Friday, May 16, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - May 16, 2008

  • It seems you can't click on any blog without reading about the resurgence of Calvinism. This is due in large part to efforts of men like John Piper. "But problems develop," writes Any Rowell, "when Piper's fans don't realize that the Conservative Reformed Theology movement is only one slice of the church-renewing substantive theology being done today in a variety of places in a variety of theological traditions."

  • Mike Ratliff on "fruitless fig trees."

  • Kyle's God "is most glorified when He is raised up on the cross, drawing all people to Himself." What about a God who determines the eternal destiny of individuals for his own glory, who works in us, "both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13)? Well, that's just not biblical. Kyle would much rather serve a God who really, really, really wants all people to be saved but just can't pull it off, rather than a God who exercises sovereign control over his own creation.

  • How Spurgeon learned of grace.
  • 16 comments:

    Kyle said...

    Dear brother,

    Where exactly in that verse does it speak of God predestining eternal destinies?

    The Calvinistic God needs to cause evil and needs to damn people in order to be "glorified" (since on deterministic premises, He could prevent both unilaterally). I'm not sure what kind of God is "glorified" by such actions, but it's not the biblical God of holy love.

    It also appears that you have limited God's sovereignty to determinism. You do not allow God to sovereignly allow His creatures to accept or reject Him. My God is able to remain in control while permitting such freedom, which is a far greater sovereignty than a God of all-encompassing determinism could ever approach. Calvinists limit the freedom of God and tie His hands behind His back.

    I do somewhat pity the Calvinistic God. He seems to be short on good ideas if He can't think of a better way to be glorified than through sin and damnation.

    Grace and Peace =)

    Kyle said...

    I do wonder how exactly decreeing sin and damnation "glorifies" God? Could you enlighten me?

    Lee Shelton IV said...

    What do you mean by "determinism"? If God is the one determining, then how does that limit his sovereignty? That makes no sense.

    How can you say that Calvinists "limit the freedom of God"? We are the ones saying that he is absolutely sovereign over his creation. He does as he pleases. It is you who seeks to tie his hands by saying that he is bound by our will. "God really wants to save Bob, but Bob needs to come to that conclusion on his own. Until he does, God is powerless to do anything about it." Sure, you might say that God can work in Bob's life to bring him to faith, but then that violates the very concept of free will. Why would God work in a special way in Bob's life but not Steve's?

    The thing is, it doesn't matter what we decide to allow God to do. He is sovereign. Period. And if that means he chose people in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), then that's how things are going to be.

    You and I strive to be better than we are. We want to be like Christ. We want to glorify God. But what is God going to do? There is no one higher than he, so he must bring glory to himself. Why would he do anything less?

    As far as sin and damnation go, are you saying that God's ultimate triumph over such things is not glorifying? I would suggest reading "Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained that Evil Be?" by John Piper. He explains it much better than I can.

    Kyle said...

    By determinism I mean causal determinism. In Calvinism, God causally determines all things, including sin and damnation, because He NEEDS sin and damnation to be "fully glorified." I find that to be pitiable, and I feel bad for a God who must resort to such things when He could just as easily determine all people to love Him and each other forever on deterministic premises.

    "As far as sin and damnation go, are you saying that God's ultimate triumph over such things is not glorifying? I would suggest reading "Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained that Evil Be?" by John Piper. He explains it much better than I can."

    I'm saying that for God to cause the world to have sin and damnation in it, then clean up part of the mess He caused (and could have refrained from causing if He so chose), is far from a "triumph," but is absurd and insane. To make a mess and then clean up part of the mess you made is pathetic, not glorious.

    I believe God is utterly sovereign. He is so sovereign that if He so chooses, He can give people the power to say "no" to Him. And I believe He has chosen to do so. God is sovereign. Period. He will do what He will do, not what Calvinists tell Him to do.

    You didn't actually answer my question. How does predestining sin and damnation glorify God? And better, what kind of God is "glorified" by such actions.

    I believe everything God does glorifies Him. I just don't believe acting as the Calvinists would have it would glorify God. Calvinists make God selfish (doing something for Himself at the eternal expense of others), they restrain His sovereign freedom by not letting God give creatures the freedom to say "no," they make God an unloving tyrant who can't think of a better way to be glorifed than by unconditionally damning miriads of people.

    God bless!

    Lee Shelton IV said...

    I could just as easily ask, how is it glorifying for God to create a world that he knows will fall into sin and then punish people for actions he knew they would commit even before they were born? Don't think yours is a dilemma-free theology.

    Understand that Calvinists do not believe that God needed to create a universe in order to be glorified. The 1689 London Baptist Confession states, "God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them."

    What does that mean as far as we mortal creatures are concerned? Well, when it comes to sin and damnation, we see the display of any number of God's attributes: holiness, justice, wrath, love, mercy, grace, etc. And God's ultimate and inevitable triumph over sin will most certainly be glorifying to him.

    Take a look at Romans 5:20 and 11:32. God's grace and mercy are abundant where there is sin. Look at it this way: If there was no sin, you wouldn't know grace. If there was no damnation, you wouldn't know mercy.

    If you're looking for an answer to why God chose to do things the way he did, then I'm afraid I can't help you. Perhaps that's something we can ask when we see him.

    Kyle said...

    God knowing what will happen (and on a Molinist scheme, needing to accept many who reject Him in order to acheive a harvest of many who accept Him) does not even approach the Calvinist's insuperable problem that God CAUSES sin on your view. Sin is the result solely of God's choice that it should be in the world. It is necessary. How evil can be necessary for a perfectly good God is unfathomable, and is one of the many intractable problems of Calvinism.

    God does not display love, mercy, justice, and holiness by causing and perpetuating sin and damnation for all eternity. He displays cruelty, injustice, a lack of holiness, a lack of love, a lack of wrath, and a sick sense of humor.

    As far as needing sin to display grace, do you not heed Paul's admonishion in Romans 6:1 ("Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?") Apparently, the answer is "yes" for Calvinists.

    On deterministic premises, it is far more merciful and gracious to cause all people to love each other and God. To say that one needs to cause harm to show mercy is like saying I need to beat my child for many years, only so he can know my great love and mercy when I stop beating him. Do you think this glorifies God? Additionally, the best way to show His wrath (hatred for sin) is NOT TO CAUSE IT.

    So I repeat my question: "How does causing sin and damnation glorify God?"

    Also, How does God love the reprobate if He does not give them the grace they need to be saved? It seems that on Calvinism, God must be unloving, unmerciful, unjust, and unholy in order to "display" His attributes of "love," "mercy," "injustice," and "wickedness."

    I think it's clear which view gives God more sovereign freedom and more glory. Biblical Arminianism. What God CAN do is equal on both views (the amount of power is equal). What God DOES do is starkly different, because Arminians actually believe that God's character is perfectly and necessarily good.

    Blessings, brother

    Kyle said...

    Hear Edwards:

    "
    It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . .

    Thus it is necessary, that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

    If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired. . . .

    So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.
    "
    ---------------

    Astonishing - so God cannot be fully glorified without evil. A perfectly good God NEEDS evil to get His purposes achieved for creation, a notion that detracts so much from God's glory that it is beyond words.

    As I said, I do pity the Calvinistic God. He needs evil to pursue His good ends for creation and couldn't come up with any better ideas. Is such a resourceless God who MUST rely upon the powers of darkness worthy of worship?

    Lee Shelton IV said...

    It's funny how Arminians always level these charges at Calvinists while refusing to deal with the same issue in their own theology. You said that you believe God does everything for his own glory. So, here we both are, living in a world in which evil exists. How, then, is God glorified through the existence of sin and damnation according to your theology?

    In your mind, the Arminian God is better because he only allowed for the possibility of evil -- even though he knew when he created everything how it would turn out. And yet he went ahead and created it anyway with the full realization that Lucifer would rebel, that Adam and Eve would be tempted and fall, that their one sin would condemn every other human from that point on, that he would have to send his only Son to die for our sins, and that those who wouldn't repent and believe in him would end up in hell. By your own descriptions so far, that God is just as self-centered and cruel. The only difference is that he isn't in control of anything. Nothing is planned; he's merely reacting to what unfolds. But thanks to his foreknowledge, he's able to stay one step ahead of the game. Sorry, but in my opinion, that's a very weak and unbiblical view of the Creator of the universe.

    I would stress again that sin and damnation were not necessary for God to be glorified in eternity past. He was perfect long before the world was created. But if his glory was to be manifested in creation, then, yes, evil became an integral part of it.

    In Arminian theology, however, evil is something beyond God's control. It is something to which he responds and reacts. But would any Arminian dare to be completely consistent in his theology to suggest that the greatest act of evil in the universe -- namely, the torture and death of the Son of God -- wasn't predestined? So, here you have God in the flesh, the Creator of all things, completely innocent, being unjustly arrested, tried, convicted, and executed at the hands of his own creatures. Yet it was a necessary part of God's redemptive plan in the world. And, yes, God caused it. It was his will to crush his Son (Isaiah 53:10). Would you dare to suggest that God was not glorified in the crucifixion?

    Kyle said...

    Brother,

    In my theology, people go to hell because of their stubborn choice to refuse grace. In order to get what He wants (many people to freely love Him), He had to accept that some people would reject Him. If He wanted creatures to freely love Him, that's the price He was willing to pay - to sovereignly give creatures the power to say "no" (and "yes"). God would prefer for all to be saved, but He is not going to divinely rape or change the "wills" the persons that He has made. So far from dealing with the alleged problem you raise, it's solved in Arminian theology.

    However, in Calvinist theology, people go to hell because of GOD'S choice to refuse to give them the grace they need to be saved. In my theology, evil exists because of our choice. In Calvinist theology, evil exists because of GOD'S choice. I think it's clear who has the real problem.

    You need to study more Arminian theology. Evil is not "outside of God's control," it is within His permissive will. He doesn't cause it like in Calvinistic theology - which makes God the author and instigator of sin, by the way - but He sets the bounds that it may run because He sovereignly chose to give creatures freedom. In Calvinist theology, He causes sin. There is NO permission in Calvinism.

    God predestined the crucifixion in the sense that He allowed sinful creatures to murder Jesus - because WE misused our freedom and rebelled, and He wonderfully came to offer us new life. God is glorified in this precisely because He is displaying His essential character and attribute of holy love to all people.

    But to say that God first caused His creatures to rebel, then caused them to murder His Son to save (some of) them from what He caused, is absolutely absurd and inglorious.

    It also appears you have still not answered by question. To that question I will add others:

    1) How does causing sin and damnation glorify God?

    2) Why does God need the powers of darkness in order to bring about His will for His creation?

    3) How is God not the author of sin in Calvinism?

    4) How does God love the reprobate if He doesn't give them the grace they need to be saved?

    Peace be with you!

    Kyle said...

    Oh, and why did He create? Because hell can't veto heaven. God isn't going to deny the blessedness of the saved just because of the stubborn refusal of the damned. He gives them all the grace they need, but they refuse.

    In Calvinism, God has some odd need to unconditionally damn people. It is unfathomable why God would need to unconditionally damn anyone or cause sin to be "glorifed."

    I would therefore add another question for you

    5) What kind of God is "glorifed" by causing and refusing to save people He could just as easily save from the sin He causes?

    Lee Shelton IV said...

    "In my theology, people go to hell because of their stubborn choice to refuse grace. In order to get what He wants (many people to freely love Him), He had to accept that some people would reject Him."

    Again, I'll point out that Arminian theology has the same problem that Calvinism supposedly has. According to your theology, God created mankind knowing full well that Adam would sin and that every single human who followed would be condemned because of that sin. Why would a loving God condemn everyone for one man's sin? Why would he create people in the first place that he knew would reject him and end up in hell?

    I did, in fact, answer your original question, but I'll try it another way. God is glorified in sin because his grace abounds where sin is present. Those whom he rescues from sin glorify God by being joyful and thankful for their salvation. God is glorified in the damnation of the reprobate because his holiness demands justice. He is just and right to punish sin, which makes undeserved salvation all the more precious to the elect. (I addressed God's decree that evil exist in a previous post.)

    By the way, you might be interested in my latest post.

    Kyle said...

    Brother,

    You cannot deflect the intractable problems in Calvinist theology by pointing to an immeasurably smaller problem in Arminian theology - a problem that is easily answer in a Molinist framework. In order to have a harvest of saved, God had to accept many who would reject Him. Hell can't veto heaven, and those who are lost are given all the grace they need to be saved. It's their fault for stubbornly resisting grace, not God's. How this even approaches the problems in Calvinist theology that I have enumerated is unimaginable.

    As to your answer to my first challenge: So, you are saying that a holy God causes sin and perpetuates it for all eternity to show His holiness and hatred for sin? And He shows His mercy by unilaterally causing misery to all of mankind, and then rescuing some of them from the misery He causes? Is this your answer? We are supposed to praise God for saving (some of) us from what He caused? This "glorifies" God?

    You have other questions to answer, friend:

    2) Why does God need the powers of darkness in order to bring about His will for His creation?

    3) How is God not the author of sin in Calvinism?

    4) How does God love the reprobate if He doesn't give them the grace they need to be saved?

    5) What kind of God is "glorifed" by causing sin and refusing to save people He could just as easily save from the sin He causes?

    In His holy and loving name, Kyle

    Lee Shelton IV said...

    1) How does causing sin and damnation glorify God?
    A straw man, and already dealt with.

    2) Why does God need the powers of darkness in order to bring about His will for His creation?
    Another straw man. God doesn't need anything. The world is the way it is because God chose to make it that way. God is not only loving, he is also holy and just. With the entrance of sin into the world, God makes himself -- his nature and his attributes -- known throughout his creation. Try rephrasing the question: What if we need the powers of darkness to fully comprehend who God is? Think about it. Without sin, we wouldn't know punishment. Without punishment, we wouldn't know mercy. Without mercy, we wouldn't know salvation. Without salvation, we wouldn't know joy or thankfulness. And we certainly wouldn't comprehend true love as embodied in Christ.

    How about this: Why does God need people to freely love him, and what does it say about him if they can't be convinced to love him?

    3) How is God not the author of sin in Calvinism?
    Because he isn't. Sin is contrary to God's nature, and for God to create something that is contrary to his nature would be sin. Even Lucifer was once a sinless creature, as were Adam and Eve. But God did allow for the possibility of evil. I think we are in agreement here. What's interesting is that you just can't bring yourself to admit that God ordains evil, even though your own theology requires it. Like Calvinists, you do not believe that God created evil, but, like Calvinists, you do believe that it wouldn't exist had God not allowed it.

    Perhaps you can answer this: How is God not the author of sin in Arminianism, given the fact that he created the world knowing that sin would enter into the world?

    4) How does God love the reprobate if He doesn't give them the grace they need to be saved?
    The Bible tells us that God loves the world. His love for the reprobate is encompassed in his love for his creation. But where does it say that he loves every single individual sinner or that he loves each of them in the same way? He obviously doesn't because he doesn't save everyone. Those who reject him end up in hell. Again, you're trying to constrain God within the bounds of a human understanding of love and fairness.

    Tell me: Is it God's love for the reprobate that sends them to eternal torment?

    5) What kind of God is "glorifed" by causing sin and refusing to save people He could just as easily save from the sin He causes?
    You're building an army straw men! You assume we believe that God causes sin. We don't, so it's a ridiculous question. The difference between Calvinists and Arminians is that you can't imagine God having a purpose for evil, yet the Bible is full of examples. Your theology simply reduces God to someone who needs to be loved freely.

    Here's another one for you: What kind of God is "glorified" by creating people he knows will sin and then punishing them with eternal torment for doing something he knew they were going to do before he created them in the first place?

    The problems you claim are inherent in Calvinism are there in Arminianism. The difference is that the Arminian can't come up with an explanation within the framework of his own theology.

    Kyle said...

    "1) How does causing sin and damnation glorify God?
    A straw man, and already dealt with."

    Yes, you dealt with it by saying that in order to show God's hatred of sin and holiness, He perpetuates it for all eternity. Could you perhaps explain how this makes any sense?

    "Another straw man. God doesn't need anything. The world is the way it is because God chose to make it that way. God is not only loving, he is also holy and just. With the entrance of sin into the world, God makes himself -- his nature and his attributes -- known throughout his creation. Try rephrasing the question: What if we need the powers of darkness to fully comprehend who God is? Think about it. Without sin, we wouldn't know punishment. Without punishment, we wouldn't know mercy. Without mercy, we wouldn't know salvation. Without salvation, we wouldn't know joy or thankfulness. And we certainly wouldn't comprehend true love as embodied in Christ."

    Well, yes, on your view God needed evil in order to show His glory on this earth to us. Is not God glorious enough such that He can make His glory known without the use of evil? Does He not shine perfectly without it? I think He does.

    On your view, God brings about misery in order to show His love (a love that He only gives to some), something that is really unintelligible.

    "Because he isn't. Sin is contrary to God's nature, and for God to create something that is contrary to his nature would be sin. Even Lucifer was once a sinless creature, as were Adam and Eve. But God did allow for the possibility of evil. I think we are in agreement here. What's interesting is that you just can't bring yourself to admit that God ordains evil, even though your own theology requires it. Like Calvinists, you do not believe that God created evil, but, like Calvinists, you do believe that it wouldn't exist had God not allowed it."

    I'm sorry, did you just say that God "allows for the possibility of evil?" That's not in the Calvinist vocabulary. You have just borrowed something from the Arminian playbook. Either God permits creatures to choose between good and evil in a libertarian sense, or He causes them to do good or evil in a deterministic sense. Arminianism affirms the first, Calvinism affirms the second.

    "The Bible tells us that God loves the world. His love for the reprobate is encompassed in his love for his creation. But where does it say that he loves every single individual sinner or that he loves each of them in the same way? He obviously doesn't because he doesn't save everyone. Those who reject him end up in hell. Again, you're trying to constrain God within the bounds of a human understanding of love and fairness."

    You didn't answer my question. In what way does He love the reprobate if ultimately He doesn't provide for their eternal need - their soul (which, according to Jesus is all that matters - Matthew 16:26)?

    The Bible teaches that He loves the world (agape), which is all people, in the same way. This love may be declined, but He nevertheless loves all. You are trying to contrain God's love within the bounds of Calvinistic limited love.

    "You're building an army straw men! You assume we believe that God causes sin. We don't, so it's a ridiculous question. The difference between Calvinists and Arminians is that you can't imagine God having a purpose for evil, yet the Bible is full of examples. Your theology simply reduces God to someone who needs to be loved freely."

    Lee, if you want to say God "allows" for sin, you should become an Arminian. Otherwise, you and your fellow Calvinists need to stop using words like "permit" and "allow" because they logically do not fit into Calvinim.

    God's purpose was to have a people who come to love and know Him. Part of that plan involved using the evil of His creatures for good - but that doesn't mean He NEEDED evil for His creation. It just means he had to deal with it in light of true human freedom and love.

    I'm glad the conversation has moved forward a peg, and I'll await your further response to my responses. As for the oft-repeated "straw man" complaint, explain to me how God "ordains" evil in Calvinism without His actions being causally sufficient for evil to occur. In other words, how do you keep God from causing sin on your view without resorting to Arminian concepts that have no justification in a divine deterministic framework?

    Kyle said...

    As to your challenges:

    "How about this: Why does God need people to freely love him, and what does it say about him if they can't be convinced to love him?"

    Unlike Calvinism, in Arminianism, God's purposes for creation do not need evil. He simply desired - though He did not need to create as the Calvinists also affirm - to create creatures to enter into the eternal fellowship of the Trinity. Since He is holy love, He desires to be loved freely in return. And as Scripture teaches, He is indeed saddened when people refuse His love, and this is against His will. But that's the price you pay when you desire true relationship - a relationship that cannot be measured in "power" or "success." God's love doesn't fail if people decline it, because He still loves them anyway.

    "Perhaps you can answer this: How is God not the author of sin in Arminianism, given the fact that he created the world knowing that sin would enter into the world?"

    Because WE freely sinned, though it was not necessary that we sin. To be the author of something is to cause it or instigate it. God permits creatures to have freedom in Arminianism, and therefore permits them to sin. Again, merely knowing it will happen does not even approach ordaining/causing it. You need to stop talking as if these two problems are even close to equivalent in difficulty.

    "Tell me: Is it God's love for the reprobate that sends them to eternal torment?"

    Even though they deserve His wrath and therefore bear it, He still loves them, because Scripture teaches that His love never fails or gives up, though it can be declined. But He is also holy, and must punish sin. We know from experience that we can love someone but still mete out their just judgment, like a mother who sadly but willingly lets the state convict her son of murder because although she loves him, he deserves it.

    "Here's another one for you: What kind of God is "glorified" by creating people he knows will sin and then punishing them with eternal torment for doing something he knew they were going to do before he created them in the first place?"

    I have dealt with the foreknowledge objection repeatedly in various posts with a Molinist defense (that in order to have a large harvest of the saved, God had to regrettably accept a large number who freely reject His grace). If you want to continue discussing this point, you need to interact with my response (also see William Lane Craig's writings on the soteriological problem of evil).

    "The problems you claim are inherent in Calvinism are there in Arminianism. The difference is that the Arminian can't come up with an explanation within the framework of his own theology."

    The fact that you think the "problems" are the same in both is mindblowing. The problems in Calvinism (that God needs evil for His creation, that He causally determines sin, that He does not love all people) are lethal and intractable. The problems in Arminianism are like bug bites in comparison to such gaping wounds.

    In Christ's holy and loving name, Kyle

    Kyle said...

    The differences between the two views are so stark, it boggles my mind that you see them has having the same problems.

    In Arminianism, someone is not saved because they do not want to be saved. In Calvinism, someone is not saved because God does not want them to be saved.

    I think it is you that cannot find a way to explain (1) how God is not the author of evil (2) how God loves the reprobate if he doesn't give them the grace they need to be saved (3) why God needs evil in order to be glorified / get His will done for creation (since on your view He could have determined all people to love Him and each other, right? So that means He must have needed evil for His good purposes in creation - or if He didn't need it, He wanted it!)

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