Questions for Calvinists

Here are some questions for Calvinists.  Most of these have to do with God’s character.  These are genuine questions that I haven’t heard good answers for, and help explain why I’m not a Calvinist.  You’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of questions about “free will”, as I don’t care about it except to the extent that it is used to protect God’s character.  Answers from my Reformed brothers are welcome.  Don’t  feel obligated to answer them all.

If sovereignty means that God freely and unchangeably ordains whatsoever comes to pass, why does evil exist?

Where did evil first come from?  Did it in any way originate from God?

Does God love everyone in a meaningful sense?

In what sense does God love those whom he deliberately withholds grace from?

Is God sincere?

If God’s hidden will sometimes conflicts with his revealed will, how can you trust what he says?

Does God have an intrinsic sense of morality and character that guides his decision making?  Is it meaningful to us?

If “Irresistable grace” is true, why doesn’t God save everyone?

Was God’s justice fully manifested at the cross?  Doesn’t it minimize Jesus’ death to argue that reprobation is necessary to show God’s justice?

I hope that everyone goes to heaven, Does this mean I love more than God does?

Does it trouble you that God deliberately leaves most people in a state of inability, and that their damnation is unavoidable?

Historically, areas with Caucasians have been more Christian.  If Unconditional Election is true, why does God show an apparent  preference for Caucasians?

Do you ever doubt that you are elect?  How do you know whether God wants you to be saved or not?

Why did God choose you?

How do you avoid feeling proud that God loves you and not someone else?

Why did God decree the holocaust?  How did it give him glory?

How does evangelism make a difference?

The devil wants all to go to hell.  God wants most to go to hell.  How can you tell the difference between God and the devil?

Ezekiel 18:23 If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and wants them to turn and live, why is reprobation necessary or even possible in the Calvinist system?

Matthew 23:37 Why didn’t Jesus gather up everyone in Jerusalem when he longed to?

Mark 10:21-22 If Jesus loved the rich young ruler, why wasn’t he saved?

John 3:16 If God loves the world and irresistible grace is true, doesn’t that mean everyone will be saved?

Romans 11:32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.  Who does all refer to in this verse?  Is the first all used in a different sense than the second all?

1 Timothy 1:18,19 What does it mean to shipwreck one’s faith?

1 Timothy 2:3-4 If God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, how is hell possible?

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  How can “whole world” mean anything else other than whole world?

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73 Comments

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73 responses to “Questions for Calvinists

  1. Finding time to answer 32 questions is probably beyond most of us. What question do you think is your strongest one? And why?

  2. Hi Colin, thanks for stopping by. How about the first one? That’s the one that probably troubles me the most. If God freely and unchangeably ordains whatsoever comes to pass, why does evil exist? Assuming God is good?

  3. I kind of thought Kevin was leaving it open to Calvinists to address the ones they want. He has now mentioned the one that he thinks is the most troubling for Calvinists, but there are many troubling ones on the list.

    Another thought: it would be interesdting to know what Calvinists think are the strongest ones.

  4. Hi Kevin,

    From what I can glean from the Scripture, I guess the best answer that I can give is that evil came into existence to play a part in the all wise, holy and good Plan which God has the Universe.

    I come to this conclusion on the following (basic) Christian principles:

    1) That God Himself is all wise and all holy and all good (etc).

    2) That whatever God does, He always planned to do i.e. He does with purpose.

    3) He cannot purpose anything contrary to Himself.

    4) As Omniscient, He certainly knew all about sin and the havoc and misery and pain and death it would leave in its wake.

    5) As Almighty, he could certainly have prevented sin from coming into being.

    6) Yet He allowed (or planned to allow if you want to stretch it out) sin to enter in.

    7) Whatever God does is for His own glory.

    8) Ultimately, there is “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.” (Proverbs 21:30)

    9) God often uses the wickedness of the creature to further his own holy ends.

    I must observe also:

    1) All the details on this matter have not been revealed in Scripture – we can only work on what has been revealed.
    2) The whole plan has not yet been played out – we will know more in a future day in a better country than we can ever hope to know here at this time.

    If I have stated anything here that no Bible Christian, of whatever school (i.e. Calvinist or Arminian) cannot endorse, please point it out to me.

    Regards,

    • Colin, Thanks for well thought reply. I can agree with most of your points (with perhaps some clarification) however, I would disagree that #6 is viable for Calvinism. “Allowing” or “planning to allow” suggests that God permits things to take place that he does not prefer. That seems inconsistent with the idea of God ordaining everything. Or put differently, allowing/permitting is the Arminian explanation for evil, and it’s different than causing/ordaining.

  5. Jordan Ferrier

    Colin,
    Your point #5 is what Bible believing Christians would disagree with.
    Augustine and Calvin teach that God could have stopped Adam from sinning and calls this the beginning of our faith. R. C. Sproul agrees with A & C, and points out that the belief that God could have stopped A&E from sinning is a philosophical assumption. Scripture does not teach that God could have stopped A&E from sinning. Instead, Gen 2:16 & 17, says that God gave A&E freedom to eat from any tree and then prohibited A&E from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    For God to have stopped A&E from eating from the forbidden tree would have made God a liar — since he gave them the freedom to eat from the tree and then stopped them from doing so. OR God would be doing something logically contradictory–giving A&E freedom to eat from the forbidden tree and then withholding that freedom from them at the same time.
    Since Arminius also agreed with Augustine, Calvin, and Sproul, the question that needs to be answered is: How could God have stopped A&E from eating from a tree He gave them the freedom to eat from without being a liar or doing what is logically contradictory.

    Calvin answered the question this way: he said it is beyond his ability to comprehend. By Calvin’s own admission, Scripture does not say that God could have stopped A&E from sinning.

    One of the questions posed was: If God’s hidden will sometimes conflicts with his revealed will, how can you trust what he says?
    God’s revealed will was that A&E not eat from the tree. When you say that God “permitted” A&E to eat the fruit you are saying that God permitted the fall to happen by His permissive will, that is was the will of God that A&E sin (since He could have stopped them). This makes it the permitted fruit instead of the forbidden fruit.
    In “The Potters Freedom” James White comments on Acts 17:30 where God commands all people everywhere to repent, saying that this is the revealed will of God, not the decreeing will of God. In Gen 2:16&17, the revealed will of God was that A&E not eat from the tree, but the real will of God was that A&E did eat from the tree.
    As pointed out, this throws suspicion on anything God said in Scripture. Any of His promises may just be His revealed will, not His real will.
    According to Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, and R. C. Sproul: God could have stopped A&E from sinning, A&E sinned by God’s permissive will, therefore it was the will of God that A&E sin, hence God willed evil to happen.
    In reformed theology (Calvinism and Arminianism):
    The will of God is correct: what God wills to happen is correct.
    The will of God is good: what God wills to happen is good
    Adam and Eve had free will.
    The fall was evil.
    The fall happened according to God’s decreeing, ordaining, and permissive will.
    Since God could have stopped A&E from sinning: The fall (evil) was the will of God.
    Which is where ‘God wills evil to happen’ comes from.

    Some simple grade school math exposes the problem with this view.
    Where
    A = B
    and
    A = C
    Then
    B = C

    A = B
    God wills evil

    A = C
    God wills correctly (and God’s will is good)

    B = C
    Evil is correct and Evil is good

    Reason demands an answer: Once you affirm the false principle, you must go where that principle leads: The simplest explanation is that Reformed Theology is incorrect since it dishonors God and contradicts Scripture: 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” (ESV)

    If anyone that reads this post would like any assertion that I have made to be supported by quotes from the persons cited, you are free to email me at: classicaltheist@yahoo.com and I will be happy to supply the supporting quotes and source material.

    Jordan

    • Thanks for stopping by Jordan. “Free will” in Calvinism means that a person does whatever his strongest desire is. So the problem A&E present is that when they “freely” sinned it must have been because God created them in such a way where sin was their strongest desire.

      I don’t see a way to avoid making God the author of sin with that understanding of free will, although I recognize that Calvinists don’t actually state that God is the author of sin.

  6. Jordan Ferrier

    Kevin,
    Calvin recognized the problem of God willing A&E to sin, logically made God the author of sin. He spends quite a bit of time writing how God is not the author of sin: Calvin writes about himself that he “constantly declares aloud, throughout his writings, wherever sin is the subject of discussion, that the name of God is not to be mingled or mentioned with sin: because, nothing is consistent with the character of God, but rectitude and equity. How foul, then, is the calumny, to invovle a man (meaning Calvin), so long deserving well of the Church of God, in the crime of making God the author of sin! The object of this malicious calumny (meaning Calvin) does indeed affirm, throughout his publications, that nothing is done but by the will of God! But he at the same time asserts, that those things which are done wickedly by men, are so overruled by the secret counsel of God, that that counsel hath no connection whatever with the sinfulness of men. The sum of the doctrine of the thus reviled one is, that God, in wondrous ways, and in ways unknown to us, directs all things to the end that He wills; that His eternal will might be the first cause of all things. But why God wills that which may seem to us inconsistent with His nature, the reviled one (meaning Calvin) confesses to be incomprehensible!” (quoted from “A Bried Reply, Intended to Refute the Calumnies, of a Certain Worthless Person, By Which He Endeavoured to Pollute the Doctrine of The Eternal Predestination of God” by John Calvin)

    I agree with you that reformed theology makes God the author of sin. The problem for reformed theology is this:
    When God wills man to be saved, God is the author of salvation.
    When God wills man to sin (A&E in particular), God is not the author of sin.

    I have not read where Calvin states that A&E sinned because God created A&E with a desire to sin. I do read where Calvin and R. C. Sproul state that A&E were created with “Free Will” and had the ability to not sin (as well as the ability to sin).

    Which again, raises the same question for Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, and R. C. Sproul: How could God have stopped A&E from sinning without being a liar or doing what is logically contradictory (giving freedom to do something and withholding it at the same time).

    R. C. Sproul actually sums it up very nicely: For Christians to embrace two poles of a blatant contradiction is to commit intellectual suicide and slander the Holy Spirit (or in this case: slander God the Father).

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comments. :-)
    Jordan

  7. slw

    The issue with Adam and Eve must be an issue of the image of God. God could not stop them from sinning (doing as they wished rather than as God wished) without effacing his image in them. It is God’s will that humans will. It is his desire that they will as he wills.

  8. I am no intellectual genius, so please bear with me.

    It would seem as though your math equation is set up in a form of “Have you stopped beating your wife?” It’s also a modification of sorts of David Hume’s supposed reason(s) for denying Christianity.

    If we were to assume that God wills evil for a good purpose (e.g., the crucifixion), has He done anything not “good?” The crucifixion was the most evil act ever committed, IMHO. This act, though, was decreed by the Lord, when?

    Giving freedom to do something and withholding it at the same time is not contradictory. See the example of Abimelech in Gen. 20. He was free to have his way with Sarah but didn’t – why? The Lord prevented him from doing so. When Paul says the one whose mind is set on the flesh is hostile to God and does not obey His law – indeed, cannot obey – that person has freedom to obey but not the ability because it has been withheld. Jesus said in Matt. 11 that “these things” have not been revealed to the wise, etc., then tells “all” to come who are heavy laden.

    We have the issue of David’s census – who was responsible – God, David or Satan? The answer is “Yes.” David and Satan in a sinful way, God in a good way.

    The whole “author of sin” issue in a sense clouds the argument. Did God decree that Adam sin? Evidently. How did evil come into existence? The Scripture doesn’t say, does it? It does say it entered the earth through Satan but the origin is undisclosed. Did God decree the sin of those who crucified Christ? Yes. Did God decree the sin of the king of Assyria in Isaiah 10? Yes. Does God “send’ a lying spirit in 2 Thess 2? Yes.

    I don’t see how God decreeing evil acts makes Himself sinful. That may be a natural conclusion – but it’s not a biblical one.

    Thanks.

  9. Jordan Ferrier

    SLW,
    I am pretty sure we agree. :-)

    Jeff,
    I am not familiar with Hume’s argument.
    I understand the question: “when did you stop beating your wife” implies that you have been beating your wife; therefore it is logically falacious because it ‘begs the question’ by sneaking the conclusion (that you are beating your wife) into the premise (you may have stopped beating your wife. I am not sure how the equation I posted does the same. Reformed theology teaches that God wills evil and that what God wills is good; therefore, evil is good. It looks to me like you agree with this in your statements about the crucifixion. (To quote R. C. Sproul “To say that evil is good is a sin.”)

    The examples you cite of God stopping Abimelech (and others) from sinning are like comparing apples to bowling balls. Nowhere in scripture does God tell fallen man that any fallen man is free to sin whenever a fallen man chooses to do so. God can, and sometimes does, prevent or stop fallen men and women from sinning (see 2 Thess 2:7) The question is whether or not God could have stopped Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit when He explicitly told them they were free to do so, but should not.

    Augustine, Calvin, etc. all agree that sin entered the world through A&E’s “free will”. The point is that reformed theologians state that God could have stopped A&E from sinning, thus A&E sinned by the permissive will of God. Scripture and Reason do not agree with this. God did not ‘permit’ A&E to sin anymore than you or I ‘permitted’ the sun to rise this morning.

    If you can give me an example of something that I am free to do, but I do not have the ability to do it, that would be great. How am I free to do what I am unable to do? (For example, I am free to pick strawberries on the planet Jupiter, I am just unable to get to Jupiter. Then how am I free to pick the stawberries?)

    Again it is curious that you say that God is responsible for sin, yet God is not the author of sin.

    Instead of God ‘allowing’ or ‘permitting’ evil, God allows fallen men to choose. Without God working to help man do good, man will do evil all by himself. (see 2 Kings 6:17). This is why God gives some men over to a depraved mind. Jesus was crucified from the foundation of the world because it was necessary to bring about atonement and salavtion for man. To say that God willed A&E to sin and willed the crucifixion is to posit an Omnipotent Fiend. If an Omnipotent God could have stopped A&E from sinning –even though we don’t know how– then an Omnipotent God could forgive sinners without an Atonement (which is equally absurd). Scripture does not say that God willed the crucifixion, instead God had to forsake Jesus, and Jesus had to willingly allow Himself to be crucified.

    I realize that none of this will help the committed Calvinist but it is fun to try. :-)

    Thanks for your thoughts and questions. If you want to read C. S. Lewis “The Problem of Pain” as well as “Perelandra”, these issues are fairly well covered and explained. I will point out that if you are Reformed that the man that is possed by Satan in Perelandra is the character that argues for Reformed theology.

    Jordan

  10. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for your response. #6 (“Yet He allowed (or planned to allow if you want to stretch it out) sin to enter in”) is not inconsistent with Calvinism. We are faced with the fact that certain things happen which, as they stand (in and off themselves) are against the nature of God. For example, Cain murdered and Abel. We know that God certainly knew about it and certainly could have prevented it. He often intervened to prevent other murders from taking place – the life of David being the prime example. But He didn’t in this first occasion. Why did He allow this murder to go ahead?

    Answer: God is working out His great plan. He is not a purposeless God, content to meander His way through history as if He was dozily meandering on a punt up some English river. He hasn’t given us every detail of the plan, but He assures us that it is there and that in all points it is pure and holy and to His glory. We can even say that He wrote the murder of Abel by Cain into the plot. In that sense, we say that He ordained the event, because God isn’t writing the story line as He goes along.

    Why do we use the word “permit” rather than “command” then? Simple: God didn’t “command” Abel to do what he did. He didn’t move him to do it or cause him to do it or even encourage him to do it. The sin belongs to Abel – he was clearly responsible, accountable (“What hast thou done?”) and was duly and justly punished. All God did was channel Cain’s sin to His own glory. The sin was Cain’s, but God righteously took it and made it part of His story line.

    All Calvinists do is employ language that reflects the necessary difference between what God justly commands and what He doesn’t and couldn’t justly command. The whole argument seems to hinge on the word “ordain.” Clearly “ordaining” an event should never be read as authoring it, or necessitating it or in any way interfering with the freedom of the sinner to follow the dictates of his own heart.

    Regards,

    • Hi Colin,

      Arminians believe that God sovereignly decreed that man have the ability to have and make genuine choices. God’s purpose is not to meticulously control all events, rather his purpose is to have genuine relationships with people who freely respond to him. It’s important that you not mischaracterize Arminianism. Both A’s and C’s believe that God is purposeful. Arminians believe his purpose was relationship rather than control.

      Who made Cain? Who shaped his personality? Who determined which of his desires would be the strongest? If Calvinism is consistent, God did all of those things.

      It is a contradiction to state that man is responsible for what God has caused to take place. If God determines all events he becomes the author of sin. It’s irrelevant that God commands people not to sin, if he created them in such a way that their sin was certain. They sinned because sin was their strongest desire. God gave them that desire.

      Imagine that I program a robot to go in circles and then command him not to. If the robot goes in circles, is it my fault or his? I am culpable. My commands do not remove my culpabilty, because the robot is doing what I programmed it to and cannot do otherwise. My command is insincere.

  11. Jordan:

    Thank you for your comments as well.

    My point still holds i.e. “As Almighty, He could certainly have prevented sin from coming into being.” Initially, God did not have to set up any apparatus to allow sin any chance of coming into the world. He did so, knowing full well which way it would eventually work out.

    I think, if you want to be accurate, then you need to write into your mathematical equation something that allows for the fact that God can use sin to further His own ends and that He ordains it to come to pass, but at the same time neither authors, encourages, stimulates, incites or excites any one to engage in it.

    Regards,

  12. slw

    Colin,
    Why do we use the word “permit” rather than “command” then? Simple: God didn’t “command” Abel to do what he did. He didn’t move him to do it or cause him to do it or even encourage him to do it. The sin belongs to Abel – he was clearly responsible, accountable (“What hast thou done?”) and was duly and justly punished. All God did was channel Cain’s sin to His own glory. The sin was Cain’s, but God righteously took it and made it part of His story line.

    That sounds rather Arminian to me. In what way do you see this perspective as substantially differing from an Arminian explanation?

    I think, if you want to be accurate, then you need to write into your mathematical equation something that allows for the fact that God can use sin to further His own ends and that He ordains it to come to pass, but at the same time neither authors, encourages, stimulates, incites or excites any one to engage in it.

    That sounds inherently self-contradictory. It seems to me, “ordain” would have to be seen in a patently Arminian sense rather than a deterministic one for this to be true. IOW, ordain would mean God chose to actualize (ordain) a world he foresaw man willfully sinning.

  13. Hi slw,

    As far as I can discern the position that I have argued for above is entirely consistent with the Bible (the ultimate issue) and the Reformed Faith. I looked into this matter of God and the authorship of sin a few weeks ago and collated the following:http://bit.ly/cxDW1Q

    Regards,

  14. Jordan Ferrier

    Colin,
    Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    1. You wrote: “Clearly “ordaining” an event should never be read as authoring it, or necessitating it or in any way interfering with the freedom of the sinner to follow the dictates of his own heart.”

    The problem I have with your description of “ordaining” is that Calvinists believe that God ordained certain men to salvation which makes God the author of salvation. How is God the author of salvation by ordaining some men to salvation, while God is not the author of evil by ordaining evil to happen — specifically that A&E sin.

    2. You wrote: My point still holds i.e. “As Almighty, He could certainly have prevented sin from coming into being.” Initially, God did not have to set up any apparatus to allow sin any chance of coming into the world. He did so, knowing full well which way it would eventually work out.

    The first issue we agree on: God is perfect and did not need to create. God could have created the world without giving free will to A&E.

    We also agree on the second issue: that an Omniscient God knew that A&E would sin — neither of us are open theists! :-)

    Since you modified your original statement, It is the third issue that I do not see addressed in your latest post: According to Augustine, Calvin, and R. C Sproul, A&E were created with Free Will, specifically meaning having “the ability to sin, and the ability to not sin”. If you believe that God made A&E sin then they did not have the “ability to not sin”. If you believe that God could have stopped A&E from sinning then they did not have “the ability to sin”. My original question remains, after Gen 2:16 & 17, how could God have stopped A&E from sinning without being a liar or doing what is logically contradictory: giving freedom to eat the forbidden fruit and then withholding that freedom at the same time.

    Show me where in Scripture God made a promise to anyone and then broke His promise. He told A&E they were free to eat from any tree.
    God never told Abimelech that Abimelech was free to copulate with Sarah. It is a category mistake to compare God preventing Abimelech from doing something God had not told him that he was free to do, and then say that since God stopped Abimelech from sinning that He could have stopped A&E from sinning.

    I referred to the logical syllogism as a mathematical equation since that is what Jeff called it. The first two premises are quotes from reformed theologians. They are not my premises. The syllogism is not a form of the logical fallcy of pettio principii because the conclusion is not snuck into the premises. The premises are advocated by the defendant.

    For example: Judge: “Have you ever beat your wife?”
    Defendant: “Yes, but I don’t do that anymore.”
    Judge: “When did you stop beating your wife?”
    This is not logically fallacious because the defendant confessed to the premise that he had beat his wife in the past. The same holds true in the logical syllogism I posted. Unless you can tell me how to modify it (which is one of the questions I am asking: How?) It would be incorrect for me to modify it since it would not be an accurate representation of the philosophical assumptions of reformed theologians — that God could have stopped A&E from sinning post Gen 2:16 & 17. Since you continue to avoid answering the question, I conclude that you are not able to show how this philosophical assumption is supported by Scripture, which I agree is the ultimate issue: What Augustine and Calvin call “the very beginning of our faith” is not a belief that is consistent with Scripture.

    While I do not agree that God “ordains” evil to take place, what you are asking me to do in ‘modifying the equation’ is to embrace the position that C. S. Lewis has already cleary presented in multiple works, but specifically in “The Problem of Pain” and “Perelandra”. Most of what I have written comes from C. S. Lewis’ explanation of Scripture, it is only my own in that I modified it and typed it to fit our discussion. That the equation needs modifying implies that you agree that the Reformed and Arminian position on the fall is incorrect. :-)

    3. I also agree with SLW that your description of Cain’s sin is not a reformed description. You are actually embracing the Arminian and Classical Theist position with is described by C. S. Lewis in “Perelandra” Chapter Nine.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughtful questions and responses.

    Jordan

  15. Hi Jordan,

    Thanks for your response.

    God ordaining certain men to salvation does not, in itself, make God the author of salvation. God is the Author of salvation, He then chooses to ordain to experience it, whomsoever He will. The sin of A&E belongs solely to them and no one else. God ordained that they would be permitted to display *their sin* in the Garden of Eden.

    A lot of your argument, plus your conclusion that I am avoiding answering your question is based on your statement that God “told A&E they were free to eat from any tree.” However, God did no such thing. He told them that they were free to eat of any tree WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Therefore having forbidden them to partake of this particular tree upon the threat of death, He had every right to intervene to prevent the violation of His commandment, if He chose to do so. For holy, wise and ultimately glorious purposes He did not so intervene.

    Regarding Cain’s Sin (I see I have, inadvertently, in one place attributed it to Abel) I think that you would have to show me where the majority of Reformed men believe that God DID “command Abel to do what he did.” Where God DID “move him to do it or cause him to do it or even encourage him to do it.” Otherwise, I contend that my position is that of the Reformed Faith, If such should also coincide with any Arminian position, then well and good. It’s nice to have agreement where we can. If you are unable to show me where I am loggerheads with the majority of Reformed men, then you are not in position to say that I have broke with the Reformed faith in this matter.

    Regards,

  16. Oops! I have done it again with Cain and Abel. Although it is obvious which one I refer to when it comes to sin…

  17. Hi Kevin,

    You are making claims for Calvinism which it does not and would not make for itself. Then, having made these claims, you go about knocking them down. I must confess, I fail to see why you should think such activity is a profitable to Calvinists, Arminians or, indeed, anyone.

    To set the record straight:

    1) Calvinism believes that men have the ability to make genuine choices – they freely follow the dictates of their heart.
    2) There is no event outside God’s control.
    3) Calvinists believe in relationship with God.
    4) God made Cain.
    5) Anything good in Cain’s personality was due to the mercy of God.
    6) Anything wicked in Cain’s personality was due to sin – both original and actual.
    7) Where Cain did good things, he was enabled by the mercy of God to overcame his corruption.
    8) Where Cain did evil things, his corruption overcome God’s mercy in his life.
    9) God giving room to Cain to exercise his sin in a controlled manner (“determining”) cannot never be said that God caused it to take place – that is an unjustifiable quantum leap.
    10) If determining an event in the manner described is (as you say) God authoring sin, then God sinned at the Cross with the rest, because the Cross took place according to the determinate counsel of God. (Acts 4:28)
    11) God gives no man the desire to sin.
    12) Man is not a robot.
    13) God’s commands are sincere because He is sincere.
    14) Man’s sin in failing to keep to keep the commandments of God can never be charged to God.

    D.V., Tomorrow (3rd January) I will be away for a few days, so I might not be able to bring these discussions to a natural conclusion.

    Regards,

    • Hi Colin,

      I understand that the claims I made about Calvinism are not something that a Calvinist would accept. However, they are an inevitable result of determinism. If God ordains everything that happens, he becomes the author of sin.

      What you are describing in the 14 points is a good representation of Arminian theology. #11 is a point in particular we agree on. God gives no man the desire to sin. Perhaps we are in agreement while simply claiming different labels. Do you believe that Cain could have done something different than he actually did? If so, we are in agreement. This is what Arminians believe. Cain did not have to sin, he could have done otherwise. It was God’s preference that Cain not sin.

      The difference we may have (which hasn’t been fleshed out) is the definition of free will. Free will is the ability to have and make choices. Free will is not following the dictates of one’s heart. In the latter, a person cannot do other than what he does. That takes us back again to the robot analogy. The robot’s heart dictates that he go in circles. The robot is not culpable because he cannot do other than what he does. If free will is defined as such, God becomes the author of sin.

      God bless, Kevin

  18. Jordan Ferrier

    Colin:
    You wrote: However, God did no such thing. He told them that they were free to eat of any tree WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Therefore having forbidden them to partake of this particular tree upon the threat of death, He had every right to intervene to prevent the violation of His commandment, if He chose to do so. For holy, wise and ultimately glorious purposes He did not so intervene.

    This sentence in particular is very curious indeed: “He told them that they were free to eat of any tree WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.”
    So Adam and Eve were not free to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did not fall freely. God made them do it?

    Even Calvin disagrees with you: “Adam fell by his own full free will; and by his own willing act”. All of the Calvinists I have conversed with agree with C. S. Lewis (and Aquinas): “Not even Omnipotence can do what is logically contradictory”. The fact that neither Calvinists or Arminians can explain how God could have stopped A&E from sinning (post Gen 2:16 & 17) remains, and as evidenced by your responses, this does not keep you from believing it, not because Scripture teaches it, but because your theologians told you so. I appreciate your attempts to find a solution. If I am wrong, I certainly want you to correct me.

    Permit me to let John Calvin advise you on this matter: “How it was, that God, by His foreknowledge and decree, ordained what should take place in Adam; and yet, so ordained it, without His being Himself, in the least, a participator of the fault, or being at all the author or the approver of the transgression; how this was, I repeat, is a secret, manifestly far too deep to be penetrated by any stretch of human intellect. Herein, therefore, I am not ashamed to confess my utter ignorance.”

    Having had to endure typing Calvin, indulge me as I point out that I agree that Calvin was ignorant.

    Colin also wrote:
    13) God’s commands are sincere because He is sincere.

    God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree, but then willed A&E to eat from the tree.

    Calvin again: “Nothing, therefore, is done, but that which the Omnipotent willed to be done, either by permitting it to be done, or by doing it Himself.”

    If it was not God’s will that Adam eat from the tree, and His command to not eat from the tree was sincere, then why did God will Adam to eat from the tree?

    Can you explain Acts 17:30: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (ESV)
    Since you believe God is absolutely sovereign and his commands are sincere, does this mean that you believe in universalism, that every single person will be saved? Or is this another insincere command where His will is not what He has commanded?

    Colin:
    Regarding the two subjects of God being the author of salvation, and regarding Cain’s sin, you may be right, but I am still inclined to believe that you are straying onto the opposite side of the fence. I doubt it is something we can resolve in this setting. It would be fun to sit down together and discuss it. I appreciate you taking the time to explain it to me. I will definitely look up what Calvin wrote on the subject. I try to be very diligent in correctly explaining Calvinism.

    Regards,
    Jordan

  19. Hi Jordan?Kevin

    Thanks for your replies. Unfortunately, I am (as previously advertised) rushing to get ready to go away for a few days from home. My answers must be necessarily brief here:

    1) Can I, as a complete stranger, go into a room in a public building which says: “Strictly, no memembers of the public admitted.” ?

    Yes and no.

    No, because there is a sign that forbids me. Yes, in that all I have to do is push open the door and enter the room.

    Were A&E able to eat of every tree of the Garden?
    No – God said every tree except the tree of knowledge etc.,
    Yes – Physically they were able, in that they did it.

    2) The key to understanding how Calvinism says that no man sins outside the will of God is to see that nothing happens in the Universe outdid the control of God. He positively commands people to do good. He permits folk to sin. Where He permits folk to sin, He does so for holy ends. That might sound very Arminian to you. But it is also the basic Calvinistic position. I have yet to see you produce any Calvinistic evidence to the contrary – some Confession/Faith or prominent apologist etc.

    There is much more than needs to be said, but I really must leave it there.

    Thanks for engaging me,

    Colin.

  20. Jordan Ferrier

    Thank you Colin.
    A&E were not able to eat from the tree of knowledge and they were able to eat from the tree of knowledge.
    It was not God’s will that the fall happen and it was God’s will that the fall happen.
    It is God’s will that man sin and it is not God’s will that man sin.

    When the rules of logic do not apply, there is no reason to have a discussion. Anyone can babble nonsense like the statements above, I just object to you attributing such nonsense to God:
    C. S. Lewis: God’s “Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can’. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossiblities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power met an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

    Colin, I hope you enjoyed your trip. I am off to a desert in Texas for a couple of weeks. It has been my pleasure.

    Jordan

  21. Joe

    There’s only one question I am usually interested in:

    Why do Arminains always ask philophical questinos rather than wanting to exegete scripture?

    As a Calvinist, when asked why I am so, I don’t say “Well, because I just liek to talk about philosophy and think about unanswerable questions like the existence of evil”

    But rather I bust out my Bible and show verses like John 6:65, etc.

  22. Pingback: Questions for Calvinists « Orthodox Christian Faith

  23. Pingback: Questions for Calvinists | Society of Evangelical Arminians

  24. gzusfreke

    I hope you don’t mind if I crash the party. I’m no 5-pointer but I’m not an absolute free-willer either. I hope that what I am is Biblical.

    You posted: 1. If sovereignty means that God freely and unchangeably ordains whatsoever comes to pass, why does evil exist?

    In order to better understand the question and our positions on it, would it be fair to ask the following questions?

    Do you believe that anything that exists does so only because God allows it to exist or do you think that something can exist even though God doesn’t allow it to?

    How does Colossians 1:16 come into play regarding the existence of evil?

    If:
    -God has foreknowledge of every event that ever has happened,happens, or ever will happen and
    -God has power to prevent any event from happening and
    -God allows an event to happen

    could one say that “by default” God ordained that event to happen?

    Does God allow some events to happen passively or even in His “passivity” is He actually intentional?

    • Thanks for the questions Gzusfreke, I won’t have the time to reply today, but will try to get back to you in the next day or two. God bless.

    • Thanks for waiting Gzusfreke, I had a surgery yesterday, and was not feeling up to posting.

      The difference between Arminians and Calvinist here is that Arminians believe God permits evil, whereas Calvinists believe that God ordains evil (in fairness they would say that God ordains everything, but evil is not his fault).

      I think we are not too far apart. I too strive to be Biblical. I believe that God allow things that he does not prefer because of his desire for genuine relationship. God wants a people who freely love him and serve him. The only way he can accomplish that is by allowing us to make genuine moral choices.

      God exhaustively knows the future, this Arminians and Calvinists agree on. However, Calvinists believe God knows the future because he ordained/caused it. Arminians believe God knows the future because he knows what we will do. Our doing is the cause of his knowing. This is a logical order, not a temporal one, because God is timeless.

      Given that view of foreknowledge, God could only prevent evil by destroying creation. He could not prevent it by using coercion. because he wants us to make moral choices. He does not want to destroy creation (Matthew 13:24-30) and therefore permits evil for the greater purposes of relationship and giving us time to repent (2 Peter 3:9)

      Arminians believe that God is purposeful in allowing evil as described above. He permits evil for the purpose of relationship.

      AW Tozer said it like this: “God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.”

      • gzusfreke

        Kevin, I pray that you have a speedy recovery.

        Although I am not a 5-pointer, I do have Reformed tendencies. One of the things that attracts me to Reformed theology is that, in my humble opinion, they have a “higher” view of God. Their God is much bigger and amazing than the God of the Arminian view. You said “He permits evil for the purpose of relationship.” Reformed thinkers, at least the ones I’ve read or listened to, believe God permits evil for the purpose of manifesting His supreme glory. The focus of Arminian view, again IMHO, is man. It is humanistic to a degree. The focus of Calvinism and Reformed theology is God. I am a TUUP – Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Unlimited Atonement, and Perseverance of the Saints.

        I believe that God, existing outside of eternity, sees time/history/present/future in a way that we can’t understand in our finite minds. He knows how an number of infinite time lines play out. Throughout the OT, God is given credit for changing men’s hearts and causing certain circumstances. We have free will, but it is free will within God’s sovereignty. Much like a toddler in a play pen. That toddler can play anywhere in that play pen with anything in the play pen. But God put the toddler there, God built the play pen, God placed toys or removed toys. God is the one with ultimate control. He is not unjust or evil for making the parameters. If He coerces or coaxes or influences our free-will choices in any way, we can not charge Him with being unjust.

      • Gzusfreke,

        I strongly encourage you to read some work written by Arminians. A good one is Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities, by Roger Olson. He addresses both of the myths you present here – that Arminians don’t believe in sovereignty, and that Arminianism is human centered. These are both false. If you didn’t already, please check out my post here that explains the differing concepts of sovereignty between Calvinism and Arminianism.

        In reality, Calvinism diminishes the glory of God. First it does do by stating that God creates creatures in his image and does not provide for them. The majority of mankind is left in a sinful state, and no means for salvation is provided. If irresistible grace is true, God could save everyone, but instead he leaves most unable to repent, and then damns them for something they couldn’t do otherwise. And this has been ordained for all eternity past. I fail to see how this is glorifying for God.

        Calvinism also diminishes the cross. It argues that reporobation is necessary to show God’s justice. This minimizes Jesus death. Arminians believe that God’s justice and wrath was fully manifested at the cross. Calvinism says the cross wasn’t enough, God still needs to damn in order to get glory. In Arminianism, everyone is provided for, hell is not necessary, and people only go there because they reject Jesus’ provision for them.

        In Calvinism, God is too week to give us genuine moral freedom. The only way he maintains control is by causing everything that happens. Arminians believe that God is big enough to permit us to have and make choices. By holding to an unbiblical view of sovereignty, Calvininsts unwittingly diminish God’s glory, and (inadvertently) destroy his good character.

        Again, I really encourage you to read some non-Calvinistic literature to get a more balanced view of what Arminians believe. Here are a couple of good resources that are free online.

        The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Tozer Definitely read this one, as it addresses some of your misconceptions. Also, Tozer considered himself Non-Calvinist, but not Arminian. So you may find him more to your liking.

        Predestination Calmly Considered, John Wesley

        God bless,
        Kevin

    • Also as a side note, here are a couple of posts you might find useful regarding the Arminian understanding of free will.

      God’s sovereignty and man’s Free Will (my blog)

      Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge? – Thomas Ralston (Arminians.org)

      • gzusfreke

        Kevin,

        the way I perceive what you and other Arminians say about Arminianism and the Bible is why I say that Arminianism is man-centric and has a low view of God. I’m not sure that reading any more articles will change my opinion unless the articles differ in what they say from what you and other Arminians I know say.

        As for saying that my opinion is “myth”, the burden of proof is on you to prove that it is a myth.

        Kevin – “In reality, Calvinism diminishes the glory of God. First it does do by stating that God creates creatures in his image and does not provide for them. The majority of mankind is left in a sinful state, and no means for salvation is provided. ”

        Filter what you said in light of Romans 1. All men have a knowledge of God but pervert it and reject God. God put His law on their hearts. Before Jesus, all men were condemned for their rejection of God. According to the Arminian view, what provision for salvation did God make for mankind outside of the Jewish nation from Abraham forward?

        Kevin – “If irresistible grace is true, God could save everyone, but instead he leaves most unable to repent, and then damns them for something they couldn’t do otherwise. And this has been ordained for all eternity past. I fail to see how this is glorifying for God.”

        Man should be in awe and reverence not that God saves some but that He saves ANY. He should get infinite glory if He did not save any because He is still God and is the only one worthy of such praise.

        Kevin – “Arminians believe that God’s justice and wrath was fully manifested at the cross.”

        Have you read Revelation? Will there not be more justice and wrath dispensed at Christ’s Second Coming?

        Kevin – “Calvinism says the cross wasn’t enough, God still needs to damn in order to get glory. ”

        The way I understand Calvinism, Calvinists say that God deserves glory even when someone is damned but have never understood Calvinism to say that God “needs to damn people in order to get glory.” Can you back up your assertion with quotes?

        Kevin – “In Arminianism, everyone is provided for, hell is not necessary, and people only go there because they reject Jesus’ provision for them.”

        Ok, so in Arminianism, what about the people before Jesus’ death and resurrection? Were they all provided for if they weren’t Jews? Was hell not necessary for them?

        Kevin – “In Calvinism, God is too week to give us genuine moral freedom. The only way he maintains control is by causing everything that happens. Arminians believe that God is big enough to permit us to have and make choices.”

        On the contrary, people like Sproul admit that we do have complete genuine moral freedom and we are held completely accountable for it. Calvinists believe that God is big enough to permit us to have and make choices, but God is bigger than the Arminian God because God somehow takes all of our free will choices and works them to His glory and our good in a plan that was made before God performed the first miracle in time-space-history of speaking anything into existence.

        Kevin – “By holding to an unbiblical view of sovereignty, Calvininsts unwittingly diminish God’s glory, and (inadvertently) destroy his good character.”

        substitute “Arminians” for “Calvinists”.

        Kevin, I am not trying to convert anyone to Calvinism and I am not a full-fledged Calvinist. I was saved in 1998 and was Arminian for almost 10 years. About 2 years ago I could no longer reconcile certain verses to the Arminian view. I also can not reconcile certain verses to certain tenets of Calvinism. Free will is in the Bible. Election is in the Bible. God’s complete sovereignty is in the Bible. God’s influence on events and even men’s hearts is in the Bible. The fact that God saves some and the rest go to damnation is in the Bible. In my opinion, Reformed Theology is closer to Biblical theology overall than Arminianism.

        Peace and grace to you.

      • Hi Gzusfreke, In case you miss it, I’m going to reply at the bottom of the thread. The columns here are getting too narrow and it irritates me. :)

  25. Mike

    So, Gzusfreke,

    I know that my wife loves to shop for clothes at Ann Taylor Loft. I know without fail that, if she goes to the closest shopping mall, she is going into that store.

    If she comes to me and says she’s going to the mall with friends; and

    If I have the power to prevent her going (hide the car keys) or prevent her from making purchases (hide the checkbook or call and cancel the credit card); and

    If I don’t do or say anything, can it be said that “by default” I ordained, i.e. “caused” my wife to go shopping? I don’t think so…I don’t think my passivity in not doing or saying anything to my wife demonstrates that it was my intent for my wife to go shopping. Allowing something to occur or failing to intervene is not indicative of intent.

    • Good point Mike. You could prevent her through persuasion (Arminian view) or coersion (Calvinist view). By doing nothing you did not “cause” her to shop in any meaningful sense.

    • gzusfreke

      Mike, you may not have caused your wife to go shop as it was her free-will choice to do so, but knowing in advance that she has the propensity for shopping at Ann Taylor Loft, the means to go there, and the ability to walk around, touch items, and purchase items, and it is a 100% certain fact that she will go shopping at Ann Taylor Loft unless you take away her credit cards/flatten the tires/move her to a state with no Ann Taylor Lofts/etc., then you have, in my opinion, ordained that she will shop at Ann Taylor Lofts. You did not cause it as her choices caused it, but it could not have happened unless you allowed it to happen and did nothing within your power and authority to prevent it. You have decided (ordained) that this (shopping at Ann Taylor Lofts) will happen because you are allowing it to happen, even though you did not cause it to happen.

      • In the Arminian view Mike could have prevented his wife from shopping by simply asking her not to go. She then would have had a choice to make. We believe that God generally works through persuasion rather than coercion. No flat tires are necessary. :)

  26. Jordan Ferrier

    Freke:
    Regarding Col 1:16 – Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree that God made everything good. These first five points are what Calvin and non-Calvinists agree on.
    1. Adam & Eve had free will.
    2. Free will was a good gift to Adam & Eve.
    3. Free will for A&E is: The ability to sin and the ability to not sin.
    4. The fall was sin. Sin is evil. The fall was evil.
    5. Adam fell by his own full free will.

    It is the next point that where Augustine, Calvin, (probably Arminius), Sproul, etc were incorrect. They all believed that an Omnipotent God could have prevented Adam and Eve from falling after Gen 2:16 – 17, therefore, they all concluded that Adam and Eve fell by the permissive will of God. Calvin also states that God ordained the fall, the fall was decreed by God, and the fall was the will of God.

    To answer Joe question about why I discuss “philosophy”, it is because Augustine and Calvin say that this belief that God could have stopped A&E from sinning “is the very beginning of our faith”
    R. C. Sproul states: The fall of man is so clearly taught in Scripture that we cannot construct a view of man without taking it into consideration.
    Sproul also states that this belief is a philosophical assumption and Calvin says that how God could have stopped A&E from sinning is not found in scripture.
    Which is the point. Calvinism is a systematic theology. The beginning philosophical assumptions carry all the way through to the final logical conclusions. If your philosophical assumptions are incorrect, your interpretation of Scripture will be incorrect (hence Calvinism) and most of your theological system will be erroneous.

    Try sitting at a table across from another person. Put a glass on the table inbetween you. Tell the other person that they get to play God and try to stop you from taking the glass. Read the rules of the game in Genesis 2:16 & 17. Have ‘God’ try and stop you from taking the glass without lying (see Heb 6:18), or doing what is logically contradictory: giving you the freedom to take the glass and then withholding that freedom from you. Finally: let me know how that works out for you. :-)

    I hope this helps.

    If you end up agreeing this far, I can explain to you why I never say that God permits evil to happen.

    Jordan

  27. Modern Bible translations (NIV, ESV, NKJV) all replace “evil” with “disaster” or “calamity” in Isaiah 45:7, as they better reflect the meaning of the Hebrew word.

    Gotta give you credit though for being consistent JW. Most Calvinists don’t admit that God causes evil, although I agree that it’s a logical conclusion.

    • gzusfreke

      But why does God create calamity or disaster?

      Does He do it to influence man’s use of his free will? Does He do it to actively assert Himself into the affairs of men and therefore cause something to happen that would not have happened had He not interfered?

      Or do we just take the verse as a type of prose that doesn’t mean what it says?

  28. Jordan

    J W is correct about Calvinism:
    Augustine, John Duns Scotus, Luther, & Calvin all believed that: “God wills something, therefore it is correct” & that “God wills evil”.

    I simply point out that this means they believed that God wills evil, therefore evil is correct.

    I agree with C. S. Lewis that Reformed theology “turns Christianity into a form of devil worship.” Milton put the words “Evil be thou good” in the mouth of Satan, Reformed theology puts those words in the mouth of their god.

    You may be tired of the discussion on God permitting, and thus willing A&E to sin, but this is the origination of the error.

    Jordan

    • Jordan, Our disagreement is this: You haven’t demonstrated how allowing is the same as willing. It is not.

      With my children, I sometimes allow them the freedom to do things that I do not prefer in order to see if they will be obedient. I’m capable of restricting them more, but choose not to. If I restrict them more, they won’t mature, and our relationship will remain unilateral. Is it capricious for me to want my children to mature? No, it is not, because it is good for them to grow and become more relational.

      It is the same with God, he allows us to make choices to see if we will be obedient. Making choices and being obedient are intrinsically good things, and God is not capricious for allowing the freedom that makes obedience possible.

      Remember, our doing is the cause of God’s knowing. God sees our choices but does not cause them. In order to know what we will do, God allows it. Otherwise it would not occur, he would not know it, and we could not grow in Him.

  29. Jordan Ferrier

    Kevin:
    You wrote:
    The difference between Arminians and Calvinist here is that Arminians believe God permits evil, whereas Calvinists believe that God ordains evil (in fairness they would say that God ordains everything, but evil is not his fault).

    Your statement is a good example of an Arminian fiction. While Calvinists do believe that God ordained and still ordains evil, Calvinists believe that God permits evil by His permissive will. Here are the quotes from Augustine and Calvin that Calvinists believe that God permits evil, specifically the fall:

    Calvin: The fall of Adam…could not have been done at all, if His (God’s) will had not permitted it to be done.

    Calvin: (the fall) that cannot be done, without His will, which is even contrary to His will. Because, it could not be done without His permitting it to be done: which permission is evidently not contrary to His will, but according to his will.

    You wrote: Our disagreement is this: You haven’t demonstrated how allowing is the same as willing. It is not.

    I hope I never said that I believe God “allowed” A&E to sin. The test of obedience –which is what Calvin correctly calls the tree of knowledge of good and evil– is not a real test if the freedom to disobey is withheld.

    Here are the two different views:
    Reformed
    Adam & Eve had free will.
    Free will was a good gift to Adam & Eve.
    Free will is: The ability to sin and the ability to not sin (but not freedom from the consequences of sin).
    The fall was sin. Sin is evil. The fall was evil.
    Post Gen 2:16 & 17, God could stop A&E from sinning
    The fruit was permitted
    A&E sinned with the permissive will of God.
    Adam and Eve sinned by the permissive will of God, the Ordaining will of God, and by the decree of God. The fall was the will of God.
    What God wills is correct, because He so willed it.
    God wills evil, and because He willed evil, evil is correct.

    Calvinists simply have the intellectual ability to reason that if I have the Omniscience to know something evil is going to happen and I have the Omnipotent ability to stop this evil from happening, then it happens by my permission and it is my will.

    Classical Theism
    Adam & Eve had free will.
    Free will was a good gift to Adam & Eve.
    Free will is: The ability to sin and the ability to not sin (but not freedom from the consequences of sin).
    The fall was sin. Sin is evil. The fall was evil.
    God could not stop A&E from sinning
    The fruit was forbidden
    A&E sinned against the will of God.
    God never wills evil to happen.

    While I knew the sun was going to rise this morning, I am not responsible for the sun rising since I could not stop it from happening. While God knew A&E were going to sin, He is not responsible for their sin since He could not stop them from sinning after He chose to give them free will in Gen 2:16-17.

    To be fair to Arminius, I think that if you read what he wrote on the fall (and I have only read a few quotes), when Arminius talks about the fall happening by the permissive will of God, what Arminius was saying is that God, by His permissive will, gave A&E free will: the ability to sin and the ability to not sin. Arminius is teaching that God gave A&E permission to be free, not permission to sin. You have actually repudiated this argument when you explained that God gave A&E free will because God is Love and the only way for God to have a real relationship with A&E was to give them freedom and a way to show and/or test their obedience.

    Just like with Total Depravity, Calvinists and Arminians talk past each other because they both say A&E fell by the permissive will of God, but they mean different things.

    Jordan

    • Jordan,

      Please keep things gracious. Comments about “Arminian fiction” and “intellectual ability” do not further the conversation.

      I would be interested in evidence for your contention that “God could not stop A&E from sinning”. This is not taught in scripture, and it is not the classical position.

      Justin Martyr (AD 110-165) wrote: “Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, ‘And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?’ Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one’s freedom of will, however, being guarded.”

      Justin represents the Arminian position clearly, and demonstrates that it is in the mainstream of classical theism. God could have prevented A&E from sinning, but instead allowed the fall because it was good for A&E to make choices. Justin’s position is representative of other pre-Augustinan writers who wrote extensively on the subject.

      God allows evil because he is relational. He wants us to make moral choices. He wants us to be obedient to him. Relationships are good. Since relationships are good, and moral choices are good, it is not voluntaristic for God to allow them.

      Like the example I gave with my children, I’m fully capable of restricting them more (just like God is capable of restricting us more). I allow my children the freedom to make choices because I want them to mature and grow. It is the same with God. God could restrict us more. He has the power to do so. He chooses not to. In reality, at some point the world will end, and then we will no longer have the same type of responsibility that we do now. God permits evil to exist for a time because he is longsuffering, and doesn’t want anyone to perish.

      The fact that God has foreknowledge of what we will do doesn’t really change anything. God is timeless. He knows what we will do because we do it, not because he has caused it.

      God bless,
      Kevin

  30. Pingback: 20 Questions for Calvinists « 2 Worlds Collide

  31. Jordan

    Kevin:
    You wrote: I would be interested in evidence for your contention that “God could not stop A&E from sinning”. This is not taught in scripture, and it is not the classical position.

    I will be happy to give you that evidence via email where the dicussion can progress one step at a time. I gave you the meaning of Classical Theism, which has apparently been lost, probably due to the multi-tasking being done on this thread. I think we are both interested in correct theology, and if I am wrong, then I certainly want you to help me understand my error and what is correct.

    I understand this is not easy. While this may be meaningless to you, I spent 6 hours discussing this with the most hard-core Calvinist I know last Saturday morning, and he left our meeting knowing that God could not have stopped A&E from sinning post Gen 2:16&17, shook my hand, and thanked me for helping him better understand Scripture — and not just Genesis, but all of Scripture.

    Jordan

  32. Kevin Jackson, you wrote:

    “If God ordains everything that happens, he becomes the author of sin.”

    Could you define exactly what you mean by the phrase, “author of sin”?

    It has been alleged that John Wesley define it as: “God sins and nobody else sins.” Thus, if God ordains the fall, then He would be the one who sinned and not Adam and Eve. Or, if ordination is pushed a step back to Satan’s fall, God could not find fault with Satan since Satan could not resist God’s decretal will (cf. Romans 9:19).

  33. Hello everyone, I’m not going to be able to respond to these questions in a timely manner. There are about four different threads going on, and they’re all going in different directions. I recently had a serious surgery, and unfortunately don’t have the endurance to do a lot of responses at this point. I hope everyone understands. Please check back in a few weeks, and I will do some replies when I’m feeling better. Lord willing. :)

    God bless,
    Kevin

  34. Hi Gzusfreke, thanks for waiting. I’ve been recovering from a surgery (bladder cancer, thankfully caught early, and I found out today it is not an aggressive variety). Anyway, I haven’t been motivated to work on a reply until today.

    You have stated several times that you are sympathetic with Reformed theology, but not a full Calvinist. What parts of Calvinism do you disagree with? The L in TULIP? I would like to better understand where you are coming from. It’s possible that the things you are leery of in Calvinism are the same things that concern Arminians, in which case we may not be as far apart as might seem.

    the way I perceive what you and other Arminians say about Arminianism and the Bible is why I say that Arminianism is man-centric and has a low view of God. I’m not sure that reading any more articles will change my opinion unless the articles differ in what they say from what you and other Arminians I know say. As for saying that my opinion is “myth”, the burden of proof is on you to prove that it is a myth.

    I’m sure it’s not intentional on your part, but you have misrepresented what Arminians believe. In order to understand another viewpoint, you ought to be able to articulate that view in a manner in which its adherents agree. Believe it or not, I have read stuff by Calvinists. My favorite Calvinist is Francis Schaeffer. Anyway, reading Calvinist works was part of the process I used in evaluating the two theological systems. I am confident I can successfully articulate what Calvinists believe and why, and yet I still reject the system. Again, I would strongly encourage you to read some Arminian works so that you better understand our true motivations. Arminians are concerned with protecting the character of God. All aspects of Arminian theology flow from this concern. We believe that Calvinism unwittingly damages God’s character.

    I personally believe that Calvinism makes God worse than the devil, although I recognize that Calvinists don’t see this implication and would be disturbed by its suggestion. The devil wants all to perish. God in Calvinism wants most to perish, and effectually brings it about. The devil is transparent. We know he comes to seek and destroy. God in Calvinism has a “revealed will” where He says that he doesn’t want anyone to perish, but then He has a “secret will” (the one that matters) where he decrees that most will perish. This is contradictory and makes God untrustworthy. I’m not trying to offend you here, but please understand the motivation of Arminianism is not elevating man, rather, it is elevating God. God keeps his word. He is trustworthy. We can believe what he says.

    Filter what you said in light of Romans 1. All men have a knowledge of God but pervert it and reject God. God put His law on their hearts. Before Jesus, all men were condemned for their rejection of God. According to the Arminian view, what provision for salvation did God make for mankind outside of the Jewish nation from Abraham forward?

    I agree, all men know about God and reject him. Romans 3 says that no one is righteous or seeks after God. Given that, consider what Romans 11 says: God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. All are disobedient by God’s design so that none can boast, yet all who believe in Christ find mercy in Him.

    About people born before Christ – I believe Jesus’ provision was timeless. His sacrifice took place in time, but it was also planned and purposeful and applicable to those born before he came in the flesh. Hebrews 10:11 says Jesus offered one sacrifice at one time for all time. Acts 10:34-35 states that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Luke 12:47-48 suggests that we will be punished largely based on what we know. 1 Peter 3:18-19 states that after his death Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. These spirits could be some of the people you referred to.

    Man should be in awe and reverence not that God saves some but that He saves ANY. He should get infinite glory if He did not save any because He is still God and is the only one worthy of such praise.

    Your answer is legally correct, but doesn’t take into account the character of God as revealed in scripture. Jesus died for the world. He is the propitiation not just for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, rather he wants them to turn and live. The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Given these scriptural truths, if God has the tool of irresistible grace, all would be saved. If irresistable grace is true, Calvinists should become universalists. Otherwise they do violence to the plain reading of multiple passages of scripture that indicate God desires all to be saved. Again, the motivation of Arminianism here is the character of God. God is genuine. He is truthful. He keeps his word. God clearly states that he loves all and wants all to live.

    Have you read Revelation? Will there not be more justice and wrath dispensed at Christ’s Second Coming?

    Since Jesus died for the world, his provision was for all and hell is not necessary. God’s wrath and justice is against those who reject Jesus. Without Christ, we are dead in our sins and under judgment. In Christ we are free. In Calvinism Jesus did not die for the world. He died for those for whom he effectually saved. Do you not see how this minimizes the cross? Arminianism – Jesus died for all, those who don’t believe are under judgment. Calvinism – Jesus died for some, the cross was not intended for all, God’s wrath is therefore necessary.

    The way I understand Calvinism, Calvinists say that God deserves glory even when someone is damned but have never understood Calvinism to say that God “needs to damn people in order to get glory.” Can you back up your assertion with quotes?

    I will give you that one. How about rephrasing like this? In Calvinism God deserves glory even though he leaves most people without help or hope. To the Arminian, this is not glorious. It is contradictory.

    Ok, so in Arminianism, what about the people before Jesus’ death and resurrection? Were they all provided for if they weren’t Jews? Was hell not necessary for them?

    This is a bit similar to the question you asked earlier. The fact that Jesus’ sacrifice occurred at a specific time in history does not rule out that it can be applied to those born before him. Granted, this is a mystery for temporal folks like us, but hey, Calvinism has lots of mysteries too. :)

    On the contrary, people like Sproul admit that we do have complete genuine moral freedom and we are held completely accountable for it. Calvinists believe that God is big enough to permit us to have and make choices, but God is bigger than the Arminian God because God somehow takes all of our free will choices and works them to His glory and our good in a plan that was made before God performed the first miracle in time-space-history of speaking anything into existence.

    In Calvinism, freedom is following ones strongest desire. In Arminianism, freedom is having and making choices. We can do one thing, or we can do something else. So we’re working with different definitions of freedom. I completely agree that God takes all of our free will choices (it’s interesting that you phrase it as an Arminian would) and works them out to his eternal glory. This is something all Arminians strongly affirm. What we disagree with is that God needs to meticulously control all of our choices in order to be glorified. I can do one thing and God will be glorified. I can do something else and God will be glorified. Again, not to harp here, but please take the effort to read the Tozer piece. This will give you a better understanding of what Arminians (or a non-Calvinist in this case) believe about how freedom functions, and how God glorifies himself through our freedom.

    Kevin – “By holding to an unbiblical view of sovereignty, Calvininsts unwittingly diminish God’s glory, and (inadvertently) destroy his good character.”

    substitute “Arminians” for “Calvinists”.

    Touche. :) Biblically defined, sovereignty means that God does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3). God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. No one can stop him from his purposes. Given that, sovereignty does not mean that God needs to meticulously ordain all events. In fact, this would indicate a weakness in God. Arminians believe man will do what he will, and God will still accomplish his purposes. As Tozer says, “If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”

    Kevin, I am not trying to convert anyone to Calvinism and I am not a full-fledged Calvinist. I was saved in 1998 and was Arminian for almost 10 years. About 2 years ago I could no longer reconcile certain verses to the Arminian view. I also can not reconcile certain verses to certain tenets of Calvinism. Free will is in the Bible. Election is in the Bible. God’s complete sovereignty is in the Bible. God’s influence on events and even men’s hearts is in the Bible. The fact that God saves some and the rest go to damnation is in the Bible. In my opinion, Reformed Theology is closer to Biblical theology overall than Arminianism.

    I can certainly appreciate that. I nearly became a Calvinist myself several years ago. A few years back I would have called myself an Arminian, although I could not articulate what Arminians really taught and believed. I was probably more Pelagian than Arminian, and for me the move to Arminianism was also a move closer to Reformed theology. I have found Arminianism to be the best theology and the closest to what the Bible teaches. No doubt I’m not perfect in my reasoning and I’m always open to learning, correction and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

    God bless,
    Kevin

  35. Pingback: Questions on the Love of God « 2 Worlds Collide

  36. Wesley Mcgranor

    Clavinists — Was the predestined Judas’s grave sin: him working with the Jewish-Roman authorities or killing himself; and wich one was he predestined to do?

  37. Pingback: What is God’s Will? « 2 Worlds Collide

  38. Pingback: Why Not All? « 2 Worlds Collide

  39. David the Nicene Hobbit

    “By their fruits you shall know them.” Frankly and honestly, the ONLY fruits I have ever seen from Calvinists are these: hatred of non Calvinists, arrogance, extreme pride, angry natures, persecution of others,vitriolic language…shall I go on? I have had many (now ex) friends who became Calvinists…and every one of them has become nasty tempered, nitpicking, and well…insane.

    • I’ve noticed that too David. There are, of course, nice Calvinists, but that is in spite of their theology. I think there is something about Calvinism that fosters a spirit of pride. On this particular thread I’ve had to delete a couple of comments from folks who were just being plain nasty.

      Wesley noted that, “As directly does this doctrine [Calvinism] tend to destroy several particular branches of holiness. Such are meekness and love, — love, I mean, of our enemies, — of the evil and unthankful. I say not, that none who hold it have meekness and love (for as is the power of God, so is his mercy;) but that it naturally tends to inspire, or increase, a sharpness or eagerness of temper, which is quite contrary to the meekness of Christ; as then especially appears, when they are opposed on this head. And it as naturally inspires contempt or coldness towards those whom we suppose outcast from God. “O but,” you say, “I suppose no particular man a reprobate.” You mean you would not if you could help it: But you cannot help sometimes applying your general doctrine to particular persons: The enemy of souls will apply it for you. You know how often he has done so. But you rejected the thought with abhorrence. True; as soon as you could; but how did it sour and sharpen your spirit in the mean time! You well know it was not the spirit of love which you then felt towards that poor sinner, whom you supposed or suspected, whether you would or no, to have been hated of God from eternity. “

  40. Calvinist Named Ryan

    “Ezekiel 18:23 If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and wants them to turn and live, why is reprobation necessary or even possible in the Calvinist system?”

    The question stems from a faulty view of this verse.

    1 Sam 2:25: “…But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.”

    The world ‘pleasure’ in Eze is the same word as ‘desired’ in 1Sam. So there is a way in which God does not desire the death of the wicked, which is relative to the particular context of Eze 18. But there is a desire to put to death the wicked, because it is the revelation of holy justice. Reprobation is God’s determination to reveal His attributes of wrath and justice, which are also important and make God who He is. Arminians do not see value in this, but God has seen value in this.

    Proverbs 16:4: “The LORD has made everything for His own purpose. Even the wicked for the day of evil.”

    1 Peter 2:8: “For they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed” (another translation says “destined”)

    There are several other texts that prove reprobation. Why did God do it? Because He cares more about the manifestation of all His attributes then arminians do. Arminians want love to be the focal point, but God wants all of His Person to be the focal point. And unfortunately, to fallen creatures, that is scary, and unpleasant. But to the angels in heaven, who see how truly perverted and wicked we are, the just manifestation of God’s holy wrath against those things that are evil is beautiful and perhaps a clear display of how God is love. God loves purity, He loves to keep the universe undefiled, it is a thing of love to keep the universe pure of filth. This is why Paul says God did it:

    Rom 9:22-23: “But God, willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known endured with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. and He did so, to make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

    I would approach more of these questions, but most of them come simply from a faulty reading of context. For example Matt 23:37, which does not teach that some that Christ wanted to save got away for Christ very clearly says, “When He puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they will simply will not follow, but will flee from them because they do not know the voice of strangers… All who came before Me [i.e. the Pharisees to whom He said Matt 23:37] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

    • Ryan the Calvinist:
      I congratulate you on being able to clearly and correctly articulate Calvinism.
      You say that God does not desire the death of the wicked….
      And
      God does desire the death of the wicked (to reveal who God is: holy, just, glorious)..

      Calvin: “the salvation of believers depends on the eternal election of God; for which no cause or reason can be rendered, but His own gratuitous good pleasure.”

      Calvin teaches that God is “able to save all”.
      In Ezekiel 18:23, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
      In 1 Tim 2:4, God desires all to be saved.

      If salvation is according to Gods good pleasure, and God is able to save all, and God does not desire the death of the wicked, and God desires all to be saved, then how is it possible that any are not saved? (I am aware of the many clever ways Calvin, Sproul, Piper, White, etc. turn “all” into “not all”.) This is the question being asked by Kevin when he asked how reprobation is possible in Calvinism.

      Irenaus said that “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
      Calvinists agree and add, “The glory of God is most men damned to hell.”

      Calvin: “although God and the devil will the same thing; they do so in an utterly different manner.”
      Calvin: “Augustine testifies, — “God, in a secret and marvellous way, justly wills, the things which men unjustly do.”

      In Calvinism: God wills evil to happen.
      What God wills is good.
      Therefore, evil is good.
      And
      Evil is good because God has a purpose for it.

      Calvin quotes Augustine: “For, unless there were this good, –that evil things also existed; those evil things would not be permitted, by the Great and Good Omnipotent, to exist at all.”

      Arminians and Calvinists continually argue over the same points, like Kevin’s question of how reprobation is possible. I am neither a Calvinist or an Arminian, so I don’t generally get caught up in the surface issues that C’s and A’s discuss. I prefer to go to the heart of matter. Instead of beginning where Arminians began in their remonstrance 4 centuries ago, with total depravity, I begin where Augustine and Calvin began. What Calvin and Augustine call “the very beginning of our faith,” which explains why Calvinists hold the opposite view of Arminians.

      If you read that Calvin and Augustine believe that God wills that evil happen, that what God wills is good; Therefore, evil is good, and are disturbed by that statement, then I have a recommendation for you.
      If you are ready to go wherever the truth leads you, go to amazon.com, look up the book: Calvin & C. S. Lewis: Solving the riddle of the reformation, download it on a kindle and give it a read.
      Respectfully,
      Jordan

  41. Scot

    Wow Jordan! Thanks for that on evil. I hadn’t considered that! I get it! When my wife was killed in an accident during our first year of marriage 19 years ago, I became Jacob, Israel in that I wrestled God, and I wrestled him hard. Then out in the middle of an Illinois cornfield I called God out, and said “Let’s have this out right here, and now, I’m tired of this wrestling.”

    As a result it came to me that God allowed my wife to be killed, and there’s a difference in God’s allowance and in God being the freight-train engineer. If God allowed her to be taken from me like this, then I decided he had a reason. AND because he had a reason, and because he is GOOD, then God’s reason for taking her was good. Good for his plan, for his system.
    I didn’t miss her any less, butI was reassured that God was in control, and not we ourselves, and that her taking her away from me and her three daughters was not because he didn’t love me.

    I still don’t know why He allowed it, but that’s not important anymore. It’s enough for me to know it was allowable in his plan and his plan is good and loving despite where feelings were pointing me.

    Feelings can’t be blindly trusted for guidance.

    Pax tecum!

    • Wow, that’s terrible Scot. I can’t imagine having to go through something like that. I do appreciate where you’re coming from though. It’s issues like death and suffering that really put the rubber to the road. I had a bout with cancer last year, and am thankful for it. I’m also thankful that I’m now healthy. :) But cancer brought me closer to God and closer to my family. So in that sense I’m glad it happened. I don’t think God causes pain and suffering, but I do believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. It helps to know too that God grieves alongside with us when bad things happen.

    • Scot,
      Since you addressed your comments to me I will respond.
      1. You are welcome.
      2. Like Kevin, I also extend my sympathies.
      3. I agree that emotion and feelings are of little value when examining the nuts and bolts of Theology. People as diverse as Christopher Hitchens and Rob Bell have felt that it is unjust for a loving God to damn anyone to eternal fire for an eternity. Just because they sincerely feel they are right, doesn’t make it so.
      4. Your response is mystifying to me. Reading back over my reply to Ryan, I simply explained what Augustine and Calvin taught about evil and the will of God. If you take exception to what they believed, get in line to take it up with them. If you are agreeing with Calvin that God wills evil so he can bring good out of it to bring glory to Himself, then you are welcome to that belief. I simply pointed out the logical conclusion of the premises that Calvin held:
      A. If God wills evil to happen.
      B. and what God wills is good.
      C. Then, evil is good.
      I also pointed out that if you are interested in how Calvin arrived at these premises and conclusions, there is a resource where it is spelled out point by point, with each point thoroughly documented. Once you understand why Calvin believed what he believed, it is easy to show why Calvin and the system of theology know as Calvinism is incorrect.
      I think I agree with what Kevin is saying, and would put it this way to show the difference between how Calvinists and non-Calvinists view evil and the will of God.
      In Calvinism, God wills evil so he can bring good out of it to bring glory to Himself.
      In non-Calvinism: God is always working to bring good out of evil, because He loves His creatures and creation. Also, God never wills evil to happen since God is light and in Him there is no darkness.
      If you are too disgusted by my comments to read something I have written, I recommend “The Problem of Pain” and “Perelandra” by C. S. Lewis.
      Peace be with you as well.
      Once again, as respectfully as I am able,
      Jordan

  42. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll
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  43. Hi would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a difficult time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  44. calluv

    Why does evil exist? There is evil in you. Why do you exist?

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