Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed a Year Later: Calvinism Still Isn’t Beautiful

By on Feb 2, 2015

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“They’re not going to embrace your theology unless it makes their hearts sing.”[1]

-John Piper

 

One of the more persistent myths regarding art (broadly defined) is that the artist understands what he or she is creating. It is, as it were, a half-truth. You understand parts of it, catch glimpses of its deeper meaning, shape it toward certain ends. But you certainly do not understand all of it. As Madeline L’Engle says, “The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver…each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’”[2]

 

Two years ago, I started writing. I didn’t intend to write a book so much as document a journey I had taken in and out of Calvinism, with the hopes it could help people in my own church who were treading similar paths. It ended up becoming a book and has helped people, and for that I am grateful.

 

But as I look back—now two years removed from when I started writing and a year removed from its publication—I feel as though I only now understand the deepest intention of the book. Bear with me if this seems indulgent.

 

Back when I was a Calvinist, I came across the above quote from John Piper: “They’re not going to embrace your theology unless it makes their hearts sing.” And while I didn’t fully understand it at the time, I knew what it was about.

 

I embraced Calvinism, not just because I found its exegesis and inner logic compelling, but because it made my heart sing. It was true, but also (and perhaps more importantly) good and beautiful.

 

Christians believe that truth (being grounded in God) is not only, well, true, but also good and beautiful. Beauty is “a measure of what theology may call true.”[3] Because God is infinitely good and beautiful, theology must be good and beautiful or else it’s not true. When properly understood, the truth invites not only the mind’s assent but the heart’s affection. The truth should make your heart sing.

 

This notion of the truth’s beauty is not an invention of secular humanism or some other boogey-man, but belongs to the deepest intuition of biblical Christian sensibilities. As the various psalmists never tire of telling us, “Great is the Lord and highly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable…The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:3, 8-9).

 

God is infinite power but also infinite grace, so beauty “qualifies theology’s understanding of divine glory: it shows that glory to be not only holy, powerful, immense, and righteous, but also good and desirable, a gift graciously shared.”[4]

 

John Piper understands this better than most, and his brilliant attention to the aesthetics of Calvinism (channeling Jonathan Edwards) is one of the (if not the) primary reasons for the tremendous surge of Calvinism among young evangelicals. Simply put, plenty of people have argued Calvinism is true. Piper’s particular genius has been in arguing that Calvinism is also beautiful. Many young evangelicals have been convinced and their hearts sing for Calvinism.

 

My exodus from Calvinism was set in motion when I came to believe Calvinism was not beautiful—indeed, when I realized that Calvinism (consistent Calvinism at least) was, at best, cold and brutally enigmatic (which is, perhaps, why many cannot be consistent Calvinists). This realization then forced me to further reconsider its veracity.

 

The heart of the book, then, was a challenge to the aesthetic of the New Calvinism. The New Calvinists attempt to paint a ravishing picture of the manifold excellencies of the self-glorifying, all-determining God of Calvinism, expressed primarily through the doctrines of grace. I say that picture is a false veneer that only works when you ignore the reprobate. I say that picture cannot contain, as its central image, a crucified God who would rather die for sinners than give them what they deserve. Using the Bible as my measure of beauty, I say Calvinism isn’t beautiful.

 

People have asked if I could ever see myself “going back” to Calvinism—a little less young, a little less restless, and reformed again, perhaps? It’s a question I occasionally ponder. Depending on my mood, I can still find some of the exegesis and inner rationale for Calvinism compelling. As I’ve stated numerous times, I think Calvinism is one way to make sense of the teachings of the Bible (though as I also always state and many of my Calvinist friends have a hard time hearing, I think there is a better way to make sense of the Bible’s teachings that has far deeper ecumenical and historical roots).

 

And yet while I suppose I could again entertain the possibility that Calvinism is true, I don’t think I could ever again believe that Calvinism is beautiful. To my mind, calling Calvinism beautiful is to subject the very concept of beauty to so ruthless an equivocation that it loses any intelligible meaning.

 

So I agree with Piper: theology needs to make our hearts sing. That’s not a “strategic” statement about how to make Christianity more persuasive in its use of pathos. It’s a statement about truth. In terms of a quick (and perhaps overly simplistic) syllogism, I submit:

 

1.)  Christian truth is (by biblical, theological and rational necessity) good and beautiful (as measured by the Bible).

2.)  Calvinism is not beautiful.

3.)  Calvinism is not true.

 

I’d imagine my Calvinist friends would accept premise one (unless they adhere to an extreme voluntarism and absolute equivocation between God’s aesthetic and/or moral sensibilities and ours) and reject premise two, arguing that Calvinism is indeed beautiful, but sin has crippled our aesthetic sensibilities to the point that we wouldn’t know beauty if we saw it.

 

And of course I agree that sin has crippled our aesthetic sensibilities. That’s precisely what Isaiah says in his cryptic words about the suffering servant: the beauty of God is not something we naturally appreciate (53:1-3). We’re far too intoxicated with power and status to appreciate the unforeseen majesty of deity suffering and despised.

 

But it is the very measure of beauty given us by the Bible (gratuitously aggressive and kenotic, self-giving love) that threatens to burst the wineskins of Calvinism. The good news of God’s beauty is too good and beautiful for Calvinism to contain. And it is the very intoxication with raw power, which fits so snugly within the Calvinist vision of God, that blinds us to God’s true beauty.

 

So instead of retreating to shopworn quips (“Well if you just trusted the Bible more than your ‘feelings’ and ‘aesthetic sensibilities’ then none of this would be a problem”), I hope more of the New Calvinists will allow themselves to grasp the gravity of the dilemma Calvinism faces when it comes to biblical, Christian aesthetics. It is not a blemish of the surface, but a chilling abyss at the very heart of Calvin’s God.



[1] http://www.latentdesign.com/pdf/young_reformed.pdf

[2] Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water, 18.

[3] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 3.

[4] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 17.

72 Comments

  1. DeWarrior

    February 2, 2015

    Post a Reply

    I think your key quote is “I say that picture is a false veneer that only works when you ignore the reprobate.” Ironically, Calvinism seems to me to be one strain of theology that doesn’t ignore the reprobate. The historic “orthodox/catholic” theologies all affirm some form of election to salvation (but not double predestination) and even most Arminians (there are always exceptions) believe in hell. And if you believe in hell, and you believe that God created all things (including hell) and knew that some people would end up there, then you’re saying that he willed for some people to end up in hell. It kind of seems to make the universe into a God-level science experiment – here, I’ll set it up and let the rats run, see where they end up (except he knows where they’ll end up due to his foreknowledge from the moment he created them … he didn’t want it to happen, though, he just created both paths and knew it would!). I can’t see how that’s going to be any more “acceptable” to an atheist than the Calvinist view – maybe that God didn’t specifically intend for any specific person to end up in hell, but … he still specifically intended for people who make the choices and live the lives they want to live to end up there.

    I did see your response to Kevin DeYoung (new to your blog, poking around), where you point out that foreknowledge does not imply the ability to prevent the thing foreknown. Another way I understand that viewpoint is that if God wanted to save some, he had to allow some to be damned. Either way, it offers no response to those who point out that it’s still God doing the damning, still God creating the circumstances for failure. And the argument is essentially the same as the Calvinist view that it works, in the end, for the glory of God (Soli Deo Gloria) and the good of those who love Him, and that that is the purpose for which He created all things. Rather than the excuse “well, I’m either reprobate or elect, so I guess I’ll just live my life just the way he knew I would”, it becomes “well, God already knows where I’ll end up, so I guess I’ll just live my life just the way he knew I would”. Basically, what I’m asking is, if I believe that God is all-powerful and exists outside of time (and knows all that happens within all of time), what would you say is the essential difference between the doctrine of reprobation and a doctrine of absolute foreknowledge?

    Anyways, I should probably read your book before commenting further (that’s a long queue though 🙂 – this article made me think, so thanks for that! I do indeed reject premise #2, because I do find beauty in Calvinism, and I have had a very clear view of double predestination for the entire time I’ve been Calvinist – the beauty of knowing that our God does everything for His Glory, and that even when He allows bad things to happen (to me or anyone else), those things are for the good of those who love Him! Neither mercy without justice nor justice without mercy, but fully and completely both. I wonder if your focus on this one point of doctrine, and if a lot of Calvinist’s focus on just the five points of doctrine that “define” them as different than some other branches of Christianity, distorts our view at times. I am not, and I believe no one should be, first and foremost Calvinist, but first and foremost Christian!

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      February 2, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Hey DeWarrior. Thanks for stopping by and good questions here. Briefly…

      As to the issue of where Calvinism and any sort of classical theism are really much different, in that in both views there are creatures created who will end up in hell, I think the nub of the issue is this.

      In Calvinism, God WANTS people (usually the majority of humanity) to be damned forever for his glory. In classical theism, God does not want anybody to be damned forever and then puts his money where his mouth is by dying on a wooden stake. Reasonable minds can differ here, but I think there’s all the difference in the world between a God who wants most humans to be damned forever (and renders it certain via compatibilism) and a God who doesn’t but cannot avoid the possibility of damnation given the contingencies of a world with meaningful created freedom.

      In other words, in Calvinism people are damned because God wants to flex his wrath muscle (for the good of the elect). In classical theism, people are damned because God wants a world where love, meaning, and relationship are possible. So when all is said and done, I think the attempt to argue there isn’t much difference in the bottom line of the two positions is smoke and mirrors. I think there’s a huge difference. I think there’s the difference between a God who looks like Jesus Christ crucified and one who doesn’t.

      As to foreknowledge, the key (as I point out in the response to Kevin) is that God’s foreknowledge is not determinative. There is some mystery here, but nothing logically incoherent.

      And I completely agree that we are Christians first! Thanks for the irenic thoughts and charitable tone.

      • DeWarrior

        February 2, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Thank you for responding! I do like to think I’m in your target audience (relatively young, happily “Calvinist”). I sometimes wonder how much of the friction in Christianity is caused by language – because while I have never heard any Calvinist say (nor seen in Calvin’s writings, though I’ve only tackled portions thereof) the statement that God WANTS people to be damned. And yet I can see how you hear and see it in some of the writing/preaching that’s out there. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as “preachy” – I’m trying to express what I currently believe, not tell you what to believe. Two reasons – first, I genuinely don’t see my “vision” of Calvinism as matching your vision of Calvinism, and second, to see what I have to learn from your comments if you choose to let me know what you think of this (or direct me to where you’ve already given your take on this).

        So, my take is that the justice of God damns everyone – in your terms: he cannot avoid the possibility of [universal] damnation given the contingencies of a world with meaningful created freedom. This, as you said, because of wanting a world where love, meaning and relationship are possible. I believe that when God created Adam and Eve, he knew they would eat from the tree, despite the fact that this very first act of disobedience would damn them and their descendants (all of them) for ever, according to his justice. Just as our first parents, the rest of mankind is unable to perfectly accomplish his will – we aren’t necessarily “bad people”, but the divine standard of perfection is unimaginably higher than that. Thankfully, in his mercy, he then extended his saving grace to some, and used the amazing and awesome sacrifice of his Son on the cross in order to accomplish our salvation. We don’t know who he will enable to receive this saving grace, and we don’t know who he won’t, but we do know that all of us are dead in our sins. That’s the short version, and I’m betting you don’t really disagree with most of it …

        Now, I would call the “enabling” the real crux of the matter – if we only receive salvation through his grace and none of our action (having been dead), to me, you have some form of doctrine of reprobation, whether you call it out or not. If that grace is just lying there for the taking and we’re just alive enough to grasp it (without an extra dose of “life” from God), then you can avoid it, but it’s hard to see how our salvation depends only on God – it still does depend on him, but not on him only.

        To get back to the term “wants”, though, I’m sure you know that most Calvinists (and many others) speaks of God’s will in two ways. The first is what he desires to happen and what pleases him – and does not include the death of the sinner. The second is what he causes or allows to happen (including the freedom he gives to creation) – everything being under his control, including the death of the sinner. To me, there is nothing any more logically incoherent about that than there is about having an all-powerful God who has good desires (not including the death of the sinner) with perfect foreknowledge, including the death of the sinner. If I’m allowed to post links and any reader of this is interested in further reading, I enjoyed this a lot: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource/are-there-two-wills-in-god. Of course, if you take a different view of God’s providence, then maybe God really doesn’t watch over us moment-to-moment in a way in which he would actually uses his power for his people, but I don’t think that’s where you’re coming from.

        One last point – I was nearly in the same boat as you were. Disillusioned with Calvinism, looking for alternatives – worried that my church was focused too much on the negative side of God’s justice (those who are NOT saved) vs the positive (those who should be saved … ie, no one). Not that that’s what was preached, just … everyone knew, that’s what 5-point Calvinism is. I ended up in a study group of the Canons of Dort, and found that it was really my understanding (and lots of other people’s too) that was off. The study book we were using was written by an active Reformed pastor, and our study group involved another active Reformed pastor – both were very careful not to go further than what the Canons say. And I’ve found that the Canons are actually pretty careful not to go further than what scripture says. On reprobation, specifically, they do not speak of it as being part of God’s desire, but rather something he allows to happen. I won’t quote it in it’s entirety here (Article 15, 1st main point of doctrine), but it says that God made the decree to leave the reprobate in the misery (which they and we deserve), not to grant them saving faith, and to condemn them for their unbelief and all their sins. The word “decree” is the only “active” word that I would see you having an issue with, but when it comes down to one word, and that word closely tied to an understanding of God’s will as expressed above, where everything that happens is within God’s will or decree, whether it corresponds to his desire or not as we usually understand it … well, then I still see us as pretty similar. After all, you see (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) God as not giving them that extra boost of grace by which you were able to receive God’s word in faith, which means he is leaving them in their misery by not granting them saving faith and thus condemns them for their unbelief.

        • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

          February 3, 2015

          Post a Reply

          I did a debate not too long ago with a couple of Calvinists who wrote a recent book attempting to reframe the 5 points in a more positive light. It might be helpful to refer to (just youtube “Calvinism debate Austin Fischer”).

          A few quick thoughts.

          Agree that most Calvinists avoid using the language of “God wants most humans damned”, but I feel strongly it is the correct word. Piper notes that God has “complex emotions” about all of this. Calvin and Edwards refer to multiple wills and decrees of God. Luther posits a revealed and hidden God. Yet while this might look like complex theology, I found it to be an avalanche of euphemisms that dances around the cold, hard truth that most people will be damned forever because God wanted them to be. Are there complex divine emotions and multiple wills and decrees involved in Calvinism? Sure…I still think it’s obvious that “wants” is the right word.

          The other thing I see you leaning on here (and I see a lot) is an explanation of predestination that really tries to sound like single predestination. You posit the fall and then given a damned mass of humanity, God actively selects some and passes over others. But you can’t just posit the fall, IMO. Because in consistent Calvinism, God ordains the fall. I quote Calvin from a brief book called The Secret Providence of God.

          “I acknowledge that this is my doctrine—that Adam fell not only by the permission of God, but by his secret counsel…”

          “The fall of Adam was not by accident but was ordained by the secret decree of God.”

          I haven’t read the Canons of Dort in a while, but as I remember, they dance around some of these things in ways that I found unhelpful and muddy issues that shouldn’t be muddied…although I would dance around and muddy them too if I still had to believe them :).

          • DeWarrior

            February 3, 2015

            I will search for it for sure! I still feel pretty strongly that putting words in people’s mouths is not the way to go. If I say that “wants” is not what I mean, I might mean that. I like Tim Keller’s “rules of engagement”, where one seeks to engage with the best interpretation of the opponent’s viewpoint rather than risking engaging a strawman … and most Calvinists who read “God WANTS people to be damned forever” are going to check out. I appreciate that it makes it hard to have a meaningful debate in cases like this though (and that you weren’t looking to debate in this blog post).

            Personally, I agree that there is “an avalanche of euphemisms that dances around the cold, hard truth that most people will be damned forever” – but I could just as well say, if I were an atheist, “and God allows it to be so when he’s the only all-powerful being in the universe who could have prevented it” and encompass Arminianism in that avalanche as well. I can hear them now … so, he has “foreknowledge”, and he set up the whole system (hell included), but he sits back and says, “sorry it’s your fault”? Reconciling hell with a good God is, in my experience, the toughest question for a Christian to answer, and I don’t see a “powerless foreknowledge” approach helping me in those situations.

            As far as single vs. double predestination – I think most of the terminology of “double” predestination comes from non-Calvinists. I tend to think there is no difference – once you have single predestination, if you believe in God’s power and providence, you have “double” predestination. So I’m not trying to sound like single predestination, they’re usually trying not to sound like double predestination (in my opinion :). Also, I think I was clear that God ordains the fall in the same way that he ordains damnation – I put it in your terms, that he “knew” it would happen – but God foreknowing something doesn’t take away the causative hand he had in it or the power he withheld to not stop it. Ie, the fall did not happen outside of his ability to intervene (he decided not to intervene despite being able to – thus, he in a Calvinist sense “willed” it to happen), and it could not have happened had he not created man, created the tree, created Satan, created the serpent, and given the command. It seems to me that maybe I should be digging more into the extent of the providence and power of God, as it seems to keep coming up here …

            Basically, you’ve given me some food for thought (thanks! Especially on the beauty angle!!), but so far, haven’t changed my mind (as you probably didn’t expect to :). The “dance” in the Canons of Dort I find to be a reflection of the “dance” in scripture – the dance that is coming to know an all-powerful, infinite God who can’t be fully comprehended by the human mind. To me it has a great deal of beauty in it, even if it’s sometimes frustrating. I’ll continue studying, and probably even checking in here once in a while!

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            February 3, 2015

            Well I try hard not to put words in people’s mouths and don’t think I’ve done that here. But as you allude to, real conversation becomes impossible when we play semantic games. So I tend to approach it as, “I know you don’t want to say WANTS, but explain to me why it isn’t the right word?” If God’s will is, put baldly, the only game in town, then it follows logically that nothing happens unless God wants it to happen (in a strong sense of the term). I don’t think appeals to complex emotions, multiples wills and decrees, hidden and revealed parts of God are answers so much as evasions.

            It’s unclear to me why you assume that God’s foreknowing is “causative” or that God’s not stopping things is “causative” in the same sense that God’s ordaining the fall in Calvinism is causative. In Calvinism, the fall is God’s intention. In classical theism, it isn’t. And I think intention is an important difference.

            Thanks again for the good thoughts and generous tone!

          • DeWarrior

            February 3, 2015

            I hope I’m not extending this conversation past the point of politeness, I love discussing this stuff! And writing my thoughts down helps clarify them even in my mind, doubly or triply so when you respond with how they look to you … so …

            I get you about avoiding semantic games, 100%! The term “wants” is, to me, the wrong term because in terms of people, I think of something we “want” as something we think will make us happy in some way if we get it. And I’m not claiming that God delights in the death of sinners – indeed, I’ll agree with you that it saddens him more than I can imagine. So what I understand by the term “wants” is not a good match by what I mean when I say that the fall happened within the will of God. There is a secondary definition of “want” that does match, in that everything I do consciously, I do because I want to do it – even if someone’s blackmailing me with a gun to the head, I listen to him in some sense because I want to. But that’s not the definition that people tend to apply to “God wants …” – in fact, most people would say that the person being blackmailed did not want to do what he did (which proves to me that my first definition is more intuitive and common … and that “wants” is the wrong word).

            But I do believe God’s will is the only game in town. In terms of a power hierarchy, it’s at the top, over everything, there is nothing outside of that hierarchy (ALL authority in earth and heaven). When he created man and gave us our own free will, he didn’t place us outside of it, just made room for us inside of it, if that makes sense. Which is why, logically, I believe that nothing happens unless God wills it to be so (in that sense) – he has the power to step in and stop anything that I will from happening – he is under no outside constraints to either allow or deny anything.

            This is similar to the Christian standard we believe is set by God, where choosing not to help someone is just as much a sin as choosing to hurt them is. On the other hand, if we know that the hurt will lead to a better end result (think a child and discipline), then it may not be a sin for us not to step in (despite it being wrong for the child to touch the hot pan).

            God’s “foreknowing” is not causative, but his creation and decision not to stop the fall into sin (despite knowing it before, as and after it happened) are and are both intentional. So my question back to you is, do you think God has the power to step in and stop a person from doing something? I say, of course he does – he could have thundered from the sky “Eve!!! Think about this …” He actively (intentionally, not accidentally) chose not to interfere, despite the fact that what was happening was not something that pleased him (that he wanted, or willed in the sense you’re using “the will of God” or the sense most people mean “God wants”).

            Perhaps I need to (ok, definitely do need to) keep studying classical theism, but I don’t think the absolute power of God, or a strong view of providence is something that Calvin invented. His application of it to sin and the fall was somewhat novel, but I believe it needed doing – trust me, atheists are happy to point it out if we don’t. I do like how our discussion has turned into a discussion of the fall rather than the term predestination – I think the debate is less “loaded” that way, and the issues are essentially the same …

          • Michael

            February 4, 2015

            I second the notion that Mr. Fischer would do well to reconsider the term “wants” when representing the Calvinist’s view of God’s disposition toward the reprobate. It is very clearly misleading. Calvinists generally aren’t dodging the word because of an uncomfortable truth…they are dodging the word because it is not an accurate one and can be taken in ways that they do not mean. As far as I know, God is not delighted in the death of of the wicked.

            I want to give Austin the benefit of the doubt…but I would think he should know better after all of the dialogue he has had with Calvinists over the past couple years. I personally don’t think he should complain against the folks that claim he never understood Calvinism when he repeatedly misrepresents their position through clearly misleading language. But perhaps I am putting too much faith in my Calvinist brothers to calmly and clearly present their case. I appreciate your “online countenance” DeWarrior.

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            February 4, 2015

            Hey Michael. Thanks for stopping by.

            I hear you, but try to understand the dilemma.

            -God ordains the damnation of the reprobate for his glory…I got it.
            -But God is conflicted about this, has complex emotions toward it, grieves over it, because he does not delight in the death of the wicked and even loves (in some sense of the term) these people he has ordained for damnation…I got it and never say God delights in it.
            -And yet, God chooses to go through with this even though he doesn’t need to create such a world to actualize his glory (for surely God does not need to create any world…though Edwards goes dangerously down this route).

            So the problem we bump into is that when we put these things together (which I think you’d agree I’ve fairly portrayed), we come to different conclusions regarding the word that best describes God’s disposition toward his decree of reprobation. Calvinists don’t want to use the word “wants.” I think the word “wants” is, far and away, the most accurate word to use here. I don’t ever say God delights in it, but surely you can want to do something without delighting in it.

            So I think not using “wants” is clearly misleading. You think using “wants” is clearly misleading. And we’re both left scratching our heads as to how we can’t see eye to eye on this :). In light of such a dilemma, I think it’s fair for me to acknowledge that while Calvinists don’t like using this word, I think it’s the right word. But I have been and will always be open to suggestions as to a better word.

          • Deron

            March 16, 2015

            Is all Christian truth good and beautiful?

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            March 19, 2015

            I’m surprised it took so long for somebody to ask this :).

            Great question.

            I think it’s easy to make a case that hell is good and plenty of people have done it. It is certainly much harder to make the case that hell is beautiful but I don’t think you have to. What you have to do is make the case that God’s ultimate design for creation (even if it includes hell) is beautiful. In other words, every little stroke might not be beautiful in and of itself, but the full picture must be a masterpiece of goodness and beauty. I think classical theism does this.

            Calvinism, IMHO, cannot paint a masterpiece.

          • Deron

            March 23, 2015

            Thank you for your thoughtful response, Austin.

            Correct me if I’m wrong but wouldn’t either classical theism (assuming you are referring to classical Arminianism) or Calvinism both end up portraying a majority of people undergoing the unrelenting suffering of hell? If so, either “masterpiece” would be plagued with this significantly hideous “stroke” of the brush, regardless of the context. It would seem futile, not to mention arrogant, trying to either exonerate or condemn God for the reality of this clearly ugly place using EITHER theological framework. Who are we to judge God for being unjust or apply our standards of right and wrong to acquit him? Job learned what God thinks about people who do this.

            I believe we are on safer, more humble, ground praising God for his unmerited grace and love. Rather than trying to “beatify” how a loving God could eternally damn a majority of mankind, I would rather ask which theological perspective provides the most beautiful explanation of salvation.

            In this light, then, is a love that only provides the means of saving someone from hell more beautiful than a love that is actually strong enough to assure someone’s salvation from hell? Is a parent of an adult child more loving to merely offer an effective salvation from impending destruction, or to do everything in his/her power to save that child, even if it takes the parent’s life in the process?

            IMHO, I think Calvinism provides a more beautiful picture of God’s all-powerful love.

            Deron

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            March 24, 2015

            Classical Arminianism is a later expression of classical theism, by which I mean the theology of the early church fathers.

            As to idea that the majority of ppl end up in hell no matter the theological scheme, so the bottom line is the same…first, I don’t affirm that the majority of ppl will be in hell. I know of no vantage point from which to know such things. I tend to think heaven will be much fuller than we anticipate.

            Second, even if it were so, I think there is a huge difference between whether or not those ppl are there because God wanted them there or because those ppl refused God’s relentless overtures of grace. I think Calvinism only looks beautiful when you ignore the fact that God ordained the fall and wants the majority of ppl to end up in hell…something you seem to do in your reply :). I firmly believe that you can argue Calvinism is biblical (one of the ways to make sense of the Bible’s teachings). I firmly reject the notion that Calvinism is beautiful.

            As to Job, I think you’re reading it wrong. While putting him in his place, God says Job speaks rightly…meaning Job had the willingness to speak honestly and question God. And God says Job’s friends have spoken wrongly…meaning they tell Job he can’t say those sorts of things to God (42:7-9). I think your comment sounds like something Job’s friends would say. Just a thought!

          • donbeeson

            March 24, 2015

            Hi, Austin! Before I begin, I just have to say that Wyatt is such a cutie : ) I never heard of you until this weekend when I listened to your August Chicago debate but had to know more. I have grappled with Calvinism since I became a believer 32 years ago at Calvary Chapel South Bay in Torrance, CA. Immediately, I also began listening to John MacArthur whose church was maybe 20 miles from me. I had this burning desire to read the Bible which I still do : ) But like you, I eventually became disillusioned by my own ongoing sin. This was fueled by John MacArthur’s Lordship salvation to the point that I despaired of being a Christian and told God to just take me to Hell now. I wouldn’t share my faith with anyone because I didn’t want them at some point to also reach the point where they also despaired of their own sin. But at the same time this was going on I would continue to experience Godincidences. And… I knew too much. I WAS a sinner and no one but Jesus was offering to do something about that. He reached down to us. At the core of all religion( I don’t consider Christianity a religion) , it is man reaching up to God trying to please Him.
            So for many years I coldly continued to believe that I was saved because I was trusting in what Christ had done for me on the cross, but I had no love for God or Jesus at this point. I had long lost that love with the nagging but persistent thought that maybe either I had never been saved or that my obedience just didn’t cut it–that my faith was spurious–both ideas fueled by Lordship Salvation that still haunted me. Flash forward to 2009. I was reading Ephesians 2:8-9 for the umpteenth time. For the first time, I was hit like a ton of bricks, that it is God’s GRACE that saves me through my faith. HUGE difference. I had been putting the emphasis on myself–a fallible human being. For the first time, I began to love God again and see that it was His doing that I was saved but became mine through believing that. I continued to pray, asking God to show me what true faith is–from His Word. A few months later I was reading Romans 4:18-25. For the first time in my life, I realized that faith is believing the promise of God–period. Abraham looked at himself and Sarah and brought nothing to the table. But in verse 20-21(NASB) “with respect to the PROMISE of God he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith , giving glory to God , and being fully assured that what God had promised HE was able also to perform.” We too bring nothing to the table. I am believing that God is able to do HIMSELF what He has promised us. It’s my faith in His promise that saves me. He has promised to save us by GRACE THROUGH FAITH IN HIS SON and I choose to believe as Abraham did that He is able to do that. If we believe that, He credits the same righteousness to us that He did to Abraham. For me that was a huge aha moment. Immediately, I realized that Lordship Salvation was not Biblical but severely damaging instead.
            Biblical faith as shown by Romans 4:18-25 is our BELIEVING the promise that GOD HAS SAVED US BY HIS GRACE THROUGH FAITH. Paul also says in Galatians 3:23(NASB) that the “Scripture has shut up everyone under sin so that the PROMISE BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST might be given to those who believe.” So we do have the choice to exercise our belief in that promise or not. Salvation is available for everyone, but we must choose to believe the promise–namely that WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. In other words, God chose to save people by His grace through their faith, but we can choose to not believe that promise.
            I’m a native Texan by the way but was moved to California kicking and screaming by a choice made freely by my parents when I was six months old : )
            I like your comment about Neo-Calvinism being like a bomb shelter for those trying to cope with post-modernism : ) Nothing surprises God. He IS still in control and still calling anyone to Himself who will believe His promise irrespective of their behavior. And He who began that good work in us will bring it to completion as long as we continue to believe that promise. Bad behavior after becoming a believer doesn’t disqualify us , but our no longer believing His PROMISE to save us by His grace through our faith in Christ can the Book of Hebrews seems to say.
            I live in Tucson, AZ now, home of the Wildcats who are in the sweet 16 LOL I prefer college basketball to the NBA. But I’ll give you some slack for preferring the NBA since we both believe we have the free will to choose that as well as to choose Christ ; )

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            March 26, 2015

            Haha! Thanks for stopping by and sharing Don. Sounds like you’ve been on quite the journey yourself.

            I think we agree on the theology and Wyatt being adorable :)!

            As to college basketball, come on man! You know the NBA is higher quality. But the tourney is certainly magic, and I think your Cats have a shot.

          • donbeeson

            March 26, 2015

            Hey, Austin. Yes, I’ve been on quite the journey : ) and Wyatt is one of the cutest lil dudes on the planet :-> as for the Cats, most of the locals treat them as only God deserves : ) My cousin, Pete Likins, is the former president of UA, so I don’t tell him that
            Lol
            Since I was saved at Calvary Chapel and grew up on Johnny Mac, I really assumed both Chuck Smith and JM knew best, and I was the one with the problem. But I do see now that Christ really did do everything already for everyone in order to be saved. It is as He said on the cross, finished. From Adam and Eve til now, it has always been unbelief that disqualifies us. It’s not disobedience that is the problem. It’s unbelief in the promises of God. Disobedience is a product of unbelief, right? . Christ was perfectly obedient on the cross. Our part is to believe.
            Don’t tell anyone, but I’m routing for Duke lol

          • Deron

            March 25, 2015

            Austin,

            I really appreciate how you respond to questions in a non-defensive or belittling way. We all learn more by listening and asking the right kind of questions. I also sense you have a shepherd’s heart that understands the best test of a right understanding of doctrine is revealed by a right practice of love (1 Tim. 1:5-7). In this light, I first would like to clarify what I meant by referring to Job, and then further explore how we can best discern which, if either of the two -isms, can best promote authentic Christian love.

            By referring to Job, I did not mean to imply you, or Job, was wrong to humbly question God. His friends were clearly arrogant. I would not want to behave or talk like them! Job slowly became more arrogant. Don’t you think it was this arrogance that God corrected both Job and his friends for (Job 38:1-3, Job 40:1-8).? “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8).

            It would seem our arrogance is often aroused when faced with the justice and wrath of God. Paul warned us about that arrogance again in Romans 9:19-21 when faced with this same, seemingly unjust form of God’s justice. “’Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, oh man, to talk back to [not just humbly question] God. Shall the one formed say to the one who formed it why did you make me like this?”

            Don’t you think all of us can rise to this level of arrogance when we rely too much on our theological frameworks to compartmentalize the multifaceted nature of God, especially the holy wrath of God?

            His mercy is very down-to-earth, closely connected to the kinship love of family, but His wrath is more transcendent, something tied closely to his holiness that should cause us to respond like Job, Isaiah and others when confronted with
            it. It should make any “arm-chair” theologian a bit unsettled when he says things like “well if this is what God is like, I want nothing to do with him” as if God is some sort of commodity we customize to our personal interests.

            From the words you have written, I do not believe you are an arm chair theologian. I have read both Arminians and Calvinists that do seem to be placing ultimatums on God, however. I trust you are genuinely having a hard time digesting how a loving or just God could want to create a people just to condemn some (minority or a majority) of them and save others. I too have a hard time digesting it. It appears God, too, does not take pleasure in what he decreed as well!

            But, if you find out that the God Calvinism describes is true, I would think that you, as I, would repent in dust and ashes submitting to his holiness and depending on his mercy. I would hope neither you nor I would shake our fist at him. If, on
            the other hand, we find out that the God Arminianism describes is true, I would expect us both to respond the same way. I would hope neither of us would claim some special inherent knowledge that the other didn’t have. It all comes from him.

            So what difference does it make, as long as we both approach him with humility and no demands for him to fit our theologies? Perhaps not much. I could just end here and we can respectfully agree to hold different theologies while worshiping the same God that doesn’t have to fit our viewpoints.

            But since I believe both you and I long for not just tolerance, but union in the body of Christ, I press on. 🙂

            Unlike God’s holy justice, I think God reveals his mercy and love in a way that even a child could understand and reach out for (ie parental love). That unconditional, sacrificial and everlasting love of kin is the most beautiful and greatest
            reality. From what I understand of Arminianism, I believe it causes these little ones to stumble. Yes, Calvinism can’t bring the transcendent justice of God down to earth, it can’t make it beautiful. But Arminianism seems to contradict the most beautiful immanent nature of kinship love.

            For example, how would a consistent Arminian explain to his child how a loving heavenly father can condemn his own children to an eternity of damnation, with no possibility of parole, just because they didn’t respond appropriately to
            his love over a very short period of time (when compared to eternity)?

            While this may be consistent with a dysfunctionally selfish love of this world, it is not consistent with the very selective love of kin a child was imprinted with at birth. And do you think a “potentially” all powerful love, contingent on our response, is most consistent with the love of God portrayed in Scripture? Don’t the Scriptures consistently describe a God who always loves, protects and pursues his children relentlessly with a love that no one can break apart? And his children continue to respond to that love with a miraculous trust, even though He seems to slay them at times, or isn’t
            always congenial or even beautiful?

            And isn’t this the kind of love that marriage is to reflect? A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, not divorce her if she doesn’t adequately respond to his love or is no longer beautiful. A parent longs to love his child, and a child longs to love his parent, even if the other neglects or even abuses them. Isn’t this unconditional love even reflected in our pets? It is no wonder why God placed Adam with the animals first to awaken this love in him for his wife. Is this love not also behind how Paul and Moses could rather be accursed, blotted out of God’s book, if their
            rejection would mean the acceptance of others. “Freely you have received, freely give.” This is truly the love of
            family, elevated to the spiritual level.

            I believe that kinship love always wins, regardless of the response. It fails too often because kin treat one another too much like individuals rather than part of the same family. I believe God’s love always wins for his “kin” as well. Likewise, our love for those God has chosen as our spiritual kin should always win.

            I wonder if this kind of love best explains the radical love so evident in the pre-Constantinian Christian church? Whatever their theological bent was on the nature of God and man, it caused the watching Roman world to exclaim, “See how they love one another.”

            Because I don’t see either -isms today producing people who love one another like I read about back then, I doubt either modern forms best reflect the theological framework of the early church. Theirs was a very “familial” theology. Once orthodoxy became more important that orthopraxy, after 300 AD, we see less evidence of this amazing love and more evidence of amazing church councils, where people substituted their love for God and their church members with a love for impractical doctrines about God and man. The church today has likewise substituted egalitarinistism, individualism, and a politically correct tolerance, for a “sincere love of the brethren.” Like the Roman State church and beyond, we rely more on the naked content of the Gospel than the loving, household-code-based (or kinship) context of the gospel to “convert” people.

            So, between Arminianism and Calvinsim, what theological framework best provides the potential for such a loving church? Which view of God’s love seems more consistent with the love of the early church (ie a biblical, kinship type of love that always nurtures, protects, provides for and disciplines when necessary – not the politically correct love that merely tolerates)? I guess only time will tell once we rely more on the context of our theology (covenant love) to
            transform us than doctrine stripped of its power to transform.

            Thank you for your precious time, your tireless service to the body, and offering any feedback.

            Deron

          • donbeeson

            March 26, 2015

            Hi, Deron. I agree with you on so much of what you say about modern day believers and what I deem as superstars. At the end of the day, neither you, I, John Piper, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Al Mohler, John Calvin, or even Austin : ) would be able to have any of this conversation had God not given us so many blessings, among them–the ability to think, the ability to read, and the Bible itself. Would we not all still be in our sins without these blessings? I thank God every day that he gave me the ability to freely choose Christ as my Savior after being confronted with the Gospel. That would not have been possible without the ability to reason, the ability to read, or the Bible being available to me. For me, Romans 4:18-25, sealed the deal. Abraham used his God-given ability to think and choose to believe the promise of God. I think each of us is saved similarly–by our choosing to believe that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. I see exercising that belief in that promise as being sufficient to save ANY person. Like Paul, I glory in nothing but the cross. After 32 years as a believer, I don’t subscribe to any systematic theology. I refuse to put God in a box. But I do see myself as a present day sinner in need of a Savior. And God continues to give me aha moments that rock my world through reading the Scriptures!
            Thanks for your comments, Deron. You aren’t an “armchair” theologian either : ) I pray that God continues to show you His will for you and that you too continue to search the Scriptures like the Bereans but also rest in His indescribable love for you.

          • James M

            June 7, 2015

            “’Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, oh man, to talk back to [not just humbly question] God. Shall the one formed say to the one who formed it why did you make me like this?”

            ## That’s a fallacious response by the Apostle. Adopting a bullying tone to people who point out holes in one’s argument does not repair the holes, or answer the objections. And the Apostle’s reply is flawed in a second way: for pots do not have any relation with God. Pots cannot be damned or saved – but men can:

            17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.

            18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth.

            19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?

            20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

            21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

            22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction:

            23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,

            24 [even] us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

            http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_%28American_Standard%29/Romans#9

            ## STM the argument in 9.17-24 is dodgy both logically, & as interpretation of Scripture. Bad logic & bad exegesis are bad even if the perpetrator is an inspired Apostle writing Scripture. The analogy with pots won’t bear the weight of the argument he’s making, because pots are like men only in being made without having any say in the matter. Men are made in God’s image – pots are not. The analogy fails – & and so too does the argument based on it.

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            February 4, 2015

            Haha. Well, I listen to your description of God’s disposition toward his damnation of the reprobate, and think, “Yep…wants is still the right word.” I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here.

            Certainly Calvin didn’t invent the idea of a strong notion of providence. Broadly put, I think classic Christian theology, from the beginning, believed God was as sovereign as he chose to be, but that he chose not to assert the full measure of his sovereignty over the world so that it might be a place of meaningful created freedom. As Psalm 115:16 says, “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” And from the beginning, classic Christian theology (mostly) rejected what would become Calvin’s position on God’s involvement in the origins of human sin.

            If you’d like, check out The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart. It concisely unpacks some of this.

            Blessings!

  2. Dave Anfenson

    February 3, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Those three points were very helpful. Concise, to the point and true 🙂

  3. rhutchin

    February 3, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Austin writes in response to DeWarrior, “God’s foreknowledge is not determinative.”

    True but irrelevant. God’s foreknowledge imposes certainty on those things foreknown. When we read in Genesis 1 that God created the world, we know that God’s foreknowledge makes everything that follows certain. The names are engraved in the Lamb’s Book of Life and none will be removed nor new names added.

    Given this certainty, we can say that God has ordained all that follows after Genesis 1:1. You object that Calvinists conclude that God ordained the fall of Adam/Eve. Yet, from Job, we know that Satan does not enter the garden without God deciding that he should. We know that God was present in the garden watching the events of the garden play out. He watched Eve as she ate the fruit and then give to Adam who then ate. God could have interrupted at any point in those events even to denying Satan the ability to enter the garden. Each step along the way, God made decisions – to have Satan enter the garden, not to intervene to prevent Eve from eating the fruit and then Adam. God made these decisions even before He created the heavens and the earth. With each decision, God ordained that which we now read about as God’s decisions rendered all things certain. To conclude otherwise is to deny reality.

    You seem to have flirted with Calvinism in your high school years, but you don’t give evidence of having understood how Calvinism reaches the conclusions it does.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      February 3, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Every once in a while I have someone tell me I didn’t really understand Calvinism (or make some quip along those lines), and yet these people can never explain what I didn’t understand. Still waiting…

      As to foreknowledge, well, you don’t seem to understand it and your argument is a bit tortured…not that I can blame you too much. It’s a fickle mystery. I would not say that foreknowledge “imposes certainty on things foreknown.” I would say our “doing” conditions God’s “knowing”, not vice versa. But, like I said, foreknowledge is a difficult thing and I don’t stake too much on it, except in so far as I think the Bible alludes to it and classical theism has tended to affirm it.

      • rhutchin

        February 3, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Austin writes, “.. these people can never explain what I didn’t understand”

        On Amazon, Charles Ackmann makes some helpful comments on your book dated Nov 14, 2014. I also did a review dated July 10 explaining this (I am the trekkie). Time constraints being what they are, I suspect you never get around to reading the reviews of your book. Nonetheless, people have taken the trouble to explain why they think you don’t seem to understand Calvinism. Maybe you could set up an email address for people to help you in this area. Otherwise, it’s either in the book reviews or on your blog and maybe you would just prefer that comment on your blogs when the occasion arises.

        • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

          February 4, 2015

          Post a Reply

          Well checking those Amazon reviews is certainly a mixed bag…not for the faint of heart :). I did just go look at the Ackmann review you mentioned and even wrote a brief response! I’m afraid I didn’t find the critiques particularly compelling. I think I understand Calvinism better than he understands my book.

      • rhutchin

        February 3, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Regarding foreknowledge, we can say that God is omniscient with foreknowledge being part of God’s omniscience. If God’s knowing is conditioned on the actions of people – which says to me that God knows what people do only after observing them to do it – then God is not omniscient; omniscience requires that God know all things unconditionally. Foreknowledge seems to be a simple concept – God knows all things even those things that have not happened in the course of time in the universe He created. God’s foreknowledge necessarily consists of those things that God has ordained and they are necessarily certain. Necessarily means that it can be no other way.

        • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

          February 4, 2015

          Post a Reply

          Certainly it is difficult to explain the mechanics of foreknowledge, and as I’ve noted many times, foreknowledge isn’t an important part of my theology. I don’t think it gives God a “providential advantage” (though ppl like David Hunt have produced some interesting articles in favor of it). I just think the Bible alludes to it and classical theism has affirmed it.

          Speaking of God when God acquires foreknowledge, in some temporal sense, is obviously shot through with difficulty. But I’m more than willing to live with the paradox of God’s knowing being conditioned on our doing and yet this knowledge is something God has eternally. The early church fathers didn’t mind it and I don’t mind it much either. Theology often comes down to what mystery’s you believe you’re asked to live with.

          • rhutchin

            February 4, 2015

            Austin writes, “Speaking of God when God acquires foreknowledge, in some temporal sense, is obviously shot through with difficulty.”

            Because God is omniscient, He does not “acquire” foreknowledge – God’s foreknowledge cannot be conditioned on the actions of those He has created – God has always had foreknowledge (God is omniscient). Although some can have trouble with God’s foreknowledge, the implications to God’s created universe are easily understood – When God created the universe, He had foreknowledge of all that was to happen. God knew the names of His elect as well as the reprobate, He knew the dates of their births and deaths, and every event of every second of their lives. All those events were rendered certain by God when He created the universe and nothing would, or could, change – In creating the universe, God thereby ordained all that was to follow.

            There is no “paradox of God’s knowing being conditioned on our doing” as God’s knowing cannot be conditioned on any “doing” of created beings. Nonetheless, God’s foreknowledge is a roadblock to those who oppose Calvinism, so it is no surprise that you find the need to deny that God can be omniscience. At least, you seem to understand the implications of foreknowledge to theological systems and why foreknowledge is a key doctrine in the Calvinist system.

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            February 4, 2015

            I think Alvin Planting (God, Freedom, and Evil) gives the best explanation regarding why God’s foreknowledge does not equal foreordination. Again, it’s what the early church fathers affirmed and what the orthodox consensus has been. The fuss around it has never moved my pulse much and I get bored running around this bush. But if you feel strongly about it, well, I can live with that.

            I do find it helpful for people to see the difficulties each position has to live with. I live with this. Calvinism lives with a God who creates people (many, most?) in order to damn them forever for his glory and yet is still supposed to be infinite goodness and beauty. Choose the question you will live with, I suppose.

          • rhutchin

            February 4, 2015

            Austin writes, “I think Alvin Planting (God, Freedom, and Evil) gives the best explanation regarding why God’s foreknowledge does not equal foreordination.”

            My guess is that Plantinga was explaining that foreknowledge of future events is not the cause of those future events. Yet, that which God foreknows is certain to happen. How so? Either God is omniscient requiring that He ordain the future or God is not omniscient and has learned what the future holds. Either way, God foreknows that future, so the future is certain. Calvinism maintains that God is omniscient; if one is to oppose Calvinism, he must maintain that God is not omniscient.

          • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

            February 4, 2015

            I get the feeling you will joust at this windmill all day long. If nothing else, this has been a reminder that some people find this line of thinking compelling. Thanks for the thoughts!

          • rhutchin

            February 4, 2015

            Austin writes, “Calvinism lives with a God who creates people (many, most?) in order to damn them forever for his glory and yet is still supposed to be infinite goodness and beauty”

            This is the basic claim of universalists. It is not just Calvinists but all non-universalists who must hold that God creates people in order to damn them – this because of an omniscient God’s foreknowledge of the eternal fate of those He creates even before He creates them. Thus, we see the need to deny that God is omniscient to avoid this conclusion and still maintain a non-universalist position.

          • elissagrace

            February 25, 2015

            Beware of the leaven of the pharisees…The LXX is the text God gave us. (I’m surprised the reformers didn’t catch that one but, I am not surprise the wisdom of the scribes prevails to cloud the minds of all our wise and beloved instructors of the day who love the praise of men more than that of God. I can’t wait to hear God tell everyone “I MEANT TO DO THAT”



            He did not unify the world in the Greek tongue by accidental translation…seriously, what do you think He told Daniel about the Greeks for? Calvinists do read the bible and ask enough “why did God bother?”and it leads to no simple problem because the LXX is subtly different… it supports NO isms. See Isaiah 54 and 55 as I have cited below. These things count higher than we little humans can tally and it seems the concept of a limit to the human creature relative to the hugeness of GOD and what is GOOD, completely escapes the Calvinist… but did God not say it was good?

            

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.


            Seek the Lord while He is near lest in your vanity you trust in the works of man’s hand.

            The arguments of logic and reason are man’s tool for the sphere of dominion we have been given… that is why Jesus tells us we worship the Father in Spirit and TRUTH…not reason and logic, they are useless in what we are told to believe and then in believing we are given to understand in in faith. We can not understand the Awesomeness of God who is one being in three distinct persons yet He tells us it so and we believe what we can not understand and therein we are given faith. Likewise can we not understand how an omniscient God can fully LOVE and fully KNOW and yet HE tells us to believe in Him and He will abundantly pardon…. are you not vain to argue? Did not Paul warn “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”



            Calvinists seem to miss or not understand (take greater comfort in his reason than in God), that faith is the substance of hope, it is the of strength God’s hand that kicks in AFTER logic and reason ends… because we are smaller than God, at some point we are going to have to believe things about God that DO NOT MAKE SENSE, and THINGS WE CAN NOT EXPLAIN… we will find how well we have crossed that that intersection at death..and the faithful will be rewarded for believing things they can could not well explain. (try not mock people… but use it as a good reference point for where your faith might be weak)


            We are blessed to arrive at that intersection while we are living, it is like a cliff at the end of the might of man… you hear of it in conversions stories of affliction and God tells us much about it in scripture… it is where you must decide to jump to save your life in faith that God is going to catch you. You make the choice at the place that theology fails because it is based on what you believe or do not believe …those Calvinists who mock the faithful who can ONLY offer scripture but who have no good human explanation.. like Dave Hunt. He is such a man, of faith sitting next to our Savior right now. (Shame on you James White for mocking a godly man).. but I tell you, it is in the belief of God’s WORD wherein ANY man is saved by the power of faith, even despite theology; salvation is to them that believe, not them that can argue… 
Because without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

            

At death we will learn this because we are disarmed of our vanity- we have nothing of our own reflection left to obscure the view of the hand of God. The saddest thing about Calvinism is the time it has enjoyed to prosper in the fertile ground of vanity among the proud. Calvinism has not had the opportunity to fail as it deserves. The hardship that strips of vanity in his lifetime is generally unknown to the Calvinist because when a man’s next step relies entirely on what he believes about God, only the man who believes His God loves him survives.. the Calvinist’s election is the antithesis of hope in that moment.

            I was raised as catholic, I believed Jesus is my savior. In my early thirties, after amazing financial success, a great life with 2 children I cherished, I found myself facing an unimaginable set of circumstances: everyone and everything I loved, cherished, owned, earned, achieved, believed and trusted failed or was stripped completely out of my reach. I was left only to consider what kind of God would do this to me, I did not deserve what happened (a very catholic thought) and the realization that there was nothing I could do to change it was horrible, it hurt so bad I thought it should have killed me, but it didn’t. I was alive and healthy, merely stripped of everything I had invested my life for the accomplishing my will, was suddenly gone … It was horrible.

            In slowing down to consider the only prayer I knew that went direct, not to a saint for my wishes, or to Mary for me plea, but to God for His will… then I had to choose to accept the fact that clearly I did not get a say in any part of His will and decide…. does this God, about whom I know only catholic stuff, does he loves me? I figured the cross was my proof and I was just a dumb human and I trusted Him and begged for mercy and help with His will… and he sent me the Comforter and has walked with me for 12 years. I had no idea it was the Comforter. I only knew I had answers, peace, righteousness. I felt temptation and knew to not follow it. I understood things, words were put in my heart and my mouth to understand and comfort others. Ideas that I can not claim as mine, like to do good for others when I felt my worst.. these things were the Spirit of God that made me alive again and He has restored me and I love my God more than anything. He is so awesome and you Calvinists infuriate me with your arrogance… can’t you see, I wonder?

            He strengthened me for His purposes. He guided me through my hardship, revealing His word and proving every promise made in the bible is true and yet, being raised catholic, I avoided the bible because I did not want to find the pope or a priest and I did not want to go back to church… I lived like this for 7y before the Lord finally had me pick up the book of Jeremiah. It only took 7 pages for me to understand why I felt as I did about Catholicism and as I read, I wept because everything I had already come to know about my God, things I could not ever explain to anyone in my own words was already all written out and given to us in scripture. I was so happy to see it in print!!! Do you understand? I would try to answer people who would ask “how do you do it” and I could only answer, “I don’t, God does”… everything I knew and learned of Him over those years of my hardship through to my restoration is written and I didn’t read it until after it was done… it is all a promise He already made to us… and it’s written to those who seek Him in belief and through faith. BECAUSE without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him and HE DOES.

            
His word is true and I love that we are asked : what MAN can understand His ways or His cognition?
            and note, …there is a difference, the pharisees (masoretic text) is different here God’s word is most pointedly found in the LXX because it clearly differentiates the cognition of God from the thoughts of man… God does not operate with the same restraints.. He can fully foreknow AND fully redeem the repentant sinner AND it does not mean one is predetermined for salvation… that’s a human conclusion, God does not abide in the human construct of foreknowledge nor does He lie in warning us that you can reject God.. you can and it means nothing to His sovereignty.. you are a human all theology is man-centered thinking. There is no God-centered thought- we think as men.

            Pharaoh rejected what he saw of God.. not with his heart… but with his eyes as a witness with a mind [νοῦν nun; mind (acc).] here again… go to the text of LXX Exodus 7:23 (pasted below)… after the magicians do their thing.. his heart was precluded from being moved in fear, his mind HOWEVER, should have caught on.. but pharaoh was as arrogant as a Calvinist. His heart was NOT frightened so he did not react emotionally, but read the text God gave us, Pharaoh had the full use of his mind…. instead of going over it in his mind, he went home.

If we can not understand how 3 persons can be one being… it is no big deal if we can’t understand how He foreknows and predestinates us while imploring us to seek Him and we have a choice of consequences to our relationship… just like Esau who should have known better than to make such a lousy trade.. for lunch (Esau was a Calvinist: He traded his entire birthright to satisfy his belly in the moment)

            Have you read our Father’s pleas to us to follow His instructions? do you really think it is possible that God could be lying to those few people who could read those words, find hope in them, seek Him diligently and then wind up damned?

            Are you sure you want to take that stance instead of just being humble and saying we really don’t know how God is God and means this… but it is written, so it must be.

            Between the choices of whether one is pre-chosen for damnation wherein God’s could not be true, or the possibility that maybe you just don’t understand the fullness of God or how it works because you are a dopey human….but He means what He says and if He says repent and be saved… repent and you’re saved…
            if some are chosen for damnation, thereby precluded from partaking of the promises, He would be a liar and He is NO LIAR.

            You are going to be very sorry for thinking that about God some day.

            

We have no idea how it works but if you do not believe that God means every word He says, you are wasting your time with the scripture and for sure, you do not know Him… and if you think anything He has written adds up to mean He does not love those willing to seek Him in belief, or that somehow someone might be excluded from the love He explains in those words… you are vainly and fatally wrong about our God because God is TRUTH.



            The thing I hate about Calvin is that he wrote so much the volumes conceal his basic premise which asks: “Hath God said?”




            Between trusting in a loving God or your election.. you won’t survive your theology for if ABOVE ALL CONSIDERATIONS, you are not certain we have a LOVING God & that the mind of man can not even comprehend, you have no hope.

            … it is He who had his arms spread open, and nailed down… next time you lay down.. spread your arms apart and look at your wrists, think about what it was like to look over to your right and to your left and not be able to get up or off that cross.. to have so many people hating you when you did nothing wrong… so the world could see him naked on a cross… Calvin did not see that God nor does He even try to show HIM to the world.



            Austin you have taken a brave step, you are mocked and the anger that I hear in men like James white is shameful… bravo brother! This calvinism thing is abject arrogance… how can anyone pretend to know so much about God? Why are these elect still working for the treasures of the world? They should join me, all quit their jobs and live in the kingdom, loving others as Jesus did… God will clothe them, He knows what we need…. I can prove it … mine, the only house in a 3 mile suburban area that was not flooded this summer.. I someone who has not worked for a “paycheck” over a decade, yet I work and love and whatever I need I have …

            there are no accidents with God, He means every word He says and the faithful are rewarded for believing it.. having food and raiment let us therewith be content.



            54:16 Behold, I have created thee, not as the coppersmith blowing coals, 
and bringing out a vessel [fit] for work; but I have created thee, not 
for ruin, that [I] should destroy [thee].
            



54:17 I will not suffer any weapon formed against thee to prosper; and 
every voice that shall rise up against tee for judgment, thou shalt 
vanquish them all; and thine adversaries shall be [condemned] thereby. 
There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and ye shall be 
righteous before me, saith the Lord.



            Exodus 7:23

ἐπιστραφεὶς upon being-TURN-ed-AROUND (nom|voc) δὲ Yet Φαραω Pharaoh (indecl) εἰσῆλθεν he/she/it-ENTER-ed εἰς into (+acc) τὸν the (acc) οἶκον house (acc) αὐτοῦ him/it/same (gen) καὶ and οὐκ not ἐπέστησεν he/she/it-STAND-ed-OVER τὸν the (acc) νοῦν nun; mind (acc) αὐτοῦ him/it/same (gen) οὐδὲ neither/nor ἐπὶ upon/over (+acc,+gen,+dat) τούτῳ this (dat)


            5 See
            that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who
            refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we
            turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

            26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

            27 And
            this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that
            are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot
            be shaken may remain.

            28 Wherefore
            we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace,
            whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

            29 For our God is a consuming fire.

          • Orthodoxdj

            February 10, 2015

            Do you believe is distinct from His will?

        • elissagrace

          February 25, 2015

          Post a Reply

          Paul: Who can know the mind of God?

          rhutchin: “God’s foreknowledge necessarily consists of… Necessarily means that it can be no other way.”

          God:
          40:5 And the glory of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh shall see the
          salvation of God: for the Lord has spoken [it].

          Now then to whom have ye compared me, that I may be exalted? saith
          the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see, who has displayed all these
          things? [even] he that brings forth his host by number: he shall call
          them all by name by [means of his] great glory, and by the power of his
          might: nothing has escaped thee.

          For say not thou, O Jacob, and why hast thou spoken, Israel,
          [saying], My way is hid from God, and my God has taken away [my]
          judgement, and has departed?

          And now, hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? the eternal
          God, the God that formed the ends of the earth, shall not hunger, nor be
          weary, and there is no searching of his understanding.

          He gives strength to the hungry, and sorrow to them that are not
          suffering.

          For the young [men] shall hunger, and the youths shall be weary,
          and the choice [men] shall be powerless:

          but they that wait on God shall renew [their] strength; they shall
          put forth new feathers like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary;
          they shall walk, and not hunger.

    • Dean

      February 3, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Open Theism? You might want to give it a chance! I find it answers a lot more questions than people give it credit for, and its pitfalls, to borrower your example, are oft misunderstood.

      • rhutchin

        February 3, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Under Open Theism, God is not omniscient. I think the Open Theists have done their homework – If they are to oppose Calvinism, they must deny that God is omniscient.

        • Jonathan James Rychart

          March 6, 2015

          Post a Reply

          What Open Theists will tell you is that God doesn’t know the future because it cannot be known, not because He isn’t omniscient.

          I think they’re wrong, and that He does know the future, but it’s not good to put words (or ideas) in people’s mouths or minds.

    • Brandon

      February 3, 2015

      Post a Reply

      In reading the Book of Job (Chapter 1), it doesn’t say anywhere that God summoned Satan, but it does say that,

      “6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”

      Furthermore, nowhere does it say that God gave direct orders to Satan to go and test Job, but it does say that,

      “8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you CONSIDERED my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

      To me and I think it should be obvious, that sounds like allowing/permitting and not determining, decreeing, ordaining and whatever adjective Calvinist use.

      Also, prior to Satan presenting himself with the other sons of God, Satan was going to and from on the earth and the passage doesn’t indicate anywhere that Satan was acting under the deterministic decree of God to do that.

      As for the scenario about the events of the Garden of Eden that you described, that is what permission looks like. We aren’t told anywhere that God commanded Satan to go and tempt Adam and Eve but I guess that is part of His secretive will, which He apparently reveals only to Calvinist.

      So, you accept a God who says He hates sin, yet He ordains it to happen without fail and then punishes the party that commits the sin as if it was their own doing or had any real option. So, when David had Uriah killed by the Hittite in war and God charged David with his murder, really God actually killed Uriah based on His decree and somehow used David/Hittite to carry it out and then blamed David. Why didn’t God blame the Hittite that killed Uriah? After all, it was that person that physically killed Uriah, not David.

      Lastly, foreknowledge is a mystery but as Austin said, it is completely coherent. Not understanding something is not a basis to throw it out. We don’t understand exactly how Jesus was fully man and fully God when He was incarnate, we don’t fully understand the whole concept of the trinity but we accept it if it is coherent. Also, if we understood everything about God, then what makes him different than us? The Bible tells us,

      “As the heavens are higher than the earth, soare My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

  4. Kay English Photography

    February 3, 2015

    Post a Reply

    was God wrong to choose specific people as His nation of Israel in the OT? Was God wrong to choose Noah and his family to be saved and the rest of mankind to be killed? Your problem, is what Paul Washer says, you don’t believe mankind is really bad. Because if you did, you would see that we don’t deserve even ONE breath because we are that evil. And the fact that God saves even one person is a miracle. Please youtube “Paul Washer Election”

    • Brandon

      February 3, 2015

      Post a Reply

      God’s choosing of Israel didn’t damn the other nations. Anybody from any other nation could have been part of the “Israelites” if they followed the commands that God gave the nation of Israel. Moreover, we know that not all the “chosen” people of Israel followed God’s commands, so did those people somehow escaped God choosing of them?

      God choose Noah and his family because Noah found favor in the eyes of God. Gen 6:9 says, “9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” That looks like God selected Noah conditionally.

      It is one thing for us not to deserve ONE breath and it is something totally different for us not to deserve ONE breath because God MADE us that way deterministically.

      I think it would serve you well if you watched/read Paul Washer a little less and actually read and
      understand the Bible for yourself and not what someone else wants you to understand.

      • Kay English Photography

        February 3, 2015

        Post a Reply

        So Esau could have chosen? Interesting bc God hated Esau. The bible says that Noah had faith “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” the bible also says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”- John 6:44
        You would have to take out the entire Romans 9 chapter to believe the way you believe

        • Brandon

          February 3, 2015

          Post a Reply

          The choosing of Jacob didn’t mean Esau was damned. God never said in Genesis the reason He didn’tchoose Esau is because He hated him. God never said He hated Esau until Book of Malachi, which is after the Edomites had regularly attacked the Israelites. Esau is the federal head of the Edomites, just like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were federal heads of Israel. If Esau had followed the commands that God gave the Israelites, yes he could have been saved.

          So you are very comfortable with a God that just hates base on nothing the human did, but because He chooses to hate? That in no way bothers you? While the same God commands you to love your enemy and pray for them.

          I don’t understand what Noah’s faith has to do with anything here. Generally, those who are righteous, have faith in God. He was a righteous man and he heeded to the warnings of God. Okay?

          Yea, no one can come unless drawn, but it doesn’t say all we are drawn comes. It’s like saying all squares are quadrilateral but are all quadrilaterals squares? All who come must be drawn, but do all who are drawn come?

          Nah, I am fine with Romans 9 but have you ever read Romans 10 and 11?

          • Psk6565

            March 2, 2015

            Can man obey God by repenting and believing in Christ in by the power of His flesh? (Apart from being made a new creature)

          • Jonathan James Rychart

            March 6, 2015

            Nobody believes that except for ACTUAL pelagians. (and not just the straw man that calvinists refer to all non-calvinists as)

          • Brandon

            March 9, 2015

            No man can believed in God by the power of his flesh but I also do not believe that God irresistibly makes man believe either. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” I believe God does draw but He doesn’t do so irresistibly.

  5. Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

    February 5, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Regarding our “wants” impasse :), I think the big difference is that I don’t think God could avoid the possibility of damnation given the world he wanted (I find foreknowledge irrelevant here as it does come, logically speaking, after God’s decision to create…how do I explain that temporally…I don’t 🙂 ). You do think God could avoid damnation, I would assume. After all, God displays his wrath at the crucifixion…why would he need the eternal damnation of human beings to display it? That’s child’s play compared to Golgotha…and yet, God chooses it.

    • DeWarrior

      February 5, 2015

      Post a Reply

      “Given the world he wanted” is pretty big, though – I would say “wants” – actually, “wills” – not “wanted” and agree with you. Also, as I pointed out in my last post, you’re now saying that God “wants” a world where damnation is inevitable … :).

      I do believe that God has the power to avoid the possibility of damnation, but I agree that due to his nature (also reflected in the nature of his creation and the free will he gave to his creation), he does not. I term that as God’s choice (not to exert His power in that way), or his ordination, or his will. You seem to leave it as “fate” – he set it in motion, and now has to let it happen … despite having the ability to intervene, as he has done to give some the possibility of salvation.

      • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

        February 5, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Well now we’re wrestling over how to frame this. I’ll leave it to others to decide which framing is more compelling.

        And as to God’s intervention, I don’t think it’s all or nothing. I think God is involved in more ways than we could ever begin to comprehend, relentlessly reaching out to every human (not just a few). I’m not much interested with quantifying the mechanics of this. God sets a world of free will in motion but the idea that he then abandons it to fate is a far cry from what classical theism believes. I’d argue basically the exact opposite, with the crucifixion being the best example of the lengths to which God will “intervene.”

        • DeWarrior

          February 5, 2015

          Post a Reply

          Thank you for the thought-provoking discussion! I largely agree with some of the fundamentals you’re bringing forward, I really don’t see the conflict as being quite as sharp as you do (ie, that Calvinistic theology robs classical theism of its beauty), I see it more as digging into the mechanics just a little bit deeper and bringing the beauty into a tighter focus. I agree that his intervention is real, and also keep bringing up the crucifixion to show it, but I also think his non-intervention is just as real and also part of his “will” in a fairly strong sense of the word (in that God is divine and thus “intends” the consequences of both intervention and non). I agree that the call to repent and be saved and then remade relentlessly reaches out to every human. And I think you’ll probably agree that I’ve stated my disagreements often enough in this thread that I’ll leave it here … 🙂

      • Brandon

        February 5, 2015

        Post a Reply

        Exactly what kind of freewill did God give to His creation according to you?

  6. Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

    February 5, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Good thoughts here Doug and thanks for the kind words!

    As to June, who knows? I’ve been preoccupied with a new baby so anything else has been difficult.

    Blessings

  7. Mackman

    February 5, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Look up “Simple Foreknowledge.” You likely won’t agree with it, but it does take care of some of the difficulties you’re bringing up. In a nutshell, SF is the belief that “before” God made the decision to create humanity, there was simply nothing to be known about humanity: We didn’t exist, we weren’t real, and God doesn’t know about non-real things (for the same reason that God doesn’t know the color of next Friday, or where the leprechaun’s gold is). SF states that it was only “after” God made the decision to create, that he then knew the course of human history.

    You likely won’t find this compelling, but many do.

    For the rest: I don’t think you can rightly call yourself Calvinist, if you deny that it is Good that the reprobate are damned. I don’t think you can rightly call yourself a Calvinist if you want to say that God merely “allows” sin to happen, without “causing” it to happen. It’s not just that God (in your words) doesn’t step in and stop it….it’s that he directly causes and decrees it.

    From Calvin himself:

    ” “As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will.” (“Institutes,” 1.17.1). He’s not saying that in the case of murders and thefts, God merely declines to intervene…he’s saying that those things happen BECAUSE of an interposition of divine will. Those things happen because God DOES exert his will to CAUSE it to happen, not because he doesn’t prevent it.

    That’s Calvinism, and what’s more, it’s the only kind of Calvinism that is consistent. And by the way, that’s why Austin is so insistent that “want” is the right term…what else would you say about the thing that God specifically acts to bring about? Do you want to say that God “interposes his divine will” to bring about things he DOESN’T want? Is he schizophrenic? Is he fighting against himself? (Mark 3:24-25). God “allows” nothing: God causes all, with a direct and purposeful action of his will to bring it to pass. And after all of that, to say that is not what God “wants”…then your words have lost all meaning.

    One more quote from Calvin, that does a pretty good job of demonstrating how far God will go to get that sweet, sweet damnation: “Experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected by almost the same feeling as the elect. so that even in their own judgment they do not in any way differ from the Elect… because the Lord, to render them more convicted and inexcusable,steals into their minds to the extent that his goodness may be tasted without the Spirit of Adoption” (3.2.11).”

    Do you see that? God wants to damn people so badly that he will ACTUALLY MAKE THEM BELIEVE THAT THEY’RE CHRISTIANS, before taking the grace away again so that he can “render them more convicted and inexcusable.”

    You say that you’re “happily” Calvinist. I assert that the only way you can continue to be so is to reject the necessary consequences of Calvinism. But if you can look at that above quote, and say “Yes. That’s the Jesus I believe in. The Jesus who tricks people, who gives them grace only to take it away, who makes the blind see only to render them blind again, who makes the lame walk only to drop them back to the ground…that’s MY Jesus.”…if you can say that, then I would say that you believe in a different God than I do, and not the God of the Bible.

    • Well, he already admitted that in Calvinism God can only foreknow because He first decrees. So in that scheme God’s foreknowledge is based on His decree and the fact that God will infallibly bring about all that He decrees. In that case the only way God can foreknow sin, evil desires and intentions, the most heinous acts imaginable, and every wicked thing that will ever be done in the universe is because He will infallibly bring all of those things about in accordance with an unchangeable and irresistible eternal decree. The one who sins has no power to do otherwise and when he sins he is acting in perfect conformity with God’s irresistible eternal decree. He can more resist God’s eternal decree as he can make God cease to exist. And then God punishes His creatures for acting just as He irresistibly decreed for them to act. And this is “beautiful” and somehow magnifies His glory. What!!??

    • DeWarrior

      February 5, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Even Simple Foreknowledge doesn’t imply inability to intervene at a later point though. In fact, we know he can, because of Jesus … who wouldn’t have been necessary until God had foreknowledge of the evil the human race would fall into. So, in your framework, God had the power to intervene, but did not do so in such a way as to avoid all damnation … but you can’t explain that in terms of foreknowledge. Instead, you explain it in terms of “free will”, and yet, (I think), you believe that God was a necessary component in every individual’s coming to faith – so why did he pick those and not those who would be damned? Foreknowledge just doesn’t cut it when it comes to election/non, so far as I’ve been able to figure.

      For the rest … your understanding of Calvinism is not very Calvinist, which is no surprise. Your judgment of Calvinists is pretty stereotypical of how Calvinists are supposed to think (“you believe in a different God than I do, and not the God of the Bible”) – and is not likely to make me read your post with a lot of charity. I’ll try my best though.

      For a pretty good dig into the Institutes 1.17.1 (and similar passages), see Derek’s response to Rachel Held Evans in the comments here http://derekzrishmawy.com/2014/02/20/a-very-brief-gospel-centered-defense-against-the-problem-of-evil/. Basically, God declining to act is not like me declining to act and saying “well, I’ll let what happens happen and at least I didn’t cause it” – if God knows all (and whether we have free will or not, we’re pretty predictable), then when he declines to act, it’s an active permission to choose that the consequences of that will happen. That does not take responsibility away from the thief/rapist/murderer. But it does all fit into the divine plan. God actively allowing (ordaining) murder in this way does not make him schizophrenic any more than him creating a human and putting him in a position to murder someone (which you will acknowledge he did, see Judas) when he hates murder does. Anyways, read the post there if you want more …

      In the passage from 3.2.11, Calvin is discussing how you can’t judge someone based on appearances. Some people will come to your church, be active, great people, and go on to die as a fervent “new atheist”. Calvin is again asserting that God was in control throughout such a process – and that the person himself is even more responsible for their end state due to the path they took. You would probably explain this as all happening outside the will of God by man’s own free will, but you’re looking at them as exclusive either/or things, whereas I’m looking at them as both/and.

      So yes, I’m happily “Calvinist” – not that I think he got everything right, but that my understanding of God and scripture largely matches that framework. I see God as being in charge, even of all the evil that’s happening in the world today. It does not happen outside his power, and he will bring it to a close in just the way that he has planned. Those who do the evil (by their choice) will find that what they intended for evil, God has used for good. That’s both my faith and my comfort.

      • Mackman

        February 5, 2015

        Post a Reply

        It’s…it’s like you didn’t even read what I said…

        So, in your view, who gave the rapist his rapey will and intentions? Who imbued that nature into him? Who gave the murderer his murderousness? Who gave the thief his kleptomania? And if you don’t want to use the “give” language, then what is responsible for those things? How did those things come to be? And when you list off the secondary causes, ask yourself: What caused those secondary causes to be?

        If your answer is anything other than “God so created the universe as to irresistibly bring those things to pass,” then we’re done here, because you’re working with an incorrect view of Calvinism.

        And holy crap, did you miss the point of the second quotation.Leave free will out of it. Do you REALLY think it’s totally fine for God to give someone grace, and to deliberately make them THINK they’re elect, for the sole purpose of rendering them more damnable? Is that the God you serve? Do you serve a God who lifts a spiritually lame man up and then lets him fall again? Who gives the blind sight, but only so that they can be held more blameworthy for going blind again?

        I don’t understand how you can shrug off that passage. I don’t understand how you can look at that and think, “Yeah, that was a really loving action there. He totally pretended to save that guy for a while, and that was super great.”

    • James M

      June 7, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Did God want, desire, & intend the Shoah ? The Calvinist God is difficult to distinguish from the devil, except that the Calvinist God is All-Powerful.

      “Do you see that? God wants to damn people so badly that he will ACTUALLY MAKE THEM BELIEVE THAT THEY’RE CHRISTIANS, before taking the grace away again so that he can “render them more convicted and inexcusable.””

      ## That is worthy of the devil – it is not worthy of “the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, whom we “see” by “seeing” Christ. Logically, why should the Reformers not have been self-deceived ? That they had assurance, proves nothing – maybe they were under a “strong delusion” to believe as they did, as per 2 Thessalonians 2. The logic of reprobation has to include the possibility that they were reprobate, if the doctrine is to be anything more than a device for protecting one’s own theology. If it is nothing but a weapon against Papists, Arminians, Socinians & atheists, & does not also apply with equal force to the Reformers & their heirs, then it is worthless as Christian theology.

      Calvinism universalises Gen.6.5, and misuses it to deny that man’s moral sense is of any value. But this is not only bad exegesis; it is also intellectual & moral suicide – for it makes obedience to God impossible, since we cannot choose the good we are commanded to choose, if good could conceivably mean what, using our moral sense, we might judge to be evil. We might, sinfully, regard genocide as an abomination – while genocide might be exceedingly pleasing to God. And there is no lack of passages in the Bible that gives exactly that impression. ISIS is repulsive & vile – but is it any more so than some of the barbarities in the OT that are presented as God’s Will ?

      It is because of such chapters that the Bible cannot possibly the final judge of all matters of controversy in religion that the Reformation makes of it. It is not a text-book of systematic theology – so those who adhere to “the Bible Alone” are self-condemned to disagree with each other. The Book of Amos is meaningless if Israel & the nations did not share a moral sense applicable to all those nations – IOW, a moral sense not derived from the Bible alone, but from natural theology (to give it an anachronistic name). That something is in the Bible does not make it good or true, even if it is presented as God’s Will; that something is not in the Bible, does not make it bad or false, even if it is from a non-Christian source.

      The Bible is a poor guide to – say – the ethics of the debates over abortion, the death penalty, economics, & much else. Conversely, it was not very Biblical of Calvinism to permit the taking of oaths – Jesus & St.James both forbid them.

  8. Brandon

    February 5, 2015

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    I don’t know how you define sovereign but lack of meticulous determination does not mean being “less” sovereign. I know as a Calvinist, you have to hold on to that definition because without that, the Calvinist’s theology crumbles. You said, “God decides to let people do as they desire”, well that sounds like freewill which I know Calvinist obviously like to mix in, but then comes the question: Who determines the desire that God decides to let people act on?

    How small you think of God, in that without meticulous determination, He is not in control. Again I ask, how is that different from humans? If I meticulously determine a future event, does that make me “sovereign” equal to God’s sovereignty? God is ALWAYS in control of all events with or without our cooperation. That He lets things happen that He would otherwise not have happen does not constitute to lack of control on His side.

    Well if you believe in meticulous determination, God did not foresee the wickedness of man, God planned and executed His plan which made man wicked. I don’t understand this dance around Calvinists do here. If you believe EVERYTHING that happens is determined, ordained, decreed, etc. by God, then for the life of me, how does man “pursues his desires freely”? I thought the whole concept of meticulous determination is that GOD DETERMINES EVERYTHING.

  9. doug

    February 20, 2015

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    Calvinism is divine lottery…..if your number is picked your in. Sick!!

  10. Psk6565

    March 2, 2015

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    Can you explain why He wouldn’t have patience with the reprobate if Calvinism is true?

  11. Br.d

    March 21, 2015

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    Thank you so much Austin for taking your stand: “buying the truth, and selling it not”.
    Jesus teaches that no man can have two masters.
    A conflict of interest between the two is absolutely inevitable.
    When God said “Love your NEIGHBOR as yourself”, He assigned specific definitions to each word.
    The Theologian who tempts Jesus in Luke 10 shows us a biblical example of the “two masters” conflict.
    The Theologian wears the *beautiful mask* of one who is *desiring God* and scripture.
    But the text conflicts with his other master, to which he must tenaciously hold.
    The loving Holy Spirit, through the text, shows us the warning signs of a theologian in this condition.
    His primary tools will *ALWAYS* be WORD-TRICKERY.
    Affirming “A” and then denying “A”, equivocations, amphibolies and word-hijacking (ADHOC definitions).
    He becomes a magician… an expert at manipulating language, logic, scripture, and starry-eyed followers.
    Jesus, *so beautiful* chooses the potency of a simple child-like story (The good Samaritan).
    I think Jesus must pity this theologian, and all of the members of his self-applauding guild.
    Elitism, cloaked in an ingenious facade of religious beauty, is his true master.
    Unrelenting, it stands over him with a whip, and he its bruised slave.
    He is ensnared by it, and all who blindly follow him, fall into the same ditch.
    God grant them mercy, as He has granted you!
    Blessings Austin!
    God keep you walking in the light, and in the *TRUE* beauty of Jesus our Lord. :-]

  12. Ross Purdy

    April 11, 2015

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    I have a friend who was not calvinistic at all but came to embrace universal reconciliation. He now sees God as determining all things as do calvinists but can’t accept a God that would allow anyone to “suffer endless torture.” So since God loves the whole world and wants to see all men saved, somehow that is what a loving calvinistic God is going to do!

  13. Findo

    August 29, 2015

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    Interesting perspective.. a fresh one! I’m not sure I’d run with it as definitively as you though.. my initial thought is that it leads fairly inevitably to universalism, as the other classically orthodox non-calvinistic framework also has a God who pours out his wrath on sinners. And there’s always the danger of underestimating humanity’s deserving of it. God’s love is so gloriously beautiful because we are undeserving of it. I mean, is there ever a way to say that punitive justice is beautiful, even if we can say that it is right?

    I’m calvinistic, in the sense that much of my soteorology is monergistic, but having never actually read Calvin, and not being entirely comfortable with the reductionism of acronyms (nor agreeing with them entirely!) I wouldn’t necessarily choose the ‘calvinist’ label as such.. but I did go through a YRR phase too. A while back I came to realisation that whenever Paul talks about predestination and election he’s doing so not in an abstract systematic theology way, but in a pastoral context of encouraging believers to persevere. So I think we can get into trouble when we try and take what he wrote and ask questions of it that he wasn’t answering (like, what about non-elect?) instead, I think we’re supposed to read those passages and marvel at what God has done for us, his church, at every step of the way.

  14. Joe Retief

    September 16, 2015

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    Yes. Here where I live in South Africa most Afrikaners are Reformed. But there is a inner inferiority and bankruptcy to Calvinistic spirituality, that is why so many Reformed ministers over here are turning rather to ancient Catholic contemplative practices. There is NO beauty in the Reformed churches over here – it’s all focused on the rational. I believe Calvin was a heretic with his ultra-election doctrine. He also had many people who disagreed with his way of thinking killed or burned at the stake in Geneva, especially Catholics. Did you also know that Calvin had absolutely NO theological qualification – he was a total layman! Let the New Calvinists put that in their pipe and smoke it! If you are looking for beauty in Christianity, there is no secret as where to find it – you can find it in the liturgical churches, Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholic, and East-Orthodox churches – even Lutheran. They have not tried to reinvent the wheel, but have kept the beautiful ancient spiritual practices alive through the centuries.

    • Kirsty

      September 29, 2015

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      The apostles Peter & John also were laymen with no theological qualifications (as was Jesus, although obviously he’s different!)
      I don’t agree with Calvinism, but Calvin’s theological training is neither here nor there.

      • Joe Retief

        September 29, 2015

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        I totally agree with you. All I am saying is for someone who is so slavishly followed by professional theologians today, he didn’t have good credentials. I love Luther – at least Luther was a professor and doctor of theology. I mean I’d trust someone like that more 🙂

  15. Norm

    July 15, 2017

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    Sounds like the teachings of Calvinist say and believe that God is the author of sin? That’s blasphemy to say that He is!!

  16. Lottie Shaw

    July 24, 2017

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    Hi, my name is Lottie and I have been doing a lot of research into Calvinism, mainly, at first, because so many of my friends are Reformed. At one point, I would have almost called myself Reformed as well, until I really started looking into it. And I am endeavoring to write my own blog post about it for my blog, and currently doing some research, which is how I came across your blog. But I was wondering if you are going to write more on the subject. Your post feels like to stops just before you delve into the good stuff. 🙂 I would love to hear you go into the specifics a bit more.

  17. br.d

    September 3, 2017

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    Calvinism sociologically, has its own bell-curve, in regard to how rigidly each Calvinist adheres to the core proposition that god, millennia in the past, decreed *ALL* things (without exception) which will come to pass. Which would obviously include every neurological impulse that would ever “come to pass” in your brain.

    Since we understand man does not have the power to alter the past, it follows, in this view, that our every neurological impulse, having been determined in the past, will occur as our one unique future, fixed before we are born – and thus our unavoidable fate.

    But like I said, in the bell-curve of determinism within the Calvinist fold, you have the average Calvinist fixing himself somewhere on the middle of the bell-curve of determinism at a location where he can deal with it emotionally. He chooses to believe god determines all things but not in such a way that god determines all things. In know – that’s double-think – but the it works for them. And if one is focused on increasing the size of the herd and maximizing recruitment – its the preferred advertising tactic.

    Then you have the few Calvinists at the top of the bell curve who absolutely will not compromise on god determining *ALL* things and making our every neurological impulse fixed in the past as inevitable. And these have no emotional issues calling god the author of evil. But you won’t find those Calvinists debating on internet blogs because for them if you don’t believe what they believe, then god millennia in the past, didn’t decree you to believe it. So why play games with god’s will.

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