Monday, October 26, 2009

Calvinism as an eliminativist solution to the problem of evil

The purpose of this post is not to criticize Calvinism, but to provide an exposition of why I think Calvinist theology dissolves, rather than solves the problem of evil. It looks to me as if the logical conclusion of Calvinism is that the idea of gratuitous suffering, the centerpiece of the argument from evil, is a misguided notion, given the fact that we all deserve not only to suffer, but to suffer eternally.

I think you can just get rid of the problem of evil if you make the kind of move that Calvinists make here, namely that alongside an obligation to alleviate suffering there is an obligation not to let sin go unpunished. Therefore, since we are all sinners (if for no other reason than being descended from our federal head, Adam), God has, for any instance of suffering, no undefeated reason not to permit it or even to inflict it.


The concept of goodness, according to Calvinists, is rooted in God's nature, but rightness is rooted in God's commands. This isn't strictly speaking voluntarism, since God's nature determines his commands; he can't just command anything. However, goodness is defined, as I understand it, on God's glory, which involves the expression of all of his attributes. He exercises the attribute of mercy in sending his son to die for the sins of the elect, and in giving irresistible grace to the elect so that they can repent and believe. He also exercises his attribute of justice by inflicting just punishment on those who oppose his will. Both of these are good outcomes from God's perspective, even though they are bad outcomes for the damned.

What I think this does is actually eliminate the problem of evil. If you can make the step of believing that the the just punishment of sin is an intrinsic and not a remedial good, then not only can you accept the idea that God is justified in predestining people for hell, but you can also justify the claim that whatever humans suffer while on earth, they had it coming and shouldn't complain to God.

We are not commanded to mirror God's nature in every respect; so we have obligations to alleviate suffering that God lacks, though a Calvinist would say that we have obligations to inflict retribution is some cases ourselves. But the limitation on our obligation to punish is not shared by God.

It seems to me that this is a dissolution rather than a solution to the problem of evil. One doesn't try to find explanations why a God who loves everyone permits so much pain even though he has everyone's best interest as heart. God doesn't have everyone's best interests at heart, God has his own glory at heart, which coincides with our interests only if we are among the elect.

I have trouble seeing the punishment of sin as an intrisic good; I see it as a sort of plan B; a remedial good in response to that which God removes from his control by providing us with libertarian free will.

But the purpose of this is not engage the Calvinist debate, it is rather intended to exposit what I take the Calvinist position to be.

I hope this doesn't start the charges and countercharges of sock puppeting again. I suspect this hope is vain, however.

63 comments:

Steven said...

I don't think a Calvinist offers such a solution to the POE (or rather the AFE). I suppose a Calvinist ought to offer a supralapsarian defense (like Plantinga does). God could have made a world where even does good; but a world with atonement in it is better, and so that's one with a lot of evil. That's the kind of defense I'd give.

Steven said...

On second thought, I suppose that I am not opposed to the kind of defense you suggested either.

Mike Darus said...

Victor:
I think you have done something that I doubted was possible. You have fairly described a position you do not agree with. Lately, in political and theological circles, people tend to do this poorly. They slightly color a phrase or misuse a term to discredit, especially when they are claiming to be fair.

There is one concept you got close to but maybe missed by a hair. When God expresses His character of justice when punishing sin, Strong says it is "in vindication of his justice." It is a "vindication of God's justice without being vindictive." "(The) penalty is not essentially reformatory." "(The)Penalty is not essentially deterrent and preventative." These utilitarian results may be achieved but the are not the primary reason for the punishment.

I am also not sure that believers get off as easy as you suggest. Even the elect should look forward to persecution and opposition in this world. The rain (in a good and bad sense) falls both on the just and the unjust.

a helmet said...

If the exertion of God's mercy and justice are the ultimate greater good which--according to reformed theodicy--is the reason for God's permitting sin, then the question of the underlying culpability arises.

Mercy presupposes guilt. So does wrath. For mercy and justice to be genuine, the underlying guilt must be genuine also. Otherwise God cannot exert justice and mercy, for these wouldn't be real, so there would be no display of these attributes. Thus, in order for God's mercy and wrath to be genuinely exerted, the foregoing guilt must be genuine to begin with.

Yet here is the circle: How are humans--according to reformed theodicy--guilty? Why do they sin in the first place? Either their guilt is by definition, then neither God's demonstration of mercy nor of wrath can be real, and so the greater good not be realized. Or their sin is explained by the greater good, that is, because mercy and justice shall be exhibited. In this case, sinners aren't guilty either, for they sin for a greater good which couldn't be realized without their sins.

This shows that calvinism's treatment of the problem of evil doesn't hold any water. It is utterly foolish.

The only escape for the calvinist is to modify his response to what the greater good actually is. He can still hold that this question is unanswerable. However, this means to concede that there is no answer to the problem of evil from Calvinism at all.

-a helmet

Steven said...

Yet here is the circle: How are humans--according to reformed theodicy--guilty? Why do they sin in the first place? Either their guilt is by definition, then neither God's demonstration of mercy nor of wrath can be real, and so the greater good not be realized. Or their sin is explained by the greater good, that is, because mercy and justice shall be exhibited. In this case, sinners aren't guilty either, for they sin for a greater good which couldn't be realized without their sins.

Why does it follow that, if their sin was necessary for the greater good, that therefore they are not guilty of anything?

Jeremy Pierce said...

There are two key claims in the argument:

1. God's reasons are all reducible to acting for his glory.
2. Everyone deserves far worse than they get in this life.

I can think of one influential Calvinist who holds the first claim to be true, John Piper. I don't see how it's essential to Calvinism. In fact, plenty of Calvinists don't want to engage in that kind of reductionism of all of God's motivations to that one motive. They're happy to put God's love on part with God's pursuit of his own glory. (They won't make it more fundamental, or they'd be denying some clear statements in scripture.)

But I think you can run the argument without claim (1). Doesn't the argument fully work as long as everyone deserves worse than they get in this life? And isn't that something all (non-Pelagian) Christians should believe, given that we are all being given grace not to go to hell immediately and forever? There's nothing particularly Calvinist about that.

I'm not sure it's right to say this dissolves the problem of evil, either. What it does is provide an explanation for why God allows evil. Why isn't that just another theodicy? Or does any theodicy dissolve the problem of evil?

a helmet said...

Steven,

on what basis are they guilty? What grounds culpability? Mere definition?

The circle goes like this:

Starting question of theodicy:

-Why is there sin?

-Because it serves an ultimate greater good.

-What is this greater good?

-It is the demonstration of God's mercy and his wrath

-Basically, what are mercy and wrath?

-They are responses to guilt

-Why is there guilt?

-Because humans sinned.

-Why did they sin? (Circle closed)

Gordon Knight said...

If God's motivation is God's glory,then God does not love anyone except God.

To love is (at the least) to value for their own sake.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Gordon, you have to keep in mind what it is to give God glory. It's not that his glory increases or anything like that. God receiving the glory is just people recognizing that God is good.

If God is the most perfect being possible, and all goodness comes from God, then God receiving the glory is just recognition of goodness wherever it is and acknowledgment of God as the source. This includes recognizing that a human being is intrinsically good and seeking the person's good because of it.

So the kind of love you have in mind is not just compatible with the things Piper says. It's guaranteed by it. God's glory requires God to appreciate the intrinsic goodness in every part of his creation. Piper's premises require that.

So I don't think Piper's view eliminates love for created beings at all. I don't think his way of stating things is helpful communicatively, and I'm not sure I want to put God's glory at foundation with nothing else at that level of explanation, but I don't think Piper's view can fairly be accused of implying that God can only love himself.

Gordon Knight said...

Jeremy,

Thank you, I am still confused though. "God's glory"is a vague phrase.

I am probably the bigest non-atheistic heretic who comments here, but here is my view:

I think it is a good for us to recognize that God is good, but its not a good for God.

There are all these issues about Why a perfect being creates (since such a being would already have everything he needs), but plausibly one can claim that part of the reason God creates to be in loving relation with others.

But if the goal of creation is just to have people in awe of God's greatness, then the whole relationality thing goes by the wayside. it becomes a sort of divine solipsism, a loop that includes creatures, but not for their own sake.

Victor Reppert said...

"Glory" is a difficult concept to make sense of ("there's glory for you," Humpty-Dumpty said), but the idea is that what is good is God's expressing his attributes, both his attribute of mercy, which he exercises through his gracious salvation of people who don't deserve to be saved, and just wrath, which he exercises on those who deserve to suffer eternally but who are not chosen to receive saving grace. If God just damns everyone, he fails to express his mercy, but if he saves everyone, he fails to exercise his just wrath, and those who are saved will not have an adequate sense that they truly deserved to be lost and that their salvation was by grace alone. So he saves some and damns others.

Of course, for this to fly you have to accept a compatibilist theory of freedom and moral responsibility, such that you can deserve damnation for actions that are the inevitable results of divine actions, and that a God who predestines you to act wrongly nevertheless acts justly in so doing himself, since his predestining you to act wrongly serves the end of giving him the opportunity to inflict just punishment on your for what he brought it about that you did. (Secular compatibilst accounts of moral responsibility often shrink from saying that we can deserve retribution for actions we do with compatibilist freedom, but that option is not open to Calvinists). The odd thing is that in most theodicies, incompatibilism is required; in this one compatibilism is required.

Another doctrine that is central to this project is the epistemic centrality and independence of special revelation. If this conception of the good on the based on "glory" seems counter-intuitive to you, you have to remember that your concept of the good is fallen and must adjust to the teachings of Scripture.

The entire effect of this whole line of thought is that we end up having to just give up the idea that our suffering is an evil that God has to justify. Mercy would give us less suffering than we currently experience, but justice would give us more. The very possibility of looking at any suffering as somehow gratuitous and therefore something a good God would not permit seems to just disappear.

Robert said...

Jeremy Pierce wrote:

“Gordon, you have to keep in mind what it is to give God glory. It's not that his glory increases or anything like that. God receiving the glory is just people recognizing that God is good.”

Most Christians would agree with this initial claim that “God is good”.

And it is precisely this conviction that leads the majority of Christians to reject Calvinism. Because if calvinists are correct, then what God does to human persons is **not** good (unless you merely define “good” as whatever God does).


“If God is the most perfect being possible, and all goodness comes from God, then God receiving the glory is just recognition of goodness wherever it is and acknowledgment of God as the source.”

Again no problem with this, and Christians across the board would accept this.

“This includes recognizing that a human being is intrinsically good and seeking the person's good because of it.”

Now a non-Calvinist can believe this, but not a calvinist that believes in reprobation. The idea that God preselected people for either salvation (the elect) or damnation (the reprobates)and that in addition God predetermines all events, makes God being “good” questionable. Most people understand that coercing others to do things is infringing on them as persons. And a compatibilistic understanding in which every person’s actions are predetermined leads to people questioning and outright doubting that God is good. If what he supposedly does to the “reprobates” is “good” then the term good loses its meaning. Setting people up to fall, directly and completely and continuously controlling their every action so that they must commit the sins that you have predetermined for them, they must reject you, they cannot trust you, then punishing them eternally for doing exactly what you controlled them to do: IS NOT GOOD.

And if God did what the calvinist believe in regard to reprobation, then God is not “recognizing that a human being is intrinsically good” nor is he “seeking the person's good because of it”.

How is reprobating (preselecting an individual for damnation, ensuring their every sinful action and then eternally punishing them for doing what you controlled them to do) SEEKING THAT PERSON’S GOOD??? It is not, and virtually everyone that is not a calvinist recognizes this fact. The well known adage goes “with friends like that who needs enemies”. Well with a God who reprobates most of the human race, if that is what goodness looks like, and treating people according to their “intrinsic goodness”, then what does treating them in an evil way look like then? Good and evil go out the window with the Calvinistic conception of reprobation. Perhaps it could be argued that with the elect God is “seeking the person’s good”. But this cannot be said of the reprobates. How is God seeking their good in reprobating them? And if Pierce says of the human person, the reprobate, that he/she is “a human being is intrinsically good”: how does reprobation show that God sees these human persons as “intrinsically good”?

If you want to see the problems with Calvinism just look at their conception of reprobation. Non-Calvinists who do in fact believe that God is good and have good reasons to believe this truth, reject Calvinism and its conception of reprobation because it brings God’s goodness into question. And it is not just nonbelievers who have problems with Calvinistic reprobation, it is the vast majority of Christians as well.

So Pierce can speak of humans being “intrinsically good” and “seeking the person’s good”, but if he holds to Calvinism and reprobation then his words are empty words.

Robert

LouisJ-B said...

Robert said:

"If you want to see the problems with Calvinism just look at their conception of reprobation."

Having a non-reformed Christian, in love with his traditions, explain reformed theology is the problem.

Anonymous said...

What about the suffering of animals?

Robert said...

LouisJ-B wrote:

“Having a non-reformed Christian, in love with his traditions, explain reformed theology is the problem.”

These comments bring back some memories. In discussing orthodox Christian beliefs such as the Trinity with cultists they have said almost the identical things to me as expressed here by Louis.

For example one JW told me I was “in love with man-made traditions” regarding the Trinity. He told me the Trinity was a man made tradition that came from the pit. Another time I spoke with a guy in a cult with very esoteric beliefs, sort of a modern version of Gnosticism. He said how could I, a non- . . . . explain . . . and that my attempting to do so was the problem. He also told me I just was not enlightened enough to understand spiritual things.

Should I give more examples?

Louis sounds just like a cultist here.

He wants us to believe that his Calvin-ism is the truth, while all others are “in love with his [man made] traditions”. So he frames it as: Calvin-ism (the “truth”) versus man’s traditions (anything other than Calvin-ism is automatically mere human tradition and false). And according to a person like Louis, you really can’t understand such “deep things” of the ***Calvinistic faith*** as reprobation, unless of course you are one. This is the kind of thing that a Gnostic would say. According to Louis a non-Calvinist Christian cannot understand deep spiritual things like Calvinistic reprobation, supposedly.

It is sad when calvinists start sounding like cultists and modern Gnostics. The reality is that non-Calvinist Christians are fully capable of understanding false Calvinistic doctrines such as reprobation. We have full access to the bible and that is really all that we need to see the falsity of the Calvinistic system. Fortunately the vast majority of Christians have seen through the Calvinistic “purple haze”.

Robert

Robert said...

In a previous post I challenged calvinist Jeremy Pierce’s words that:

““This includes recognizing that a human being is intrinsically good and seeking the person's good because of it.”

I challenged this because in the case of the “reprobates” (i.e., those chosen by God in eternity according to the calvinists to be perpetual unbelievers, decreed to be unbelievers, decreed to reject Jesus and the gospel, whose every sinful action was decreed by God) **completely contradicts** these words.

What God does to the so-called “reprobates” according to Calvin-ism does not seem to be “recognizing” their “intrinsic goodness” nor is it “seeking the person’s good”. Instead they are toyed with and used supposedly to demonstrate God’s justice and to glorify Himself.

I just glanced over at Triablogue today and came across the following interesting exchange:

[[“UNSOPHISTICATED SAID:
What is your working definition of love?
STEVE SAID:
Acting in the best interests of another.”]]

Now I find this interesting because in providing his definition of the meaning of love, Steve Hays unwittingly shows that the God of Calvin-ism hates most of the human race (i.e. the “reprobates”). The reason I find this interesting is that if Hays is correct about the meaning of love, then according to Hays then God must hate the “reprobates”. If love is “Acting in the best interests of another,” then by no stretch of the imagination does the God of Calvin-ism, love the REPROBATES.

Reprobates in the calvinist system are the majority of the human race, those who are perpetual nonbelievers, predetermined to be without faith and to end up in hell (according to calvinists like Hays, in eternity God predetermined that the “reprobates” would be without faith, He decreed they would be perpetual unbelievers, reprobates).

By Hays’ own definition of love then, God cannot and does not love the reprobates.

How could what he does to the reprobates be considered "acting in their best interests"???

So calvinists like Pierce and Hays can **talk about** the “intrinsic” value of people” and “love”, but keep in mind God’s treatment of the reprobates when you hear them talking about the problem of evil. Reprobation is the 600 lb. gorilla in the room that cannot be ignored when discussing calvinist’s views on “evil”.

Robert

LouisJ-B said...

Robert said:

"According to Louis a non-Calvinist Christian cannot understand deep spiritual things like Calvinistic reprobation, supposedly."


When you import your beloved traditions of God is LOVE,man' intrinsic goodness and lfw,your working def. of

REPROBATE:(i.e., those chosen by God in eternity according to the calvinists to be perpetual unbelievers, decreed to be unbelievers, decreed to reject Jesus and the gospel, whose every sinful action was decreed by God).

is a hot mess.

Whereas, i,a Calvinist believe that God is Holy.As to man' nature:he is in bondage to sin.As to man' will:he is in open rebellion towards God.

So my def. of reprobate is: a *SINNER* to whom God extends no salvific grace.In anticipation of your reply...Rom.9:20.;-)

Jeremy Pierce said...

Gordon, I agree with you if Piper's statements are meant the way you're taking them. I've criticized him a number of times on my own blog for that particular view. But I've recently begun thinking that there's something else he might have meant that isn't so bad.

My main point here was to point out that Piper's view on God's glory is not Calvinism and is not held by all Calvinists. It's a particular Piperian view.

Victor, I think you're right that for Piper to use God's glory in this way as a response to the problem of evil then it might require compatibilism. But of course Piper is a Calvinist, so he's not going to be worried about that. Compatibilism is part of his view.

I disagree that most theodicies require incompatibilism. One version of the free will theodicy does. I know of no other theodicy that does, and I know of at least two versions of free will theodicies that don't require incompatibilism.

I suspect the resistance to retribution among naturalistic compatibilists is not because they think determinism precludes retribution. It's because their ethics precludes it. Retribution is in the doghouse right now, despite a lot of basic intuitions that everyone has that assume a retributive moral standard for a lot of things. I suspect it's more from resistance to Christianity than anything else.

Gordon: You don't have to think goodness is defined as whatever God does to think God is good for determining the fate of human beings according to their choices in how they live this life. Since Calvinists do believe in free choice (after all, they're compatibilists) it's patently unfair to pretend they are not. What you say would apply to a certain kind of hyper-Calvinist who accepted hard determinism, but standard Calvinism is compatibilist, and by compatibilist standards your objection simply doesn't apply.

It would be another matter to say that a Calvinist's belief in free choice in matters relevant to salvation and a Calvinist's belief in theological determinism (at least at the level of final causes) are inconsistent. I think you'd be wrong to claim that, but at least it's not misrepresenting the view in a crude and hateful way.

You ask how reprobation is compatible with God seeing the reprobate as intrinsically good? Why all the urging in Ezekiel, "Why do you die O Israel?" unless (1) they will in fact die and (2) on one level God does not want them to die. That means God must see it as intrinsically bad that those who won't be saved will die, so his allowance of it must involve higher goods. Libertarians take the higher good to be libertarian freedom. Calvinists have to say other things. But the structure of the argument is exactly the same. An intrinsic bad occurs, but some other good is more at stake. There's just a difference of opinion about whether libertarian freedom is among that other good.

As for Louis, it looks to me as if you've taken him to be saying at least two things he didn't say:

1. His use of "tradition" to mean "worldly traditions of human beings" or some such thing. One could easily speak of Calvinist tradition while holding to the general Calvinist tradition. Most people who have been influenced by an intellectual tradition do love that tradition, and sometimes it interferes with understanding another tradition.

2. His statement about letting non-Calvinists represent Calvinism does not imply some secret knowledge that God gives to Calvinists and only Calvinists. It just makes use of the generally-true principle that people often make mistakes about views outside their own intellectual tradition, because they read those views in light of some of their own assumptions that aren't shared by the other party.

steve said...

Robert said...

“Reprobates in the calvinist system are the majority of the human race…”

Let’s see Robert actually document that allegation.

“By Hays’ own definition of love then, God cannot and does not love the reprobates.”

I don’t have to be a Calvinist to deny that God loves those he damns. Take Arminianism.

i) According to Arminianism, God foreknew the outcome if he made certain people. Yet he went ahead and made them even though he knew full well that they would spend eternity in hell. God didn’t have to make them at all. He could have spared them that hellish fate.

In that case, God never intended to save them. Indeed, God intended to damn them. That was God’s intention all along. He created them with that outcome in mind.

ii) Moreover, Robert ascribes libertarian freedom to human agents. He defines this as the freedom to do otherwise, which he cashes out in terms of alternate possibilities.

On that model, every hellbound individual has a heavenbound counterpart in another possible world. Yet Robert’s God didn’t instantiate the possible world in which the same individual freely believes in Jesus and goes to heaven when he dies. Instead, Robert’s God instantiates a world in which the individual will spend eternity in hell even though there’s a possible world (alternate possibilities, remember) in which his counterpart would have Gone to heaven had God instantiated that alternative outcome instead.

Therefore, even if we play along with Arminian assumptions, God didn’t act in the best interests of the damned. He could easily have saved them, but he didn’t. Therefore, by Robert’s logic, God hates the damned. There was never a time when Robert’s God didn’t hate the damned. When he didn’t mean them harm. Irreparable harm.

So Arminians like Robert can **talk about** the “intrinsic” value of people” and “love”, but keep in mind God’s treatment of the damned when you hear him talking about the problem of evil.

“Most people understand that coercing others to do things is infringing on them as persons.”

Aside from the fact that there’s nothing coercive about predestination, I take it that if Robert had a suicidal son pointing a gun to his head, Robert wouldn’t even try to take the gun away from him–since physical restraint is coercive. Mustn’t infringe on the personhood of his son. Instead, Robert would stand there and let his son “freely” pull the trigger out of respect to his (late) son’s autonomy. Arminian “love” is a beautiful thing, is it not?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Calvinism:

Everything we do that's bad is our fault, we get the blame.

Everything we do that's good is God's gift, He get's the glory.

Head's I lose, tails God wins.

I really think this topic is endless, and the Calvinists are not going away anymore than the Catholics are. Another topic along those lines is "Sola Scriptura," so see if you can get Steve Hays of Triablogue and Dave Armstrong of "Biblical Evidence for Catholicism" to come to a conclusion on that topic as well. Oh, and invite more open theologians and universalists and some "soul death" Evangelicals to your blog as well. And young-earth creationists and theistic evolutionist Christians. And dispensationalists and preterists and historicists and apocalyptists. Let's get Armageddon started.

Robert said...

I am quite confident in the beliefs that I hold, I also am quite aware that other intelligent people may not agree with me or hold very different views. **That** does not bother me at all, it is not a problem. If you have good teachers and know what you believe and why you believe it you can be quite confident in what you believe. I do not however, appreciate it when someone supposedly attacking my views, is not really attacking my views but a false misrepresentation they have intentionally created. If they know better, if they know my position and yet disregard dealing with my own view but instead attack their straw man that is different.

I say these things up front, before I show how Steve Hays engages in exactly this kind of thing, repeatedly creating straw men. Worse yet, he even has the gall to present his own views as my view!

Before I demonstrate how he is doing so, I want to repeat what I said earlier because Hays has made no attempt to rebut my point, which I take to be him conceding the point.

Here is what I had posted earlier and my conclusion:

[[“I just glanced over at Triablogue today and came across the following interesting exchange:

[[“UNSOPHISTICATED SAID:
What is your working definition of love?
STEVE SAID:
Acting in the best interests of another.”]]

Now I find this interesting because in providing his definition of the meaning of love, Steve Hays unwittingly shows that the God of Calvin-ism hates most of the human race (i.e. the “reprobates”). The reason I find this interesting is that if Hays is correct about the meaning of love, then according to Hays then God must hate the “reprobates”. If love is “Acting in the best interests of another,” then by no stretch of the imagination does the God of Calvin-ism, love the REPROBATES.”]]

The concession that I want completely in the open is that in Hays’ view, God does not love the “reprobates”, God supposedly only loves the preselected believers. According to Steve Hays God only has the best interests of the preselected elect in mind, not unbelievers.

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to Hays part 1)

Steve Hays wrote:

“I don’t have to be a Calvinist to deny that God loves those he damns. Take Arminianism.”

First Hays admits that in Calvinism God does not love those he damns (the so-called “reprobates” of Calvinistic theology, which is all unbelievers who never repent in this life).

Second, and here we see the first (of multiple) attempts at intentionally misrepresenting the Arminian view, he implies that his view that “God does not love those he damns” is **also** a belief held by Arminians. I thought that everybody knew that the Arminian believes that God so loved the WORLD (which refers to a group of human persons including both those who eventually come to saving faith as well as persons who never end up as believers) that He gave His Son, Jesus for **that** World/that group of human persons?

According to Arminian thinking, the greatest good, the best possible thing that can happen to a human person is to have their sins forgiven, to be reconciled with God and to be in a saving and personal relationship with God in which the person freely loves, trusts and worships the one true God. According to Arminian thinking if that is the best thing that can happen to a person, then if God truly desires **that** for every person and takes actual concrete steps towards that, then God would have every human persons best interests in mind! If a rich guy puts a billion dollars in the bank for you under your name that he provides for you, then you might believe that the rich guy really cares for you. But God does something **much greater** than that, he provides Christ as an atonement for all. God cannot give you a better or greater gift than that. And his free gift of salvation through Christ is much, much greater than being given a billion dollars in some bank account! Arminians in other words believe in what is often termed “unlimited atonement”. This means that the Arminian believes that God sincerely desires the salvation of all and so provides Christ as an atonement for all.

The apostle Paul understood this point: “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things”? (Rom. 8:31-32). Now admittedly Paul is speaking directly to believers in these verses. But the principle Paul is mentioning to believers can also be said to apply to unbelievers as well: If God is willing to provide Christ as an atonement for you [which is the best possible thing that God can do for you a sinner] then don’t think that God will be chincy with other things! Now the calvinist such as Hays may disagree and claim that Jesus is **not** given for the WORLD (in contradiction to what scripture says) but is given only for the preselected elect (as the Calvinistic system says), but if he is **honestly representing** the Arminian view he has got to present us as saying that WE BELIEVE that Jesus was the greatest gift that God could give and he gives that provision of atonement for ALL because HE LOVES ALL with a salvific will (desiring for all to be saved and providing atonement for all).

But Hays intentionally bypasses all of this, things he knows about what Arminian believes, and tries to make it seem that Arminians have the same warped view of God’s love as he does (i.e. that God only loves the preselected elect with a salvific love and hates the unbelievers).

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to Hays part 2)

“i) According to Arminianism, God foreknew the outcome if he made certain people. Yet he went ahead and made them even though he knew full well that they would spend eternity in hell. God didn’t have to make them at all. He could have spared them that hellish fate.”

The first statement here is partially true (the Arminian in contrast to the open theist believes that God foreknows all things).

Where it is not true and is outright misleading and again a misrepresentation is that Hays speaks of God making people a certain way. That is a Calvinistic premise: that God decides beforehand how he wants a particular individual to be (one he wants to be elect another he wants to be reprobate) and then in history through controlling the circumstances he **makes** the person that he pre-decided would be elect or reprobate. That is not Arminian belief. The Arminian believes that God does not make people into believers or unbelievers. Instead he develops and carries out a plan of salvation that involves providing Jesus as an atonement for the World and then saving those who freely choose to trust Him for their salvation. Put another way, in the Arminian view it is not God alone making someone into a believer or unbeliever, but is God desiring for all to be saved and yet making salvation conditional upon a freely chosen trust by the individual (those who freely choose to trust will be saved; those who freely choose not to trust will not be saved).

Furthermore for the non-Calvinist it is not an issue of God **overpowering the will of people** and forcing them to be saved. It is much more relational and involves an invitation to be saved (cf. Jesus’ parables where people are invited to the eschatological feast and then some give excuses and decline while some accept the invitation to attend). In calvinism God overpowers the will of rebellious sinners and then they are converted (and he chooses to overpower only the preselected elect, though HE COULD EASILY DO SO WITH ALL HUMAN PERSONS; it is easy for God to save all in calvinism because it does not involve humans making freely made choices but is merely a matter of God’s omnipotence). In the Arminian view if a person chooses to reject God, God allows that choice, because salvation is not merely the exercise of raw power on the part of God.

“Yet he went ahead and made them even though he knew full well that they would spend eternity in hell.”

Hays implies here that **whatever God foreknows he intends** (this is yet another Calvinistic premise but not an Arminian premise: in calvinism God is only able to foreknow something because he ordained it, he wants it to happen, he intends it to happen; in non-Calvinistic thinking God is capable (and does in fact) foreknow things that he does not intend, that he does not want, the best example being sin).

Again, the non-Calvinist sees God’s plan of salvation as being what God decided beforehand. He then implements this plan which involves people then either choosing to accept or choosing to reject God and the gospel. In the case of those who end up in hell it is **not because God did not love them** (he did, what could be more loving than providing Christ as an atonement for them?) or made no attempt to save them, or intended to send them to hell with no chance at salvation (as is true with reprobates in calvinism). For the perpetual unbeliever they end up in hell not because God did not love them or desire for them to be saved, but because they freely spurned and rejected God’s love for them and did so repeatedly for their entire lifetime.

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to Hays part 3)

“God didn’t have to make them at all. He could have spared them that hellish fate.”

Apparently Hays has forgotten some things here in this statement. First of all, again, under Arminian premises God does not make people into reprobates or hell bound persons (though that is true in calvinism). Second, Hays has not thought through things sufficiently here. If God only allows believers to exist (in God’s design two human parents produce a human child, so if you are going to eliminate all unbelievers from ever existing then no one would have any unbelieving parents or anyone in their line who was an unbeliever, so those born of non-believing parents or biological descendants would never live; I wouldn’t be here and neither would Hays; in fact the Romans and Jewish leadership who crucified Christ would not exist so Jesus could not have been crucified and I agree with Plantinga that a world where there is an incarnation and an atonement is a better world than a lot of other worlds).

A world where no unbelievers are present may be the desire of atheists (they talk about “why didn’t’ God create a world where there is no evil . . .”) and calvinists such as Hays who want to argue against Arminians or even Universalists who ignore all the biblical evidence of the reality and consequences of unbelief: but it is not the world that God did in fact create which does involve both believers and unbelievers. And Jesus even gave a parable (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) in which he spoke of the wheat being good and the tares being bad and an **enemy** coming in and ruining the field (v. 25, 38-39) by bringing in tares. The “messengers” in the parable which represent the angels who are exasperated by the presence of evil and are ready to remove all of it in a moment (v.28, 41), are told by the Sower of the good seed to wait until the final harvest (which is a symbol of the final judgment; but the picture is clear while some may want to root out all unbelievers now, God says let the believers and unbelievers grow together until the final harvest).

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to Hays part 4)

In Hays’ next words he does something unbelievable, and yet believable as it is coming from Steve Hays.

What he says next is in fact EXACTLY WHAT HE BELIEVES ABOUT UNBELIEVERS THAT GOD HAS DECIDED WOULD BE REPROBATES.

But what Hays tries to do is put this on the Arminian, as if Arminians believe what Hays believes about unbelievers/”reprobates”. It is amazing that Hays would attribute his own false beliefs to non-Calvinists when he knows non-Calvinist do not believe these things at all.

Speaking presuppositionally, Hays is injecting his manure/his false premises into my water/the correct premises regarding unbelievers and God’s relation to them and expecting me to drink it as if it is my water.

Here are Hays’ words:


“In that case, God never intended to save them. Indeed, God intended to damn them. That was God’s intention all along. He created them with that outcome in mind.”

“God never intended to save them”? That is Hays’ view on reprobation (and it is not surprising if as Hays believes, that God decides beforehand who will be saved and who will not be saved, those he decides not to save he has no intentions of saving). The Arminian view in contrast says that God’s plan of salvation is aimed at all, God intends for all to be saved though some will freely choose to reject God’s plan of salvation.

“God intended to damn them. That was God’s intention all along.”? Again, this is in fact **exactly** what Hays believes about reprobates. And again it is not what Arminians believe at all.

“He created them with that outcome in mind.”? Again, this is strict calvinism and specifically Hays’ perverse brand. Hays wants us to believe that the God of the bible does that, completely going against explicit statements in the bible that God loves all, desires the salvation of all, provides Christ for all as an atonement for all, etc. In Hays’ thinking God may **intend for people to go to hell** before they are born before they do anything or are given any opportunity to be saved, BUT THIS IS NOT ARMINIAN. And yet Hays is claiming that this is what Arminians believe. It is such a clear straw man it is almost unbelievable that Hays could even suggest it. I thought Hays knew and understood what non-Calvinists believe. But he intentionally and falsely represents what non-Calvinists believe. I think he just cannot stomach the fact that in the Arminian view, God is more loving to people than he is in Hays’ false and perverted view.

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to hays part 5)

Besides misrepresenting Arminian beliefs Hays also misrepresents my views on free will.

“ii) Moreover, Robert ascribes libertarian freedom to human agents. He defines this as the freedom to do otherwise, which he cashes out in terms of alternate possibilities.

On that model, every hellbound individual has a heavenbound counterpart in another possible world. Yet Robert’s God didn’t instantiate the possible world in which the same individual freely believes in Jesus and goes to heaven when he dies. Instead, Robert’s God instantiates a world in which the individual will spend eternity in hell even though there’s a possible world (alternate possibilities, remember) in which his counterpart would have Gone to heaven had God instantiated that alternative outcome instead.”

Wait a minute, for each world there is another counterpart world that actually exists? That is not me, that is the possible worlds thinking of the ex-atheist David Lewis.

Hays is again trying to impute to me views and beliefs that I do not hold. I do not agree with Lewis that there are all these actually existing possible worlds besides the actual world that we are in. I instead posit one actual world which involves a world history that is comprised of multiple events including God’s actions, the actions of angels, the actions of human persons, the actions of animals and other animate life forms as well as events involving inanimate realities. I believe that we sometimes have and make choices and the choices we make are actual outcomes that partly make up the one history of this one actually existing universe. And I believe that God foreknows all of our freely made choices. But I do not believe that God instantiates entire world histories that he desires (that is again calvinism and Molinism, but it is not me).

Robert

Robert said...

(Response to Hays part 6)

Hays then again misrepresents Arminian beliefs:

“Therefore, even if we play along with Arminian assumptions, God didn’t act in the best interests of the damned.

How is God not acting in the best interests of those who remain unbelievers if He truly desires for them to be in a personal relationship with Him (which is the greatest good, the best thing that can happen to a human person) and actively presents Jesus as an atonement for them all providing a way of salvation for them all?
If he does not withhold his best from you, how he is not acting in your best interests?

Now again the Arminian CAN ASSERT AND BELIEVE that God loves all and desires for all to be saved and sent Jesus to die for all, but the calvinist like Hays with his gruesome doctrine of reprobation cannot say these things and must actively reinterpret what the bible actually presents regarding these things.

And yet again Hays takes beliefs that are strictly speaking HIS OWN BELIEFS ABOUT REPROBATION and again tries to pawn them off on us:

“He could easily have saved them, but he didn’t. Therefore, by Robert’s logic, God hates the damned. There was never a time when Robert’s God didn’t hate the damned. When he didn’t mean them harm. Irreparable harm.”

In calvinism God “could easily have saved them” because it is merely an exercise of his omnipotent power that saves people, no freely made human choices are involved, it is **monergistic**. So of course in calvin-ism it would be easy for God to save anyone. And in fact this becomes a nasty question for calvinists like Hays: if salvation is monergistic as you believe and involves God overpowering the will of the sinner and saving him, thus involving a mere exercise of God’s omnipotence, then God could easily save all people, so why doesn’t he? I think we all know the answer now, in Hays’ thinking, he does not love the reprobates, he has no intention of saving the reprobates, he makes no effort to save the reprobates, so they never have a chance to be saved and it is impossible for them to be saved because of how God set them up to ensure their unbelief.

In Arminianism since God desires that people freely choose to trust him, if they do not make that choice they will not be saved. And in Arminianism it is not monergistic but synergistic involving the actions of both God and humans for a person to be saved, so it is not the mere exercise of God’s power that is involved.

If we merely change the words a bit we arrive at **not the Arminian view** but at Steve Hays’ own hateful view of unbelievers:

“Therefore, by Steve Hays’ logic, God hates the damned. There was never a time when Hays’ God didn’t hate the damned. When he didn’t mean them harm. Irreparable harm.”

That is exactly what Hays believes about reprobates. Hays is consistent with his calvinism and ends up with a revolting and grotesque picture of how God relates to unbelievers.

“So Arminians like Robert can **talk about** the “intrinsic” value of people” and “love”, but keep in mind God’s treatment of the damned when you hear him talking about the problem of evil.”

Yeh keep in mind my view that God so loved the World that he gave Jesus for that sinful and rebellious World (whether they ever repent and turn to him or not). God loves everyone so much that he gave the best possible gift, the atonement of Jesus to everyone. And keep in mind God’s love for those who repeatedly reject Him: God provided Jesus as an atonement for them and even if they repeatedly reject that provision there is no doubt that God loved them and desired for them to be saved. If they keep rejecting it is not the love of God that is in question but their own stubborn unbelief.

Robert

Robert said...

Jeremy Pierce wrote:


“You ask how reprobation is compatible with God seeing the reprobate as intrinsically good?”


No, I say that it **is a contradiction** to (1) on the one hand claim that God sees someone as intrinsically good and at the same time (2) treats that person as calvinists claim God supposedly treats “reprobates”(i.e. decides before they exist that they will be damned, that they will never be given a genuine opportunity to be saved, decides their every action including their sins and unbelief, ensures they carry out these predecided actions, then judge them at the final judgment and condemn them eternally for being and doing precisely what God wanted them to be and do and necessitated them to be and do, and then on top of all of this send them to hell: that just does not fit treating an individual as having intrinsic goodness at all).


“Why all the urging in Ezekiel, "Why do you die O Israel?" unless (1) they will in fact die and (2) on one level God does not want them to die. That means God must see it as intrinsically bad that those who won't be saved will die, so his allowance of it must involve higher goods.”


If you are appealing to the passage/chapter in Ezekiel 33, the passage speaks of how each is responsible for his own sin (the father for his own sin the son for his own sin) and how God desires that they repent of their sin and turn to him and be saved (a repentance that according to the non-calvinist is available to all but according to the calvinist is limited only to the preselected elect).


God does not want them to die in a state of being separated from Him, in an unsaved state. And God does not want this to occur, He takes no pleasure in its occurrence because in fact as he explicitly states in other places, he desires for all to be saved, for all to repent of their sin and turn to him for salvation. The “greater good” is for the person to be in a saving relationship with God. As God desires **that** for all persons, when a person instead chooses to remain in his sin, to remain unrepentant, that person will die separated from God (hence the text states “God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked/unrepentant”).


“Libertarians take the higher good to be libertarian freedom.”


No, the “higher good” is not merely libertarian freedom as the person already experiences libertarian freedom and can use that freedom to both turn to God in repentance or choose to continue to sin and not repent of their sin. LFW is simply a means to the higher good which is personal and saving relationship with God.


“Calvinists have to say other things.”


Right, for them the supposed higher good is the glory of God (but the Ezekiel passages is not concerned with the glory of God but with the issues of personal responsibility and repentance from sin).


“But the structure of the argument is exactly the same. An intrinsic bad occurs, but some other good is more at stake.”


Again, that is not the issue in the Ezekiel passage. It is not a contrast between an intrinsic bad and “some other good”. Nor is it an “argument” by the non-Calvinist that the greater good is LFW and the greater good for the calvinist is the glory of God (those are not even concerns in the Ezekiel passage unless you read them in/eisegete them into the text). Jeremy you are reading in philosophical concepts and arguments into a passage that has nothing to do with what you are reading into the texts.


“There's just a difference of opinion about whether libertarian freedom is among that other good.”


The Ezekiel passage is not even a discussion of whether or not LFW is a “good”. Instead, the passage (like the rest of the bible) presumes that people have LFW and because they do, they can repent of their sin and turn back to God for salvation.

Robert

Robert said...

Jeremy Pierce wrote:

“As for Louis, it looks to me as if you've taken him to be saying at least two things he didn't say:

1. His use of "tradition" to mean "worldly traditions of human beings" or some such thing. One could easily speak of Calvinist tradition while holding to the general Calvinist tradition. Most people who have been influenced by an intellectual tradition do love that tradition, and sometimes it interferes with understanding another tradition.”

I disagree, Louis sounds like many other calvinists on the internet, people who contrast their Calvinism with everything else which is derogatorily described as being the “man-made traditions of non-calvinists.” Louis was not referring to a mere disagreement concerning two equally respectable traditions. Louis’ comment was a put down, it was no recognition of equally respectable traditions.


“2. His statement about letting non-Calvinists represent Calvinism does not imply some secret knowledge that God gives to Calvinists and only Calvinists. It just makes use of the generally-true principle that people often make mistakes about views outside their own intellectual tradition, because they read those views in light of some of their own assumptions that aren't shared by the other party.”


Again, I was highlighting the fact his statements sound like many calvinists who talk about their Calvinism in a manner similar to Gnostics (i.e. we understand these spiritual things all outsiders do not, one must be one of us, enlightened like us to understand our deep spiritual truths). I have heard calvinists make these kinds of statements when their system is challenged on innumerable occasions. Again it was meant as a put down. And you are correct that at times people allow their own assumptions to lead them to misunderstand the views of others from a different tradition. However again I do not believe that Louis was simply making this point. It was like the other comments intended as a put down. And despite his put downs, the fact is, non-Calvinists do sufficiently understand Calvinism which is why we reject it as unbiblical and a man-made theological system.


Robert

Robert said...

I had written:

"If you are appealing to the passage/chapter in Ezekiel 33, the passage speaks of how each is responsible for his own sin (the father for his own sin the son for his own sin) and how God desires that they repent of their sin and turn to him and be saved (a repentance that according to the non-calvinist is available to all but according to the calvinist is limited only to the preselected elect)."

My mistake, it should have read, "If you are appealing to the passage/chapter in Ezeziel 18 . . . . "

Robert

Jeremy Pierce said...

I agree that it would be immoral to force someone to be sinful and then to damn the person without giving them an opportunity to repent. That's why I oppose the hyper-Calvinist view that you keep calling Calvinism. I guess I have to keep reminding you that Calvinists are compatibilists, not hard determinists. Calvinists believe that people make their own choices freely and that they are morally responsible for their choices.

So the Calvinist does not accept that we are forced to sin, that God coerces us, or that there is no possibility of repentance for the reprobate. Those who are reprobate make their own choices and are judged because of their own life, not merely because of God's plan for them. Calvinists insist that they had every opportunity to repent and that it is our responsibility to give them the opportunity to do so. Salvation is available to all but limited only to those who do repent. That's what the doctrine of limited atonement has traditionally insisted on.

Now non-Calvinists have a certain view about what is required for all those things to be true, and Calvinists disagree with that. But that's the place of disagreement. You want to construe the disagreement as if it's between libertarianism and hard determinism. A hard determinist who speaks of reprobation and election in ways similar to a Calvinist really does make God out to be a moral monster. But that's not the Calvinist view. You keep saying non-Calvinists do understand the Calvinist view, and I agree. Many do. But you obviously don't if you're going to keep attributing to the Calvinist the view that we have no free will, that God coerces us, and that there's no opportunity or possibility of repentance for those who turn out to be reprobate. Calvinists don't hold such views. Hyper-Calvinists do. You may think the position is inconsistent (that's a charge that can be discussed without the nastiness you demonstrate toward Calvinism), but please stop treating Calvinists as if they actually hold such views.

As I've already said, Piperites think God does everything for his glory, but that's not THE Calvinist view. It's just Piper's view. He gets it from Jonathan Edwards, who I think means something less extreme than what Piper comes across as saying. They both find it in Augustine, and I know he means something less extreme, because he insists that other things are intrinsically good in their own right and not just because they give God glory. Calvin himself, I'm sure, would have been more with Augustine than Piper on this.

As for Ezekiel 18, all I was using that for was insisting that God does have multiple levels of desire. Then I was explaining how libertarians and compatibilists have to interpret that differently. But it's clear in the passage that God wants something and is not achieving it, and the only reason God doesn't get what he wants is if he wants something else more. For a libertarian that's his allowance of contra-causal freedom. So the libertarian version of the free-will defense to the problem of evil fits nicely with that passage. That's supposed to be uncontroversial, but if you're not a standard libertarian and don't think free will is relevant to the problem of evil then maybe we have to start back at square one. All I was saying is that compatibilists will use that passage to indicate something similar to what libertarians already accept when they use free will to explain why God isn't morally responsible for human evil.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Now I would agree with you that the Bible assumes that we have free will. I would insist that it assumes that it's not libertarian free will, though, unless God can use someone as an instrument to do his will while the person is acting in a thoroughly evil way and is worthy of condemnation the way Isaiah 10 clearly presents God doing with the king of Assyria (and Peter in Acts 2 and 4 does the same with those who crucified Jesus, including Judas, the Jewish leaders, the Romans, and the crowds). If you think that's compatible with libertarianism, then I think you have a distinctly Calvinist-friendly interpretation of libertarianism. Molinists can achieve this if the view works (I don't think it can without adopting compatibilism). But once you say things like that, then you're giving up the idea that God's plan doesn't include the human free choices that you seem insistent on keeping out of God's plan.

Your defense of your treatment of Louis amounts to this:

1. A lot of Calvinists on the internet use the term Louis used in an improper way.
2. Louis used the term he used.
3. Therefore, Louis meant it the way lots of other Calvinists on the internet have used it.

It seems you prefer to assume the worst of Calvinists rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, and you're more willing to accuse them of outright heresy than to accept that they might have meant something much more innocent.

Richard Coords said...

Question for Victor Reppert:

You wrote: “God doesn’t have everyone’s best interests at heart, God has his own glory at heart….”

If we substuted "God" for "Satan," would the same hold true?

[Satan] doesn’t have everyone’s best interests at heart, [Satan] has his own glory at heart.

(On a side note, I see no difference between Hard Determinism and Compatibilism IF God has a "purpose in sin." If this is affirmed, then Compatibilistic freedom is simply the freedom of a person to do that which God has "decreed and rendered certain," for a specific "purpose," so that a set purpose may be inalterably achieved.)

Richard Coords said...

Victor, please disregard. I had misinterpreted your post.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Richard, the difference between compatibilism and hard determinism is that hard determinists think we're not free and not morally responsible, and compatibilists think we are. That's a pretty huge difference.

Now if you were only claiming that they don't differ on the metaphysical ground level, then you're absolutely right. You'll also find that compatibilists about foreknowledge and free will happen to agree with fatalists about the metaphysics. Both agree that the future is real and that there's only one actual future. What they disagree on is whether that's compatible with other possible futures and free choices.

So too you'll find any determinist accepting determinism, and that includes hard determinists and compatibilist determinists. Both accept the same metaphysical picture, but they disagree about whether we're free and morally responsible.

The point of drawing this analogy is that the argument you're giving has the following consequence. If all that matters is the same core metaphysical commitment, and it doesn't matter that they differ in their view of whether it allows freedom, then anyone who accepts the mere foreknowledge view about God has the same view as a fatalist who thinks the existence of only one future means we're not free. So your argument counts against divine foreknowledge too and not just Calvinism.

Now maybe your an open theist, but if you're not then perhaps you ought to have more to your critique than just recognizing a common metaphysic to two views that are very different in their application, because the same logic applies to other situations with common metaphysical commitments.

Robert said...

Hello Jeremy, (part 1)

Reading your post leads me to believe that you really do not understand Calvinism. What I am challenging, the Calvinism espoused by people like Piper and MacArthur today, and Edwards, Luther and Calvin himself in the past, I believe you are mistakenly viewing as “hyper-Calvinism.” Your own view seems to be a more moderate position, but your version of Calvinism is not what these other people believed and taught.

Often when reading calvinists today on the internet, when they argue that we have no free will (many even mock free will) and that God has predetermined every event that will occur in history (which of course is going to include both the eternal destinies of each individual human person as well as the actions that each human person performs) THAT is not “hyper-Calvinism”, that **is** traditional Calvinism, the Calvinism held by Calvin, the other reformers, Edwards, Piper, et al. These people will claim that while we make choices we never ***have*** choices (How could we if God predetermined our every action? If God decided beforehand how we would decide in every situation? If God decrees/ordains “whatsoever comes to pass”?)

Where you can really see this clearly is their treatment of the fall. The non-Calvinist will claim that while God foreknew that the fall would occur, and allowed it to occur, he did not want it to occur, he did not intend for it to occur. The calvinist (the traditionalist to coin a term in contrast to your moderate position) instead sees the fall as ordained by God, as an event not only foreknown but an event that God wanted to occur, an event that God intended to occur, and so an event that was necessitated (it was impossible that it could go otherwise, these traditionalists deny that we have free will so we do what we were predetermined to do and it is impossible for us ever to do otherwise than what we were predetermined to do).

With these things in mind I can comment on your comments.

“I agree that it would be immoral to force someone to be sinful and then to damn the person without giving them an opportunity to repent.”

But that is exactly what results if God predetermines all events and it is impossible for people to do otherwise than what they were predetermined to do.

You grant that this is **immoral** which is exactly why I oppose it and declare it to be unbiblical and false.

Jeremy if God predetermines every individuals’ eternal destiny before they exist (he chooses one to be elect and another to be reprobate, and his decisions fix their destinies so that it is impossible for their destiny to be different than what God already decided and planned for “then to damn the person without giving them an opportunity to repent” is exactly what God does to those chosen to be reprobates, he has no intention of saving them, because he intends for them to **be** reprobates).

“That's why I oppose the hyper-Calvinist view that you keep calling Calvinism.”

What you are calling “hyper-Calvinist” Jeremy, **is** traditional Calvinism. You need to read Calvin and Edwards and the others for yourself to see their views. Read them especially in their views of reprobation and you will clearly see they hold what I am attacking and what you reject. Your “Calvinism” then may be more moderate but IT IS NOT THE TRADITIONAL CALVINISM.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Jeremy (part 2)

“I guess I have to keep reminding you that Calvinists are compatibilists, not hard determinists.”

The term compatibilism came later in history. Again if you examine the views of Calvin and Edwards, etc. you find people who deny the ordinary understanding of free will (that we have access to two possibilities and really can actualize either possibility) AND who believe that every event is predetermined by God so every event is necessitated. It not only does happen it must happen and it is IMPOSSIBLE THAT IT NOT HAPPEN. That is why I sometimes call those who espouse traditional Calvinism, necessatarians, because I want to convey the idea that their belief in the predetermination of all things leads to the conclusion that all events happen by necessity, there is no free will, people never ever have a choice.

“Calvinists believe that people make their own choices freely and that they are morally responsible for their choices.”

Actually you are borrowing from the non-Calvinist world view here as this is exactly what I believe and I am not a calvinist! People who understand the necessitarian nature of traditional Calvinism see that it leads to problems with moral responsibility (God is holding people responsible for sinful actions that they had to do because he predetermined that they would do them, again the fall being the paradigm example). And when you speak of people making their own choices **freely** again you sound like a non-Calvinist (the traditional calvinist will argue that we act “freely” when we do what we want to do but that what we want to do is NECESSITATED BY OUR NATURE).

“So the Calvinist does not accept that we are forced to sin, that God coerces us, or that there is no possibility of repentance for the reprobate.”

The traditional calvinist does not want to accept the logical implications of his own view. And I would not describe it as God “coercing us” (as that sounds like God is forcing us to act against our will). Instead I would describe the kind of control that God exercises over everyone’s will under traditional Calvinism as what Robert Kane calls “covert non-constrained control” (i.e. it is covert in that the person does not observe or feel it happening; it is non-contrained as it is not coercive because God directly controls the will and so moves the person to do whatever God wants them to do, they want to do precisely what God wants them to do and controls them to do). Jeremy are you familiar with Kane’s CNC concept? I suggest that under traditional Calvinism CNC type control is occurring and God directly and completely and continuously controls everybody’s will.

Your statement that: “or that there is no possibility of repentance for the reprobate,” is also mistaken concerning traditional Calvinism. For the traditionalist (and Steve Hays is representative of this) God decides to damn the reprobates before they exist, this is part of his all encompassing total plan for world history, what God decides as part of this total plan is then carried out in time as what we call world history, and for Hays who is a consistent traditionalist calvinist “there is no possibility of repentance” for those whom God chose to be reprobates in this actual world). Again, Jeremy what you are denying is traditional Calvinism what Calvin himself held to.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Jeremy, (part 3)

“Those who are reprobate make their own choices and are judged because of their own life, not merely because of God's plan for them.”

Again you borrow from the non-Calvinist world view. For us a person reprobates himself by repeatedly freely choosing to reject God over his entire lifetime. He is not coerced into being a reprobate nor does God exercise CNC type control over him ensuring that he remains an unbeliever. Instead, since God desires to save all, God makes efforts to save him which he repeatedly and freely chooses to reject.

For the traditionalist calvinist what God preplans (their term is decrees) is the entire plan and every detail of that plan. So everything occurs precisely according to this plan and everything occurs by necessity there is not free will as ordinarily understood nor can there be.


“Calvinists insist that they had every opportunity to repent and that it is our responsibility to give them the opportunity to do so.”

Again, you keep borrowing from non-Calvinism. The traditionalist believes that since God only intends to save the elect only the elect are given the grace needed to repent (this grace is withheld from the “reprobates” according to the traditionalist).

“Salvation is available to all but limited only to those who do repent. That's what the doctrine of limited atonement has traditionally insisted on.”

Again, you sound just like an Arminian here. The Arminian says that salvation is available to all because the provision of atonement is made for all and the Holy Spirit works upon all leading them to Christ for salvation (though those who keep resisting the work of the Spirit will end up as unbelievers eternally separated from God). But again what you describe here is not what Steve Hays and other traditional calvinists believe. How do you think the controversy over limited versus unlimited atonement arose if calvinists believe that God intends to save all and makes salvation available to all?

“You want to construe the disagreement as if it's between libertarianism and hard determinism. A hard determinist who speaks of reprobation and election in ways similar to a Calvinist really does make God out to be a moral monster. But that's not the Calvinist view.”

Again, the term “compatibilism” or “compatibilist” is a more modern term. What the traditional calvinists such as Calvin himself and Edwards, etc. held to would be described today as “hard determinism” (i.e. people do not have free will and their every action is necessitated because it has been decreed by God as part of his total plan for all of world history). Only lately have modern calvinists tried to describe their view as “soft compatibilism” or “semi-compatibilism”. By when you closely examine what they really believe they *are* hard determinists in their denial of the ordinary understanding of free will and their affirmation that God decrees all events and so all events occur by necessity.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Jeremy (part 4)

“You keep saying non-Calvinists do understand the Calvinist view, and I agree. Many do. But you obviously don't if you're going to keep attributing to the Calvinist the view that we have no free will, that God coerces us, and that there's no opportunity or possibility of repentance for those who turn out to be reprobate. Calvinists don't hold such views. Hyper-Calvinists do.”

Well here it is again you distance your moderate calvinism from traditional calvinism. You are not representative of traditional calvinism (someone like Steve Hays is). Jeremy do you agree with Steve Hays on things such as: God preselecting individuals for both salvation and damnation? In God decreeing and intending for the fall to occur? In God intending for “reprobates” to end up in hell?

And yet again your view of reprobation is not what the traditionalist believes: “and that there's no opportunity or possibility of repentance for those who turn out to be reprobate.” For the traditionalist calvinist people’s eternal destiny is set in eternity by God’s decrees (so if he decrees that a certain individual be a “reprobate” then “there’s no opportunity or possibility of repentance for” them; and they do not merely “turn out to be reprobate” by their freely made choices, NO, God intended for them to be reprobates before they existed and ensures that they be what he decreed for them to be). Again, Steve Hays represents traditional calvinism you do not.

“You may think the position is inconsistent (that's a charge that can be discussed without the nastiness you demonstrate toward Calvinism), but please stop treating Calvinists as if they actually hold such views.”

My “nastiness” is towards what you want to believe is the “hyper-calvinist” position, towards what you yourself say is “A hard determinist who speaks of reprobation and election in ways similar to a Calvinist really does make God out to be a moral monster.” My problem is with the traditional Calvinistic views that do indeed “make God out to be a moral monster.” Now you want to claim that that is “hyper-Calvinism” I disagree, it is traditional Calvinism when taken to its logical conclusions that “make God out to be a moral monster.” That is why Calvinism has been so repugnant to the vast majority of Christians throughout church history. That is why it was repugnant to those who opposed Calvin and disagreed with him about it (if you want to see what he did to them see Bruce Gordon’s biography on Calvin which is the best Calvin biography available in my opinion).

“As I've already said, Piperites think God does everything for his glory, but that's not THE Calvinist view. It's just Piper's view. He gets it from Jonathan Edwards, who I think means something less extreme than what Piper comes across as saying.”

What I think you are dismissing as “Piperites” is what I would refer to as traditional calvinists. Piper in fact is a great example of a modern proponent of traditional Calvinism. Look at Piper’s book on Romans 9, it is an excellent example of traditional Calvinism (Calvin himself would have loved that book!).

Jeremy do you believe that John Piper is what you refer to as a “hyper-calvinist”?

Robert

Richard Coords said...

Hello Robert,

I’m not an Open Theist, but allow me address the “compatibilistic freedom” issue.

1) Suppose that the range of a totally depraved person’s sinful choices were represented in a range of “A to Z.”

2) Suppose that God has a “purpose” in a particular person choosing “A.”

If a person’s “freedom” to alternatively choose sin’s “B through Z” conflicts with the “purpose” that God has for them in exclusively choosing “A”, then what must God do to their “compatibilistic free will,” so that they exclusively choose only A within the range? The logical answer to me, is to remove their freedom.

Richard Coords said...

Sorry Robert, my post was addressed to Jeremy.

Robert said...

Hello Jeremy,

“Now I would agree with you that the Bible assumes that we have free will.”

Then why are all of these traditionalist calvinists mocking and ridiculing the ordinary understanding of having and then making a choice? I say it is because they are determinists who believe in exhaustive determinism and so free will totally threatens their view.

“I would insist that it assumes that it's not libertarian free will, though, unless God can use someone as an instrument to do his will while the person is acting in a thoroughly evil way and is worthy of condemnation the way Isaiah 10 clearly presents God doing with the king of Assyria (and Peter in Acts 2 and 4 does the same with those who crucified Jesus, including Judas, the Jewish leaders, the Romans, and the crowds). If you think that's compatible with libertarianism, then I think you have a distinctly Calvinist-friendly interpretation of libertarianism.”

According to you here I must have a “Calvinist friendly interpretation of libertarianism.” I believe that we sometimes have choices (where we can choose to actualize one or another possibility, though not both if they are mutually exclusive at that time). I believe that God foreknows all future events including those involving our having and making a choice. I also believe that if God foreknows that we will make a certain choice, allows that choice to be made, does not interfere with the making of that choice, then a future event will occur with certainty though not necessity (we really could have chosen to do otherwise though God via his foreknowledge knew how we would in fact choose).

So take the evil choices that were made against Joseph in Genesis, or the evil choices made by the Assyrians in Isaiah, or best of all take the evil choices of those who crucified Jesus. In each case God foreknew what they would **freely** choose to do, allowed them to make those choices, did not interfere with those choices, so certain events followed, events that occurred with certainty. In each case God allowed an outcome to occur which he wanted to occur, people made evil choices and could have done otherwise, and in each case they can be held responsible for their evil choices (their evil choices were not coerced, they were not caused by God to do those evil choices, God did not use CNC type control to ensure those choices, God is not responsible for the evil choices they made). That is how I view things and I am ****not a calvinist**** and I do not believe that God has predetermined every event and I reject hard determinism as well as soft determinism (in either case the person’s actions are necessitated by some necessitating factor).

I would also claim that my view in which both foreknowledge and free will are real and present and compatible is the view that most Christians have always held. Unfortunately open theists come along and claim that if you have free will you have to give up foreknowledge and calvinists claim that if God does foreknow everything then you have to give up free will. I say keep both free will and foreknowledge and reject open theism and Calvinism.

Robert

Richard Coords said...

Jeremy,

Instead of using the “A to Z” representation, consider an actual scenario, to see how freedom and a range of choices, plays out:

Suppose that God has a particular “purpose” for a person that we will call “Jim.”

Let’s suppose that on a certain Monday afternoon, God has purposed that "Jim" will burglarize a specific residence, and have a very strong desire to do literally anything to avoid detection. So on one particular Monday afternoon, Jim burglarized a certain house, but instead of the house being empty, the family’s daughter was sick from school that day and confronted Jim in the burglary, and Jim murdered her, so as to avoid detection. Also suppose that God had a “purpose” in Jim getting caught and sent to prison. So Jim gets sloppy and makes a critical error and gets caught and is convicted and sent to prison, which is where God has a purpose in Jim repenting and getting saved.

So in this scenario, God has a purpose in every choice that Jim committed, so that it would lead to a definite outcome. But what if, on that particular Monday afternoon, Jim wanted to rob a liquor store instead? What if Jim was particularly ambitious and wanted to go for a bank instead? What if, instead of robbing anyone at all, Jim decided to go to the dog track? What if Jim decided to just get drunk and eventually become homeless? What if Jim did decide on a burglary, but instead wanted to try a different neighborhood than the one predetermined for him to choose, commit a more serious crime and end up in prison? Or, what if Jim was a fearful man, and would turn and run, the moment after being spotted? Each of these "free choices" could directly impact whether or not the predetermined “chain of events” was eventually achieved.

Therefore, Jim’s freedom to do a multitude of alternatives, must be divinely managed, controlled and pared down, to desire only that which exclusively follows a predetermined script, in order for the precise “purpose” to be inalterably achieved. In order for the “purpose” to be achieved, freedom is an obstacle. So how can a compatibilistic freedom, still apply to this situation?

steve said...

Robert said...

“Now I find this interesting because in providing his definition of the meaning of love, Steve Hays unwittingly shows that the God of Calvin-ism hates most of the human race (i.e. the ‘reprobates’).”

That’s inept on two grounds:

i) It’s simple-minded to act as though love and hate are the only available attitudes.

ii) Robert hasn’t shown that, on my view, or the view of Calvinism generally, the reprobate outnumber the elect.

“First Hays admits that in Calvinism God does not love those he damns.”

True. Damnation is not a loving act. It expresses justice rather than mercy.

“I thought that everybody knew that the Arminian believes that God so loved the WORLD (which refers to a group of human persons including both those who eventually come to saving faith as well as persons who never end up as believers) that He gave His Son, Jesus for **that** World/that group of human persons?”

Except that Arminianism is incoherent, for reasons I gave. It can’t make that claim consistent with some of its other precommitments.

“According to Arminian thinking, the greatest good, the best possible thing that can happen to a human person is to have their sins forgiven, to be reconciled with God and to be in a saving and personal relationship with God in which the person freely loves, trusts and worships the one true God. According to Arminian thinking if that is the best thing that can happen to a person, then if God truly desires **that** for every person and takes actual concrete steps towards that, then God would have every human persons best interests in mind!”

But for reasons I gave, the God of Arminian theism doesn’t act in everyone’s best interests. So Arminianism can’t make good on its philanthropic claims.

“But God does something **much greater** than that, he provides Christ as an atonement for all. God cannot give you a better or greater gift than that.”

To the contrary, even the God of Arminianism can do better than to provide a largely ineffectual atonement.

“This means that the Arminian believes that God sincerely desires the salvation of all and so provides Christ as an atonement for all.”

If God foreknows that by creating Judas (to take one example), God will have to damn Judas, yet God creates him anyway, then God didn’t sincerely desire the best for Judas. I’m simply arguing from Arminian premises.

“The apostle Paul understood this point…”

Rattling off Arminian prooftexts is irrelevant unless Arminianism can integrate its prooftexts into an internally consistent belief-system.

“Where it is not true and is outright misleading and again a misrepresentation is that Hays speaks of God making people a certain way.”

That was no part of my argument. Is Robert obtuse?

“The Arminian believes that God does not make people into believers or unbelievers.”

Which dovetails with my argument.

“Instead he develops and carries out a plan of salvation that involves providing Jesus as an atonement for the World and then saving those who freely choose to trust Him for their salvation. Put another way, in the Arminian view it is not God alone making someone into a believer or unbeliever, but is God desiring for all to be saved and yet making salvation conditional upon a freely chosen trust by the individual (those who freely choose to trust will be saved; those who freely choose not to trust will not be saved).”

And God foreknows which individual will or won’t meet the conditions. Yet he populates the world with many hellbound unbelievers–although it lay within his power to spare them that fate.

“Furthermore for the non-Calvinist it is not an issue of God **overpowering the will of people** and forcing them to be saved.”

Once again, that’s irrelevant to my argument. Is Robert too slow on the uptake to follow the argument?

steve said...

[Robert] “Hays implies here that **whatever God foreknows he intends**”

Once again, that’s not my argument. Is Robert really that dense?

To repeat what I actually said: If God foreknows the outcome in case he does A, and if God does A, then God intended that outcome.

If God foreknew the outcome, and he was in a position to prevent the outcome, but went ahead and make a world with that foreseen outcome, then the outcome is not an unintended consequence of his action. To the contrary, he foreintended that exact result.

All this follows from Arminian premises.

“In calvinism God is only able to foreknow something because he ordained it.”

My argument wasn’t predicated on Reformed assumptions. Why is Robert unable to follow a straightforward argument from Arminian assumptions?

“Apparently Hays has forgotten some things here in this statement. First of all, again, under Arminian premises God does not make people into reprobates or hell bound persons (though that is true in calvinism).”

If he makes them with that foreknown fate in mind, then, yes, he makes hellbound persons.

“If God only allows believers to exist (in God’s design two human parents produce a human child, so if you are going to eliminate all unbelievers from ever existing then no one would have any unbelieving parents or anyone in their line who was an unbeliever, so those born of non-believing parents or biological descendants would never live; I wouldn’t be here and neither would Hays.”

So Robert is saying that God sacrifices unbelievers for the sake of believers. In that event, God is not acting in the best interests of the unbelievers. Rather, they exist for the benefit of the believers. So much for universal love!

“I agree with Plantinga that a world where there is an incarnation and an atonement is a better world than a lot of other worlds).”

That sidesteps the question of whether such a world is the most loving arrangement for all concerned.

“A world where no unbelievers are present may be the desire of atheists (they talk about ‘why didn’t’ God create a world where there is no evil . . .’) and calvinists such as Hays who want to argue against Arminians or even Universalists who ignore all the biblical evidence of the reality and consequences of unbelief”

Once more, intoning Arminian prooftexts is irrelevant to whether Arminianism has a coherent position.

“The Arminian view in contrast says that God’s plan of salvation is aimed at all, God intends for all to be saved though some will freely choose to reject God’s plan of salvation.”

If God foreknew that by creating Judas, he would also send Judas to hell, then God has no intention of saving Judas.

“’He created them with that outcome in mind.’? Again, this is strict calvinism and specifically Hays’ perverse brand.”

So, according to Robert, although God foreknew the outcome, God did not have that outcome in mind. God foreknew the outcome, yet his mind was a blank slate. Is that it? Robert’s very objections corroborate the incoherence of Arminian theology.

steve said...

[Robert] “Hays wants us to believe that the God of the bible does that, completely going against explicit statements in the bible that God loves all, desires the salvation of all, provides Christ for all as an atonement for all, etc.”

Quoting chapter and verse is wholly irrelevant to whether Arminianism has a consistent position. Why does Robert suffer from this persistent mental block?

“In Hays’ thinking God may **intend for people to go to hell** before they are born before they do anything or are given any opportunity to be saved, BUT THIS IS NOT ARMINIAN.”

If God foreknew that by making Judas, Judas would spend eternity in hell, then, yes, God intended that outcome, Indeed, foreintended that outcome. Does Robert imagine that God didn’t intend the consequences of his own actions?

“Wait a minute, for each world there is another counterpart world that actually exists?”

I didn’t say that, did I? To repeat what I actually said, if you define libertarian freedom as the freedom to do otherwise, and if you unpack that concept in terms of alternate possibilities, then there’s a possible world (or world-segment) that corresponds to each alternative choice. There’s a possible world in which Judas betrays Christ, and another possible world in which Judas is faithful to Christ.

That is what it means to “have done otherwise.” There’s a possible world which your counterpart exercised the other option.

“Hays is again trying to impute to me views and beliefs that I do not hold. I do not agree with Lewis that there are all these actually existing possible worlds besides the actual world that we are in.”

Irrelevant. My argument doesn’t turn on “actual” possible worlds–in the sense of concrete, spatiotemporal worlds. My argument works just as well if possible worlds are abstract objects.

But if Robert believes in the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. the principle of alternate possibilities), then there are alternate timelines in which an agent took the other fork in the road.

So, even on libertarian assumptions, God was free to create the heavenbound counterpart of Judas, rather than the hellbound Judas. And that would not infringe on the libertarian freedom of the human agent.

“I instead posit one actual world…”

But the freedom to do otherwise goes beyond actuality. It requires two or more live, hypothetical possibilities.

“In calvinism God ‘could easily have saved them’ because it is merely an exercise of his omnipotent power that saves people.”

Irrelevant. Since I’m not the one who’s positing God’s universal love, that’s not a problem for my position. It is a problem for Arminianism unless it can make good on its philanthropic claims.

“And in fact this becomes a nasty question for calvinists like Hays: if salvation is monergistic as you believe and involves God overpowering the will of the sinner and saving him, thus involving a mere exercise of God’s omnipotence, then God could easily save all people, so why doesn’t he?”

I already answered that question when Reppert asked me. Pay attention.

LouisJ-B said...

Steve asked:

``...Is Robert obtuse?``

No, Steve, it`s worse.Robert is in Love.;-)

Robert said...

Louis wrote:

"No, Steve, it`s worse.Robert is in Love.;-)"

What's that supposed to mean?

Robert

LouisJ-B said...

Robert asked:

"What's that supposed to mean?"

It means, Robert, the reason you appear to be obtuse, slow on the uptake, dense, unable to follow a straightforward argument etc... is due to the amorous affair you're currentl...we've had that chat already.;-)

Robert said...

I have to say that I have greatly enjoyed discussing things and seeing Steve Hays’ responses here. I believe Hays to be extremely knowledgeable concerning Calvinism so the arguments he presents for this false system of theology will be second to none and represent the best that they can muster. And that is precisely why it has been so encouraging: his arguments have been extremely weak. The fact that he must constantly and repeatedly misrepresent the Arminian view and create straw man after straw man in order to attack it demonstrates the weakness of his position. If he had a strong position he could simply present his view and at the same time fairly and accurately represent the other view while showing problems with it. But the constant misrepresentation and straw men shows he cannot do so. And that is very encouraging. Hays has no idea how encouraging it is for me to see his weak arguments and numerous staw men being paraded here. I want to just take a few examples of things he has said to **again** show the weakness of his arguments.

True. Damnation is not a loving act. It expresses justice rather than mercy.”

The issue is not about the act of damning someone **at the final judgment**, which is what Hays refers to here. Both calvinists and non-calvinists believe that at the final judgment when God sends a person to hell that it is an action of justice rather than mercy. That is not where we disagree. The issue is **before** the final judgment: did God love those who end up in hell? Did God demonstrate this love clearly by giving his Son for these people on the cross? I can answer with a strong Yes based upon explicit and clear bible verses to both questions while Hays must answer negatively to both questions because of his theological system. And this is where we see that in the non-Calvinist view, God does indeed love more than he does in Hays’ false Calvinistic view. In fact Hays’ system must negate clear bible passages such as John 3:16.
We can also see the contrast in the two views in Hays’ comments about justice. Justice relates to dealing with something that **has been done**. Non-Calvinists see the unbeliever who is sent to hell as a person who has lived a lifetime of rejection of God despite opportunities to be saved, despite God having mercy on them through the cross, so the person is sent to hell only **after** their lifetime of rebellious actions. In contrast in Hays’ view God decides **before** the person has done anything (good or bad) that that person will be sent to hell. THAT is not **justice**, that is Calvinistic reprobation: condemnation before you exist, before you have done anything. To condemn a person before they have done anything is anything but justice.

This again brings out the differences: for the non-Calvinist God loves even those who reject him and demonstrates this love to that person before the final judgment: for Hays God damned the “reprobates” before they existed before they had done anything. He never ever loved them with a salvific love, He never ever desired for them to be saved.

Robert

Robert said...

“But for reasons I gave, the God of Arminian theism doesn’t act in everyone’s best interests. So Arminianism can’t make good on its philanthropic claims.”

I will say it again because Hays refuses to accurately and fairly represent the non-Calvinist view: the best thing that can happen to a person is to be in a saving relationship with God. In the Arminian view God desires THAT and intends THAT for every human person, so he does in fact have everyone’s best interests in mind. Now some may freely choose to reject his love and the provided atonement in Christ, but that says nothing about God’s love for them. A father out of love and celebration may invite many people to a celebratory feast. If some make excuses and decline the offer this does not mean that the Father did not express love towards them or sincerely desire for them to be present at that feast (and this is precisely how Jesus himself pictured the love of God for sinners in his parables. Cf. Matt. 22:1-14; Lk. 14:16-24).


I wrote:

“But God does something **much greater** than that, he provides Christ as an atonement for all. God cannot give you a better or greater gift than that.”

Hays responded:

“To the contrary, even the God of Arminianism can do better than to provide a largely ineffectual atonement.”

How is it “largely ineffectual” if it goes EXACTLY according to God’s plan?

God’s plan is that He provides an atonement for all but that appropriation of this atonement is conditioned upon the person freely choosing to trust Him. For all of those who do in fact freely choose to trust Him, this atonement is perfectly “effectual”. And this goes exactly according to God’s plan. Now if you don’t like God’s plan or reject God’s own plan, the problem is not with the plan that is working out perfectly, the problem is WITH YOU.

Jesus likened his own raising up on the cross (Jn. 3:14-15) to the story in the OT (cf. Numbers 21:4-9 where God provided a way of being delivered/saved from poisonous snakes if the people simply looked up at the snake on the pole (conversely those who did not look up were not saved by the cross on the pole, “ineffectual” then is not dependent upon God’s provision but upon not appropriating his provision by faith). The atonement is perfectly “effectual” to all who believe just like God promised it would be (“that whoever believers may in Him have eternal life”) and planned for it to be. It is only “ineffectual” for those who reject it and refuse to trust the Lord.

“If God foreknows that by creating Judas (to take one example), God will have to damn Judas, yet God creates him anyway, then God didn’t sincerely desire the best for Judas. I’m simply arguing from Arminian premises.”

Again, Hays injects his manure into my water. It is Hays’ Calvinistic premise that God “makes” people into the reprobates. It is the non-Calvinistic premise that God does not “make” people into reprobates, they are unbelievers because of *****their own freely chosen actions***** of unbelief and rejecting God and his grace. In Hays’ system God **makes** people exactly what they are (first he conceives the total plan in eternity including the eternal destiny of each individual, then in time/history he ensures that his decisions made in eternity come to pass): but non-Calvinists do not believe that, we believe that instead of God **making** us into nonbelievers we do so ourselves by our own **freely made choices** (and in Hays’ view since people do not have free will, they are and become exactly WHAT GOD MADE THEM INTO; which is again Hays’ premise not mine).

Stop trying to put your manure (your false Calvinistic premises) into my water (my view).

The fact Hays has to keep substituting his premises for mine and claiming his false premises are my premises shows desperation on his part and again that his arguments are extremely weak.

Or does Hays suffer from inability to stop perpetrating his legion of straw men by switching his premises with ours?

Robert

Robert said...

“And God foreknows which individual will or won’t meet the conditions. Yet he populates the world with many hellbound unbelievers–although it lay within his power to spare them that fate.”

Again Hays misses the point that human descendants involves human procreation, God does not populate the world with people, we do. God set up the process in the beginning and told **them to propagate** to fill the earth (this is something that we do not God). God does not populate the world with “hellbound unbelievers” (people in a fixed state of unbelief, that is **again your manure**, your false premise that we do not operate by). And again when Hays speak of it being in “his power to spare them that fate” he is **again** reading in his Calvinistic premise that salvation is a ***monergistic power game*** where God simply exercises his omnipotence in order to save a person (but this leaves out any cooperation of the human person with divine grace, this leaves out the non-Calvinistic view which Hays is well aware is SYNERGISTIC). In Numbers God provided the way of deliverance through the snake on the pole, in the cross of Christ God provides the way of deliverance, in both cases the human person must trust in God’s provision. If he/she trusts then God will save them.

“To repeat what I actually said: If God foreknows the outcome in case he does A, and if God does A, then God intended that outcome.

If God foreknew the outcome, and he was in a position to prevent the outcome, but went ahead and make a world with that foreseen outcome, then the outcome is not an unintended consequence of his action. To the contrary, he foreintended that exact result.
All this follows from Arminian premises.”

His argument here is that if God foreknows an event will occur and allows it though he could have prevented it, then the outcome is one which he INTENDED (“he foreintended that exact result”). We don’t’ buy that “logic” (again it is Hays’ own premises not ours). Apply Hays’ logic to an evil such as abortion or child molestation or whatever (if God foreknew the abortion would occur and could have prevented it but did not do so, then God intended for that abortion to occur; if God foreknew the child abuse would occur and could have prevented it but did not do so, then God intended for that child abuse to occur; if God foreknew X would occur and could have prevented X but did not do so, then God intended for X to occur). Hays’ logic makes God into an immoral monster who intends every evil and sinful event.

Our view is that God foreknows all events and some events God allows though he neither intends nor desires for them to happen. The best example of this is sin. God foreknows it and allows it but does not intend it or desire it. On Hays’ “logic” if God foreknows a sinful event and allows it, then God INTENDED THAT SINFUL EVENT, GOD DESIRED FOR THAT SINFUL EVENT TO OCCUR. This is why our view does not lead to God being the author of sin while Hays’ view most surely does so.

Robert

Robert said...

“If he makes them with that foreknown fate in mind, then, yes, he makes hellbound persons.”

God does not **make** people hellbound persons in eternity when they do not even exist, rather they make themselves into hell bound persons by their own freely made choices. Here it is again: Hays rejects our view which is that God foreknows some events/outcomes which he neither intends to occur nor desires to occur (the two best examples being sin and persons ending up in hell) and yet again substitutes his own assumptions: if according to Hays God foreknows that a person will end up in hell, and God does not prevent it, then God **made** that person into a hellbound person.

And again Hays misses our view that people not God make themselves into hellbound persons (a simple and clear example of this that Hays is familiar with is the non-Calvinist interpretation of the “vessels of wrath” in Rom. 9:23 in which some argue that a middle is involved so it does not say that God makes them into vessels of wrath, rather, they make themselves into vessels of wrath, that is what non-Calvinists believe which Hays repeatedly and intentionally misrepresents). C. S. Lewis wrote about this and supposedly Hays has read Lewis, so why does Hays keep misrepresenting the non-Calvinist view? Again, if someone takes my view and shows problems with what is actually my view, I don’t have a problem with that. But when they keep constructing these straw men attacking their own creations and then claiming they are attacking my view, that’s not right.

Robert

Robert said...

“So Robert is saying that God sacrifices unbelievers for the sake of believers. In that event, God is not acting in the best interests of the unbelievers. Rather, they exist for the benefit of the believers. So much for universal love!”

Again he twists my view. I believe that God created this world knowing that his plan of salvation would be one in which though salvation is offered to all, He would only save those who trust Him. He would give all the opportunity to be saved (contra Calvinism) while at the same time they would **only** be saved if they freely chose to trust Him (contra universalism). God desires the salvation of all ACCORDING TO HIS TERMS which is to trust in the atonement of Christ which he provides for them all. If all receive a genuine opportunity to be saved and yet some freely choose to reject it, God has been perfectly fair and loving to them all. If they choose to reject they have only themselves to blame as God did not **make** them into unbelievers or preplan and predetermine for them to be unbelievers (they are given opportunities to be saved but must freely choose to reject them all to remain unbelievers). If He prepares an eternal feast makes provisions sufficient for all to be there, invites them all and some make excuses and choose not to participate, then their absence from the great eternal eschatological feast is their own choice not His.

Hays mocks the non-Calvinist view: “So much for universal love” and sounds just like the atheist who questions the love and goodness of God as well. But this kind of unbelieving thought rejects what God has explicitly declared, namely that He loves the world and because of his love for the world (Jn. 3:16) provides His Son Jesus as an atonement for sin, for that **whole world** (cf. 1. Jn. 2:2). God gives the greatest possible gift of Jesus on the cross and people like Steve Hays come along and QUESTION AND MOCK this evident and real universal love on the part of God.

Now if you held to “limited atonement” then you would legitimately question whether God has a universal love for people (because in that false view Jesus was given only for the preselected elect, God had ***no salvific love for the world***, He limits his love only to some, the lucky ones). But Arminians and other non-Calvinists do not hold to “limited atonement” they hold instead to unlimited atonement (i.e. Jesus is given for the world, Jesus is the provision of atonement for the world; an unlimited atonement). We know that God loves us all because he gave us his best gift. Not all may appropriate that gift, but the gift has been given for all so none should question the goodness and love of God for sinners.

Robert

Robert said...

“If God foreknew that by creating Judas, he would also send Judas to hell, then God has no intention of saving Judas.”

Again Hays intentionally refuses to properly present our view. Again Hays presents his “logic”, that if God foreknows that someone will end up in hell, then God intended for that to occur and had no intention for that person to be saved. That **is** his view of reprobation not the view of the non-Calvinist. The non-Calvinist believes that God truly desires that all be saved and so intends for Christ to be an atonement for all of them. The non-Calvinist also believes that sometimes God desires something, and His will is frustrated, his intention is not fulfilled. God desires for believers to be holy and without sin and yet we still sin. God desired for Israel to do certain things, things they chose not to do. God desires for all to be saved and He set up a plan of salvation in which the human person must freely choose to trust Him (and some choose not to trust him). God can have an intention to save a person and yet if that person repeatedly freely chooses to reject God then that person will not be saved.

“If God foreknew that by making Judas, Judas would spend eternity in hell, then, yes, God intended that outcome, Indeed, foreintended that outcome.”

There it is again, Hays premise: what God foreknows will occur and allows to occur, is what God intends or desires to occur. Also present is his God makes people into what they are premise (so if a person is an unbeliever it is because God **made** them into a hell bound person). And I again contrast his premises with the premises of the non-Calvinist: God may foreknow an event that will occur though that event is not an outcome that God intended or desired to occur; and God does not **make** people into hell-bound persons they make themselves into hell bound persons by their repeated and freely made choice to reject God.

Robert

Jeremy Pierce said...

Robert, I am a Calvinist, so I don't think you can fairly accuse me of not understanding the view. I've probably spent far more time actually reading Calvinists than you have. John Piper is clearly a compatibilist, not a hard determinist. He does not affirm the hyper-Calvinist view that we don't make real choices, and a quick Google search could have shown you places where he endorses compatibilism online. See, for instance, this post where he clearly affirms both divine sovereignty and real human choice. There are a few important places where I differ with Piper, but we're on the same page with this issue.

As for Calvin, he endorses a compatibilist view, even if he's hesitant to use the term 'free'. See the quote here, for example. He insists that our choices are voluntary and not coerced and that we are morally responsible for them. When he denies that they are free, he clarifies what he means by that. He means that our will is in bondage to sin, and we won't do anything without sinful motives. But he doesn't mean by it that we aren't making voluntary choices or that we're coerced by God, just that whatever we freely choose to do will come from sinful motives, so he wouldn't call it free even if the view he's expressing is extremely close to what a compatibilist would say who would use that term.

As for Edwards, he affirmed wholeheartedly that we have liberty and that the Arminian definition of liberty is illegitimate. This is very clear in this segment of his Freedom of the Will. He defines liberty in a way common in his day among compatibilists (such as John Locke) who saw it as freedom from constraint and the ability to act on one's desires. He then describes the Arminian view of freedom as something we do not have, but it doesn't mean we don't have what he took the word ordinarily to mean. He just didn't think we have what Arminians mean by the term.

This is all standard compatibilism. I suggest that, instead of telling someone who has actually read this stuff that he doesn't understand compatibilism, maybe you instead should go read some of it yourself to see what Calvinism historically is. There are these people out there on the internet who are hard determinists who have departed from historic Calvinism to deny free will, but they are not historic Calvinists. Piper and Edwards are explicitly not in that category, and I think the most careful reading of Calvin is not either.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I have time to make one more point, so I will do so and then respond to your other comments later. Calvinists have historically affirmed that every event that takes place happens with God's permission. They emphatically deny that God is the author of evil. Read the Westminster Confession. Calvin was charged with making God the author of evil, but he stubbornly resisted that conclusion, and he even insisted that God simply permits evil.

Now he also held that God's sovereignty reigns over every event that happens, and you may think those two claims are inconsistent. But I'm not trying to argue for compatibilism here. I've done that elsewhere. I'm simply trying to point out that Calvin, Edwards, and Piper all fit under that category and not under the hard determinist category that you put them under.

Piper in fact has authored a paper called something like "Are There Two Wills In God?" where he endorses the view that God wills certain things to happen not because they are intrinsically good but because they are necessary for some other goal God insists on occurring. So God will permit something to happen as a necessary precursor to a good that God wholeheartedly endorses. In a sense God does intend both, but God intends one in a much fuller sense, and that would then explain why it makes sense to say that God ordains both events (when speaking of causal responsibility) but also that God does not ordain but only permits one and fully ordains the other (when speaking of moral responsibility).

Again, you may find this view inconsistent, but I'm not defending its consistency here, just explaining what the view actually amounts to. Calvin, Edwards, and Piper would all accept that on one level it's proper to speak of God intending every event, but on another level it's wholly inappropriate to say that if you mean that God sees every event that occurs as intrinsically good and worth desiring in its own right, and this explains why they speak of some events as being fully ordained by God and others as being merely permitted.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I found Piper's "Are There Two Wills in God?" online.

You can also find similar permission-language and a two-will way of thinking about God's desires in this piece by R.C. Sproul.

It's not necessitarianism unless God was caused by his nature to do everything the way he did. There's plenty of room within Calvinism to have different views on that. A Calvinist could easily endorse Aquinas' view that there is no world that is the best possible world but that any world God creates could have been better by adding one more good thing to it. So God had to make a choice of a world that's good enough to be worth creating.

But compatibilists have long insisted that possibility-language and necessity-language is relative to the context. Edwards makes this point in his work on freedom of the will. If the context is which possible worlds Leibniz could accept God as being willing to create, it's hard for him to avoid the charge of necessitarianism (but he does seek to avoid it). If the context is whether my actions are coerced in a way a compatibilist will call coerced, Edwards would not see himself as a necessitarian, because I faced a choice and considered various options before making the choice I did.

Calvin, Edwards, and Piper would all agree that God makes a genuine offer of salvation to the reprobate and that they make a real choice to deny it. In the above Piper link, he clearly affirms the genuineness of the offer of salvation to all the lost and not just the elect, and he explains why he thinks that still makes sense, and he quotes Edwards in support of his view. What I find noteworthy is his observation that I. Howard Marshall concedes that this two-will view is biblical. Marshall is clearly not a Calvinist.

Edwards is very clear in his discussion of terms such as 'necessity' and 'unable' that in his view the ordinary usage of such terms inconsistent with his view but that Arminians misuse them to argue for their theological position. His claim is that it makes sense to say we have the ability to do something when we would have done it had we wanted to.

Jeremy Pierce said...

The controversy over limited atonement is between three views:

1. The hyper-Calvinist view that there is no sense in which the atonement covers the reprobate.
2. The view held in common to (a) John Calvin, John Owen, Charles Hodge, J.I. Packer, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, D.A. Carson, and many other Calvinists and (b) a number of non-Calvinists that the atonement is sufficient for all but effective only for the elect. This is the view that I call Limited Atonement.
3. The view held by some Arminians that the atonement is only potential period. There is no sense in which it ever was limited to the elect, and thus those who turn out to be saved are no more covered by the atonement than those who turn out not to be.
4. Universalism, which holds that everyone is actually saved.

Limited atonement as originally construed is the view I listed as view 2, and it's actually the most commonly-held of the five points of Calvinism. People often confuse it for view 1. But the fact that Calvinists and Arminians can agree to 2 doesn't mean there's no debate over the issue. There are the other four views, and there are those who think view 1 is what Limited Atonement means.

For more on this see, the Theopedia entry on definite atonement, in particular the sections titled "Common misunderstandings" and "Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect".

Jeremy Pierce said...

Universalism is usually not on the table (which is why I said three views and then listed four above).

Jeremy do you agree with Steve Hays on things such as: God preselecting individuals for both salvation and damnation?

Yes.

In God decreeing and intending for the fall to occur? In God intending for “reprobates” to end up in hell?

Remember the two-wills thing. These are both "yes and no". Yes in the sense that God intended something to happen that required these things to happen and thus permitted causes that he could have prevented to lead to them. God is absolutely sovereign over the events that caused them. No in the sense that God didn't endorse these and didn't ordain them in themselves and has an attitude toward them that, in themselves, they are evil and not worth having in the world. It is only because of the wider picture and deeper desires of God that he allowed them.

I agree that Calvin would have loved Piper's book on Romans 9. That's one of the best contemporary exegetical treatments of that passage. It's not in that sort of work that I have problems with Piper. It's in some of his reductionalist language when it comes to our motivations (Christian hedonism) and God's (doing everything for its glory).

What I meant by Calvinist-friendly is that you have a view of sovereignty that includes every event that occurs in the plan of God. If it happens, God at least deliberately chose to allow it. Not all views of divine sovereignty are as close to Calvinism as this.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Richard, I think you're assuming a libertarian freedom. If I have compatibilist freedom, and I choose to rob a house, then the caused that led to my desire to rob the house and the fact that it was my strongest desire could be overseen by God while I am still acting based on my own desire. So I will act on that desire and choose to rob the house. If I had instead wanted to do something else, then the causes leading up to that desire would have been very different, and I would compatibilistically-freely chosen to do the other thing. For that to happen, God would have had to have had a different plan. Freedom here isn't the libertarian notion of being able in an absolute sense to do something contrary to God's sovereign will. It's being able in the narrower sense of considering options and picking one, where the causes of your actions and the causes of your evaluation of them might be caused by prior actions, all of which are able to be influenced by God while still being our choices. What you're describing wouldn't make sense if we were assuming libertarian freedom, but a compatibilist doesn't assume we have that. If there even is such a thing, then only God has it. (On Aquinas' model of creation, God does. On Leibniz's, I'm not so sure God does.)

steve said...

Jeremy Pierce said...
“Remember the two-wills thing. These are both ‘yes and no’. Yes in the sense that God intended something to happen that required these things to happen and thus permitted causes that he could have prevented to lead to them. God is absolutely sovereign over the events that caused them. No in the sense that God didn't endorse these and didn't ordain them in themselves and has an attitude toward them that, in themselves, they are evil and not worth having in the world. It is only because of the wider picture and deeper desires of God that he allowed them.”

I myself have drawn the same sorts of distinctions.

“Freedom here isn't the libertarian notion of being able in an absolute sense to do something contrary to God's sovereign will. It's being able in the narrower sense of considering options and picking one, where the causes of your actions and the causes of your evaluation of them might be caused by prior actions, all of which are able to be influenced by God while still being our choices.”

Once again, I myself have drawn similar distinctions.

“It's in some of his reductionalist language when it comes to our motivations (Christian hedonism) and God's (doing everything for its glory).”

Once more, I’ve expressed similar reservations.

Robert said...

Jeremy Pierce wrote:

“I've probably spent far more time actually reading Calvinists than you have.”

How do you **know** that you have read more Calvinists than I have?

If you would like to compare personal libraries (including what we have read) I think that you would “lose” (my library on this subject in both its quantity and its quality would be superior to yours)! :-) But I could be mistaken how would I know for sure?

Perhaps we are operating from different definitions of “hard determinism”.

I take a person to be a hard determinist if: (1) they deny that we have free will as ordinarily understood and they (2) affirm that all events are predetermined (so that whatever occurs must occur and it was impossible that it not occur: all occurs by necessity since there is no free will people **never have** a choice). By that criteria Calvin, Edwards, Piper et al are all hard determinists. William James invented the terms hard versus soft determinism (with the hard determinists being those who affirmed exhaustive determinism and denied personal responsibility while soft determinists affirmed exhaustive determinism and affirming personal responsibility). But that terminology did not exist in the time of Edwards and Calvin and that is not how I use the term hard determinism. Contemporary philosophers now speak of soft determinism as the view that all events are determined and yet simultaneously we have free will (with “free will” carefully being defined to exclude alternative possibilities and emphasizing mere voluntariness: people are free of they do what they want to do and their action is not coerced). Some calvinists have adopted this form of “soft determinism” and prefer that term for themselves. But regardless of what they call themselves, they deny free will as ordinarily understood and they affirm exhaustive predetermination of all events.

So Jeremy what are you thinking of when you use the term “hard determinism”????

“This is all standard compatibilism. I suggest that, instead of telling someone who has actually read this stuff that he doesn't understand compatibilism, maybe you instead should go read some of it yourself to see what Calvinism historically is.”

I **have** read it, and calvinism historically denies free will as ordinarily understood and affirms exhaustive predetermination of all events (cf., the Westminster confession’s famous statement of it: “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”).

“There are these people out there on the internet who are hard determinists who have departed from historic Calvinism to deny free will, but they are not historic Calvinists. Piper and Edwards are explicitly not in that category, and I think the most careful reading of Calvin is not either.”

Perhaps it would be helpful if you distinguished these “hard determinists” “on the internet” from non-hard determinists and showed the differences. I don’t want to be misunderstanding you on this (nor vice versa). Again, I have read Edwards and he denies the ordinary understanding of free will, as does Calvin as does Piper. Those who follow them also deny the ordinary understanding of free will, with some even mocking the idea and those who hold it.

And I can understand why they attack the ordinary understanding of free will because if we sometimes can choose this or this and the choice is up to us, then everything is not already pre-decided and fixed by God. He may foreknow what we will choose to do, but he does not make our choices for us and we then like sock puppets always and only make the choices that he already decided that we will make.

Robert