Clarifying Calvinism by Jerry Walls

[This post is from Jerry Wall’s facebook page.  He addresses the nature of God’s love in Calvinism – why some Calvinists claim that God loves everyone, while others do not.  Good stuff.]

Several days ago, we had a rather energetic discussion on this page in response to classic Calvinist theologian Arthur Pink’s forthright claim that God does not love everyone. Most Calvinists are not so forthright, I observed. By way of seeking further clarity, let me lay bare the logic of Pink’s view and why it is perfectly understandable why he made that claim. Consider the following argument.

1. God truly loves all persons.
2. Truly to love someone is to desire their well being and to promote their true flourishing as much as you properly can.
3. The well being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
4. God could determine all persons freely to accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
5. Therefore, all will be saved.

Now I think it is clear that the conclusion of this argument follows from the premises. The argument is not formally valid in stating every premise, but the essential premises are there. (If anyone wants to see the formally valid version, I have spelled it out in my essay “Why No Classical Theist, Let Alone Orthodox Christian Should EVER Be a Compatibilist” that was published last summer in Philosophia Christi). Consequently, anyone who denies universalism and rejects the conclusion, must deny one or more of the premises. So it is not so surprising in light of this argument why Pink said what he did. He simply denied premise one.
Now when I said most Calvinists are not so forthright, I meant that they usually affirm premise one. So they must deny one of the others. One popular strategy is to deny, or fudge, on premise two. One of my favorite examples here is DA Carson, who says he is often asked by young Calvinist pastors whether he tells the unconverted that God loves them. His answer: “OF COURSE I tell the unconverted that God loves them.” Now how does he do this since for all he knows the unconverted he is speaking to are not elect? Well, he distinguishes between the love God gives to all persons and his “selecting” love which is only for the elect. He loves all in the sense that he gives them temporal blessings (“the rain falls on the just and the unjust”), and invites them to believe the gospel (“whosoever will may come”) even if they are not elect and CANNOT come. So, in short, all the unconverted are loved at least in the sense that rain falls on their gardens, so Carson can say, OF COURSE I tell the unconverted God loves them. Now the question is how honest this really is. Is it truly loving to someone to water their garden for 75 or so years before dispatching them to eternal misery for choices they were determined to make? If Carson were clear what he means when he assures the unconverted that God loves ALL of them, would anyone buy it? So in short, Calvinists like Carson affirm premise 1, but subtly deny premise 2. And I would argue that anyone who denies 2 will end up denying 1 also.
The other move Calvinists can make is to deny premise 4. They can admit that SO FAR AS THE NATURE OF FREEDOM IS CONCERNED God could save all persons, since freedom and determinism are compatible on their view. But perhaps God can’t save everyone for other reasons. Like what? Well, a classic answer given by Calvin, Aquinas, and Piper is that God would not be fully glorified if some were not damned. So, ironically, God needs evil and sin fully to glorify himself, fully to be God. God is more glorified in determining some people “freely” to sin and blaspheme, and then punishing them forever, than he would be by determining them “freely” to worship and obey him. This doesn’t sound so good when you think about it, and more importantly does not sound like the God of love who seeks out the 100th lost sheep and rejoices when a sinner repents. So perhaps it makes sense why Pink and others just deny premise 1 rather than resort to denying 2 or 4.

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78 Comments

Filed under Calvinism, God's love, Jerry Walls

78 responses to “Clarifying Calvinism by Jerry Walls

  1. I deny 4, though not with a Calvinist argument.

  2. Scot

    Well, it’s either Augustine/Calvin are correct about predestination, or it’s universalism. The weakest logical argument is that it’s a choice we make. Between the two, universalism and predestination, Predestination seems to be more in line with scripture.

    Our human desire for love blinds our ability to reason. Reading Ezekiel this week the Lord said to smite women and children. Since that flies in the face of Universalism I give Calvin/Augustine the upperhand.

    • Hi Scot,

      I agree that predestination is a better option if it’s an either/or choice between predestination and universalism. But there’s a better third option. Election is conditional and centered in Christ. Those who are are in relationship with Christ have eternal life. If God desires us to make a choice that by grace he enables us to make (as Arminians hold), that’s his prerogative.

      The OT smiting texts are part of God’s word, but the NT gives us a more complete picture of God – Jesus Christ, revealed in the flesh. Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

      • Scot

        Hey Kevin!
        I appreciate your comments, both past and present. It looks to me that you answer with the Calvin idea. To quote: “IF God desires us to make a choice he enables us to make…” That’s predestination, right from Jump Street. If God does not desires us to make a choice, then he won’t enable us to make that choice, and that explains why we have non-believers to this day. That is why Calvin believes that faith is a gift from God and not something humanly manufactured. Wesley, with “prevenient grace” just didn’t want to admit Calvin was right so came up with another catch-phrase, is my opinion.

        If one wants to believe that God is ONLY about love, then Arminian-ism works and then only when LOVE is narrowly defined. However, God isn’t JUST about love and certainly not the narrow view that humans fathom. How do I know this? The Bible tells me so.

      • Hi Scot, Arminians believe God enables us to make choices and that he does this for everyone (prevenient grace). God does not make our choices for us (irresistible grace / Calvinism). God’s primary attribute is love, but it’s not his only attribute.

  3. Scot

    and 1 can be attacked with Scripture: Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.

  4. “Is it truly loving to someone to water their garden for 75 or so years before dispatching them to eternal misery for choices they were determined to make?”

    Ouch. That is the type of question my dad asked me while I was a Calvinist. He asked me to define “love” according to John 3:16.

  5. earl

    Will a Calvinist please answer this question for me..are children predestined before birth for Heaven or Hell and if they are what happens if they die at a young age? Where do they go? When does God hold them accountable for having predestined them? You think God really wanted to get such a mess going?

    • Hi Earl, thanks for the question. I’m not a Calvinist (obviously), but here’s how one might answer the question. :)

      [Kevin puts Calvinist hat on] Everyone is predestined, including children. Whether or not a child goes to heaven is up to God, he can elect a child or reprobate him as he sees fit. The world is not a “mess”. The world is exactly the way God wants it, he has decreed it to unfold this way for his glory. If you think otherwise, it’s because of your rebellion and man-centered thinking. [Kevin takes Calvinist hat off]

      • earl

        Thanks Kevin, but I asked where the kid would go if he dies and was not born “elected.” I understand most of Reformed or Calvinist theology. I just want to get an answer from a Calvinist as to where the kid will go. Does election begin at birth then he should go to hell,but I’ll bet you won’t get that answer from a true Calvinist, especially if they have children. That’s why philosophers have worked on logic all these years. One has to live with the logic of his beliefs. Or does election to go to hell not start until the kid is old enough to be able to understand..yeah I know unelected cannot respond to the Spirit no matter what. I find most Calvinists do not follow the logic of their beliefs.

      • earl

        Again Kevin.. the mess is this Calvinist vs. anyone who wants an answer or disagrees with them. Did Jesus tell the rich young man not to worry to sell everything cause he may not have been elected anyway?

      • You’re preaching to the choir Earl. :) Consistent Calvinists hold that God’s decrees were made before the foundation of the world. So God’s choice to send a “reprobate child” would have taken place before the child was ever born. I will grant you though that most Calvinists don’t spend a lot of time defending that sort of thing.

    • Scot

      not children, humans……. even Jeremiah tells us this. This thing the Lord set in motion has a final outcome already known, and the Lord wins. This isn’t some system whose outcome is determined by what we may or may not do. That’s how gloriously wonderful He is!

    • I think there’s a mistake in your question. You seem to believe that God could will a child to be reprobate, but then that child inconveniently die before he was old enough to be able to sin. This is an impossibility. The child cannot die until God wills it and since God does not send unaccountable children to hell then the scenario you pose is impossible.

  6. Scot

    EXCEPT…… the world is not the way God wanted it. Genesis tells us that, then there’s that Noah thing.

    • I agree Scot, the world is not the way God wants it. Calvinists, however, believe that the word is the way it is by God’s design. The WCF says “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”

  7. Saw this at the SEA site. Good stuff.

  8. Reblogged this on Arminian Today and commented:
    Good post that was also found at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site. Thanks Kevin for posting this.

  9. Tom

    Does God love those in Heaven in exactly the same way that he loves those on whom he is pouring out his wrath in Hell for eternity?

    • earl

      AMEN..but you want get the answer you want.

      • earl

        And of course they will not give you an answer that follows the logic of Calvinist beliefs

    • Hi Tom, Arminians believe God loves everyone as described in #2 above. God’s wrath was fully manifested at the cross, and in that sense hell is not necessary (at least not for humans). Some will be in hell because they reject God’s provision for them in Christ.

      • Tom

        What about all the wrath in the book of Revelation?

      • Hi Tom, Condemnation does remain on those who reject God’s provision for them in Christ. What Arminians cringe at is the idea that God has an innate need to manifest his wrath, and that God still must fulfill this need in lieu of the cross. This minimizes Christ’s work at the cross. God prefers that everyone believes in his son, and if everyone did, hell and wrath wouldn’t be necessary. John 3:17-18 comes to mind here. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

      • Tom

        Kevin,

        Do you understand John 3:17-18 as teaching that the only reason people go to hell is that they do not believe? As in God took out all his wrath for their sins on Jesus on the cross so unbelievers do not go to hell because of their sins, but only because they do not believe?

      • Hi Tom, There are two factors in understanding the Arminian view of Christ’s work at the cross – Jesus died for all, and those who believe will be saved. You can see both of these in John 3:16-18. Those who do not believe are still guilty of their sins (they stand condemned already) because they do not believe. There is no provision for the forgiveness of sins outside of Christ.

      • Tom

        Thanks for clarifying, Kevin. Some people say that people go to hell because of unbelief, not because of their sins because Jesus paid for them, so I just wanted to make sure that was not what you are saying.

        I have a hard time seeing how Arminians can claim #1 and #2 at the same time any more than Calvinists can. If one compares paradise to the wrath and agony of the last judgement described in Revelation I don’t understand how God “desires their well being and to promote their true flourishing as much as he properly can” in both cases. It will be active wrath by God on unbelievers, not simply the passive results of their unbelief.

      • Hi Tom, Arminians strongly hold to #1 #2 and #3, with the understanding that God works in us persuasively, not coercively.

      • Scot

        @ Kevin Jackson July 12, 2012 at 9:46 am
        Hi Tom, Arminians strongly hold to #1 #2 and #3, with the understanding that God works in us persuasively, not coercively.

        ——– Kevin, if God is persuasive then he cannot be resisted if he chooses to be persuasive. Creating that feeling or inclination to accept Jesus, is God at work in us, and not of our own doing. I have the impression that Arminians don’t like the idea of not being in control and that a God in control can’t be a true God, but God being in control is part of the definition of being God.

      • Hi Scot, I don’t think your definition of persuasion is scriptural. There are lots of examples when God asked his people to do something and they ignored him (to their own detriment). And scripture also states that God draws everyone (John 1:9, Titus 2:11, John 12:32). God’s grace is not always effectual – a person can say no to God to their own detriment.

        By his own plan and design God bestows moral freedom upon his creatures. God can give moral freedom precisely because he is all powerful. A weak God less would be afraid to do so.

      • Scot

        Hey Kevin, I was simply quoting your use of the word persuasion. That did not originate with me, and you are right, one can say no to God, but not always, not ultimately. His will is superior. Jonah comes to mind.

        Additionally, the idea that the future can be known by God but without causing it comes close to being an oxymoron. It also implies chance, even non-theologian Einstein said he does not believe God gambles with the universe. The outcome of the world is certain, and the only way it can be certain is not give us complete freedom to live always outside of his will. There is no chance God’s plan will fail, therefore our salvation is not a chance dependent on us to say yay or nay. That would fit Einstein’s gambling scenario.

        Mathematically, under the Arminian error, none could choose to go to Heaven, which reduces Christ on the cross as just a “nice-try” at salvation, another way of saying “God played dice with the universe.”

        Nope, Jesus died for a reason, not to be just a potential. He died for those whom he called, and those whom he called have been known to him, by him.
        That’s why Calvinists profess that their hope is in the Lord and not in themselves as Arminians do.

        I see Arminianism as a refusal to submit to the sovereign love of God, a relucatnce to admit that they are not in control of ultimate things. I understand not wanting to admit one is helpless, it’s certainly more prideful to say: “Look at me, I chose the Lord….” Scripture does not allow for pride in salvation.

        Do we have the capability, each of us to live outside of his will 100% of our lives? If you believe so, then you believe it about those who have died and those not yet born, and have to admit that it’s possible no one gets to heaven.

        Do you believe it’s possible that no one gets to heaven?

      • Hi Scot,

        You need to learn to represent Arminianism honestly. You are either ignorantly or deliberately misrepresenting the beliefs of Arminians. I hope it’s the former. I encourage you to read some works by Arminians – so that you understand what we really believe. Even if you disagree, at least you will be more informed. If you cannot converse in a more charitable and truthful manner, I won’t allow you to post here further. You have been warned.

        Arminianism is a grace centered theology – we believe that we can do nothing on our own – not even believe, unless God first draws us. Arminains believe in the love and power of God, we do not believe in ourselves. Arminians believe God knows the future exhaustively and that he is always able to bring about his purposes, we don’t believe he “rolls the dice”. Arminans believe that we have limited but real free will. Not because we’re man centered, but because that’s the way God created us – by his design and in his image.

        There is a difference between certainty (Arminianism) and necessity (Calvinism). Certainty does not imply causation, necessity does. Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that God knows the future. Arminians believe that God knows the future without causing it. Just like we know things that happened in the past with certainty but didn’t cause them, God knows the future with certainty without having to cause everything. This is evidence of His greatness. In Arminianism God knows that some people will believe, and others will not (to their own detriment). As Tozer wrote, “When [man] 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.”

        It’s important to not apply human limitations to God, and I think you are inadvertently doing this by arguing that God can’t give moral freedom to his creation if he wants to. As humans we often can’t know things with certainty unless we cause them. But God is bigger and stronger and wiser than we are. He can see even the future without having to cause it. In reality, Arminians have a much stronger and greater view of God’s sovereignty than do Calvinists. Arminians believe God is able to give humans limited but genuine freedom and simultaneously He is also able to bring about his purposes. Calvinism says that God is too weak and fearful to do that.

        The problem with Calvinism is that (from the the Arminian view) it turns God into the devil. I’m not saying Calvinists are devil worshipers, but rather that by misunderstanding the nature of God’s sovereignty, Calvinists end up inadvertently making God evil and weak. If God is good (He is), and if He causes everything (like you say He does), then there wouldn’t be any evil. The fact that there is evil in the world is evidence that God doesn’t cause everything. Arminians believe free will exists – not because we care about free will, but because we believe God is good. Since God is good and the world is fallen, the only explanation is that humans made the world a bad place – not God. This scriptural (people in the Bible often did things that God did not prefer) and it comports with reality. I can choose to wear either a red shirt or a blue shirt tomorrow. God knows which I will choose, and my ability to make that choice doesn’t threaten God’s eternal purposes.

      • scot

        You really think Calvin turns God into the Devil? Really???
        You chastised me rather severly, undeservedly, and did not share with me the crime you accuse me of. I am not aware of anything mean I said.

      • Hi Scot,

        Among other things you accuse Arminians of believing that God rolls the dice, that we believe Christ just made a nice try at salvation, that we trust in ourselves and not the Lord, that we refuse to submit to God’s sovereignty, that we want to be in control, and that we’re prideful. You are misrepresenting Arminianism. Read some works by Arminians, so that you learn what we believe. Try “Predestination Calmly Considered”, by John Wesley (see link on the right side bar).

        Arminians believe that God is able to accomplish his purposes, that Christ died for everyone, that everyone who believes will be saved. We trust in God, we submit to his power and greatness. We believe salvation is all of God, we know that we are sinners, that we are not in control, and that we are entirely at the mercy of God’s grace. We are dependent on Him. Now, you may not believe that Arminians really hold to these things. But you need to show from Arminian sources where we say the things you accuse us of. At most, all you can say is that it is your personal belief that Arminianism leads to the things you accuse us of, while recognizing that we do not actually hold to those things.

        You assert that God makes the decision for us (regarding salvation). This is not scriptural. Scripture teaches that we must believe in Christ in order to be saved. No where does scripture say that God does the believing for us. That is a philosophical assertion.

        I do believe that Calvinism (inadvertently) makes God worse than the devil. I’m not saying that Calvinists are worshiping the devil or that they believe they are. Rather, from the Arminian view, that we see this as the logical and inevitable end result of Calvinism. While admirably attempting to uphold God’s sovereignty (but in a misguided and non-scriptural way), the end result of of believing that God causes everything is to make God dishonest and the author of sin. Scripture says God does not desire evil, that Jesus died for everyone, that God wants all to be saved, that God wants us to be freed from our sin, and that he invites every person to come to him. Yet Calvinism instead teachers that God only loves a few and secretly hates everyone else. This flat out contradicts scripture, and (from the Arminian view) turns God into a liar. The devil wants everyone to perish, and is at least front about it. In Calvinism God causes most people to perish all along while saying that he wants everyone to be saved. This (from the Arminian view) turns God into a liar and makes him worse than the devil.

        I believe that Calvinism creates pride in its adherents. It’s evident in your style and tone in your posts here. Calvinists frequently think they are “know it alls” and don’t even take the time to learn what Arminians really believe. And Calvinism creates a caste system where God loves the “elect” and hates the “reprobate”, with the result being that Calvinists end up being proud that God chose them, and see no need to treat others with respect. Caste pride is not possible in Arminianism, because we believe that God wants all to be saved, and that he wants all to believe. We know that we all need God’s grace and love, and we know that everyone should be treated with respect. We are all on the same ground, there is not one special class of people that God loves while hating everyone else.

        Again, I’m not saying that Calvinists believe God is worse than the devil, or that Calvinists believe that they are proud. Hopefully you see the difference. I’m saying that from the Arminian view this is the fruit of Calvinism. Of course you can also say that in the Calvinist view the end result of Arminianism is pride, man-centeredness, and a diminished view of God’s greatness. And that’s fine, as long as you are also able to accurately present what Arminians really believe, and recognise that while you see those things as the end result of Arminianism, we do not actually believe those things.

      • scot

        Sounds like a one way street, you have written opinions as truth and say incredulous things. You continue to bypass the most cogent understandings I’ve shared. This is not a board for understanding but a board for your opinions. That’s fine, but don’t pretend it’s something it’s not.
        Calvin believes the only ones who ge to heaven are the ones who believe in Christ, and that only God causes you to believe in Christ. Arminius preferred thinking it was a free-gift of potential and not a reality until the human accepts it. I have said nothing untrue. God gets the glory for my belief because he gave me the belief and not me myself.
        I think Arminians, Opinion, think they chose to believe and do a disservice to the Lord by asserting such. THat they believe proves that GOD is at work in them, but they just don’t want to say he caused their decision.
        Jesus never said: “This is a free gift to you, and you are free to turn away from me eventhough I chose you.”
        Yep, I think Arminianism is a false doctrine and should not be taught.

        See ya, be safe!

      • scot

        Yes, you can choose to wear a red shirt. You cannot chose to go to Heaven without God making that decision for you. We ultimately have no say and that’s the glory. My salvation is in God’s hands, not my own. Thanks be to God!

      • Hi Scot,

        There is no pride or honor in accepting a gift. I could send you a check for $1000, but it wouldn’t do you any good unless you signed it. Signing the check doesn’t change the fact that you received a gift that you did not earn. The same is true with the gift of salvation. It must be accepted to be of benefit. Nowhere does scripture say that God causes us to believe.

        Acts 16:30-31. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

        John 1:12-13 ” But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

        John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life”

        Romans 10:13 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

        I have yet to hear from you where it says in scripture that “God makes us believe”.

        In the end I do believe that Calvinism turns God into a monster worse than the devil, and that all too frequently it causes pride among its adherents.

        You are welcome to post further, but only if you represent Arminianism accurately and if you behave in graceful manner. Tom (another Calvinist) posts here fairly often, and I’ve never had to warn him. In the end, you’re right. This is my board. And if you can’t follow the rules, you can’t post further.

    • Scot

      Tom, obviously not.

  10. Scot

    Interesting is to consider Judas Iscariot.

    The Lord knew what shenanigans the man was up to. Was Judas acting on his own “Free Will” to betray Jesus or was he acting out the plan put in place by God. If the betrayal was up to J.I. then, it means the cross wasn’t really a Plan, but an afterthought in response to JI’s action.

    IF JI was playing the role ASSIGNED to him, then we can see that as evidence that God does send some to perdition.

    One can argue, well I think, that sending JI to hell is counter to the concept of a loving god (the way Arminians on this board describe as “loving”).

    So, since I believe JI was playing what was assigned him, and since I believe the man is in hell, and sending someone to hell is less-loving than loving, then there has to be something more important to God than what we consider to be “love”.

    Peace!

    • Arminians believe that God foreknew what Judas would do without causing him to do it.

      • scot

        Yes, If he foreknew then J.I. really had no choice. He could not have chosen differently from what God foreknew. Certainly God foreknew what J.I. would do, before J.I. knew he was going to do it, or do Arminians posit that God only knows a few moments in advance of events?

      • Hi Scot, Arminians generally hold that God exhaustively knows the future without causing it. This view is called “simple foreknowledge”. Here’s a post I did about it a while back. Simple Foreknowledge

  11. Scot

    So Earl, did you get your question answered? God decides who goes to heaven, and who does not, so some are doomed for hell in accordance with God’s plan.
    Eitiher we are slaves to God (doulos) or we are part-timers.
    As you know, the slave doesn’t tell the master that he is “free today, but will be back tomorrow”.

  12. Russ

    Scot,

    Again how is that good news to the reprobate?

  13. Anthea

    Hello
    Could you give me a link to the original post on Arthur Pink? I can’t find it.
    Why did the ardent Calvinist, Scot, not deal with the question re children? I think this is a weak point in the theory. Most Calvinists can’t be consistent re their own children. To his credit (sort of) James White was full-on and said that it was fine with him if one of his children had been chosen for hell.

    • Hi Anthea, thanks for stopping by. Here are a couple of quotes from Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God. They can be found in Chapter 1, God’s Sovereignty Defined)

      “When we say that God is sovereign in the exercise of His love, we mean that He loves whom He chooses. God does not love everybody;”

      “To tell the Christ-rejector that God loves him is to cauterise his conscience, as well as to afford him a sense of security in his sins. The fact is that the love of God is a truth for the saints only, and to present it to the enemies of God is to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.”

      And a quick comment on the second quote: From the C view, anyone who is a “Christ rejector” was decreed to be that way by God, and can’t do other than what they do. It doesn’t make any sense to talk about that person’s conscience being cauterized. Their conscience is what it is by God’s eternal plan and decree. This kind of inconsistency comes up in Calvinism all the time. :)

      John MacArthur (also a Calvinist), has criticized Pink’s view of God’s love, and includes the above quotes. You can find that here. Kind of like Carson, MacArthur fudges on point #2.

      Most C’s don’t answer the question about children. It makes them inconsistent, but I suppose it’s a good inconsistency. Those who do answer it are getting close to hyper Calvinism.

  14. bro, d

    Hi Kevin,
    Thank you for your web-site!!
    I wanted to ask your opinion on what I ( of late ) have been pondering as a vulnerability we humans have which leads to distorting our reading of scripture. Let me explain:
    1) Bible believing Christians hold that the writings of scripture represent God’s breathed word, and as such, scriptures are writings of TRUTH.
    2) Bible believing Christians, would not anticipate that scriptures would affirm or confirm falsehoods.
    3) Bible believing Christians, anticipate that scriptures would affirm or confirm TRUTHS.
    Item 3 in particular, is the vulnerability I am thinking of in the case that a person [P] accepts a concept that is not explicitly claimed by scripture, but which [P] is convinced is TRUTH.
    Let us say that a Bible scholar lives prior to the 4th century when educated people held the FLAT EARTH theory as TRUTH. According to (3) [P] anticipates that the scriptures will affirm/confirm the earth is flat. Our Bible scholar [P] will use scriptures such as Isaiah 34:4, and many others, where the heavens are said to be like a scroll or a tent. “Everyone knows that a scroll is flat, a tent is flat”. For our Bible scholar, interpreting these verses to confirm what he holds to be TRUTH is understandable given (3). When the human brain is convinced that a concept is TRUTH, the human brain will most certainly look for, and find scripture verses to affirm/confirm what one holds to be TRUTH. Our Bible scholar then declares that anyone who teaches that the earth is a globe, is teaching doctrines of demons and must be burned to the stake. It is a short reach from here for our Bible scholar to claim the Bible explicitly *TEACHES* the earth is flat.

    Now let us say that we have a Bible scholar such as John Calvin, who holds that universal divine determinism is TRUTH. UDD is no-where explicitly claimed by scripture. But that doesn’t matter. If Calvin holds it to be the TRUTH above all truths, his brain will find scriptures to affirm it. He can weave a spider web of imaginative arguments to affirm it (e.g. God has a secret will and a declared will. God’s declared will was that Adam and Eve obey. While God’s secret will was that they disobey. God, in the OT repeatedly deceives His people into believing He wants them to obey, when He secretly wants to punish them). Let us say that Calvin creates a whole system of interpretation based on the exegetical rule that UDD is the most sacred of all things. A flat earth was held for centuries. It was finally abandoned, when science proved without a shadow of doubt that the earth is a globe. But determinism vs free-will is still in debate. It would make perfect sense to me how Calvinism could appear to be completely logical to those who first embrace UDD as TRUTH. First you teach the student the TULIP, where the ULI are based upon UDD. The student is indoctrinated sufficiently to embrace UDD as the only sacred TRUTH that honors God. After that you simply lay out all of the standard verses according to the deterministic interpretation. (Romans 9 etc)….The tree continues to bring forth fruit after its own kind.

    Interested in your thoughts?
    Thanks! and blessings.

    • Hi Bro D, I think that can be a danger for any of us – especially when we put pet doctrines above listening to God and loving others.

      • br.d

        Thanks Kevin. :-]
        Yes I totally agree!!
        I did really appreciate Jerry Wall’s presentation. Especially where he identifies “consistent” , “inconsistent” and “misleading”, and shows what effects those have on how people view Calvinism. I think he adds a great deal of clarification to the ongoing dialogue on this subject. Thanks also for your forum!
        Hope you and yours are well!
        br.d

    • Tom

      Those are some good points, bro, d. I think everyone has presuppositions and traditions that we bring into our interpretation of the Bible, we should all be working hard to have our minds conformed to the Word of God and toss out those presuppositions that are unbiblical.

      • bro, d

        Hi Tom,
        Thanks for your post. And I agree with you, if we only could.
        I think the fact that we have human presuppositions is pretty much guaranteed. I remember a teaching Gordon Fee gave, where he stated that we all interpret everything through the lens of our own personal presuppositions. And unfortunately, that includes our interpretation of scriptures. For me, this helps to explain how it is that highly educated people can fall prey to the teachings of Jehovah’s witness and sun-young moon. I think what really bothers me more is when I see people proclaiming themselves to be followers of Jesus, abusing those who disagree with their interpretations and them justifying their behavior behind a multitude of religious masks. That is one of the primary things that flagged me that Calvinism is problematic in the first place. Behavior antagonistic to the nature of Jesus is a red flag.
        Thanks Tom!! :-]

    • Tom

      I do have a question for you about God’s will. God makes it clear his will is that we do not murder, yet Acts 4:27-28 say that those who murdered Jesus did what God had predestined take place. It seems God wills we not murder, but then he willed the murder of his son, how would you explain this apart from something like a secret will and a declared will?

      • bro, d

        Hi Tom,
        Consider the possibility that the question is framed by the presupposition of theological determinism. If it weren’t for that presupposition the question wouldn’t be asked. Theological Determinism presupposes that God meticulously controls everything that happens including human thoughts desires and actions. This is the very item that Jerry Walls is unpacking in his presentation on “Clarifying Calvinism”. If you haven’t seen his presentation on Youtube, its worth your examination and consideration. When one doesn’t see through the lens of theological determinism, there is no need for extra-biblical and extremely hypothetical explanations like a “revealed” and a “secret” will of God. The very fact that an explanation like that is so much “grasping for straws” should be a red flag to us when we examine it critically. I believe I do have a presupposition that I interpret these events through. My presupposition is that God is morally and ethically perfect. And a morally and ethically perfect being does not contradict His own ethics or morals. For me, God’s ethical perfection is part of His Holiness. Jesus teaches us to “be Holy as our Father in heaven is Holy”. The scripture seems to indicate that the same standards that God requires of us, He does so because those ethical standards represent God’s very essence.
        Otherwise, why would Jesus command us to be Holy as our Father is Holy? For God to command his people to obey, when He secretly wants them to disobey, and then supernaturally make sure that they don’t obey would be a manifestation of unethical behavior, according to God’s own commandments. This leads me to wonder if the reason for the “secret” and “revealed” will teaching is simply an attempt to support theological determinism, which I am persuaded is derived from maximizing verses in the bible concerning God’s control while making-void verses which declare human contingency. Consider the possibility that theological determinism is a byproduct of syncretism. Both manicheism and neo-platonism contained elements of theological determinism. Augustine was a disciple of Manicheism, Neo-Platonism and Christianity. Calvin was a disciple of Augustine. 90% of the post Apostolic fathers did not hold to theological determinism. The Greek philosophers believed that all human actions were controlled by the gods (theological determinism). Augustine wrote “I was taught the corporeal things of God from the books of Plotinus”. Augustine is telling us that he relied upon the teachings from pagans to understand elements of God’s nature.
        That is pretty dangerous!!! Augustine should have stayed with the scriptures, and not allowed himself to be influenced by pagan teachings. I am persuaded theological determinism got mixed into Christianity through Augustine.
        Best to you!!!
        bro. d :-]

      • Tom, I’d describe that verse in terms of God’s foreknowledge and permission, not causation. See Acts 2:23.

      • Tom

        Hi Kevin,
        Do you believe that it was the Father’s will that Jesus be crucified?

      • Tom, I think the most that can be said is that God willed (permitted) that Jesus be handed over, and foreknew that he would be crucified. Murder is a sin, and God does not sin.

      • Tom

        Kevin and bro, d,
        I don’t understand your reply (Kevin) of “the most that can be said is that God willed (permitted) that Jesus be handed over” when Isaiah 53:10 says “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (ESV). If we don’t acknowledge that God can will, in some way, that things contrary to his law happen without himself being guilty I don’t understand how we can make sense of passages like this, of which there are many (Genesis 50:20, 1 Kings 22:23, Lamentations 2:20-22 to name a few).
        And as far as determinism and causation, Acts 2:23 says that “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (ESV) If being “delivered up according to a definite plan” is not equivalent to determined I don’t know what is. This is said even more clearly in other translations: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (KJV)
        “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (NASB)
        And God did foreknow what the lawless men would do to Jesus because if God has a definite plan for what will happen he of course foreknows what will happen, also. But just because the word foreknow is in the verse doesn’t mean that there is no determining of what will happen by God.

        bro, d, perhaps my question was framed by the presupposition of theological determinism, but I don’t think that is without reason when we have passages like Acts 2:23 and 4:28. (assuming we have the same definition of theological determinism) Maybe the language of two wills of God isn’t the best, but it is an attempt to make sense of what scripture says. In fact in Calvin’s Institutes he concludes his discussion of the seemingly contradictory will of God at times:“the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing.” .
        I am familiar with Dr. Wall’s work, though I don’t know if I’ve seen that video, but I haven’t thus far I haven’t heard any interpretations by him that have helped me understand passages like I have mentioned.

        I hope you guys have a blessed Christmas, thanks for the discussion!

      • Tom, When a general sends his soldiers into battle, he knows that some of them will die. But it’s not his will they die. His will is to win the war. No one would say that the general has a secret desire for the enemy soldiers to kill his men. The same is true with Jesus’ death. God’s will was not to murder Jesus. He did not have a secret desire for the soldiers to crucify his Son. His desire was to reconcile the world and to free us from sin. He knew that the only this could happen is if Jesus suffered in our place. He foreknew his Son would die, but that doesn’t make him a murderer. His desire was to free us, not to kill his son.

        Isaiah 53:4 states it like this:

        “It was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!”

      • Tom

        You’re right Kevin, God is not a murderer, He is Holy and the sin was only that of those whom he predestined would crucify Jesus (Acts 4:27-28). I know that John Wesley was no Calvinist, but I thought he had a good Bible Note on Isaiah 53:10 (Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him ESV): “God was the principal cause of all his sufferings, tho’ mens sins were the deserving cause.”

      • Tom, We agree that the crucifixion couldn’t have happened without God allowing it, that’s the sense in which Wesley is using the term “principal cause”. But I don’t think Wesley believed that God caused the men to sin. That’s the difference.

        The problem here (from the Arminian view) is that if God does cause men’s sin, God is the cause of evil. I realize that Calvinists deny that implication, but I have yet to hear an adequate Calvinist explanation that isn’t contradictory.

  15. Hi Kevin,
    I didn’t know (if you like this post) if you would want to move it to a different page, not knowing the size you like to keep your web pages.

    How many theoretical reasons can you think of?
    God could have created World (A), a world in which creatures play out His meticulous will, throughout every millisecond of their lives. God could have also created World (B). A world in which creatures were given significant free will, in which He enables them with indeterministic liberty to love Him or not.

    Alvin Plantinga asserts: All things being equal, World (B) would be much more valuable to God than World (A).

    William Lane Craig asserts: World (A) can only manifest God’s glory in a farcical way. As it would make God to be like a boy who sets up toys, moving them about, having them do things that he wills them to do, and then praising or punishing them for the things he made them do, as if they could choose otherwise. World (A) would be the less valuable world in Craig’s view, because it falls short of reflecting the real glory of God.

    Additionally, in World (B), the responsibility of evil would, of necessity, fall solely on the creature. Whereas, in World (A), neither evil nor good is FIRST CONCEIVED in the creature. But by necessity, both are FIRST CONCEIVED in the mind, heart and will of God. Some theologians, raised in the tradition of World (A), conclude that God is indeed, the author of evil, and that to argue otherwise is intellectual dishonesty.

    Perhaps you have been raised in the tradition of World (A), but you are now examining and considering other views? Being taught World(A), there may be reasons why you would not choose World (B). But here is a question: Are there any *at least theoretical* reasons that you can think of in which World (B) might be preferred? How many *theoretical* reasons can you conceive of?
    Thanks!!! :-]
    Br.d

  16. Hi Kevin,
    I think you and I do see ourselves in World (B), and that’s one of the reasons we Love Jesus. Because He “enables” us to love Him without “determining” that we love Him.
    But I got the impression there are others who post, who are possibly from a World(A) tradition which contains “irresistible grace” where God “determines” who will love Him and who will not. So I posed the question that way. Please let me know if I’m out of bounds. This is your web-site and I want to respect your wishes.
    br.d :-]

  17. Tom,
    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful best wishes! :-]
    One point is that Bible believing Christians hold that the scripture is without error. But not the translations. You probably already know of translations which contain human biases. When you work from translations such as the KJV or NASB, wouldn’t you want to make sure that you are actually reading the intent of the original language? In the “hardening” of pharaohs heart, is it not possible that the original language meant “strengthening” which does not skew the reader with a deterministic reading?. In vessels “fitted” for destruction, is it not possible that the original language meant “ripe” for destruction, which does not skew the reader to a deterministic reading? Translations contain clear biases based upon what ever the translators want to promote. That is one point to consider. Which brings me back to the topic of predispositions. I do think they are powerful determiners of how we read scripture. If I were predisposed to a deterministic view, I would probably see determinism in every verse as well. Clearly our predispositions influence how we interpret scripture, and what we do with verses that contradict our predispositions. We either ignore them and make believe they don’t exist or perhaps we embrace a theologian’s arguments which make them void. I remember a reformed commentary that argued that Stephen really did not say “You always do resist the Holy Ghost” and that verse cannot be taken literally. A deterministic predisposition forced him to make that verse void.
    Consider Jesus’ critique in Matthew 23:23. To me, the error that Jesus is pointing to is the “error of emphasis”. Those men put a supreme emphasis on tithing and little to no emphasis on mercy and justice. If we have men who have put a supreme emphasis on determinism and little to no emphasis on God’s perfect character, we can see how that would skew the reading. Likewise if our emphasis is off balance in the other direction.
    Warm Holiday greetings!!

  18. Hi Tom, to answer your question, when I read Acts 2:23 I don’t see “hard determinism” explicitly declared there. So the answer would be no. Perhaps one would observe the NAS to be a little more slanted towards determinism than the KJV. You probably also know that many who are predisposed to reading scripture through the lens of hard determinism define “proginosko” and the noun “prognosis” (foreknowledge) to be “predestine”. While the BDAG indicates (the basic meaning is “to know beforehand”, “to know in advance”). For me, the more critical issue is that hard determinism is not explicitly declared anywhere in scripture. Of course scripture is going to reveal that God’s plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. But the scripture also reveals God’s allowance of human freedom and contingency. For me, scripture holds the two in balance. The reformed theologian Francis Turretin saw both of these in scripture. But his predisposition towards hard determinism forced him to punt, claiming it as not understandable, rather than allowing himself to see that the scripture holds the two in balance.

    Here is a question for you. Seeing that hard-determinism’s logical conclusion is for many reformed theologians, the acknowledgement that God is the author of evil, are there any reasons that you can think of that hard-determinism could possibly lead to a distorted view of God’s moral and ethical perfection? What reasons can you think of?

    • Tom

      br. d,
      In Acts 2:23 it seems like both you and Kevin have focused so much on the word “proginosko” you have overlooked “horizo”. It is true that “proginosko” means to know beforehand here, but that is not all that is being said of God’s involvement. “Horizo” is what the KJV translates as “determinate”. This is the root word for what is translated as “predestine” in Acts 4:27-28 where it says that those who crucified Jesus did “whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur”.
      I had read that “soft determinism” was closer to describing the compatibilism of Calvinsim than “hard determinism”. I would prefer to define my view by what the Westminster Confession as I for the most part agree with its interpretation of scripture. I’m not sure which reformed theologians you are referring to who acknowledge that God is the author of evil, but the Westminster Confession Ch 3, Sect 1 denies that: “neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
      God is not the author of evil, evil comes from the will of creatures for God is morally good and perfect. We see numerous times in scripture where God ordains that evil things happen (see Genesis 50:20, 1 Kings 22:23, Lamentations 2:20-22, etc.) but the sin is that of the creatures and not God’s. His intent is Holy and righteous and good while that of the creature’s is evil and with a will not forcibly coerced by God.

  19. br.d

    William Lane Craig has a great analysis on the subject of hard-determinism with compatibilism added. In his analysis, compatibilism doesn’t change determinism from hard to soft. Its designed as an argument to neutralize hard determinism’s logical conclusion that God is the author of evil. His answer would be supremely better than mine. :-]
    Check it out.
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

  20. br.d

    Actually…. I take back that recommendation to William Lane Craig, after thinking about your last post a little more. I think your thoughts a perfect lead in to the Jerry Walls presentation on “Clarifying Calvinism”.

    Jerry lays out the undeniable logical conclusions in such a way its very clearly understandable.
    Where you are in your thoughts right not is perfect for Jerry’s video.

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