The Arminian Theology of “What’s in the Bible”

What’s in the Bible is a DVD / video teaching series for children about the Bible.  It is produced by Phil Vischer, one of the makers of “VeggieTales”.

Anyway, I’ve been watching the series with my son Alexander.  He really enjoys it.  I do too.  I’ve appreciated how well done the series is.  It is entertaining, but not at the expense of accuracy.  It overviews the entire Bible, from beginning to end.  It add in little tidbits here and there (like the difference between a canon and a cannon), and in the process teaches about Jewish and Christian history, and how and why we have the Bible today with the books that it contains.

witb

I’ve noticed (and appreciated) how very Arminian the series is.  God is described as relational, loving, and all powerful.  The series also takes a high view of scripture, when the opening song asks, “Is it true, is it reliable, absolutely verifiable?” (and concludes that it is).

Here is a sample of dialog from episode 2 “Who wrote the Bible?”.

Sunday School Lady: “God loves us more than anything else he’s ever made. And He loves it when we love Him back.  But it has to be our choice. God could make us love him, but that isn’t love at all.  We’d be like robots, like toasters. You press the toast button, you get toast.  You press the love button, you get love.”

Ian: “My toaster doesn’t have a love button.”

Sunday School Lady: “Nope, neither does a robot. Love is a choice.  So God gave us a powerful, dangerous gift.  He gave us the freedom to choose.”

Brother Louie: “Dangerous, what’s so dangerous about being able to choose, Sunday School Lady?”

Sunday School Lady: “We can choose to love God or we can reject him.  We can choose to love each other or hurt each other.  Through the years people chosen to do wonderful things and terrible terrible things.  Love is so important to God that the risk is worth it.  God’s heart aches when we choose to hurt each other and reject him.  But he still lets us choose.”

Buck Denver: “Wow, that’s really big.”

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19 Comments

Filed under Arminian Video, Arminianism, Calvinism

19 responses to “The Arminian Theology of “What’s in the Bible”

  1. Adrian Gallagher

    Yep, very Arminian

  2. Adrian Gallagher

    What happens when a statement like “God loves us more than anything else he’s ever made. And He loves it when we love Him back” is taken in the wrong context because here (on this post at least) there is none.

    The kid who’s parents give him anything he wants and never disciplines him will think that that’s what God is like and (maybe validly) thinks that he can do what he likes and God “who loves him” will still let him into heaven (there are homosexuals who argue this way).

    Or the girl who’s heard the words “I love you” but she knows that what they really mean is “I want to get your pants off” (don’t pretend this never happens).

    The idea of God’s love has to be presented in the context of the fall, sin, and eternal judgement for those who don’t repent, and that this is man’s default position, under the wrath of God.

    “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day” Ps 7:11

    • It’s explained in the context of why Adam and Eve originally sinned, and goes on to explain our sinful nature and need for grace. I transcribed the part about toasters / robots, because I thought it was funny. :)

      • Adrian Gallagher

        That’s good.

        Looked up the DVD and couldn’t find an age range it’s aimed at. But whatever it is aren’t they a bit young to start learning that lots of Arminians don’t understand reformed theology, e.g the robots analogy?

      • I like the analogy, it illustrates the nature of real love (it must be relational, not caused or mandatory). CS Lewis used it too.

        “God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.”

      • Adrian Gallagher

        If because of our sin we don’t have the ability in our self to love and God gives us that ability, how is the love then un-relational or caused or mandatory?.

      • Only with Arminianism does God free us to love or not love. In Calvinism either one can’t love God or must love him. It depends on if the person is elect (if the button is pushed or not by God). Hence the robot analogy.

    • Adrian Gallagher

      o- Only with Arminianism does God free us to love or not love.
      The Calvinistic view is that our sin nature means we cannot love God and so He frees us so we can.

      o- In Calvinism either one can’t love God or must love him.
      In Calvinism no one can. When one is born again there is no “must” it’s just the natural thing to do just like it’s natural for the unregenerate to reject God.

      o- It depends on if the person is elect (if the button is pushed or not by God).
      God doesn’t push a button, He gives us life then we choose to believe.

      o- Hence the robot analogy.
      The analogy is wrong because the underlying concept is misunderstood.

      • There is no choice to love God with Calvinism. There is no relationship, only the illusion of it. Reciprocal relationships are only possible when love or rejection are both possible outcomes. But with Calvinism, the reprobate can only reject him, and the elect can only “love” him. Thus genuine relationship becomes impossible, and God only gets toasters.

      • Adrian Gallagher

        “There is no choice to love God with Calvinism”.

        Of course there’s a choice Kevin, but (as I keep trying to tell you) we have to get past the problem of not having the ability to choose.

        In reformed theology we all can make choices but wrt loving God we are dead in sin and trespasses and can’t. People in that state don’t chose to love God.

        It’s only when we’re born again that we can choose to love God and then we do.

        – A sorta analogy.

        Say you have another son who naturally loves to play and before he is old enough to know about robots you figure out he’d love to play with them so without him asking you get him one for Christmas.

        He loves it, playing with it all the time.

        He’s got something he didn’t want, didn’t even know existed but is doing with it exactly what you expected. Does that make him a robot or did he choose to like the toy and play with it?

        Did your giving him a robot force him to play with it or was it his choice?

  3. Adrian, Here are two more accurate analogies:

    1) My son hates robots. I give him a pill that causes him to like robots. He instantly likes them. I give him a robot for Christmas, and he plays with it all the time.

    2) My son hates robots. But I spend time with him and show him all the cool things robots can do. Over time he eventually starts to like robots. I give him one for Christmas, and he plays with it all the time.

    In which analogy do I get more credit for my son’s enjoyment of robots? The first, or the second?

    BTW, Arminianism is also Reformed theology, we agree that man is dead in sin. That’s why I refer to your view as Calvinism, not Reformed.

    • Adrian Gallagher

      But as I’ve been trying to say over and over again the first analogy isn’t an analogy of Calvinism.

      Arminian theology seems to say that God gets no choice. Man deserves salvation and that they have the right to push God’s button at which time He HAS to save them (oh! and they can opt out later if they wish).

      Calvinism (imo) says that God made a choice. All men are sinners, have rejected him, are unable of themselves to repent, and deserve the wrath of God that is upon them. However God in His mercy and grace chose to save some of those undeserved sinners. We love God, not of compulsion, because He first loved us and send Jesus to die for us.

    • Adrian, You didn’t answer the question. In which analogy above do I get more credit for my son’s enjoyment of playing with robots? When I rendered his choice certain? Or when I relationally taught him? I maintain it’s the second. Likewise, God receives more glory when he relationally enables us to believe in Him and we choose to love him. That’s what he wants. That’s his design. Relationship. A genuine relationship is only possible when we could choose otherwise. it’s not a relationship or a choice if it’s s pre rendered outcome that can’t be otherwise. In Calvinism God can’t have a real relationship.

      Btw, I’d love to hear your version of the analogy of my son going from hating robots to loving them, caused by my design, in such a way that he freely chose to, and couldn’t do otherwise. I don’t think you coherently can. Because when Calvinism is laid out bare and simple, the contradictions become apparent.

      We both agree that man is sinful, undeserving, and needs God’s grace to believe. I don’t think God HAS to love everyone, but that he does, because that’s what scripture teaches.

      The problem is that ultimately Calvinism turns God into a monster. He creates a world by his design where most people hate him and are left in a helpless state. It ultimately makes him not much different than the devil. The devil wants all to perish. God in Calvinism wants most to perish, And Calvinists call this love.

      • Adrian Gallagher

        No Kevin I didn’t answer your question because as I said “the first analogy isn’t an analogy of Calvinism”. But to answer your question, 1) unless you go around telling people how your son got to like robots you don’t get any credit for it; 2) someone who is task orientated may prefer the first way as it is quicker, more cost efficient and the result is guaranteed; 3) someone’s who is people orientated may prefer the second as you’re building a relationship with your son whatever the outcome.

        Then your question “I’d love to hear your version of the analogy of my son going from hating robots to loving them, caused by my design, in such a way that he freely chose to” again reiterates your lack of understanding of what I’m trying to say. I freely chose to / choose to love God, but I couldn’t do that of myself, God had to give me the ability to.

        In my life I’ve chosen to sin again and again and again and again and …. Why is our holy God a monster if rather than saving me He instead justly punished me for what I have chosen to do?

      • Adrian, if I don’t understand Calvinism as you say, then please give a Calvinist version of the analogy of how my son goes from hating robots to liking them. I maintain that your analogy will either end up being robotic/coercive OR it will default to Arminian/relational language.

        You say “I freely chose to / choose to love God, but I couldn’t do that of myself, God had to give me the ability to.” That is Arminianism not Calvinism. God gives us the ability to choose him. Notice how you default to Arminian language when the matter of choice comes up.

        You misunderstand the type of credit that I’m asking about when I asked the question of which analogy gives me more credit. I’m not interested in going around and telling people. The credit comes with the love that the father receives from the son, and the good that other people see in the changed son, not when the father goes around bragging about it. And the father can only receive that type of credit in analogy #2.

        You say that someone may choose #1 if they are task oriented, prefer quickness, efficiency, and guaranteed results. Good so far, this does sound like Calvinism. But God is timeless and has unlimited resources, so the only applicable points as they relate to theology are “task oriented” and “guaranteed results”. You can get guaranteed results if you want a toaster, but not if you want a relationship. Relationships aren’t formed by throwing unlimited power and mystery at them. They are formed relationally. Even for God.

        You agree that someone who is people oriented “may prefer the second as you’re building a relationship with your son whatever the outcome.” Here we are in agreement. And I think this is how God is. He prefers building a relationship with us, regardless of the outcome.

        There is one additional point that should be added to the analogies to make them more accurate. I have two sons. In version 1 only the first son gets the treatment. the second son does not, and then then I punish my second son for hating robots. In version 2 I spend time with both sons, but only only the first son responds, so I then punish my second son. In which version is the second son treated more justly?

        God is a monster in Calvinism because he reprobates the vast majority of humanity for doing exactly what he designed them to do. Again, the only difference between God and the devil in Calvinism, is that the devil wants all to perish, where as God wants most to perish. That is not loving the world.

  4. Adrian Gallagher

    OK Kevin, a “credit” question for you!

    Who gets the most credit:

    Someone who comes up with an idea
    Works on the idea and how to achieve it
    Considers what the outcome will cost and if it’s worth it
    Refines it till it’s concrete – he knows exactly what he’ll get and at what price
    Works out an implementation plan
    Implements it exactly as planned – he gets exactly what he wanted
    Comes in exactly on-time and on-budget

    OR

    Someone comes up with an idea
    Starts to implement it without any idea of what exactly will be achieved
    Things start to go wrong and constant interventions are required
    Some things that go wrong result in major cost overruns
    Knows he has to finish something some day but never sure when and what
    Eventually gets to a point where he says things are finished but has to take what he’s got – wonders what would have happened if he went on for a bit longer.
    It cost him an arm and a leg.

    AND

    The most credit goes to …..

    :)

    • What Is the nature of the task I’m doing? Is it building toasters, or building relationships? :)

      Do I have unlimited time, power, knowledge, and resources in each analogy? If so, how does it make sense to speak of “cost overruns”, “frustrating interventions” or “wonder” about the eventual outcome?

      Actually most of #1 fits Arminianism. #2 is perhaps process theology, it’s not Arminianism or even open theism. And to make #1 accurate for Calvinism, you’d also have to include the following.

      -I caused the original problem to solved.

      -In order to be efficient, my idea ignores 90% of the problem.

  5. Adrian Gallagher

    “analogy of how my son goes from hating robots to liking them”

    No analogy is perfect and because we’re all sinners “hating robots” is our default position so in some ways we just need an analogy that us suddenly loving robots.

    Perhaps a workable one is for your son to have been born brain dead (or maybe just deaf, dumb and blind) and in that state having no real idea about anything. Then you pray for him and God instantly heals him and the first things he sees is a robot. Because of that first association he goes on to always love them.

    • That illustration is a little better, although it’s not a choice that the son is making in any real sense of the word. As you say (Calvinism) needs an analogy that suddenly has us loving robots. Our analogies get a little extra confusing too because the illustrations disputably involve robots at multiple levels. :)

      At any rate, we’re unlikely to agree. Thanks for the interaction.

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