Friday, June 24, 2011

Five bad arguments against calvinism

I enjoyed writing the other "Five bad arguments..." posts, so I thought I would write another one. When I first heard of Calvinism, I heard about it from a friend who really disliked the Calvinist theology. He seemed to know a lot about it, so I didn't put much thought into researching it myself. Well, one day I was bored on the internet and thought, "Why not look up Calvinism." At first, I was a little confused. To be more exact, the TULIP confused me; not total depravity (the "T" in the TULIP), but the rest of the arguments. Unconditional election? Limited atonement? Irresistible grace? Perseverance of the saints? Where did all of that come from? It couldn't have came from the bible.

I began to research the TULIP in scripture, read and listened to the ideas from teachers of Calvinism and found Calvin's ideas to be strongly supported by the Bible. I also read and listened to the opponents of Calvinism. I eventually learned, for myself, the opponents of Calvinism attack strawmen; they're not attacking Calvinism, they're attacking Hyper-Calvinism. No, hyper-Calvinism is not taking Calvinism to its logical conclusion, hyper-Calvinism is taking a theology, twisting and distorting it to it's own theology. What's annoying is to hear opponents of Calvinism attack hyper-Calvinism and say they're debunking Calvinism. So, this post will be my attempt to clear the room of smoke and possibly help Calvinism's opponents to stop attacking straw.

1. If God is sovereign, then there is no free will.

Not all opponents of Calvinism raise this objection, e.g. middle-knowledge folks, but many do raise this objection. I'm not sure why they do because Calvinists are not hardcore determinists. We do not think God causes everything to happen. When I pickup my cup of coffee for a drink, I don't think that was caused by God. My choosing to take a drink of coffee was a choice of my own free will. Now, some would say "I understand that. That's not why I object to Calvinism. If God is sovereign, guaranteeing certain outcomes in people's lives, then that is a violation of man's free will; that's why I object to Calvinism." I personally don't see the conflict and here's why: It doesn't follow that if God is in full control, then free acts aren't possible. Let me explain.

What we need to understand is how God guarantees outcomes in the lives of people, or, the relationship of God's omniscience and man's free will. The relationship is quite compatible. How does God know our choices? Are our choices made because in God's knowledge He sets in stone what will we do and then our carrying out of the action "appears" to us as a free choice? Or does God have knowledge of what we do because He foresaw our action? Maybe even, there is a middle option of all of the possibilities of our actions according to our personalities? How does it work? Let me lift an illustration from blogger Sam Harper:

1. Ethel will boil peas tomorrow.

2. Ethel will not boil peas tomorrow.

Regardless of which one happens to be true, the thing that makes it true is that it corresponds to what Ethel will actually do tomorrow. Let’s suppose that (1) is true. In that case, Ethel will boil peas tomorrow. Now we can form the following argument:

4. God knows (1) because it’s true.
5. (1) is true, because in reality Ethel will boil peas tomorrow.
6. Therefore, God knows (1) because Ethel will boil peas tomorrow.

Here is another good illustration given by Greg Koukl:

How would you catch a criminal who is on the run? Well, you'd think about where he might go, then you'd try to be there to intercept him. Now, if you had perfect knowledge--if you knew everything-- you'd not only know where he is at any given moment, but where he'll be at any moment in the future. You'd know exactly what time he'd arrive at any point along his entire route. 

Would you be able to catch a criminal if you knew the exact moves he was going to make? If you knew the things he was going to freely choose to do--and this is important--at any given point, would you be able to catch him? Sure you could. 

If you know he's going down a particular road and will come around a particular corner at a particular time, you could place your men there so that when he takes the route he freely chooses (though known by you), your men would be right there to nab him. You're in control the entire time--you're sovereign. You're able to be in control because you know every move he's going to freely make. Therefore, your plan can be perfectly executed, even though he's making his free choices. 

God knows enough about our free choices to carry out His sovereign plan. He does this without violating our free will.

2. If God chooses whom to save, then we are predetermined machines. 

"If God determines my salvation, then I have no free will at all! Either everything I do is a free choice, or nothing I do is a free choice!" That's another way to word the objection. I hear and read this objection a lot. "Calvinists view human beings as robots!" or "Calvinists view human beings as puppets!" Basically to our opponents, we are cold determinists, but that just isn't true. God determines one aspect of our lives, so we are mindless robots? It doesn't follow that since one part of our lives is determined then we are predetermined machines without a clue. We can do many things freely (as pointed out above). We freely choose to sin a lot (some more than others) and that makes us guilty. What does God do? He makes a choice to forgive and show grace for the sin we freely chose to commit.

If I may, let me borrow another excellent illustration from Greg Koukl (He's full of excellent illustrations).

If you owe me a million dollars and I choose to completely forgive the debt, how is your will violated? The debt is owed to me; it's on my side of the ledger. I can cancel it if I want. It may have a further impact on your life, that in canceling the debt you don't have to work for 20 years to pay it off. But it seems to me such an action grants you freedom, not bondage. 

Further, freedom usually has some limitations. Even a criminal in prison has a measure of freedom. Though some choices are restricted, it doesn't follow that he has no choices at all. In the same way, if God chooses us for forgiveness and salvation, it doesn't follow that we have become robots.

3. If God saves some, but not others, then God is responsible for sending the rest to hell.

Again, the conclusion doesn't follow. If God saves some and not the rest, it doesn't follow that he is responsible for causing the sin in their lives, thereby sending the rest to hell. Now, hyper-calvinists will tell you, yes, God does cause the sin in those who aren't saved and sends those who aren't saved to hell, which is not true. We are responsible for our own sin. If God chooses to save some and not others, it seems to me that he's entitled to such a decision because it's His choice, His mercy. Mercy is undeserved. People go to hell based on their own sin not because God created the sin in their souls and then damns them for eternity based on sin He created in them.

We've broken His law, we're in deep trouble; all of us. Those who are punished are punished justly because they are guilty. Some receive forgiveness, but not all. Why are some forgiven and not all? It's a mystery, but those who are forgiven are not forgiven in an arbitrary or capricious manner.  

Now, we do have to ask: Does God love everybody? Or as Michael Horton asks, "Does God only love the elect, and fatten the wicked for slaughter as some hyper-Calvinists have argued?" Horton then goes on to answer his own question:

"Scripture is full of examples of God’s providential goodness, particularly in the Psalms: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made …. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:9, 16). Jesus calls upon His followers to pray for their enemies for just this reason: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:44). Christians are supposed to imitate this divine attitude.

The doctrine we are talking about has come to be called “common grace,” in distinction from “saving grace.” Some have objected to this term (some even to the concept), insisting that there is nothing common about grace: there is only one kind of grace, which is sovereign, electing grace. However, it must be said that whatever kindness God shows to anyone for any reason after the fall, can only be regarded as gracious. Once again, we face two guardrails that we dare not transgress: God acts graciously to save the elect and also to sustain the non-elect and cause them to flourish in this mortal life. While it is among the sweetest consolations for believers, election is not the whole story of God’s dealing with this world.

When we, as Christians, affirm common grace, we take this world seriously in all of its sinfulness as well as in all of its goodness as created and sustained by God. We see Christ as the mediator of saving grace to the elect but also of God’s general blessings to a world that is under the curse. Thus, unbelievers can even enrich the lives of believers. John Calvin pleads against the fanaticism that would forbid all secular influence on Christians, concluding that when we disparage the truth, goodness, and beauty found among unbelievers, we are heaping contempt on the Holy Spirit Himself who bestows such gifts of His common grace (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.15)."

Horton's full article can be read here.

Now, there is another answer to this objection as well, (it's not the Calvinist answer), but I don't think it's entirely incompatible with Calvinism. See "middle knowledge."

4. God wills all men to be saved, yet Calvinists say God only wills the elect to be saved.

Yes, on the surface, there seems to be a contradiction, especially after reading such texts as 2 Peter 3:9 and Matthew 23: 37, one would come to the conclusion that there is a contradiction given Calvinism. This poses a problem for Calvinism, doesn't it? If God wills all men to be saved, but only the elect are saved, then something isn't right. Shouldn't all men be saved? This isn't only a problem for Calvinists, this is a problem for all Christians. Why is it a problem for all Christians? Well, because the Bible seems to indicate all are willed to be saved.

Fortunately, there is an answer. It may be a little confusing for some on first reading. Rather than try to explain it myself in detail I'll reference Greg Koukl and others from time to time. The answer is that there are two aspects to God's will: His moral will (what he merely desires, but doesn't come to pass, e.g., salvation for everyone) and His sovereign will (that which He purposes and always happens). Greg Koukl describes this well:

"Two wills of God. Moral will and sovereign will. Moral will entails all those things God wants us to do, yet we may disobey. God wants us to be saved, yet many are not. God wanted Israel to turn to Jesus, yet most did not. God wants all kinds of things of His people--He wills those things--but they don't come to pass. There's a sense of God's will that can be violated. 

Yet, at the same time, there are other things which are clearly stated about God's will that He intends actually come to pass. We see some of those details in the book of Daniel, and this is why Daniel makes the statement that God's will, in this sense, cannot be violated. Daniel's statements can only be sound if we're talking about a different aspect of God's will. If we're not talking about a different will, then we have a contradiction. 

If you reject the notion that there are two aspects of God's will-- sovereign and moral--and don't want to concede the obvious contradiction, you have one of two choices. Either all of God's will is moral, or all of God's will is sovereign. 

If you choose the first option, that there is only one aspect of God's will--the moral aspect--which can be broken by our free choices, then it's hard to see how God can have ultimate and sovereign control over human history if our choice is the deciding factor. You might take refuge in the element of God's omniscience, as I mentioned above. I think that explains some things, but I think the full sense of God's sovereignty entails more than just incorrigible anticipation of our moves." 

Greg doesn't say this, but I will, he then goes on to describe Hyper-Calvinism, not Calvinism folks, Hyper-Calvinism.

"If, on the other hand, God's sovereign will is the only concept taught in Scripture, then there can be no immorality. Everything we do is something that He, as the primary and sufficient cause, irrevocably ordains. We don't choose to disobey His moral will; we're just doing what God has already caused us to do. This would make God the direct author of evil." 

I think it's clear that there are two wills or two aspects to God's will. This fourth objection is defeated, I think, by this answer because the two alternatives do not make sense of humans and their relationship with God. If God's will is all sovereign (as hyper-calvinists declare) then we would not be responsible for our sin, we could not disobey God, morality would be illusory. On the other hand if God's will is totally moral, then scripture wouldn't make sense at all. God wouldn't have any control and things would be in chaos because He would be totally dependent on His creation; that also doesn't make sense. There's a moral will and a sovereign will.

5. Calvinists shouldn't evangelize. That's a contradiction. 

If those who are saved are predestined to salvation, then why evangelize? Why is evangelism important to Calvinists? First, God has told us to evangelize in the Bible, so firstly, we evangelize because God has told us to do so. Second, God works through secondary causes (us) to regenerate hearts. It might be a process of months of dialoguing with someone over God, science, and philosophy, then one day the person finally realizes Jehovah God exists, God did raise Jesus from the dead, and the plan revealed in the Bible is true. For others, it could be hearing a message given by a pastor in a church on a Sunday. Still others, it could be hearing a lecture on TV or radio. We don't know when, how, or where a person will hear the gospel, but for the Calvinist we do know God will save the person and it's our job to deliver the gospel and to give a defense for the truth claims of Christianity. 

Also, Charles Spurgeon was asked since he believed in election, why preach? Why do you care about spreading the gospel? He said if you can lift up a person's shirt and see an 'E' stamped on their back standing for elect then he won't preach. We don't know who is elect and we don't know the means God will use to reveal the gospel to the elect. 

There you have it folks. This is my take on the five bad arguments against Calvinism. This post is in now way a clear-cut, end-all arguments post, but I do hope it shows why some arguments against Calvinism are weak and better at attacking strawmen than actual Calvinism.

Related posts

For further study I suggest you read Greg Koukl's article "Bad arguments against Calvinism," which is where my excerpt's of Koukl came from for this post. 

Check out the discussion over Calvinism between Michael Horton and Roger Olson here.

Edit: After reading over this post again, I realized I didn't clarify some things in point number 3. I left out that hyper-calvinists hold that God creates the evil in the reprobates' souls. 


  1. Hey Seth, I just had a few comments, as I have studied this subject in quite a bit of detail.

    On point 1: I've never seen a non-Calvinist argue in such a way. Rather, what is normally claimed by Calvinists is that determinism is true. Calvinists are traditionally divine determinists. They argue that since God knows the future, human free will is impossible. Further, they will argue the only way for God to know the future is if He exhaustivly determined it, leaving no room for human free choice. The Calvinist imports those assumptions into his definition of sovereignty and says, therefore, that the non-Calvinist doesn't believe God is sovereign. This isn't a straw man, it's what Calvinists claim. The non-Calvinist (myself having had to do this almost every time I discuss it with a Calvinist) wants to clarify that the word "sovereign" does not entail meticulous control over people's wills, but rather describes the independent power and authority one has over a specific reality. God has that over all reality. So most non-Calvinists want to affirm God's sovereignty as properly understood.

    What you've espoused here is more in line with Molinism, which is what I hold to.

    On point 2: I've not seen anyone personally that argues this either. I believe God has chosen who to save. That isn't the debate. Rather, the debate revolves around who it is that God has chosen. Most non-Calvinists espouse the view that God, in His sovereign choice, has chosen to save those that believe in Christ. The Calvinist believes God has chosen who actually will believe in Christ.

    On point 3: I think proper Christian theology in general holds that God is the one who sends people to hell. Non-determinists hold that it is based on the free choice of people that God sends them, however. He actualizes their decision.

    For the deterministic Calvinist, I think double predestination is unavoidable, because God is choosing what people will ultimately choose.

    On point 4: I am critical of Calvinists who talk of two wills of God simply because it makes Him sound schizophrenic, isn't defined Biblically (don't be double minded), and is imprecise. I think there are different aspects to what God wills. On one hand there are things God declares WILL be, ie the judgment and the return of Christ and the creation. On the other hand, there are things God chooses to permit, like our free choices. But that's all contained in God's single will. So God would prefer all people to be saved, because He loves all people, but He also chooses to allow them what to do. Honestly, that's what it sounds like you're espousing, which makes me wonder if you're a Calvinist at all. You're sounding like a good Arminian.

    On point 5: I don't know if anyone has ever put it like that. I think this regards the thought that if determinism is true, then why would evangelism be necessary. The point behind evangelism seems to be to have some sort of an influence on someone's decisions in life, to influence their wills. But if God controls our very decisions (which determinists hold to, which you are not) then what is the point of God's giant puppet show? I understand the means to an end argument, but this seems gratuitous on determinism. But this only applies to deterministic theologies.

    Honestly, Seth, you don't sound like a full fledged Calvinist...

  2. Finally, some dialogue on this blog! lol Thanks for commenting bossmanham.

    I am a 5-pointer Boss. :) The reason I'm not a determinist is because I just don't hear or read full fledged determinism from guys like Sproul, Horton, Koukl, Macarthur, or even Calvin. I'm still open minded when it comes to soteriology (hence why I offer molinism to atheists and skeptics) and I'm not going to dismiss your comments, but I agree with those guys' teaching on Calvinism.

    1. Sproul and Koukl are self-described calvinists who hold to compatibilism. The way I understand compatiblisim is you choose freely based on your nature or inclination. I wouldn't ever by my own free choice dye my hair pink. I wouldn't. To dye my hair pink would be to go against my natural desire. In order for a person to get me to dye my hair pink, he would need to change my desire somehow. We have free will in accordance with our natural inclinations. God works through our fee choices by secondary causality, so he has determined what will come to pass in that way. God knows us perfectly. I don't see how this is incompatible with Reformed theology. Sproul gave a similar example in his commentary on Romans. Another reason I don't see how molinism is entirely incompatible with calvinism. Notice I said entirely :) The difference is can man make a free choice to trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior?

    2. And I think this is where you'll see my Calvinism. I do think God saves us, not based on us along putting our faith in Him, but by His regenerating our heart. I lean toward that because man in his natural state, as I understand him, is totally against God and is running as far away as possible from God. For now, I lean toward that view. I agree with Koukl and Sproul's view on man before salvation.

    3. Yes, the hyper-calvinist is left with God determining some to hell. I don't believe God determines some to hell. I know, I should have made it clear in my post, God sends sinners to hell because of their free sinful choices. Man is guilty before God.

    4. God does love all people, but not all be will be saved. Like in the example I gave, God wanted all of Israel to turn to Jesus, but some did not because of their hardened hearts. Only God can soften our hearts of stone.

    I'm not a determinist and I don't understand the gentlemen I mentioned to be determinists either. Reformed theology as they teach it is not deterministic. If Calvinism was indeed hyper-calvinism, then no, I wouldn't adhere to its teachings.

    Thanks again for commenting! Responding to comments helps me to understand things better.

  3. Seth,

    Even if they never explicitly say "I'm a determinist" one can infer it from other things they say. It's often implied as a logical conclusion.

    Compatibilism is determinism (this is a helpful chart showing the relations of the views on determinism and free will). It teaches that freedom is compatible with one being determined to do something. What they do, simply speaking, is redefine what free will is. Instead of choices being an act of someone's will that they initialize, their actions are causally determined. But since they do the action voluntarily they are therefore doing it freely. But notice that they aren't the origin of their action. Something that came before them, whether past physical events or a divine decree, are the instigator for that action. Not their will.

    As I understand it, Koukl is not a compatibilist, but affirms libertarian freedom with regard to any choice but salvation. He thinks God irresistibly moves one's will to accept Him. Freely choosing within one's nature is not against what libertarian free will claims. Those who affirm compatibilism claim that our nature determines what we actually choose, not what we can choose. I hold to LFW, and think that one's nature does set the boundaries for possible choices. For instance, I can't choose to fly because my nature doesn't include wings and other necessary flight equipment. However, things that my nature do allow me to choose, I can actually choose.

    Take your example of the pink hair dye. You may be correct that if you had the choice to dye your hair pink you wouldn't. However, that doesn't mean that you CAN'T dye your hair pink. You could choose to if you wanted. You have the power to choose or choose otherwise. Compatibilists believe that you don't have the ability to choose otherwise because your actions have already been determined, in this case by your nature. However, they'll say that since you're voluntarily doing it, you're doing it freely. But that makes little sense. How can you be voluntarily doing something if you yourself didn't determine the action, but something else did?

    I think this also confuses what a nature actually is. A nature of something are essential properties of what makes it what it is. These are normative properties that apply to all in a specific type. For instance, the essential properties of a human are to be a rational spirit body composite or something of that sort.

    God works through our fee choices by secondary causality, so he has determined what will come to pass in that way.

    Now, it seems to me that you've moved away from Molinism here, unless I'm misunderstanding you. If you mean by this that the way God avoids being the sole determiner of our actions is that He works through secondary causes, I'd have to wonder how that avoids Him being the sole determiner. For instance, an author uses secondary causes to print his book (publisher, printing press, etc). However, no one would argue that the author himself is the actual cause of the book.

    If I've misunderstood and you're saying that God orders history by foreseeing what we will choose in certain situations, then I don't have an issue with that. But I think that it's important to see that He doesn't cause us to choose what we do. That originates within ourselves.

  4. . I don't see how this is incompatible with Reformed theology.

    I don't necessarily think as you've put it it is. However, you say that you hold to irresistible grace (as you hold to TULIP). Historical Molinism holds to libertarian free will, which I think is incompatible with that doctrine. There God is actively causing you to believe in Him. Non-Calvinists think that God enables the will to choose Him, which isn't causing you to do so.

    The difference is can man make a free choice to trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior?

    Classical Arminians would say not without the intervening grace of God. However, Calvinists seem to be unable to hold that man has a free choice in the matter, since irresistible grace is causative. You have to choose Him once presented with it.

    I lean toward that because man in his natural state, as I understand him, is totally against God and is running as far away as possible from God.

    I agree with that, but that doesn't entail anything about the ordo salutis and where regeneration happens. I think the Bible is clear that regeneration happens after one puts their faith in Christ, but that doesn't mean that we have the ability while trapped by our sin nature. Rather God must overcome our sin nature to allow us to make the choice (prevenient grace). The difference is that I think God gives that grace to everyone, as He wishes all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 1 John 2:2) and is drawing all men to Himself (John 12:32).

    I agree with Koukl and Sproul's view on man before salvation.

    As do I. It's what happens at salvation, and who God is after to save that we differ on. The T in TULIP is held by Arminians as well.

    God does love all people, but not all be will be saved. Like in the example I gave, God wanted all of Israel to turn to Jesus, but some did not because of their hardened hearts.

    I agree completely. I can't see how the Calvinist can say that, however. If God wanted them all to come to Him via His decree of election, why didn't they all come? I think it's because the elect are those who freely accept His gift of salvation, not a predetermined finite group of people chosen head by head.

    So while the gentlemen you mentione may not be hard determinists (or incompatibilist determinists), they are determinists. I frankly think that compatibilism is impossible, and think Peter Van Inwagen's consequence argument shows that to be the case.

  5. great article Seth.

  6. Seth, I wanted to point you to this list of quotes that shows the biggest names in Calvinism accepting determinism among other things.

  7. I just now have a chance to respond. It's been a busy weekend. Thanks for the dialogue Boss, I've enjoyed it.

    So, yeah, I think the difference of opinion is then with irresistible grace, I guess? I'm more convinced that God chooses whom to save; at this point anyway. I've looked into arguments for prevenient grace before and I always lean toward the Reformed view. What's your best case for prevenient grace? I would be interested to hear.

    I also want to note that I do think this debate is an in-house debate and I don't think arminians, pelagians and the like are damned to hell for holding a different view (I just wanted to throw that out there lol). However, it is something to talk about and think about.

    I'll check out the chart and the quotes too.

  8. "Calvinists are not hardcore determinists. We do not think God causes everything to happen."

    Incorrect. Edwin H. Palmer writes that God "causes all things to happen ... even sin." (The Five Points of Calvinism, pp. 24-5). Also, you should read one of the newest editions to the 'Counterpoints' series, 'Four Views on Divine Providence'. There you'll read the chapter by Paul Kjoss Helseth, who represents the Reformed view that God causes all things (i.e., determinism).

  9. @Matthew
    I'm not familiar with Palmer's book or views, but I am familiar with Calvinisim. Hyper-Calvinists teach a symmetrical view of predestination, i.e., God decreed the elect's salvation from eternity, in time intervenes in their lives and creates saving faith in their hearts by grace. Those who aren't saved, God in time, intrudes into their lives and creates fresh evil in their souls (God causes sin) enuring their ultimate damnation. That is not orthodox reformed theology.

    I finally found the quote I've been looking for Sproul in his commentary on Romans:

    "In the case of the elect, God positively intervenes in their lives to rescue them from their corrupt condition. The Holy Spirit changes their hearts of stone to hearts alive to the things of God. In the case of the reprobate, He leaves them to their own devices, but he does not intrude in their lives to create fresh evil. In the mass of fallen humanity, some receive the saving grace of of God; God intervenes to rescue them from their sinful condition. He passes over the remainder. Those whom he passes over are not elect; they are reprobate. They are judged because of the evil already present in them..." pg. 328

    If you believe in total depravity, then you know man is sinful. God didn't cause that sin or the sinful choices we make. Does he work through our decisions to bring about His will? I think so. I also think the molinist would agree with that. Did God cause me to type this sentence? I think this is a choice made by my will. However, I have been working this thought over in my head: I chose to type this sentence. It's a choice of my own free will, but since I am a contingent being, is God not the ultimate cause of my writing this sentence? It's not a violation of my free will which he has given me, but without God I wouldn't exist, much less be able to type this sentence. So, when the calvinist or even when the molinist says, "God makes it all happen..." he is not entirely wrong by saying such a thing.

  10. @Bossmanham
    I checked out the quotes you linked to and I have to say I'm not entirely shocked by some of those quotes, especially by the ones who I would deem hyper-calvinists.

    I have to ask, the quotes from John Calvin, couldn't they also be quoted as molinism? I take the example Bill Craig gave of God hardening Pharaoh's heart in his review of the "Four views of divine providence" book he gave in his podcast to be a good example of God working through the sinful choices of man to bring about His divine plan/purpose for the world. Does God cause the sinful choices? No, but you could say He ordained the choices because He knows from eternity the choices we will make based on our personalities. Bill Craig's definition of molinism: "What Molinism holds is that God knows logically prior to His decree to create a world what any person would freely do in any fully specified, freedom-permitting set of circumstances in which God might place him." So God ordaining sinful choices to fit His will is not causation of sin. However, I could be wrong if I'm misunderstanding foreknowledge and ordaining of things.

    So, I think the molinist would agree with the quotes listed for John Calvin. The other guys' quotes? Eh, I don't think so. I don't think God causes us to sin, otherwise, we wouldn't be responsible for the sin in our lives. Does He ordain it based on foreknowledge of our free choices in certain circumstances to bring about His will? Well, I think so, but I'm open to being corrected.

  11. Seth,

    I think the difference of opinion is then with irresistible grace, I guess?

    It's about that and whether salvation is conditional and limited in scope (not application, as we all accept that salvation is only applied to those who accept Christ).

    I'm more convinced that God chooses whom to save; at this point anyway.

    So am I. I think He has chosen to save those who believe (John 1:12; Mark 16:15-16, etc), not chosen who will believe as such.

    RE: the Sproul quote, I actually would agree with that for the most part, though he'd certainly be at odds with Edwards, Turretin, Calvin, etc regarding God's role in bringing things to pass. Also, a God who leaves a portion of humanity up to their utter depravity doesn't seem very loving toward the world.

    Regarding Craig's quote, it isn't the same thing. Craig says that God knows prior to creating the world that, put in the situation he was put in, Pharaoh would freely do what he did. Therefore God did that since that is what He deemed as His desired path for history. Most Calvinists say that God actually caused Pharaoh's heart to be hard directly, ie He caused pharaoh to choose a certain thing.

    I'm glad you don't, and think your view is many times better than a deterministic one, but I also think that your view of unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace is problematic Biblically and philosophically.

    I don't think so. I don't think God causes us to sin, otherwise, we wouldn't be responsible for the sin in our lives. Does He ordain it based on foreknowledge of our free choices in certain circumstances to bring about His will? Well, I think so, but I'm open to being corrected.

    I think this is correct and well stated.

  12. "1. If God is sovereign, then there is no free will."

    nitpick: calvinists would generally admit that if God is sovereign in biblical terms, then there is no "free will." instead calvinists will generally use the term "free agency." men are free to choose what they desire, but their desires reflect their nature.

    "It has already been proved beyond all controversy that free-will is nonsense. Freedom cannot belong to will any more than ponderability can belong to electricity. They are altogether different things. Free agency we may believe in, but free-will is simply ridiculous. The will is well known by all to be directed by the understanding, to be moved by motives, to be guided by other parts of the soul, and to be a secondary thing."

    which is another way of saying that men don't choose "for no reason." a man who hates Christ is not really "free" to worship Him (without first having a change of heart...which he cannot do himself).

    Jer13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

    discussing "calvinism" usually boils down to one key issue: is God free to command men to do what they are unable to do? noncalvinists will say would make Him evil. this is the ground they stand on when they read “I set before you life and death…choose life…” or “repent and believe!” and assume such commands are evidence that we are “free to choose” and therefore must have the capacity to obey. OTOH commands such as “be perfect” and “love God with ALL your heart…” are generally swept under the rug as they only demonstrate our inability.

    of course, calling it "calvinism" is a bit of a misnomer as it goes back even past augustine all the way to paul's day:

    Rom9:16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?"

    noncalvinists don't accept paul's answer in v20. they still want to try to force God into the defendant's chair if He ordains or intends sin.

    @boss re: “Also, a God who leaves a portion of humanity up to their utter depravity doesn't seem very loving toward the world.”

    i take it you deny Hell then?


  13. “However, I have been working this thought over in my head: I chose to type this sentence. It's a choice of my own free will, but since I am a contingent being, is God not the ultimate cause of my writing this sentence?”

    yep – there is an aspect of “causation” in the notion that it is “in Him” that you and everyone else “live and move and have their being.”

    ananias and his wife intended to con the early church, yet God put a stop to their mischief by taking their lives. (also acts 12:23) God is not helpless and forced to "allow" anything that man desires to do. He can stop or sustain what He chooses...

    Dan4:35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.
    He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
    No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”

    Isa46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
    I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

    Prov16:4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster.
    alt: The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. (NASB)

    Prov16:1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue...9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

    Psa33:10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
    11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

    Psa135:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.

    Dan5:23 …You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.

    one other note: be careful not to lump the supralapsarians in with the hypers.

    thanks for posting, seth. these are good issues to ponder.


  14. Thanks for the comments Charles. Christianity is definitely worth thinking about. I'm also pleased with the tone of everyone's comments regarding this usually controversial topic of salvation. I think it's worth thinking about and discussing with brothers and sisters in Christ.

  15. edit: "I'm pleased with the tone of everyone's comments regarding this usually controversial topic of *reconciling divine sovereignty with the human will* I think we Calvinists and Arminians agree that salvation is by grace, by faith in Christ alone.

  16. LvkaSeptember 17, 2012 3:09 PM

    You left a comment on another site, whose owner always deletes my comments. There, you asked the following question:

    If we could lose our salvation, then what does that say about the power of the atonement? Also, what does that say about Christ interceding for us?

    This would be as saying:

    "If we could lose our money, then what does that say about the power of the rich man who lent it to us ?"

    You also seem to think that Christ redeems us by force, interceding for us against our will.
    SethSeptember 18, 2012 8:01 AM

    I seriously don't want to get into a long exhausting conversation over this because if Tony-Allen couldn't persuade you of reformed theology then I know I cannot. However, I do have a comment about your money and rich man question. I would say that it's not at all unusual to think of the rich man as not powerful or to think of money as not powerful in that we can lose money and we have no reason to have eternal trust in the power of the rich man because both are finite. The rich man is not omnipotent nor is money, whereas God is omnipotent. If we can lose our salvation then that means the atonement is weak and not very powerful. If we can lose our salvation then that would mean the Christ's prayers are weak. It would mean he is not a very good shepherd.

    In my opinion, Christian theology wouldn't make sense if man can lose his salvation. I have no reason to completely trust money or a rich man because both are finite in power and in goodness. Even if both were omnipotent, that wouldn't mean they were not corruptible. However, God is good and powerful; giving me good reason to trust in His goodness and power to guard my salvation, preserving me to final salvation.
    LvkaSeptember 18, 2012 2:37 PM

    The rich man in the Parable of the Talents is also a symbol of God Almighty. The talents with which he entrusted each one of his three servants are likewise an image of His allpowerful grace. The same goes for the seeds, and the Sower that planted them. Yet, both the servants and the types-of-soil have a saying in the matter, as we can see in both biblical passages.
    SethSeptember 18, 2012 3:01 PM

    I understand the application of the parable of the talents to be one of God entrusting us with resources (time and wealth of some sort); that we are responsible for using those resources making sure they increase in value; the gospel is our most valuable resource, one that we want to be good stewards of and make sure that value multiplies. I don't understand that parable to be one of His grace.

    I understand the sower and the seeds (you're talking about the sower and the four soils right?) Matthew Henry wrote: “That which distinguished this good ground from the rest, was, in one word, fruitfulness. He does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but there were none that prevailed to hinder its fruitfulness.” Stones or thorns may be found in the good soil of a true believer’s heart, but such obstructions do not finally prevent him from bearing fruit. I understand this parable to show that God's saving power cannot be stopped by thorns and such. Like Paul wrote in Romans: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    Anyway, I'll let you have the last comment if you choose to write back.


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