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Randal Rauser’s Mistake: A Defense of Calvin’s Doctrine of Election

November 12th, 2011 by Andrew

John CalvinThanks go to Matthew Flannagan for pointing me in the direction of this response to the problem.

A while back Professor Randal Rauser issued a blog entitled “Calvinism and the Arbitrary Camp Director” in which he criticised the Calvinist understanding of election.

For those of you who are unaware of the Calvinistic understanding of election, very roughly, it’s the idea is that God elected some for salvation and did not elect others for salvation. Now obviously there’s FAR more to Calvin’s doctrine of election than merely the claim that some are elected and others are not. But that at least, is the centre point of Rauser’s criticism, and more particularly, it’s that element of Calvin’s doctrine that I seek to defend in this article.

Before we begin, it’s interesting to note that barely three months ago I was a staunch Arminian when it came to soteriology. I reacted against Calvin’s doctrine with the greatest of revulsion. How could it possibly be, I thought, that God could be “good” and yet actively choose some for salvation while leaving others to die?! It made no sense to me! In-fact, I remember going to scripture one Sunday morning actively seeking to find that knock down scriptural blow against the Reformed understanding of election. Interestingly, the first scripture I read was the parable of the wheat and the tares Matthew 13:24-29/13:36-43. While I read it, it struck me that this challenged my Arminian understanding of Salvation. But I didn’t want to believe it, so I left it for a week hoping that there would be some other explanation. But none was forthcoming. Very quickly I found myself speaking in terms that a week earlier I would never have been revolted to hear myself say. I was not yet a practicing Calvinist. I was what you might call “soteriologically agnostic”.

Now the reason I say this is not because I hope to establish myself as any authority on the matter. To the contrary, Rauser, being a Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary is far more of an authority on the matter than I can hope to be at this stage of my life. So it’s with much fear and trepidation that I dare post this article contradicting Rauser’s arguments. So why do I give my testimony of how I came to Calvinism? Well I myself am a little unsure. Nevertheless, I suspect that the main reason I give such testimony is that I find it and irony worth sharing that I am writing an article that barely three months ago I would never have even dreamed of writing. If I was going to write anything, it would have been about how Calvinism completely destroys any sensible understanding of God’s justice and love.

But now let’s get down to business. Precisely what is Rauser’s objection? More than anything else, it appears to be a moral objection. The problem, Rauser urges, is that it makes God’s choice about who save entirely arbitrary. Why, he asks (referring to one of his dialectic opponents apparently named Tom) should God bring glory to him (Tom) and not another say Saddam Hussein? This picture, Rauser asserts, completely undermines the idea that God is loving. In order help us to see this point. Rauser entreats us to consider the following illustrative analogy:

Randal Rauser“Imagine that there is a camp for troubled youth. The camp director has a rather unorthodox method of dealing with the campers. Some of them are beaten severely with whips in a wholly punitive or retributive (i.e. not restorative) manner while others are chosen by the director to receive care, love and nurture in a way that restores them.

You are contemplating sending your child to the camp but you want your child to be lovingly restored, not viciously beaten, even if the beatings are just. So you enquire: what is it that makes the director decide to beat the children rather than nurture them? Is it the nature of their crimes? Their race? Gender? What?

The answer comes back. There is absolutely nothing that differentiates the two groups. The bottom line is that for some inexplicable reason the director arbitrarily selects some children to be beaten and others to be nurtured.

Now imagine that somebody came up to you with a positive testimonial. “The director loved our child! He nurtured her. She’s much better now. He is very loving to those he chooses.” Wouldn’t you want to scream back “But what about the children he opts to beat? How can you call that loving? How can you focus only on those he nurtures and completely ignore those he beats? Doesn’t it bother you that his choice to nurture your child was wholly arbitrary?”

What Rauser neglects to include in his analogy, and truthfully it’s essential, is that humans do not deserve salvation. The Calvinist maintains that (in virtue of our Total Depravity) morality and/or justice does not impose on God a duty to save us from death. As such, if God is to save us, it is totally unmerited in all senses of the word. It goes, as it were, beyond the call of duty, and is as such, “supererogatory”. That is to say, it might be a nice deed for God to perform, but there is no obligation/duty on Him to do so. If it’s the case that any salvific work that God does is “supererogatory” in this sense, then it cannot be said that there’s any injustice associated with picking some and leaving others. Suppose by way of illustration, that some person S has many brothers. Suppose furthermore, that S (out of the goodness of his heart) decides to gift some money to but one of his brothers. Since S was under no obligation to give ANY of his brothers (let alone the one he actually gave it to) any money at all, there’s no injustice or objective unfairness in S benefiting one brother and not benefiting others. None of S’s brothers had done anything that placed a duty on S to provide his brothers with money, and nor was there anything about S’ brothers which meant that they were intrinsically deserving of the money. In a similar way, the Calvinist holds that because of our sinful nature, there is nothing about us or the way we act which means that we deserve salvation. Hence God has no duty whatsoever to save us. That God has no such duty entails that there is no injustice associated with God saving some and not others.

It is the fact that we don’t deserve salvation that Rauser unfortunately fails to include in his analogy. I have no doubt that he attempted to include this in the analogy (the fact that the children are referred to as “troubled” is indication enough), nevertheless it strikes me that what does most of the work in producing the intuition that the camp director’s actions were unjust, is not so much the fact that his actions were “arbitrary”, so much as that the children were not deserving of such treatment. As much as Rauser attempts to include in his analogy the un-deservingness of the children, he does not succeed. Troubled children, we perceive, are never so troubled and don’t commit crimes so horrific as to deserve the treatment they receive at the hands of the camp director in Rauser’s illustration. To the contrary, we are inclined to think that the children deserve better treatment. In Rauser’s analogy then, there is a duty on the camp director to treat the children in a more appropriate manner. It’s this that the injustice of Rauser’s analogy consists in. Not, as he asserts, the mere arbitrariness of the camp directors choice.

By failing to incorporate this aspect into his analogy, Rauser assumes what the Calvinist about election already denies, namely that we are deserving of salvation, and that God has a corresponding duty to save us. So in an important sense, Rauser assumes the falsity of Calvinism in an attempt to show its falsity. To put a long story short, he begs the question against Calvinism.

I am given to understand that Randal Rauser is a prolific blogger, and I sincerely hope for his response.

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77 responses so far ↓

  • Good post Andrew. I’m just commenting to subscribe to the comments. I am Reformed, and if the conversation gets fun, I’ll be sure to jump in when/if I have the time.

  • Excellent post.

    The Calvinist maintains that (in virtue of our Total Depravity) morality and/or justice does not impose on God a duty to save us from death. As such, if God is to save us, it is totally unmerited in all senses of the word.

    So, just let me get this straight (and, by all means, please correct me if I am wrong). We were all created by Yahweh. We are all depraved. In fact, we are born depraved. Unless we are elected for salvation by Yahweh, we are damned to suffer in eternal hellfire. This is ok because Yahweh is under to obligation to save anyone.

    Makes perfect sense to me – http://bit.ly/sL2Tip

    In the unlikely event that such a heavenly creator exists, he can kiss my atheist *ss.

  • The analogy may also be criticized in that God’s punishment consists in the people never knowing God, and suffering as a result of their own default condition. Thus, it’s not as though the Director inflicts *additional* pain to an already pained individual. He only lets him as he is in his own living hell.

    Yet the question all of this still hasn’t answered is (1) If none of us deserve salvation, what is God’s basis for electing some and not electing others? If your answer makes any reference to human voluntary willingness to be saved, then you’ve undermined your point.

    “That God has no such duty entails that there is no injustice associated with God saving some and not others.”

    You save all the good-looking people from a hospital, and neglect to save any of the others, even though you could have. There’s nothing defective about your moral character? Change “good-looking” with any other criteria, and you still face the same problem. The God I believe in is no respecter of persons.

    You’re on a lifeboat with 9 other people. An omnipotent and all-loving person is capable of saving all 10 of you, and nothing distinguishes any of you from each other. He saves one of you (a hot chick) by a roll of a dice, and leaves the rest of you as shark-bait. People get upset, and you attempt to calm them down, saying “Wait here, he doesn’t have a moral duty to save any of us! Since there was no duty to save us, it doesn’t indicate anything defective about his moral character that he saved the hot chick but not us.” My guess is you’d be thrown first.

  • The analogy is more that of a parent deciding to give some children an inheritance and not others. When you get older and have children of your own, try giving, say, one child a chocolate bar but not the other child one. As Matt and Madeleine will tell you — that’s not advisable! Giving the chocolate bar is “supererogatory” but it immediately raises an issue of fairness, as even children rightly know.

  • There is just so much that no one knows. It seems preemptive to me to take a theological stand for free will or election. It might involve a bit of both. The Bible certainly suggests both.

    As far as hell is concerned. There is a great amount about hell that we don’t know. Outer darkness, fire, simple exclusion? Is it being trapped in your own mind? Is it a objective physical reality like this reality. Do people in hell even want out to begin with? There is some consolation in forbidden states and attitudes. Some people love pride and they would rather suffer with pride than give it up to enter peace. Wicked people often think saints are boring and bland.

  • Great post Andrew, sometimes it’s the poorly based objection to a truth that helps to convince us of its opposite. Though definitely no reformed Christian, G.K Chesterton found a similar thing as he sought to appraise Christianity as seen and derided by atheists.

    ‘As I laid down the last of Colonel Ingersoll’s atheistic lectures the dreadful thought broke across my mind, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” I was in a desperate way. This odd effect of the great agnostics in arousing doubts deeper than their own might be illustrated in many ways. I take only one. As I read and re-read all the non-Christian or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh, a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically upon my mind — the impression that Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons.’ http://bit.ly/sL2Tip

    Finney you said:

    …(1) If none of us deserve salvation, what is God’s basis for electing some and not electing others? If your answer makes any reference to human voluntary willingness to be saved, then you’ve undermined your point.

    Scripture says: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (Romans 9:15) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Romans 9:16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    Any reference to the involvement of human will with regards to salvation is qualified by the above verses. People choose (against their prior “better” judgement) because the mercy of God has opened their hearts to the reality of their condition.

    And so the following verse remains true:
    (Romans 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Given that no one ever has, ever will or ever may call on Him apart from the influence of irresistible grace)

    The lifeboat analogy doesn’t hold water, since no-one is really aware of their predicament, (we’re all on the “Good Ship Lollipop”) apart from the informing grace of God, and this is a self-confirming illusion of humanities own making.

    Just sayin’ said: Giving the chocolate bar is “supererogatory” but it immediately raises an issue of fairness, as even children rightly know.

    The analogous relationship between parent and child to that of Creator/creation breaks down here. The parent is custodian of that which God has brought to existence through them. We are the contingent cause of the children’s existence, not the ultimate, final cause, and as such what may be obligatory of parents in the name of “fairness” cannot be extrapolated onto God.

    In the same way our “choosing Christ” is the contingent (as opposed to ultimate) cause of our salvation co-incident to the election of God.

  • Finney: The God I believe in is no respecter of persons.

    That is right, God is no respecter of persons. That means that the Arminian idea doesn’t wash with God.

    Arminian idea: I hear the gospel, I weigh it up with all the neutrality I can muster, (being dead in trespasses and sins, and at enmity with God) I finally choose God in Christ. God respects my choice and my subsequent faith in him and saves me, he has to doesn’t he, I have fulfilled my obligations under the requirements of the Salvation law, is’nt that right?

  • I think that if God created beings with no chance whatsoever to receive salvation, as the Calvinist holds, and then the created being acts specifically as it was designed, then the created being did nothing wrong. Indeed, it acted perfectly according to God’s will. “Transgressing” God’s law, regardless of Israeli or Gentile, really doesn’t actually amount to anything. Everything is sort of like a play or computer program.

    This is the issue that just about every non-Calvinist sees. It’s not just that God is arbitrary, which is bad enough in itself, but that it’s all just so dang pointless. The reprobate in Hell cannot glorify God because he didn’t do anything wrong! He did exactly as he was designed to do! The saved in Heaven cannot give glory to God because there wasn’t any love to save them for them to be thankful for. Everything is play-acting.

  • Robert, What you have said is quite true if that were all there is to it. But it is also true that …whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.(Romans 10:13)

    This may be as true for you as for anyone. I think the whole point of St Paul writing in this way is for us to realize that we have nowhere else to turn but to God’s mercy in Christ.

    The sinner is wrong not only because he chooses wrong but he chooses wrongly because inherently wrong, wrong by nature as well as by choice.

    Have you ever tried to argue with a cop that you didn’t know it was a 15mph speed limit?

    There is a tension between human freedom, what we are responsible for and the sovereignty of God. Even the very real and “felt” love for God that Christians rightly feel is “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”(Romans 10:13)

    To be a Christian one must make a choice, and an informed choice is what Christian apologetics (this website) is all about, so from the human perspective it is all about a voluntary confession and not co-ercion (unlike some religions). From God’s perspective you were (having made a decision to believe in Christ) …chosen … in him before the foundation of the world, that [you] shouldbe holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

  • I think that if God created beings with no chance whatsoever to receive salvation,

    I think that is the beauty of His plan right there. God left nothing to chance, there isn’t (at least in my book) any chance of chance. This is what God did not leave salvation up to, thank goodness. Chance is the human construct we invent in the face of finite knowledge.

  • it seems that if God can actually save everybody, then doesn’t that imply that he is obligated to save everybody? since I would assume that is what an all good God would want to do as is indicated in 2 peter 3:9 (The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ). Another way to look at it is this. it is good to give some people something that they so not deserve, but isn’t it even better if you can give everybody something that they do not deserve?

  • Stu: it is good to give some people something that they do not deserve, but isn’t it even better if you can give everybody something that they do not deserve?

    Yes I would agree with that but then if you gave (without exception) everybody what they did not deserve then they would, (given the human condition) assume that they all did deserve it, OR it would destroy the idea of being able to comprehend what “deserving” means. What could inform them of anything else? C.S Lewis in questioning his own basis from which to argue against the existence of God (that evil exists therefore God must not exist) realized the folly in his argument when he saw that a moral universe points to the existence of God,
    But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I com­paring this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: A fish would not feel wet.

    I think in a similar way it is through distinction that helps us recognize a reality. If we look at a some verses in Romans. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens.
    Romans 9:16-18 God deliberately made an exception to his rule of mercy in Pharoah’s case, and Paul teaches through scripture that it was in order that we might know God’s rights, authority and power even over what was then, perhaps, the highest office known to man. If we had not known any example (of which surely Pharoah was one) how would we perceive what mercy meant. We would all be wet like fish but it would be incomprehensible to us.

  • Stu: With regard to 2 peter 3:9. This text is often quoted as an argument for universal salvation or God’s desire to save all. If this were so then wouldn’t it negate the idea of election? Would we be happy to settle for a contradictory state of affairs? A careful look at the opening verses points to whom the letter is addressed:

    Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

    (2 Peter 1:3) According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

    (2 Peter 1:4) Whereby are given unto usexceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Emphasis mine. So his patience is towards who? Us. Does that mean to all humanity or “we” who are his people? I think the context makes that clear. Peter is saying that the reason things seem to carry on just as they have always carried on is not a result of God being a sluggard regarding his promises, neither is He ineffectual- but that He is biding his time until all those in that number who are His as determined from eternity will come into existence and into a state of salvation before the end. To put it another way- certain members of the Church whom Peter was addressing in his epistle- believed the end of the world was imminent. Peter says-why would God bring the world to destruction at a given point in time if he had planned to save particular people that were not due to be even born before that time (of destruction)? This is Peters argument. So the great day will come when it is appointed, and when the harvest is fully gathered.

  • “I think in a similar way it is through distinction that helps us recognize a reality.”

    but my issue is that calvinism, as presented in the blog, makes this distinction seem arbitrary. It makes it sound like God could have ACTUALLY save everybody, but has arbitrarily chosen not to. Whereas an alternative thought is that God wants to save everybody but can’t guarantee it due to human free will. However, calvinism seems to suggest that human free will isn’t an obstacle to universal salvation but rather it is the arbitrary selection of God which is the obstacle. Hence, the distinction that is emphasized is that God arbitrary selects who is saved and doesn’t want everybody to be saved instead of God want everybody to be saved but allows us the freedom to choose (both in the context that everybody is undeserving).

    Hence, God’s intention for salvation under calvinism seems less good.

  • Stu: my issue is that calvinism, …makes this distinction seem arbitrary.

    Yes it does look that way from our perspective. The word arbitrary in the Merriam Webster online dictionary has as one rendering of the word: depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law

    It carries a negative connotation in most peoples minds but is not necessarily so. It is a judgement handed down by a judge which is not prescribed by a law. The law of sin and death would prescribe destruction of us all but to some God arbitrarily does not give what we deserve but what we do not deserve. As I think C.H. Spurgeon said: The true marvel is not that some are condemned (as justice would demand) but that anyone is saved.(According to mercy)

    Let us not forget that this “arbitrariness” is not some light thing that is merely whimsical. Just a wave of the hand, a nod in the right direction and we get saved, No, the measure of the “arbitrary” decision to save was at the e expense of the excruciating pain of the cross by his one and only loved one, for and on behalf of his people.

  • Perhaps it is just semantics then. However, I am still not clear. Under calvinist understanding. Does God want to save everybody or does he just want to save some (i.e. those whom he has chosen)? It is God’s intentions that concerns me as implied in calvinism.

  • would ‘arbitrary’ in this case assume a random selection? because given all the billions of unsaved people in asia and africa, god seems to be severely biased in favour of saving westerners. if a doctor saved peoples lives on the same ratio he’d be labeled a racist.

  • god seems to be severely biased in favour of saving westerners

    When you read the Old Testament did you not say the same thing about the Jewish people?

  • Hello Kerry,

    Sorry about my delayed response. Hopefully this conversation hasn’t lost its ripeness by now.

    I’m trying to distill your points into discrete claims, and I’m not sure if I’ve got it, but here’s what it seems to me you’re saying: (1) Scripture states that (a) God chooses certain people to be saved because they have chosen him, and (b) they have chosen him because God has opened their hearts to do so.

    (b) is murky. May God open one’s heart in order that he may choose Him in such a way that he remains able to refuse Him? If so, then the basis of God’s election is at least partly our choice to believe on him and follow him, even if God is the original initiator.

    If this is not true, then God’s opening one’s heart itself caused him to believe in God. God chose person A to choose God in order that A be saved. This is merely a long and winding way of saying “God chooses person A.” There is no such significance attached human willingness in this scheme of things, for the human willingness was coerced. There, in fact, is no human willingness. Only the appearance of willingness.

    If this is how you read “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, then it’s vacuous of meaning. If God’s opening a person’s heart is the sole ingredient necessary for his calling upon the name of the Lord, then the sentence merely means “For whomever God saves, God saves.”

    In fact, if this IS how you read it, it not only makes it incoherent, it’s also inconsistent with Romans 9. For yes, God is capable of showing mercy to whomever he pleases. But that’s not the complete picture. Paul afterword says to this effect “So Gentiles are saved and the nation of Israel isn’t.” He follows this with the dialectical question “Why not?”

    In other words, everything Paul says up to that point, about God’s sovereignty in his choice to save, wasn’t enough to answer the question “Why isn’t Israel saved?”

    He answers the question in verse 32, stating unequivocally that it was due to Israel’s lack of faith, and unbelief in the Cornerstone that is God.

    On the assumption that God is the being that causes us fully to believe in him, this makes no sense whatsoever, for then it means that God did not save Israel because God did not cause Israel to believe in him.

    So, I’m not convinced.

    I affirm that one cannot draw to God unless God drew to him. John 6.44. I also affirm Jesus’ assertion that he will draw all people to himself. John 12.31. If you understand God’s act of drawing us to him as necessary, but not sufficient, for our drawing to him, this makes perfect sense that all people are drawn to God and yet do not draw to him. It also makes sense that if we come near to him, God will come near to us. James 4.8.

    Peace.

  • ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’ Rev 3:20

    ‘By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:7-9

    And dont worry sammy g , the church is growing strongly in Africa and Asia.

  • […] posted an article on Matt and Madeleine Flannagan’s website provocatively titled “Randal Rauser’s Mistake: A Defense of Calvin’s Doctrine of Election“. Okay, I consider that provocative anyway. The article focuses on identifying an alleged […]

  • Stu:Hence, God’s intention for salvation under calvinism seems less good.

    There is another consideration, it may seem less good to save some and not all (through God’s choice) yes, it is definitely limited. Yet under the Arminian system the same result is acheived. Not all are saved, that too is limited. The only difference is that one is a limitation based on God’s choice, the other is a limitation on the power of God to save. That seems less good to me as well as not being according to scripture.

    Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:(Isaiah 59:1)

    RobertH:It’s not just that God is arbitrary, which is bad enough

    A lot of people object to the seemingly arbitrary choice of those whom God saves. I say seemingly because we only know it is not on the basis of anything we do. If it were any other way it would necessarily involve that God would choose someone on the basis of something in us, what would that be?: hair colour, height, i.q.,race or obedience to the law (the Jewish mistake), moral fortitude, faith in Christ, (the Arminian error), church attendance, payment of indulgences, gifts to the Church ???. Some may note with horror that I have included faith in Christ but I mean that in the sense that a common error is that God saves us as a result of “our” faith, whereas the reformed view is that our faith is not ours in another sense, it is the gift of God which we have through God’s election of us. Personal faith in Christ is the result of God’s grace, not the cause. In the end it would have to be “arbitrariness” if He chose people on the basis of anything, given that anything we had to offer is as “filthy rags”. That would seem less good to me.

  • Can we dig Jesus up and see if we can squeeze some precious blood from his pile of bones?

    I’m so afraid that the Amazon jungle tribes are going to burn in everlasting hell! Or the Peruvian mountain peoples. Let’s do everything we can to save everyone!!!!
    We need all the Jesus blood that we can get our hands on!! How can you spell S-A-L-V-A-T-I-O-N without precious JesusBlood!! Let’s SQUEEZE Jesus like a turnip!

  • If someone can explain to me why someone who subscribes to Calvinism would ever bother to evangelize, I would be grateful.

    Also, as I recently tweeted: I’m confused. Currently listening to [Pastor Dustin] Segers & [atheist Reynold] Hall [on the Fundamentally Flawed podcast]. Why would a Calvinist believer worship that God? I’d just be scared shitless.

  • Kerry,
    “The only difference is that one is a limitation based on God’s choice, the other is a limitation on the power of God to save.”

    The non-calvinist view also holds the limitation as one of a choice – God has the power to coerce us, but doesn’t so that we may freely choose him as prodigal children. God does enough on the non-calvinist view to enable all people to be saved, such that our refusal to be saved is our fault and not God’s. It staggers me beyond comprehension how this is taken to be a lesser good than your view of God who deliberately makes only a few people know him, who deliberately causes Adam to sin, who deliberately sends people off to the gas chambers of death and the grave and scoffs at them for their God-induced blindness.

  • The non-calvinist view also holds the limitation as one of a choice – God has the power to coerce us, but doesn’t so that we may freely choose him as prodigal children.

    That is the standard Arminian position, that God limits his power, so that the ultimate choice falls to humanity. Please explore how this changes the perspective on grace.

    This is a rhetorical question, when you became a Christian was it your own choice or did some Crusader stretch you on the rack until you confessed faith? If it wasn’t forced upon you then it was your decision, your willingness, we are not robots, our will counts and has meaning. But from the perspective of God your willingness was the result of God at work within you (John 15:16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, now if I say God made you willing is that really a contradiction in terms? (Philippians 2:13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Maybe some would consider that a violation of your rights but I’m thankful for it.

    What we mustn’t forget here is that all this is just so much banter if we do not reference our discussion to the Bible. Who has the greater authority to tell us what reality is like? Is man the measure of all things or shall we decide not to trust in our own way of seeing and see what the scriptures say? It is the scriptures that finally convinced me.

    I think this discussion has been somewhat anticipated by the scriptures in the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 I think the key verse is: Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? When we come into this world we don’t refuse life on the basis that evil is in the world or that things aren’t fair, we don’t refuse the gift of life or the conditions we find when we get here. We don’t know if we will have a lot or little, whether we will be born in Bangladesh or Laguna Beach. The reality is that God is good and just (Matthew 20:4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
    (Matthew 20:16) This parable was a response to a question of salvation and reward. Confounded that it was well nigh impossible for a rich man to be saved the disciples said: Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:26) But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

  • Stu: an alternative thought is that God wants to save everybody but can’t guarantee it due to human free will.

    What is good to know is whether God can deliver on his promises is it not?

    (2 Peter 1:4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The word “might” is inserted by the translators, it would read better: by these you would come to be partakers of the divine nature…

    If there are no guarantees according to the common doctrine of freewill then what does that do to the basis of these promises?

    (Matthew 16:18)… I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    The church is made up of individuals- hell won’t prevail against it. What does that do to human individual free will in terms of absolute choice?

  • The Atheist Miss: If someone can explain to me why someone who subscribes to Calvinism would ever bother to evangelize, I would be grateful?

    No one but God knows who will respond to the gospel, the Gospel is preached, some of the dead are raised to life, some are hardened in their heart toward God. The gospel is the means, salvation- the end.

  • Andrew, I await your reply to my response! In a follow-up I also provided an extensive critique of Kerry’s stated position while arguing that Calvinists should become universalists or Arminians.

    http://randalrauser.com/2011/11/why-calvinists-should-be-universalists-or-arminians/

  • Suppose some children are sentenced to imprisonment for life, and justly so. The warden chooses to subject some to manual labor, and others are randomly selected to undergo a proven/effective rehabilitation/recovery program that will aid in healing some of their psychological issues, restore a sense of self-esteem, and eventually help them to be re-assimilated into society in some form. Meanwhile the warden has the means and authority to rehabilitate all the prisoners in this manner.

    Its really not hard to tweak Rausner’s analogy to get around the issue you raise. In fact, its really already addressed by his analogy. The kids all are deserving of the punishment – it is retributive/punitive.

  • Imagine further that it turns out that the camp director is a mad scientist who, at some point in the past, genetically engineered all of these children to have the strongest possible predisposition towards crime.

    This would be more analogous to the God of Calvinism as it is by his sovereign decree that mankind starts from a position of being totally depraved.

    Rausner’s analogy doesn’t have the force it should, without that element.

  • Robert H:I think that if God created beings with no chance whatsoever to receive salvation, as the Calvinist holds, and then the created being acts specifically as it was designed, then the created being did nothing wrong.

    When God created Mankind he was good, now he is evil and is not according to how he was designed.

  • Kerry,

    In one of your comments you quoted Philippians 2:13:

    “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

    Perhaps it was an oversight on your part but take a look at the prior verse:

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

  • toddes
    Perhaps it was an oversight on your part but take a look at the prior verse:

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

    My point was that:

    “But from the perspective of God your willingness was the result of God at work within you” and scripture affirms that. I meant no detraction from the idea that we must work out our salvation. I was pointing out the grace of God at work in us to save us from ourselves.

    “The non-calvinist view also holds the limitation as one of a choice – God has the power to coerce us, but doesn’t so that we may freely choose him as prodigal children.” This is what is constantly said by the Arminian camp but I don’t see a scriptural mandate for it. Randal’s argument for electing all is based on the “omnibenevolent God” Who because of a principle called by Randal “maximally loving” is bound to at least desire all to be saved (I have no argument with that) but demands that if he could save all then he must, otherwise he could no longer be called omnibenevolent. The fascinating thing is that on the point of libertarian free-will the Arminians have already stated that in order for this to be real God must be less of an omnipotent God by limiting his power. So the argument he uses against my view is the same argument that he uses for>/i< his own view only different with respect to a different attribute of God. If it's good for the goose then it should be good for the gander.

  • @Randal,

    I am currently in the process of writing a response to your article. I have been on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast for the past week and so away from a computer. I only *just* got home to find your response.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  • Finney:
    “It staggers me beyond comprehension how this is taken to be a lesser good than your view of God who deliberately makes only a few people know him, who deliberately causes Adam to sin, who deliberately sends people off to the gas chambers of death and the grave and scoffs at them for their God-induced blindness.”

    My view of God is that he has left his mark, his stamp on all of creation which is not only all around us; we- being part of it- must be included. We are so wonderfully made (as the image of God) that the incredulity mankind expresses at the thought of a Creator is deep down only a mask for his own wickedness. Humankind is so steeped in this wickedness and so far from being that which He originally created us to be, that we no longer recognize or are capable of recognizing on our own the obvious, not just that God exists but that all He does is good, and not just that we are evil but how evil we have become, an evil that is so pervasive that we don’t know what good and evil are anymore. But that does not release us from culpability. Your reference to the gas chambers is interesting because it reminds me of something said by Viktor Frankl, a Jew who lost many of his family in the death camps he himself survived:
    “If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity, and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.
    I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment — or, as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”

    Here is what Elie Wiesel, another holocaust survivor said:
    Never shall I forget that night. The first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never
    He also describes the death by hanging of a young boy by the Nazis for being a traitor or some such thing. The boy struggled for half an hour while all the inmates were forced to look on. Why do I mention such things in the light of our subject? Viktor Frankl showed the importance of right thinking about human nature, if that is so- how much more is it that we get right our thinking of God?
    By occupation I am a farmer, my education never went beyond high school but since Christ came into my life I started reading books. The Bible and others whose lives He has touched. Calvinism, Arminianism? They’re just labels. Convenient words we use in discussion. The real issue is: What is true? If I am such a poor apologist for the reformed view of Christianity that you believe what you wrote expresses my view then let another step up to the plate. If this view of Christianity is wrongheaded and not what scripture teaches then please convince me. God scoffs at them for their God-induced blindness???

  • Further to my tirade of the previous night. If the gas chambers and Frankl were a little archaic for you then let’s look at something a little more contemporary: I refer to the hundreds of thousands of unborn children ripped out of the womb in the name of human autonomy. Yes that’s right, we in the West thanks to a theology of freedom (despite which was declared unchristian by the Synod of Dordt convened nearly 400 years ago) have been “celebrating” our human autonomy. Frankl’s reference to Nehilism could be traced, no doubt in part, to a guy called Friedrich Nietzsche whose influence could be seen in Hitler. “The will to power” is what he termed it. Since that time humanity has grown bolder in its mad rush to the absolutism of human will, such to the extent now that medical professionals that took an oath to protect human life now routinely destroy it in the name of economics or other arbitrary measures, and believe, like the woman who is having an abortion that this is right and good because it is “freedom”. I like what Iris Murdoch said re the Kantian idea of absolute independence (whether that his intention, it is at least interpreted that way) in The Sovereignty of the Good: “How recognizable, how familiar to us, is the man so beautifully portrayed in the Grundlegung who, confronted even with Christ, turns away to consider the judgment of his own conscience and to hear the voice of his own reason… this man is with us still, free, independent, lonely, powerful, rational, responsible, brave, the hero of so many novels an books of moral philosophy.” And she goes on to say the incarnation of Kant’s ideal man is already perfectly anticipated in Milton’s Lucifer. John Cottingham in The Spiritual Dimension: “The creative power of God need not foreclose a creature’s autonomy, provided the latter term is properly understood- not as subscribing to the dangerous fantasy of total independence…” That really describes my crusade against what Randal’s view supports.

  • Kerry, your fervor is admirable, but you seem to be justifying your perspective with a rather slippery slope. Surely, if the reformed view is correct, it can be so without making a villain of the opposition.

  • Alex Dalton: the camp director is a mad scientist who, at some point in the past, genetically engineered all of these children to have the strongest possible predisposition towards crime.

    The “mystery of evil” is not called that lightly. Your analogy does God a disservice if that is intended by it, and that is understating it. In my garden story Satan is camp director. In the narrative of the Garden man is (before the fall) pictured as perfect and good in as far as his creaturely nature allows.In the N.T. Christ is portrayed as the second Adam, they are both progenitors, first of a kind. In Christ we see an example of humanity as he was originally made in the image of God. This is not to say Christ was merely human , denying his divinity but that his will was as Adams was in the beginning. If you prefer, Adam, like Christ, had a free will as is typically defined today by the term “libertarian free will”; (with the essential caveat that Christ demonstrated which was that it never amounted to total sovereignty- “I always do that which pleases my father”). But that originally good and free nature was lost at the fall when mankind decided to interpret reality on their own terms independent of God. Total depravity means that not one single facet of human nature has remained untouched by that event, not that we are as totally evil as one could be (because God restrains that possibility) Mankind’s will is subsequently effected to the degree that our predisposition is to do evil and hide from God. You said “genetically engineered”? that is perhaps not as fantastical as it sounds. It’s effect on the human race is so universal as to make that credible. But how then did Christ escape that dilemma? People have speculated that Mary contributed the humanity of Christ and God the divine. But as others have said that would result in half human half god, and it would necessitate that his human nature would carry the depravity that now enveloped the rest of humanity. Implanted in the surrogate womb of Mary was the second Adam, first of a kind, born of God bearing in fact not only no relation to Joseph as is widely accepted but no relation to Mary either. All his genealogies are only as real as is necessary to trace a lineage to David or to verify his claim to fulfill prophecy- being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,…. Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.(Luke 3) The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac; ….And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.(Matthew 1) The lineage is accepted even though Joseph was clearly not the father. Surrogacy was not even considered being unknown but this known concept today makes it not only possible but probable.

    How Satan came to be what he is, how the fundamental goodness of pristine Adam could be corrupted, how Christ could be tempted? I don’t know.

  • Hi matt,

    your fervor is admirable, but you seem to be justifying your perspective with a rather slippery slope. Surely, if the reformed view is correct, it can be so without making a villain of the opposition.

    A slippery slope, well something is sliding for sure, could you be more specific?

    As for “making a villain”- Do you refer to my reply to Finney?
    I do heartily apologize if that’s how he feels. I felt his summary of the position I hold was a caricature, a cartoon like might be seen in a newspaper of Mohammed. Or like those burning a Q’uran. I detest that as being totally unhelpful and only engenders hate. I am all for people respecting one another and their view even if they see it as implausible. The view I concur with radically changed society for the better several hundred years ago (the legacy which we enjoy today is at least in part due to it)

    Yes my ire was raised, the price of investing deeply in a worldview is that deep feelings come as a result. My family and your family (whoever is reading) is at this very moment deeply effected by the worldview of those who lead society, it is deadly serious and many of those whose philosophies applaud the absolute sanctity of the human will are exacting a tremendous cost on the world.

  • Finney’s second comment did not involve much in the way of substance, I’ll grant you that. I don’t see why it became good cause to connect arminianism (I gather that is what you mean by “theology of freedom”) with nazis, abortion, and Nietzsche. That strikes me as a fairly offensive suggestion. Finney suggests that Calvinism makes God look rather nasty, but on the understanding that God is necessarily not nasty (I’d assume that’s Finney’s belief) we should reject Calvinism. This would need to be developed better to be a good objection, but it is quite a bit different than suggesting a connection in the actual world between Arminianism and very evil acts. You suggest that the Arminian view exalts the human will at the expense of God’s sovereignty (and that from this theological diversion evolved nihilistic philosophies), but surely this is just as much of a caricature as Finney’s own remarks. It seems better to find more charitable formulations of another’s objections (such as the manner in which I paraphrased Finney’s above), and generally this will mean that if you are successful in dismantling this more charitable reformulation, you will have beaten a stronger version of the objection than they presented in the first place. I’m not a professional myself, so I’m saying this as something of a peer to you (that is, I hope I don’t sound condescending). This is an interesting conversation, and, admittedly, I impulsively jumped in with a corrective remark when I perceived it to be going off the rails.

  • mnF:

    “but surely this is just as much of a caricature as Finney’s own remarks.”

    I don’t know if you have followed this thing on Randal Rauser’s blog http://randalrauser.com/2011/11/why-calvinists-should-be-universalists-or-arminians/

    I feel like a dinosaur, quite out of place, the view I hold has had the respect if not the belief of all Christendom in the past. This is not to elicit sympathy but I guess it’s a bit of a shock to see what things have come to in the “real” world.

    If I have learned anything from this discussion it is:

    I am definitely not a professional and need to know more about formal argumentation philosophy and scripture.

    References to scripture are almost meaningless in this context. The textual criticism and post-modern idea that you (the reader) are the final arbiter to define what the text means is pretty scary.

    It’s so easy for discussions to degenerate. I think one of the finest examples I have see of respect shown for people of all persuasions is Ravi Zacharias. I like what he says about the pointlessness of asking people to smell a rose after you have amputated their olfactory organ!
    I do hope that is not how I come across.

    Truth over Faith has taught me that even the mention of God or Jesus is offensive, I guess by his standard we should all shut up and retire to our closet.

    “Finney suggests that Calvinism makes God look rather nasty,” granted, but many people believe that the undisputed existence of evil in the world does the same thing, does that therefore mean that we summarily dismiss the existence of God? Truly some do but that’s not a reason for that attitude in a Christian.

    “You suggest that the Arminian view exalts the human will at the expense of God’s sovereignty (and that from this theological diversion evolved nihilistic philosophies),”

    I went to the extent I did because I felt that his attitude was summarily dismissive of my belief. Yes I do see a connection, and I went on (and on and on!) to say I believed that view of “freewill” has been inculcated into secular society so much that it alone is now used as the basis for abortion under the guise of “my rights”.

    I do take your point and if you have followed it on Randal’s blog you will see that I complained to him pretty much on the same basis. I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Kerry and Matt-not-Flannagan

    I admit my gas-chambers reference was overly dramatic, and unnecessary. I apologize for using that.

    But I was responding to this:
    “The only difference is that one is a limitation based on God’s choice, the other is a limitation on the power of God to save. That seems less good to me as well as not being according to scripture.”

    My point is that it’s not true that an Arminianist position limits God’s power. It does not. It is also a limitation based on God’s choice – the choice to overwhelm a human’s free will or not to overwhem a human’s free will. And that kind of limitation of choice makes us responsible for rejecting or accepting God. What “staggers” me, once again, is that you deem the salvation here as a “lesser good” that as in the Calvinist conception of salvation.

    I’ve also responded to your scripture-based arguments earlier, which you haven’t responded to.

    It’s worth pointing out that Victor Frankl rejects determinism, of both a physicalist and theological variety.

  • “undisputed existence of evil in the world does the same thing, does that therefore mean that we summarily dismiss the existence of God?”

    The reason I don’t reject the existence of God because of the evil in the world is because I attribute evil to human beings and other moral agents apart from God, because human beings have free will. Without free will, God is ultimately responsible for all that happens.

  • Also, I didn’t make any reference to abortion and Nietzsche.

  • Finney:”My point is that it’s not true that an Arminianist position limits God’s power. It does not.”

    I agree in the sense that an Arminian can not limit God’s power, but an Arminian assumes that God does limit his power as your next comment affirms:
    “It is also a limitation based on God’s choice – the choice to overwhelm a human’s free will or not to overwhelm a human’s free will.” (That however does not accord with the statement by Randal)
    I agree also with the above statement with the caveat that his choice not to overwhelm a person is not necessarily universal. My position is that in the elect God chooses to so intervene as to make a persons salvation irresistible.

    “the evil in the world is because I attribute evil to human beings and other moral agents apart from God” Does that then mean that the “mystery of evil” is really overstated?

    I have’nt forgotten your previous questions and have given some thought to them but am juggling a lot at the moment.

  • Finney: “The reason I don’t reject the existence of God because of the evil in the world is because I attribute evil to human beings and other moral agents apart from God, because human beings” [had] “free will.”

    The above pretty well sums up my position also but with the proviso that things changed radically at the fall.

  • Kerry, I’d say the ‘nasty God’ objection assumes that the rest of Calvinism is false in order to attack it on one point (I’d take the ‘arbitrary camp counselor’ idea to run along the same lines, and Andrew responds with something like the above in the OP). It’s not a very good objection, in my opinion, and I’m more on the Arminian side myself!

    I don’t think that you’ll find Arminians are post-modern when it comes to scripture (whatever “post-modern” means, here it means relativism, to Umberto Eco it means something like “there is nothing new under the sun”). My guess is that folks like Finney simply want to see how you’ll harmonize the Calvinist view with what they see as ‘problem verses’ for it. That is very far from devaluing scripture. In connecting Finney’s comments with gas chambers, etc., you seemed to forget that you were discussing a theological issue with mostly fellow Christians. If you find somebody is dismissing you out of hand, it is probably enough to point out that they are doing that, and they haven’t actually given any good arguments against your position.

    As far as the discussion goes, my sense is that there is a lot of talking past one another going on. I’m inclined to believe that if a person holds to one or the other position, it’s largely not for philosophical reasons, but because of some attractive feature of the theology (that is my experience, at least, but of course I want to know if I am espousing something that makes sense). As a result of taking one theology or the other in this manner, it’s very easy to miss how complete each model is and nitpick the other (i.e. “Calvinism makes God look nasty” or “Arminianism makes God smaller”). In the event that either one is true I think it very difficult to assign a probability to that or else prove it by arguments (I’m of the opinion that Rauser’s approach is quite wrong-headed, he thinks he’s got the whole TULIP by the ‘P’). What we’re left with is two coherent positions, but the same ‘existential’ problem, namely to obey God or not. Now, I do not mean to trivialize this discussion by saying that! Calvinism is being critiqued left and right, and if they are good critiques they merit an articulate response, if they are bad then at least the fact that a person is behind them merits an articulate correction. Given Andrew’s post, and your more lucid points, Kerry, I think Calvinism is getting along quite well around here.

  • I’m saddenned by this post,
    the best philosophy from this blog has been from Andrew’s previous posts (in my opinion) I find nothing like that in today’s post.

  • Rosjier,

    Making bald assertions doesn’t help the situation

  • Rosjier,

    I grant that it’s probably not the best piece of philosophy that I have written. But should you be surprised if that’s the case? I am a philosophy student, not a theology student.

  • when I said “thinks he’s got TULIP by the P” I should have said, “thinks he’s got TULIP by the L”, I think that’s probably more accurate.

  • mnF:”I don’t think that you’ll find Arminians are post-modern when it comes to scripture”

    What I meant is that “every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above
    the ideas of their time” we are all influenced by our culture. Today people seem to judge the Bible by philosophical standards rather than using scripture to interpret scripture. However if that is the case then let’s get better at philosophy!

    “My guess is that folks like Finney simply want to see how you’ll harmonize the Calvinist view with what they see as ‘problem verses’ for it.” I have acknowledged Finney’s references and will get to them.

    “In connecting Finney’s comments with gas chambers, etc., you seemed to forget that you were discussing a theological issue with mostly fellow Christians.” It all gets complicated keeping up with various comments. Finney has apologized for his reference to gas chambers and I have reciprocated so I believe we are on good terms now.

  • Andrew, alas!

    Calvinism, in all honesty, is a wretched doctrine.

  • Randal said: “If God is omnibenevolent (meaning that he desires all creatures to achieve shalom) then it follows necessarily that he would desire that all achieve shalom and thus he would elect all in Christ such that none would be reprobate. Insofar as you deny that this is the case and continue to affirm that some are reprobate you thereby reject the divine omnibenevolence. The question is why?”

    The strength of Randal’s argument lies in the apparent obligation of God to save all based on God’s omnibenevolent nature. Randal says: “it follows necessarily that he would desire that all achieve shalom and thus he would elect all in Christ”. In other words because he is omnibenevolent by nature then he cannot but act according to that nature.

    G.K Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy said: “Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature.” I agree.

    I will try to be more formal with the proposition.

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand” therefore in a perfect nature one facet of that nature cannot militate against another. His omnibenevolence is in harmony with his omnipotence.

    This is how it is for the Arminian:
    God is omnibenevolent by nature.
    The laws of his own nature preclude God from choosing anything that would violate that nature.
    Therefore “he would elect all in Christ such that none would be reprobate.”

    Now let’s see how it is for the Calvinist:
    God is omnipotent by nature.
    The laws of his own nature preclude God from choosing anything that would violate that nature.
    Therefore “he would save all in Christ such that none would be reprobate”

    The Arminian God must save all because of love.
    Therefore the elect means all people in total
    The Calvinist God must save all because of power.
    Therefore there is no libertarian freewill.

    Even if the word “all” means two different things in each of the above statements the same result must stand.

    If we concede a limitation in the nature of God with respect to power (so that men are able to refuse God) then it legitimately follows that:
    we may concede a limitation in the nature of God with respect to love (so that God is able to refuse men)

    If there are good grounds (like sin) to refuse men then God need not save all.

    Mankind has a will – being made in the image of God we concede
    God has a will.
    Man’s nature is imperfect- he is a creature subject to space and time with finite knowledge and limited power, therefore his will is imperfect (not to mention the fall)
    God’s nature is perfect- he is not subject to his own nature in the same way we are because he is the ground of those perfections therefore his will his power and love is perfect.

  • That was perhaps the soft version, here is the hard version with the emphasis I neglected to put in the first one:

    Randal said: “If God is omnibenevolent (meaning that he desires all creatures to achieve shalom) then it follows necessarily that he would desire that all achieve shalom and thus he would elect all in Christ such that none would be reprobate. Insofar as you deny that this is the case and continue to affirm that some are reprobate you thereby reject the divine omnibenevolence. The question is why?”

    The strength of Randal’s argument lies in the apparent obligation of God to save all based on God’s omnibenevolent nature. Randal says: “it follows necessarily” that he would desire that all achieve shalom and thus he would elect all in Christ”. In other words because he is omnibenevolent by nature then he cannot but act according to that nature.

    G.K Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy said: “Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature.” I agree.

    I will try to be more formal with the proposition.

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand” therefore in a perfect nature one facet of that nature cannot militate against another. His omnibenevolence is in harmony with his omnipotence.

    This is how it is for the Arminian:
    God is omnibenevolent by nature.
    The laws of his own nature preclude God from choosing anything that would violate that nature.
    Therefore “he would elect all in Christ such that none would be reprobate.”

    Now let’s see how it is for the Calvinist:
    God is omnipotent by nature.
    The laws of his own nature preclude God from choosing anything that would violate that nature.
    Therefore he would elect to create a being that could not violate his nature. Libertarian freewill does not exist.

    If we concede a limitation in the nature of God with respect to power (so that men are able to refuse God) then it legitimately follows that:
    we may concede a limitation in the nature of God with respect to love (so that God is able to refuse men)

    If there are good grounds (like sin) to refuse men then God need not save all.

    Mankind has a will – being made in the image of God we concede
    God has a will.
    Man’s nature is imperfect- he is a creature subject to space and time with finite knowledge and limited power, therefore his will is imperfect (not to mention the fall)
    God’s nature is perfect- he is not subject to his own nature in the same way we are because he is the ground of those perfections therefore his will his power and love is perfect.

  • Andrew,
    “Philosophy is the hand-maid of Theology.”
    The better you are at Philosophy, the greater capacity you have to be good at Theology.

    I apologise for not helping the situation I meant to put that that was my initial comment and I would add more later (once finishing the comments section).

    We can agree that “No-one Deserves Salvation” – even people who have never sinned. In fact we don’t deserve to be created either or even to exist, which is a good in itself, salvation aside.

    We can agree that God offers us Salvation to some if not all.
    So the question is:
    Why does God offer some of us salvation?
    John 3:16 would seem to suggest that it is out of love for us that He wants us to “have everlasting life.”
    If this is true, and if it is also true that God does not offer salvation to some people, what does that say about His love for them?

  • Andy, do you reckon, secretly, that Calvin was in love with men?

  • Finney: My apologies for being so slow.

    “God chose person A to choose God in order that A be saved. This is merely a long and winding way of saying “God chooses person A.” There is no such significance attached human willingness in this scheme of things, for the human willingness was coerced. There, in fact, is no human willingness. Only the appearance of willingness.”

    Why is guaranteed salvation necessarily coercion? The will is emphatically not bypassed. People make a choice for Christ as much as they might choose French vanilla over Hokey Pokey. It seems to me both necessary and logical that God would reserve the right to have an irresistible influence over his creation. The “appearance of willingness” is as real here as anywhere.

    “So Gentiles are saved and the nation of Israel isn’t.” He follows this with the dialectical question “Why not?”

    In terms of the historical context this is probably the most difficult thing for Paul to explain to the Jewish people, he had come to a new understanding of God’s purposes but what was the Jewish mindset? If you ask a Jew today what (historically) is so special about the Jewish people you would most likely get the same answer that had been common “knowledge” hundreds of years before Christ. “We are the Chosen People”. Perhaps the difficulty Paul faced could be likened it to the difficulty of persuading a Muslim that God is three persons. Paul was bringing a new view of what it means to be “chosen” by God. The Jews were right about the doctrine of election; no-one had to tell them about God’s right to choose a people for himself.

    (Deuteronomy 14:2) For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

    (Psalms 135:4) For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

    Though the Jewish people were correct in that God has a doctrine of election what they got wrong was their application of it. And this is what the difficulty was for Paul. The Jews trusted in basically two things as the basis for being elected: ancestry and the fulfillment of the law. Paul’s argument is that all those that went before (Abraham, Moses etc) that were saved, were saved on the basis of faith. If we are talking about historical context “faith” entails faithfulness. This is the distinguishing factor and still is today, irrespective of whether you can trace your lineage back to Abraham, regardless of circumcision and so on. This is why Gentiles are able to be grafted in; it is on the basis of faith, but that is not the whole story. Paul also tells us: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8) Paul is careful to tell us this faith in Christ originated in God, because it feels or appears to be our own independent choice. So as Augustine said: God crowns his own gifts.

    “On the assumption that God is the being that causes us fully to believe in him, this makes no sense whatsoever, for then it means that God did not save Israel because God did not cause Israel to believe in him.”

    (John 6:28) Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (John 6:29) Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (Emhasis mine)

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-13)

    “God did not save Israel because God did not cause Israel to believe in him.”

    (Romans 9:6) Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

    (Romans 11:7) What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Romans 11:8) (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;)

  • Finney: I meant to include my blog post which covers this story in more depth:

    http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2007/11/israel-of-god.html.

    Shalom

  • Dickey,

    When you have a serious question, do let me know. I generally have no ambition of responding to questions or arguments which I consider to be either intellectually sub-par or disingenuous.

  • I find your comment ironic as you are studying theology.

  • Dickey,

    This is the first that i’m hearing of this.

  • Dickey,

    Looking at my profile on this website, it says that I am a philosophy student…

  • Kerry: I am not sure what you were getting at in your response to me.

    In your second response you said God left nothing up to chance and that is a great thing. Well I think that is debatable but regardless I am not a calvinist but I still think God didn’t leave anything to chance.

  • RobertH:

    I am not a calvinist but I still think God didn’t leave anything to chance.

    Christians in general trust God is as good as his word, what he promises gets done, as someone has said we are all Calvinists when we pray, meaning when we petition God we at least assume he is able to do what we ask even if he’s perhaps not willing. The inconsistency lies in not seeing the consequence of trusting that God is “able to do exceedingly more than what we ask or think”. Those promises have to be worked out in concrete circumstances.

    Chance is the necessary corollary of freewill. (Just as water is the necessary corollary of swimming fish) As I understand it “chance” (according to libertarian freewill) is an environment for want of a better word in which neither God nor man has control.

    What that means is- in order for people to have freewill in the libertarian sense, (which entails that when a person makes a decision not to follow Christ for instance there is no guarantee that God or any one else can change that persons mind), in that sense her will is ultimate, sacrosanct, untouchable. It therefore means that the environment of “chance” is something outside of and beyond God’s control and hence in at least that sense greater than God.

    Randal Rauser made mention (in the context of this discussion): “he”(God) “will bring the entire state of current affairs — everything in heaven and on earth — to reconcilation in Christ (Col. 1:20). And you think that means that we’re in the pole position?”

    Right there is his reference to a promise from God but it seems to me our theology has to also regard and be consistent withhow God works this out into concrete reality, So we have the end, what about the means to that end? According to Randall’s libertarian theology positing freewill within a universe of chance (to which God also is subject to) leaves God’s promises no better than a person writing cheques knowing that there is not enough in the bank, and thereby putting libertarian mankind in “pole position” with regard to salvation.

    This is in contradiction to what (I believe) the scripture teaches.

  • Hi Kerry, just remember when quoting Chesterton that he loathed Calvinism.

    There is no chance in the Arminian position either. God’s knows everything from the beginning to the end. He knows exactly who will be saved and who will not.

    The Calvinist/Arminian dichotomy might be broken down into “God knows because he wills” versus “God knows because man wills.” Those who he foreknew receive his gift of grace making it possible for them to trust him. Those who would not trust regardless, that is to say they would resist his grace, do not receive it.

    Both Calvin and Arminius agreed that without the grace of God no one could be saved. No one was even capable of wanting to be saved. Sometimes I wonder if Arminius was mainly opposed to the idea of double-predestination, that God not only chose who would be saved, but chose who would not be also.

    I suppose a simple analogy would be a dance. Some will choose to dance and some won’t. Those who will choose get called, the others don’t.

    In regards to the parable of the workers, it’s not an election matter. It’s the message that all who believe, whether they work a long time in the yard or a short time will receive the same reward. It doesn’t touch on unbelievers at all.

  • Hi Jason, Chesterton…loathed Calvinism. Yes and I have quoted Viktor Frankl who is not sympathetic to my view either. What is the problem, don’t we all quote people who we feel have hit on something true and said it well? Does that imply we must agree with everything they have said? I have quoted the Bible too, (rather more than others who do not care for this view, if I might say) let others come forward with scriptures that support their view.

    There is no chance in the Arminian position either. As in a previous post, in as far as the Arminian position entails a view of libertarian freewill “chance” is the necessary corollary to make that sort of universe possible.

    God’s knows everything from the beginning to the end. He knows exactly who will be saved and who will not.
    I don’t know anyone here disputing God’s omniscience. Luther put it this way: “This…is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: that God foreknows nothing by contingency , but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things, according to His immutable, eternal and infallible will…Those, therefore who would assert “Free-will” must either deny this…,or pretend not to see it, or push it from them.” ” The Bondage of the Will”

    I have to go but I shall look at another point you made soon. Regards.

  • Jason: Those who he foreknew receive his gift of grace making it possible for them to trust him. Those who would not trust regardless, that is to say they would resist his grace, do not receive it.

    Don’t you believe a promise of God to build his Church and prevail against hell should rest on more than what is “possible”? The definition of “prevenient grace” in libertarian terms means (as you have said) that it is possible to trust in Christ. We accept that and more. I have dealt with this more fully here: http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2009/08/power-over-all-flesh.html. Our view is that the God given mandate to Christ not only makes it possible to save the elect but this mandate makes his grace irresistible.

    Those who would not trust regardless, that is to say they would resist his grace, do not receive it.
    I think there is confusion about this word “resist” and would like to address that here. The word “resist” is used in at least two senses in our context. If you follow the story of Stephen in Acts 6:8-7:60 you come to Acts 6:10 , And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
    I hope you would agree that the sense in which “resist” is used here is that they could not logically refute his arguments on behalf of Christ, both from their own scripture and known history and neither his demeanour, he was in fact speaking as he was moved by the Holy Spirit.

    The point being that though they could not resist him in that sense, they (as the narrative shows) resisted him in the sense that they overpowered and killed him. So we have the two senses that are relevant to our discussion. Resisting in the sense of opposing (despite his irresistible argument) and resisting in the sense of resisting to the point of overcoming(where they overcame him physically and killed him.

    The next time the word “resist” is used is when Stephen said “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Acts 7:51 Here, I take it that Stephen was saying the people referred to always opposed the Holy Ghost, but that is not to concede that God was able to be resisted in an absolute sense. The next time “resist” is used is Romans 9:19 which is, interestingly right into our subject. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

    It is the assumption of libertarian free-will that our freedom is ultimate, in that, I understand it simply to mean “If I will not- God cannot” (whether God can’t because of an actual limitation in his own nature or whether it is a self-imposed limitation of his power is not relevant to our discussion at this point) In the context of Romans 9:19 Paul seems to be asking a question that he figured would sooner or later arise as a natural response to what the discussion is about. In fact he answers two questions that he anticipated would arise naturally in this discussion. Remember this is a letter defending and outlining his Gospel and as such he needs to anticipate objections. The question he raises first: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.(Romans 9:14) If you review the comments and statements re this post I hope you would agree the same “moral outrage” is evident. So if Paul anticipates this objection he is in no doubt that what he is teaching will create controversy. We might further say that the exegesis of this passage is somewhat confirmed if it rouses up the same controversy, it seems to go against our sense of justice. The next question is focused on the word “resist” where we started.
    Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

    Here again Paul has foreseen the natural objection to all this. The nature of his rhetorical question shows that it goes against our natural sense of justice to find that God is (when he sees fit) irresistible. This is in terms of the fact that according to scripture we are bound by nature to sin, and may only choose Christ at His prerogative.

    The reality of these anticipated objections is exemplified by how TAM responded to this post:
    So, just let me get this straight (and, by all means, please correct me if I am wrong). We were all created by Yahweh. We are all depraved. In fact, we are born depraved. Unless we are elected for salvation by Yahweh, we are damned to suffer in eternal hellfire. This is ok because Yahweh is under to obligation to save anyone.

    Makes perfect sense to me

    In the unlikely event that such a heavenly creator exists, he can kiss my atheist *ss.

    See here for a short clip on Irresistible grace by John Piper http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/

    And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:35)

  • Jason: the parable of the workers, it’s not an election matter. It’s the message that all who believe, whether they work a long time in the yard or a short time will receive the same reward. It doesn’t touch on unbelievers at all.

    The Gospel is a cohesive whole, any wrong view of election will distort the true view of human nature, just as a wrong view of the place good works has in salvation distorts the meaning of grace and so on, there is an entire cohesive view which accords with the truth. While the main focus of the parable is about the rewards of faith, election is touched on. The whole situation started with the rich man and the incredulity of the disciples saying “who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “with men this” (salvation) “is impossible but with God all things are possible.” The disciples also pose another question “we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” On that basis Jesus proceeds to build their understanding with the parable. The chapter division is an artificial construct, so ch20 is really part of 19. The parable is opened with (Matthew 19:30) “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first”; and closed with (Matthew 20:16) “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” The same word “chosen” is what elsewhere is translated “elect”. The parable opens with the “householder” going out to “hire labourers” The second time he goes out to the “marketplace” presumably this is where he went the first time as well. The words in quotation marks may be transposed: God enters the world to invite people to work for him. This is an invitation to believe in Christ. Some believe some don’t, as in the marketplace there are usually more invited than are actually employed. Many are called few are chosen. The more common view (of salvation) is that this is indicative of faith where the worker has the last say with regard to the invitation, but just as it is in the marketplace, employment will not finally be assured until the employer says so; even after each party has agreed on the terms of the reward. So unbelievers are there (in the marketplace) by implication. The “first” are those to whom the word of God, the word of invitation came first, the people of Israel. The last are those to whom the invitation came last, the Gentiles.
    (Matthew 21:33) Is a similar parable but the focus is less on reward, and more on those to whom the work (of the Gospel) was first entrusted and, as a result of unfaithfulness, were rejected and their place given to another. While this was at the time true of the Jews and the Gentiles, I don’t see why it shouldn’t indicate a responsibility of any to whom the word of God comes. With the privilege comes the responsibility and the warning.
    Jesus open up another parable (Matthew 21:33) and this too is an invitation, but this time to a wedding feast. It also speaks of those invited first, and their rejection of it, so the servants are to extend the invitation to all manner of people everywhere, this is the revelation that Peter finally came to understand with his vision on the housetop at Joppa and which found fruition in Cornelius’ household. Salvation is come to the Gentiles. But within this parable comes another incident, that of the wedding guest without his wedding garments who is tossed out. Directly after this is the familiar phrase: (Matthew 22:14) For many are called, but few are chosen. So the invitation is extended from one select group to a much larger group but it is still limited by the example of one tossed out. His lack of wedding garments is presumed to mean he does not enter in with the covering of the righteousness of Christ which is by faith, (and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God)

  • Andrew it’s been a week, and you still haven’t replied to Randal.
    The reason his argument trumps yours is ironically his is based in philosophy.

    He brings you a real-life experience he has had in regards to his love of his daughter, and tells us something about the nature of the love of a Father.

    I believe his conclusions are sound – will you reply?

  • Rosjier,

    I posted a reply to Rauser, but it is yet to be approved by the Flannagans.

    BTW: I would note that personal experience is “philosophy” only insofar as it is used as a thought experiment. Even then, it only gives you as much support for you argument as does *any* thought experiment.

  • Rosjier,

    Moreover, my first post was *also* based in philosophy. That you seem to think it was not indicates to me that your opinion on my article is not one worth taking all that seriously. I will rest on the positive remarks that I have received from the Flannagans regarding my first post more than I will rest on the remarks of someone who obviously doesn’t know the difference between philosophy and non-philosophy

  • Andrew – Thank you for your reply.
    It’s not so much that personal experience IS Philosophy, rather it is a starting point.
    It is definitely a better starting point than your own imagination, as what personal experience usually relates to is reality.

    I don’t see how your first post was based in philosophy, but that could just be me. I also don’t see what Matthew 13:24-29/13:36-43 has to do with the rest of the post, perhaps you could spell both those out for me.

    I respect the Flannagan’s and would not want you to completely disregard their comments because of mine, nor vice-versa though.

    If I am someone who “Obviously don’t know the difference between philosophy and non-philosophy” It must have been a co-incidence considering all the posts I’ve read of yours previous to this one I thought – “wow good philosophy.”

    I am glad you’ve responded to Rauser, and I look forward to reading it.

  • @Rosjier,

    Then I apologize for the hostility in my last post.

    My first post was philosophically oriented insofar as it tried to draw on moral philosophy, specifically what moral philosophers have had to say about supererogatory acts.

    The reference to Matthew 13:24-29/13:36-43 was in the context of sharing my personal testimony about my move to Calvinism

  • […] My initial article was Randal Rauser’s Mistake: A Defense of Calvin’s Doctrine of Election […]

  • “Arminian idea: I hear the gospel, I weigh it up with all the neutrality I can muster, (being dead in trespasses and sins, and at enmity with God) I finally choose God in Christ. God respects my choice and my subsequent faith in him and saves me, he has to doesn’t he, I have fulfilled my obligations under the requirements of the Salvation law, is’nt that right?”

    And here is my fundamental objection to Arminianism. If my choice is respected by God, and the subsequent faith causes God to save me, then this soteriology is of the works-righteousness order. If my choice and my faith inspire God, or cause God to save me, then it is indeed my work and my faith that have saved me. It is not salvation by faith alone. Faith is a work. It is a choice I make and something I do. If faith in God and in His power is something I am capable of on my own, without God’s help, I am saving myself by choosing to accept a gift. It is within my partial power to save myself.

    If God, then, elects and regenerates through His own choice, it is no longer my action that saves me, but that which He has caused me to do. This is not works-righteousness, and is therefore more biblical.