When Calvinists patronize

It was just a few days ago I posted a response to the new John Piper video promoting his book ‘Five Points’. Part of that video was a complaint about how Calvinists get stereotyped and how Piper feels this is unfair. On the same day I wrote my response to Piper another article appeared on the Gospel Coalition website called Sneering Calvinists.

The author, Derek Rishmawy, says that he is fairly new to the Reformed tradition and that he would describe himself as both a “reluctant Calvinist” and “Reformedish.” (‘Reformedish’ appears to be a rather vacuous term since people use it as a label for almost anything between one point and four point Calvinism.) Rishmawy then describes what sounds like a conversion experience. He describes how he slowly moved to Calvinism from a place of complete ignorance about what Calvinism really was. He describes how he felt he had legitimate reservations about Calvinism based on philosophical reasons, his doctrine of God and his understanding of what the Bible says.

He tells how he thought the teaching of God ordaining all things would make God the author of evil and that this appeared, prima facie, to be a good objection. He then describes how the doctrines of Calvinism are “counterintuitive” at first glance and how they are difficult to embrace for people raised in the “modern West”. (What that is supposed to mean specifically I don’t know and he does not explain.) He then describes how the final thing putting him off Calvinism was the stereotype image (“really arrogant, thickheaded, (often young) know-it-all, sneering Calvinists”).

The second half of his piece begins with a plea to his fellow Calvinists to be humble and not to be sneering. I can see the value in doing this and I applaud the author for issuing such a challenge.

Unfortunately, it is this very attitude which pulses through certain parts of his article. When he says:

“As I said, I’ve only slowly come around to the Reformed tradition. It’s taken years of reading different texts, working through heavy issues in metaphysics, thinking deeply through implications of the Creator/creature distinction, and coming to appreciate the Reformed tradition beyond its soteriology.”

and

“Let me put it this way: if you’re really a Calvinist and believe you’ve received knowledge of the truth by the sheer grace of God, which is what a Reformed view of knowledge teaches, then be patient with those who don’t see it. God has been (and is currently being) patient with you in some area as well. So stop sneering and ask God to humble you enough to be helpful to those offended at or wrestling with those doctrines you now hold dear.”

As unintentional as it may be, this is precisely the sort of intellectual snobbery which puts people off Calvinism and Calvinists. The author almost certainly is not intending to sound patronizing but that is just how it reads:

We, Calvinists, just need to give these people more time to do metaphysics, to read their Bibles, to grow up spiritually, to become more mature in their relationship with God, and to stop being so proud (just like I had to) and then they will see the light!

Is it worth pointing out to the author of this piece that some of the finest Biblical scholars alive today are not Calvinists? Is it worth pointing out that some of the finest Christian philosophers (peer-reviewed in philosophical journals) are not Calvinists (in fact it appears to be, by far, the majority)? Or that some of the most godly Christians are not Calvinists?

Underneath the article you will find numerous comments to the effect that: ‘Indeed, I was myself completely ignorant and proud once myself so I agree I too should be patient with my non-Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ!’

Here’s a news flash for such people. A large number of theologians and philosophers know this subject far better than most Calvinists do. They have read Calvin. They have read Pink. They have read MacArthur, Sproul and Piper and guess what? They still disagree. Treating your non-Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ as if they lack some spiritual gift, or some degree of humility or some knowledge you don’t is both patronizing and completely contrary to the facts. Ironically it also reinforces the stereotype.

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About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
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21 Responses to When Calvinists patronize

  1. markmcculley says:

    I agree with you about “tolerant Calvinists” being patronizing.

    “insular Reformed churches that nobody visits; the archetypical newbie who presents masterfully botched iterations of Reformed doctrines, as if they were the most obvious truths of God that only a perversely obstinate fool could miss.”

    The accusing finger points back to the accuser. Though the Reformed faith teaches that nobody can or will believe the gospel apart from the effectual call, Rishmawy accuses Reformed people of thinking the truth of the gospel will be obvious to the unregenerate.. Instead of looking to a supernatural work of God in our minds to know the truth, Rishmawy congratulates himself for reading a lot of books and doing a lot of hard work before he overcame the vestiges of “Armianism”

    Now he is showing what a great Christian be is by being judgmental and impatient with “insular” folks (thank god he’s not like them) and by being “gracious” toward the lazy Arminians who won’t do the work he did or who simply don’t have the intellectual equipment he had….

    Rishmawy views all evangelicals as Christians who will be more apt to listen to “us” if we agree up-front that we are all Christians. Liberalism is not Christianity, but liberals are Christians.

    He denies any faith that he judges to be fixated on artificially rigid doctrinal hair- splitting which sacrifices the lives of people on the altar of being right, or values winning an argument about “truth” over showing love.

    Rishmahy’s apologetic depends on human sovereignty to seek out and accept truth (or not). He has no thought of God’s effectual call. His strategy is one of divine dependence on the will of man for “growth”

    though we are on different dies of the issue, I also reject any idea that Arminianism is only another version of the same gospel as that taught by Reformed confession,. The transition from being Arminian to being Reformed is seen by this argument as a transition from one seat to another on the same bus.

    let me quote somebody mainline Reformed people like to quote. Bonhoeffer—there are some who, when they find out that the bus is going the wrong direction, walk toward the other end of the bus.,

    If the “Reformed” bus is headed for a fatal precipice, and you can see it as one who is “Arminian”, are you showing love to the people on the bus by smiling and waving, assuring all of “us” on the bus that we are going to the same place?

  2. kcwv says:

    Greetings, Kirk here from our discussion at the TGC website. Taking you up on your invitation to continue.

    I’ve been checking out your website here, wasn’t really sure the best place to continue our discussion, so this look like as good a place as any. A few comments, I like the site, particularly enjoyed the collection of videos defending Christian Theism and although my degree is not philosophy (its computer science of all things) we share some similar interests in philosophers. Love Plantinga, Rea and Swineburne. I strongly disagree with you on a good strong cup of English tea, though: Coffee, black, strong, preferably Kona, Puerto Rican, or French Roast, nector of the gods my friend.

    So some follow up to your last response (I’ll include the quotes a point of reference):
    “What I do not agree with is the practice of using mystery as a ‘get-out-of-jail-card’ whenever one’s theology gets into difficult philosophical problems which appear to render the doctrine in question logically contradictory. That’s just unacceptable.”

    I’ll say again I think the use of mystery at the point of reference is warranted and to be preferred. The only way to change my mind here (indeed of any Calvinist I know of) would be convince me that the Bible does not teach God’s absolute sovereignty over salvation or human responsibility. I see it as one of many currently irreconcilable paradoxes in the same nature as the trinity, incarnation, etc.

    “I think it’s interesting that this idea of sovereignty begins with a philosopher who was trying to reconcile neo-Platonism with Christian theology (Augustine) but the early church fathers can easily be shown to have believed in libertarian free will. I think that’s a serious point in favour of Arminianism.”

    In reconciling some neo-platonism, it seems to me Augustine was brokering a via media between Justin Martyr and Tertullian with regard to the use of Greek Philosophy. His legendary rebuke of Pelagius and arguing for sovereign grace as far as I can tell appeals largely to the scriptures themselves. Obviously none of us can escape our epistemological milieu, but I think it’s a stretch to imply neo-platonism influenced him in sovereign grace and election. As for the church fathers, for the most part from what I have read there seems to be little said one way or another, and that it was the pelagian heresy requiring a response that forced an articulation of the doctrine. God’s sovereign will and grace seem implicit enough to me in many church fathers, especially in the writings of Athanasius on the Incarnation.

    “The list of people you cite is interesting because even among them there are differing notions of sovereignty. That group don’t even agree. Luther’s view of sovereignty is certainly not that of Edwards/Piper. So the group we call ‘Calvinism’ isn’t even a homogenous group. Far from it in fact.”

    True enough. No argument from me, all theological positions morph and mutate within their time and according to their particular advocate. I listed the group I did because they all affirmed sovereign grace over salvation and human responsibility. Edwards had a much stronger view of divine determinism to be sure, but he heartedly affirmed Luther’s bondage of the will.
    “The Edwards/Piper version of Calvinism is, I think, particularly problematic. Citing its popularity matters not one jot. I often hear Calvinists refer to Finney’s theology as heretical and yet he was responsible for huge revivals. The prosperity gospel is still doing well but we don’t think that makes it a blessing from God.”

    Was kind of confused by this statement. Were you agreeing with I wrote previously, or did you think I was assigning blessing to popularity? If so I must not have been very articulate because I was in fact attempting to make the same argument you did. I did say I thank God for Piper (and for Edwards for that matter.) I don’t endorse everything that they endorse mind you.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for posting here. It makes it a lot easier to keep track of that’s for sure! I’m afraid an Englishman cannot be swayed from his tea but I’m don’t mind you sipping your coffee while I drink my tea!

      I just don’t see a biblical case for sovereignty as Calvinists define it for starters. I think they get this notion from Plato via Augustine. I think the first way to bring this Calvinist notion of sovereignty to its knees is to first see that, on Calvinism, there cannot possibly be two different wills of God. I am, of course, well aware that some Calvinists talk of two wills and even have labels for them. The problem comes when they try to say what the difference is. This is when lots of scholastic philosophy gets thrown around and not anything from the Bible. I think the problem is that there are numerous cases in the Bible of God expressing that he wanted x to happen but y happened. The language is that God wills certain things for mankind and yet man is unwilling (Jesus weeping over Jerusalem is a good example). But it certainly makes no sense for God to get angry, weep, frustrated etc. if everything that happens happens because of God’s sovereign decree (what kind of decree it gets labelled as).

      The problem with appealing to mystery at exactly the moment where Calvinism gets into serious logical problems is that it’s an ad hoc move. It’s regarded as logically unacceptable to do this. Surely God could have communicated himself better than to make an important part of the doctrine of salvation such an illogical thing? Basically, the Calvinist is saying in order to be a Christian you have to throw your mind out of the window. If we have to believe illogical things to understand the Bible then Christianity is a religion of fideism just as the New Atheists accuse.

      For quotes made by the church fathers I would highly recommend Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology where he documents lots of citations. My copy is currently on loan with someone otherwise I’d be more specific.

      Of course Edwards affirms Luther’s bondage of the will in relation to salvation but Luther would have strongly disagreed with the notion that everything which takes place takes place according to the decree of God. This kind of theistic fatalism was something Luther would have denounced.

      I cannot remember what you wrote on the blog but it sounded something like the mere existence of Calvinism seemed to be an indication that God was using it in some way (which, of course, if you’re Piperean you would think). If you did not mean it that way then sorry I got the wrong end of the stick but it sounded very much that way.

      It is the problems of logic which are the nail in the coffin for me but. make no mistake, the primary reason I have never been a Calvinist is because it simply does not make sense of Scripture to do so. Anyway – you haven’t said too much about the type of Calvinist you are. Maybe in your next post you could explain a little bit about what kind of Calvinist you are exactly so I have more of an idea? Many thanks.

  3. kcwv says:

    I think we can come to peace on the coffee/tea issue. 🙂

    I’ll start backwards through your post. As for the type of Calvinist, as with any term in theology it can certainly get slippery. Broadly speaking I adhere to the canons of dort. So in that sense very much a traditional five point Calvinist. To be sure I’m constantly refining my theology, attempting to continually bring it into line with God’s word. I also adhere to the Chicago statement on Biblical inerrancy FYI, although I’m very sympathetic to John Walton, Bruce Walkte, GK Beale, Doug Moo among others with regard to interpreting scripture within its cultural context. I think Jonathan Edwards was a massively gifted intellect, something even his most strident critics often conceded (see Oliver Wendal Holmes, Mark Twain, etc.) I admire his insights in the trinity, the beauty of Christ, etc. I’m not comfortable with the strong language in which he affirms divine determinism. I’m not entirely sure he’s wrong though. Still something I’m working through. FYI my favorite theologian in all of church history is Luther. Obviously there are many points I’ve not found convincing, (I’m a Baptist after all), and some of the things he wrote were unfortunate and even repugnant. But I found that when Luther was correct, he seemed to soar higher than his brethren both before and after. I’ve read more of Luther than I have anyone else in all of church history, including contemporary authors. I understand the question though to define type of Calvinist, after all Plantinga considers himself a Calvinist even though his view of divine sovereignty wouldn’t find a welcome reception in most Calvinist churches. Albeit he’s a little hard to pin down on soteriology, he seems to affirm something very close to a traditional cavlinist understanding on regeneration, the new birth, and conversion. He certainly differs on every day events though through his molinism. Even stranger still he advocates the Supralapsarian position of divine decrees, something usually only associated with the hyper-calvinists which he certainly is not.

    As to whether Luther would have rejected Edwards ideas as theistic fatalism, I’m not sure I would agree. Its possible, and if Luther would have disagreed he certainly would have been vocal about it. I think its tough to say what a particular Theologian’s response would have been to theological developments after their time. After all Luther was convinced if Augustine had been alive during his time, Augustine would have loved music, even though Augustine’s own writings would suggest otherwise.

    As to the church fathers, again a case can I believe be made for Calvinism. I haven’t read Olson on the topic, who I am admittedly not a fan of, think of him as to me what John Piper is to you . But I’d certainly be willing to read. Anyways here’s a quick website with a selection of quotes from church fathers consistent with Calvinist soteriology: http://www.apuritansmind.com/arminianism/calvinism-in-the-early-church-the-doctrines-of-grace-taught-by-the-early-church-fathers/
    Now no question some of those quotes could go either way and undoubtedly the author of the website was careful to look for consistent quotes while ignoring the problem ones, but the fact that they can go either way is I think important. My contention is an appeal to the church fathers in support of Arminianism is dubious. On a side note, I believe looking for theological ideas in the church fathers is crucial to support to new theology, but it’s not like the church fathers had a good systematic theology. They were all over the place, usually good in one or two areas and dreadful elsewhere.

    You have said your main two issues are logical problems raised by Calvinist interpretation of the text and the biblical case for divine sovereignty over salvation. I guess my question to you is, suppose you were convinced for a moment of the biblical case of divine sovereignty over salvation. And only salvation, leaving all other determinism for another time. And convinced of the biblical case for human responsibility. Wouldn’t it lead you to conclude mystery? Or abandon or modify inspiration?

    I appreciate the quandary you see, I honestly do as I have wrestled with it my entire life to varying degrees. But as I see it we run into the exact same quandary with the trinity and incarnation, but are happy to affirm mystery there. Our Muslim neighbors are only too happy to try and take us to task on these points. As I mentioned in one of my first replies to you, I think mystery of this nature is perfectly consistent with a being such as God described in the bible, and can find analogies in nature particularly at the quantum level.

    I also appreciate that exegetically speaking you see the case lacking, which is perhaps where we should be interacting anyways, anything else probably leads to speaking past each other.

    Thanks again, really enjoying the back and forth here.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Okay that clarifies things a bit.

      I don’t share your optimism on Plantinga being a Calvinist. I emailed James Sennett (since he has both written lots on Plantinga and is a personal friend of his) for clarification a few months back and he confirmed that Plantinga remains a Molinist and not a Calvinist (certainly not in the five-point sense).

      I’ve only had a quick glance at the resource you sent me. Some of the supposed quotes look completely useless in terms of what they are supposed to be confirming. The other MASSIVE problem with it is there are absolutely no citations and so context and authenticity cannot be judged. I don’t tend to trust sites that cannot be bothered with proper citation. That’s just attempting to give me a very long job I don’t have time for. I have heard plenty of Calvinists admit that Calvinism is not there before Augustine (although they, of course, think it’s in Paul) so it would take more serious evidence than that to sway me. At least Olson has made his case in a published work and you can find all the proper citations with context. 😉

      Gosh! If Olson is to you what Piper is to me then we are very much at the ends of the spectrum then.

      I don’t like the use of the word ‘sovereign’ here as if this doctrine belongs to Calvinists. I also affirm God’s sovereignty but in a very different way. Just like the ‘doctrines of grace’ thing. It’s just a linguistic cheap-shot I think. I’m sure you don’t mean it that way but it’s annoying.

      Well I wouldn’t be worried about it if it were just for a ‘moment’ but if it were going to be for any longer than one moment I would need to be thoroughly convinced it is the correct reading of Scripture. But I have read a good many Calvinists on the key passages and I’m not convinced in the slightest as things stand. If I did I would not be able to hold to compatibilism so I’d be left with Packer’s antinomy position. I would have to conclude that Christianity is basically irrational and I hold an irrational theism.

      I think the difference between the incarnation and the trinity issues are that there are no good cases made for either being illogical. Of course we cannot fully understand either but what we do understand is in accordance with logic. But holding to Piperean sovereignty and libertarian free will is illogical. One cannot hold one and the other at the same time and retain reason. And compatibilism leaves the question of why God doesn’t create everyone with a will which freely loves him. So if Calvinism is incompatibilist it’s irrational and if it’s compatibilist then God is not a God of love.

      One thing which might focus our interaction a bit would be for me to watch your favourite lecture on Calvinism and you watch my favourite lecture on Arminianism. Then we could report back on what we agreed / disagreed with. How about that?

      Thanks for chatting.

      • kcwv says:

        Thanks again for the interaction.
        A few responses here:
        “I don’t share your optimism on Plantinga being a Calvinist. I emailed James Sennett (since he has both written lots on Plantinga and is a personal friend of his) for clarification a few months back and he confirmed that Plantinga remains a Molinist and not a Calvinist (certainly not in the five-point sense).”
        I agree that he is a Molinist, and certainly meant to state as much in my previous post with him not being a calvinist in the five-point sense. Only that he often refers to himself as one (more seeing himself in the reformed tradition and standing on the shoulders of Calvin and even Edwards in places.) for a few places see:
        http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/when_faith_and_reason_clash_evolution_and_the_bible.pdf
        http://www.calvin.edu/spark/past-issues/a-serious-love
        http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/calvinist-philosophers-source-wikipedia/1110821927?ean=9781155889153
        http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/janfeb/bait-and-switch.html
        As well as his interview on the Albert Mohler radio show:
        http://www.albertmohler.com.php53-2.ord1-1.websitetestlink.com/tag/dr-alvin-plantinga/

        “I’ve only had a quick glance at the resource you sent me. Some of the supposed quotes look completely useless in terms of what they are supposed to be confirming…..”

        Yeah I apologize for that. It was just a quick google and I noticed some of the quotes I had seen before so just threw the link in thinking it would provide a sampling. Honestly I don’t know much about the site itself I linked to and didn’t have the time go tracking quotes down either. So mia culpa. I’ll try and do a better job tracking some literature down.
        “Gosh! If Olson is to you what Piper is to me then we are very much at the ends of the spectrum then.”  maybe you think even more poorly of Piper than I realize. That being said I’ve a read a few things here and there by Olson and have not found him persuasive and in some cases was completely put off.

        “I don’t like the use of the word ‘sovereign’ here as if this doctrine belongs to Calvinists. ….I’m sure you don’t mean it that way but it’s annoying.”

        Eh just ways of trying to define terms. I don’t doubt you believe in God’s sovereignty, or that god is gracious, or that salvation is by grace, they’re just the terms most often or historically used by Calvinists. I don’t often like the term Calvinist myself, but it’s the one I’m saddled with.

        “If I did I would not be able to hold to compatibilism so I’d be left with Packer’s antinomy position. I would have to conclude that Christianity is basically irrational and I hold an irrational theism…. I think the difference between the incarnation and the trinity issues are that there are no good cases made for either being illogical. Of course we cannot fully understand either but what we do understand is in accordance with logic…. And compatibilism leaves the question of why God doesn’t create everyone with a will which freely loves him. So if Calvinism is incompatibilist it’s irrational and if it’s compatibilist then God is not a God of love.”

        I disagree here. As I mentioned I think there are ways to embrace the apparent antimony without embracing irrationality or accepting 2+2=5. Again think what you will of Augustine, Aquinas, Edwards, or even Warfield, DA Carson, etc, but they’re weren’t intellectually deficient. Doesn’t mean they were/are correct, but they are certainly willing to affirm God’s goodness, God’s benevolence, God’s justice, and God’s electing grace all at once. I still say the trinity is a good example, Muslims accuse us of believing nonsense and embracing irrationality here. Is God one or is he three? We can break the contradiction by stating One in essence, three in persons. Still leaves something to be desired on a strict rationality though. The Son is eternally and completely God, and completely human? It sounds like one too many completes, and yet we affirm that diving mystery.

        “One thing which might focus our interaction a bit would be for me to watch your favorite lecture on Calvinism and you watch my favorite lecture on Arminianism. Then we could report back on what we agreed / disagreed with. How about that?”

        Sure I’ll take a look and see what lecture I think would be good and be happy to get back to you. Let me know which one(s) you’d like me to check out.

        Thanks again.

        (On a side note, my web interface here keeps wanting to correct your British spelling. As someone who spent 7 years living in Canada, it looked normal to me.)

        • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

          Thanks for coming back! Sorry but it might take me a few days to get back to you sometimes but I will always attempt to do so.

          I’d like to become clearer in terms of your view. Are you claiming that you believe God is sovereign, in the sense that he determines everything that happens, and also affirming libertarian free will at the same time? (This would mean your view is more like Packer’s than Piper’s.)

          Now I know Calvinists are getting pretty desperate to find top-level Christian philosophers who will endorse their views but you cannot do this to Plantinga. He’s clearly not a five point Calvinist and neither is he the 6/7 point Calvinist Piper is. Constantly throughout that paper on supralapsarianism he is talking about counter-factual freedoms. Plantinga’s not about to reject the very defense which caused the overthrow of the logical problem of evil. What the paper is about is the evidential problem of evil and Plantinga is using his many-worlds logic to propose why God would permit large degrees of evil. Nowhere that I can see, is he affirming anything found in high Calvinism. That the HS is required in salvation is, of course, something evangelical Arminians believe! In fact all Arminians worth the name would need to affirm that man cannot even stretch out his hand toward God without God first acting in grace toward him so that’s no concession to Calvinism in the slightest. Arminians affirm the total depravity of man (see my series on the articles of Remonstrance).

          Of course you can call Plantinga ‘Reformed’ but then I would say that I have some claim to that title as well. All evangelical Arminians hold to the five solas. Some historians of the Reformation have claimed these five teachings are more central to reformation theology than 5 point Calvinism in which case we’re ‘Reformed’ too in that broader sense.

          With the ‘sovereignty’ thing I just want to make it clear that I think the word gets hijacked that’s all.

          You disagree with me, which is fine, but ask yourself this question:

          How do you know the difference between an “apparent antimony” and a “real antinomy”? This question comes from the Calvinist Paul Helm – who is, in context, suggesting all philosophically able Calvinists ought to be compatibilists. It could just as well turn out that these apparent antinomies aren’t just apparent but real. The point is you cannot know.

          As for there being antinomies elsewhere such as in central Christian doctrines I don’t agree. I think there are very reasonable responses to the issues of incarnation and the trinity. Here I appreciate the works of James White on the Trinity. He has, many times over, exposed the faulty understanding of Muslims on the trinity. They mistake the doctrine as tri-theism which it’s not. Three persons and one God is not illogical and no-one has ever been able to make that case. Jesus becoming fully man is also not illogical in any way. Kenotic theory is good on this I think. So we affirm mystery here rightly, but what we’re not doing is shrugging our shoulders at illogical things.

          I’m glad that the British spelling isn’t bothering you. WordPress is a pain in this repect since they push the American English spelling hegemony so words get underlined when I’m writing even though I am not misspelling them. Annoying.

          So here is a really nice summary of my main philosophical objections to Calvinism. It’s by Jerry Walls and is called ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?’. Here is the lecture and my notes on it:

          https://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/whats-wrong-with-calvinism/

          All the best.

          • kcwv says:

            On the part of getting back to me, no problem. Ditto here, actually I’ve had a decent bit of ability to respond to things like this the last couple of days but will likely be dark for a few days at a time myself.

            To begin, I’m not sure why you see a distinction between Packer and Piper on the ability of the will? In Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Packer states “God orders and controls all things, human actions among them” yet “He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues.” Where Packer differs from Piper is actually on the apparent antimony. Piper fully accepts Edwards solution here as satisfying reason, I’m with Packer in that I think Edwards just kicks the same problem down the road.

            I don’t know of any Calvinist who is desperate to find top level philosophers to endorse our views. I only mention Plantinga because we share admiration of him. And no question in my mind I believe him to be the finest philosopher alive of any stripe. One of my primary objections to armianism and arguments against calvinism is that too many of them ultimately are philosophical and not exegetical, which is where we are most convinced the argument needs to be anyways. I’m very satisfied with the Calvinist philosophers we have available such as John Frame, Doug Groothuis, Jeremy Pierce, Vern Poythress (although not a philosopher trained as such, but engages in it admirably IMO), RC Sproul, etc. (Although nothing to do with philosophy, but FYI I’m not a fan of Macarthur, way too dogmatic on too many secondary issues and messy with his dispensationalism.) To say nothing of the strong tradition of those who have gone to be with the Lord: Gordon Clark, Greg Bahnsen, Abraham Kuyper, etc. And calvinist professor of philosophy Steve West at Toronto Baptist seminary has admirably shown how plantinga’s models can be appropriated and used successfully by five point calvinists.

            With regard to Plantinga, in my earlier posts I stated explicitly that Plantinga was not a five pointer, and he often uses libertarian free will etc. No argument there. My point was he often uses the terms reformed, calvinist, interacts favourably (hoping that spelling makes you feel at home!) with the titans of calvinist theology including citing Piper favorably in Warranted Christian Belief! (Having to do with the love of God, not a will issue.) I initially brought him up just in agreeing that it’s hard to define exactly what Calvinist can mean sometimes, as I maintain he often refers to himself in the reformed tradition, or a calvinist, or citing the calvinist confessions. He’s just modified his theology to replace some central tenets of calvinist doctrine of sovereignty to accept molinist versions of sovereignty and certainly does affirm libertarian free will.

            Of course, I realize your training and vocation is philosophy so I may be rushing in here where Angels fear to tread. I’ll certainly concede that the prevailing wind is against Calvinism in philosophical circles, but if anything morphs and mutates over time it seems to me to be the prevailing winds of philosophy.

            As for other apparent contradictions, the issue you raise with the Muslims illustrates my point perfectly. You reject Calvinist teaching on the will because you believe you have to embrace irrational theism. Many Muslims reject Christian teaching on the trinity on similar grounds, many able bodied Christians have shown why it is not irrational, Christians and some Muslim converts find their explanation persuasive. Most Muslims are not placated. I think this situation is analogous to how Calvinists see this debate. We believe there are answers in scripture and reasons to satisfy the mystery, but ultimately must be left at mystery. We can explain the trinity all we like, but I’ve never met a Christian who claim to completely understand the trinity, or grasp it. All the analogies in the world fail at some point and mystery must be embraced. I believe there are answers to your philosophical objections that are satisfying, you do not. I agree on James Whites comments on the trinity, who incidentally is a very committed Calvinist, full five points.

            As to your lecture, I promise to check it out, I’ll try and find an analogous lecture for you, don’t really have a go to one. It may be a week or more before I’m really able to interact with the one you posted and get back to you.
            Cheers.

          • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

            Hi again,

            I see the same distinction that I think you’re spotting between Packer and Piper yourself. However, labeling might help here. Packer is an incompatibilist and Piper is a compatibilist. Packer cites an antinomy (whereas he ought to just admit it’s a logical contradiction) between theistic determinism and libertarian free will whereas Piper has no problem at all. Piper does not see any tension here at all because he thinks theistic determinism and free will (now reshaped as understood in compatibilist terms and therefore NOT libertarian free will) are completely compatible. I am glad you side with Packer on this because even though he is holding a serious logical contradiction in his theology he is, at least, continuing to affirm genuine human decisions.

            Well I have heard a number of Calvinists online trying to claim Plantinga as their own in order to gain some philosophical kudos. I’m not saying you’re doing it but I have come across it.

            I can’t believe you left Paul Helm off your list of Calvinist philosophers! Helm is pretty much the only really big hitter I would say. No disrespect to the others but it’s not a very intimidating list. The list for Molinism however is extremely intimidating. You are quite right to point out that this may be of no significance at all but I think it’s something worth keeping in mind. I think that, along with the new studies in Pauline theology are certainly a serious threat on traditional high Calvinism. I certainly don’t think they can take the haughty approach they often do to theological discussions (again I’m not talking about you – to be clear).

            I must not have made myself clear enough on the Muslim issue. It matters not one jot that Muslims are generally not placated on the Trinity issue. The reason they misconstrue it is because the Qur’an itself does so. It’s almost a part of Islamic orthodoxy to consider Christian to be polytheistic. But it can be rationally demonstrated that Muslims get the Trinity incorrect in the same way is can be shown that the world is not flat despite the fact there continues to be a flat-earth society. They are plain wrong to say Christians are asserting 3 and 1 of the same thing. In fact, that form is a long-recognized heresy. For this reason it’s in no way analogous. I can show, through use of formal logic, that belief in the Trinity is not illogical (well, with the help of some Christian logicians I’ve seen write on this subject of course) but I cannot find any philosophically sophisticated Calvinists who can show the logic of holding to theistic determinism and libertarian free will. That is why you will find most of the Calvinist philosophers (and certainly the biggest of them – Helm) are compatibilists. They have realized that it’s simply illogical to hold to both.

            Again, sorry to labour this point, it’s worth making clear the problem is not that the Calvinist does not have exhaustive knowledge of soteriology (after all, who does?!) but rather that an explicit contradiction exists and that is damaging to this form of Calvinism. Jerry Walls explains this much better than I can in his lecture if you get the time to watch it. He calls this position ‘inconsistent Calvinism’ and Packer gets a few mentions.

            Take your time in getting back to me. No problem.
            God bless,

  4. kcwv says:

    Also forgot to link to Plantinga’s paper on supralapsarianism:
    http://www.tesfayerobele.com/docs/books_and_articles/supralapsarianism_or_o_felix_culpa_alvin_plantinga.pdf

    The other Plantinga links by that way are not meant to convince you he’s a five pointer as I said, just he speaks about himself as being with the Reformed Tradition here and there, as well as his affection for Augustine, Edwards, etc and the supernatural req of the holy spirit intervention to believe on the Mohler interview.

  5. kcwv says:

    So I was able to watch the lecture and typed up a response and before I knew it I was staring into a neighborhood of 4500 words. So I can send it along if you are interested, and if not no worries. I know I don’t have the time to constantly engage in progressively longer tit for tat (not unless you’re interested in going weeks at a time between responses.)

    I’ll try and give a brief summary of my impressions just the same, the positives:
    1. His initial presentation of Calvinism was fairly accurate.
    2. His description of compatiblism was fairly accurate.
    3. He was an engaging speaker, humorous at times and charismatic.
    4. Able to clearly express himself and identify the main philosophical concerns with Calvinism (as he sees them).
    5. He came across as honest in terms of how he views the situation.

    My obections:
    1. Minor objection to irresistible grace definition, but not enough to bring the whole thing down.
    2. Disagree that Packer is incoherent, or that any Calvinist is when we appeal to mystery. I don’t see any formal laws of logic broken, and formal law of noncontradiction can be properly employed.
    3. Disagreed that Calvinists are dishonest or misleading in our rhetoric, I think he believes we are because he doesn’t really believe that we believe in God’s absolute goodness and love creation. Casts his understanding of those terms as normative and therefore Calvinists are misleading.
    4. My most serious objection regarding the illustrations he used towards the end ie strangling granddaughter, dr killing patients he earlier helped etc. He may honestly believe that but I think it goes again to point 3, no Calvinist I know of would recognize anything he was saying here.
    5. He stunningly saddled God with a compatibilist view of the will at the end of his lecture. Man has libertarian free will but God does not?

    I know that is very vague and I’m sure you believe you see massive holes in my objections, but I wanted to give you the summary here, as I said it took my 4500 words to express myself and I still thought my response was a little anemic. (On a somewhat related note, do you ever envy GK Chesteron’s gift for pith? I think if I could write like anyone it would be him.)

    So bottom line your objections to Calvinism that if Calvinism is true, God is either not a God of love or theism is irrational. If the Bible teaches Calvinism then your first objection requires a new understanding of God’s love and likely his justice and holiness. And I reject that any irrationality is employed, you mentioned in a previous post that by formal laws of logic the trinity is not incoherent, I completely agree, my point is that no formal laws of logic are broken by God holding someone accountable for a choice they incapable of making.

    As with my summary my preceding paragraph also requires massive unpacking.

    I am not so naïve or arrogant as to assume that my longer reply would make any dent in your own objections or understanding of Calvinism. I can only hope that I might have explained myself with some modicum of clarity and hope that it may grant you a tad more insight into how some Calvinist reconcile some of these things.

    I have thought about a lecture to provide but I have yet to track one down, only because I’m doubtful there’s one out there you haven’t already watched or reviewed. You’ve said you have read Pink, Edwards, Calvin, Spurgeon, Sproul, Piper, etc and none of them have been convincing. If you’ve really engaged them all and have found the case lacking I’m not sure what to recommend. I don’t usually recommend anything I haven’t read myself, but from what I understand I know many of my fellow Calvinists think John Gill’s response to Daniel Whitby is a good biblical defense of the five points of Calvinism. Of course if I find something I think would be equally as helpful as Dr Walls’ lecture in terms of highlighting a few issues I’ll be sure and send it along.

    Thanks again for your patience and discourse,
    In Christ.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for watching Walls and I’m glad to hear you appear to have done so in an irenic fashion as well.

      As you guessed, I’m not convinced that any of those replies to Walls is convincing but, unfortunately you’ve not given me enough substance to reply to your disagreement with Walls in your five objections.

      One thing you did say was: “… my point is that no formal laws of logic are broken by God holding someone accountable for a choice they incapable of making.”

      I beg to differ! The law of contradiction is being broken.

      Walls laid it out like this:

      1. Only the elect can actually accept the offer of salvation. (Only those who are elect can be saved.)
      2. Not all are elect.
      3. Not all persons can actually accept the offer of salvation and be saved.

      But, in addition to this Packer holds:

      4. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all persons.
      5. A bona fide offer is one that can actually be accepted by the person to whom is is offered.
      6. All persons can actually accept the offer of salvation and be saved.

      Now, if I remember rightly, you are with Packer. So if you hold to both 3 and 6 at the same time you are holding to a logical contradiction.

      Yes I’m afraid I’m still very much opposed to Calvinism. Some forms more than others though. The theological determinists get my fury more than the rest (hence lots of posts regarding Piper on here). Calvinists like Michael Horton I have less of an issue with. But then, many Calvinists don’t even consider him to be a real Calvinist so maybe that’s why!

      It’s not just the logic of it either to be fair. I don’t see how Calvinists can square their theology with Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. It just makes him look ignorant and I don’t think he was.

      Nice to hear from you again and all the best.
      Epi

      • kcwv says:

        Yes, the space here is rather limited, as I mentioned in my previous post back and forth in a blog comments doesn’t really afford the space to unpack all my objections properly.

        I can try to summarize my point about divine mystery.

        If God ordains or determines that I will take a cab instead of a bus, could I have really done otherwise? No. Am I responsible and did I really choose to take the cab? Yes. So this appears to be a logical contradiction, but the formal rule here is a contradiction only exists if something is said to be both A and NOT A at the same time and in the same relationship. I think the confusion here often resides in that we assume God’s relationship to our choice is the same as our relationship to the choice. Indeed I would think we could agree that God’s relationship to time is not like ours. To say that God transcends our understanding here and determines our choice in a way we cannot understand while maintaining the integrity of our choice does not formally break any laws of reason if the relationship God has to our choice is a different relationship than what we have to our choice. So is it warranted to think this way? If the Bible affirms both, then either the Bible is incoherent (which many of our adversaries are happy to affirm) or there is mystery here. Now the God of the Bible seems to undeniably require invoking mystery at any number of points. Once again God creates all things from nothing including all dimensions of reality. Take for example modern string theory that posits up to ten different dimensions. If we take our own understanding of the relationship between the 2nd and 3rd dimension, we say that an object in the 2nd looks like a square, but from another angle it looks like a circle. Which is it? A square or a circle, enter the 3rd dimension and it is in fact a cylinder. From one angle it looks like a square, another angle it appears as a circle, tension gone.

        Obviously that is a facile illustration to handle what is a more difficult issue, but I think it can serve as a pointer to a possible solution. If God created all possible dimensions, 10 as many modern physicists posit, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume God can determine something from his eternal will that transcends our understanding and yet still maintain the integrity of our choice. Both can be true without violating any formal laws of logic. Quite frankly I think what we see in nature opens up plausible means of alleviating the tension found between divine sovereignty and human responsibility and maintains what I believe to be dealing with a more accurate reading of the biblical texts. So God can reveal to us that he has in fact chosen us, and we can rest eternally in that his will cannot be thwarted. That if we choose (genuinely) Christ, it is in fact confirmation of his mysterious electing will and the regenerating work of the spirit.

        So I would change Wall’s statement 3 from “3. Not all persons can actually accept the offer of salvation and be saved.” To “3. Not all persons are elected unto salvation.” The assumption here is that the relationship between being elect and able to accept the offer are in direct conflict, I think we have good reason and good example of how to accept both. Particularly in light of being convinced that the Bible teaches both. Indeed this was Edwards point in dividing natural and moral ability. Moral ability prevents us, but nothing about us naturally as we are created prevents us.

        I think too many Calvinists often speak about God’s deterministic sovereignty as if we understand it (I know I have) and indeed Edwards was trying to ferret out what he saw as necessary theological conclusions. Whether he was/is correct or not I do not know, but even as Walls pointed out, Edwards was probably the greatest theologian the North American Continent ever produced. (Although my friend Fred Zaspel would argue for BB Warfield!) Regardless, because I believe in God’s electing sovereignty I can benefit greatly from Edwards and Piper (any other in that camp) regardless of how far down the deterministic rabbit hole we go.

        • kcwv says:

          Wasn’t very clear in that last paragraph, didn’t mean to insinuate that you had to agree with Edwards on electing sovereignty to benefit greatly from him, only trying say as Calvinists regardless of our differences in theological determinism we have more that unites us over the doctrine of election that any differences.

          After all many theologians/authors/philosophers that have greatly enhanced my understanding of the Bible and God are not Calvinists: CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, William Lane Craig, John and Charles Wesley, Norman Geisler, etc, etc.

          Although I bet CS Lewis, the Wesleys, and Chesterton are Calvinists now! 🙂 (Sorry, bad joke.)

          On a more serious note, we may not come to agreement until we meet in glory, but I seriously doubt we will care then. Not to undermine the importance of our understanding here, because I really believe it has serious implications for how live out our lives and view God especially in the person of Christ. But it is a secondary issue. God bless.

        • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

          But the law of non-contradiction is exactly the law of logic being broken here.

          You are saying a person is free to act and not free to act in exactly them same sense. That is to violate the law.

          I cannot see on what basis you’re changing 3. 3 is still something you have to affirm as a Calvinist so changing it doesn’t mean you don’t have to answer the problem. It’s still there.

          And in that syllogism if you change 3 to “Not all persons are elected unto salvation.” (Why have we slipped into 17th century English?) then this completely contradicts 4 which reads “God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all persons.” God cannot, by definition, make bona fide offers to people who cannot respond. That’s an even more glaring contradiction. It also contradicts 5 and 6. 6 reads: “All persons can actually accept the offer of salvation and be saved.”

          How on earth can one simultaneously hold to both the proposition that not all persons are elected to salvation and the proposition that all persons can accept the offer of salvation? That’s absurd. You simply cannot say both on pain of rationality.

          The references to science cannot help here. It’s not good enough to say the universe is weirder than we thought it was and therefore this leaves us hope for understanding God. That’s clearly not the issue here. The question is whether God has revealed himself in a coherent way or in an incoherent way. Calvinists are suggesting that God is either so limited in his creation or in his communication with us as to have to reveal himself in a logically incoherent way. And if, as you appear to be suggesting, Christian soteriology is riddled with logical contradictions then it’s not ever worth discussing or even attempting to be having rational discourse about it.

          Personally I think Edwards is very much overrated. But his Calvinism is very different to yours because he was a compatabilist and you don’t appear to be.

          Yes it is a secondary doctrine in regard to salvation of course but it’s still very important and I don’t think it helps the gospel to be presenting Christianity as a logically incoherent worldview (as I think Calvinists are).

          • kcwv says:

            You say
            “ But the law of non-contradiction is exactly the law of logic being broken here.
            You are saying a person is free to act and not free to act in exactly them same sense. That is to violate the law.
            I cannot see on what basis you’re changing 3. 3 is still something you have to affirm as a Calvinist so changing it doesn’t mean you don’t have to answer the problem. It’s still there.”
            “How on earth can one simultaneously hold to both the proposition that not all persons are elected to salvation and the proposition that all persons can accept the offer of salvation? That’s absurd. You simply cannot say both on pain of rationality.”

            I did not (or at least intend) to say that all people CAN accept the offer of salvation, I was typing quickly this afternoon and after modifying 3 I forgot to modify the syllogism further. I should not have left 4 and 5 unchanged.

            “The references to science cannot help here. It’s not good enough to say the universe is weirder than we thought it was and therefore this leaves us hope for understanding God. That’s clearly not the issue here. The question is whether God has revealed himself in a coherent way or in an incoherent way. Calvinists are suggesting that God is either so limited in his creation or in his communication with us as to have to reveal himself in a logically incoherent way. And if, as you appear to be suggesting, Christian soteriology is riddled with logical contradictions then it’s not ever worth discussing or even attempting to be having rational discourse about it.”

            Simply saying that the reference to science cannot help etc is not good enough refute what I was trying to say. You say it’s not the issue, I say it’s precisely the issue I was trying to raise! We have analogies from natural observation that can help us resolve our tension.

            1. God elects unto salvation (I’ll keep the 17th century English)
            2. The gospel goes out to all people
            3. Bob is not elect
            4. Bob refuses the gospel
            5. Bob is judged for refusing.
            I say that Calvinism makes incredible sense of the story of salvation as a whole, where it invokes tension is in the judging of those unable to heed the call. Indeed my point was God determining something is of a different nature that our choosing. The relationship to the event is different. You didn’t say why the relationship was the same except to say it was the same. The appeal to modern science is completely pertinent here, indeed even William Lane Craig is somewhat sympathetic to this line of reasoning – from one of his Q&As answering why Molinism is better than Calvinism here:

            “Molinism offers a solution. By rejecting that solution, the Reformed theologian is left with a mystery.
            There’s nothing wrong with mystery per se (the correct physical interpretation of quantum mechanics is a mystery!); the problem is that some Reformed theologians, like my two collaborators in the four-views book, try to resolve the mystery by holding to universal, divine, causal determinism and a compatibilist view of human freedom.”

            So if the relationship between the 2nd and 3rd dimension can resolve a “square circle” surely the relationship from whatever dimension God makes his decrees from can easily resolve any tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Indeed the strange and awesome nature of the expansive universe both the vast size and vast mysteries at the quantum level point precicsely to a God who transcends our understanding.

            Admittedly this is just an hypothesis, but no more so than molinism or any other number of areas where scripture is silent. I believe Calvinism makes spectacular sense of the meta-narrative of scripture. This is usually the area of tension for people to reject Calvinism. I see no incoherence here, only mystery affirmed by scripture. Truly I see the biblical case so strong that I see it in nearly every book of the Bible. I know you do not, I understand that, truly. But I am convinced of it from scripture, and any reconciliation has to account for what I believe the Bible affirms. I’ve seen nothing you have mentioned that poses any problem or reason to deny divine mystery here
            I read recently of a couple who lost a second child because they believed in faith healing, and prayed over their children instead of taking them to the hospital. Dr Walls was so earnest in protecting the love of God that he must answer the same question here he posed to Calvinists regarding God passing over some for salvation, how does God allow these things? How do we know if they were really saved? Horrors occur in every corner of the world to people who have never heard the gospel, we can take any stance we want on the salvation of those to whom the message has not reached and yet the question must be asked. How can any greater good possibility account for allowing for the death and torture of anyone and the additional possibility that they are sent to hell? As you pointed out in that paper by Plantinga on supralapsarianism, he is constantly invoking free will and counter factuals, but you failed to mention the force of his paper, that he takes the position that perhaps the greatest good that can occur in any possible world is the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ. Any world needing those two things necessarily requires sin, and sin requires punishment. If he is correct here, that means God pursued a good –a good other than free will itself as many non-Calvinists insist- that requires people going to hell. The Arminian must answer the same questions, for the Calvinist its how can God pass over anyone? Why doesn’t he save everyone? For the Arminian, even with prevenient grace, its why leave it up to us? (Humans have a pretty miserable track record at making choices.) Why not save everyone? Why would God possibly need to create a world that entails sin and suffering just to have the incarnation and atonement? After all in the life to come, we will be free of sin. We have God’s promise on that. I know I don’t understand these things, and genuinely struggle at times and must pray through Psalm 73 among others. Surely I think we can agree that at some level regardless of Arminian or Molinist or Calvinist we have to step back and say “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” That it is not just the Calvinist that has to rest and trust in the goodness of God, and invoke divine mystery in the face of difficult questions.

            Perhaps we’d better bring this discussion in for a landing. We’re not really making a lot of headway here other than coming to peace over and tea and coffee (which was never really an issue anyways, my wife and I both enjoy good English tea in the evenings.) If you have any further questions of me I’ll be happy to answer them and if I do come across a lecture that I think will be beneficial that you might not have seen I will be sure and let you know. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

            Peace to you.

          • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

            Okay, so regarding the syllogism you now say:

            “I did not (or at least intend) to say that all people CAN accept the offer of salvation, I was typing quickly this afternoon and after modifying 3 I forgot to modify the syllogism further. I should not have left 4 and 5 unchanged.”

            Well if that’s the case, and you’re taking 4 and 5 away then you are no longer with Packer on this subject. Packer believes the scriptures teach that God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all. So you are diagreeing with Packer now? You see, up until now, you made it sound like your view was the same as his. Now it appears you’re departing.

            In its place you propose:

            1. God elects unto salvation (I’ll keep the 17th century English)
            2. The gospel goes out to all people
            3. Bob is not elect
            4. Bob refuses the gospel
            5. Bob is judged for refusing.

            But you are not answering the problem of how Bob is responsible for refusing when God made him to be a refuser (and he could not do otherwise). Until Calvinists can come up with a remotely sensible answer to this question they have, in their theology, a profound logical dilemma. The problem of how a person can be culpable for their decisions when their decisions were made by someone else is not a mysterious problem – it’s logically incoherent.

            It’s precisely because we understand the difference between the second and third dimension that makes the ‘square circle’ reasonable to believe. But what you are proposing is the possibility of some other mysterious dimension that will reconcile theistic determinism with human responsibility. But anybody can do that with anything. It does not make something more reasonable to appeal to the possibility that in the future we might discover something which solves the paradox. That does not make it reasonable to believe now. That is on a par with someone saying that it is reasonable to believe a cube = a sphere as a three dimensional object because it’s possible we’ll discover a dimension where they can exist as both simultaneously in the future. That, quite obviously, does not make it logically coherent to go around saying a cube is a sphere.

            And when Craig refers to mystery he’s talking about compatibilist Calvinism not the version you hold to – incompatibilist Calvinism. You see, in compatibilist Calvinism there is no logical contradiction to be dealt with. Their problem is that they change the meaning of ‘free’ to mean something else. Their problem then becomes why God doesn’t save everyone.

            The answer for why everyone is not saved is a logical one in Arminianism/Molinism. It is because they have sufficient freedom to accept or reject him. On what other basis could people even legitimately love him? On Calvinism those who accept God do so because God determined they would. They could not have done otherwise. For them to ‘love’ God is in their programming. As for the problem of people dying young and in places where the gospel has not been heard that is a problem for every system and we trust God will do right by those people and Scripture says there is a general revelation all can respond to so they are without excuse. Exactly how that works is mysterious because the Bible does not spell out exactly what happens to them. But Calvinism adds to such mysteries a truck load of logical inconsistencies into the mix.

            As for knowledge of one’s salvation that’s something no Calvinist can truly know since Calvin taught that people can become Christians for a while and appear to know God but then such people will later reject him and be dealt with even worse than if it had not happened. So no Calvinist knows if they are one of the elect. They could be one of the ones who is going to be damned even more harshly than the rest. The Calvinist must accept God might do this to them in the future and so they cannot know they are saved.

            It does appear to me that because you have reached a part of Calvinist theology which is completely illogical you have thrown the entire subject of soteriology up in the air. While it is quite right to insist that God will be just in his dealings with humans there is clearly no possible way in which that can be done if God determines the very rebellion he judges people for. That is to make God a moral monster.

            All the best,

  6. kcwv says:

    I’ll respond here and this will be last post in our little dialogue, given that it’s your blog I feel it only fair to give you the last word here. So unless specifically contacted otherwise I’ll let this be my last bit.

    I just wanted to clear up one thing and offer a tad more clarification (on my part) for mystery.
    For starters, William Lane Craig is NOT talking about compatabilists. He is talking about those who go no further, reread what I quoted. He specifically says the problem is when reformed theologian try to resolve the mystery with comptabilism, which he rejects. I don’t reject all of comptabilism per se, I just think it kicks some of the same problems down the road. I do think there is value in understanding our choice according to our desire, etc. But I don’t really want to chase this particular rabbit hole, just to clear up Craig’s comments. Obviously he is a harcore molinist, he is to molinism what Piper is to Calvinism so to speak. My only point there was I believe Craig understands part of the argument I’m making,my difference with him is I reject Molinism as not being supported biblically while I believe Calvinism.

    Additionally you take me to task for my appeals to mystery and how I resolve it as being ad hoc, and say that I could make this claim on anything that doesn’t make sense. This is to vastly overstate my position. I believe an appeal to mystery can only be made where the appeal is warranted. Think of it in terms of Plantinga’s appeal to properly basic beliefs. People can charge that any belief, even the great pumpkin can be a properly basic belief. Plantinga’s response is that a belief can only be properly basic is there is warrant, and then goes on to define and clarify. I think this analogous to an appeal to mystery.

    My point is this:
    1. The bible is authoritative, inspired, and inerrant in what it teaches and affirms.
    2. The Bible teaches God’s sovereign determinism over human actions. (as definied by Calvinists)
    3. The Bible teaches human beings are legitimate agents of choice and responsible for their actions.

    You clearly don’t agree with 2 and believe that if 2 were true it is incompatible with 3. If the Bible affirms both however, and if 1 is true, then we have warrant for mystery. I have maintained that God’s relationship to his determining is not our relationship to our choice thereby not breaking the law of noncontradiction. You remain unmollified. I pointed out that mysterious things exist all around us in nature and that God’s natural revelation presents in mystery providing analogies to resolve this tension.

    This seems clear to me, God’s natural revelation provides mystery, so does his special revelation. Indeed leading physicist Leanoard Suskind (an atheist btw) is becoming more convinced that reality will forever be beyond our grasp because of the limits of human reason. So it makes sense that his special revelation about who he is will contain paradoxes that transcend our ability to reason.

    I’m well aware of James White’s explanation of the trinity, and I know that the formals laws of logic are not broken. You believe they must be for Calvinism, I disagree and I don’t care how well you resolve the trinity to suggest that we understand and comprehend it in a way consistent with our conscience I believe is utter nonsense. Mystery must be embraced somewhere along the line. I provided a possible solution to the tension between divine sovereignty –as Calvinists understand it- which you reject, fair enough, but here is my view:

    1. The trinity – is God three or one
    2. The Incarnation – is Christ human or divine
    3. Divine inspriration – did God author the bible or did human beings
    4. Divine election and human responsibility – does God determine salvation or are humans responsible

    The answer to each question is yes. Each paradox is relieved by our understanding of human reasoning to some degree. I find the appeal to mystery satisfying and biblical. Indeed it seems that to hold your view one must consign God into the box of human reason. You set up the rules for how God must operate and then interpret his revelation within them. Indeed it was Chesterton who said something along the lines of it is the logician who tries to get the heavens into his head and it’s the head that splits. I believe you vastly overstate that to affirm mystery in divine determinism is to render calvnism and salvation incoherent.

    Obviously we have different a priori commitments to biblical interpretation and to how God ought to or is operating. It seems this is where the matter must rest. Thank you again for your irenic discourse, I’ll gladly read your final replay and again wish peace to you and pray that if I am truly wrong here, that God would enlighten me to believe according to his word. I pray the same for you. Please believe me here that I am in ernest in that prayer, I pray over and over to ask God for his help in reading and understanding his word. If a Calvinist understanding is wrong, then may he convict me and may I repent. Indeed man of my views have changed over the years, some drastically, but in this area I have only reinforced my confidence that Augustin, Calvin, Owen, Spurgeon and others got it right. I you are on the other end of the Christian spectrum, but I do believe we are on the same spectrum. To reference again above I am convinced that the Bible is the word of God, and the Bible teaches Calvinism. Again grace and peace to you.

    • kcwv says:

      Ok my really really last post, I meant to provide the link to Craigs comments, as mentioned he’s affirming molinism as a solution over and against Calvinism, at least over and against compatablism but does not have as much of a problem with mystery, he just thinks molinism is the solution to resolve it, I don’t.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Well, in the context Craig does, as it happens, talk very directly about compatibilism. He says:

      “There’s nothing wrong with mystery per se (the correct physical interpretation of quantum mechanics is a mystery!); the problem is that some Reformed theologians, like my two collaborators in the four-views book, try to resolve the mystery by holding to universal, divine, causal determinism and a compatibilist view of human freedom. According to this view, the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself.”

      The point is that Craig is not convinced that Calvinists have managed to resolve the problem by adopting compatibilism.

      You say that appealing to mystery can be warranted and then you compare Calvinist mysteries with Plantinga’s notion of a properly basic belief. But this is to abuse Plantinga’s notion of what properly basic beliefs can be. Not any mystery can be a properly basic belief (PBB). One criteria of a PBB is explanatory scope. A PBB is only to be considered a PBB if it can help explain many other phenomena which could not otherwise be explained apart from the PBB. On this criteria alone Calvinist appeals to two logical incoherent propositions not only fail to explain anything but they contradict what we do already know. It is a founding principle of PBB, as expressed in Plantinga, that they cannot function as ad hoc functions.

      You are quite right to point out that I reject 2. I most definitely reject 2 as defined by Calvinists. I don’t find any such thing in Scripture. Therefore the huge ‘IF’ comes when you say “If the Bible affirms both however…”. The vast majority of Christendom has rejected the view that Scripture teaches the Calvinist version of ‘sovereignty’.

      I’m quite surprised that, if you did watch all of Walls’s lecture, you cannot see the difference between a mystery and a logical contradiction.

      I am really surprised you ask the question “is God three or one” of the Trinity. Given that the question has been settled by Christians since, at least, Nicea that is more weird. The classic answer is that he is three persons and one God. Failing to see that will fall into a charge of illogicality based on equivocation. It might be mysterious in that we cannot fully explain it but it most certainly is not logically incoherent. The same for 2 as the kenotic theory explains. For 3, both can be affirmed without any logical incoherence.

      But 4 is where the Calvinist wants to affirm something profoundly illogical. They wish to affirm that God loves everybody but not everyone is saved. They wish to affirm that God causally determines everything and yet he’s not the author of sin. They wish to affirm that people can be held responsible for actions which were determined on their behalf and they could not have done otherwise. I realize the Calvinist would like to see these as mysteries which cannot be explained but, as Walls pointed out, they are more than that. They are logically incoherent things to assert. And if God is so weak as to only be able to construct a gospel which is logically incoherent then one has to assume he’s going to punish people for using their God-given faculties of reason.

      Of course, to say that belief in God is reasonable is not to make a god of reason (as you would have us believe) because I have already affirmed that the logical coherence of a proposition does not mean one must understand everything there is to know about that proposition. The only rules being applied to God are ones he has revealed in Scripture. And given that God is seen as the most loving being in the universe it is preposterous for me to think that I love my own daughter more than he does.

      You may well think I overstate my case to say that Calvinism is logically incoherent. It is, of course, not me that is the bar of such a determination. What Calvinist philosophers need to do is convince their peers through peer-reviewed journals. But this is exactly the area where Calvinists have failed to convince. A lot of philosophy instructors even in Calvinist colleges in the US are actually Molinists. I remember Craig explaining how he had found this to be his experience.

      I realize that in our short exchange I am not likely to even put a dent in your Calvinism but I hope you can see that there are some very serious criticisms of Calvinism which need answering and until they are Calvinism makes Christianity look like an irrational belief-system. That is my concern in this matter and it’s why I write, as often as I do, against Calvinism as I believe it to be a distortion of biblical teachings. That said, I still see Calvinists as my brothers in Christ. I don’t mean it to sound patronizing but I very much hope that as you continue your theological journey you come to see some of the serious problems with a Calvinist interpretation of Scripture. If I am wrong in the matter then may that be my experience.

      Best wishes.

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