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More Mistakes: A Rejoinder to Randal Rauser

December 3rd, 2011 by Andrew

For those who aren’t aware, there has been something of a “debate”, but what I’d prefer to refer to as an “in house discussion” between Randal Rauser (Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary) and myself.

The discussion so far can be found here:

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

Rauser’s response: Calvinism and the Arbitrary Camp Director Revisited: A Response to Andrew

Andrew and CalvinBefore I begin, I should point out that I have been on the Kapiti coast for the last week at a TSCF (Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship, a cousin of Inter-Varsity) retreat where I was without internet. Hence it’s only in the last day that I’ve learned that Professor Rauser has kindly taken the time to respond to my initial article. So I apologize for my delayed response.

I would also like to point out that while my intention was to provoke Rauser’s response, it was not to be rude, and I apologize if that’s the impression he has received. I have a great deal of respect for Rauser, particularly given (as I pointed out in my last article) that he is a Professor of Historical Theology with an obvious background in analytic philosophy, while I am a mere undergrad with far more ambition than actual ability. The last thing that I want is for this discussion to devolve into the kind of vitriol that plagues almost all other web based discussions of the philosophy of religion and/or theology. I say this, largely because I fear (from the tone of his response) that he has received the impression of ill intent on my part.

Secondly, I appreciate that Rauser took the time to respond to my article, and I appreciate that he also took the time to counter my personal testimony with that of his own.

Randal Rauser and ArminiusBut now to specifics: How does Rauser respond to my claim that the arbitrariness objection (at least if it is to be an objection) begs the question against Calvin’s doctrine of election? On the face of it, he doesn’t seem to challenge my point that God may not be acting unjustly if we are undeserving of salvation. To the contrary, Rauser seems to admit for the possibility that the tortures may be justly deserved. But if that’s the case, then, as I tried to point out in my first post, there’s no real injustice or immoral state of affairs that obtains if God so desires to instantiate those punishments. Paradoxically though, Rauser refers to my theology as “brutal” and “morally incoherent”. Both of these terms, emotionally provocative as they are, seem to suggest that there is something nasty, horrible, evil (whatever negative adjective your heart desires) about a God that selects some for salvation while selecting others for damnation. But if, as Rauser seems to allow, the tortures are justly deserved, then none of those adjectives can rightly be said to stick. After all, if the tortures are justly deserved, and God decides to carry out those tortures, then God can only be said to be doing what the demands of morality and/or justice require. So wherein does the moral incoherence obtain?

But according to Rauser, I would still be missing the point. After all, he (Rauser) says, the Camp Director Analogy was not intended to show that God, given Calvinism, is “unjust”, but rather that He cannot be seen as “maximally loving”. I see no real reason to deny Rauser the liberty to make this distinction, but its relevance is, at best, unclear.

Thankfully, Rauser does seem to hint at one possible way in which we could interpret this as an objection. He seems to engage in something of a pair-wise comparison between two possible scenarios that are supposed to be relevantly similar to the Arminian and Calvinist conceptions of election respectively.

  • Scenario 1: The director arbitrarily selects some children for beatings and others for loving rehabilitation.
  • Scenario 2: The director selects all children for loving rehabilitation.

According to Rauser, were God to bring about scenario 2, we would state that He is more loving were he to bring about scenario 1. There are three things that I have to say to this:

  1. Even if I were to grant this assumption (which I don’t), the most it establishes is that the God who brings about scenario 1 is less loving than the God who brings about scenario 2. But notice that this is not equivalent to saying that God is “objectively unloving” in the sense that we are able to predicate of God (in that situation) terms like “cruel” and “brutal” et al. To get to the conclusion that God is “objectively unloving” which (given the words he has elected to use to describe my theology) is evidently his goal, Rauser would need to show that anything less than complete love for all creatures is tantamount to cruelty. Given what I have hitherto argued regarding the fact that God’s arbitrary choice may not necessarily be unjust or immoral if Calvinism is true, and given that he (Rauser) seems to allow for this possibility, I don’t see how he can plausibly do that.
  2. Once again, it seems as if Rauser pre-supposes the falsity of Calvinism to infer to its falsity. The only way that I can see Rauser’s conclusion (that were God to bring about scenario 2 He would be more loving than were he to bring about scenario 1) would have a shot at truth, is if we assume that the “L” of the acrostic TULIP is false. If the scope of God’s love extends only to His elect, while the rest are totally depraved to the extent of total opposition to God, (the T of the acrostic TULIP), then for Him (God) to leave the elect to suffer the pestilence of the others, is cruelty on His part. Consider by way of illustrative analogy, a father who allows his small child to suffer continuous beatings from school bullies. For the father to fail to remove the child from that situation is for that father to shirk his responsibilities as a father, and to be downright cruel. Now note, I’m not saying that the God of Arminianism is crueller than the God of Calvinism (though that is an interesting idea), I am merely trying to show that the God of Calvinism is at least as loving as the God of Arminianism (a comparatively small task). To sum up then, to establish that scenario 1 makes God more loving than does scenario 2, Rauser has to smuggle in the assumption that the T of the acrostic TULIP is false. So unfortunately, it’s another case of question begging on Rauser’s part.
  3. The final problem for Rauser consists in the fact that much of what he says entails Universalism. If God brings about scenario 2 AND God loves his children in the way that Rauser loves his daughter, then we are left, not with Classical Arminianism, but with Karl Barth’s Universalism. After all, it should be intuitively obvious that a good father will forcibly pull a child out of harm’s way, particularly if that harm is akin to the fire of hell. Suppose, for instance, that a child is sitting in the way of a stampede of elephants. A good father does not sit idly by, watching from the sidelines and protest that the child must freely get up and run. Rather, a good father sprints into the middle and hauls the child out of the way. This kind of causal sufficiency for salvation in conjunction with God’s salvific love for all humans entails Universal Redemption.

It’s not too late Rauser, you need not think of God as a bad father who stands idly on the sidelines while hell bears down on His children. To sinners like you and I, Calvin’s message of Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints ought to be a great comfort. It means that Salvation is a guarantee, and that we needn’t rest on our own failing ability to trust in the Lord. In truth though, returning would be merely speeding up the inevitable. As my Pastor puts it, it’s determined that you will be a Calvinist even if it’s not in this life.

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157 responses so far ↓

  • Everyone please remember to check your brains at the door before entering this conversation.

    This is a discussion regarding the Stone Age lunacy of religious belief. Please exit this discussion if you have yet to have your first lobotomy. (Preferably botched)

  • Everyone please remember that “Truth Over Faith” has a neurological disorder which causes him to spill bile, slander and just plain bullshit out of every orifice.

  • we are undeserving of salvation“.

    Like most theological constructs, this is a bare assertion. If there is a god(s), I reject it. Aside from the fact that “The Bible tells me so”, what is your argument in support of it? I am happy to rely on Rauser’s camp analogy and what I learned in kindergarten to argue to the contrary.

  • Consider this exchange:

    [son of TAM]: Dad, please don’t stick that red hot poker in my eye!

    [TAM]: You are a worthless piece of sh*t and are deserving of this punishment.

    [son of TAM]: But you created me! It was you who brought me into the world.

    [TAM]: That was my prerogative – I made you. In fact, I decided before you were born that I would do this.

    [son of TAM]: But why didn’t you stick the poker into my brother’s eye?

    [TAM]: I decided before he was born that he would not receive that punishment. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a worthless piece of sh*t too but I decided to give him a break.

    [son of TAM]: Why?

    [TAM]: That was my prerogative – I made him.

    If this exchange is an unfair characterization of the Calvinist conception of god, I trust that someone will set me straight. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing why anyone would worship such a god instead of simply being scare sh*tless.

  • Sadly, The Atheist Missionary has it just about right. On Arminianism, at least, the dammed explain their destiny – it’s not merely that they’re sinners that they achieve the inevitable; it’s that they refuse to place their trust in Jesus who wants dearly (and makes attempts) to save them from themselves.

  • Amen, Jonathan. To me Calvinism just exacerbates the problem of evil, the problem of hell, the problem of pluralism and I could go on. If is true, then Christians should believe it and “it is what it is” whether we find it personally tasteful or not. But f it not true, and I think there are good biblical and philosophical reasons for thinking it is not true, then we’re just making our apologetic task much harder then necessary.

  • TAM,
    Whether or not we are *actually* undeserving of salvation, is not really relevant to the discussion. The point is just that this is what the Calvinist holds, and it’s what Rauser has assumed the falsity of in order to argue to the falsity of Calvinism. So his objection begs the question against Calvinism.

    In any event, I don’t think that you can honestly say that you haven’t messed up many times in your life. I don’t think that *anyone* can say that. This means that all people have fallen short of the absolute goodness that is supposed to be God.

  • @TAM,
    God, it is supposed, cannot be in the presence of evil. Hence given that we have all messed up fairly royally, we are utterly unworthy and unable to be in His presence.

    The disanalogy with your discourse, is that given Calvinism, those that God punishes are not His children.

  • Andrew, I think you should brush up on the concept of original sin … and the theological quagmire that results if there was no Adam and Eve.

    If I have messed up fairly royally, I would think that 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 billion years roasting on a spit would be sufficient to make amends, don’t you? Of course, that time span is a mere blink of an eye compared to eternity. [Hint: time to pull out the handy dandy mystery card]

    those that God punishes are not His children Who, in your God’s name. created them?

  • TAM,
    You say:
    “Andrew, I think you should brush up on the concept of original sin … and the theological quagmire that results if there was no Adam and Eve.”

    My understanding of Original Sin is just fine thank you. Where did I deny the existence of Adam and Eve?

    You say:
    “If I have messed up fairly royally, I would think that 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 billion years roasting on a spit would be sufficient to make amends, don’t you? Of course, that time span is a mere blink of an eye compared to eternity. [Hint: time to pull out the handy dandy mystery card]”

    There are a number of things that you’v rather uncritically assumed that i’m committed to. These things are:
    - Opposition to Annihilationism
    - Opposition to the “Self Exclusionary” view of Hell. If, as the Calvinist holds, man is depraved to the point of opposition to God, then it’s plausible to think that they are in hell by virtue of their own volition as opposed to God consigning them there.

    You ask:
    “those that God punishes are not His children Who, in your God’s name. created them?”

    There are two possible answers to this question:
    1. The question is not necessarily about who *created* them, but rather, it is about who their father is and who’s children they are. I am inclined to think that when biological “parents” give their children to adoptive parents, the biological “parent” gives up his/her claim to be that child’s parent. In a similar vein, if God’s created creatures set themselves in opposition to Him (God), then they have essentially disavowed God as their father and have become the adoptive children of the devil.

    2. (This is my preferred answer): Consider Matthew 13:24-29/36-43 (ESV). Jesus says to His disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But when he (the good man) was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. Later on, Jesus says of the good seeds that they are “the sons of The Kingdom” while the weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sowed them is the devil”.

    In other words, the answer to the question “who created them?” is “The Devil”.

  • TAM,
    You’re in the rather odd position of trying to argue with a Christian on his own turf. Not an advisable venture, I might add.

    This really, is an in house discussion between those that already are Christians and who accept that scripture is the word of God.

  • JonathonD: Sadly, The Atheist Missionary has it just about right.

    What is perhaps really sad is that a Christian wouldn’t wonder about the credibility of one who has said: “If there is a god(s), I reject it.” and then accept his word about a theological issue!

    “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
    (2 Timothy 2:25,26)

    This (at least to me) speaks of divine sovereignty, we try to reason with people not so much that they- of their own libertarian freewill might choose right, but that God may give them repentance, so that they are able to see their error and get themselves out of the position they have (by their own freewill ;-) got themselves into.

    When I first became a Christian I had a great deal of difficulty believing that a man that existed and died 2000 years ago could be alive today. What relieved that incredulity was that hey if God exists then what is there that he cannot do!

    I believe in order to understand, not the other way around.

    TAM: Like most theological constructs, this is a bare assertion. If there is a god(s), I reject it. Aside from the fact that “The Bible tells me so”, what is your argument in support of it?

    Like most rational constructs, this is a bare assertion. If there is rationality, how do you account for it? Aside from the fact that “you have reason for your reasons”, what is your argument in support of it?

  • You’re in the rather odd position of trying to argue with a Christian on his own turf.

    Translation: please don’t try to pierce my bubble of delusion.

    For those following this thread, note how Andrew has punted on the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 billion year analogy. People like him don’t bother to think out the logical implications of their theological beliefs (or, as I like to point out, their professed theological beliefs). That’s because they are debased.

  • If there is rationality, how do you account for it?

    Evolution by natural selection. Simply put, rationality works and abets survival.

  • “But according to Rauser, I would still be missing the point. After all, he (Rauser) says, the Camp Director Analogy was not intended to show that God, given Calvinism, is “unjust”, but rather that He cannot be seen as “maximally loving”. I see no real reason to deny Rauser the liberty to make this distinction, but its relevance is, at best, unclear.”

    Well, if you could see the relevance you wouldn’t be a Calvinist.
    Your response to 1 is puzzling. You say the most it would establish is that Scenario 1 God is less loving than Scenario 2 God. But isn’t that all Rauser wants to establish? He thinks that God (as do many) is maximally loving. You reply is that it’s not equivalent to saying that God is “Objectively unloving”-Ok, but what does that change? It wouldn’t change the fact that God is not Objectively maximally loving on scenario 1

    2. is equally puzzling. T of TULIP means we are all depraved and in a state of opposition to God. In terms of your analogy we are all bullies and victims to begin with. But, through an arbitrary decision, some of the bullies become small children, and God would be unloving if he didn’t save them. Why not extend that intuition further to encompass all the bullies?

    In 3 you again rely on an analogy that betrays your own position. Your rightly intuit that a good father will remove his child from serious harm. But on Calvinism this intuition doesn’t carry over to God. Your main worry seems to be about Universalism. But I think the Arminian can argue that God in his love allows us to freely choose him.

    I think Rauser is correct in stating that this is primarily not about what we deserve or if God has any moral obligations to save us (I don’t think he has any); it is primarily about our intuitions of love and goodness, born from our own relationships with people and the character of God as revealed in Scripture.

  • TAM,

    You say,
    “Translation: please don’t try to pierce my bubble of delusion”

    You also say,
    ” People like him don’t bother to think out the logical implications of their theological beliefs (or, as I like to point out, their professed theological beliefs). That’s because they are debased”.

    Your sarcastic and generally mean spirited approach to anyone that takes an opinion that differs from your own wont stand you in good stead for garnering the respect and admiration that you clearly so desperately desire. It’s interesting to note your reaction when your pathetic, sorry excuses for “arguments” are refuted. You don’t engage with the refutations, you merely whip out the stereotypical atheist snarkiness…you do your cause no favors by so doing.

    Though I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, I find that it’s commonplace amongst internet atheists to delude themselves into thinking that they have intellectually dominated their opponents merely because they have thrown a few ad hominem attacks.

    Seriously mate…grow up.

  • David,

    “Well, if you could see the relevance you wouldn’t be a Calvinist”

    That’s just unsupported rhetoric. Get an argument to support your conclusion and I *might* take you seriously.

  • David,

    You say:
    “it is primarily about our intuitions of love and goodness, born from our own relationships with people and the character of God as revealed in Scripture.”

    How does this answer the question? the point that i have repeatedly tried to stress is that, in virtue of the fact that God has no obligations to save us, He isn’t doing anything unjust/immoral or cruel if He decides to instantiate the punishments that are rightly deserved.

  • “That’s just unsupported rhetoric. Get an argument to support your conclusion and I *might* take you seriously.”

    Yes, well done for working that one out.

    “the point that i have repeatedly tried to stress is that, in virtue of the fact that God has no obligations to save us, He isn’t doing anything unjust/immoral or cruel if He decides to instantiate the punishments that are rightly deserved.”

    I tend to agree with you. I don’t think God is unjust or immoral for punishing us. But I know from scripture that God loves everyone, and that his act to bring us to salvation is in virtue of this love (for God so loved the world…) So you can see how I find it difficult to hold that 1) God is all loving, 2) God offers us salvation because he loves us, 3) God offers salvation to some and not all.

  • TAM: Evolution by natural selection.

    When Christians say “God did it” we are “faithheads”

    I would say (on your own terms) you are an “evolutionary faithhead”

  • David,
    But that’s not Rauser’s objection. Rauser’s objection (in the first article) was that God, given Calvinism, is acting in a morally suspect way.

  • TAM: “The Bible tells me so”

    When TAM uses this phrase he alludes to circular reasoning as if only Christians do this. But “every system of thought is circular when arguing its most fundamental presuppositions -a rationalist can defend the authority of reason only by using reason. However the Christian circle is the only one that renders reality intelligible on its own terms.” (John Frame)

  • David: I know from scripture that God loves everyone,

    Do you mean- God loves everyone the same? On that basis what do you do with these verses?:(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. Emphasis added.

    It seems to me that no-one bats an eye when we read how God favoured Israel above all others, but let anyone talk about the elect in terms of limited atonement and all hell breaks loose! God hasn’t changed, the only thing that changed was in peoples perception when Paul showed that the true Israel are no less than the elect of God.

    You mention for God so loved the world… and then it says…that whosoever believeth in him. That is a qualification not a blanket statement, which becomes more meaningful in light of the fact that faith (in the sense of an ability to believe the gospel) is the gift of God.

    The statement by Jesus- “for God so loved the world” also has to be reconciled with his statement- ” I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hastgiven me…”

  • And the award for making Kirk Cameron look like a genius goes to:

    Kerry Campbell and Andrew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Lunacy, thy bar has been raised!!!

    Everyone give a big, heartfelt thank you to Kerry and Andy!!!

  • David: But I think the Arminian can argue that God in his love allows us to freely choose him.

    There really is no argument with this, Calvinists have no argument with people freely choosing Christ per se, it is that their willingness to do so is always bracketed within the willingness of God. One that is “dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1) is not ordinarily free to will anything Godward because of a depraved nature (Romans 8:7,8)unless God so wills.(Ephesians 2:10) We are just working at giving God all the credit. We would further add that this “free choice” is free in the sense that we are aware of no compulsion but from God’s perspective it is inevitable. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.(Ephesians 2:13)

  • Andrew, I was more going off what Rauser said in his second article-but point taken.

    Kerry, I don’t think reason is a system. It is more fundamental than that.

    I suppose through your proof texting you are asking me on what basis do I understand Israel as God’s chosen people.

    In most basic terms I understand Israel primarily as part of God’s salvific plan for humanity, which culminates in Christ. Thus I think the favouritism shown toward Israel (though they didn’t get an easy ride) is actually for the sake of everyone.

    It is perplexing then to see that the nation chosen by God above all others misses the very climax of God’s work in history. This is of course what Paul struggles to fully understand. How is it that the ‘elect’ have ‘stumbled over the stumbling stone’? Paul’s answer is that it is all part of God’s plan, and that in the mean time their stumbling ‘unbelief’ has actually widened the scope of salvation to the gentiles.

    When I read Paul I tend to read more than just chapter 9-10 of Romans. I also try and avoid reading into first century texts contentious theological systems and then assume that is what the text is meaning.

    ‘The statement by Jesus- “for God so loved the world” also has to be reconciled with his statement- ” I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hastgiven me…”’

    Firstly, Salvation is the gift of God. Faith is an inward act of trust in God and his message. Secondly, this whole debate exists because of verses that are hard to reconcile. However, in this case it might be solvable by just looking at the whole prayer. Who is Jesus praying for at this moment?

  • David: I suppose through your proof texting you are asking me on what basis do I understand Israel as God’s chosen people.

    What I am really attempting to point out is that on Dr. Randal Rauser’s idea of a “maximally loving” God there is no possibility that God could favour one group of people above anyone else. My “proof texts” are part of the whole tenor of scripture.

    As I have said elsewhere: 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.

    On that basis then God has no choice but to treat all humanity according to the dictates of “love” , all that God can possibly do for humanity he should do equally for all. Rip grace right out of your Bible. In his system God is bound by love such that the exercise of favour among different people is impossible. Every doctrine taken to extreme becomes an absurdity.

    I don’t think reason is a system. It is more fundamental than that.
    Exactly, that is my very point. People like TAM and FOT (faith over truth) like to mock the circular reasoning (“The Bible tells me so”) that Christians engage in:

    I believe the Bible, it tells me God exists and is not only responsible for the Bible but the whole universe and for me as part of it. It is circular, in that it is self-authenticating, that is- the authority on which we trust, the Bible- comes from the Bible itself. We argue from Christian presuppositions to Christian conclusions. (In reality there are other reasons as well) Its self-attesting nature is in fact entirely reasonable and logical in the nature of the case. The only way that an ultimate authority could possibly testify to ultimate authority in an ultimate sense is by testifying of itself. We get this sense when we read: For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,(Hebrews 6:13)

    What these people often fail to recognize is while we have good reason for circular reasoning, they engage in circular reasoning as well, but their reasons are not so good. People that aren’t sympathetic to the Christian worldview assume their neutrality from their starting point. They have God-denying presuppositions which they first assume, and then use to interpret the facts so as to prove that their denial of God is correct. An example of a God denying presuppositions is their use of “reason” they simply assume it as basic and fundamental without need of further explanation. Even if they try to explain and justify “reason” they end up in a circular argument using reason to justify reason.

  • David: Who is Jesus praying for at this moment?

    He is praying for his followers present with him and future followers.(John 17:20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

    On the other hand who is he not praying for? No matter which way you slice it, Christ confesses he is not praying for a certain group, under Rauser this is not “maximally loving”

  • It is perplexing then to see that the nation chosen by God above all others misses the very climax of God’s work in history. This is of course what Paul struggles to fully understand. How is it that the ‘elect’ have ‘stumbled over the stumbling stone’?

    Do you see your mistake David? I don’t wish to be unkind but you have presupposed (perhaps because of the tradition of your fathers, evangelical teaching or whatever) “that the ‘elect’ have ‘stumbled over the stumbling stone’?” No, that is not true, “Israel according to the flesh” are they who stumbled.
    If I may say so this is the same mistake that Paul is clearing up. The physical descendants of Abraham were well versed in the idea that they “are the chosen people” and on that basis (of physical relationship to Abraham) were the elect, recipients of God’s salvific favour. It is true, Paul points out they received the revelation, the word of God, and other favourable blessings. But are we to assume that because many Jews did not follow Christ that the Word of God is ineffectual? That is the thrust of his argument. Then he build his case on various Old Testament scenarios. In Romans 11:7 Paul asks: What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. That is tantamount to saying that “the chosen people” have not attained what they were looking for but “the chosen people” have obtained it. So if you get the drift, Paul says that the elect are not those who presumed they were elect. I won’t add further to that other than to say if you read where I look at this vexed question more deeply here:http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2007/11/israel-of-god.html
    I hope it will be of use to you.

    Paul loved his “brethren according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2) That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. (Romans 9:3) For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

    (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 theyshould not see, and ears that they should not hear;)

  • It is perplexing then to see that the nation chosen by God above all others misses the very climax of God’s work in history. This is of course what Paul struggles to fully understand. How is it that the ‘elect’ have ‘stumbled over the stumbling stone’?

    Do you see your mistake David? I don’t wish to be unkind but you have presupposed (perhaps because of the tradition of your fathers, evangelical teaching or whatever) “that the ‘elect’ have ‘stumbled over the stumbling stone’?” No, that is not true, “Israel according to the flesh” are they who stumbled.
    If I may say so this is the same mistake that Paul is clearing up. The physical descendants of Abraham were well versed in the idea that they “are the chosen people” and on that basis (of physical relationship to Abraham) were the elect, recipients of God’s salvific favour. It is true, Paul points out they received the revelation, the word of God, and other favourable blessings. But are we to assume that because many Jews did not follow Christ that the Word of God is ineffectual? That is the thrust of his argument. Then he build his case on various Old Testament scenarios. In Romans 11:7 Paul asks: What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. That is tantamount to saying that “the chosen people” have not attained what they were looking for but “the chosen people” have obtained it. So if you get the drift, Paul says that the elect are not those who presumed they were elect. I won’t add further to that other than to say if you read where I look at this vexed question more deeply here:http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2007/11/israel-of-god.html
    I hope it will be of use to you.

    Paul loved his “brethren according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2) That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. (Romans 9:3) For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

    (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 theyshould not see, and ears that they should not hear;) On all of these accounts a “maximally loving” God can neither give more grace to some “the elect” than others nor can he deny a revelation to a group of people. “the rest were blinded”

  • Stupidity thy internet name is “Truth Over Faith”

  • Re. Paul and Romans, David’s on to something.

    Perhaps the single most overlooked fact about predestination is its biblical purpose. What I mean by this is not its theological purpose which is the salvation of souls. Rather, what is overlooked is its purpose in regard to why Paul wrote about predestination in the first place. The two places where Paul writes about predestination are in Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 1-2. In both of these sections of Scripture Paul is making a case for the inclusion of Gentiles into the household of God. In both of these sections of Scripture Paul refers to the “mystery” that has been hidden and now revealed (Eph. 1:8-10 and Rom. 11: 25). He explicitly describes what that mystery is in Ephesians 3.

    Ephesians 3:4-6 “4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

    You may be aware that the Apostle Paul had a ministry-long battle with both Jews and Jewish-Christians in regard to the salvation of the Gentiles. Many Jewish-Christians believed that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians. Paul, based on a revelation from Jesus, resisted this idea and proclaimed salvation to the Gentiles by faith. Predestination was one of Paul’s key arguments for the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s family. Put in the vernacular, predestination was Paul’s “battering ram” doctrine against Jewish-Christians who wanted to restrict the salvation message to God’s Old Testament chosen people. In simple terms, Paul was saying that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion and nobody can argue with God. Your arms are to short to box with God.

    The problem arises with predestination when people turn its purpose on its head. To Paul predestination meant that God has sovereignly thrown open the gates of heaven to all of humanity and wants His (as Jesus said in Luke 14:23) “house full.” Unfortunately, some people now want to re-define predestination as a restrictive doctrine. The impression one gets from this redefinition of predestination is that God is a miser in heaven choosing a few special “elect” out of humanity and consigning the rest of the world to hell. According to this view God does this because it proves He is in charge and that He is a glorious God. However, such a view of God violates the love-drenched spirit of the New Testament and would likely horrify the Apostle Paul. Paul gloried in predestination because it validated extreme evangelism. A proper understanding of predestination puts it in its biblical context as connected to the mystery of Jew and Gentile being saved. It is a generous and wonderfully outrageous doctrine of God’s love for all of humanity. All humans are now invited to come to God’s salvation banquet–the blind, the lame, the rich and poor, all are welcome.

    Btw, Bill Craig seems to agree –> http://evangelicalarminians.org/Election-Free-Will-William-Lane-Craig-on-Romans-9

  • Jonathan,
    Even *IF* we read Paul as saying that the gates of Heaven have also been opened to the gentiles is quite consistent with reading it as advocating a limited scope of salvation. The most that your exegesis (if successful) proves, is that Paul intended into show that the promise of salvation now includes some gentiles. It doesn’t prove that the scope of the offer of salvation is absolutely Universal.

  • JohnD:
    (Romans 11:5) Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

  • JonathonD:
    All humans are now invited to come to God’s salvation banquet–the blind, the lame, the rich and poor, all are welcome.

    Yes all are invited but no, not all are welcome:

    And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:12-14)

  • Christianity explained in less than 2 minutes!!

  • Kerry Campbell,

    I’m not a universalist – of course not ALL are in Christ. And yes, I’m well aware of “remnant” language, but none of that disputes the story I’ve described. Have you read Witherington or Wright on this?

    Andrew, none of what I’ve described advances limited atonement. I’m trying to get you to see the story so you’ll affirm what’s most holistically plausible. Word studies and primafacia readings won’t serve you here in much the same way that words studies and prima facia readings didn’t assist Matthew Flannagan with ANE.

  • Jonathon D: I read W.L.Craigs piece that you recommended having a look at and I agree with what he says right up to the last two paragraphs. The Jewish understanding of limited election was correct they just applied it wrongly. I don’t know anyone who seriously would hold that the Jews did not hold a privileged place in God’s purposes. Rauser’s “maximally loving” God would make that untenable. W.L.Craig’s stance is understandable in terms of his commitment to Molinism.

    I have read very little of N.T. Wright but I know that many who go down the New Perspectives track seem hellbent on denying the atonement. That has raised my eyebrows. Do you have any book of his in particular in mind?

  • JonathonD: I’m well aware of “remnant” language,

    Yes- but of what signification is it to you? Is it just extraneous verbiage that has no bearing on the discussion?

    The Arminian position on prevenient grace is erroneous. God gave Jesus a much larger mandate than merely to doffer salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile. God gave him power over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as God had given him. Holistically speaking this is not about human sovereignty, resistable grace or unlimited election.

    Jesus said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Holistically speaking Jesus is looking for entities that are defined by no less than three qualifications and he says he came for none other than these.

    1 They must be lost
    2 They must be sheep
    3 They must be of the house of Israel

    1 Could be all of mankind lost in trespasses and sins
    2 Must be some not all- sheep and goats midst the nations. Mth 25:32
    3 We here agree that Gentiles are able to be grafted in to the Israel of God.

    C.S. Lewis said: “You cannot go on seeing through things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. . . . If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see.”
    —C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

  • Truth Over Faith,

    I’m an annihilationist about Hell…so Barker’s pathetic little caricature of Christianity is not one that I recognize.

  • Kelly, I don’t have any interesting remarks to make about the remnant – none I’d like to share at least.

    But before I respond to your other point about the “sheep”, I’d like to get one thing clear – Is it your position that the “sheep” here in context are solely the elect?

  • Jonathon D:

    I hereby affirm that in my view the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” is a reference by Jesus the Christ to those he has elected to eternal life.

  • Jonathan your perseverance is to be commended.
    I had planned to join you, however now that Andrew has declared himself not just a Calvinist, but also an annihilationist, I just don’t know where to start…

  • Good evening.. Just home from work.

    Referencing Matthew 15:24 to which he quotes from the King James – Jesus said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel

    Kelly Campbell writes: I hereby affirm that in my view the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” is a reference by Jesus the Christ to those he has elected to eternal life.

    That’s what I thought – You’re incorrect.

    If Matt. 15:24 refers to the elect, then the elect would include no Gentiles. I hope you’re a Jew!

    CONTEXT

    When Christ encounters a Canaanite woman during His missionary journey, the Canaanite woman i.e. Gentile viz. “animal” / “other” begs Christ for a divine favor (emphasis added).

    “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” If the lost sheep of the house of Israel consisted of only the elect, then it’s odd for Jesus to distinguish this young Gentile women from the Jewish community, right?

    “Before and during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, God’s “chosen” people — i.e., God’s sheep (“his people”) — refers primarily to Israel.” That’s sort of an uncontroversial point for scholars, you see. Jesus was simply stating that His ministry while on earth was primarily for the Jews in much the same way that Paul’s ministry on earth was primarily for the Gentiles.

    You said: “The Arminian position on prevenient grace is erroneous.”

    That’s an assertion.

  • Rosjier,

    At most, my “annihilationism” could be regarded as heterodox. It’s hardly a heresy.

  • Hi Jonathon,

    Just got in myself. I have elsewhere in connection with this issue invited people to blog post here:http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2007/11/israel-of-god.html

    But for your convenience I have pasted a portion of it here and I believe it anticipates Jonathans objections.

    And behold a women of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son Of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answers her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs, which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Mathew 15:22-28

    The apparent stony silence, which met the Canaanite woman’s cry to Jesus, was to test and manifest her faith. Faith indeed it was, since, she called him, “thou son of David”- a recognition of his status as the Messiah or Christ. At first he didn’t answer for perhaps two reasons. It was customary for Jewish men not to speak directly to women who were not known to them; and secondly and more significantly she was a woman of another country, which were despised by the Jews. His disciples confirmed their distaste and their prejudice against her by asking him to tell her to go away. Finally, as if provoked by their bigotry, he answered, saying “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. I am not sent – meaning, “I am sent exclusively for the lost sheep of the house of Israel”
    The exclusiveness of this statement is clearly twofold. Firstly, as if he said: I am not sent for sheep that know their place, (or appear to) but to those that do not know their position in the house of Israel. “I am sent” says he, for lost sheep. Lost sheep. Who are the lost sheep? Who is lost but he/she who does not know where he/she belongs. Those “having no hope, and without God in the world:”Eph. 2:12. Those who have no Messiah have no hope . Your true identity indicates your place in the scheme of things. The statement here indicates that those who boast of their position as a descendant of Abraham but do not recognize the Messiah have in fact no place in Israel- that is the true Israel. And secondly, the exclusivity of the statement refers to Israel. I am not sent- he says- to find Canaanite sheep, or Samaritan sheep or sheep of any other kingdom or nation but I am sent for Israelite sheep. It must, of necessity, follow therefore, that all, that are “found of him”, are, of the house of Israel, and no one else. Firstly they must be lost, he only came for lost sheep, no other type of sheep will do. They must be lost. Secondly they must be Israelite sheep, he did not come for sheep of any other nation, they must be Israelite in some sense. Here we see clearly the inference of two Israels, on the one hand, “the Israel after the flesh”(1 Corinthians 10:18), which is easily recognizable and then the “Israel of God”(Galatians 6:16), which is acknowledged as the spiritual Israel, to which belong the lost sheep that Jesus was seeking.
    If Jesus acknowledged this Canaanite woman as a lost sheep, then she is of the house of Israel, but being Canaanite she is not an Israelite in the ordinary sense of the word. There is therefore only one conclusion that can be true, and that is, she is of the “Israel of God”. Of course as Christians we are not strangers to this principle. It is commonly understood that people of faith are found universally, that is in all groups of people regardless of race etc. This truth was a source of much difficulty for the Jews, and doubtless, still is to this very day. On the other hand, within the wider body of believers there is the true church. We accept all believers as His, on face value, but we are also aware, that at the end of the age the tares (which look like wheat) shall be separated from the wheat.
    In Jesus’ day it was the common understanding that Israel were the chosen people, but the true Israel were his on the basis of faith alone just as it is true of the church today. Faith in Christ is the universal point, which divides, irrespective of race, colour, culture or any other external thing, that same faith is also the universal criteria, which unites the true children of God. Hear these words; and may they sink deep. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36 (See figure 1)
    When Jesus confirmed he was sent only for lost sheep, this seems to have spurred the woman on, she came, perhaps being encouraged by that statement, “and worshipped him” A loyal subject indeed! “But he”, using the full potential and impact of this opportunity, both to strengthen the woman’s faith, and to manifest to his disciples the spiritual implications of the situation, “answered and said, ‘It is not meet’ (right), ‘to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.’ The children’s bread is a reference to the children of Israel who were given Manna in the wilderness, which is of course a type of the church and Christ. As it is written “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” John 6:33. And again “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. John 6:35-37
    And so back to the Canaanite woman. He was in fact saying- I am sent of God for none but his true children, repeating what he had said previously but using different expressions. Only in this instance he is seemingly even more discouraging to the woman because of his reference to dogs. I believe it was William Barclay the eminent Scottish theologian who gave the background understanding of this derogatory term. In ancient times, scrounging, marauding dogs often plagued the villages and towns roaming the outskirts on a constant lookout for an opportunity to snatch an easy meal, and of course, were highly unpopular, just as wandering dogs are to this day. It was a common taunt of the Jewish people to refer to outsiders, i.e. gentiles and any other people outside of Israel, as dogs.
    Well what was the effect of these words whose meaning and inferences would not have been lost on her? Completely undeterred, she adeptly side-stepped the provocative meaning of the dog, and acknowledged that, yes, He spoke the truth, but she was not a dog outside of the kingdom, and in all humility, she recognized she had no right to eat at the table, but her position none-the less, was that of grace and privilege-the same as it is for all of us in fact. There is, in truth, only one that has the right to eat at the table- the master-Christ. Just as there was only one, who, without sin, had the right to cast the first stone at the woman taken in adultery. All others must come by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Mathew 15:22-28 In Mark7: 25-30 a remarkably similar story occurred with the Greek woman.

  • Jonathon D: If Matt. 15:24 refers to the elect, then the elect would include no Gentiles. I hope you’re a Jew!

    This is what I am saying Jonathon that Jesus redefined what it meant to be part of Israel. When I say redefined I mean that this is what God had always intended by calling Israel his people, they were and are his and always will be not on the basis of race but on the basis of faith. Please read the full version of this on my blog. His attitude to her was to teach his disciples this understanding. So entrenched was (and is) the view that the Jews are Gods’ people, his chosen ones on the basis of their physical relation to Abraham that even after this Peter had to have his trance episode and a vision on the sheet several times till he finally got it. So entrenched is it still today that very few Christians acknowledge it, and the political Israel rub their hands together in glee for the unqualified unilateral support they get from unthinking Christians. This support is sometimes used against our own brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be Palestinian Arabs by birth.

    (Romans 2:29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

  • I have been following this discussion and thought i would put my 2 cents worth in.
    Simply as far as i can tell both positions seem well supported in scripture. That God chooses us , and that we are free to choose. The bible says quite clearly that ‘God is not willing that any should perish’, and also ‘if any man hears my voice and opens the door i will come into him’. Christ also talked about the broad and narrow roads and the numbers who travelled them to hell or to heaven.
    It seems to me the question revolves around our ability to comprehend how God can leave us with responsibility for our choices while at the same time achieving His purposes. To my mind many of our disagreements around these points actually come down to the limitations of being mortal fallen humans. The arguements around Gods soveriegnty all come done to a too small a concept of God, God is not limited by giving us free will/choice etc, neither is He reduced by giving us free will/choice.
    Why did God make us? I have understood this to be for His good pleasure, for communion, and that we might know Him and enjoy Him forever. [Admitting my own limited understanding], the “friend” who had to play with you when you were the new kid at school didnt get pleasure, communion or enjoyment from that compulsory arrangement. These things only grow from voluntary arrangements. God did not make us robots, He made us in His image.
    To take an Arminian view is to deny some parts of scripture, while to take the Calvinist is to deny others, and both views ignore yet other parts such as the two i just mentioned.
    My old mum, hardly a theological giant, used to say that over the gates to heaven [on the outside] is a sign “Who so ever will may come” but if you look back from the inside the sign says “You are the elect of the Lord”.

  • Jonathon D:You said: “The Arminian position on prevenient grace is erroneous.”

    That’s an assertion.

    That’s an assertion that I have worked with: Prevenient grace: prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer. (Wikipedia)

    On that view God’s election can only stand subordinate to human will- that is patently not what Paul intends. God did not merely offer salvation to an entire humanity that was fallen in trespasses in sins and effectively dead to the call of the Gospel. What God did was to mandate to Jesus the Christ the power to give eternal life not, just proffer eternal life. If eternal life was merely presented to the fallen and capricious nature of mankind then it destroys the basis on which we are to look forward to the promise you referred to: “And he will bring the entire state of current affairs — everything in heaven and on earth — to reconcilation in Christ (Col. 1:20).”
    (John 17:2) As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him I have written a piece which you can find here: http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2009/08/power-over-all-flesh.html

  • Hi Jeremy:
    My old mum, hardly a theological giant, used to say that over the gates to heaven [on the outside] is a sign “Who so ever will may come” but if you look back from the inside the sign says “You are the elect of the Lord”.

    Your Mum listened to good preachers, that I think was a quote from C.H.Spurgeon. I have said before the will of man is real and has meaning otherwise it were unjust if we weren’t responsible for our sins, but where free-will goes out of bounds is where it reduces God to our choices. There is a tension in these things and I believe scripture checks us when we go too far, and when we don’t go far enough.

    The full Gospel is fully balanced to bring God’s children to maturity- how would we know when we had exceeded this balance or tension between the extremes of predestination and freewill?

    This is an interesting question, but before we answer, let’ s ask another one. Whenever I have had the opportunity and the freedom, I have spoken of these themes and this question is often raised. But do you know that, conspicuous by its absence, is the question that is invariably never asked, and that is:

    How would we know if we had taken the idea of human autonomy or freewill to an extreme and excluded other truths because of it?

    The very nature of the question belies the implicit bias of the questioner. Whenever the absolute omnipotence of God is raised there is an outcry. Whenever the supremacy of human ability is engendered there is full acceptance. I am not getting personal here, honestly this is human nature, and I fully appreciate that this is the stand all people take because paramount in our paradigm is the idea of human autonomy. Why is it (and this is a consistent observation) that whenever the subject is raised there is an immediate reaction to it? Just because a certain view is “mainstream” does it therefore stand true simply by majority rule? History agrees with scripture and shows otherwise.

    The bible says quite clearly that ‘God is not willing that any should perish’,

    There is a book called “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” by John Owen (1616-1683) that deals specifically with many if not all of the objections including this one to limited atonement. Reputedly this thesis has never been defeated. There is a contemporary abridged edition called “Life By His Death”

  • And to various commentators/critics of Hell etc, God does not send us to hell we send ourselves. God simply respects our choice not to have Him in our lives. This is simply the other side to seeking communion, enjoyment, pleasure in a relationship. The fact that we may later regret not having God involved with us is our problem.
    If you dont accept the invite to the party it is your actions not those of the host , that result in you missing out.

  • @Jeremy,
    My reason for being an annihilationist does not consist in an objection from injustice.

  • Andrew, i was thinking more of the video rant Tof linked to and comments i think i remember TAM making.

  • Good points, Jonathan and Jeremy- I can think of little worse than debating Calvinists alone.

    In Romans, Paul is trying to deal with the dilemma of how Israel has failed to miss the climax of God’s salvific plan. How is it that the gentiles are entering into the promises of Abraham, the fulfilment of the covenant in Jesus, while most of the Jews appear to be on the outside; ‘can it be that the word of God has failed’? Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are about the fate of Israel and the reliability of God’s promise which in the current circumstances appears to be seriously undermined.

    Paul starts very forcefully in 9 by affirming God’s sovereignty and freedom- yes even his freedom to determine the limits of salvation. Yet this affirmation of divine sovereignty is not Paul’s final theological position on the matter: thus in chapter 10 we see the conditional “…because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” v9. In 11:7 Paul repeats what he has said in 9:31 and 10:3. The ‘elect’ (the Jewish Christians) have obtained it, while the rest have been hardened. As Paul has been trying to stress, this hardening is part of God’s providential plan- “through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous”. From 11:17 we see a further affirmation of man’s response to salvation: For example 11:22-24 “note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for god has the power to graft them in again”

    Kerry, you wrote: “On that view God’s election can only stand subordinate to human will- that is patently not what Paul intends. God did not merely offer salvation to an entire humanity that was fallen in trespasses in sins and effectively dead to the call of the Gospel.”

    If you choose to ignore the verses that affirm human volition of belief and trust in Christ, or interpret them in a way that runs wildly against the most plausible reading, then I guess you are going continue to believe that Paul is teaching Calvinism. May I suggest reading a Calvinist hermeneutic into Paul (or the rest of the bible) is not a good starting point for doing biblical theology? Paul’s affirmation of God’s absolute sovereignty is not a worked out theological doctrine of divine providence and human freedom. A consistent reading of Paul reveals he affirms both. Did he feel a tension? Most probably; but we cannot expect him to have reconciled easily the most inscrutable and complex problem in theology.

  • David, wonderful insight!

    Kerry writes: “Jesus redefined what it meant to be part of Israel.”

    Kerry, no doubt Jesus would agree with Paul’s statement about “Israel” cf. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Rm 9:6). However, the text we’re discussing now has no place for your insight. Part of the reason, as I said, is that Jesus had a well known Jewish ministry.

    We may have to agree to disagree.
    (when will someone bring up John 6 — I have a context for that too!! lol)


    time to work…

  • David: If you choose to ignore the verses that affirm human volition of belief and trust in Christ, or interpret them in a way that runs wildly against the most plausible reading,

    Please point out where I have ignored human volition. On the contrary I believe I validate it. (“wildly against the most plausible reading”!) I constantly affirm the human will, I just as often confirm it is not absolute- but God’s will is. What I point out is that in reading about human will in the scripture most people read into it that it is absolute, and that is what I contend with and am opposed to. And that is Paul’s reason for exemplifying Pharoah in Romans 9. Ask yourself this question: How would God prove to you that human will is not absolute? Well anyone knows that if a stronger man binds a weaker one he has proved his power over the other. That is physical supremacy. But God says “it’s not by might nor by power but by my spirit” . What if God says “come now let us sit down and reason together” ? Now if God reasons with a reasonable woman, she no doubt will see reason and come around. Has that proved God’s immutable infallible will? Not at all, the woman who has absolute confidence in her own freewill would merely say she simply saw the point God was making and came around. This would not dent her confidence in the absolute determination of her own will. How then does God prove this? How does he make his power known? Go back to the story of Pharoah and re-read it with that in mind. If one is to prove ones power over the will of another without resorting to physical violation of that will, who better than to exemplify it in a callous, petulant king whose will in his own kingdom was considered absolute?

    Paul is explicitly examining the relationship between the omnipotence of God and its effect on predestination and election and how it interacts with the human will and human sovereignty, in short the very problems we have been grappling with.
    Let us turn back to Pharoah, but looking at particular expressions and how they occur over and over again- for our understanding: (To harden in the sense given below means- to cause one to resolutely stand firm against a repeated request or command)
    What will follow are Excerpts from Strongs Exhaustive Concordance with respect to the words harden and hardened :
    HARDEN

    ■(Exodus 4:21) And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

    ■(Exodus 7:1) And the LORD said unto Moses, …. (Exodus 7:3) And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

    ■(Exodus 14:1-4) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, … And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.

    ■(Exodus 14:15-17) And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me?… (Exodus 14:17) And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians,

    HARDENED

    ■(Exodus 7:13) And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

    ■(Exodus 7:14) And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

    ■(Exodus 7:22) And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

    ■(Exodus 8:15) But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

    ■(Exodus 8:19) Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

    ■(Exodus 8:32) And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

    ■(Exodus 9:7) And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

    ■(Exodus 9:12) And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

    ■(Exodus 9:34) And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

    ■(Exodus 9:35) And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

    ■(Exodus 10:1) And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

    ■(Exodus 10:20) But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

    ■(Exodus 10:27) But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

    ■(Exodus 11:10) And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

    ■(Exodus 14:8) And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. ( emphasis mine)

    Was God making a point or what!- (Excerpt from:http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2009/08/predestination-revisited.html

    Read about the God who won’t be refused, (if he has a mind not to
    :-))
    http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2010/06/irresistable-grace.html

    http://struth-his-or-yours.blogspot.com/2009/08/power-over-all-flesh.html

    Now while I try to reason with you I also pray for you knowing that in the final analysis no matter how reasonable you are, or how stubborn, the final say as to whether you get it- is in God’s hand, and I seek to honour that.

  • David: yes even his freedom to determine the limits of salvation

    This post started with the subject of a limited atonement. If this is your acknowledgement of the truth of it, thank you.

    May I suggest reading an Arminian hermeneutic into Paul (or the rest of the bible) is not a good starting point for doing biblical theology?

    Paul’s affirmation of God’s absolute sovereignty is not a worked out theological doctrine of divine providence and human freedom. A consistent reading of Paul reveals he affirms both

    And I too affirm that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. God does not bypass human willingness, as I have affirmed over and over. Scripture affirms all through the finitude of human will in relation to the will of God.

    we cannot expect him to have reconciled easily the most inscrutable and complex problem in theology.

    Is that because it is difficult for Paul or more because we are so entrenched in absolutizing human will?

  • Kerry,

    You are so strange. This is how I sum up what your argument seems to be –

    Premises:
    1. (If) God freely chooses to offer us Salvation.
    2. (And) We freely choose to take it or don’t take it.

    Conclusion:
    (Then) God is bound by our free will.

    This simply does not follow. Especially as God gave us free will for this very reason in the first place!

  • I remember Witherington saying something to this affect: The problem with John Piper and other scholars who read the Bible as if it were written by Augustine or Calvin rather than by early Jews, is that they do not (largely) understand how early Jews thought about these subjects. An Emergent pastor of which I’m not a fan wisely stated that we’d do better to get in the mind of the first century author rather than reading centuries backwards through God knows who had what agenda (my paraphrase). This is why Witherington-style rhetorical commentaries are so helpful. I’m not big on “word studies” if you couldn’t tell – they’re obviously not useless.

    Rosjier, I feel your pain.

  • Even if it were written by Augustine, a Calvinist reading would still make no sense,

    Out of curiosity in regards to John 6, what context could possibly justify all His disciples leaving Jesus?
    (except the Twelve)

  • Rosjier wrote: Out of curiosity in regards to John 6, what context could possibly justify all His disciples leaving Jesus?
    (except the Twelve)

    A context where “disciples” would include nominal/unauthentic followers of Christ. v64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

    I’m not sure I understand your question. Could you put it another way?

  • You said:
    “(when will someone bring up John 6 — I have a context for that too!! lol) ”

    I mentioned this:
    John 6:66 (the only Chapter & verse 666 int the NT)
    “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ”

    and was wondering what context you were referring to…

  • Rosjier,

    It’s sufficient to conclude (I think) that the explanation for their unbelief/turning away was a) that they were never authentic followers of Christ to begin with or b) perhaps they had “once been enlightened,” and “have tasted the heavenly gift” yet they willfully rejected their Messiah. I’m speculating – I’m also open.

    What do you think rides on your question?

  • To all and sundry who are following this discussion I have responded to some recent comments but my response of 8am is (for reasons not known to me) under moderation. It may be too long or because of some links in it. For all the criticism levelled at the view that I hold, just remember that there are somethings so basic to human nature they were and are just as true today as they were in the day that sin entered the world.
    Where do you get the view that God gave mankind a will that left mankind inaccessible to the will of God? (either through the self limitation of God or otherwise?)

  • Since we’re on slight tangents, here’s a note to my Calvinist friends-It’s my last comment: Prima-facia readings..? Don’t do iT!!

    William Lane Craig explains why:

    In Hebrew thought they have this extraordinarily strong sense of divine sovereignty in which everything that happens in a sense can be attributed to God, but they don’t see this as antithetical or exclusive of human freedom by any means. A beautiful illustration of this is the story of Saul’s suicide in 1 Samuel 31:4, 5 and 1 Chronicles 10:14. In Samuel it describes Saul as he sees the Philistines about to take him and so in order to avoid capture by the Philistines Saul falls on his own sword and commits suicide. In the Chronicles account we have the same story with Saul committing suicide but the Chronicler adds this commentary, “thus the Lord slew Saul” (1 Chronicles 10:14).

    If Craig is right then we should distinguish God’s directive will (a will in which He is the effective cause of an event) from His permissive will (a will in which He permits the acts of His creation). In the illustration above, both Saul and God are responsible for the suicide – Saul more directly of course, right? But would a prima-facia, “means what it says, says what it means” hermeneutic tell you this? Clearly not!

    Or how about this Jewish example: We all remember the Joseph story. But how many of us remember the explicit contradiction buried in one single text? Apparently, God AND Joseph’s brothers are responsible for the same thing–Huh?? And I quote, “As for you, YOU MEANT EVIL against me, but GOD MEANT IT for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50:20). Really? An explicit contradiction in one single verse!? Was the author that obtuse? Or perhaps we need to get used to the way early Jews wrote about these things.

    And then, of course, this raises questions about how we’re to think about the language of “God hardening Pharaoh’s heart” – In fact, elsewhere we find that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, remember? 


    Folks, language has its limitations and not everyone writes with Western precision. We should get used to this.

    “It means what it says, says what it means”? No, not necessarily. unless you’re comfortable with explicit contradictions like the ones above. No wonder Bart Ehrman has managed to find so many mistakes in scripture – he reads it like an okie! :-I

  • Jonathon:The problem with Randal Rauser and other scholars who read the Bible as if it were written by Arminius or Pelagius rather than by early Jews, is that they do not (largely) understand how early Jews thought about these subjects.

    That is hardly helpful is it?

  • Jonathon D: Was the author that obtuse? I consider God to be the final author of his Word is that who you are calling thick? And if the human author was that obtuse perhaps he should have had you write it?

    By the way you forgot to mention another most important piece of scripture that was written by someone at least as “obtuse”

    (Acts 2:23) Him, (Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

  • Jonathon D God AND Joseph’s brothers are responsible for the same thing–Huh??

    Why is it such a problem for you to see that God may work his will through the evil motive and will of another, just as He may work his will through a good motive and will of another?

    Your real problem lies in your refusal to admit you are in God’s world not one of your own making.

  • On a lighter note I am reminded (you may ask yourselves by what?) of a story I heard about Mohammed Ali a.k.a. Cassius Clay the famous boxer.
    He was on a plane that was due to land and as usual the lights came on and the announcement made: “Please fasten your seat belts.”
    The stewardess walking down the aisles noticed Ali’s seat belt undone. “Please fasten your seat belt ” she insisted. “Don’t you know who I am?” he protested, “I am the greatest, Superman don’t need no seat belt” She shot straight back at him, “Yeah well Superman don’t need no plane either, get your belt on!”

  • Rosjier:Out of curiosity in regards to John 6, what context could possibly justify all His disciples leaving Jesus?
    (except the Twelve)

    Could it be the same offence that is seen elsewhere when mere mortals are told their freedom to do whatever their freewill chooses suddenly comes up against the will of him who ultimately determines their choice in this regard!!!

  • I should point out, that while i am thankful to Kerry for his valiant efforts in defending Reformed theology, there are numerous junctures at which he and i disagree considerably.

  • Well Andrew I must admit I found your silence deafening.

    David:Paul starts very forcefully in 9 by affirming God’s sovereignty and freedom- yes even his freedom to determine the limits of salvation. Yet this affirmation of divine sovereignty is not Paul’s final theological position on the matter: thus in chapter 10 we see the conditional “…because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” v9. In 11:7 Paul repeats what he has said in 9:31 and 10:3. The ‘elect’ (the Jewish Christians) have obtained it, while the rest have been hardened.

    What gives you the mandate to say that “confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart” changes in any way what Paul had written earlier affirming Gods freedom and sovereignty? Not his final theological position?!!!

    Your prior commitment to the ultimacy of human will is what forces Paul to “change” his position. Gods purpose is to save the elect, the gospel is his call, and bringing the elect to “confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart” is God’s work in them.

    Please answer this: When, in the normal course of your life, you feel hunger such that you sit down to eat, do you call that a violation of your will? When you- the biological entity and hormone driven you- sit down to eat as your DNA has programmed you, do you see it as a violation of your will? You are doing what comes naturally. Sure “will” comes into it but it’s not like you think of it as a violation of will. When a person comes to “confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart” she does so because of a new life principle within. The Holy Spirit is who brings people to see the truth. We don’t get saved and then the Holy Spirit comes in it’s the other way round. This confession is the result of God’s election not the cause.

    In your mind you seem to believe that “the elect” are restricted to the Jews that get saved: (1 Thessalonians 1:4) Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. Thessalonica was a predominantly Gentile church.

  • David: Prima-facia readings..? Don’t do iT!!

    David prima facie is what we have to do. In the nature of the case it is the first port of call, and there is no need to go beyond if it is coherent, reasonable and according to the whole tenor of scripture.
    I really think you guys have been influenced altogether too much by higher textual criticism. Sure language changes, culture changes and we need to be aware of the context but these things can also be take too far.

  • This whole idea of not listening to Calvin or Augustine but seeking to know the worldview of people in the ancient near east has blown all out of proportion. You seem to conveniently forget that the communion of the saints is a historical procession of Gods community throughout the ages. Their view may not have the technological advantages of today but it may be far outweighed by their proximity to the time it all happened. The “faith as it was once delivered to the saints” has been continually discussed and distilled by this community ever since, what gives you the temerity to dispense with all of that in favour of your own unique and personal trip back in time?

  • People in this discussion also conveniently forget to factor in their own contemporary philosophical influences. The influences of Kant, Nietzsche Hume et al

  • Andrew says: “God, it is supposed, cannot be in the presence of evil.”

    This statement does not seem to take the incarnation seriously enough.

  • Max

    Jesus may have cast out deamons,
    but He was never possesed by one!

  • Hey guys,

    Sorry to take it on a tangent but Good news – I figured it out – while walking home from the bus stop yesterday.

    Calvinism can’t be true.

    If there is irresistible grace then there would be no such thing as a back-slidden Christian.

    Why doesn’t everybody who has had the grace to pray and worship God not continue that for the rest of their lives?

    If someone receives grace at one point in their lives, then resists it at another… well there goes that theory.

    (I’m just going to presume we all know someone like this – I know dozens…)

  • No. But part of being fully and really human is being in the presence of evil. Constantly. Jesus was so much in the presence of evil that he was tortured and executed. Statements like “God, it is supposed, cannot be in the presence of evil.” start to look a little hollow when the incarnation is taken seriously.

    For a philosopher whose idea of God is a collection of concepts perhaps such things can be said. For a Christian this statement is at best meaningless, at worst… well.

  • David: If you choose to ignore the verses that affirm God’s sovereignty over our belief and trust in Christ, or interpret them in a way that runs wildly against the most plausible reading, then I guess you are going continue to believe that Paul is teaching Arminianism.

    (John 17:2) As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

    Here is a prima facie reading: Jesus says God gave him power over all flesh, I take it that means power over “the will of the flesh” (John 1:13)
    So God has given him power to move peoples wills. To what purpose? To give eternal life. If you say the elect (like all mankind) are totally sovereign and may refuse this then what have you done with his “power to give”? You reduce it to power to offer eternal life.

    And you accuse me of running “wildly against the most plausible reading”? I suggest it is only wild because of your philosophical commitment to human nature as you see it not as the scripture describes it. “As many as”, on the face of it it looks to me like a limited number. Universal in the sense of out of all nations not totality of people. Of course prima facie there are a number of scriptures that appear to be speaking of all being saved but these too have been exegeted thouroughly by people like John Owen. Jeremy has mentioned one: (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The key is to understand who is intended by the word “usward”. Is that a generality or is it specific? Was Peter writing to the world or the church, to mankind or God’s people? The original context makes it quite clear.

    What is really the strength of the argument where we need to understand the first century Jewish mind. When I first came to an understanding of what may be loosely called the reformed faith it was through the work of one book. “The Bondage of the Will” by Martin Luther. I read the English translation by Henry Cole 1823. He translated it with this principle in mind: “Strictly to adhere in every future translation with which he may present the public- to deliver FAITHFULLY the MIND of LUTHER; retaining LITERALLY, as much of his own WORDING, PHRASEOLOGY, and EXPRESSION, as could be admitted into the English version.” My point being that this work was nearly 500 years old and the difficulty I had understanding it was not because of a cultural shift. He had as much difficulty expressing as I had in understanding because this thing he was trying to express transcended cross-cultural barriers. I think it proves to be difficult in any age to express because humanity makes the same assumptions over and over. A sample of his expression:

    I could wish, indeed, that we were furnished with some better term for this discussion, that this commonly used term, necessity, which cannot rightly be used, either with reference to the human will, or the divine. It is of a signification too harsh and ill-suited for this subject, forcing upon the mind an idea of compulsion, and that which is altogether contrary to will; whereas, the subject which we are discussing, does not require such an idea: for Will whether divine or human, does what it does, be good or evil, not by any compulsion, but by mere willingness or desire, as it were, totally free. The will of God, nevertheless, which rules over our mutable will, is immutable and infallible; as Boetius sings, “Immovable thyself, thou movement giv’s to all.” And our own will, especially our corrupt will, cannot of itself do good ; thererfore, where the term fails to express the idea required, the understanding of the reader must make up the deficiency knowing what is wished to be expressed- the immutable will if God, and the impotency of our depraved will ; or, as some have expressed it, the necessity of immutability, though neither is that sufficiently grammatical, or sufficiently theological.

    Similarly we can understand 3rd century Augustine without too much difficulty. Are we to suppose then that from Jesus time to Augustine there was so much change as to render first century Jewish though almost unintelligible? Consider this also, the piece you quote from WLC speaks about Jewish expression (the Joseph narrative) from over maybe more than a thousand years from the Pentateuch to first century AD. And guess what their view of human will did not change over that time! Luke the Greek said ” Him, (Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”Was their understanding (at least some of it) guided by an unchanging God or were they just so obtuse they never saw it as a contradiction?

  • The Christology of Jesus the Messiah in John – Rebuking The Religious! (An explanation of John 6:37-45. Actually, a context for John in general!)

    Jesus is in a debate with the religious leaders who claim to have special knowledge and standing with God. Their charge seeks to disassociate Jesus with God, denying the former while affirming the latter. They are attempting to show that they know God but Jesus is foreign to them – that they are in a right relationship with God and they reject Jesus.

    Jesus counters them by asserting that they never knew God in the first place. “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you.” (John 5:37-38). They had already rejected testimony of John the Baptist as well as Moses: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:46).

    The point of related Johnine passages: Jesus’ opponents could not come to him because of their track record of rejecting his previous offerings of light. They had denied God and spurned correction. Had they fully accepted Moses, they would have belonged to God and he would have lead them to Christ. Since they did not belong to God, they would not be part of the transfer from God to Jesus (6:37, 39). If they dropped their presuppositions and surrendered to God’s teaching, they would have been taught by God and lead to Jesus (6:45).

    There is no reason to think that this passage teaches that people need some special permission from God in order to come to Christ. The point is that one cannot affirm God while denying Christ. All that God has he gave to Jesus, thus all who were in his care, he handed over to Jesus to shepherd.

    The answer to the question to whom does “no one” refer is quite simple: it means no one who has a relationship with the one true God and creator of the universe refrains from coming to Christ. Part of the confusion may lay in our point of view. One might assert that we come to God through Christ. We meet with Christ and are then able to get to the father. That is quite correct, but it is not the situation Jesus was addressing. Jesus had just come to earth. The Jews supposed they already had a relationship with God.

    My advice to you, Kerry, is to think “Christology” not “ordo salutis salvation” when reading John. The first chapter screams that you would. And, obviously, I can point you to undercutting ordo salutis’ elsewhere.

    Good chatting.

  • Do you remember Jesus’ lifelong ministry to Jews? Well, these were those who claimed to know God, but that Jesus is foreign to them. The reason why Jesus says things like, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” is that this was Jesus’ clever way of pointing out that they (the religious Jews in context) didn’t know God at all (emphasis added)! If they knew God, then when they were confronted by Jesus they would have known and received him instantaneously since to know God entails that one know Jesus – Jesus is God!

  • Rosjier: Why doesn’t everybody who has had the grace to pray and worship God not continue that for the rest of their lives?

    (2 Peter 1:10) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: Here again we see the tension between human autonomy and responsibility and the will of God. Even though we know the outcome of it all as the elect standing happily before their God we still have the responsibilities of running the race. Even though it is true that you must confess with your lips that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead we confess God is ultimately responsible for our good choice. And even if we run the race to the end we are still unprofitable in the sense that all the good we do comes from the goodness of God.

    In the parable of the sower it speaks of the “good” soil producing the most and those other plants that, one way or another failed. In keeping with the analogy and knowing that we both Jew and Gentile have universally gone astray “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:11-12) Given that the seed is the Word and the soil is the human heart and seen as the wellspring of life and action, from where comes this good soil? Or in the language of 1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

  • Kerry you fail to see how you answer the question – perhaps Andrew can give it a go?

  • Jonathon D: There is no reason to think that this passage teaches that people need some special permission from God in order to come to Christ.

    Now I know people don’t like prima facie readings except when they wish to indulge themselves but:

    (Luke 8:10) And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others>/i< in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

    (Mark 4:34) But without a parable spake he not unto them (the public): and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
    (Matthew 13:10) And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
    (Matthew 13:11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
    (Matthew 13:34) All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: (Matthew 13:35) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

    (Matthew 13:38) The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

    You will notice I hope that the two types of people in the world are in keeping with reformed theology.

    (Isaiah 6:9) And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (Isaiah 6:10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

    When people resist what is plainly set before their eyes it becomes quite apparent that God’s sovereignty is alive and well.

  • Kerry, best of providence. I’m all done.

  • Jonathon D: Jesus’ opponents could not come to him because of their track record of rejecting his previous offerings

    Like a poor doctor you confuse the symptom with the cause. Their track record points to the real problem:

    (Romans 9:7) Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Romans 9:8) That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

    Ask yourself who the “children of the flesh” are in reference to the above? Physical descendants of Abraham! The same that are representative in disputes with Jesus that they know God. They don’t know God because they are not born of God, they do not have his seed in them, this truth about their nature is manifest by how they do not have faith in Jesus and acknowledge him. The point of the reference to Moses was “Moses wrote of me” and they didn’t believe because they were not “of God”

    (John 8:42) Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. (John 8:43) Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (John 8:44)

    You will notice (I hope) in the way that Jesus answers his own question, he is quite specific as to why they are unbelieving, why they do not get it. Yes that’s right- not because they choose to be stubborn but because they cannot hear him.

    Why can’t they hear him? Because… Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.(John 8:44) This whole episode started when the subject of “freedom” came up. Which is relevant to this laborious discussion. (John 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. You will notice Jesus assumption that they were not free>/i<
    (John 8:33) They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
    In the following verses Jesus makes a distinction between the children of Abraham and the seed of Abraham.
    (John 8:45) And
    because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Please notice Jesus doesn’t say: Because you choose not to believe me you are the devils brats. Their unbelief their inability to see, is predicated on the fact that they are the devils seed. NOT the other way round.

    (Romans 8:7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to thelaw of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:8) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:9) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

    (Ephesians 2:3) Among whom also we all (both Jew and Gentile) had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

    (Luke 6:43) For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Luke 6:44) For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.

  • This has been somewhat of a marathon, my thanks to you guys I want to give you every encouragement, you are thinkers and heaven knows that’s a good thing, blessings.

  • As a footnote to the above please don’t come at me with notions of antisemitism, my best buddy at school was Jewish and I shared some fond memories and great times with him. I hope people especially take note of the fact those born of God are both Jewish and Gentile. And do take note that Paul testifies both Jew and Gentile were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Children of wrath by choice? Yes by choice we sin. But inherently because we are sinners by nature unless God intervene.

  • Our Savior is speaking to us!!! Please follow the link below for a special message from our Lord!!

    http://flipthatbird.com/random/jesus-christ-velvet-painting-finger/

  • TruthOverFaith is confusing her various sock puppet accounts she had to create after Vox Day called her a psychopath. Now she’s trolling several blogs with the same spam.

  • “Everyone please remember to check your brains at the door before entering this conversation.

    This is a discussion regarding the Stone Age lunacy of religious belief. Please exit this discussion if you have yet to have your first lobotomy. (Preferably botched)”

    that’s sums it right
    too bad we can’t send the participants in this “discussion” back to the Stone Age or maybe the Dark Ages where apparently they come form and where they belong

  • btw, from reading your comments Andrew, I can only suggest to you check yourself into a psychiatric facility.
    You’re NUTS
    and considering your patently wicked and deranged theology you’re probably right about messing up big time in your life and in need of a “savior”
    just don’t be so presumptuous to think that everyone is like you

  • A psychiatric facility would not diagnose someone as having a mental illness because of their religious or political beliefs. This is strict;y against the law (for obvious reasons).

    I know this is a throw away comment, and a common one, which tries to equate mental illness with stupidity or immorality.

    People with mental illnesses are not “deranged: or “wicked”.

    Please have some respect for people who actually do suffer from mental illness, and actually may need to seek help for it by NOT comparing them to Calvinists!

  • Christianity arose approximayely 2000 years ago, the Stone Age was long gone.
    The so called Dark Ages, never really existed, that the medieval period of European history was a dark age is a discredited and rather recent myth.
    If you want to insult people who disagree with you, at least get your insults right.
    And i agree with M, “People with mental illnesses are not “deranged: or “wicked”.”
    Your bigotry in one area is resulting in bigotry in other unrelated areas.
    Further, given your theological position, on what basis do you use the word “wicked”?
    Last but not least, could you try for more originality and less repetition in your insults, that would at least improve the entertainment value.

  • “Christianity arose approximately 2000 years ago, the Stone Age was long gone.”

    Yes, but the Stone Age mentality was still going strong, as evidenced by the absolute lunacy of Christian doctrine!!

    A human being is hung to a tree and beaten to death in a manner so savage and revolting that we wouldn’t tolerate a rabid dog being treated that way, and yet this was ordained by a loving, merciful, compassionate invisible being in the sky so that he could “forgive” his own creation!!?

    You’re kidding me, right!!?

    To accept the absolute asinine insanity of Christian doctrine is to identify yourself as having a mental disorder!! It is not a sane belief. It is not a rational belief. It is not a belief that is arrived at by way of reasoned, rational, objective thought. It is stupifying lunacy for the weak minded who cannot fathom the value , worth and meaning of human life without a ridiculous, embarrassingly childish fairy tale attached to it.

  • For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    Many have such an opinion of their own capacity as to think that that cannot be proved which they cannot believe; by wisdom they knew not Christ. -Mathew Henry

  • Crucifixion was not practiced by the Jews nor the subsequent Christians. It was in fact practised by the militarily, politically and culturally dominant world power of the time, namely the Romans.

    The behaviour you are complaining about was human behaviour.

    The fact that God can turn the freely chosen evil behaviour of rebellious humans to His own ends just speaks to the power of God, it says nothing at all about the sanity of Christians.

    You spend a lot of venom attacking Christian belief, but you clearly dont understand it enough to make valid criticisms.

    Why so bitter, so angry, so hurt?

  • “Yes, but the Stone Age mentality was still going strong, as evidenced by the absolute lunacy of Christian doctrine!!”

    This sentence is ,eaningless. Since Christianity never existed in the stone age, but does exist in the space age it makes a lot more sense to refer to Christian docrine as Space Age mentality. But I suppose this is not as insulting?

    “A human being is hung to a tree and beaten to death in a manner so savage and revolting that we wouldn’t tolerate a rabid dog being treated that way, and yet this was ordained by a loving, merciful, compassionate invisible being in the sky so that he could “forgive” his own creation!!?”

    It may surprise you to know that Christians are well aware of the horrendous nature of Crucifixion – and also that they don’t tend to believe in a God in the sky. Your knowledge of Christianity seems a little shaky.

    “To accept the absolute asinine insanity of Christian doctrine is to identify yourself as having a mental disorder!! ”

    Which “mental disorder” would this be? Or is your ignorance of mental health as deep as your ignorance of Christianity? As I have already mentioned holding a particular metaphysical, religious, political (etc) viewpoint is not considered by anyone to be the criteria for a mental disorder. The sort of thinking you seem be promoting is the sort which sees people persecuted because of their religious beliefe/lack of religious beliefs. A little tolerance might make you seem less like a fanatic?

    “It is not a sane belief. It is not a rational belief. It is not a belief that is arrived at by way of reasoned, rational, objective thought.”

    Well for many Christians I have talked to it is all of these things. Again reading up a little on Christian theology might be benificial for you.

    Equating a belif system you know little about, and clearly do not understand to being a dellusion or mental illness makes me think that you lack tolerance and the abilty to reason for yourself. Throwing random quotes from Dawkins around impressed me about as much as throwing random Bible passages around would impress you.

    Try harder to actually communicate and engage! We all might learn something that way.

  • “Age of Reason”,

    ROFLMAO. Your stupidity astounds me. Are you and Truth Over Faith lovers by any chance?

  • “Age of Reason”:

    I would also note that those who accuse others of mental instability are generally covering up their own latent insecurities.

  • Truthoverfaith,

    I assume you know that chris hitchens is dead. So in your worldview how do you measure the worth of his life as compared to the billions of generations of people, animals and kingdoms that’s entombed in the world’s detritus? (e.g. dirt)

    You might say that he will be remembered by family, friends and colleagues, but said people will also die as well as you and me. Here’s the truth or the mystery of atheism, what does it matter if you conquer a thousand dictators, or protest against injustice, if both tyrant and revolutionary die, slow aging deaths? Physicists talk about the universe approaching cold ‘death’ of entropy. There is no closure in atheism and its hypocritical to stake everything on little meanings when even those tiny concepts get swallowed up by a cosmic void that you cannot control nor comprehend.

    That’s the non-believer’s mystery or contradiction, the same way you rant about Christianity’s schizoid God or cosmic inconsistencies, you mirror the same defects in your own worldview e.g. humanity’s schizoid tendency to overconsume/preserve, to pacify/destroy or even the stupidity of living any kind of life when you’re fated to die at the end of it.

    Don’t give me that bullshit nonsense that you find meaning in living for others or intimacy with family. Such things, don’t last and woe be anyone who gets forsaken by family or is abused by the very benefactees he/she committed to help.

  • @ Alvin

    “The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” – The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, 2007

    Christopher Hitchens – 1949 – 2011

  • @Alvin

    Ditto what Paul Bennett wrote, you deluded asswipe.

  • Also, Alvin, we don’t feel the need to make up pathetic, inane, irrational fairy tales just because the world as it exists isn’t might not be exactly to our liking.

    And Christianity’s idea of heaven is worse than any concept of hell I can imagine. Tell me, Alvin, just what are your plans for the second trillion years of your “existence” in your blessed afterlife? Gonna break out the ping pong table for a little one-on-one with Jesus?

  • @Kerry

    Thanks for reminding me that the earliest Christians ridiculed wisdom. As if anyone needed another reason to deem Christian doctrine inane, absurd and at a mental level of the average Cro Magnon.

  • Faith over truth:Thanks for reminding me that the earliest Christians ridiculed wisdom.

    Let me be among the many that would still attempt to steer you on a straight path. The earliest Christians ridiculed wisdom of a certain kind not wisdom per se.

    (1 Corinthians 1:24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Isn’t it foolishness to employ a system of wisdom designed for discovering natural realities to try and discern supernatural realities?

    (1 Corinthians 2:11) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the

  • spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;# comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:14) But

  • Truthoverfaith,

    Hey playing ping pong is better than being fertilizer on the ground.
    I’m a deist by the way, so I don’t even believe in heaven FYI

    You keep harping and harping about the afterlife as fairy stories. Its fucking irritating, parrots like you keep squawking the same shit bits all over again.

    Hey if you want to be a godless puritan, start by ridding all of humanity’s hang ups in the form of hollywood movies, superheroes, fads, sci-fiction. Why not burn spielberg, milton, shakespeare and TS Elliot to the stake for inspiring humanity to be better with their conceived worlds supernatural and unnatural? You can also put the illiad, the epic of gilgamesh, the gita and tripitaka to the shredder bins of rationality along with the bible

    Quoting MG: “Throwing random quotes from Dawkins around impressed me about as much as throwing random Bible passages around would impress you.” Replace Dawkins with Hitchens

    And Stay off this fucking post, What’s a fundy atheist like you doing in a theological discussion? aside from blathering off your brain farts

  • Great thread. IMHO, the three best comments this far (with my non-theological observations):

    Calvinism can’t be true. [... you just figured this out?]

    my best buddy at school was Jewish [ .. and I once gave up my seat to a Mexican lady on the bus]

    Hey playing ping pong is better than being fertilizer on the ground. [I think you might get tired of Jesus' aces after the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th serve and he'd only be getting started]

  • TruthOverfaith:

    An interesting point you raise. On the face of it the idea of eternity is a terrifying one. The idea of the future stretching off for ever with no hope of an end. I guess that the terror comes from a terror of monotony or a tedious existence stretching on for ever.

    Would even heaven turn into hell when enough time has passed? Would the best possible existence become unbearbale eventually? Is this how you see heaven?

  • Hey Alvin, try a little decaf before your next post!!

    “Hey playing ping pong is better than being fertilizer on the ground”

    You sound like you have personal experience on both of these options.
    And what’s a f*cking “Deist” doing on a blog with a bunch of Christian nutters!!!

    Kerry wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men”

    Examples of God’s foolishness:

    Christianity
    Christian music
    The human appendix
    The prostate gland
    Kirk Cameron
    The Bible
    Birth defects
    Cancer
    Turing himself into a man, meaning he then had to squat over a hole in the ancient Middle East and take a shit. (Now that’s a God that really makes you want to bow down and worship him, right, Kerry?)

    @M
    “Would even heaven turn into hell when enough time had passed? Would the best possible existence become unbearable eventually?”

    Great questions, M. I don’t know the answers, but I wonder if Christians even bother to ask themselves such questions.

    The late Christopher Hitchens described Christianity’s heaven as a “celestial North Korea”. That sounds like a pretty accurate description. (As I write this the news is reporting that Kim Jong Il has died)

  • “The fool has said in his heart: there is no God” I used to think that when the scriptures said this, that she/he was a fool because the one saying it is actually claiming infinite knowledge. He is claiming that he knows without a doubt the impossibility of there being a God. A claim like that actually reflects a person claiming to be a “know all”. A person claiming that, is claiming omniscience- an attribute of God. That person is claiming to be God in a sense. While this remains true, I now also see that he or she is a fool for quite a different reason as well. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. The word “declare” is likened to an inscription say on a monument. Monuments are made to be seen, to draw attention to themselves, to inspire and invoke examination, to read the writing on the wall. So in this respect the person is a fool because he or she has ignored what their good sense should have made obvious to them.

    This person has such faith in their own private understanding of the world that they have deceived themselves into ignoring the sense of wonder and glory, the very inscription of the creator of all stamped upon the world. If this person even once seriously questioned from where comes this internal sense of indignation and moral outrage at the injustices of the world one might have hope for such a person. For such a person might start to think “where do I get such indignation?” Does that mean that there really is an independent universal standard of right and wrong? ” As C.S. Lewis said: My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. 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? –

    “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning. . .” Mere Christianity The only concession I would make is also echoed by Lewis: “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”

  • “As C.S. Lewis said: My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?”

    Well, of course the invisible being in the sky must have given it to us!! That’s the only possible answer!!!!!!!

    “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties: no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”–Albert Einstein

    “Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever the right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established…Morality is then surrendered to the groundless arbitrariness of religion”–Ludwig Fuerbach

    “i distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice that It always coincides with their own desires”–Susan B. Anthony

    “History does not record anywhere at anytime a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help.”–Robert Heinlin

    “In Christianity neither morality nor religion came into contact with reality at any point”–Friedrich Nietzsche

    “The fool has said in his heart; There is no God”-the Bible

    “The wise man has said with his brain; ‘Christian doctrine is, without a doubt, the most irrational, inane, ignorant, absurd, primitive, vile, wicked, sadistic pile of Cro Magnon bullshit that the human mind has ever concocted in our entire history on this planet. The insidious evil and lunacy of blood sacrifice should be an embarrassment to any thinking human being living today.”–the Wise Man.

  • You really should study science and history a bit TruthOverFaith.

    Cro-Magnon human lived over 35,000 years ago. Christianity arose only 2000 odd years ago. This sort ofmisunderstanding of history you demonstrate does not make you a very reliable source of information!

    Also lists of the opinions of people does not an argument make.

    Try again!

  • “The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” – The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, 2007

    This is rather funny, Hitchen’s says athiesm is not a creed . After saying this he then offers a creed which he asserts is “certain” based on no proof whatsoever, and this is published in a book of readings which its said are “ëssential for non believers.Hitchen’s disciples then respond to theists arguments, not by rational rebuttal, but by citing Hitchens reading as an authoritative text and expecting all to simply aqueise.

    This text is prefaced with “this is the only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance”.

    Do I really need to point out whats wrong with this?

  • TAM, just a few questions:

    1. Do you have children?

    2. If you have children did you know before you did that they would at some time in their life (a) suffer and (b) do wrong?

    3. If parents who answer yes to 2, discipline their children for wrongdoing are they child abusers who made the child knowing it would do wrong and then punished it?

    3. If parents who have children and answer yes to 2. they you a child abusers who deliberately made their sick? and should we hold these parents responsible and blameworthy for their childrens misbehavour?

  • @ Matt

    You seriously believe that death is not a certainty? Unless you are counting cryogenics, but in reality that is just a delaying take to the inevitable.

  • Hello Matt,

    Is there more evidence of the ‘T’ in tulip Total Depravity versus Blank Slate condition as the default innate nature of people?

    There’s a claim that states ‘goodness’ is taught, but it seems stealing, selfishness, cheating and lying are innately wired into people. They don’t need to catch these values, they have them already… Perhaps an outworking of evolution in the days of tooth and claw in the savannah?

  • If Armenians believe that people are pre-disposed to sin, so that there’s a 99% chance of ppl NOT choosing God over 1% Then its significant enough to say that it doesn’t matter if God pleads or beckons the person, when ninety-nine times out of a hundred, ppl will slam the door to his face. However, if it assumes a pelagian view of people’s nature as originally good but rotten overtime, it could be a different scenario on the ratio of ppl receiving salvation versus those who don’t

  • Paul, that misrepresents Hitchens’ comment; note what he said

    “Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell.”

  • @ Matt

    So, I take it you can you prove that death is not the only thing we can Scientifically prove then and that heaven and hell actually do exist after we die

  • @M

    Are you really that stupid, or were you just trying to be clever an failed?

  • M Flannagan wrote “If you have children did you know before you did that they would at some time in their lives (a) suffer and (b) do wrong.”

    Let’s see now, Matt is comparing the possibility of a child suffering at some point in his or her life with an omniscient being who knows ahead of time the absolute certainty of the Nazi holocaust, the Black Plague, Small Pox, Polio, numerous birth defects, the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian genocide, the Atomic bombs on the children during World War I and ll, along with hundreds of other wars throughout history, the certainty of cancer and many other diseases on his “children”,
    oh, and that wonderful creation of your merciful, loving god, eternal hell for all of those poor bastards living in the Amazon jungle and in North Korea!!

    With human children, there is a ‘possibility’ of suffering and doing wrong, but with God’s children, it’s a foregone conclusion.
    He knows for a fact that many of his children will suffer horrendous afflictions and cruelties during their lifetimes. It’s not just a remote “possibility”.

    This is the same god who allows hundreds or maybe thousands of unborn babies to die by spontaneous abortions and miscarriages every single day on this planet. But isn’t it interesting to think of some of the names of adults who, by the grace of the Christian God, survived the necessary term in their mothers womb:

    Little baby Adolph Hitler –Thank you Lord!!!!
    Little baby Pol Pot—-Thank you, Jesus!!!!
    Little baby Joseph Stalin—Thank you Lord!!!
    Little baby Saddam Hussein—Praise the Lord!!!
    Little baby Osama bin Laden—Praise God Almighty!!!

  • Paul, again that misrepresents what Hitchen’s says , he does not say we cannot scientifically prove heave exists, which would be largely trivial. He claims its certain that it does not exist.

    There is a world of difference between saying one cannot prove scientifically that X is true and saying we know with certianty that X is not true. And like I said, Hitchen’s offers no prove or argument of any sort that this latter conclusion is correct.

  • Actually truth over faith, I did not compare having a child to the cases you mention at all. I did not even mention those cases.

    But your response is inadequate, apart from insults and sarcasm, your only real argument is that when we have a child its a remote possibility the child will do wrong or suffer at some point, where as God knows this. Thats pretty evidently false, Its not a remote possibility that a child of mine will at some time suffer in life, nor is it a remote possibility that a child will at some time do wrong. Its something we can be pretty certain off,

    Perhaps you are aware of some parents who have children who have never ever suffered at any time in their lives but are always deliriously happy, and whose children are perfect and never misbehave. But I doubt it.

  • TruthOverFaith..

    you will have to be more specific. Your insult was too broad for me to really answwer sorry…

  • Perhaops it is deliberate understatement Matt – but I would replace “can be pretty certain off” with “can be absolutely certain of”

    This makes the analogy firmer.

  • @ Matt

    I am certain that unicorns, the loch ness monster and big foot do not exist, even though you or I can’t prove it as a fact, but using the evidence or lack of evidence available to us, I can happily make that call.

    Of course Christopher Hitchens explains his perspective much better than I, as he states in his book “God Is Not Great”, “If one must have faith in order to believe something (Which Matt, as a self confessed christian you must) or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished”.

  • @Matt

    The argument is not that children will never suffer at all, but that most will never have to experience the astounding horror of being pushed into barren chambers, stripped naked, and watch as poison gas is released in their presence, and then slowly suffocate.
    to death.

    And most children will never contact Polio, or childhood cancer, suffer insidious burns from a nuclear explosion, or be born with horrific birth defects. (Although many, unfortunately, do, as your loving sky-god watches with apparent indifference)

    Do you think that most parents expect that their children will most likely have to suffer in the most horrific manner possible? Of course not. You realize that it’s “possible”, but you don’t believe that it’s “probable”.

    Are you too obtuse to see that difference?

    @M

    Just go back and read your stupid comment again.

  • TruthOverFaith:

    which comment in particular would you like me to reread? If you could tell me why you think it is stupid then that would be a lot more helpful than just throwing random insults around…

  • Paul
    You write

    I am certain that unicorns, the loch ness monster and big foot do not exist, even though you or I can’t prove it as a fact, but using the evidence or lack of evidence available to us, I can happily make that call.

    Actually that call is a text book logical fallacy known as ad igorantium fallacy. The fallacy of arguing something is true because it has not been proven false or false because it has not been proven true.

    As to the case of bigfoot, I don’t think you believe its false, merely because you cannot prove it scientifically. If you did that would be a fallacy. The reason people draw inferenes like this is because there are other factors involved, in addition to the fact they can’t scientifically prove it. Such as that its belief to be the type of claim which we would likely have scientific evidence for if it were true. Or because in addition to having no evidence for the claim there is compelling evidence against them and so on.

    Its simply a mistake to argue that because some beliefs require proof to be rationally believed all do. Its on par with the argument that because some people are over six foot tall all are.
    It’s really sad that the new athiests think fallacies people learn in first year logic are actually really compelling. Its sadder that people take this crap seriously.

    Of course Christopher Hitchens explains his perspective much better than I, as he states in his book “God Is Not Great”,

    With respect I would not in general take a treatise on epistemology written by a journalist. Any more than I in general take seriously works on jurisprudence written by geneticists.

    “If one must have faith in order to believe something (Which Matt, as a self confessed christian you must) or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished”

    Well this is again simply really bad philosophy, since Aristotle we have known that knowledge must be at some level be based on believes one cannot prove to be true. This is known as the regress problem, you learn it in first year epistemology. Roy Clouser sumes the problem in a nut shell:

    If everything needs to be proven then the premises of every proof would need to be proven. But if you need a proof for every proof, you need a proof for your proof, and a proof for your proof of a proof and so on-forever. Thus it makes no sense to demand that everything be proven because an infinite regress of proofs is impossible.[3]

    This problem has been known for millennia, Hume, Descartes, Reid and so on discussed it, and its for this reason that almost no one thinks every belief you hold must be proven to be rational. It really is not good enough to spout positions known to be false and which have been known to be subject to descisive objections for thousands of years, simply because a journalist popular writer expresses it as a pithy slogan.

    Like I said, all we see in the quote above is a claim that a position is certain, based apparently on a logical fallacy, supported by a discredited epistemological position which almost everyone has rejected for good reason for over 2000 years. Sorry but this is nonsense.

  • @ Matt

    So, what makes you certain of your belief in god then?

  • @ Matt

    Sorry, my previous comment should have read as:

    So, what makes you certain that your belief in god is actually correct then?

  • Faith over truth said: “Well, of course the invisible being in the sky must have given it to us!! That’s the only possible answer!!!!!!!”

    “I am afraid we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Ch. 2.
    I hazard a guess that Nietzsche eventually lost his belief in grammar as well as God, since he spent the last years of his life in an asylum spending long periods in silence. At least he was consistent.

    “Human irrationalism and evil are the difficult things to explain in the Christian worldview, but the Christian can live with such mysteries because the only alternative is to renounce all meaning, to begin with atheism’s ultimate irrationalism. “Good,” “evil,” “reality,” “illusion,” and every other human word would be meaningless if atheism were true and the world were ultimately meaningless. The atheist believes that error and imperfection in the world imply the non-existence of a perfect, absolute God. Rather, error and imperfection in the world require a perfect, absolute God, because such concepts as “error” and “imperfection,” whether in the fields of mathematics, ethics, logic or science, would be meaningless without a perfect, absolutely rational standard by which to identify occurrences of imperfection, and without an ultimately rational structure to the world which allows concepts, whether positive or negative, to be applied, whether rightly or wrongly, to the changing realm of human experience. If God did not exist, it is not merely personal, psychological feelings of having a meaningful life that would suffer, but rational meaning would suffer.” Michael H. Warren Jr.

    When faith over truth finally closes his mouth he will at last be a dependable atheist, consistent with his view of the world as ultimately irrational, in this he will be consistent with Nietzsche.

  • Why wouldn’t we think of God as a bad father? The disturbing quesiton is why did God make reprobates at all (if in fact he did).

    I agree with Matt on no. 3 (and with Barth) love does entail salvation. Whether of not it’s universal is another debate. But seeing how God’s grace abounds all the more where sin aboungs, I have strong doubts God does not have it in mind to redeem his ENTIRE creation. Makes sense to me.

    For me Matthew, the problem with defending arbitrary election with man’s deserving damnation begs the question – God made everyone deserving damnation (which I believe is unbiblical). And that seems like a contradiction – Why do we deserve damnation before our creation?

  • A poo formed inside of me and I was proud of my creation.

  • Ahh, Kerry. Approximately how deep into your ass did you have to go to pull out the contrived pile of stupidity that you posted?

    “We must have the invisible sky-being or there is absolutely no meaning to anything in the world!!!!!!!!!!! We humans are just too darned pathetic to actually use these astonishing things we call brains to reason anything!!!!! Nothing has meaning without you, oh mighty invisible sky-god!!!!! We don’t know what meaning is without you, oh mighty invisible sky god!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, invisible sky-god!!

    Not only for giving us “meaning”, but also for magically climbing up into that little girls vagina two thousand years ago and getting this here salvation train rolling!!! Woo!, Woo!, Woo!!!!!!! Everybody on board!!!!!!! (Except Mormons, of course)

  • @M

    Just run along back to your ancient book of fairy tales and Kirk Cameron newsletter.

  • I can only assume that was meant to be an insult. It (like much of what you say) was incoherant so I am not sure… but I will assume so. If you have and real comments then I would love to hear them.

  • Gee, M, I’m so terribly sorry that my coherence isn’t up to your high standards!

    The absolute second that you post anything that is above the intellectual level of a Mickey Mouse Club member, I’m going to try much harder!!!

  • Matt’s avowed aim of “addressing the philosophy of religion, ethics, theology, jurisprudence and social commentary from a Christian perspective” seems to me to be missing out on the qualifier. There are 21,424 words in this thread so far, and most of it appears to me as purely academic wrangling.
    Jeremy’s Mum goes right to the point, because she addresses, at least by implication, the fundamental Christian object of getting into the Kingdom of Heaven, and very neatly disposes of the paradox too.
    I am bothered by the “couch potato” stance of nearly all of the commentators here. The only way a goal can be scored is if someone picks up the ball and heads for for the goal. I do not see the fundamental Christian ethic of “God is Love” in this discussion, nor can I see that it materially advances the Christian cause. Surely one of you learned writers can come up with a “three point plan” suggestion to promote someone into the Kingdom, rather than advancing a lot of reasons as to why they probably won’t get there!
    G and P – Rhys

  • Has this blog closed down?

  • The “final problem” is that God may love all of humanity enough to have created a world in which they all will be redeemed? However disappointing it might be to those who would prefer that most of humanity be damned, the rest of us would not consider potential universal redemption to be problematic.

  • Bill said:However disappointing it might be to those who would prefer that most of humanity be damned, the rest of us would not consider potential universal redemption to be problematic.

    I for one would not be disappointed in universal redemption, if only it were true. However a commitment to truth ought to play a part in our beliefs and I just can’t see it warranted by scripture. How many people do you know to whom the idea of hell is palatable? Does it therefore not exist?

  • “love” also involves “respect”. a God who “loved” us so much that He totally over-rode our personalities and choices would not really “love” us but rather be treating us as toys or robots. Hell is God’s ultimate expression of love for us in that He allows us the freedom to reject Him.

  • God’s ultimate expression of love for us in that He allows us the freedom to reject Him.

    Wouldn’t “Love”, in the sense that you use it, also involve the will to ensure “the beloved” make fully informed choices? Whilst I agree with you that the faculty of “will” is one of humankinds crowning glories with respect to being made in the image of God, to will rightly (that is, to make right choices) without sufficient knowledge is impossible.

    It can hardly be called “freedom” to reject God when you don’t believe he exists. Why should God respect/love ignorance? The willful rejection of God is a result of ignorance not freedom. Would you call it “freedom” if a woman dying of thirst rejected pure water on the basis of her belief that it did not exist? A free choice would be that of one whom, knowing that God exists- still chose to reject him. But then it would be a free choice only with respect to the knowledge of God. It would still have the element of bondage in that given that human nature was originally made to give God glory and to glory in the truth, then rejection of God would be a rejection of truth, in that sense the choice to reject God is still not a “free” choice but is a reflection of a will subject to bondage.

    Your phrase “love for us” is somewhat ambiguous. I imagine you mean “us” in the sense of humankind in totality. To generalize, that is the sense most evangelicals use it. However when I read for example: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) I see the “us” as a particular group of people- the elect of God, the true church.

    If you follow through these scriptures John 12:37 forward, Romans 11:7fwd, Mathew 13:12 fwd, Mark 4:11fwd, they are repeated examples of hardened hearts or darkened minds, closed to certain realities. I hope you would also concede that these examples reflect God at work if not by implication then by direct reference as in (Matthew 11:25) “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”

    Ask yourself if God loves humanity in totality equally as you appear to believe then why are some left “in the dark”? Why indeed would Christ be thankful for the imposition of ignorance if it was a question of equal love for all?

    In answer to the question: Why do you speak to them in parables? Jesus answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (Matthew 13:11)

    How can it be called a free choice when the choice is made on the basis of imperfect, incomplete knowledge?

    Ask yourself to what purpose this might be the will of God?

  • Kerry,
    Have you ever met an athiest?
    They aren’t ignorant.
    It’s not a matter of them not being introduced to Jesus.
    Most of them are backslidden Chritians, which in itself prooves Calvanism wrong.
    The one’s I know personally are people who know very well God exists. They out of pride would rather deny that truth, and live life the way they see fit, rather than obey God’s law.
    It is a free decision.

  • @ Roslier

    I’m an atheist, but I have yet to see any credible evidence to support a rational belief in god or gods.

    Feel free to enlighten me with your supposed proof if you can.

  • Sorry, comment should have been directed at Rosjier

    My mistake!

  • Rosjier

    “Saying it’s so, don’t make it so”

    I was an atheist and not so long ago that I don’t remember what I believed.

    Have you ever met the scripture: (1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”?

    The word “foolishness” means absurdity.

    The one’s [atheists] I know personally are people who know very well God exists.

    What can I say? Either you are in company with a strange breed of people or you don’t know them very well.

    So are you saying when Richard Dawkins wrote his book The God Delusion he was attempting to delude believers into the non-existence of God while he himself believed in God? When he makes reference to “Flying Spaghetti Monsters” he wasn’t really trying to put the idea of the existence of God on the same level of absurdity?

    (Romans 1:28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    (2 Thessalonians 1:8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

    (2 Thessalonians 2:11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (2 Thessalonians 2:12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

    (2 Thessalonians 3:2) And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (Emphasis mine)

    I will say this though: At a deep unconscious level there is a vestige of the knowledge of God in every son of Adam. But not so as you would notice!

    I think you need to rethink this.

  • Rosjier

    Looking again at your most recent comment it appears to me that you have gone some way to proving my point.

    The [atheists]I know personally are people who know very well God exists. They out of pride would rather deny that truth, and live life the way they see fit, rather than obey God’s law.

    I wouldn’t agree that atheists know God but would tend to agree that pride may play a part in their denial of God. You have alluded to the sin of pride that keeps them from acknowledging God.

    (John 8:34) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

  • @Kerry
    I think you are forgetting Romans 1:18-24

    “18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

    and 2 Peter 3:9
    “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.”

    Clearly some do perish or are you now advocating universal salvation.
    It is very easy to lock on to single characteristics of God, eg love, omnipotence, holiness and forget they are all there working together not against each other.
    God in his sovereignty chooses to make us in his image and gives us the freedom to commune with him or not, and when we reject Him , he has made a way back to Him through Jesus.
    Gods sovereignty and omnipotence dont overpower His love and compassion, neither do His love and compassion undermine His justice and holiness.

    This whole discussion depresses me a little, because it seems to me that to hold strongly to Calvinist or Arminian type positions, a person has to ignore significant portions of scripture that dont fit with those positions. ie both positions are well supported by scripture and apparently contradictory. This would suggest they cant both be right, it also suggests they may both be wrong. It coud suggest that humans [ even well intentioned ones ] have an overwhelming desire to categorize things, take a position and then defend it rather than admit that the whole may be a little more complex than they can fully comprehend.

    It seems to me that the Calvinist thinks the Arminian undermines the sovereignty of God, while the Arminian thinks the Calvinist undermines God’s omnipotence.

  • Jeremy

    I think you are forgetting Romans 1:18-24

    When I wrote “At a deep unconscious level there is a vestige of the knowledge of God in every son of Adam. But not so as you would notice!” It was precisely Romans 1:18 I had in mind.

    Calvin called it theSensus Divinitatis or “sense of divinity” it is this sense which is suppressed and denied by humankind that renders us without excuse.

    Basically I am a compatibilist, human autonomy is real enough to render us responsible moral agents without excuse but not so absolutely free in the sense of libertarian freewill. (“Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God.”)Theopedia

    I think the real problem that divides Christians over this issue is a question of emphasis, there is a tension between two extremes. I don’t see Calvinism as extreme at all. It acknowledges human autonomy but is quick to point out where this tension becomes un-scriptural. For what it’s worth I don’t know of any other systematic theology where the tensions apparent in scripture are dealt with equitably.

    It is not without reason that in the historical development of the argument Arminius and Erasmus of Rotterdam were known as humanists, or Christian humanists at best.

    If Rosjier would pardon my temerity, his response is a typical knee-jerk human response to any threat to the idea of human autonomy. I am convinced it is not simply a matter of theology but is perceived as a threat to what it means to be human, a question of identity. This is understandable when you think that we are conditioned by natural circumstances from a very early age to see ourselves as fully autonomous. I am told a suckling infant starts to differentiate itself as a being separate from its mother when it begins to recognize its father. We find our sense of “will” from a very early age, and thus our beliefs on this subject are very deeply ingressed. Any opposition to this sense is hotly contested.

    Randal Rauser wrote a post in his blog recently “Why Christians don’t give up God easily (and why atheists don’t accept him easily)” which I found a very good description of how deeply held beliefs are not easy to shift. I would put “freewill” in this category. Although not dealing with this issue in particular it is well worth reading.

  • The Atheist Missionary just cracks me up.
    The concept of God was created by early man to “explain” the unknown. Later it was used by rulers to help control the common people and consequently became inculcated into society to simmer and boil over at inopportune times.

    Bottom line…you have to WANT to have faith in God.

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