Category Archives: God’s love

Did God Fix the Outcome of the Seahawks/Packers Game?

The Seattle Seahawks (my team by the way, go ‘Hawks!) have been in the news recently because of their improbable last minute win over the Green Bay Packers.  With four minutes left in the game, the Packers had a 99.9% statistical chance of winning.  But the Seahawks pulled it out.

Russell Wilson, the QB for Seattle, is a vocal Christian.  After the game he prayed and gave glory to God (which is awesome).  He also seemed to imply that God caused the improbable outcome of the game.

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special. I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs.  It’s what’s led me to this day.”(link)

Some other Seahawks gave credit to God too, but without implying God determined the outcome.

“We fought.  Playing football it’s awesome.  God is so good.  It don’t get no better than this.” – Earl Thomas, Facebook.

“To God go the glory!” – Richard Sherman, Facebook

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Aaron Rodgers, QB for the Packers (and also a Christian) had a different view.

“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome, He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”(link)

Here’s what I think:

It’s really cool that so many football players are vocal about their Christian faith, and that they give God the glory.  I admire that in their character.  Through their platform they can be a positive witness for Christ.

And God certainly does help us to do our best in all we do as we honor him.  In  the case of athletic events, he does that for Christians on both teams.

But there are some problems with the idea that God fixes the outcomes of games.

First, God can be glorified with either outcome of a sports event.  God didn’t need the Seahawks to win in order to bring about his plan. If the Packers had won, God would be equally glorified.  It is really a small view of God to think that he has to make sure a certain team wins.  God is bigger than that.

Second, it implies that God honored the request of players and fans of one team, but not the players and fans for the other teams.  Does God love Russell Wilson more Aaron Rodgers?  No, he loves them both.  And for a player to claim that God favors him over others is a little selfish.

I agree with Aaron Rodgers.  God cares less about the outcome of a game than he does the people who are involved in it.

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Musings on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and its Relation to the Atonement.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is recorded in Matthew 18:23-35.

Here it is in full (NIV):

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The parable is not completely analogous to the atonement, because there is no mention of another person (like the king’s son) paying the debt for the servant, or the cost of that act. The king simply forgives the debt himself. And the parable only deals with one person, so it doesn’t address the universal aspect of the atonement. But still, I think we can gain insight here into how, when, and why God forgives us.

First, the King directly cancels the servant’s debt. It is a personal act. In this way, it is analogous to the satisfaction theory of atonement. What God did was a complete payment for sin, that is individually appropriated. This aspect of the parable doesn’t align well with the governmental view of atonement, that some Arminians hold to.

Secondly, the cancellation of the debt was conditional in two ways. The king forgave the servant’s debt only after the servant begged for mercy (condition #1), and when the servant did not forgive someone else in need (condition #2), the king reinstated the debt. That doesn’t align with the Calvinistic view that the atonement is automatically applied, and can’t contain a “double jeopardy” clause – IE that a debt that has been paid can’t be reinstated(1). Apparently from God’s view, a debt can reinstated, even if it has previously been forgiven. God’s forgiveness is not based solely on the cancellation of a debt, it requires that we ask for it, and it requires that we forgive others who ask that of us.

So the atonement is both direct (a cancellation for our individual debts), and conditional (dependent on us asking and forgiving others). At least that is what this parable seems to imply.

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(1) For a good explanation of the problems with the Calvinist double jeopardy view, see this article on the Arminian Perspectives blogs.

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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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Filed under Calvinism, God's love, Jerry Walls

Qualities of God

If God is love, the following is also true:

God is patient.
God is kind.
He is not envious.
He does not boast.
He is not proud.
He does not dishonor others.
He is not self seeking.
He is not easily angered.
He keeps no record of wrongs.
He does not delight in evil,
He rejoices with the truth.
He always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
and always perseveres.
God never fails.

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The Jealousy of God and Calvinism

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

A disturbing aspect of Calvinism is how it does damage to God’s character. By improperly defining the sovereignty of God, Calvinists cannot adequately account for other aspects of God’s character.

Calvinism is not compatible with the jealousy of God. If depraved humanity is doing what God has decreed, the jealousy of God is not real. If God’s jealousy is genuine, determinism must be false. God’s is jealous because his people, whom he loves, are not in relationship with him as he would prefer.

One of the Hebrew names for God is El Kanna (or El Qanna). Jealous God. El is a title, and indicates an intrinsic aspect of who God is.

El Shaddi – Mighty God
El Olam – Eternal God
El Elyon – Most High God
El Roi – All Seeing God
El Kanna – Jealous God

God’s jealousy is on the same level as his qualities that we typically associate with sovereignty – qualities like might and omnipresence.

God is jealous because he is sovereign and his people behave like he is not. God created us and sustains us. He is the only one worthy to be praised and worshiped. He does not settle for being one of many. He is THE one, there is no other. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5). When we fall short of this command, God is jealous. And rightfully so. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. (Deut 6:13-15)

The prominence of the jealous God is apparent in the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol….You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.(Literally: I Yahweh Elohim-of you El Kanna Exodus 20:4-5 Hebrew interlinear)

The jealous nature of the Lord is often spoken of in scripture (Ex 20:5, 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Jos 24:19; Isa. 9:7; Zech. 1:14, 8:2.)

God’s jealousy indicates his commitment. He cannot be jealous if he does not care. God’s jealousy indicates his involvement. He cannot be jealous if he created a world that is on fatalistic auto-pilot.

God’s jealousy is active. Kanna communicates a sense of being committed to a course of action. It is sometimes translated as zealous. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (literally – kanna of Yahweh Isaiah 9:7 Hebrew interlinear).

In the New Testament, a zealot (like Simon the zealot) was called Kananaios. The zealots were willing to die to free Israel from Rome. God is willing to die to free us from sin. The jealousy of God is not the sort where he sits and pouts. God’s jealousy motivated him to send Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s jealousy is always a catalyst to action.

Human jealousy is usually a bad thing. It is self-centered and covetous. We want something that is not ours. We selfishly desire someone who does not rightfully belong to us. In relationships, human jealousy is interested in self gratification and not the well being of the other. God desires our well being. He is jealous for our completeness in him. He knows that to be in relationship with him is the only thing that will ever truly fulfill us. God is jealous when we don’t follow him. He is jealous for us (Zech 8:2). He is jealous when our loyalties are divided. God wants us to be the people that he intended us to be.

The book of Hoesa gives insight into the jealousy of God. God’s relationship with Israel was likened to Hosea’s relationship with Gomer.

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (Hosea 3:1)

The jealousy of God shows his vulnerability. The God of the Bible is hurt and experiences pain when we reject him. As Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea and caused him pain, Israel was unfaithful to God and caused him pain. God’s relationship with Israel was based in love, and was like a marriage covenant. When Israel violated its marriage vow, God was jealous. He was jealous because he was rejected by his covenant people whom he loved and cared for.

Jealousy does not make sense in the Calvinist system. Determinism mocks it. Detachment makes it impossible. Arbitrary wrath makes it irrelevant.

The jealousy of God is not genuine in a world where events are inevitably determined. A.W. Pink wrote that:

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close.

John Calvin wrote:

men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction.

Louis Berkhof wrote:

The decree of God however, carries with it necessity. God has decreed to effectuate all things or, if He has not decreed that, He has at least determined that they must come to pass. He has decided the course of man’s life for him.

In Calvinism, God becomes jealous of the course of man’s life that he has decided for him! God is jealous that his creatures are behaving in a way that he has inevitably caused. How absurd. Such a shallow concept of jealousy mocks the heart of God.

Jealousy is not genuine if God is detached. Just as Hosea was jealous when Gomer was unfaithful to him, God was jealous when Israel was unfaithful to him. If God was not concerned with Israel, or if God is not concerned with what or who we give affection to, he could not and cannot be jealous. God is jealous because he is affected by our rejection of him. If God is detached and aloof, if he does not participate in genuine relationship, he is not jealous.

Jealousy is not genuine if God’s wrath is arbitrary. God is wrathful because he is jealous, and he is jealous because we are separated from him. It is important to remember the active zeal of God’s jealousy. God’s wrath is displayed in his zealous pursuit of humanity, and is instigated by the possibility of of reconciliation. When God punishes it comes about as a result to his spurned affection (Hosea 7:13). In Calvinism, God’s wrath is divorced from reality. It is based on secret arbitrary decrees rather than from the identifiable motivations given in scripture.

In summary, the jealousy of God is genuine. Jealousy is an intrinsic part of God’s character. In Calvinism, the jealousy of God is not genuine. Determinism, detachment, and arbitrary punishment make it impossible for God to have genuine jealousy. God’s jealousy occurs because he created people for genuine relationship with him, and those people have rejected him instead. The fact that Calvinism cannot account for the jealousy of God demonstrates that the system is false.

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Filed under Attributes of God, God's jealousy, God's love

More than Dreams (Islam)

I recently had the pleasure of seeing a new believer get baptized. This young person came from an Islamic background. His testimony brought tears to my eyes. It is such a joy to hear the life story of a new follower of Christ. It is particularly amazing when the testimony comes from someone who risks everything to follow Him.

Here is a site with video testimonies from former Muslims who have become Christians. These are professionally done reenactments telling the story of these individuals, and how they came to know Isa (Jesus). They are spoken in the native languages (Arabic, Farsi, etc) of the believers. There are English subtitles also.

More than Dreams

These particular testimonies have several things in common:

  • All were seeking to know Allah better.
  • All had visions and dreams about Isa.
  • All sacrificed much to follow Isa.

Our Savior is moving in the Islamic world He is making his name known among the nations. May the Lord give strength to Christians in Islamic countries. And may I learn from the example of these belivers who give up everything to follow Jesus.

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The Minister’s Daughter

by John Greenleaf Whittier

In the minister’s morning sermon
He had told of the primal fall,
And how thenceforth the wrath of God
Rested on each and all.

And how of His will and pleasure,
All souls, save a chosen few,
Were doomed to the quenchless burning,
And held in the way thereto.

Yet never by faith’s unreason
A saintlier soul was tried,
And never the harsh old lesson
A tenderer heart belied.

And, after the painful service
On that pleasant Sabbath day,
He walked with his little daughter
Through the apple-bloom of May.

Sweet in the fresh green meadows
Sparrow and blackbird sung;
Above him their tinted petals
The blossoming orchards hung.

Around on the wonderful glory
The minister looked and smiled;
“How good is the Lord who gives us
These gifts from His hand, my child.

“Behold in the bloom of apples
And the violets in the sward
A hint of the old, lost beauty
Of the Garden of the Lord!”

Then up spake the little maiden,
Treading on snow and pink
“O father! these pretty blossoms
Are very wicked, I think.

“Had there been no Garden of Eden
There never had been a fall;
And if never a tree had blossomed
God would have loved us all.”

“Hush, child!” the father answered,
“By His decree man fell;
His ways are in clouds and darkness,
But He doeth all things well.

“And whether by His ordaining
To us cometh good or ill,
Joy or pain, or light or shadow,
We must fear and love Him still.”

“Oh, I fear Him!” said the daughter,
“And I try to love Him, too;
But I wish He was good and gentle,
Kind and loving as you.”

The minister groaned in spirit
As the tremulous lips of pain
And wide, wet eyes uplifted
Questioned his own in vain.

Bowing his head he pondered
The words of the little one;
Had he erred in his life-long teaching?
Had he wrong to his Master done?

To what grim and dreadful idol
Had he lent the holiest name?
Did his own heart, loving and human,
The God of his worship shame?

And lo! from the bloom and greenness,
From the tender skies above,
And the face of his little daughter,
He read a lesson of love.

No more as the cloudy terror
Of Sinai’s mount of law,
But as Christ in the Syrian lilies
The vision of God he saw.

And, as when, in the clefts of Horeb,
Of old was His presence known,
The dread Ineffable Glory
Was Infinite Goodness alone.

Thereafter his hearers noted
In his prayers a tenderer strain,
And never the gospel of hatred
Burned on his lips again.

And the scoffing tongue was prayerful,
And the blinded eyes found sight,
And hearts, as flint aforetime,
Grew soft in his warmth and light.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
American Christian and Abolitionist

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