth. The bible says that he desires to be merciful to all: the system says that he only has mercy on some. The bible gives all sorts of instruction and exhortation and commands, but then the sovereign secret will has every one of those things being ignored or has people doing the opposite of what God says that he wants.

Calvinistic “logic” is actually easy to understand: ignore what God says in the bible, what is clearly presented and revealed, and always hold the view the Calvinistic system demands that you hold. Don’t’ worry if the system contradicts the bible or contradicts reality, just keep being a good comrade and go with the teachings of the party, er um, wrong false ideology, :-), the system.

“In that case, nobody really wins the debate because nobody can win.”

You can’t win a debate with someone who denies the very precondition (i.e. LFW) that makes debate and discussion possible. Ilion used to repeatedly make that point here and Antony Flew makes the point very well and clearly in his essay CHOICE AND RATIONALITY (Gregory have you read it?).

Robert

Gregory said...

Robert;

My first "instincts" about God, man and salvation were of the non-Calvinist variety. I had no idea what "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" were as a child. I really didn't become familiar with the concepts until I began college. My religious background is this:

I was baptized Lutheran. Since my grandparents were Finnish immigrants--Lutheranism is the State Church in Finland--so it was done at my Maternal families behest. But since my parents divorced and my mother fell mortally ill when I was around 8, my Father was left to raise me and my siblings. Although he was brought up Southern Baptist--and my Paternal grandfather was an ordained Baptist minister--he felt an attraction to the United Methodist Church in my native State of Michigan. So, I guess you could say that I was brought up Methodist. But when my Father remarried for the third time--his wife being an Irish "drinking" Catholic--we eventually stopped going to Church altogether. My immediate family was, more or less, non-religious. But as my own desire for God began to grow as a teenager, I discovered that my family was actually anti-relgious.

My own tastes for literature began with The Hobbit. Not the actual Tolkien novel but, instead, a vinyl record dramatization with an accompanying picture book for children....which was based on the late 70's Rankin Bass animated movie. And as a child I had...peculiar experiences. Notably, night terrors and an extreme fear of the dark. And I had a very primitive belief in heaven and of God; which was based more on dreams and waking experiences than Church instruction or family piety. Some would say I was just highly imaginative.

Be that as it may, that was what sparked my interest in reading the Bible at 11 or 12. I was already a fan of high fantasy, via cartoons like "Thundercats" and "Dungeons and Dragons"; and young adult novels like "A Wrinkle in Time". So when I began to read the Bible for the first time, I read it like it was a Fantasy adventure story. I began to read it as a piece of Sci-fi/Fantasy, rather than a doctrinal treatise.

The first "Christian" book I read, aside from the Bible, was Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth". I was 14 when I read it. Unfortunately, the book helped foster scary, "the-end-is-at-hand" delusions. I had dabbled in the "occult", and so that book played right into the whole esoteric "revelations" thing for me. In fact, I now consider Lindsey-esqe speculations of the "End" to be occultic. But the first serious books I read, as I was desiring to "get right with God", was Thomas a'Kempis' "The Imitation of Christ" and C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity".

My own inclinations about "freewill" then, as I didn't have much of any theological understanding, was a more Arminian-type belief. In fact, I believe that is everyones default setting, regarding beliefs about the metaphysics of human nature. I think it is true that Calvinist's must be Catechized into that belief.....because nobody arrives at Calvinism from the datum of experience; nor from an unprejudiced reading of the Bible.

Gregory said...

But I flirted with Calvinism in my late teens/early twenties. I rejected it when it was first presented--a kind of instinctual rejection. Even so, I had persistent Calvinist friends. Eventually, I began to accept it because...well, I had sinking fears of having "lost" my salvation. Calvinism became a way for me to convince myself that I was "ok with God"....after all "those whom He foreknew, He called...." And so, no matter how bleak my own life was, I was "elect". But that belief never really provided any lasting relief from the deep down fear that I had gone "too far" with God. In fact, a most morbid thing occurred to me: "I am actually not 'elect'. Instead, I am chosen for reprobation and for the firey wrath of God." So, all my hopes sunk there....and all my fears raised, as it were, to new levels.

The good news is this: I eventually came to reject Calvinism and to begin to trust in the love and mercy of God again. The bad news was: it took about 12years of agonizing thoughts and emotions to begin to put that idea to rest. Fortunately, I had a mentor who sympathized with my struggle. He was the most significant and instrumental factor in cultivating my intellectual and spiritual life as a Christian.

One of the other "allures" of Calvinism, for me, was the whole "rationalism" package. It seemed to be for the "intellectual" Christian....not the phony stuff. Not the stuff like the Robert Tilton T.V. screen touching, Success-In-Life havin' kind o' faith..."Oh mah seeh badaba God just spoke to me about a blessing He has for you...yash seeh badaba Jehovah mah see...mah...(blah, blah, blah). In other words, Calvinism seemed "real" to me. And so, I did spend a lot of time reading Calvinist literature.

I have a friend whose Dad went to Westminster Seminary with Greg Bahnsen when Van Til was still teaching there. In fact, I borrowed...and, unfortunately, never returned....several of his class textbooks that he used at Westminster. It was this friend who helped bring many doubts, but not about Calvinism. Instead, she fostered doubts about Calvinists....particulary, vocal exponents of it. This, in turn, led me to question the efficacy and practicalities of exhastive Sovereignty.

To wrap this up. All of that has contributed to my thinking about, and approach to, Calvinism.

Robert said...

Hello Gregory,

Thanks for sharing your background it was both interesting and also shows why you are so familiar with Calvinism and able to show its problems so well.

“The first "Christian" book I read, aside from the Bible, was Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth". I was 14 when I read it. Unfortunately, the book helped foster scary, "the-end-is-at-hand" delusions.”

I once went to hear Lindsey speak in person when he had a “church”. As I walked in, there was a candy apple Porsche Turbo parked in the illegal loading zone in front of the school (they rented/or used a high school building at the time) that you had to walk around to enter the front door. I asked an usher/security person: whose Porsche is that?” “Oh that’s Hal’s” was the answer. That was one of my many “strikes” against Lindsey and his “theology”.

“I had dabbled in the "occult", and so that book played right into the whole esoteric "revelations" thing for me.”

A friend of mine, Neil Anderson, has written a lot of books on this subject of spiritual warfare and the occult have you read any of his stuff?

“My own inclinations about "freewill" then, as I didn't have much of any theological understanding, was a more Arminian-type belief. In fact, I believe that is everyone’s default setting, regarding beliefs about the metaphysics of human nature. I think it is true that Calvinist's must be Catechized into that belief.....because nobody arrives at Calvinism from the datum of experience; nor from an unprejudiced reading of the Bible.”

Absolutely correct. Common sense, what you call the "default" setting, the view held by the vast majority of Christians throughout church history is the libertarian free will view. Just listen to how the necessatarians relate their **conversion stories** of how they became calvinists (most of them are more excited about telling about their conversion to CALVINISM then to Christianity!). Daily experience and the bible properly interpreted does not lead to Calvinism. As with a non-Christian cult you have to be indoctrinated into the system and its beliefs and practices before you start denying the clear teachings of scripture and your own daily experience.

Robert