I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s more like a profession:
Out of all of the theologies in the world, I find Calvinism among the most offensive. And frustrating. And irritating.
Like the kind of stuff that makes me want to gouge out my eyes (or something like that).
Truth be told, I like Calvinism as much as I like black olives… and I wouldn’t eat a black olive if I were on a game show for a lot of money (okay, maybe I would– but I wouldn’t become a Calvinist for a lot of money).
I’ve never really been a Calvinist. I tried it out for a few weeks in seminary and it was the longest year of my life. I did give it my best shot though, and even got into an argument with my wife once (while she was trying to take a shower) and told her that she had to become a Calvinist. Thankfully, within a short amount of time I realized this faith structure wasn’t going to work.
Perhaps I was just predestined to rejecting it. Or maybe, I chose to reject it. Either way, I am convinced that Calvinism (especially the neo-calvinism of today) is the kind of stuff that we need to flee (get the hell away from).
Here’s are my top reasons why Calvinism isn’t for me– and why I don’t think it’s for you either:
I couldn’t in good conscience worship the Calvinist’s god.
One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.
Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road). If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.
Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.
Calvinism, especially Neo-Calvinism today, seems to have a fetish of sorts with God’s anger.
Hang around the average Calvinist very long, and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath. While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like. Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.
When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love. Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.
Calvinism sends the WRONG message to the folks that were Jesus’ favorite kind of people: outsiders & misfit toys.
I still remember starting a new school when I was in the 7th grade– I wanted so badly to be included. We didn’t have much money and I only had 2 pair of pants and a couple of shirts, so I was often made fun of for wearing the same clothes over and over. At the same time, I was one of the only kids in school to get bad acne, and was constantly ostracized and told that I only had it because I didn’t wash my face. It was miserable. To top it off, I was small in stature and not good at sports– which, when you put all these things together, I can safely say that I wasn’t picked for anything.
For the vast majority of my life I have felt like I was one of those “not good enoughs” who doesn’t get picked and doesn’t get included.
The message of Calvinism could have an encouraging message for me: you got picked! However, knowing that most people do not get picked for the team but instead, get picked for destruction and torture, a guy like me will probably always be convinced that I was picked for the latter– because that’s been my experience in life.
I have rejected Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, because in the later, we are able to proclaim the truth that God has picked everyone! If you want to be on the team- you’re welcome; the choice is yours. We don’t need a belief system that leaves us wondering as to whether or not we got picked; we need a belief system that assures us we were already picked and that we’re free to enjoy the benefits of being picked.
Jesus’ favorite people were the outisders and misfits. In his first sermon he was almost executed for proclaiming that those thought to be not chosen were actually included on God’s list, and in the act that ultimately did get him executed, Jesus was proclaiming that God is one who makes room for those who we thought were not chosen.
Calvinism, in contrast to Jesus, teaches that God picks a few and not the rest– that God is the sports captain from my 7th grade gym class, including the glee that comes with pounding on the kids who didn’t get picked.
Calvinism reduces the beauty of the cross.
As a Jesus follower, I think the cross is the central point of all of human history. The cross was God’s ultimate act of nonviolent enemy love, the act that that demonstrated God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16), the act that drew all people to God (John 12:32), and the act that reconciled all of creation to God (Col 1:20).
From a Calvinist paradigm, the cross is quite different. The cross isn’t the moment where Jesus died to reconcile all of creation– the whole world– but the moment where Jesus died simply for the few people God picked. This is a concept they call “limited atonement” that reduces the cross to being an act for the “elect” (those God picked) instead of an act for the world (John 3:16) and all of creation (Col. 1:20).
As such, instead of the Gospel being Good News for the world, it becomes good news for the few people God picked for his team and becomes absolutely horrible news for everyone else in history.
I’m sorry, but I think what Jesus did for us is bigger, and more beautiful than that. I think the cross is actually “good news” for everyone who is willing to chose love.
Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.
I feel somewhat bad saying this, but I think I can honestly admit that there are only 3 Calvinists I’ve met in my life who I actually like– two are friends in my “real” life and one is a Christian blogger whom I really like and respect. Even those inside the movement are realizing the toxicity of the culture as one of my Calvinist friends recently told me that even they find the likability factor of most Calvinists to be wanting. If insiders experience the culture this way, could it be that something is totally depraved about it? (bad pun)
I tried to give it my best shot– really, I did. I think the last straw was in seminary when I asked the guy sitting next to me why he was a Calvinist and he simply replied, “because it’s on every page of scripture”. Or, maybe it was the way many Calvinists treat women as second class citizens. Or maybe it’s the way being told I’m “totally depraved” and that God “might not have picked me” makes me hate myself and live in constant fear. Or maybe it was just the obnoxious behavior of Calvinists on twitter. Perhaps it was even Driscoll himself.
I don’t know. What I do know, is that even if Calvinism were true, I wouldn’t last a day in Calvinist culture. No thanks.
In the end, I can’t ascribe to Calvinist theology because my experience with Calvinist theology does not jive with my experience of a God who loves everyone, who desires to be in relationship with everyone, and who went to the cross… for everyone.
If you’re an outsider like me, I hope you’ll embrace what is really true about God: he picked you. I know that he picked you. Even in all your messiness, he still picks you today. The true message of the Gospel is that you have been picked, you are loved, and that you are free to chose whether or not you’re willing to fully experience that love.
The title of his article is hilarious! 😀
But its also totally understood.
Calvinism is a system of both divine benevolence and divine malevolence.
This is a classic feature of other deity systems.
Zeus was the judge of right and wrong over the lesser gods – yet he can rape Europa – and since he is a god – man is not permitted to judge.
Pan – appears in a benevolent and then malevolent form.
Many other gods appear in the form of Good-Evil twins.
Calvin derives his conceptions from Augustine.
Augustine thrives within the environment of the Catholic church which is still in its embryonic stage, and is adding to itself every possible form of paganism.
Catholic historian – Theodore Maynard writes:
It has often be charged… that Catholicism has been overlaid with many pagan incrustations. Catholicism is ready to accept that charge – and to make it her boast. The great god Pan is not really dead, he is baptized.”
The Calvinist of course does not connect these dots – and perceives his system as the golden standard of Christianity. And that is why a non-Calvinist would want to gouge his eyes out! :-]
I love the title: Why Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out. That made me laugh. I found this article because I typed in Why Calvinism makes me cringe and lo and behold I found this amusing title. Agreed on everything he said but God gives us free will to choose Jesus as our Savior or to reject him. We are living in the ultimate space in time called the Age of Grace…we are so fortunate that we don’t have to work for our forgiveness. Calvinism is so twisted that it’s hard to even understand what kind of bondage and hopelessness they are trying to put on us. Only with much study and research….then you can see how twisted it really is.
Thank you for this article! What’s also true is Calvinists spend a majority of their time making fun of other Christians, note…Pulpit and Pen. They also want to take over the world..sickening.
How do you know so many Calvinists and what they do?
Have you read anything by Calvin? He didn’t make anything up- he just wrote about what the Bible says.
Election and predestination are God’s word not John Calvin’s.
God is in control- not us. He can do with us as he pleases. God didn’t give us free will in salvation- only in the rest of our lives. Ask the thief on the cross. He can explain it better than I.
I spent about seven years under the banner of Calvinism and another couple finding my way out of it. She speaks the truth. The Calvinist/Reformed Christians I used to associate with were some of the most judgmental and critical (and self-righteous) people I have ever been around.
I would be interested in hearing from some folks who don’t believe in election (despite Paul’s letters) and where Grace fits into your belief system.
Where is grace without election??
You are totally and completely wrong
What you have critised is a gross characture of Reformed Theology, very lazy, very bad
Yes brother. This is ignorant banter.
Unfortunately your understanding of Calvinism is incredibly misinformed and full of personal opinion and not scriptural backing. I don’t say this to bash you brother, but in hopes that you would separate the personality of some Calvinists (which you are clearly influenced by) from what Calvinism shows through systematic scripture. You would find a beautiful tapestry of God’s sovereignty and grace.
One thing you mentioned is that if you went to Heaven and found out your daughter wasn’t there, that God had predestined her to Hell, you wouldn’t worship Him. Is that your general attitude of God, that He must be as you prescribe? What if Calvinism is true and your daughter is still not in Hell? God still sent her there did He not?
If you are going to write on a topic such as this, it’s probably better to know the ins and outs of the topic you are writing about vs speculating.
I’m neither calvinist nor arminian. I’m just a Bible believing Christian and all I can say is that God does not predestine any one to hell. He is longsuffering and not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). You are insulting God’s character by saying that He predestines anyone to hell. God is just and never unfair. People predestine themselves to hell by refusing the offer of salvation that God made through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.
MAY God make a sovereign choice?
I am glad to hear you are a Bible believing Christian. Remember no 2 passages in the Bible contradict each other – they work together somehow – since all things in the Bible are true.
So when Romans 8 tells us that God predestined us to be his ( yes the word predestination is right there) it works with 2 Peter 3:9.
Keep reading beyond verse 9: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
Don’t allow yourself to be distorted by others- read your Bible.
And just a note- God doesn’t predestine people to hell. He only predestines them to Glory. It is a small detail but important. God is Just (no where does it say he is fair that I have found) sin demands justice which is damnation. The only thing other than justice is Grace! And God gives that Grace to those he predestined.
Don’t know why but that is what the Book says.
Hope you enjoy your search for the truth. Don’t be afraid to be wrong! I have sought out so many things that I “thought” were in the Bible and found out the truth
thank you and fully concur please see roots of the salvation army the ALL are inside of calvaries reach however do ALL wish to avail themselves ie the 99.9% who are able.Thank you as the bible itself directs plus totally reveals what actual course of action does transpire. Furthermore I consider any calvinistic pointer is still exactly embedded in the same degree of all pointer entrapment ie is there really at the end of the day any real wriggle room. Jesus’s work at calvary is utterly complete and has divine sufficiency.
What an ignorant misrepresentation of Calvinism and the doctrines of grace! You are trying to fit the magnificent work of God into a human brain! Of course the electing and sovereign work of God makes no sense to humans. Neither does the Cross! It is all above the puny thoughts of men. And where is your evidence that Calvinist treat women like 2nd class citizens??
The sad but evident truth is that the more one gets carried away by Calvinism and the belief that they actually understand God better than those non-reformed and “barely” (as in “if at all”) Christians, the more judgmental, critical, and unloving they become toward others outside their camp. Somehow, this direct correlation — which should raise an immediate red-flag to any real Jesus-believing and ascribing follower — seems to be completely hidden in the Calvinist believer’s blind spot.
In response to your comment, people ascribing to Calvinst/Reformed theological worldview don’t just treat women as second class citizens (which is actually true since the theological underpinnings of the reformed tradition are very partriarchal)… they treat EVERYBODY except the men who are part of the leadership of the church as second class citizens. All the evidence I need are the churches I attended when I was swept up in this tradition. If you cannot see it, then I would suggest you’re suffering from that blind spot I mentioned.
One of the biggest draws for me personally toward Calvinism/reformed tradition was the ‘logical consistency’ within Calvin’s theology. As a theo-logical approach to Scripture, Calvinistic theology actually does a pretty good job of maintaining a logical consistency among texts and passages that have a difficult time getting along otherwise. However (and I can speak from both personal experience as well as observation here) the further the reformed theologian goes down the road toward Calvin, the further he distances Himself from the very people Jesus loved. Because of THAT one simple, observable fact, whatever “logical consistency” Calvinism may have internally when interpreting different Scriptures, it has NO logical consistency with the work of Jesus. It is, in effect, a loud gong… a clanging cymbal.
Despite all its promises to grant its followers a higher, deeper understanding of the mind of God, there is more theological truth in an act of grace toward a neighbor, stranger, or even estranged friend or family member in your life than in all the tomes that have been written on the so-called “Doctrines of Grace”.
… your comment just now makes for great evidence.
Captain, you’re stirring up the nest of deplorables! 😉
One of the best lop-sided attacks on Reformed Theology I have ever read. Glad I ran across it. The use of Scripture was staggering. Keep up the good work.
To paraphrase Lewis’ Law, it seems to me that Calvinists’ comments on any criticism of Calvinism justify the need for that criticism.
So there isn’t any criticism that I have seen here about non Calvinists??????
Does it apply both ways or only from ones own understanding of theology?
Always good to question. It should make us all dig deeper for the truth. But if you don’t want to believe the truth just say so- criticism usually isn’t constructive. At least not here
please will you kindly release a direct email as my experiences the onslaught is acting in a manner horrible horrible horrible.thank you and Godbless that we do not accomadate this highly poisonous form of pharasaism etc.
I didn’t understand your post
Election is not because we are some more worthy.
We are (and I don’t like the phrase but you used it) “somehow more worthy” because we are elect.
Before time God knew us (it’s in the Bible) and chose us to be his.
He gave the elect to Christ (its in the Bible)
And the Spirit changes the elect’s hearts at the direction of God- when the time is right- for them to be saved.
All deserve justice- it is required by God. Those He shows mercy to are elect.
If God didn’t elect folks and we had to do something for our salvation then it would be something along these lines :
“Dear Lord, thank you for your Son and his sacrifice. He didn’t quite get it done and I now am going choose you as my savior.
If you need any more help please let me know”
Pretty ridiculous. We are Gods possessions- he will do as he sees fit (His Will)
This isn’t something Calvin made up- it is in the Bible. Calvin just wrote a lot about it.
What is a progressive Christian anyway?
Someone used the term deplorable for someone who is not a PC- like Hillary did to the conservatives.
Is it that same sort of non sense? I was hoping there would be great thought and desire to praise the Lord here.
Could not agree more. I have Calvinist friends whom I cherish and love, but their god scares the crap out of me. Of course, I’m sure some of them think I’m headed to Hell — I’m one of them-there Kat-o-licks!
God should scare everyone. He made you. You are his to do with as he sees fit (Gods will).
He demands justice and since we are all sinners we deserve justice.
He however can offer grace or unmerited favor.
So the 2 things are justice- or Grace.
How do you chose either of them? They are the only 2 things “available “.
So you are God’s creation and a sinner deserving justice. How do you get Grace?
Is it something that you can take from God? Can you earn it? The Bible says no.
If you can’t earn it, you can’t demand or take it from God then it must be something (as the Bible says) is a gift from God.
It is a gift you can’t refuse so you have to accept it.
At this point when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your heart there is no longer any fear. Because you know that you have been saved.
The only reason to be scared of God is if you know you haven’t been given the gift of Grace, becuase once you have the joy you have knowing that before the beginning of time God chose you to be his.
I hope you have the opportunity to discuss this more with your friends.
I got swept up in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed theology thing for about five years over a decade ago. It’s very intellectual. Now that I have left that camp, I can see how toxic it really was. Most of the “reformed” folks I knew and spent time with (my former pastor and the most “dedicated” members of the church and other like-minded churches) were more like the Pharisees and scribes in the gospels than they were like Jesus or even His disciples. They were constantly judging other people based on what they believed, and often made comments doubting the “faith” or “salvation” of other Christians based on what those other Christians believed. This was the same way the religious, intolerant elitists within the Jewish faith in Jesus’ day viewed others… including Jesus Himself.
The truth is we are all in flux. We all might have a few things right theologically speaking. But we also have many, many things wrong. If you ask me, it really doesn’t matter so much what theological tenets we hold, what denomination we affiliate with, what church we attend, what seminary our pastor went to, or what particular church tradition we like to believe we are a part of. I think Jesus was pretty clear, using simple language and parables to make the point: How we see and treat other people is what matters and has eternal consequence. The Apostle Paul makes the same point in his simple but eloquent message on faith, hope, and love in his first letter to the Corinthian church.
When we stand before God to give an account of our time in this gift called Life, I don’t think God is going to give us straight A’s based on how many theological questions we got right. Honestly, I really don’t think He cares. I don’t think he is going to look at the homework assignments we did in church, or the tests we gave or received from our fellow armchair theologians. I think God is going to toss out the letter grades altogether and focus on one simple thing that we often overlook: our conduct. How did we treat our fellow human beings? Were we vessels for HIS love and grace in this world? Or did we fail to represent His heart for our our friends and family, our neighbors and even strangers *outside* the walls of some building we called “church”?
Sadly, I think most of have really missed the point.
Man- you need to find a real reformed Church if that was your experience.
Glad you are out of it.
Good, but don’t make the mistake of mixing concepts with God. Don’t dribble a little anger into the nature of God because like new wine in an old wine skin it loses it’s flavor. Use simple critical thinking to prove God does not get angry. Here goes:
Why do people get angry? 100% of anger stems from being afraid of something. Example: Someone loses a loved one > they get angry because they are afraid they will never see their loved on again. You get fired from a job and you get angry, why? Because you are afraid you’ll miss out on something. Anger always has it’s root in fear.
Fear has it’s root in scarcity. Scarcity of time, material, location, etc. When we are afraid of losing something (scarcity) we get angry. It happens so quickly that we don’t recognize the steps. If you don’t believe me then the next time you get angry, stop and ask yourself what are you afraid of losing.
Some may agree and others may not agree at the moment, but try it and you will see 10/10 times anger always originates with fear.
So, scarcity > Fear > Anger. Now, we know that God is love and we know that perfect love casts out fear. It’s like light and darkness. You can’t have both at the same time. It’s one or the other. So, wherever there is love there isn’t fear and wherever there is fear there isn’t love. Hence why God always expresses love because it removes fear.
Now, if God is love than fear can’t exist in him. If fear can’t exist in him than anger can’t result from him, ergo God does not get angry.
Add in the idea that God is omnipotent, which means nothing is more powerful than that which is omnipotent and God has nothing to fear. When he has nothing to fear anger does not have a foundation to grow from, hence God does not get angry.
To explain what you see in the OT is the Hebrew people struggling to understand the nature of God which is backed by numerous scriptures.
Gods anger is always justified.
Our anger is never justified.
Our angers are completely different as He is God and I am not.
Dont be an indoctrinated troll.
Anger comes from the fear of loss, god does not lose anything hence god does not get angry. I really cant believe people like yourself think an omnipotent God gets mad. Good lord you’ve been indoctrinated. Wake up kid
Without question, EVERY SINGLE Calvinist I have had the misfortune of encountering has been angry, arrogant, and downright mean. Their churches are ravaged by scandals, mostly sexual. Jesus said I would know false teachers by their fruits. The fruit I see is disgustingly rotten. They need our prayers so more people are not terrorized.
I have met those Calvinists as well.
I have also met people who can be described the same way who are labeled in a different way- anti Calvinists, Arminians, gnostics (well you get the idea)
Still no one has given me their view on election.
I want to see that study when you write it.
Calvinism is from reading the Bible
Calvinists are humans.
The Bible , when you read it, is what Calvin wrote about.
How are you reading the Bible differently? Reading it as terrorism?
Frank Paige and Judge Paul Pressler, oh, and of course Paige Patterson (I will let you research the Darrell Gilyard coverup of years ago). Great non-Calvinist leaders. I am willing to mention the leading Southern Baptist Churches in millions of dollars debt, or, I could mention the many money scandals of Southern Baptist Pastors. Having been a Reformed Southern Baptist for over 20 years, I know of mostly Non-Calvinistic churches that have split, gone under, or are in tremendous debt. I don’t want to list the sexual abuses and attempted coverups of many Southern Baptist Churches that have come to light. I do not blame theology for these crimes and offenses. That would be stupid on my part. I hope you agree and will refrain from making such silly statements.
If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, you must believe all of it.
You don’t have to like it- just believe it.
If you don’t believe all of it then you can’t believe any of it. Then where are we?
It looks like there needs to be less finger pointing on blogs and more time spent in pursuit of the Truth of the Bible.
With that said I better get back to trying understanding the things in the Bible I don’t particularly like.
And from this I hope you clearly see that a Bible believing Christian isn’t pigeonholed into some doctrine. There is one doctrine and it requires being a believer in the Bible.
5 Reasons Why anti-Calvinists Make Me Want to Gouge My Eyes Out [ and maybe theirs too
1. 99% of them Don’t know what Calvinism teaches. Or think positions that are in-house disputes among Calvinists are standard Calvinistic teaching. For example, that in the end the majority of people will end up in hell. Actually, there are many Calvinists (many of whom are Post-Millennialists) who believe in the end, most humans will have ended up in heaven. The percentages of the saved compared to the lost at the eschaton is an open question in Calvinism. The fact that any specific anti-Calvinist doesn’t know this is an immediate sign that he/she is ignorant of Calvinism.
2. 95% of them Don’t even know what the Bible teaches. Or haven’t even read the Bible or a Calvinistic book in its entirety once.
3. 98% of them use strawman representation of Calvinism in order to knock it down.
4. They usually don’t see how if they took their own positions consistently, they would either end up Calvinistic, or even if not, they would find their own theology (e.g. regarding hell) unacceptable. In which case, they are in a Slippery Slope slide downward to either Open (finite) Theism or Atheism.
5. 99% of them make their emotions the determining factor (and/or final court of appeal) in interpreting the Bible and/or evaluating Calvinism. Instead of rational argumentation, they opine about how they “feel” about this, or “dislike” that. They often complain about the excessive use of logic by Calvinists. Uh….maybe it’s anti-Calvinists who are often the ones refusing to use logic and instead go by their feelings or intuition (instead of revelation and logic).
As to your last point, I’ll give you this. Hardcore Calvinist believers do not let emotions interfere with “logic”. When I was swept up in it, I saw and participated in discussions (or, better called “arguments”) with non-Christians and even other Christians who just had different theological views. “Apologetics” seems to be where most ‘serious’ Calvinists end up, and the can argue for their theological points with all of the cool precision of the mathematician. All very logical. And they will make the same arguments you do to anyone who disagrees with them: “You’re letting your emotions guide you instead of logic.”
While that may be true, it is also true that we are created in God’s image. I don’t think that means we share his physical form, but we share many aspects of our existence with God’s own attributes. We have intelligence, the ability to communicate. But we also have emotions, and I think that we have them for a reason. Contrary to some particularly peevish interpretations of Calvin’s theology, we aren’t robots whose every decision was predetermined before we were even born. We aren’t automatons. Like Jesus, we learn, we grow, we think, and we feel. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He got angry with greedy people profiting off needy people in the temple. He loved. And He commanded us (as His disciples) to do to the same.
Just as we should not check our brains at the door of the church when we enter in, we shouldn’t check our hearts either. They are vital to the ministry of Jesus. Indeed, there can be NO ministry of Jesus without them. If anything, I would argue that perhaps our feelings maybe more important than our thoughts when it comes to our theology. Although both our thoughts and our feelings can mislead and deceive us, all our “thoughts” about God are probably only partially correct right now, perhaps mostly or entirely wrong.
If you think I’m wrong on this, ask yourself what you believed about God 5 years ago. How about 10 years ago. 20 years ago? 30? I’m willing to bet that your thoughts about God have changed considerably over the past two or three decades. What are some things you once believed that you look back on and say, “Well now I know better.” But guess what? Back then, you were just as 100% convinced that those things you believed were 100% right as you are 100% convinced that the things you believe about God right now are 100% right. Kind of a catch-22, isn’t it?
Very good points. All of it.
It is a matter of logic and the heart in my reading of the Bible.
It is very clear to me that God choses us. It is clear and so logically once I know God has chosen me and changes my heart Inam saved. Story is over.
Now to stop there would lead me to think perhaps you may not be saved because a transformed man would not just let it sit there and brag that he is saved.
A changed heart will change the man and his actions. The heart then seeks Gods will and yearns to be more like Christ.
We are not the ones who determine if someone is actually saved but a discerning eye and heart can look for the signs of someone’s gift of salvation.
You are astute to look at things closely, but I would caution to not discard the logical (Truth) part only to say it all relies on the heart. This is dangerous because Satan works in this way to have people feel “rewarded “ for the things they do and not the Truth of the Bible
In Deuteronomy 28, after reciting a long list of the most horrible atrocities that God will inflict on humans who disobey him, horrors which include causing rape (v. 31) kidnapping (v. 41) and parents cannibalizing their own children (v. 53), Moses then says God will “delight” to bring such suffering on those who disobey Him no less than he “delights” to prosper those who obey him (v. 63).
That is, Moses’ idea of God was a deity that got no less a joyful thrill out of causing rape, than he gets in healing cancer.
Nothing could be clearer than that the bible was a product of its time, nothing more, and modern people have full rational justification to cherry-pick from the bible what works for them, and chuck the rest as too contrary to civil common sense (delighting to cause rape?) to be useful to modern civilized adults.
Absolutely, it’s essential to pick and choose which parts to take any serious notice of and irresponsible to cling to any view which denies that. In practice it’s impossible to hold all it says together logically anyway so why not be honest about how Christians handle the text.
I dunno, I guess in order to be a real Christian you must have graduated from a seminary with knowledge of Greek, Hebrew and even a little Aramaic, must know how to correctly apply hermeneutics, and have a powerful command of both debate and several common day languages,
I’m not sure I’m up to all that, maybe easier to just lay down and become one of the non-elect, because after enough decades one tires of fighting all the time, never reaching the end – like those nights in white satin.
It really seems more like one big argument, even to the degree that other lands and peoples are indoctrinated this way or that way depending on who gets there first, the Calvinists, Mormons, Roman Catholics, etc…
I’ve grown weary of it all and am actually beginning to doubt that anyone has a handle on the Creator of the universe.
Maybe the Creator is bigger than all the world’s religions, sects, cults & clubs combined, and maybe, just maybe, THAT is what he wants us to finally realize after all the self-aggrandizing sermons are over and all the hell-fire & brimstone has been preached, perhaps only love for Him & for one another offered non-judgmentally, forgivingly and with peaceful confidence – is really all we can know of His wonder, grace, mercy, justice & Love.
It’s that sort of character I hope He prefers to offer to the lonely, failing, confused, frustrated, selfish, materialistic, lustful but hopeful creation of His,
The rest of it all seems like just so much wasted time blowing hot air.
I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years. I was an atheist the day I got saved… I’ve studied, prayed and studied more… but I’m not one bit more saved today then that first day. Knowledge puffs up… pride prevents us from just loving Him and becoming conduits of His love to the world. Denominations be damned…. I’d prefer one moment of His love to a library of books about His love. Thank you for sharing… actually quite beautiful
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve come to realize that the more I study, the less I know. Yet I’m compelled to dig deeper . . .
This is a couple years old now but still a good blog. There are many reasons why Calvinism is lacking as a systematic theology but the problems that it causes with the character of God are some of the most difficult in my mind.
I really hate the circular logic. God has the right to choose whomever he will because he’s sovereign. We don’t like what this means, but that’s just because we don’t understand. Why don’t we understand? We’re not God. It’s an exegetical shortcut that allows simple answers to a complex problem that they’ve created in the first place.
We’re all born Arminians and die Calvinists.
Thank you for this article. My husband and I are facing a blood thirsty pack of Calvinists at our church within the ‘leadership’. And by ‘leadership’ I mean a group of guys that do nothing but go to several elitist Bible studies and sit around saying “God’s sovereignty” about every aspect of the scriptures and then spend the rest of the hour self aggrandizing because non-Calvinists are so stupid unlike themselves. They have ganged up on a retired missionary couple for believing in free will and screamed them out of the church. I was told by a ‘leader’ not to pray for a girl in our kid’s ministry for salvation because it didn’t matter anyway if she wasn’t one of the elect. These are the most cruel, unloving, arrogant people I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. As for our so called “church” I’m out! I need to be loved and Calvinism can’t or won’t do that.
Seems like Benjamin is the one being toxic in this article.
How? Because he disagrees with you cultic soteriology?
Another toxic remark doesn’t help your case.
You have just described the New Calvinist movement in my area! I’ve been trying to think of an acrostic to affix to your “5 Reasons”. TULIP didn’t fit, nor BINGO. However, I settled on the latter since that was my exclamation after reading your article. Calvinism is a misrepresentation of the character of God and the cross of Christ. I continue to be amazed that so many (otherwise) intelligent people fall for this theology! I’ve never seen so much arrogance rolled up into a movement in all my life – they’ve been Piperized, Driscollized and Mohlerized. One of the greatest mission fields for Truth can be found in the pulpit and pew of New Calvinist churches. I particularly lament the proliferation of the young, restless and reformed in the Southern Baptist Convention and its associated lack of genuine evangelism (once SBC’s gifting).
Yes. Gouge my eyes out is a good description.
Ah, yes, the truth spoken in love. /sarc
I had not heard of Arminianism, but assume that it means that if God will allow Armenians to go, anyone is welcome.
This seems a bit far-fetched, but regardless, I would say that heaven and hell are personal concepts and have meaning as we each choose to look at them. Since God entire is already here, entry into the Godhead is also personal choice. It is just how you choose to look at it.
“fetish with God’s wrath”, ok, misusing the word “fetish.”
But there are very good reasons to make God’s wrath against sinners a point of emphasis: 1. It glorifies God’s righteousness 2. It is the true state of every human being outside of Christ. The truth is important. 3. Only a conviction of God’s wrath drives sinners to Christ for salvation. You have to realize your condition before you will take the medicine.
The early Arminians and Wesleyans knew this, too, and God’s wrath was a distinct point of emphasis in their preaching.
I actually think the word “fetish” is entirely appropriate here, on a number of levels. 😉
“Only a conviction of God’s wrath drives sinners to Christ for salvation” — C’mon man, that’s simply not true. Yes, it’s a common line from Way of the Master, but you went to Gordon-Conwell. They’re better than that there. If that were true, Jesus would have majored on wrath… but he didn’t.
He did, if talking to the proud and self-righteous. What did Jesus have to say to the Pharisees? He spoke more about hell than any other figure in Scripture. After Jesus example, when we meet with those already broken and repentant, we can simply give them the love of God in Christ. For them the law has done its work. But for those yet unbroken by a conviction of their sin and God’s just sentence against them, they need to be humbled before they will bow the knee. What did Jesus say to the rich young ruler, and why? Ray Comfort is on the right track but he’s still no Wesley or Whitefield.
Benjamin, Calvinist would disagree with your description of their beliefs for most of your points. Thus the reason much of what you have covered has been argues by brighter minds than ours for centuries. However, your third point is very strong and it is a point I have not heard before. You have convincingly shown that Calvinism’s nature is diametrically opposed to Christ’s as he displayed on earth with his interactions. How can the God who in flesh sought to bring those on the outside in, to include all, be the same God who picks an in group and out group?
There are problems and contradictions with all doctrinal systems. One area Calvinist are strong on biblically and rationally, I believe at least, is God’s sovereignty. After all how is he God if he is not? But while God is sovereign he also has revealed his character as gracious, inclusive and loving. How does God’s sovereignty and all the omnis that follow also produce a character such as Christ’s? Sorry to go on too long but these are big questions that have never been settled for me. Thank you for pushing me to consider them once again.
Yes. this. I’m purposely not reading the comments b/c it’s another big fight with calvinists getting offended…. but this is amazing.. beautiful, and thank you for sharing it.
Oh and.. reformation theology… was initially created to be ‘in a continual state of reforming. by John Calvin himself. … not sure when the process got stuck..
thanks for writing this. i’m cheering.
#1 is a bad sign re: salvation.
I can relate to this article in that my first step toward becoming a Calvinist was when I realized that Calvinists are Christians.
“Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience.”
I don’t get it, so if your daughter goes to hell because God chose this for her it is unacceptable, but if you daughter goes to hell because she cannot accept your version of God that’s okay because then she deserves it?
No one deserves hell, this is my main problem with your beliefs and why I have become an apostate. If a God exists then he knows better than to send anyone to a place of eternal torture.
I was ( past tense) a Calvinist. I am also an alumni of a SBC seminary. That said, I no longer support or believe in Calvinism. The pure hatred that comes from today’s Neo-Cals made me question if this was God’s or man’s?
Thankful, I am not on a church staff or in the ministry to spew this vile hatred….
This whole article can be fixed with Ctrl H: [Find:] Calvinism [Replace With:] Arminianism.
Brilliant point. I forgot the latter teaches double predestination.
The Bible does.
Correction: in your opinion, it does.
This has nothing to do with opinion. Romans 9:18, 1 Peter 2:8
This is the problem with the MDiv at Gordon-Conwell. Only has 4 electives and not nearly enough theology.
I agree, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that most of my theology came from the MDiv program. Learning is a lifelong process. Seminary is most helpful in giving tools for future learning, in my opinion.
#1 is not a good sign re: being regenerate.
Having read this post, it seems like it could have been taken part and parcel from a myriad of other anti-Calvinism screeds I have read before. It certainly shares a lot in common with them: poor understanding of the tension between God’s infallible decree and the volition of His Creatures, a paucity of any citation from primary sources such as the Reformed confessions themselves, and any meaningful interaction with Calvinism itself.
Rather, what is presented is a strawman that the author bravely knocks over and over which declares himself the victor. I’d encourage anyone wanting to learn more about Reformed theology to read the things the Reformers themselves actually wrote. A good place to start would be:
The Three Forms of Unity, which include The Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Synod of Dordt
The Westminster Standards, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms
The Second Helvetic Confession
Some excellent guides in reading through this documents would be Michael Horton’s works such as “For Calvinism”, “Recovering the Reformed Confessions” by R. Scott Clark, and “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman. James White also has an excellent book entitled, “The Potter’s Freedom.”
my thoughts as well—painting Calvinist theology / Calvinism with a broad brush—yet without discussion of the texts supporting the theology, including specifically Calvin’s Institutes.
Matthew 22:14 – Many are called but few are chosen.
This parable deals with entrance into the Kingdom of God. BTW, please don’t try to pass that passage off as the “many” being the Jews. That’s way out of context.
I also noticed that his arguments were all grounded in emotionalism rather than the text of Scripture itself.
May God graciously use this gospel message to bring you to himself. http://youtu.be/nO-rNeQe_Go
What if God had a chosen family in eternity past and, before the foundation of the world, wrote those family members names down in the book of life. (Rev. 13:8) Then, after his family members chose – with their free will – the enemy over their Father/Creator, God redeemed (bought back) them. To buy back implies prior ownership. Jesus calls his own and they know his voice. (John 10:4) No one comes to Jesus except by the Father drawing them (John 6:44), and no one can be reconciled to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). If God doesn’t redeem someone, it’s because they were not his to redeem. Some tares were sown by the enemy and they cannot hear the Good Shepherd, Jesus’ voice because they don’t belong to the Father and never did and never will. (Matt. 13:39) “I never knew you – not at any time.” When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God did not give them a choice to be saved or not. He told them he would send a Redeemer, and He did. When the prodigal son rebelled against his father, he remained the son and the father remained the father. God’s children have free will to obey or disobey their Father; but just as we cannot choose our earthly father, we cannot choose our Heavenly Father.
Molly – so God chose this family to be His in eternity past and wrote down their names. Then his family had to chose Him, or they got their names rubbed out again? How does that make sense?
God is the one who gave them the faith to choose in the first place. John 6:44 When they hear and believe, the Holy Spirit “regenerates” them. Titus 3:5 This is why we evangelize everyone – only God knows whose are his. I see a lot of “logic” and “reasoning” on this blog but very little scripture to back it up.
Oh, so it’s God’s choice whether or not someone believes and if they don’t, then that someone pays the price of attending eternal hell for not believing by their own choosing?
As calvinists they couldn’t choose God of their own free will because as totally depraved, in them dwells no good thing, so doing the good thing of believing in God isn’t possible, unless some outside force changes them into someone else who CAN choose good, but then that wouldn’t be them doing the choosing, it would be someone else who’s free will had been circumvented and therefore it wouldn’t be their choice, a choice which necessarily could only mirror their totally depraved essence.
Oh what a wonderful catch-22 mind-phoughq.
I have a lot of grace for people like Mr. Corey and most of those who reject Calvinism. It can be hard to understand the doctrines of Grace. He clearly has “misunderstood” them. The Calvinism he attacks is very much a straw man. I can agree that God loves all Mankind. But does he really love Mankind more than anything else? Clearly not even the Arminian thinks that! They believe that God loves this idea or property called “free will” more than he loves man. He loves “free will” so much that he gives it to man knowing that it will cause most of them to be in hell. God choose free will OVER man. How is that better? How is that Biblical?
(1) I [as a Calvinist] can say that God loves every person. (2) God shows his love for every person by giving them life and a host of comforts during life. (3) I can also say that God does not love every person MORE THAN all other things; in other words, Mankind is not the thing that God loves the most. (4) God loves goodness, justice, and his own glory more than he loves man. (5) Accordingly, God chooses to demonstrate his goodness, justice, and his own glory by judging some men for their sins. (6) God also loves mercy and grace. (7) Accordingly, God gives MUCH mercy and grace to all men during this life and he gives ULTIMATE mercy and grace to other men by saving them and preserving them forever.
Both sides can say that God loves Mankind. Neither side can say that God loves Mankind more than all other things. God chooses “something” over eternal communion with all mankind; either “free will” or “justice, goodness, and his sovereign plan”. I find no warrant for God choosing “free will” over man in the Bible. I find ample warrant for God choosing justice and goodness… and his own sovereign plans… over mankind in the Bible.
With all due respect, Ben, as I read through your article, I see a lot of “I think” and “I feel”, but very little scripture.
And herein lies the pox on Christianity which could lead to it’s demise. The dogma of man has become more important than the teachings of Jesus. This is not new. The apostle Paul warned early churches of the same. Our man made organizations have become more important than the true church. Is it any wonder the number of SBNRs is increasing. Many of them are seeking truth and understanding. Organized religion is enforcing rules and spouting platitudes to support their dogma – truth be damned.
Seems somewhat clear to me: Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
The problems with most folks is their view of the devastating nature of just one sin in the eyes of God. We too often view sin through our fallen eyes, diminishing it, as though we should appoint ourselves as God, and declare ourselves smarter and greater than God, and suggest/demand, that NO loving God would condemn those who reject Christ to eternal hell….as though we ourselves, in our own sin nature, would know anything about the nature of sin itself, and what one sin deserves (eternal hell).
So allow me to put it into perspective. We are ALL principals with Adam in every sin ever committed throughout all history and for all time by all people every where. If you have sinned just ONCE, then you are a principal in your guilt with every sin ever committed by everyone throughout all history. Therefore, you, me, anyone reading this…your sin is equal in the eyes of God with the sins of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot…the plague, every disease, every murder, every rape from this fallen world, where because of Adam’s one sin, death entered the world. For it was Adam’s sin that brought death into the World, and we are all sinners, fallen, and all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. Consider Romans 5:12 and 15 ” 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
So those who have refused to accept Christ as both Lord and Savior stand before God in their sin, to reap the penalty for their rejection of Christ. (Romans 1: 20 “20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”). We can trust that God is just and holy and wise, and that the punishment for those who reject Christ will fit how they lived their lives on this earth, but the fact remains that heaven awaits ONLY those who have accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior. “For I am the way, the truth and the Life; no one comes to the father but by me!” (John 14:6).
Funny thing about God’s word. You can learn much by simply reading and dwelling on it…(Proverbs 30:5 ” “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”.) For those who have Christ, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand how clear and certain His word is. These debates, therefore, seem quite humorous in the ignorance that is spewed by many who are fumbling around for God’s truth, which is easily found in the scriptures…Just open the word…Romans is always a good starting point!
Hell is bogus. It’s a Norse goddess. The Word should not appear in our Bible. People equate all kinds of things — outer darkness, the lake of fire, Gehenna, hades — with this place but they’re wrong to.
John 3:16 clearly shows the two possible outcomes for the human who believes or doesn’t: eternal life versus perishing. Perishing is the second death. It’s the death of the soul, as can be seen by its disappearance in Eccleiastes 12 where the body goes to the grave, the spirit back to God, and the soul … Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.
The most disgusting aspect of your first point is when you ask WHY God chooses some to Heaven, and others to Hell. If they are on the less sociopathic side of things, they will say something along the lines of “Because God works in mysterious ways”. But the truly sick people believe that the torture of billions of souls in the eternal lake of fire gives GLORY to God. It gives Him pleasure. In their minds, Hell and Salvation are equally gratifying to God. To me, that would also beg the question, why not save/condemn everyone is they are equally gratifying and glorifying to God?
There seems to be no basis for election by God, in their theology. God is chaotic and just picks whomever, because He wants to get glory from people burning forever.
Calvinism: Not Even Once.
Excellent post Benjamin but I don’t think it goes far enough to expose the more popular Christian teaching that anyone goes to hell to suffer forever. The arguments you make against Calvinism apply to that general belief as well: God just isn’t like that and the bible doesn’t teach that He’s like that, though I do agree that the idea that God picked people to end up in eternal torment is particularly sickening and those who promote it are sick in the head.
All Calvinists believe that God predestines people to heaven. Some Calvinists believe that God predestines people to hell.
All things considered, speaking as a Catholic here, Predestination is undoubtedly one of the most wretched and malicious doctrines ever devised in the mind of man, and with it, any nominal “Christianity” becomes something else entirely; judgmental self righteous amoral hypocrisy that is in clear contradiction with Gospel message.
It’s been one of the ideological plagues of Christianity, even when it is put forth by good men, from Augustine down through Calvin to todays fundamentalists.
Thank You Benjamin for shedding some light on this! Though I am sure Calvinism, like all religions, has things to recommend it as well.
I have been a Christian for about 33 years and have puposely steered clear of identying myself with any specific “type” or “style” or “subset” of Christianity. when asked what “type of Christian I am, I simply say “Christian”. I have consciously avoided being pulled into or “subscribing” to the tenets of any one movement or theology withing Christianity. I am a sinner, I need forgivemensss, Christ dies for my sins, I love hima nd am grateful for his death and resurrection, I trust fully in him to save me, and I believe he wants all to come to him and recive his forgiveness. Thats it…. simple and straightforward. I get a kick out of how some people are not satisfied with that. They wan to know “Are you Calvinist” or “Armenian” or “Evangelical” or “Pentecostal” etc.? To which I smile and say “I am a Christian and love God”.
What most commentators on Calvinism do not seem to realize that the vast majority of the world’s Christians reject Calvinism. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches reject Calvinism for the flaws that are mentioned by Mr. Corey as do many Evangelical Protestants especially those influenced by John Wesley. One point in which I disagree with Mr. Corey is that it is the Incarnation that is God’s greatest act of love for humanity. The Cross is only part of our salvation. The deification of humanity by the Incarnation and the deification of the human nature of Christ is what saves us. In Christ God assumed all that is human and reunited it to God. Defeating the power of sin and death was only part of this process that begain when the Archangel Gabriel spoke to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Calvin’s doctrine of salvation was not only faulty. His Christology was Nestorian.
I’m convinced that if Calvinism didn’t exist, atheists would invent it. Its doctrines seem tailor-made to generate the whole ‘All Powerful God Who Creates Suffering’ fallacy.
If god created a determinist Universe, one in which there is no human free will, then Calvinism is slightly less crazy than the other Christian theologies which necessitate the existence of free will. Free will, of course, does not exist in our universe. Yet that is not proof in anyway for a Calvinist god.
The problem with Calvinism is that it’s based on rationalism, or the concept that the logic of the fallen human mind trumps the teaching of Scripture. The problem with Arminianism is that it’s a rationalistic rejection of Calvin’s rationalism. Try reading the pre-Calvin writers, especially Luther’s and Melanthon’s writings. There’s more to Christianity and Protestantism than the train wreck that begins with Calvin’s Institutes. (I have yet to figure out the great attraction to a theology written by a lawyer anyway).
Lots of interesting comments. I’m not a Calvinist but I’m going to be as fair as possible. I used to be a soft Calvinist and don’t really have the baggage of it that Ben does.
Where Ben maybe is arguably making a straw man:
Limited Atonement. Of the TULIP, the L is the one most often rejected, which logically leads to universalism when you keep the rest (some just appeal to mystery and still aren’t universalists). I think Calvin himself probably would have rejected that but appealed to mystery for why some are therefore arbitrarily saved while others are not. They are usually considered Calvinists other than maybe by some extreme 5-point Calvinists.
The Anger Fetish. Neo-Reformed leaders often have this, for sure, definitely a bunch of the most vocal leaders, but that’s a minority of the Reformed branch. Reformed theology does have the anger of God as a major presupposition for its theology, BUT most Reformed thinkers attempt to downplay this. Really that’s the opposite of a fetish: they will admit it’s there and important but want to avoid talking about it. The same could go for God’s “glee” at throwing some in Hell, although you are stuck with the logical question of why God would choose that if there wasn’t something in it for him.
Some are thinking that Calvinism does not include predestination to Hell as well as predestination to Heaven. Aside from the logical problem – arbitrarily saving some while ignoring others is effectively the same as condemning those others – that just isn’t what the history says. This was actually a significant point of contention between Luther and Calvin that kept their movements from joining together. Luther wanted single predestination: the elect are arbitrarily saved and the rest go to Hell not by divine decree but by default and lack of election. Calvin insisted on double predestination: God chooses the fate for everyone on both sides. If forced between the two I’d actually opt for Calvin’s option; if you go as far as Luther than it just makes sense to call it what it is with God calling all the shots.
Other than that, I think we’re really talking about a question of definition. Calvinism, like most other theological labels, means a variety of different things to different people. I find it helpful to separate the Reformed tradition as a broad movement and Calvinism as a theological system. Many in the Reformed tradition would call themselves Calvinist and even have TULIP in their church’s statement of faith but they’d predominately be Arminian. If we’re using this definition, Ben’s critiques obviously don’t apply. I have seen this in the debate quite a bit, where people who grew up Christian Reformed or Presbyterian – groups that at least in Canada are more likely to be Arminian – contend that they’ve been straw-manned when in reality they are of the Reformed tradition but don’t believe in Calvinism proper. The same is true for any denominational tradition, really, as they all evolve and change.
Typically, though, at least the Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints are considered to be “Calvinism.” Those 4 or 5 points of Calvinism as a theological system seem to be the bulk of what Ben is criticizing as they make God very arbitrary and probably downright evil.
Maybe to avoid confusion Ben should have labelled this “angry neo-Calvinism” as opposed to just Calvinism, but with the two exceptions I noted above, I think he’s using it correctly.
I have a weird sort of like for Calvinism. As a gay person, there is comfort in their doctrine that says I am what I am. Having chatted to one online before about it, the way she made it sound was something along the lines of “Hey, you were made for Hell. It is where you belong. You wouldn’t be happy living under my God anyways so, in the end, it all works out just like it is supposed to.”
Considering the faux choice the other sects of Martin Luther often offer me (eg “Deny your heart, flee from love, change what you are, live a life ashamed of yourself, and die miserable and apart from the community and *maybe* God will deign to overlook what a disgusting, invalid thing you are and give you eternal life with the rest of us valid people. If you are lucky.”) I have a fondness of Calvinisms straight up “You are gay? Then you are doomed. Don’t feel bad – most people are doomed so you won’t go into the darkness alone. You were designed to be forsaken. That is your destiny. There is no other alternative and Christ died only for the chosen people, his sheep, and not the goats such as yourself so accept this as the truth and live your life as you will.”
Once you accept that you are damned, it is liberating. Like being terrified in hospice but slowly realizing that it is what it is and that everyone will follow you into death sooner or later. If I am damned, God has no power to inspire fear in me. What can He do, send me to Hell twice? He has played his best hand.
A somewhat Maltheistic view, I suppose, and not one I personally hold on spirituality, but more comforting than the alternate view of the “Roll your Dice and take your Chances” Salvation too, in an odd sort of way.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Calvinism and know there are many types. If you are reading and a Calvinist then take what I say as a grain of salt from someone whose experience of your faith came from a practitioner and not one of your theologians or more intellectual speakers. Sorry if the words of the gal I talked to misrepresents you. I don’t judge the whole lot of you by it.
What a awful position to have to live under. Being gay does not make you doomed anymore that being heterosexual makes you doomed. We are ‘doomed’ by our rejection of Christ. Do you accept Christ as your savior and your Lord? Then biblically, if you truly do, you are saved. It is by GRACE you are saved, NOT by anything you do or don’t do ( works) thru FAITH in Christ. ( my version of Eph 2:8) We all come to Christ as imperfect creatures, with ‘stuff’ in our lives that we have brought along for the ride. 🙂 When Christ died 200 years ago, paid the price in full for ALL sin, for ALL time. We are not judged now on our sins ( people hate that as they can’t say..”you are sinning God will judge you”… no… people will be judged on weather or not they accept the One who paid for their sins. So now its not you being judged by what you do, its you being judged on who you know. THAT is grace. That is what fires people up. That you can, if fact sin as a Christian, and ‘get away with it’. The catch is.. sin has effects on our bodies and our minds. We do pay when we sin. And if we truly love God, we don’t do what we know is unloving towards Him. If we truly love him, we will be growing in likeness to Him, and that means sinning LESS. So if you love Jesus, KNOW that He loves you, and that you are saved. As far as your sexual identity, just be open to him changing you in whatever way he sees is fit, and stop worrying what others think. They are not your judge.
Oh, my apologies if I caused you to worry. This is not a position I truly live under – that would be positively dreadful. I have been close to death and have a certainty that the empty legalism and nonsense is all meaningless, in the end. I trust my heart and conscience more than any man or Magisterium concerning the hereafter. That said, I was raised Catholic and always have a degree of uncertainty. I know I could be wrong.
I will be a good person. As best as I can. I will try to love others and show mercy in all ways. I will do the best I can and I will defend my fellow homoromantic folks and those who find themselves wearing the label that places them beyond the reach of God in the eyes of most.
Even if I am wrong and hellbound, I will do this. Abandoning those who need me to save myself isn’t my style. That said, I suspect you are right and my mercy will be repaid with mercy in kind.
Despite being a Reformed church member, I agree with you straight down the line on your complaints re: Calvinism. There’s much that I like about the Reformed “flavor”, but straight, uncut, no-chaser Calvinism is a tough hurdle to get past for thinking Christians. Like most theologies, it has elements of usefulness and a particular insight but falls apart when pushed too far.
Thanks for the article, and thanks for not painting all Reformed as strict Calvinists.
Oh – and to be clear – the Neo Reformed group drives me positively bonkers.
not a spot of exegesis
Four of your five points do not even reference Scripture. Yikes.
Ah, good point. I just double checked the Christian Blogger Manual, and it does in fact say, each main point to every blog posts requires no less than three (3) direct references to scripture from an approved translation. Thanks for pointing that out.
Proverbs 12:16-“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”
That’s very discouraging to see someone write a post about how to better understand God and then make an ass out of themselves in the comment section by being unnecessarily rude and sarcastic.
Well, if that wasn’t the passive-aggressive putdown of the day, I don’t know what was.
Saying exactly what I was thinking is passive aggressive? No. Alluding to something but not fully explaining is passive aggressive.
You’d feel a lot less like gouging your eyes out if you actually looked at what is called Calvinism and not this ridiculous caricature you’ve made up. Why do all you guys do this? I can’t believe you don’t know that almost everything you said about Calvinists is an outright lie. You completely misrepresent what we believe and then savagely attack it. You’re dishonest. Not mistaken, I don’t think so. You’ve been in the Bible too long, thought about this too much. You HATE the truth, so you create these lies and attack them. Well congratulations! Yes we ALL hate the doctrine you talked about, now would you like to engage with what the Bible actually teaches and what we actually believe? Or are you having too much fun with your straw men?
(a) I disagree with you, therefore I “HATE” the truth. Point #5, proven.
(b) from your own blog, in your own words: “So we see that John 3:16 cannot mean that God sent His Son because He loved every person in the world.” And, you go onto affirm that no, not anyone can be saved.
So, it sounds like I actually didn’t misrepresent it.
Calvin “We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”
As an ex-Calvinist, it was most of these points that changed my mind. However, there is still a special place in my heart for Calvinists even thought we no longer agree.
I’m not concerned with your arguments against Calvinism, they’re certainly not unique. What bothers me is your use of the phrase “God of Calvinism.” When I became a believer I was a free will guy, and I later came to understand and adhere to reformed theology. However, I never “switched Gods” along the way. Both positions fall under the umbrella of orthodox, historical Christianity and are simply in house debates amongst Christians.
Fair enough. My point in using the term, is that a God who may have predestined my child to burn in hell, is not the same God who I worship in Jesus- at least they certainly don’t appear to be. I realize the debate is largely in-house, but I would argue that the depiction of God as above, versus the God I believe I worship, certainly can’t be the same person. But do I believe the average Calvinist is outside of orthodoxy? No, I believe in a very “generous” orthodoxy.
So you wouldn’t worship a god that flooded the Earth killing
everyone except one chosen family? I also assume you wouldn’t worship a god that killed Egyptian children to free his chosen people. I have two children of my own, so I understand there’s a time when theology and real life collide. With that said, I would rather their salvation be in the hands of God than of their own decisions.
I’d also like to go a step further and say that reformed theology goes much deeper than the TULIP. There’s a lot to be said for understanding the role of the covenant family, which I’m confident you can research on your own as I don’t care to use a blog comments section to go into a game of scriptural volley ball.
As a non theologian, retired “Christian”, who reads fairly widely on religious topics, I find Mr. Corey’s reasoning to be just a result of a “common sense” approach to Christianity (though 2 master’s degrees and an upcoming doctorate show a more in depth analyses than “just” common sense). Yes, it won’t satisfy those who need to major on Who’s in and Who’s out, or those who must own and control the truth of God via their pet interpretation of scripture. “Common sense” means something that passes a basic “smell test”, and no matter how you dress up Calvinism, it, and sadly, many of it’s adherents don’t pass a basic Smell test, no matter how articulate and sophisticated their reasoning. Argue on, Calvinists. Nail it down. While you do that, I’ll be looking at my daily life and attitudes and behavior, and try to walk at peace and in love with those around me – which also entails leaving angry and frightened “Calvinists” and other fundies to their own fearful company. And I’ll try to stay on God’s path as it becomes clear in my own life.
Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.
Actually, false certainty about things which you cannot be certain creates toxic culture.
You all would do well by accepting that Adam and Eve were the first of all of us, no different in our ex-nihilo maybe-ness response to God, that is, our saying “Maybe” to God’s “Be”. We are all redeemed, but who will choose salvation is a different matter altogether. Depending on our choice to finally saying Yes or No to salvation, our eternal destinies in Heaven or Hell await.
Ontology theology trumps all your errant and shallow religious theories that have gone on for hundreds of years. Just stop with the foolishness that suggests an infinitely perfect and good God could have created Hell. In reality, it’s we who caused existence, evil, temptation and Hell. Causation is not creation. We needed God for that. See how much God loves us, to redeem all, and to leave our perfect agent will complete?
Besides the horrific idea of God as eternal torturer, the real problem with the emphasis on Calvin’s total sovereignty of God (which to him led logically to predestination) is that it’s really just perpetuating the situation on earth up in heaven. It’s saying that we believe in God because He is all-powerful, which is a lousy reason to believe in anyone. All-powerful is all-corruptible. The reason to believe in God is because He is All Good (“for His mercy endureth forever). And I can see no other reason. Any one – any BEING – that is merely all-powerful inevitably turns into an enemy, someone to be thwarted, circumvented, disobeyed, etc., because that’s the nature of power dynamics. As you said, you might obey, but simply from fear. Humans do not, perhaps cannot love tyrants – not in any sense that is shown in 1st Corinthians 13. But you can love someone – God – who is all good. And that is what Jesus was. He was not all-powerful – otherwise He would not have been beaten, mocked, tortured, crucified. But He was all good. He was the manifestation of, the incarnation of God – all Good. Loving. Fierce against evil. But loving and tender and merciful. To trade that for the pottage of power is an appalling mistake in logic.
After reading a lot of Calvin (retired history teacher here), I believe Calvin proves that it’s we humans who demand hell for others on a massive scale, because of our own obsessions with power and revenge and fairness and hierarchy. We’re the ones who make lists of who’s going there, we’re the ones who are obsessed with punishment for sin (mostly of others), we’re the ones who (rarely) believe that repentance is enough for anyone but ourselves: in other words, we’re Elder Brothers left, right and center. The whole story of the Prodigal Son is the father RUNNING to embrace his (in all ways) sorry kid, and offering everything to both children. If that isn’t an image of how God works, I don’t know what is. I do know it isn’t Calvinism.
Your bio should be enough; “Formerly Fundie, the blog, discusses the intersection of faith and culture from a progressive/emergent/neo-anabaptist vantage point.”
To me, it was very nice to read someone’s intelligent and reasoned statement of “belief” and “disbelief”. Thank you, Benjamin, for being honest about your path and sharing it with us.
liked the reading. but with all the comments down below, it has bothered me on how we made the fight from sinners against Christian, to try to show them Gods grace. to sinner against Christian against Christian. if I was an unsaved person, I would not want anything to do with Christ because of the hatred I see with fellow Christians. I feel we need to just READ the Bible, and pray God shows us what he wants to reveal to us. Not someone else who says he has the answer.
John 3:16 flat out says God loved the world (everyone), so he gave his Son to die for our sins, to pay our eternal punishment, that WHOSOEVER believe should not perish.
I’m not bothered by your critique of Calvinism, but what concerns me is the new fad of bloggers using the phrase “god of Calvinism.” As most do, I started off as a free will guy and later grew into a reformed position, but I never “changed Gods” along the way.
Hey Ben, yes, there are problems with Calvinists but you skirt the issue which is that predestination does seem to be a Biblical teaching. Frankly, I have found many Calvinists to be proud, arrogant, self-righteous and having a strange “love of knowledge” that causes some to disown and discredit anyone that intellectually disagrees with them. But again, we can’t have salvation without God’s first working in the heart…otherwise, salvation is of US and not of God. Thanks!
I don’t have a stake in this comments section melee, so I’m just going to sit back here with some popcorn and watch it all play out.
I know enough about history to know that Calvin was a monstrous person who did monstrous things and founded a church that created monstrous people who did monstrous things. That’s all I really need to know to avoid it like a plague. The same can be said for Lutheranism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Arminianism, and a host of other philosophies both religious and secular.
While you tear each other’s throats out over whether predestination is singular or double and whether Calvin meant what he said about this point of theology or if the deaths he commanded were technically his fault, the world is turning on. Please tell me which of the 99 comments below me are going to persuade anyone that Christianity is filled with the type of people who have a special message of joy and hope to bring to the world. 99 comments. Surely your gospel is found in at least one of them. Perhaps. Maybe. Or not.
The only tribe the article and especially the response has done any good for is mine. Is mór againn do chuid oibre anseo i bhfad.
Alas but I fear it is true. What a racket! But then I’ve had the same conversation on sites sponsored by your “tribe”.
The gaelic was a nice touch though.
Google translate is not your friend.
“Is mór againn do chuid oibre anseo i bhfad” properly translated to English would be rendered:
“Benjamin Corey is my hero.”
The fidelity of any translation, or even the space between two sets of ears, is always suspect.
I keep extra grains of salt handy.
Next time you play, try to at least manage to correctly identify the language when you attempt to show off your knowledge (there’s a reason even Google Translate calls it ‘Irish’).
My apologies. I hadn’t even considered that taking poetic license would be a crime in your book.
Like I said, translation is tricky. But if you’re always this irritable, it’s probably not worth trying.
– You engage me with a nearly nonsensical response to something I posted days ago.
– You sneer at my use of my native language as ‘a nice touch.’
– You give an incorrect translation and don’t even correctly identify the language (Gaelic is colloquially used for the Scottish language, more correctly it’s a language branch).
– You cover up for your misinformation when I call you out on it by claiming ‘poetic’ license.
– You assert that the space between my ears is suspect and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
– And you feign offence over me being ‘irritable.’
No, I’m not irritable, but I will not permit you to talk down to me without pushing back – hard.
Wow, talk about getting off on the wrong foot.
I am going to try to straighten this out.
Let me emphasize at the beginning that I am not being ingenuous. (at least as best as I can tell.)
Ok. But, in my defense, it is sometimes hard to avoid that kind of lapse when using this medium. I wish you had just said that, at the start. But of course, how were you to know where it was going?
Actually my mood at the moment was one of a kind of “comradie”. I actually meant it. And was enjoying what turned out to be a false sense of who I was talking to.
I incorrectly assumed that you (and others reading it) would find my naive use of Google Translate, as amusing as I had. I wasn’t even thinking about the accuracy of the translation. Although, I thought it fit the sense of your comment quite nicely.
How the hell would you expect me to translate Irish when I don’t know it, and don’t know anybody who speaks it?
Actually, I knew that it was Irish and was abstracting to the language branch for poetic purposes. (you’ll just have to accept my word on that.)
What I didn’t anticipate, was how important the distinction would be, to the stranger on the other end.
Remember, you have already misinterpreted my sense of levity. It was not the space between “your” ears but the space between “sets” of ears that make translation difficult. I think that this exercise has made that abundantly clear.
I wasn’t feigning anything. It was truly distressing to me, since I seemed to have completely misread who I was talking to. Still not sure. Depends if I have managed to be clear about things now.
To summarize: I was NOT talking down to you.
I, as is typical of me, failed to edge in sideways and assumed a more telepathic understanding than existed.
So hoser, I’ll put another shrimp on the barbie for you, eh? (That is Aussie Canadian for those wondering)
And after all that, I still have no idea what you were trying to say in your original comment to me.
Well, hey. You had to have been there.
But it’s time to move on. That’s all the contrition and explanation this business warrants.
The term “Irritable” now seems more euphemistic.
Interesting that you think we are all tearing each others throats out, when actually what we are doing is debating what we believe to be true, and allowing others to say what they think is true. We can disagree, but I think we play nicely? I have been on atheist sites when you get utter hatred spewed at you along with words like hater, homophobic, islamaphobe…. etc etc… I find none of this here. Think you are being a tad dramatic to allow you sit comfortably in your firmly held position maybe?
“I don’t have a stake in this comments section melee…” A stake is commitment. I guess this means you want to have the freedom to throw your Irish ancestry into the fray without acceding to Ireland’s considerable history of blood, or the vast repertoire Irish borne literature has granted to humanity, or to your personal responsibility, if such exists, to understanding the All. No stake in my book means your pretty little foot stays well away from the water’s edge. So be it, pretty one.
I’m trying to figure out what my nationality has to do with anything, considering I never once mentioned it the comment. Aye, feel free to clear that one up.
And don’t hate me because I’m pretty. There are so many better reasons.
You claim nationality in your title on the board. Being Irish sets a high standard, at least in the U.S. We love you, just for being you.
I can’t hate, but can alliterate.
Until I use examples from my nation of origin to illustrate a point or reference a part of the culture I grew up in to further an argument, neither my nationality nor ethnicity has any bearing on the subject at hand.
Then why do you title yourself “The Irish Atheist”? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or at least not stinketh.
Because I grew up in Ireland and my experiences there led to my atheism.
If my national origin causes such a stink to you, then I suggest the odor doesn’t come from me. It’s astonishing that multiple people, both here and around the internet, have taken great issue with things I say, but you are the only one gravely offended by the mere mention of my own nationality.
Get over it. You have issue with something I say, then say it. Insinuations that I ‘stink’ because of the country I was born in can, and will, end now.
It is not your origin but the claim of origin, and the stink is an undefined past coming up through the floorboards. Thank you for mentioning it above. I’ve read “Portrait of the the Artist…” and was raised Catholic, and have a book or two on Irish history, so could guess at your foundation. However any particular reasons for it would be interesting to hear.
A note from the peanut gallery, any one who approaches the subject of God is, for me, on the path and my interest becomes looking it over with you. All paths are interesting.
You may say, “Former” but your style of argument and condescension comes strait out of the Fundamentalist playbook. Straw-men, reductionist distortion, dismissive hand waving, stereotyping, pretty much par for the course. Apparently justice isn’t for everybody, it is only for those of whom you approve.
Good observation. It’s true that Calvinism and its philosophical views on people marginalizes the purpose and pursuit of salvation; or, even intimacy with a living G-d. If the process of salvation is made inevitable, because G-d know ALL, then that tone/mindset will (instinctively) nullify certain desires and passions to pursue God in ways unimaginable. If salvation is inevitable, then so might be our views on matters outside of “Christendom” (including Christendom, of course)! (lifeseek.org)
The thing that really ends all discussion of Calvinism’s value, if you have the perspective, is the whole reality of Privilege, and how groups with more power oppress other groups with less. Once you start caring about that, Calvinism seems like a sick joke. Wow, it sure is amazing how all the one’s who got chosen are just like me! And we are mostly white and Western and wealthy. (the church in Non-Western areas has not really embraced Calvinism). Too bad for all the brown, non-Western, other religion folks out there, practically none of them were chosen. So hugely ugly. I literally believe that the same people who are attracted to Calvinism would be the one’s in Germany in the 30’s who joined the ascendent party…that kind of personality is drawn to it. (and I spent eight years in the PCA, the HQ of contemp. neo-calvinism, and can report it’s like an a**hole factory).
Some Christians “killing of unborn babies is horrible, but God will welcome these souls in Heaven”.
Calvinists “those unborn babies aren’t innocent at all, they took part in the fall with Adam, they were present with Adam (in his loins) and are rightly deserving in eternal judgement”.
As the author stated in column, Calvinism is horrible set of teaching on every angle.
The predestination is just logic and definition. If God knows all that has been and will ever be then he knows already who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, you may still have freewill but he already knows what choices you are going to make and what the outcome will be. I at least respect the acknowledgement of the definitions put in place that most sects seem to ignore.
Benjamin, what are your thoughts on Geo MacDonalds viewpoints? He was stridently anti-Calvinist and yet held views still controversial to many. Just curious of your view on him.
Of course, Calvin isn’t perfect (and neither is Wesley, Luther, Anabaptists, Arminianism, etc.) Not all Calvinists are like Driscoll or Piper. It seems that the type of Calvinism that you describe is what some of my Calvinist influences would reject also. (Calvinists do not apply Calvin fully.) Some Calvinists would see predestination or election (the good kind) as universal to all people and all of creation, and describe it as God’s loving care and concern for creation. Also, Calvin’s pneumatology is quite beautiful. For some alternative Calvinist perspectives than the one you outlined above, see Feminist and Womanist Reformed Dogmatics, and anything written by Serene Jones.
I was first exposed to Calvinism via the neo-Reformed movement and wanted nothing to do with it (as in that context it was complementarian). When I took Reformed readings under a more liberative perspective, I came to appreciate Calvin and Reformed teachings in a new light. This interpretation would say that Calvin doesn’t make sense when read from a privileged perspective, as he was originally writing to the Huguenots in France, who were facing persecution (This was in the 1536 Institutes). Thus, predestination and election were actually doctrines of comfort and pastoral care.
I realize that many may not agree with this. To make a long story long, (and for lack of a better analogy) please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Nothing comforting about Calvin’s personal legacy and how he profaned the Lord’s commandment to love one another – whereas Calvin brutally executed those he disagree with.
While it is a general, and fashionable, line that Calvin was an awful person, much of that isn’t really found in the evidence. Calvin was forced to testify against Servitus and then tried to get him exiled rather than exicuted. It was the Petite Council ( body that Calvin was not a member of) that wanted Servitus dead, not Calvin.
Calvin didn’t advocate for his execution, simply via a different method of death?
He first tried to get him expelled. And then, he tried to argue that beheading was faster and more humane than burning. Then he tried to get Servitus drugged so than it wouldn’t be as painful.
Interesting spin– so all of his actions were noble and full of nonviolent enemy love as the Gospels command?
It isn’t spin, it’s fact. I’m not arguing he was perfect. If one is going to condemn a person, do it for something they did, not what you want them to have done, thought, or taught. There is little excuse for bad history, except for polemical purposes. For example, much of the image we get of Calvin is from “enlightenment” types, or figures like Bertram Russell. They even go so far as to invent quotes.
Why advocate for beheading? Why not advocate that we stop killing our enemies, like Jesus commanded? I’m having a hard time viewing his advocacy of Servitus’ execution as being in line with the Gospel.
He didn’t advocate for it. He tried to get him expelled from the city. When the Council refused that option, sighting that Servitus was under condemnation all over the place. And so he tried to get a more “humane” form of execution. That may seem strange to you, but doing the best one can is sometimes all one can do. Or is it just that anyone who doesn’t meet your criteria of perfection must be condemned?
My Calvinist apologist friend reply to Calvin killing his enemies – ‘well that was the times, you are reading into to those actions a 20th century worldview”. Uh huh.
Find me an similar event in history when Arminius or some Arminians went through the villages using Scriptures as support to torture-execute in the ‘Name of Jesus’. His reply – silence.
Well, there are the Arminians who helped destroy the Native American’s culture and lives in the name of Jesus.
So the conclusion that we can glean from all this, is that no matter the sect, Christians are going to destroy people.
At least some christian sects that teach they have the authority given by God to kill in Jesus’ name.
Sadly, the Church of Rome held to that ideology for many centuries. But you won’t find that teaching in any of the Jesus’ teachings.
Yeah, none of it was the fault of the ‘Dictator of Geneva’. Nice reinterpretation of history. Calvin believed his pronouncements were the “holy doctrine which no man might speak against.”
Calvin declined Servetus’ plea for a ‘humane’ execution via beheading, and Calvin supplied the green wood. Then returned to preaching his Doctrines of Grace. Calvin was slightly more tolerant when it came to women, compared to Rome, only had 34 women burnt at the stake during his reign.
Calvin employed Augustine’s horrible interpretation of ‘compel them to come’ (Luke 14:23) as justification making church attendance mandatory and for uniting Church + State to stamp out heretics. But according to Calvinist apologists, all the rest of his theology is Divinely Inspired (except for mandatory infant baptism with some modern Calvinists).
No, Kona, all of that is an invention. Read a little, and not just polemical works. Calvin wasn’t even a citizen of Geneva and spent most of his time fighting with the Petite Council. They even banished him twice. The image of the Dictator of Geneva was created by the Enlightenment to attack a Bugbear, and many “progressives” still cling to that bad history. I know it makes you feel good, but it is simply not true.
Translation: if you read something that makes Calvin look bad, it’s just polemical.
Not at all. Your lack of charity is telling though. To busy being a progressive Anabaptist to be concerned with being wrong? Caricature, including of me, is so much more satisfying than the possibility that you might have the wrong end of the stick.
If Calvin is right, then all I’ve got to say is “HAIL SATAN!” Better the actual devil than a lying, jackass god.
Try, just so that we can skip the nasty comments about sources, Calvin for Arm Chair Theologians or McGrath’s recent biography. Both take time to deal with your accusations.
Nasty comments? Ok it is a fact fact that under Calvin’s rule and systematic theology, people were executed for not being predestined to believe like Calvin thought they should believe.
But Calvin might have been a really nice pet owner.
The was no “rule” by Calvin. That is an almost total fabrication, made to denigrate a man, and a doctrinal position which was only tangentially his. The “executed for not being predestined” is a really juvenile comment, clever, but untrue. You are more committed to being “correct” from a “progressive” POV than you are in being right. Pretty par for the course, since actual intellectual reflection is a waste of time when *feeling*, and self righteous indignation feels so good.
Why are you so defensive to supposed impugning of Calvin’s tolerant and loving legacy?
I would bet if you lived in Geneva at the time and saw people getting burned at the stake for beliefs, you might have picked up and left town. Show me where Calvin did anything to stop the brutal subjugation of those who questioned his Augustinian theology?
to borrow from a Calvinist rebuke (Reformed Answers)
“Constantine proved once and for all the negative consequences inherent
whenever the state enforces orthodoxy — all you get is fake believers
scared to air their dissent openly. Calvin was wrong to suppose that
heresy should be punished by the state and by death. “
Kona, I am not arguing for Calvin as a perfect person. I am objecting to the nasty, closed minded vilification in which you are indulging. Making him into Satan incarnate is not only bad history, it is not particularly Christian. You are simply repeating slander, or over simplification, and that is not edifying, nor helpful. Broaden your world view outside of the narrow, little world view you seem to rejoice in and maybe learn something. Otherwise, wallow in your misconceptions, but don’t get as hyperbolic and nasty when you’re called on it.
If you want relational nuance, I suggest reading Deepak Chopra. Yes, I point out some obvious and glaring flaws in the live of Calvin, and how the whole Calvinist village turned out – not a lot of love there, and embarrassing chapter for the us to the critics of christianity. That is not Statan incarnate (Hitler reading from Luther is a little closer.)
Matt 25:40 “The
King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the
least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Apologists for Calvin have a tough task, as both his life and his theological writings do not reflect the character commanded above.
Quite frankly Kona, many of those “Glaring faults” are less about Calvin and more about the projection onto him. You have, uncritically, adopted a narrative that is simply historically not complete nor correct. I can only assume it is because you like the image and the Bug Bear at which you can throw mud. You persistently cling to a false image, and then go so far as to condemn a man based on that. Your use of Matt 25 is telling since you apparently do not know a thing about Calvin’s private life, except for the bits either invented or distorted by his enemies. It also seems that his chief sin is not being a 21st century hipster Anabaptist. Lack of charity is lack of charity. Since you are so convinced of your own righteousness, and you insist on arguing with what you want me to be saying rather than what I have said I shall simply leave you to stew.
No, I rightly point out the flaws in Calvin’s misrepresentation of the Good News.
I wish you would abandon Calvin’s slander of God’s love.
I also don’t explain away history. Calvin was no Dietrich Bonhoeffer – who acted on the principles of the gospel and to called evil what it is – and paid dearly, while surrounded by fellow reformed teachers who were apathetic to evil.
To hide behind 16th century societal norms is as pathetic of a defense of conquering under Constitine’s sword.
I’m not a Calvinist. I am a Church Historian who is tired of the self righteous (and despite your little pious turn at the end it’s essentially what it is) denunciation of a caricature. Then again, you are so assured of being on Gods side that nothing can assail your vincible ignorance. No doubt you will pounce on what you want me to be saying, rather than pay attention, so that you can parade your street cred.
And Martin Luther was a raging anti-semite. I think once you open up the floor to ad hominem attacks not many will be left standing
Isn’t that a good thing? If you’re going to claim to be a purveyor of the greatest moral truth in existence, shouldn’t you be held up to the highest moral standard?
I’m not convinced that one of the strongest arguments against the validity of Christianity isn’t the total depravity of most of its founders.
“Total depravity’ is a bit strong from my view, but I can understand how you might come to that conclusion. ‘Human and deeply flawed’ is probably more where I would go especially when you put them in historical context. Your point about holding them up to their own ridiculously high standard is a fair one and yes, I do think it is a good thing. It was you, in fact, who first taught me about Luther’s anti-semitism, for which I am grateful. I was responding to the intent of the post rather than the content. I am always loathe to venerate people for this reason, but I also try to avoid judging an idea solely by the people who hold it. As I look around the world, I am hard pressed to find an ideology or institution that wasn’t filled with tragically flawed people doing positively awful things. George Washington owned slaves. Would I consider him total depraved? Does this make the entire concept of being founded on the principles of liberty a farce? Some would say yes, and I would be hard pressed to argue with them. I think it was Descartes who skinned a cat alive in order to study the circulatory system. Was he totally depraved? You could certainly make a good case for it. But I tend to view human beings as more complex than that. Part of my family heritage is native american so I am keenly aware of our national contradictions. However this does not mean that I discard my national identity, instead I take it as a challenge to make it better. I accept that many would consider this impossible either with my country or with my faith. They may be right. I do not judge them. I choose to take a different road.
You’re not the first person to call the great Reformers ‘human and deeply flawed,’ and you probably will not be the last. It’s an argument I cannot and will not accept.
I’m a human, and I’m deeply flawed. Do you know what I haven’t done? Arranged for a man who disagreed with me to be burned to death in public. Another thing I haven’t done: petitioned the government for the massacre and enslavement of an entire people. Because despite my deep flaws, I’m still a decent human being, which is why I suspect most Calvinists would assert that I haven’t been destined for salvation.
There’s deeply flawed, and then there’s monstrous. Calvin, Luther, and much of their ilk fall among the latter. There is a certain line you cross where you cannot give ‘flaws’ as an excuse anymore, and directly causing the horrific deaths of other human beings is a good indicator of it.
It was not an argument, just my opinion. I would never ask you to accept my or anyone else’s opinion. I don’t follow either Luther or Calvin so I have no need or desire to defend them. I am not that familiar with Calvin, but having read Luther’s anti-semitic polemic, once you made we aware of it, I would certainly agree that the view expressed in that document are monstrous and colors Luther’s legacy, or it least it should.
Keep in mind we are a product of our society and the way their justice systems did things, as to how we do things to day. In the West anyway, we don’t go around burning people to death for disagreeing with us. Back then, who knows! You cannot compare what we do today and how we act, to another culture in another time period.
Murder is wrong. Period.
Well it seems like you and God agree on something then. 🙂
No. God commands the murder of entire nations in the Bible, and of individual people over and over and over again.
I do not agree with the morals laid out by the Christian god.
This is a sad article. Sad, because it would seem to indicate that the author has rejected, not Calvinism, but a caricature that has more in common with the way the secular media portray Christianity in general. I wouldn’t embrace the faith that he describes, either. Fortunately, what the author describes as “Calvinism” is no more Calvinism than it is Islam.
That last part is actually true- when I studied Muslim theology in seminary it struck me that it was quite similar to what I heard from John Piper. “God can do anything he wants, kill anyone he wants” etc. Totally consistent with Islam and totally consistent with things Piper has said.
You are exactly right. C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “What a wonderful deed has been made by some men in burning figures of their own stuffing. How earnestly do they set themselves to confute what no one defends.” It might have been a good idea for the author to have studied the issue a bit before writing the article. Additionally, a smattering of biblical exegesis in place of his two or three out of context proof-texts might have been helpful. What a shame ignorance isn’t painful.
Are we able to think how GOD thinks ?
Are we then GOD or foolish ?
Can not the Sovereignty of GOD do what He will without asking men ? …
Does He ask us to understand … or to seek Him ?
Did Moses ask why he was not allowed to enter the promised land ?
It didn’t go well for Job with his argument either …
Where is Pharaoh ? … Judas Iscariot ?
Just Follow JESUS … and help others along also …
See you in Heaven my Brother <
Well, I blame Calvin for two things – a rationalist approach to he scriptures which affected the culture of Europe. One thing led to another and now we have ‘economic rationalism’ which, in my view, is a derivative of Calvinism. Now, if Calvin had only prayed the Scriptures and practised Lectio Divina – the world just might have been a different place!
It isn’t ‘Calvinism’ but the teachings of the gnostic – Augustine.
Once you realize that Augustine did not have a grasp on the hebraic-biblical view, you realize his followers (Calvin) were drinking from polluted waters. John 3:16.
I don’t think Augustine was a Gnostic….. where do you find ref to that?
Augustine was a Manichaen – hence the belief in fatalism.
Augustine taught procreation was evil along with human bodies are intrinsically ‘evil’, hence the gnostic worldview.
Augustine was a Manichaen before he converted to Christianity. Once Christian, he was opposed to the Manichaen teachings.
Augustine’s teachings embraced many of the Manichaen teachings – fatalism, dualism, gnostic view of humans, etc.
I could not say this better.
The best way I learned to really wrap my head around the concept of Calvinism was from a former Calvinist with a great sense of humor, who sang, (sung to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children” – Jesus loves predestined children, all predestined children of the world, you and you, no not you, Jesus only loves a few, Jesus loves predestined children of the world.
On a more serious note, it is hard to put any credence in a man or his theology that not only supported the deaths of heretics, but was actively involved in those deaths. While many defend these acts as being “cultural”, I cannot believe in my heart that any true Man of God, would promote the death of men that disagreed with him.
Interesting post. I rejected Calvinism about 3 years ago, when I discovered Grace, the cross, and God’s undying love for us just don’t go with Calvinism. But to embrace Armenianism has its issues as well. Why do we have to label our selves as anything but Christ followers? I think because of labels and boxes, we have all the different denominations today, which Paul, if he could have come back to this century, would be horrified at the disunity of the christian church. Personally I think Calvinism can make people loveless and judgmental that they are somehow better than others cos God chose them. I love what you said about the beauty of the cross. it really is beautiful when you see Jesus’ sacrifice for ALL of creation. I like Greg Boyd’s stance on aligning more with the Anabaptists due to their peace loving doctrines. So if i was going to label my self, it would be more within that framework. 🙂 Thanks for the post. Love your honesty and how you don’t try and have it all together.
While Calvinism is an easy target when compared to the natural sentiments of the human heart, one has to wrestle with the portrayal of God as the Sovereign. We like to emphasize the likability factors in Jesus, but He had Calvinist leanings Himself. e.g. John 6:65, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” Jesus upsets all our apple carts, so even a “Red Letter’ view of inspiration (the words of Jesus stand above the rest of Scripture – a problematic view logically as Jesus endorsed the whole of Scripture) leaves us humbled about our human spiritual strength.I’d like ot be an Arminian, but those doggone verses on God’s sovereign grace keep getting int the way.
Rejecting the Synod of Dort is one thing. To present a warped characterization of Calvin is another.
Thank you for this, I’ve never been able to understand how such poisonous, venomous, completely devoid of grace concepts have been able to take such deep root in the Christian faith.
It’s also hard to understand how the ideas of someone who caused/passively allowed/encouraged (depending on which version of history you subscribe to) people to be burned at the stake and tortured could be held in such high regard that an entire theology is created around them. No matter how brilliant their ideas might appear if they do not have love it amounts to nothing.
Or, rotten tree = rotten fruit
The only thing I might take issue with is the olives, kind of always liked those. 🙂
I sincerely appreciate your thoughts. For nearly 30 years (I am now 62) I thought being gay was a predestined condemnation to hell. G-d made me gay because G-d had decided I needed to go to hell. Everything I read in the Bible and learned in an Episcopalian boarding school (The Church Farm School) taught me this. This eventually drove me from Christianity (though I have no memory of anyone ever teaching that specific theology but do remember a summer in Vacation Bible school in a “believe this or you will go to hell” church.) I went from the Episcopal Church to Christian Science, where I tried to be healed of being gay. When I realized there was no illness to heal, no sin to repent of, I became unchurched, eventually drifting back to a vastly different Episcopal Church. While I remain a willing student of Christ today, I stay away from Church and observe from afar. Someday I hope to have the courage to return to an actual Church family- until then I choose to be in community via webcasts, Youtube, and Facebook.
But how do you resolve the tension between the Jesus of the gospels and the writings of Paul which do seem to indicate predestination? (Rom 8) And how do you respond that leaving salvation up to human agency, choosing Christ, throws a bit of a wrench into salvation ‘through grace?’ Are you any less concerned that someone such as your daughter might be relegated to eternal torment because she didn’t buy the Jesus story because, perhaps, the only vision of Jesus she ever got was from an abusive parent or clergy?
The Apostle Paul wasn’t perfect. For most of his life he was a student of the Jewish law of Abraham( which was not based on love). Even after his conversion the cup of his mind was still filled with the old way. The Apostle Paul was a man struggling with deconstructing his previous beliefs with his new found beliefs. This is apparent in his writings. His epistles are not inerrant or infallible.
About salvation. Didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus that salvation had come to his house after he agreed to pay people their money back? It wasn’t so much that he believed in Jesus but that he obeyed and followed His Way of life. Salvation is fixing things that are broken and healing broken things in this world. It is making the world a better place. This is why Jesus was always actively doing things. This is salvation. If you walk in love, then Christ is in you and there is no hell for you. If you believe in Jesus but don’t walk in love then ‘hell’ is in you already.
I’m not sure that I buy that predestination was a part of Jewish soteriology and the statement that the Jewish Law was not based on love stands in direct contradiction to Jesus’ quoting of Leviticus and Deuteronomy for the 2 greatest commandments ‘in the Law.’ (Matt 22:37-40) I don’t view any part of the Bible as inerrant or infallible. I was interested in how Ben deals with the tension – I assume he is less inclined to simply dismiss the writings of Paul.
So you believe the Jewish law was based on love? Is that why Moses commanded the murder of men,woman and children? According the old testament it was ok to rape and murder, commit genocide, display heads that had been cut off, kill people with rocks for making a mistake and murdering everyone in your path that didn’t bow down to you. Does this sound like “love your neighbor as yourself?”How about when Moses came down off the mountain and commanded everyone to murder their friends and neighbors(exodus 32:37). Sounds a lot like love to me.
You don’t view the Bible as inerrant or infallible because you have been brainwashed to ignore the fact that the Bible was written by 40 different authors, none of them perfect. The Bible while inspired and utterly important to humanity is in no way perfect. Christ however, the Living Word, is.
“You don’t view the Bible as inerrant or infallible because you have been brainwashed to ignore the fact that the Bible was written by 40 different authors, none of them perfect.”
“So you believe the Jewish law was based on love?”
You might want to ask a Jewish person what they think about that, not the silly polemical caricature of Jews as represented in the NT. As I already pointed out in the last response, Jesus quoted the Jewish Scripture when formulating the greatest commandments, so it is obviously in there for someone willing to find it. It is difficult for a Christian to read the OT in anyway beside the polemical lens provided by the NT which, keep in mind, was written mainly by people who were thrown out of the Jewish synagogues in a rather contentious schism. Christians read the OT as an open wound that the NT provides a salve to heal. Jews, obviously, do not.
“According the old testament it was ok to rape and murder, commit genocide, display heads that had been cut off, kill people with rocks for making a mistake and murdering everyone in your path that didn’t bow down to you.”
Again, since Jewish people are still around, much to the chagrin of much of historic christendom, and they don’t seem to go around raping, committing genocide, displaying heads, et al, you might want to ask them how they read their own book without falling into such an obvious trap….you might also reflect on how the ‘living word’ of Christ has been used to rape, commit genocide, display heads, etc through the centuries. The sword cuts both ways….
An excellent article–I’ve thought about this a lot, and Calvinism make me want to bang my head against a wall–hard (gouging my eyes out is too icky!). One of my favorite quotes is from Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood: “The
historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply
mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means
that God is like Jesus.” When I look at Jesus, it doesn’t make sense to me that he invented and engineers all the evil that happens in the world, and that we’re inanimate chess pieces being moved around for his amusement or to somehow enhance his glory. Jesus didn’t die for automatons–he loves and died for his creatures who have the capacity to love and respond to him. I think there is the sense that God exists outside of time, so for him, everything has happened, is happening and will happen, so he already knows who will respond to him and draws them (and has drawn them) to himself. But for us who live in linear time, this means that we are making choices all the time, and are affected by the choices made by others, and we can choose to accept or reject Jesus’ death for us on the cross.
This shows a complete lack of understand of Calvinism and an adoption of views which have been attached to Calvin that he did not state. For example double predestination.
I disagree Calvin himself wrote “Of the eternal election, by which God has predestinated some to salvation, and others to destruction”. So I’m not sure how double predestination is not a Calvinist view.
“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he determined with
himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not
created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for
some, eternal damnation for others.” (Institutes of the Christian
Book III, Chapter XXI, Section 5)
Of course, you skip the part about God seeing all of time as a single thing and so makes that judgement based upon the actions of people involved. Also the idea that a “majority” of people are condemned is also your insertion, not what Calvin said. The Grace here is that you do not have to earn your salvation, and that “perfection” is a form of idolatry. It flies in the face of the moral superiority so many Anabaptists hold, be it about drinking or “social justice” issues.
The entire calvinism/arminianism framework is one that should have been abandoned centuries ago. It’s like trying to understand people based on their zodiac signs. No matter how complex people make the zodiac, in the end, it’s just a bad framework for understanding people. In the end, calvinism/arminianism is just a bad framework for understanding God.
Totally agree with you. Well said. Calvinism/arminianism are products of the human mind. Totally individual subjective opinions of the person at the time of writing. There is no evidence that either theory takes place to an individual after death. Theories like those are written for the following reasons, fear of death, and for the pride of believing you explained something that cannot be explained.
It’s a false dichotomy, and not even a particularly meaningful one.
First, outside of soteriology, Calvinism and Arminianism are virtually identical. They’re both branches of Reformed theology and they both advocate almost the same things outside of the balance between free will and determinism. They even both affirm total depravity, for goodness’ sake (a point that Arminians have a tendency to sometimes forget). Your average Calvinist is going to have a lot more in common with your average Arminian than he is with a Lutheran, Anabaptist, Anglican, or Catholic. Maybe that’s why they’re always at each other’s throats – if someone with completely different taste in music hates your favourite song, that’s to be expected, but if someone with nearly identical taste in music hates your favourite song, it’s an affront.
Second, there are a broad variety of theological positions which offer many differing perspectives on the free will/determinism debate. The notion that it’s either Calvinism or Arminianism is rooted primarily in ignorance. Other perspectives abound, including Lutheranism, Thomism, Molanism, Augustinianism (similar to Calvinism, but still different), Open Theism, and others. Then, of course, you’ve got the EO perspective which essentially says “Who knows? God is fully sovereign, humans have free will, somehow the two work out.” Some people see that as a cop-out, but I personally find it refreshing.
I couldn’t agree more -well, except for the part about olives, yum.
I agree. I love black olives. But still – a point well made 🙂
I couldn’t agree more. I was brought up in the Church of Christ, and all that Calvinistic fear drove me from the Church for decades. When I finally figured out that this “dark Christianity” was missing the point – that God is Love, I was able to find my faith again.
That is quite fascinating, Susan. The Churches of Christ are highly Arminian in their theology, and reject practically all parts of Calvinistic concepts in regard to salvation. The more conservative teachers of that brotherhood (sadly, I must add) tend to focus more on a legalism that often appears to downplay the concept of grace, and of John’s understanding of the continued cleansing of the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). But for whatever reason you were driven away from the body of Christ, I am happy that you have found your faith in the Lord again.
This is the third time I’ve tried to reply, so if this come in three slightly different forms, I apologize. Anyway – what I remember of the Church of Christ is hearing in Sunday School how Jesus loved me and then the sermon following, about how His father was going to send me to Hell for all eternity. Confusion and disillusion followed. It took re-reading the Bible, the Gnostics, ancient religion, the Koran and numerous reference books to finally understand that it’s really very simple. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Walk humbly and with good will to all around you and do not judge others – it really doesn’t seem any more complicated than that. Thank you again for your kind reply.
Philosophies must change and grow or else die. Predestination,
as I have been taught in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), doesn’t mean
God chooses who goes to heaven or hell, He only knows it because He sees
all of history from the perspective of a painter who has finished his work. It has also been said that All are predestined for heaven, but some do not choose to
follow that destiny.
In the end, it’s a non-essential doctrine, because even if there is any truth in it, we must operate as if all are destined for heaven.
and what a horrible result if we are not actually all destined for heaven, in spite of our desperately believing we are.
This is a great summary of some of the weakness that is present in Calvinism, and yet offers a way forward through love and rediscovering Jesus.
Not that I disagree – at all – but I do reflect on something Spurgeon said of the idea of predestination – “it doesn’t shut anyone out; but it does shut a good many in.” It’s a different view of it, one that is in better harmony with the “whosoever” of John 3:16 and so many other NT scriptures.
the thing is, if only a “good many” are “shut in,” that’s not really good enough. if John 3:16 is truth, then “predestination” is meaningless. and if it’s meaningless, it’s not Christ-worthy.
I don’t see your point, bajacalla. What I think Spurgeon was saying is that while “some” are predestined, “all” are eligible (whosoever). I don’t necessarily agree with calvinism in all its manifestations, but this at least is a credible explanation for resolving the contradiction between predesitination/elect and “whosoever”
As a Calvinist myself (of the Kuyperian persuasion), I find comfort, not fear, in the knowledge that God has called me, despite myself and all of my flaws. I find that Arminianism puts too much weight on the role of the individual, which to my mind speaks directly against what Paul says in the Scriptures: “…not by works, so that no man can boast” (Eph. 2:9). I would also argue that Scriptural basis of predestination is overwhelmingly evident in Romans 8:30 (“And those He predestined, He also called, and those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified.”)
I went to a strictly Arminian school, and there I was constantly bombarded with “you must do this, you must do that, you must X and Y and Z.” Kids were saved every week in chapel (the same kids, most often). There were tears, there were promises. There was a culture of earn-your-way-to-God. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. God calls out to you, not the other way around. Moses did not call God; God called Moses (replace “Moses” with just about any name from Scripture and you’ll get just about the same idea). Our works are not to get us closer to God; they are a joyful response for the amazing, game-changing, why-would-a-perfect-God-save-a-sinner-like-me?-kind of action.
Those who oppose Calvinism often employ the argument “How do you know you’re ‘in’?” Do you hear God calling? You’re ‘in’. You might even extend it to a universalist sort of perspective: we are all called by God to be His children.
As for limited atonement, well you got us there. Then again, I’m not so sure Calvin himself had much Scriptural backing for that one. Personally I toss the idea, unless of course, from a universalist perspective, the atonement is then limited to, well, everyone. This, then, would be where Kuyper comes in. I’ll leave you with his famous words at an address at Princeton Seminary (I believe that’s where he said it, at least):
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence
over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
what if you’re NOT ‘in,’ even if you *think* you are? since you can’t prove it, it could all just be a wicked joke.
I think it points right back to what you say on someone else’s thread about John 3:16: whoever believes. It’s a question of origin, really: do we believe because we are saved, or are we saved because we believe?
And are those who do not believe unable to believe because they have not been pre-selected??? That will always be Calvinism’s fatal flaw. Hence, the point of the article…
Yes. That is not a flaw. God has chosen not to reveal himself to many in the same way he has chosen to reveal himself to the elect. God spoke to Abraham not Hammurabi. Christ appeared to Paul in his resurrection glory not Caiaphas. God has changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. He has not done so for everyone. Accordingly, many will continue in the way that they are and receive justice. By God’s grace, I will receive grace and mercy ultimately. I am very grateful for that.
But why did God choose Abraham? To bless the whole world. And why did God choose Paul? To be a light to the Gentiles. Why did God choose you, Brent? It wasn’t about Abraham or Paul as individuals, it was and always has been about the whole world. God chose these men, and you, to go into the world and glorify The LORD to all nations. So stop debating with Fr. John, turn your computer off and go share the Good News of Jesus with ALL men.
Guess I better go and do the same . . . 🙂
Tony – Of course. I do share the good news of the gospel with all men. But along the way it is required to defend the Gospel I preach from those who misrepresent it or misunderstand it. This article and many of the comments would have you believe that I don’t preach the gospel but rather a rank heresy and liable against God. It is necessary to set the record straight and seek understanding so that we can work together to preach the gospel. This is part of that process.
I’m sorry, I want to make sure I understand you – are you saying you toss out the idea of ‘limited atonement?’
To be honest, I’m not sure. The idea of limited atonement in my eyes seems much like the question of how a good and omnipotent and omniscient God could allow (or even originate?) evil, death, pain, suffering, etc.
Then again, limited atonement also can be viewed as the logical follow-up to predestination: Christ died for those the Father has called to be His Own.
Of course, the concept of predestination is not to separate the sheep from the goats, as it were, but to understand that there is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will.
In summary, I guess I don’t know. But there must be a reason you ask, so now I’m curious to hear your take on the matter!
There is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will? Really? Then how can Christians still sin? It might not be God’s will for me to sell my house and spend the money on rubbish…. but i am free to do that. God’s will is that none will perish…. God’s will is that ALL will be saved. Does God always get what God wants?? Obviously not.
Does that not then limit the power of God? If God cannot get what He wants, then He is not omnipotent. Granted, you said “does get” not “can get”. But, if God can get it, and does want it, does it not happen? Or is He waiting for us to implore Him before He acts on behalf of His own divine will?
Obviously there are more questions than answers. As regards your comment above, it has set me further thinking. A reply to come perhaps!
lol… thinking is what it’s all about! Just because God does not get what he wants, in no way limits his omnipotence. Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you WILL. It doesn’t change the fact that it is within your power to do so, but you choose not to. If God willed ( and scripture says so) that none should perish, but we understand they do if they reject Him, then we have a conundrum. Either God is not able, or we have somehow understood scripture incorrectly. I would go with the latter. 🙂
If we completely understood Scripture correctly 100% of the time, a lot of theologians would be out of a job!
The problem we face, as I see it, is as follows:
1) Either God has chosen who to call (and, by process of elimination, who to not call), meaning through God’s will some are destined to damnation, or
2) God leaves it up to us, but already knows who will choose Him and who will not; now we are left with the equally unsettling notion that God created some of us already knowing we would not choose Him.
Of course we’re never going to answer this (especially not in the comment thread of a blog), but the more we look into how God has revealed Himself in the Scripture and in our daily lives, the more we can learn about Him. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting to know Him more and more each day.
Tracy, thank you so much for your gracious challenges to my posts! This shows that some of the more dividing points of the Church needn’t be so divisive!
Sean, thank you for the two points above. These describe my understanding very well. Calvanism – based on our human understanding – makes some people gag because they try to put God in their little, limited box to protect God’s reputation. God can do what he pleases. And he is always good and right. John 6:44 says that no one comes to Jesus apart from God’s drawing them. Period. And if Calvanism is correct – why pray? Because prayer changes US.
Molly – when you look at people praying in scripture, especially the OT, it is not to change THEM so much as it is to change circumstances. True, prayer does change us, but its the Holy Spirit in us that is supposed to do the changing for and to us. Prayer is communciation between us and God, and we pray to CHANGE things. So I don’t that that is a solid basis for prayer from what you have said. Just MHO 🙂
This piece from a commentary sums up my beliefs on prayer:
The Scriptures that are interpreted as God seeming to change His mind are human attempts to explain the actions of God. God was going to do something, but instead did something else. To us, that sounds like a change. But to God, who is omniscient and sovereign, it is not a change. God always knew what He was going to do. God does what He needs to do to cause humanity to fulfill His perfect plan. “…declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure … What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10-11). God threatened Nineveh with destruction, knowing that it would cause Nineveh to repent. God threatened Israel with destruction, knowing that Moses would intercede. God does not regret His decisions, but He is saddened by some of what man sometimes does in response to His decisions. God does not change His mind but rather acts consistently with His Word in response to our actions
Hmm. Either way we look at it, i guess we are interpreting it thru human eyes. I guess its one of those things we hold lightly. I do believe tho, that to have free will, we must be able to make a free choice. And prayer is part of that. If I believed that everything was going to happen a certain way, then why would I pray? What difference would it make. But I pray believing it can change things, within the mix of all that God is doing. Which is sometimes why it get answered a certain way, and other times it doesn’t. Its like… if you and me both prayed for a fine day on Sat, but someone else was praying for rain. Who wins? Who is God going to answer. I believe he answers all of us, but within what happens is his over all plan and purpose. Its not that my prayer didn’t count, but I trust that in the bigger plan, someone else s prayer for rain was part of a different plan that over-road my own in importance. I can cope with that. And when I am praying for someone with cancer say – and they don’t get healed, I have to go down the same path. God heard me, but for some reason something else too importance over my prayers for that person’s life. Make sense? But God always hears our prayers and responds. Just not in the way we want sometimes.
Tracy, your question: “If I believed that everything was going to happen a certain way, then why would I pray? What difference would it make.”
Thing is, you DON’T know how it would happen. Only God knows. That’s precisely why we pray. As we pray, the Holy Spirit brings our desires in line with God’s desires.
Esther 4:14 – “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
The big question from this passage is WHO KNOWS? God knows! So, we pray and trust Him for the best outcome!
ok so if we think about that…. that we don’t know the outcome but God does. How is that different from what I am saying? I am saying the same thing, with the added thought that there may be many outcomes, but through my free will and actions and prayer, I am bringing into line one of those outcomes. And God knows them all.
I would say that God is infinite potentiality. This is why free will is free will.
Where do people get this idea that God knows the future?
Future is in the realm of time. That is Man’s domain and God must experience time through us.
Since we don’t know, it remains infinitely malleable and mysterious.
What matters to me is that my will be guided by the Truth; My self is not separate from God.
Recognizing the nature of ego and taking steps to unravel it’s maze.
I guess people have always accepted from that scripture that ‘God knows all things, and that he knows the beginning from the end” to mean that he knows all things, from beginning to end 🙂 I don’t think it means what we have thought it meant.
Scripture serves it’s purpose only up to a point.
The rest of the journey is a surrender to Grace.
It doesn’t happen if we have to check the rule book first.
So . . . what does omniscient mean? 🙂 And what does the Bible mean when it says “God knows all things”? And what does God mean when he says he knows the beginning from the end? And what about the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies? 🙂
God knows the future. It’s called prophecy in the Bible.
Question: “Does God know the future?”
Answer: The Bible is always 100 percent accurate, including its prophetic content. Take, for instance, the prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, as foretold in Micah 5:2. Micah gave his prophecy around 700 B.C. Where was Christ born seven centuries later? In Bethlehem of Judea (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12).
Peter Stoner, in Science Speaks, has shown that coincidence in prophetic Scripture is ruled out by the science of probability. Taking just eight prophecies concerning Christ, Stoner found that the chance that any one man might have fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Of course, Jesus fulfilled many more than eight prophecies! There is no doubt that Bible is totally accurate in foretelling the future.
Since God can foretell the future, He certainly knows the future. Isaiah recorded these words about God: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God is the only One who can stand at the beginning and accurately declare the end.
God is omniscient; He knows everything actual and possible. God is also eternal (Psalm 90:2). As the eternal, omniscient God, He has lived our yesterdays, our todays, and our tomorrows, the past, present, and future. As the popular song says, “To You my future is a memory / ‘Cause You’re already there” (John Mark Hall and Bernie Herms, “Already There”). God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 21:6).
There are still prophecies in the Bible that await fulfillment. Because God knows the future, we can count on all the prophecies to eventually be fulfilled. Events are taking place in God’s calendar according to His plan. We know who holds the future—the one true, personal, eternal, and all-knowing God of the Bible.
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Molly, I challenge you to read those stories and come up with an explanation as to why they would be written that way except for the fact that God did indeed change his mind. You say a word such as “regret” is a human attempt to explain how God feels about a situation, but doesn’t really mean what we think it means. If that’s the case, then what else could it be? You can’t “regret” something that you’ve ordained from the beginning of time. The concept makes no sense, but God regrets all sorts of things in the Bible. It’s odd that determinists say other folks import philosophy into the Bible when they are clearly the worst offenders.
Our prayers change us, not God. To say that God changed his mind or regretted a decision is to limit his omniscience, don’t you think? Many times, the Bible talks in human terms about God’s eyes, arms, etc., and yet we know that God is a spirit. Numbers 23:19 – God is not man, one given to lies, and not a son of man changing his mind. Does he speak and not do what he says? Does he promise and not come through?
So what does the Bible mean when it says God “regrets” something? What concept is that meant to convey to us? Let me ask you again, can you regret something that you knew was going to happen (or from God’s perspective, has already happened and has always happened), and for the Calvinist, that you in fact decreed to happen? How does that even make any sense?
I don’t know . . . I think the Bible writes like a human narrative – showing that God has strong feelings about his creation. What do you think the Bible means when it says God does not change his mind? Do you believe God was surprised that man turned evil?
Well here’s the thing, I think Open Theism is the best explanation as to why there is something and not nothing. If we as Christians believe that God has always existed but that Creation has a beginning, well then it seems to me that God one day decided to create things because he wanted to. I’m not sure how you get around that. The act of creation requires change, a change in God’s emotional and mental state. The plantonic God that Evangelicals worship is not a person, he’s a concept. The God of the Bible changes his mind all the time in response human actions. I guess I’m just not sure why this is so controversial for people to consider, it’s a perfectly straightforward way to read the Bible.
Regarding your question as to whether God was surprised that man turned evil, first of all, I don’t think man turned evil, I think man sinned. But I’ll respond this way insofar as Calvinism is concerned, the most obvious reason for me that Calvinism can’t possibly be true is the existence of the infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism debate. If there is anything in the history of religion more ridiculous than that discussion I can’t think of it, it reveals how silly the entire Calvinist theological system is.
I’m sorry . . . I’m not sure I understand. By “plantonic” to you mean “platonic” as in relation to Plato? Also, I don’t know what infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism are. I’m just a simple person who loves discussing and learning. I read “God of the Possible” by Greg Boyd and still can’t quite espouse his Open Theistic beliefs. Maybe some day . . .
what seems perfectly logical to you does not seem logical to me. That’s the beauty of being individuals under a Creator who cannot be defined.
In my humble opinion, Open Theism is mans way of re-making a God we can be more comfortable with.
Sometimes I think theology is a total waste of time, so I definitely sympathize with you. I thought God of the Possible was an amazing book, growing up as an evangelical, it provided a lot of answers to questions that have always nagged me about what we are typically told the God of the Bible is really like. I understand it can make people uncomfortable, but as someone who has never been satisfied with pat answers about tough theological questions, I appreciate folks who are willing to challenge “orthodoxy” for the sake of making better sense of the Bible and bringing greater light to our relationship with God and how we go about ollowing Jesus. So yeah, I take traditional notions of soteriology, eschatology, atonement, Biblical “inerrancy”, heaven/hell, etc., with a grain of salt. If you read just a little bit of the history of Christianity, it will surprise you how long the Church can get certain doctrines completely wrong. I think all Christians have a responsibility to question what they’re being taught by their religious leaders, religion is apparently the only segment of our society where we are told to shut off our brains and let those in authority tell us what to think, where questions and reason are mocked, where scientific knowledge and free thinking are discouraged. That’s the biggest travesty with Evangelical Christians today in my opinion. Here’s the thing, teach people everything, if what you’re teaching is false, it’s not going to last. If Christians believe the Holy Spirit is real, false teachings will always get corrected over time. The heresy hunting of fundamentalists only reveal the latent insecurity of their own theological beliefs. Sorry for the rant!
I understand. I’ve always been a rebel when it comes to theology. Love the fact that God is not threatened by my questions! I’m going to keep an open mind . . .
Love the rant! I own Greg’s book God of the possible. Molly and I went thru it together and we are quite different in some areas of our beliefs, but we both LOVE discussing theology and getting some light shed on those hard questions and elusive answers to them 🙂
What you say is interesting and not something I was familiar with even having been considered as much as you say outside of my own faith, Mormonism. I’d ask questions but it would be completely tangential to the discussion of Calvinism.
I’d be happy to discuss these things with you. Check out God of the Possible by Gregory Boyd, the book that Molly referenced. It completely changed how I think about God and our place in the universe. I’ve been looking for a robust challenge to Open Theism, but I have yet to read anything that is convincing. The only qualm I might have about it is whether or not the early church thought of God’s relationship with creation in this way. I’m not really convinced that they did. But then again, they didn’t know anything about heliocentrism, quantum mechanics or evolution either. So if our knowledge of the universe can grow over time, I’m not sure why our knowledge about God should be fixed in the first century. The new testament obviously suggests that our understanding of what God is like can be progressive.
I have no idea how or if you are familiar with the Mormon position. It is very unique, and depends on additional and continuing revelation from God so while I can argue for it via the Bible, by for instance suggesting that one not read the Trinity (being an attempt to fit Christianity into Platonic thought) into the Bible but instead see what happens when one takes all the verses about God having a body, as well as other properties, quite literally; our partial co-eternal nature as sons of God (D&C 93:29) and the exact nature of the Godhead is only sparsely arguable and so depends much more on what God has revealed more recently; which is obviously quite the claim.
I do wonder why in the book he didn’t use Romans 8:28 to show that God is able to use everything that happens to work together for good.
A few more points of difference, Everything is independent to act for itself, not just people (D&C 93:30). There is no end to God’s creations, nor beginning, as the course of God is one eternal round, so there are worlds without end whose inhabits are also children of God.
I am not quite sure how one rejects Plato/Aristotle and still manages to hold to the creeds, seems like one would either have to only partially reject Plato or ignore the context and meaning of the creeds twisting them to be other than what was originally intended. Not that I have a problem with rejecting the creeds (JS-H 1:19), but it is just odd.
It was an interesting book, thanks for it, I am glad to see that the restoration and pruning continues.
That is the one of many major problems with Calvinism, it is an vain effort to understand the mysteries of God with the human mind. The human mind is too limited to understand the mysteries of the infinite God.
I also have another theory about Calvinism. Calvin suffered from chronic kidney stones. As one who is suffering from a kidney stone, I can understand why one would have a pessimistic view of God and everything else.
Sean. There is another option. I am a big fan of Greg Boyd and his theory on open Theism. If he is correct, then God is even bigger than we thought 🙂
“now we are left with the equally unsettling notion that God created some of us already knowing we would not choose Him.” That’s not as equally unsettling as the notion that God chose someone for eternal suffering but you are assuming that conscious eternal suffering is the result of those who reject God. God is not a monster and does not do this. You need to re-examine your underlying presuppositions about what happens to the unsaved. The bible says the wages of sin is death. Not eternal conscious torment. Think about it.
I was asking because I did not want to make assumptions about how you have worked out what I would agree is the ‘problem’ of limited atonement. I am uncomfortable with the notion that G*d does not desire that everyone be saved, but there seems to be an equal problem with stating that G*d does not get what G*d desires, that somehow human agency is allowed to thwart the desire of G*d, especially when human agency is so obviously broken in itself. The only path this has left open to me is universal reconciliation. For other’s this is neither palatable nor evident and I was interested from your comments what path you have taken. ‘I don’t know’ is a completely acceptable response, one I deeply respect. In the end none of us ‘know’ and the pursuit of ‘knowing’ often makes us very uncharitable toward each other. I personally find quite a bit objectionable about what I know of the Calvinist doctrine, but I have to stop short of demonizing someone else’s belief structure simply because it does not fit my worldview. I am much more into orthopraxy than doxy anyway. (How’s the fruit?) Frankly, I was raised in a strict Arminian tradition that didn’t provide much better of an example of Christ. I think Jesus might have said something about this with regard to planks and splinters…
You should be uncomfortable that God does not desire that all be saved, because it directly contradicts the New Testament.
I Timothy 2:4 clearly states that God ” desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
I have really enjoyed this discussion as it covers a lot of points I have been wrestling with since I came to Christ !7 years ago. From a human standpoint Calvinism seems very unfair to those who are not called. My response would be two fold. First, the fact is we are all worthy of condemnation. The fact that God saves some is an act of undeserved mercy, Second, regardless of our opinion about it, Scripture seems very clear that our faith is as Ephesions 2:8-9 teaches, a gift from God.
I have been studying the upper room teachings of Jesus and again and again he repeats that he chose us vs we chose him. (John 15:16, 15:19,17:2,17:6)
Paul discusses election in several passages notably in Ephesians 1:3-10. Still, I think the defining passage, which seems irrefutable to me, is Romans 9:14-24. How can anyone read this and argue both that the Bible is God’s truth and that this passage does not indicate that a person’s salvation is totally up to God, not the individual?
One thing I find fascinating about the age old debate is that even the most die hard Arminian will admit he was dragged into the Kingdom despite himself. I was a poster child for the scoffer who thought the message of the Cross was foolishness. Then things started happening in my life to lead me to truth that once seemed preposterous, but now seemed like wisdom. I was totally incapable of discerning this wisdom until God chose to reveal it to me. It seems clear to me that we are all just as lost as I was until we are shown the light, we don’t find it ourselves, we are shown it. Unfortunately, the reverse must also be true, if a person is not shown the light, he will never find it.
You’re forgetting his “secret” will. 🙂
I am afraid that being a sinful and finite human, I cannot understand the mysteries of the perfect and infinite God much less His secret will. I only what God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ, as preserved by the other manifestations of the Holy Tradition of the Church.
Fr. John W. Morris
“Of course, the concept of predestination is not to separate the sheep from the goats, as it were, but to understand that there is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will.” – Nothing could be further from the truth. Predestination is God deciding what our destiny is once we have decided who is going to be our Lord. God has chosen our destiny to be Christlikeness. Those whom he he foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. Isn’t that what the bible says?
Well, Calvin God must’ve thought my flaws were just too much for his delicate sensibilities. I guess I’ll just enjoy what time I have until I’m slow roasted over an open pit of torment.
The beloved King David was a womanizing murderer. There are no flaws too great.
He is not apologizing, just highlighting the strident absurdity of much that is being said.
There’s too much certainty in flatland, about what the shadows mean.
Sean – scripture says that God has given a measure of faith to all men. So, when the Holy Spirit calls us ( or woos us if you like) we have that faith inside of us that responds. It can either respond in a negative way or a positive way. You only have to watch people in a crisis to see that is true. People start to pray and call out to God instinctively. God has chosen ALL men to be reconciled to Himself, not just some. But free will, and yes we do have it, gives us the ability to shut down that response of faith to God. Once ‘born again’ we are automatically predestined to be with Him. You cannot be unborn. But all thru scripture we see… Choose this day whom you will serve. There is a choice for us to make. Love would not be love without it.
These are definitely wonderful considerations to think about, Tracy. I wonder, what verse(s) are you referring to about “a measure of faith”? In Romans 12:3 Paul writes “For by the grace given me
I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than
you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in
accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Here there is no indication that faith is given to all people, but to each of one of them to whom Paul is writing.
You are very right to say we are endowed with some kind of longing for God, which, as you say, people in crisis show very often. But why, then, those in crisis who cry out to false gods? What of those who were never given the chance to choose YHWH?
I know Calvinism in the strictest sense would say these people are predestined to destruction, which I grant you does not settle well with me. On the other hand, if it is the desire of God that all people be given the choice, why has He made it historically impossible for peoples too far away to come to Him? Say, for example, Australian aboriginals around the year 200 AD. There is no way anyone there could have come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour.
Again, like I said below, there are more questions than answers. To me, what is important (and which you also indicate), is that it’s God first, us second. My greatest issue with Arminianism is that it all too often takes the opposite approach.
It’s not easy trying to sort thru all the issues, granted. The more I dig deeper tho, the more I feel that God approaches people in different ways. I believe the Aboriginal people had the same chance as anyone else. There view of who God was would have been different, but how they responded to Him is what counts, same as us. You see, I became a Christian not thru other people but by God directly. At the time, I just knew him as God, but I have come to see recently it was probably Jesus all along. Would God reject me on the basis that I didn’t understand at the time? obviously not as He didnt. But my response to his calling me and revealing Himself to me was what counted. i really think we have it wrong in our limited thinking.
Agreed! We are very limited in thought and action. To me, this sits at the core of Calvinism and the concept of election: we, as human beings, through sin, are pre-disposed to all kinds of evil. As limited humans, we can never work our way to “heaven” (which, though is a completely different topic, should not be the goal of the Christian walk). I know at some of the finer points we disagree, but I appreciate how much common ground you and I have here, Tracy. Again, it’s God’s calling, not ours, that leads us to Him.
The doctrine of ‘Baptism for the Dead’ is the Mormon answer to the question of “what about those who never heard of Christ”. Our doctrine is that everyone who ever has lived will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel in its completeness and accept Christ and get to “heaven” if that’s what they want. God’s desire is that everyone of his children returns to him, but he won’t force us to do so I f we don’t want too.
Regarding our relation to Calvinist doctrine we are about as theologically opposed to it as I think you can get. The whole purpose of Christ’s atonement is to not just to save us from our sins but to make possible real moral choices. by our doctrine Lucifer’s great rebellion was an attempt to destroy that moral agency.
I think one of the best elaboration of the opposition between the two doctrines is from Stephen Webb’s (evangelical turned catholic =D) ‘Mormon Christianity’ (http://books.google.com/books?id=oYJuAAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA180&ots=11SbuyqFko&dq=calvinism%20mormon%20dog%20bite&pg=PA174#v=onepage&q=calvinism%20mormon%20dog%20bite&f=false)
I must admit I do not know much about the Mormon church and am very unqualified to respond here.
Regarding what you say about the possibility of making moral choices, that does, to me, seem to jive with Calvinism. Calvin stressed the complete and total depravity of humans (because of sin), meaning when faced with a choice, we will choose evil. Only through God can we choose godliness.
“When faced with a choice, we will choose evil” – Nonsense. The bible teaches no such thing.
I would say Romans 3 sums it up fairly well
Sean Rom. 3 does not teach “total depravity,” which says men are incapable of making a decision for God unless God gives them that ability and was chosen by God for that. You should reject any interpretation of Rom. 3 that makes God out to be a sadistic monster and rather seek to find another interpretation. What you are seeing in Rom. 3 is what’s called “hyperbole”, which is defined as “exaggeration for effect.” It is no more literal than “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood to have life in you.”
There seems to be a constant focus on the “sadistic” view of God according to people’s supposed perceptions of Calvinism, yet this goes against exactly what I said in my very first comment: Calvinism is not about God’s sadism, it’s about God’s faithfulness. It is not about “being cut from the team,” it’s about being called to a team which we in no way could deserve nor could ever attain on our own.
By humankind’s first sin humankind was cursed to sin. If you look at the Hebrew text in Proverbs 10:16, for example, you read “The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.” The last word (which translates to “sin and death” in this English translation) is chatta’ath, which means both “sin” and “punishment for sin.” What is the curse of sin? More sin. And death. And separation from God.
And yet we have a God who has called us out the fire, pulled us out of the pit, and has adopted us to be His children. Notice how often the Scripture uses the analogy of adoption (Paul especially uses it). Does an adopted child have a choice? Not really. Are adoptive parents sadists for choosing Jane and not Jess? Not at all.
Sean you don’t want to deal with what Calvinism really is and choose to turn a blind eye to it preferring instead to only discuss how it relates to you as one who believes you are of the elect. If you have any integrity and love for the truth you will look at this issue square on and admit that in your theology God chose who would be saved and who wouldn’t and those whom he has not chosen are chosen for eternal conscious torment. This is what you and other Calvinists believe. Your theology makes God out to be a sadistic monster. You need to reject Calvinism based on that, if for no other reason.
You choose to ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room. Calvinism IS about God choosing people to suffer for eternity. That’s the Calvinistic view of predestination. Most Calvinists will not deny this. Why do you?
“why has He made it historically impossible for peoples too far away to come to Him? Say, for example, Australian aboriginals around the year 200 AD. There is no way anyone there could have come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour.” – This isn’t nearly quite the issue when you realize God hasn’t damned anyone to suffer for eternity. The wages of sin is death, not eternal suffering.
I think the problem is this; you may find comfort in knowing God chose you, but do you find comfort in the fact that God damns the majority of humanity to hell for all of eternity, on a completely arbitrary basis?
I grew up in a church that was basically Arminian, and hung out with many Arminians. I’ve actually found the exact opposite of what you say you’ve found. There was actually a lax in “do this don’t do that” sort of attitudes, if anything, they were too lenient and sometimes justified their sins. The Calvinists I’ve known have always been quite strict, to the point of legalism.
I’ve never heard anyone actually use the “how do you know you’re picked?” argument, but obviously that doesn’t do anything. The argument I hear more often, and consider a good argument myself, is this: If election is unconditional, and if the person has no ability to choose God, and if the person has no ability to reject God if chosen, then the choice is not only up to God alone, but it is also arbitrary. This means that the eternal destiny of each person is decided only by what looks like either random chance, or the fancy of God. This doesn’t bode well for God’s character, as this author has pointed out.
But what if God is infinitely wise? This author states that they could not worship God if their daughter were tormented in Hell by God’s authority, but what if in that moment they realized that God had a perfect plan and there was no other way for this to all take place?
If you look at any one characteristic of who God is completely separate from all the others He will always look distorted and gross, but when you consider all of them working together you realize that God isn’t an idea that we can finagle with until it is swallowable, God is a person with a character that is perfect and flawless. A person whom we can approach but never understand, whom we can love only because He has first loved us, a person we can know and be known by on a very intimate level, but never a person that we can change.
At least that’s how I’ve come to know God through Scripture and His Spirit.
Oh my goodness do you have children to say that? Are you happy to have your daughter tormented in hell just to fit in with God’s plans? That is horrendous thinking! I am sorry if that is harsh, but that seems to be what you are saying. The only reason i could perhaps live with my children not being with me in the next life, is if they had chosen of their own volition not to be there! I would struggle to worship a god who sent my children to Hell. Why did he create them in the first place? When I look at Jesus i see God coming to our abode to rescue all of us. That is what scripture says. God, by dying has forgiven ALL men. It was something that he did, weather we all wanted it or not. We now have that choice to accept that forgiveness, or reject it. No one goes to hell anymore for sin, it is for rejecting the way that God made possible for us to be saved. Christ.
Consistent Calvinists shouldn’t have children at all. The stakes are simply too high, there is a high probability that at least some of your progeny will be reprobate.
I wish I could help people think more in terms like:
“God is the Entirety”
“God is Existence”
“God is Self”
“God is Infinitude”
“God is All”
So many squabbles are then resolved.
Nothing is not God. Jesus as Christ knew this. We are suppose to as well.
It is not redemption to be addicted to a soap opera version of Salvation; With winners and losers.
If you cling to your separateness then you cling to the original sin; The ignorance of our seamless non-separateness.
Jesus demonstrated that this does not have to be so.
It is not us who God loves. God is us.
God is Change – Infinitely, and therefore utterly Still. The eternal present moment.
Leave the scriptures behind then.
Grace is sufficient.
Yes and any doctrine that makes God out to be a monster (as Calvinism does) should be rejected on that basis because we know from our experience of God and from the revelation of God in the scriptures that he is not a monster but a God of love and justice.
As I have already pointed out above, you neglect to mention the verse just before Romans 8:30. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..” Romans 8:29 God knows how we will use our free will and has predestined those He knows will correctly use their free will to salvation. Calvinists are very good at taking verses out of context to proof text their beliefs. However, when one looks at the entire New Testament, Calvinism falls apart if for no other reason than it contradicts the primary teaching of the New Testament that “God is love.” I John 4:8. The God of Calvinism is not a God of love but is mean and vengeful.
Yes but let’s be more accurate: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” does not equal ” they are predestined to salvation. This verse teaches that those whom he foreknew to be saved he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is what it says, no? Being conformed to the image of Christ is a life-long process and salvation is only the first step.
There was no purposeful “neglect” of the preceding verse, nor was I attempting to take it out of context. In fact, I would argue that verse 29 only strengthens the argument. I understand your point on “foreknew” being, essentially, “those whom He knew would choose Him”, and find it quite well argued.
Of course, the love of God is expressed beautifully in Galatians 3: “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has also made you an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?” (7-9a)
I was a Calvinist for a long time. It sort of fit in with the image of God I had formed as a fundamentalist and the arguemtns and things for it fed right into my over-developed since of pride (intellectual and otherwise). I’m not saying all Calvinists are that way, but for those of us who like to be able to win arguments and adhere to rigid views of the world, it can be very attractive and encouraging because it makes you feel like you must be elect (and that being right and having the moral high ground somehow flows from that).
What made my Calvinism, and my whole view of God, man, and the church, fall apart was being questioned on what happened to people like the Jews in the Holocaust who loved God and worshiped him as they thought was proper, and then another discussion at the same time on what happened to infants. I read different answers to those from different Calvinists, but I started questioning the whole doctrine and what it said about how those who came up with it viewed God and viewed man, that we wanted God to act in that way.
I am curious as to how the answer to those questions about what happens to Jews in the holocaust and infants would make you change your mind on Calvinism. Calvinism seems to me to be the only hope for infants as they must be saved apart from their own “free will” decisions. In other words, in order for infants to be saved they must be elect. As for Jews in the holocaust, how is the answer different outside of Calvinism?
Because Calvinists would say that the vast majority of Jewish men, women and children in the Holocaust were imprisoned, tortured and then murdered en mass, only to wake up the next day in an even worse place, where they’re going to be for eternity, to be constantly burned alive by Yaweh. So in fact, even Hitler was a little more merciful in that respect. I’m not sure how any human being can stomach a belief in reality that looks like that.
I don’t know any particular Calvinists who would say that. I would say that each person killed in the Holocaust will get just judgment for their lives. A judgment that will be different for each and according to their works and the light that they have. That is what all Christians would say. In addition, all Calvinists and Christians would say that Hitler broke God’s law by killing. He also will receive just judgment for what he did.
I am not sure how any human can stomach a reality where people do not receive justice.
Really? How is it a different or unique judgement or according to their works if the result is Hell except for when the random number generator says Heaven? Oh, that is right, we all apparently merit Hell regardless of what light or works we do (or because of it?).
Hitler could be one of the elect and destined to heaven, God’s irresistible grace could have mind raped him at the last second contrary to all choices and merit his, and perhaps Hana Brady or Saint Edith Stein as well as many millions more killed by Hitler were reprobate and will get the apparent “justice” of God of moving from one furnace that destroyed their body for their race or belief to another infinitely worse where they burn unceasingly (because they weren’t perfect and God didn’t choose them for mind rape). As clearly, “the elect” (say Hitler) don’t get what they deserve, they don’t get justice, and their actions (and will, or desire) play no part in their being saved, and “the reprobate” (being everyone else) get God’s (arbitrary) justice, which is anything but unique as it is eternal damnation for all regardless of anything they did or tried to do in their lives.
Hell [or the place of God’s judgment] can be different for each person according to their works. I don’t see a problem there.
What is this business about a “random number generator”? God is not random. He has reasons for doing everything he does.
We all merit judgment for what we do; yes.
Yes, Hitler could have been elect. Paul was murdering Christians yet God sovereignly chose him. But Paul demonstrated fruits that made his election sure. Hitler was still in the throws of his murderous rampage when he died. I doubt with everything in me that he could possibly be elect. But God can save anybody. I have no idea of the eternal fate of Hana Brady, Saint Edith Stein, or any of the millions more killed by Hitler except that they either received justice for what they did during their lives or grace.
You have many misconceptions. First, how could God mind rape anybody? Nobody would have a mind except that God gives them one freely. He gives them their mind with all of its attributes. To some he gives a mind capable of understanding his Gospel and running to it. Others he does not. But it is not as if you have a mind… that is all yours… independent of God… and then God comes and takes it over. Your mind is from God altogether. God cannot rape your mind. He can make it better so that you come to understand his glorious grace. Second, your will and desire play a very important role in being saved. When God gives you a mind that wants him and loves him then you will yourself to follow him and begin to desire the things of God. This is why we can surely doubt Hitler’s salvation. When did he ever show fruit that he loved God, desired him, or willed himself to follow God’s commands? Paul did… but Hitler did not. That gives us pretty good evidence that Hitler was not elect. Third, God’s judgment is not arbitrary. He has reasons for his judgment of everything. His creatures that he does not save will meet their just and natural end. God will take into account what they did in their lives. Judgment is based on their works. Finally, you have clearly bought into some wooden literal interpretation of divine judgment and see it as nothing other than Dante’s Inferno. But using that with me will not be effective. God will be just with each person and if your conception of what judgment will be like is anything other than total and complete justice then I will summarily dismiss it as irrelevant. It is just a false characterization pulled from pop culture.
– John Calvin
That is all.
Is there a point in using that quote? It sounds like good theology. What a terrible thing to have the grace of God removed from you and to have no hope. At that time, I am sure all who experience it will realize how they have taken the grace of God for granted in this life.
You just contradicted yourself; if we have taken the grace of God for granted then we have the ability to not take it for granted and therefore our salvation depends on our choices; the grace is not irresistible and election is not unconditional and by being able to choose good and live we are not totally depraved.
Furthermore, by accepting the quote you demonstrate that my view of your Hell is similar to yours and comes from your founder, not pop culture. Given this, your entire comment above is misdirectional fluff attempting to excuse the sadistic barbarism of a Demiurge.
If you are currently taking the grace of God for granted then you are currently UNABLE to appreciate the grace of God. You are only able to do whatever it is you are currently doing. I hope that God gives you the ability to appreciate his grace.
Our choices do matter. I have been very clear about that. But they do not matter more than God’s choice. They are dependent upon God’s choice.
Our views of Hell are not similar. In that very section [Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 25, Section 12], Calvin is saying that the imagery of judgment used in the Bible is metaphorical. Yes, God’s judgment is terrible. The imagery used in the Bible does evoke dread and terror because God’s judgment is a dreadful and terrible thing. But your view of Hell fails to look at the imagery for what it is and instead you are left to quote mine John Calvin quotes. Your method is both misleading and uncharitable.
John Calvin is not “my founder”. He is a theologian I respect and who has written great things about scripture and God’s sovereignty. Christ is the only founder of our faith. I identify as a Calvinist because it is the term people typically use describe reformed theology. But my theology is basically Biblical.
” You are only able to do whatever it is you are currently doing.”
Is completely contradictory to “Our choices do matter”; we don’t actually have choice, we can only do what God has designed us to do according to His will, and so God is author of all Sin, and caused the Devil to fall from heaven having created him in just that way.
I am not sure whether I should introduce you more to some forms of Gnosticism which claim that the Devil is the actual hero of the story as he is the protestor in the street against the evil Tyrant vainly shouting for true justice and freedom, as being damned for the way we are created through no choice of our own is anything but justice. Or to the Cathars who used essentially the Calvinist position to do a proof by absurdity that there are Two Principles rather than one, I guess The Two Principles might be better.
I am not the one “misleading” by claiming that Hell is a pleasant place full of sunshine and flowers, nor am I “misleading” by claiming that children guilty of only the supposed “original sin” are judged justly for any value of justice. Or that am misleading by twisting what “all” means to be exactly contrary to what “all” actually means.
Those two concepts are not contradictory. Our choices demonstrate the type of being we are [e.g. good or bad] and thus dictate our destiny. At the same time, we are only able to do what we want to do. If we are a “bad creature” we want to do bad things. If we are a “good creature” then we want to do good things. In both cases our choices definitely matter.
God is the “author of reality”. Yes, he created the Devil. Yes, he created the Devil to do what he does. But ultimately even the Devil serves God. God will bring about a good END to his creation even through the actions of the Devil and evil men. I think the God as “author” is an apt analogy. An author can create a story which contains evil but which ultimately resolves in good. The evil in the story highlights the good when that evil is overcome. Evil plays its role as the foil of the good. Yes, Satan is the foil of God and his Christ. As God is working ALL THINGS together for good that will include God’s overcoming of evil. The evil is real; but it will go to make the GOOD END that God has established from eternity. This is God’s story. He can write it how he wants. He has written it how he wants.
I am more than familiar with Gnostics but if you want to discuss them then be my guest. If you want to argue that the Devil is the hero then go ahead. It will not be persuasive to me who understands the ontology involved. The Devil is merely the champion of Chaos. Arguments that he is truly for justice are absurd. Truth comes only from God as he is “being itself”. Those who oppose God oppose being, order, and truth. It makes complete sense that the Devil would want people to believe that he is in fact fighting for them against God… when in reality he will lead them to nothing but “nothingness” and insignificance.
You are misleading. I have not stated that Hell is “pleasant” or full of “sunshine and flowers”. I have said very little of children except that they, like every other created thing, will be judged justly and that they too survive by the grace of God. All things survive moment to moment by the sheer grace of God who sustains them. I don’t know what you mean by “twisting what all means”.
You really, really, should read The Book of the Two Principles.
I have scanned halfway through book at http://gnosis.org/library/cathar-two-principles.htm. It actually has some good thinking in it to a point. However, it goes wrong about 1/3 of the way down when it begins to argue that God did not “create” in the proper sense all things but only remade from pre-existing things.
I can only assume that this is then this is used to argue for the “other Principal” that pre-existed with God. I have some sympathy for the argument but find it unnecessary. Nothing is added to knowledge that cannot already be found in the traditional and orthodox arguments for God where God is conceived of as “pure being”. It is not as if there are “two Principles”. There is only “being” and “nonbeing”. As a creature is found in God [i.e. being] then he has godliness, goodness, existence, significance, meaning, and is sustained. As a creature is further and further removed from God then he is ungodly, evil, nothing, of no repute, and is removed. And so if God, by his grace, draws us closer then we increase in all that is good, significant, and we BECOME more. As God withdraws his grace then we BECOME less. If God moves away… man falls by his own weight… and comes to the nothing contemplated by Hell where there is a total lack of God’s grace. The more a creature is given of God’s grace the larger the fall. Hence why Satan’s fall is so great. He is a great being and was endowed by God with great power and authority by his grace… and to have lost it and become nothing is a terrible thing.
So, I find that that The Book of the Two Principles, while in places cogent and well argued, adds little to the orthodox understanding of God. But if there is a specific argument contained within it that you would like me to read then I will check it out.
But God created Satan in just that way, and placed Him in just that position, causing God to be the cause and author of Satan’s fall, that is the point, that is the absurdity that the Two Principles is getting after. There is no Darkness in God yet somehow God, who is perfectly Good is supposedly also the author of Evil and Sin and caused and created the Prince of Darkness as Darkness. Not only could Hitler be one of the elect, but God created and ordained and placed Hitler to do exactly what Hitler did do, making God solely responsible for Hitler and all that Hitler did.
Yes, God did create Satan in just that way and placed him in just that position. Yes, God is the author of that reality. God had good reasons for creating Satan that way. God is using Satan to bring about God’s good end.
God is not the author of sin and evil because God does not intend sin or evil to prevail. Sin is overcome and evil is defeated. If God were to allow the work of Satan to prevail and continue then we could accuse God of sin and evil. But God will set everything Satan and evil men do to right. He will overcome evil ultimately. In that way, God is the author of Satan in the same way that JRR Tolkien is the author of Orcs. They are in his stories for a purpose… purpose which is that they are ultimately overcome.
God is ultimately “responsible for Hitler”. God takes his responsibility very seriously. That is exactly why God will work all things… even the Holocaust… together for good. Nothing Hitler did that was evil will last. It will all come to naught. Ultimately, this universe turns out good. Ultimately, this universe has a good end. Ultimately, good wins and vanquishes evil. Accordingly, God is the author of a good reality. To accuse him of authoring sin is to look from too short of a perspective and to miss the whole. It is to have a fundamentally human perspective which only sees the past and the present but neglects to trust God for the future. God will bring good out of all things just as be promises through Paul in Romans 8. Satan, though evil in his actions and his intentions, will be used by God to bring about good in the same way that Joseph’s brothers, in throwing Joseph into the pit, were ultimately used to bring good by getting Joseph to Egypt where he could save many.
There is no darkness in God. God uses the darkness to show that the light can overcome it.
For God to use darkness there must be darkness, and if there is no darkness in God, no evil in God, no sin in God, then whence those things to be overcome? If God is not the author of sin then either there can be no sin, or there must be at least one other author.
If Satan is doing justly that which God has ordained him to do, then Satan is good and God responsible for all that Satan does so God is responsible for evil, however transitory it may be both of which are absurd.
Darkness, evil, and sin are merely the absence of God. That is why we call them “ungodliness”. God does not need to contain ungodliness to be able to overcome ungodliness and thereby show his power over it. As I mentioned before, God is pure being, truth, and light. All things that do not abide in God are nonbeing, lies, and darkness. God’s power is shown in this universe as he creates [i.e. brings into being] and ultimately brings truth and light by overcoming the darkness. But it is a mistake to call this dichotomy between being/nonbeing or light/darkness as a difference in equals or two co-existent principals. Non-being is literally “no-thing”. It has no existence; no being. It is not as if there are 2 forces in the world, being and non-being. Non-being is not a force. It is the lack of anything.
Further, the idea that there are two co-eternal beings is refuted by the idea that if there are two beings then something must govern the relationship between the two. If there is a “good being” and a “bad being” then whatever governs the relationship between these two beings is actually God.
Finally, it does not hold that just because Satan is doing what God ordained that Satan is “good”. True, God will use even Satan to bring about good. That is why God is good. But Satan is the evil one and that is why he will be defeated ultimately by God bringing about the good. The transitory nature of Satan’s evil is important. The fact that God ultimately defeats it allows God to retain his good character.
Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a totally righteous man who has done no wrong and who has no spot or blemish on his character. Suppose God were to allow him, even ordain him, even desire him to be tortured and murdered in the most horrible way. We could justly say that the torture and murder of this man was evil. If God allowed it to stand then God would be evil. However, suppose God then raised that man from the dead. Suppose, that God used that evil event to make that man great so that even that man could look at the evil done to him and have wished it no other way. If that sequence of events occurred, then God is then exonerated even though he allowed, ordained, and desired the transitory evil to occur. God allowed it because he knew the 2nd estate of the man would be even better than the first. So it was with Job, so it was with Joseph, and so it was with Christ.
I would call it absence of awareness of God. But for me God is all. Nothing is not God. The dilemma of mankind, is a dilemma that God shares.
Love and redemption are built in. The Father and the Son not different.
So much of Christian theological debate seems to reinforce the illusion of separateness. Even at these rarified levels.
Nonbeing is separation from God. I can agree in a sense that God is all in all. But that means that where there is “lack”/”evil”/”nonbeing” there is separateness from God and it is not an illusion.
For me it is like the confusion caused by a hall of mirrors.
Each mirror believing that it’s image is real. Something in and of it’s own self.
This is the illusion of separation. The root of sin.
If the separation were real there could be no realization of the seamless identity in God. No Christ.
God is the all in all. Including the seeming lack of being, as you call it; the suffering of our lives and the dream called death.
God’s love is not love of, or for, anything or anyone, but rather the very fabric of eternity.
You may have to walk me through this a little more thoroughly. Isn’t illusion falsehood? Isn’t falsehood truly separate from the truth? You will need to expand on your concepts a bit more. They seem to esoteric to understand. Are they based on scripture? Or are they your philosophical musings?
What you call falsehood, in this case, is the confusion of identity. It is like a dream.
Any degree of falseness in our experience, has it’s complementary opposite in a truth.
But the Truth of God has no opposite. No theology worth it’s salt ignores this.
You seem to be speaking in riddles. Fine, if confusion of identity is like a a dream; a dream is not reality. Falsehood is not truth. Confusion is not clarity.
Falsehood is not the Truth of God. Falsehood is the opposite of truth. Are you saying that there is no falsehood? You are not being clear.
Perhaps you could just assume that I am speaking clearly about a familiar topic; Just from another angle and with a different emphasis.
Knowing what is wrong with us, is the path to freedom. How else can we recognize the shepherd come to guide us home.
This is what I would call turning towards God.
The Falsehood that you stress, is the veil of illusion to me.
I of course, do not advocate remaining under the influence of illusion.
The more I “get” that my sense of self is not the property of some co-existent other sense of self, the more clearly I see the nature of God behind and through all experience.
This is the why of Love and Forgiveness.
“He created the Devil to do what he does? Hmmm thats why you think he created us to do what we do? God cannot create evil…. Lucifer made his own choice, as we all do either to accept or reject God. I agree that the Devil serves God in that thru his actions, God works his marvelous plans regardless of Satans choices and those who serve him.
Yes, we all make our choices. But God intends for us to make the choices we make, and created us knowing we would make them, because he has a purpose “over and above” our purposes.
Then God is wasting so much time feeling sorry he did certain things, and regretting other things – when he knew all along and had planned it. Yes, that makes total sense to me.
How is he wasting time doing anything? Everything he does serves his plan.
Oh my goodness – so you have just suggested that God intends rapist to be rapists, because he has a purpose for them doing that? Answer this please – If Godalways gets what God wants – why isn’t everyone saved. If it’s God’s will for ALL to be saved ( scripture says that) and yet we understand not all will be, God’s will is not done. The Lords’ prayer ‘Thy will be done’… that suggests that it can ‘not be done’ as well… Where do you draw the line Brent – does God will what you eat for breakfast – what car you drive – where you live – or do you get to make those choices? You also missed my point about God wasting time. If he regrets things – does that not tell you he wished they had happened some other way?
No, God does not ultimately intend for “rapists” TO BE rapists. Ultimately, God intends for “rapists” To BE judged. Or, if he gives them mercy and saves them, then ultimately He intends for “rapists” TO BECOME holy. Their raping is not the final word. Evil is never the final word.
When we speak of God’s will there are two ways we refer to it. God’s decretive will refers to what God decrees and what actually comes to pass. God’s prescriptive will is what God commands of his creatures. We can disobey God’s prescriptive will. We can not thwart God’s decretive will. What he decrees will come to pass.
Everyone isn’t saved because God has not decreed that everyone will be saved. God’s primary purpose is not to save all men. If God wanted to save all men then he could do so since whatever God decrees comes to pass. If God doesn’t decree for all men to be saved then he has another purpose for those men whom he will not save. If you have a verse in mind that you would like to discuss and that specifically says that God wills to save all men then I am happy to discuss it.
My reply was meant to be to this post sorry 🙂 Check below.
I’m not sure Christians are the ones that should be overly concerned about everyone getting their comeuppance, do you? The original post is correct, Calvinists are obsessed with God’s wrath and so called justice, even as they “shun” anthropomorphizing God as your “grandfather in the sky”. Well which is it? How can your omniscient, impassable, immutable, sovereign God have any emotional capacity at all? Everything was his sovereign will to begin with wasn’t it?!?
Brent, answer me this, can a computer programmer rationally rage against his computer program running exactly the way he programmed it too? We would call someone like that a maniac. Appeal to mystery I guess?
I think Calvinists tend to take God’s wrath seriously. I can agree that when we talk about God’s wrath we know little about divine “emotions” per se. The descriptions of God’s wrath are not to be confused with human emotional responses. However, I do think we should probably recognize that human wrath is merely a representation in physical form of divine wrath. But whereas human wrath is mediated through the body, God’s wrath is not and so you are correct to say that we should not confuse the two.
But I think your analogy is amiss. God is not mad a the “computer program”. Rather, the computer program [i.e. creation] is programed in such a way by the creator so that when a function within it is triggered [e.g. man sinning] a consequence follows [e.g. man dies and is judged]. Computer programs do this all of the time. The law of sin and death is no different from any other natural law. If you walk off a high precipice you will fall. If you sin, you will die. The moral law results in its consequences just as surely as the law of gravity results in its consequences. Viewed in this way, it is a miracle that every person isn’t dead immediately after their first sin. It is as if God continues to hold the sinner in thin air rather than letting them fall. God’s grace abounds even to the sinner. He has suspended the program. He will save many. But eventually, many will also come to the end the program [i.e. the created order] requires.
God’s wrath is against sin, not humans. That changes things quite a bit… God’s wrath is not like human wrath, quite the opposite. We equate wrath with anger and rage…. God’s wrath is quite different to that. Check out Paul Ellis at Escape to Reality website… he explains it well.
Do you actually know what Calvinists believe then?
Yes. They believe the Bible. They believe that each person will receive a just judgment and/or mercy and that God will save some.
I believe the bible and i believe that Jesus paid in full for the judgement of sin we all deserve when he died on the cross. We now HAVE received already his mercy. The kingdom of God is not just a future thing… we are not just hanging out here till judgement day. It is a present Kingdom.. that we participate in now. We have PASSED from judgement, and have received grace. There is no more judgement for you if you have accepted Christ. Also – Jesus died for EVERYONE’S sins, not just some sins. So he died for the practicing homosexual, the pervert, the prostitute. That’s everyone. ALL sins have been taken care of. Now we are free to accept his offer of salvation. So the message is one of reconciliation with God, not ‘turn or burn’ etc.
“I am not sure how any human can stomach a reality where people do not receive justice.”
Because justice, like vengeance, is a selfish act that serves no purpose and appeals, primarily to the flesh rather than the conscience. I understand the appeal of living in a universe that works like a Hollywood action movie; where the jerk bad guy dies at the end, the good guy gets the girl, and all live happily ever after. It is justified by the evils of the bad guy and feeds into our love of watching other human beings suffer – a feeling we all secretly enjoy from time to time, if we are being honest. A feeling so ubiquitous to the human experience there is a whole word for it (eg “schadenfreude”).
I don’t see justice or purpose in punishments that are punitive rather than corrective. Don’t see much purpose in hell beyond allowing priests to wield fear and filch money and power for themselves from their underlings and followers. I would prefer a Universalist sort of universe where reconciliation was the rule and punishments were meant to correct rather than simply to exist, meted out by a mindless God little better than a computer program. I think your approach, while certainly logical, also elevates human beings to a status above and beyond God. In that scenario, God becomes little more than a puppet, dancing on our strings, morally inferior to us.
I could be wrong though.
If there is no justice, what would there ever be to correct? True correction implies justice.
It depends on how you define justice, I suppose. If your concept of justice is corrective change then I can agree with that. For example, if you take a thief and punish him by making him work for the man he stole until he has worked off the debt he owes in order to teach him that his thieving was actively harming the workers, that would be something I would agree with. Often, simply by putting an evil doer in the shoes of his victims and forcing him to empathize with their position he can come to see that he does harm by his crimes. If, on the other hand, your idea of justice is to simply lynch the man I would disagree that such justice is implied. Killing the man does nothing but grant onlookers the pleasure of watching a fellow human being suffer and die at the end of a rope. In this instance, justice serves no purpose beyond a pleasant distraction for those of underdeveloped conscience.
Often, when justice is brought up in the context of Hell I tend to find myself not really buying into it in the classic sense (eg infinite torment or destruction of the soul). Doesn’t feel right to me. Seems pointless and punitive. Also makes God seem like his concept of justice and mercy are inferior to my own (which makes it seem all the more man made, even if you don’t take into account the pagan connections to the whole eternal hellfire thing as compared to the Jewish view of it).
Being a part of an Acts 29 community, I have many dear friends that sincerely love Jesus and subscribe to Calvinism. I would say that most of them don’t fully understand the implications that the full doctrine implies though.
Sometimes the temptation is to put God in a box and insist on figuring Him out- I think that is a big reason why Calvinism is appealing to many today. When Christians can embrace the tension between free will and God’s sovereignty, there’s freedom. We don’t have to have all the answers.
This is a fantastic evaluation of some of the huge problems with Calvinism. It amazes me that they have the gall to refer to it as “Doctrines of Grace” when there’s no real grace in any of it at all.
Of course the Pelagian “work for it, scum bag” theology is so much better.
And there’s a beautiful example of the misanthropy engendered by Calvinism.
No. The misanthropy would be the rejection of Grace found in the “work for it” theologies. Pelagious rejected grace, and so do many of the people who want to make God a score keeper, which is where as perverse a depiction of Anabaptist/Arminian theology as this is of the theology of Calvin. I am not, by the way, a Calvinist. I’m a historian who intensely dislikes the fashionable caricatures that get tossed around.
If you dislike fashionable caricatures so much, then you probably should engage in throwing them around. Your characterization of anything non-Calvinist as automatically Pelagian is just such a caricature.
I’ve never bee overly convinced that Arminianism isn’t just a rehash of Pelagious. Either God acts first in Grace or does not. And the comment was for effect.
Pelagianism teaches that you make the first move towards God, and then He works in you to bring out the righteousness. Arminianism says somewhat the opposite: You are totally depraved (Arminianism does hold this part of TULIP), and thus God makes the first move by an invitation to salvation through Jesus Christ. You then accept.
If you call accepting His grace a works oriented soteriology, then you have a little bit of an odd sense of how the world works. Imagine a person dangling from a cliff, and a rescuer reaches out his hand to pull the person up. The person then grabs onto his hand for dear life. When they are safe, the person who was rescued then says, “look at how I rescued myself! Aren’t I awesome?” That’s just nonsense. Obviously the rescuer saved the person, regardless of whether they responded to his rescue.
For Pelagious God only reaches down after you’ve tried to climb up your self and/or ask. God doesn’t want to save you, per se, until after you decide you want to be saved.
A True doctrine of Grace has God do the rescuing, not helping you up but lifting you up. Now, we can discuss the idea of Justification/Salvation as separate from Sanctification and the ongoing work of the Spirit, but that is wandering a bit far.
John, just bottom line for us “non-Calvinists is this”: Does God love all people? Does God act beneficently on behalf of all people for their good? Any theology that fails to answer this with an unhesitant, resounding “YES” is best discarded.
tmarsh0307 – But the answer to these two questions is more complicated than that. Yes, God loves all people; but not more than anything else. No, God does not act beneficently on behalf of all people for their good. Some people, many people, God judges and punishes eternally. That is not to their benefit.
So what about the people who go to Hell that have never even heard the Name of Jesus? Where in Scripture does it say that God acts beneficially for all people on behalf of their good? And please keep in mind the first part of this question
St. Paul addresses that question in the first two chapters of Romans. Romans 2:14-15, ” When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law
requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the
They show that what the law requires is written on
their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their
conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them…”
We must let God be God and recognize that He knows what is in a person’s heart. Christ accomplished salvation for all humanity, if a person follows God to their best knowledge and ability, they will be saved through Christ because we are saved by grace not by works.
A point that I keep making, but which is completely ignored is that God has already reached down trough the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Through Christ it is God who has acted first for our salvation. Therefore the whole argument about whether or not we can take the first step in our salvation ourselves is a mute point, because God has already taken the first step for everyone’s salvation through the Incarnation of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ did more than die on the cross for our sins, he began the deification of humanity, by the deification of the human nature of Christ, which effects us because just as the divine nature of Christ is of one essence with the Father, the human nature of Christ is of one essence with us. By it union with the divine nature, the human nature of Christ is deified. This is a doctrine called “the communication of attributes” by the Fathers. Because the deified human nature of Christ is of one essence with us, we are able to use our free will to respond to God.
Fr. John W. Morris
God has done the rescuing. He sent Christ. Without Christ there is no salvation. God has already reached down to rescue us through the Incarnation. The major problem with Protestant theology is that it is stuck in an Anselmic legalistic understanding of salvation and does not take the Incarnation seriously enough. In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the Anaphora (prayer of consecration) states, “Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven and endowed us with the kingdom which is to come.” We are saved by God, who reached out to offer salvation to fallen humanity by sending Christ, no one is excluded from God’s offer of salvation, but those who exclude themselves by rejecting God’s grace. Why some gladly receive His grace and some reject it is a mystery that cannot be comprehended by the limited human mind. That is the fundamental mistake of Calvinism, it tries to understand that which we humans cannot understand. Instead of exalting God, Calvinism brings God down to our level by presuming to understand and explain the ways of God. How God is sovereign and all powerful and how we have free will is a profound mystery that the human mind cannot understand. All we can know is that Christ died for us and that if we have a living faith in Him, we will be saved by God’s grace.
Fr. John W. Morris
How can someone who is “totally depraved” accept an invitation to salvation. Yes, I would call believing on Christ a work. John 6:28-29 make that clear. Also, remember the imagery that Paul uses in Ephesians 2; you were dead in sins in trespasses. We are not just hanging from a cliff. We have fallen to the bottom. We don’t just need a “hand up”. We need a resurrection. Reread Ephesians 2.
No one is totally depraved. The Bible teaches that all are sinners. It does not teach total depravity. Despite our sins, we are still created in the Image of God. No sin is so great that it can destroy the Image of God. The Incarnate Christ is of one essence with the Father in His divine nature, but He is also of one essence with humanity in His human nature. Because by its union with the divine nature the human nature of Christ is deified. The deification of the human nature of Christ makes it possible for us who are human to respond to God’s offer of salvation.
Fr. John W. Morris
How do you deal with Romans 3:10-12? Are we not part of the fallen humanity who has all gone astray? How do you deal with Romans 8:5-8? Were we not all formerly in the flesh? How do you deal with Ephesians 2:1-3? Did we not all walk according to the ways of our father Satan at some point? Is that not the heart of total depravity?
Without getting too deep into your Christological statements; suppose it is only “possible” for the person to respond to God’s offer of salvation. Why do some respond positively and others negatively? What makes the difference ultimately? Why did Abraham follow God but not Hammurabi? Why Paul and not Caiaphas? Why Moses and not Pharaoh?
I put the verses you have cited in their proper context with the rest of the New Testament. Roman 8 is a meditation by St. Paul on why the Jews rejected Christ. Calvin takes it out of its context. God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was already hardened, so He used his hardened heart to serve His purpose. God did not make Pharaoh evil. He was evil by the misuse of his free will.
Why some people accept the Gospel and some reject it is that some use their free will to accept Christ and others use their free will to reject Him. Why is a mystery that we cannot understand with limited human reason.
Your reply doesn’t address Romans 3 or Ephesians 2. Even if Romans eight only deals with the Jews, and I don’t see anywhere in the verses where that is indicated, then Ephesians 2 certainly addresses gentiles. You seem to think that free will is some kind of escape hatch. But what is free will exactly? If we have it, didn’t we get it from God? Didn’t he give it to us knowing that we would misuse it? You might not understand why some people choose God and others do not but do you believe it’s understandable at all? Does God understand it?
Yes we got free will from God when He created us in His Image. God knows why some people reject His offer of grace, but you and I do not because we are mere humans. What we do know is that God sent His Only Begotten Son go save all who believe in Him. We also know that the entire New Testament is filled with the call for us to respond to God’s offer of salvation. Calvinism takes a few verses out of context and completely misinterprets them. Ephesians 2 states that God is the author of our salvation. It says nothing that contradicts thew doctrine of free will. You still do not understand, God has acted first through the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the key to the whole thing. That is why Calvinism is so far off base, because Calvin did not understand the Incarnation and taught a Nestorian like doctrine. Once again, in Jesus Christ there is one person with two natures. The divine nature is of one essence with God the Father. The human nature is of one essence with us. By its union with the divine nature, the human nature is deified. This is the patristric doctrine of the Communication of Attributes. Just as the sin of Adam passed to all men, the deification of the human nature has passed to all men through which, we may accept God’s grace, which is not undeserved merit, but actual Communion with God. Christ died for all humans and offers all humans salvation. Our Lord said, “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32. St. John wrote, “and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Notice that neither Our Lord nor St. John said “for the elect,:” but for all. I could go on all day quoting verses that disprove Calvinism.
Let me put it this way, if I believed that Calvinism were right, I would not be a Christian, because the God of Calvinism is not worthy of worship. He would be worthy of contempt because He is an unjust and vengeful God, not the God of love portrayed in the New Testament. But I know that Calvin was wrong and that his portrayal of God is totally false. Open your eyes, liberate yourself from the heretical teachings of John Calvin and come and bask in the light of the Gospel of the love of God. I have not minced any words, because I believe that of all the heresies ancient and modern one of the worst, if not the worst is Calvinism because it completely distorts the Gospel.
frjohnmorris – I would not expect you to mince words. This is an important topic. If I am wrong I want to know. However, I am not sure you understand the God taught in Calvinism. He certainly isn’t unfair. He certainly isn’t unloving.
For example, he isn’t unjust. Either he gives people what they deserve [i.e. justice] or he gives them mercy, grace, and unmerited favor. He isn’t unloving either. He loves himself perfectly [as he should because he is goodness]. He loves Christ. He loves justice and righteousness. He loves his creation. He loves his plan and his purpose. He even loves man… a mankind that sins continually. A mankind that hates God and hates righteousness. A mankind that loves itself. A mankind that prefers darkness and evil to light and goodness. Yes, God loves that mankind too. God proves his love by giving to all mankind common grace such as life, the comfort of friends, food, air to breath, comfort, and a host of other goods that we take for granted moment for moment. But at the end of the day, God loves justice and goodness more than he loves mankind. Accordingly, God will judge mankind and give them justice… UNLESS, he gives some… those whom he chooses, saving grace. This is more than mere common grace. Yes, the God preached in Calvinism is very much a loving God even if you cannot see it.
I do not see how your Christological views change anything. You seem to be indicating that because human nature was somehow deified that humans can somehow choose to accept Christ or reject him. Even if that were true… even if that was truly how it worked… and I don’t think you are right… how does that change the issue? On what basis does a person… now deified… make this decision to accept or reject Christ? Why do some deified persons accept him and others reject him? If those who reject him go on to eternal punishment… does that mean the divine is then punished since those humans are now deified? Is God punishing himself? What of those who came before Christ; before the deification of the human nature? Are they deified in retrospect? It all sounds very confusing.
Let me ask it this way. Is it ever effective to pray and ask God to change the heart of a person, to make them see the Gospel, to pray that they come to know him? Can God do that? Can he have an effect on whether a person chooses him? If it is, if God can have an effect, and if he loves us… then why wouldn’t he always do it under your view? Is God not effective at converting hearts? You said that God understands why some accept him and others reject him… why doesn’t he ensure that he brings about the circumstances that would cause everybody to repent and believe? Is he powerless to do it? Or might he have other purposes?
Finally, yes I agree that the Bible calls for us to respond to God’s command to repent and believe and that all who do believe will be saved. The question we are asking is who will repent and believe? Christ makes it clear in John 10:10-14 that he came to die for his sheep and that his sheep hear his voice. In John 6:37, Jesus makes it clear that all who the father give to him will come to him. In 6:44 he makes it clear that no-one can come to him unless the father draws him and that all who the father draws will be raised up on the last day. The elect hear Christ’s voice and respond. I can agree that Christ died for the whole world in a sense. But in a very special sense he died to save his elect specifically.
So, if I understand your logic, Brent, when the Bible states God so loved the world….it really wasn’t the whole world but rather only a certain portion of it….and that When Jesus states He came to seek and save the lost, it was really I only SOME of the lost….and that you believe a supreme being that consciously creates a thinking, feeling entity (humankind) knowing in advance that this entity will ultimately be subject to hell for eternity (nay, even ORDAIN it to be so) …. That is a God of love and worthy of praise? What does it say about a creator that would expressly create someone for a destiny of continual misery and torture?
I am not sure you read my post thoroughly JD. God does love the whole world. But he does not love it all equally or for the same reason. This is obvious. He loves the mountains… but he does not love them more than mankind. He loves mankind, but not more than Christ. God’s love for all mankind is manifested in the many blessings, the common grace, mankind receives. Whereas, Christ receives much more than this… Christ receives God’s eternal communion… as do all who are raised up with Christ. Nevertheless, just because Christ receives more than the mountains and more than most of mankind does not mean that God does not love mountains or mankind. He just loves some things more than mankind… including justice. If you think God’s saving a portion of mankind but not all of it is a demonstration of a lack of love towards those who are not ultimately saved then I think you take for granted God’s common grace and you cheapen the over abundance of grace poured out on those who God is saving.
But perhaps you are referring to John 3:16 directly. If so, then yes… I admit… that I take the “for God so loved the world” to mean that God loves HIS CREATION in general and it does not refer to some universal salvific love for all mankind. God loves his creation [i.e. the world] and he will save it for and through those who believe [i.e. the elect].
Next, I agree that Christ came to save the lost. He specifically refers to them as his lost sheep. There is a clear distinction in scripture between Christ’s lost sheep and goats. See Matthew 25:31-46.
As for your last point, I do believe that God created man knowing that many if not most would receive judgment according to their works and that this judgment would be that they are not worthy of communion with God and Christ in eternity… thus subjecting them to Hell. But this is not a distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism. Both systems affirm that God made man knowing that most would be subjected to judgment; if this is a critique of Calvinism I don’t see how it helps you.
Also, I would be careful about your understanding of God’s judgment. It will be according to works. I find that it is common for people to assume that each person so judged will receive the same punishment [usually some kind of conscious burning in a physical hell]. I would be very careful about understanding the metaphors used to describe judgment in a wooden literal sense. I do not say that to give comfort that hell or eternal punishment will be… easy or even bearable. But I do want to make clear that each person… upon receiving their judgment… will know and believe it is fair. If you don’t think God’s judgment is fair then one of two things is true: (1) You either fail to appreciate what really is just judgment for human action or (2) you misunderstand God’s judgment.
You’ve essentially avoided the question, Brent. Namely, your logic leads to the unavoidable conclusion that God willingly created conscious beings for a horrible destiny (regardless of how you define hell, Jesus clearly indicates it is horrible) with no hope, no decision, no way of salvation. The obvious implication of ‘the world’ in John 3:16 is mankind as a whole – as are other verses in which the cross is to draw all (not some) men – being drawn meaning confronted with the truth of the cross not necessarily accepting it. Your logic is similar to one in which a person could realistically offer salvation to all who were in a shipwreck at sea, but instead chooses only to offer salvation to a few and leave the rest for destruction. Such a person would not be labeled as good – the offer would need to be made to all for that one to be good (since that one has the ability to make the offer to all) .
I have not avoided the question. But I will continue to answer any questions you have. My logic leads to the unavoidable conclusion that God willingly created conscious beings for a just destiny. If the destiny is horrible it is because the creature is horrible. There is hope for many that God will make them good. There are many decisions. Calvinism does not deny that people make decisions. The decisions the creature makes demonstrate the “kind” of creature it is… i.e. good or bad. Calvinism does affirm that God, as the creator, made the decision to create the world as it is for his purposes. I agree that not all will be saved.
I do not agree on John 3:16. In the Greek “the world” is Cosmos and it clearly refers to the entire created order. That makes sense because even the salvation offered at the end of the verse is only offered to those who believe… not to all mankind. God will save the created order for and through the believing mankind. If there are other verses you would like to discuss I am willing.
I do not think the example you give [i.e. shipwreck at sea] is applicable. Yes, I would consider a person who was able to save all of the persons in a shipwreck but only chose to save some and let the others perish to be a bad person absent extenuating circumstances. But the reason I would consider that person bad is because God has commanded men to preserve and save life. Accordingly, the person in your example would be violating God’s law. But it is a category mistake to apply this reasoning to God. God is not a man among other men. He is not bound by the moral laws that bind men. He makes the moral laws and is himself above them. God can choose who to kill and who to preserve… and he does. The reason why this is so is obvious: God gave existence to all of the men floundering in the ocean. God gave them life and existence and he can take those things away. That is why we let God be God; it is why we leave the judging to him.
Interesting your thought that God is deemed good…..but is not bound by morality as is man …. who is created in His image. Interesting also that you deem the creature (created by God) as horrible. In the end, it seems your arguments/ logic collapse under their own weight. The conclusion regarding such a God as that is we cannot count on Him to be good as we understand good and also that it would be better not to have been created at all. In the end, any logical reasoning regarding is ignored or tossed aside under the general, capricious ‘because He’s God’ …. but I’ve appreciated the illumination on Calvinist thought.
I have not “deemed” God to be good. We do not observe God’s actions and then conclude that he is good because he conforms to some external standard. God IS the Good. God created the universe. Accordingly, he is the most valuable thing to the universe. Value = good. God is the standard and source of good by virtue of being its Creator.
Good is an equivocal term. When I say my dog is good [e.g. he does not go to the bathroom in my house, he does not bite my kids, he is fluffy and cuddly] I do not mean it in the same way as when I say my wife is good. My wife is judged by a different standard. So it is with God. He is not judged by our standard. God is not bound by human morality because he is not a human. God can order the death sentence for sin. Man cannot. God can wipe out the world in a flood. Man cannot. God can order the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. Man cannot. God can judge the world. Man cannot. If a man tried to do what God does every moment of every day he would violate God’s command to men. But God does it because he is above man… he is divine. He is a law unto himself.
On the other hand, Christ, in his human nature, was bound by the same morality that binds man, but not the divine nature. The proper place of the creature is to always subject itself to the divine as did Christ. Christ said “Let thy will be done” even when that meant he would suffer and die. By that standard yes… the rest of us are horrible. We do not “reflect” the image of God if we were to judge ourselves on the example of Christ; whereas Christ is the express image of God. But I only argued that our punishment would be horrible “IF” we are indeed horrible. I will let you be the judge and decide if you deserve better and on what grounds. Do you truly submit to God as did Christ? How should you be judged in comparison to him?
We can count on God. He is not capricious. Who he is and what he does are eternally fixed according to his nature and character. It is very important that we understand that God is good and what that means. It does not matter to me if you adhere to Calvinistic thought. But I do hope that you at least develop a higher view of God instead of dragging him down and attempting to judge him as you would any other man. That is exactly what Paul condemns in Romans 1… the remaking of God after the image of man or created things instead of respecting him as the Creator.
If there is no standard by which we can judge whether God’s actions are “good” or “bad”, how can you possibly distinguish between God and Satan? It would seem that from your perspective, you could never be 100% sure who you’re worshiping. This is a point that Roger Olson has made and I think it’s sound. I think your entire premise belies the entire Biblical narrative and has terrifying consequences for your moral compass and it comes at no surprise to me that the Calvinism would be stained with the blood of Michael Servetus. I think this is clear in how Calvinists typically treat outsiders, if God hates the reprobate, then certainly so should you too right? Imago Dei means nothing, shared humanity even less, I hate to sound alarmist, but dehumanization is a necessary precursor for every atrocity that has been committed by human beings in history. This cannot possibly be the Gospel message.
We distinguish between God and Satan ontologically. God is the being that exists as the uncaused first cause; the prime mover; the being that creates all things and all reality. Whatever that being “is like” or “does” is good as he sets the telos for the universe he creates. Th