God’s Will For Your Life Is That You Would Suffer

Like it or not, God’s will for your life is that you would suffer.

In various capacities, one may sense relief, anger, frustration, concern, and a host of other emotions that one ought to wrestle with as they come to grips with the reality of death, sickness, pain, trials, and the onslaught of unjust actions in humanity. It is right and proper for Christians and non-Christians alike to deliberate over and develop convictions on these things. However, far too often there is a complete disregard to suffering well. If suffering is simply random, chaotic experiences that one may or may not face in this life, then suffering is simply something worthy of escaping.

Yet if suffering is something appointed for a purpose, I sense most in this world have no intentions of seeing that purpose realized in their own life. Nobody likes to suffer in the midst of their trial, but suffer we must. What I am speaking to here is something intrinsic to Calvinistic theology: God is utterly sovereign in all things. More clearly, I am speaking with direct inference toward all things falling under His jurisdiction and that not one single thing in history has escaped His sovereign decree, including suffering. Boiled down to the simplest explanation: indeed, God is in complete control and has, in fact, ordained all things.

Naturally, I believe God has not only superintended all things within His divine decree, but that man’s role in playing out this divine drama is still subject to judgment. What I mean by this, very simply, is that though God has orchestrated all things that have been, are now happening, and will ever be – man is held responsible for acting in a manner that is contrary to His revealed will.

How is this reconciled through the Calvinistic worldview?

Quite simply, we find three main expressions of the will of God in the scriptures:

God’s Decretive Will

The Decretive Will of the Lord is also often called “God’s sovereign will” and speaks directly to that which God will bring to pass whatever He has decreed from before the foundations of the earth were laid. This is the “secret” will of the Lord, that which is expressly forbidden knowledge – as it belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone. It is not revealed to mankind outside of instances in scripture that give general indication of what shall come to be – but not how. It is presumptuous sin for man to seek out this knowledge, it is designated by the Lord and as such, it shall surely come to pass.

No man has any ability to thwart God’s Decretive Will. Interestingly, there are accounts within scripture where man is held responsible for acting out God’s Decretive will even though they are in violation of God’s preceptive will – and scripture has no issues assigning the catalyst, or cause of this, to God, without insinuation of Him being evil in any respect. Rather, it is man, who contrary to scripture, assigns this charge.

Examples: Job 23:13; Isaiah 14:24, 46:10-11; 1 Thess. 5:23-24

God’s Preceptive Will

The Preceptive Will of the Lord is that which is revealed within the scriptures through the Law, direct commandments of God, and through prophetic utterance in the account of the prophets recorded in scripture. Man has the ability to disobey this aspect of the will of God, but it is not intrinsic to man’s right to do so. More clearly, while man can disobey God’s revealed, or preceptive will, he will surely be judged for it.

Another aspect of this falls within the nature of debate over the will of man, for obvious reasons. The proper understanding of man falls within an understanding of their natural disposition toward disobedience. This does not entail that every man is acting in the worst conceivable way at every moment of their existence. It simply teaches that man’s disposition, or will, is at odds with God due to the fall of mankind, and he operates in this disposition de facto.

Examples: 1 Thess. 4:3-6; Rom. 1:21-23; Eph. 5:17-20

God’s Will of Permission

God’s will of permission then is the final categorical aspect of the will of God and it is used to describe that which is allowed by the Lord even though it brings Him no good pleasure. There is some semantic overlap in this category and the former (preceptive will) – but they are not one in the same. God is not pleased to send any to Hell on the basis of unbelief, yet He has revealed that His standard of judgment upon the unbeliever will be condemnation in Hell. Does this reveal some contradiction within the biblical corpus or depict a manic god who says, “If only so and so would have believed?!

No. It simply reveals facets of the will of God and demonstrates that indeed, He is slow to punish the wicked, longsuffering in extending them every opportunity to repentance, and kind in His grace with which He extends to those in Christ, all the while demonstrating genuine sadness over the lost who will be forever alienated and estranged. Does this indicate man has some power over God? No. It simply reveals that God has actively allowed them to act in a manner that betrays his preceptive will.

Examples: Romans 1:24-32; Acts 7:42; Eph. 2:1-3; Is. 44:18; Psalm 81:11-12

What then, is the Purpose of Calamity and Suffering?

Quite simply, calamity is designed to be a banner. Calamity is a call to repentance. As the tower of Siloam demonstrated, suffering a tragic fate is not indicative of a particular individual’s sin – as tragedy befalls all men (Luke 13:1-5). Rather, it is a catalyst to remind mankind of their frailty and the impending doom of the judgment of God if they are not reconciled to Him. In other words, tragedy is designed with the purpose of bringing mankind to repentance – for all will likewise perish.

Calamity may indeed be the result of individual sin, yet it is not proper for any man to indict another of such a thing as this falls under the Decretive, or secret will of the Lord. It is inaccessible knowledge for one to know for certain if an outcome is a direct result of a particular sin, though in some cases we can make an educated guess. For example, if I get shot in the face because I try to rob a liquor store, you can summarily deduce that I suffered immediate judgment due to personal sin. In the case of natural disaster or casualties of war, it would be improper to make such a judgment.

In the case of war, famine, persecution, and any means of suffering – it stands not only as a banner urging those who experience it to repentance and faith in Christ, but every single person upon the earth. Man is not guaranteed any next day – and the urgency shown in the scriptures toward a call to repentance is immediate. All men shall meet the great equalizer, death, and be subject to immediate judgment. There are no second chances; there is no escape from this reality, save through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And yet belief in the gospel of Christ does not mean, as some have put it, your best life happens now. Many retain belief in Christ and are called to a life of abject poverty, suffering, and death at the hands of persecutors, yet exemplify a living hope that even angels long to look (1 Peter 1:3-12). Are such things outside of the control of God? By no means – Christ is utterly supreme (Col. 1:15-20). Some may suffer as a result of their own actions – yet this post is namely concerned with those who suffer having done nothing wrong (1 Peter 3:14-22). In all of these cases we find the sovereign Lord who has, in His decretive will, called some to suffer (1 Peter 2:19-24).

There is a general suffering that all men face as a consequence of living in a broken and fallen world and then a particular suffering that is appointed. Think of Job, Joseph, Paul, Peter, and Christ Himself. The concern of the scriptures is not that suffering takes place; indeed, all who desire godliness must suffer! Suffering, though seen by this world as something to escape, is called a blessing – one which endows the recipient to receive a divine reward upon suffering well (Matt 5:3-12). Without hesitation, scripture is replete with examples where the authors attribute the cause of one’s suffering to the Lord – yet notice what they never do; they never once assign wickedness to the Lord (Gen. 50:15-21; Lev. 26:14-46; Josh. 23:15; Jer. 35:17; Is. 10:1-19; Habakkuk; Col. 1:24-29; 2 Cor. 11:16-12:10).

Final Thoughts

The tendency toward vitriol that others who disagree with these sentiments is rather alarming in more than one way. First and foremost, if this does accurately reflect the scripture’s teaching on the matter – the charge that the Calvinistic conception of God is wicked, evil, and unduly cruel, is supreme blasphemy. On the basis that you might be wrong and the Calvinistic understanding might be correct, I would urge you to severe caution in using such language, as you may indeed find yourself decrying the Almighty. Such a thought should terrify anyone who truly fears God.

Secondly, a god who lacks control in any sense, is not philosophically speaking, God. In one sense some will argue for an all-powerful being able to speak things into existence – yet it is too far a cry to suggest that this same being is in complete control of all that He has spoken into existence and can actively guide that creation in His purposes. In reality, I sense there is a greater issue with the concept of God being God than the violation of the will, as the question generally boils down to this: what right has God to violate my will? Man has free will, yet he is in predisposition to act according to his nature, which is in opposition to God, thus, he freely acts against his Maker.

There are, of course, a host of issues tied to this: salvation, damnation, human responsibility, etc. This post simply cannot cover all of these topics in the scope needed without boring most to tears. There are other, far more exhaustive resources on this topic dealing with objections that naturally arise out of such a theological treatment. This post is not indicative of a full treatment and cannot possibly do anything other than give a cursory treatment of the issues. If you would like a fuller treatment on a particular issue, feel free to drop a comment below and we may be able to write another post in response, or point you to available resources.

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  • Iain Lovejoy

    The blasphemy is to make God the author of evil, which you do.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Right, because that’s precisely what I and other Calvinists have [not] done. Just because you feel it leads there does not in fact make that deduction appropriate or correct. But I have to ask at this point because I’ve seen you comment a lot on past subjects: are you an open theist?

      • Iain Lovejoy

        No, I’m not an open theist, I just don’t consider that God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with free will.
        I would say that God’s foreknowledge derives from his being eternal and not subject to time, so that past, present and future are equally accessible to him. This is as I understand it the classical Christian doctrine of the nature of God.
        Foreknowledge is only incompatible with free will if one takes God to be an ordinary creature of time whose foreknowledge derives from either his comprehensive knowledge of the universe around him in his present time and circumstances and his predicting the future via extrapolation from its present state (which to be possible would require the universe to be entirely deterministic) or more straightforwardly because he simply forcibly requires the universe to behave in the way he has predetermined he wants it to.

  • The Happy Atheist

    “Naturally, I believe God has not only superintended all things within
    His divine decree, but that man’s role in playing out this divine drama
    is still subject to judgment. What I mean by this, very simply, is that
    though God has orchestrated all things that have been, are now
    happening, and will ever be – man is held responsible for acting in a
    manner that is contrary to His revealed will.”

    Full stop. The two elements of this statement are irreconcilably contradictory. No being anywhere, even an omnipotent one, can justly judge his creation for doing exactly what he knew they would do from eternity. By your reasoning, the very act of creation makes god responsible for the end result. Any other stance pits divine sovereignty and justice against each other.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Ultimately, man acts freely in carrying out the decretive (secret) will of the Lord. How this works – I don’t fully understand, but it is simply what the scriptures teach on the matter. The book of Habakkuk alone demonstrates that.

      However, notice that you are projecting the limits of mankind upon an omnipotent God, as your own measure of what you feel is just is the standard rather than what the scriptures claim is justice. Quite candidly, scripture has no issues in saying that God is free to do with His creation what He wills – yet He is pleased to give a means of justice that doesn’t end in universal condemnation (which is the full measure of justice without propitiation).

      Scripture also has no hesitation in ascribing to God full control over the heart, yet distinctly showing that in their natural condition, mankind acts freely and disobeys. Simply because the concept betrays our feelings in respect to what we believe is unbridled autonomy, doesn’t indicate that God is evil, sinful, or wicked in doing what He wills with His creation, nor that we are without choice. Every sinful action you or I have partaken in, we’ve desired to act upon.

      Again, is it too far a cry to suggest that an all-powerful being is truly all-powerful and that these things are within His control?

      This is what makes the prospect of judgment all the more terrifying – yet the surety of grace in Christ all the more wonderful. You literally don’t possess the capability to please God outside of Christ because your very nature is in opposition to God – and what’s more than this, He, not on the basis of any merit whatsoever, elects whom He desires and sustains them until that final day. The particulars of this are all part of that secret knowledge which is not ours to have, yet thankfully, we have a clear guide in the preceptive will of God, which is that all men would repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      • Iain Lovejoy

        “We have a clear guide in the preceptive will of God, which is that all men would repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
        Except by your theology he deliberately created people so they wouldn’t repent and believe. Or does “preceptive” in this case mean “pretended”?

        • Gilsongraybert

          Iain, have you given an exegetical treatment of Romans 9? I’d be quite interested to know where that has taken you, if anywhere.

          Also, there’s a definition of the preceptive will of the Lord above; if you’d prefer to be derisive, have at it, but it is (as was stated in interactions previously) completely lost effort on me.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            If God states he wants one thing and secretly wills another his stated will is only “pretended”, in accordance with the ordinary English meaning of the word “pretended”. I am not bring derisive I am being accurate.

          • Gilsongraybert

            Right. Accurate. That’s precisely how I would describe your comment above on how I worship the almighty theology; not derisive, but “accurate” lol. Maybe one day in the future we’ll have a legitimate conversation about the text, but given the trajectory you’ve shown in your “accuracy” time and again I’d paint that to be a little too optimistic. Have a good one! I’ll catch you around again in the future, Lord willing.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            I was flippant in my “Almighty Theology” remark. I do have tendency to be when replying off the cuff. I should point out, however, that this was not addressed to you, and was a reply in the tone of the original comment. The problem with these comment forums is that it is easy to forget in talking to someone else you are actually talking with the person you are talking about as it were right there, and say things inappropriate to that situation. Sorry about that.
            I will noe however undermine that apology by saying that you seem equally willing to be flippant or caustic with those you disagree with, so let’s not all get too precious about it.
            I am just about to post a detailed (and serious) response re Romans 9, if you are interested, and was happy to respond seriously to your serious question about open theology.

          • Gilsongraybert

            May I ask, why do you feel dismissing an individual who has repeatedly come to troll is flippant (donalbain)? I’ve tried to engage you in the past because, though you may get feisty, I sense there is a willingness, at times, to hash over the argument rather than simply come to be obnoxious.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            BTW. The crack about “Almighty Theology” had a serious point. Every time I read about Calvinist theology it seems to me that it insists that God must behave in ever more complicated, contradictory, bizarre or often downright horrible ways in order to be consistent with the original theological premises. If this is pointed out, inevitably what is fallen back on is “who are you to question God” or “God’s ways are beyond human understanding” or similar (you do it yourself).
            The problem is that it is you, not the questioner who is pretending to understand the ways of God, by insisting that your theological conclusions compel him to act in the way you say. In this way I would say that, yes, you are placing your theology above God (but I could have said it more clearly and nicer).

          • Gilsongraybert

            I know you had a serious point, I am dismissing it because you have an incredibly low view of scripture and have demonstrated that time and again in your comments here. You fleece the text and come out with what you like, and dance around the remainder, and then try to take the high road as if people are idiots who hold a contrary view of the text itself than you (and I would assume many Arminians have received the brunt of your antics as well). I have yet to see a consistent hermeneutic come out in how you handle different conversations. Your inflammatory rants are the only thing which has been consistent in your comments.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            I am unclear what you mean by Mr having a “low” view of scripture, or “dancing around” or “fleecing” the text: on the contrary I consider I have a deep respect for what the text actually says, but very little respect for attempts to make it say that which it doesn’t. Some examples would be good.
            I am not sure about a completely “consistent hermeneutic”, since I may have changed my mind on some issues, but I do have a set of basic ideas as to what the gospel is and the nature and character of God which I think consistently hold to. If you think I “rant” it is because I am responding to your own views as expressed in your articles which do quite frequently seem to me to be pretty horrible, and I can’t really apologise for that, although, yes, I do think you are right it is more sensible and fair to engage properly with your arguments. It may be me, however, but I think you do sometimes simply assert as incontrovertible views with which in fact the bulk of Christians, let alone people generally would disagree (and yes, that tends to make my rant muscle twitch – I will try and keep it under control).

          • Gilsongraybert

            Perhaps I am mistaking you for another individual, and if I am, I am truly sorry. In the past, I’ve seen you defend things as simple as homosexuality on the basis of rejecting not only the biblical consensus on it, but the historic church’s consensus as well – that has been the bulk of what I have stated is incontrovertible on this space, along with other primary doctrines. I believe I have also seen you emphatically reject inspiration of the text, which is at the heart of liberalism – which I emphatically reject.

            While I firmly believe scripture plainly teaches the doctrines of grace, I have in no sense alluded to or stated that one holding to a different opinion is anathema, so long as their position remains orthodox. The comment regarding a consistent hermeneutic is simply geared toward how it seems you interpret the text (again, in regards to homosexuality, you’d be remiss to apply that same methodology to rape, murder, etc.).

            At the end of the day, you don’t offend me in the least. I’m not upset by your ranting – in fact, I find it much more compelling than one who lacks conviction in any sense; I just don’t care to entertain a debate where one who opposes me is simply going to slam me over and again. While I have thick skin, it surely isn’t something I delight in or care to interact with much. I think that your views often put you in a severe bind when it comes to matters like homosexuality and as a result place you in a position of rejecting not only the scripture’s sexual ethic, but the God of that ethic (see 1 Thess. 4:1-8) – but I nonetheless appreciate that you’re at least honest. I simply feel that in many cases, people on the internet resort to gimmicks, inflammatory rhetoric, and name-calling rather than intelligibly dealing with the issue at hand. I have friends who disagree with me vehemently (who are not Christian in any sense) that treat me with much more respect than I’ve experienced from one claiming to be in Christ. That, to me, speaks volumes of many things.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            I have never denied the inspiration of the text: if someone has it wasn’t me. Yes, I don’t think homosexuality is wrong within the confines of a exclusive monogamous relationship under God. Yes, that puts me at odds with a traditional teaching of the church, but I don’t think in fact puts me at odds with the Bible (obviously you do, but then we disagree on that).
            If you are looking for a “consistent hermeneutic”, this is mine:
            The Bible is the inspired word of God, and true, but it is not God itself: God himself is pure love as revealed in the person of Jesus – to have seen Jesus is to have seem the Father: any interpretation of the Bible which contradicts that is a mistake. I try and usually can identify the mistake, but if I can’t I accept it as my own limited understanding and go with the general principle of a loving God, not a specific difficult to understand verse. I would rather be wrong on a specific than wrongly lose faith in the general principle itself.
            I uphold the traditional doctrines of the church in so far as they don’t conflict with the Bible, observed fact or rationality, or require abandoning faith in the loving nature of God.
            I am very glad you have responded to my posts, particularly as you are right – I can allowing passion at an argument to overtake both decent manners and love of a fellow human being, and I hope I can improve on this. Thanks.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            Romans 9:
            First off, this chapter and those following are expressly stated to be about the Israelites which makes picking random isolated verses and making them about who goes to hell even less useful than normal.
            In vv 6-13 Paul makes the point that the promise to Abraham is fulfilled only in such of Abraham’s children that God chooses, and as God chooses, not because of anything they have done. (Note: God’s promise to Abraham is that his children will be numberless with a glorious future, nothing about hell.)
            In vv 14-18 Paul is justifying how and through whom and who God uses to carry out his will, not picking who goes to hell.
            (NB Re “hardening Pharoah’s heart” – I think this is easily misunderstood, but this is not relevant to Paul’s argument, for reasons given below.)
            In v.19 the crucial point is that the second half of the verse is in the Greek perfect tense, which indicates the ongoing result of a completed action: what the person is asking is who it is who is currently in defiance of God such that God’s anger is still continuing. In the context of a chapter about the Israelites, this is asking who among the Israelites is responsible for God still being angry with them and not restoring Israel.
            Vv 20-21 follow on from 6-18 by retorting that this is a misconceived question: God fulfils the promise how he chooses and in the manner he chooses using who he chooses and it has nothing to do with anyone’s merit or fault or otherwise. (Again, nothing to do with heaven / hell.)
            The potter analogy is completely misused as a proof text for limited election. Apart from being nothing to do with the topic, it doesn’t say what you want it to say anyway. A potter doesn’t make pots deliberately badly, or for the purpose of destroying them again once made. He will make some pots for special occasions or particularly valuable purposes whilst making others for more everyday or less exalted purposes. But unless a poor or lazy workman they will still all be useful, wanted pots.
            V. 22 has a stray “if” at the beginning for which no-one is sure where the “then” is: I’ll get to that later.
            V.22 seems to me a further attack on the question in v.19. Paul is saying that it’s not a case of some backslider spoiling it for the good Israelites, rather God has been patient with them for his own purposes, Paul describing them as “vessels if destruction”. While I may be wrong about this, as I am no expert, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the Greek of this verse that requires us to read that God was longsuffering with Israel because he wanted to show his wrath and power (a present participle is used which apparently just indicates simultaneous action, not cause) so it seems more natural to read that God was longsuffering with Israel despite wanting to show his wrath and power.
            V. 23 starts with ” kai”, “and” but it also can be used (as i understand it) for a “then” clause after an “if”. I suspect then that this verse is the elusive “then” to v22’s “if”, which would make sense here because Paul would then be saying that God has spared Israel for the purposes of producing the church from it.
            The rest of Romans 9, and indeed 10 & 11 then go on to explain that the heirs of Abraham’s promise are those of the Israelites who believe, to whom the gentile believers have then also been “grafted on”.
            The passage has nothing to do directly with heaven or hell, only the promise of Abraham for his descendants.
            It is also important to note that at the end of this long passage, which is at the end of Romans 11, Paul is clear that, eventually, in the gathering in of all the nations, all the non-believing Israelites will, by the action of the “remnant”, also come to believe and be saved.

          • Gilsongraybert

            Thank you for coming to the text and walking through it. I would agree with you that this is not speaking directly toward “making pots with the purpose of destruction.” It is indicative of vessels used for dishonorable use and honorable use or “higher” purposes and “lower” purposes; i.e. a chamber pot vs. a vase. The two have distinctly different purposes and this does not indicate that one is made poorly – but the indication of these particular vessels being made objects of wrath is an important distinction that we can’t really escape.

            Secondly, if God is immutable (and He is based on the testimony of the scriptures), then it is consistent to say that His elective purposes for Israel are the same as His elective purposes for Gentiles (which is shown time and again through the gospels with Christ effectively drawing only those whom the Father has given Him, as well as Paul’s treatment over and again in the NT, such as Eph. 2). This is also why I firmly believe that national Israel will be restored. The text simply doesn’t allow for supersessionism, which is something many of my capital “R” Reformed brothers don’t agree with my convictions on, to which I think they are wrong.

            Yet back to the issue at hand, it all flows out of the purpose: that God’s election might stand (v. 11), not out of works but by Him who calls(v. 12). The argument always comes to: how is this fair? Paul actually presupposes this question in vv. 14-15 and then continues to shed light on the nature of His sovereign choice. Primarily, God is not unjust in having mercy upon whom He desires to have mercy upon. We then find Paul reiterate that it does not depend on human desire or effort – but the mercy of God (v. 16) and then gives an example of how this worked in the context of covenant faithfulness to Israel in Egypt. What was the pharaoh raised up for? For what purpose (hina clause) that God might display His power. How? v. 18 enlightens us once again; go back to Genesis and see how many times that simultaneously, the Lord hardened the pharaoh’s heart and the pharaoh hardened his own heart against Moses and the Israelites.

            Once again, Paul goes back to the charge of God being unjust in doing just this (v. 19), to which Paul essentially says, “bow before your potter.” Again, I feel you are correct here in the designation for these lumps of clay – but the purpose goes back to the hina clause (that God might show His power). Why do I think this? Because Paul expressly tells us this in vv 22-24, where we find Paul’s inclusion of the Gentiles in the equation now. In this, he hearkens back to Hosea and Isaiah to demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy: the calling of those outside of national Israel and those within national Israel, yet also the promised judgment and only partial election on the national Israel due to the same exact thing done to Pharoah: the hardening of national Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in (Rom 11:25) – and then he indicts them of their practice of legalism.

            All throughout this passage we find the tension indicative of both the Lord sovereignly directing and accomplishing His cause, and national Israel willingly walking in that.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            There are a couple of logical leaps here not actually in the text. That Paul continues the “Israelites as vessels” theme from verse 22 to 23 doesn’t to my mind justify a whole theology based on the idea that God deliberately made the vessels “fit for destruction” from the beginning. More importantly, Paul is clear God doesn’t destroy or exercise his wrath against the vessels, but is instead longsuffering, and, ultimately, states God’s plan is to bring the unbelieving Israelites (which is who the vessels fit for destruction are) to belief and save them, not destroy them at all.
            You accuse me of playing fast and loose with the words of the Bible, but I think you may be doing this by saying the gospels repeatedly refer to Jesus “only” drawing to himself those the Father has given him. That “only” I think is your addition to the text. (I could be wrong, but you don’t cite it.)
            You again read in concepts of “election” into the text which aren’t there in your treatment of vv11-12: the passage is about the continuation of God’s plan to fulfil the promise to Abraham, not salvation / damnation, and you gloss over that Paul’s conclusion to this section is that the God’s purpose is that Abraham’s seed will draw all nations to God in belief, not to be an “elect” escaping some general damnation.
            I think my thoughts on Exodus and Pharaoh’s “hardened heart” might now be relevant. As a preliminary, in Hebrew idiom (unlike English) the heart is the location of the mind and thinking, not deep seated emotions (which is generally the kidneys, sometimes rendered “reins”; I suppose we might say ” guts”), meaning “hardening the heart” is not about causing a deep-rooted spiritual change, but just means making someone become obstinate, which is important for what follows.
            I have a little understanding of Hebrew grammar, and I have looked carefully at Exodus 4:21-22, the first time hardening Pharaoh’s heart is mentioned. V.22 starts with a perfect consecutive, which is not the usual tense for straightforward narrative but rather indicates the phrase is either a consequence or result of what precedes, or an instruction following from it. It seems to me therefore that God is in v21 instructing Moses as to what to do if Pharaoh is made obstinate, not simply telling Moses what is going to happen. Since v21 is God instructing Moses to perform the signs and wonders before Pharaoh, which on the face of it ought to have made Pharaoh give way, v22 is an instruction as to what to do if they don’t. Now while it is possible to read this as God telling Moses what to do if God whimsically decides to supernaturally direct Pharaoh’s will, a more sensible reading is that what it refers to is God’s demands and threats only making Pharaoh stubborn, rather than them causing Pharaoh to give way.
            The same structure with a perfect consecutive in the second half of the verse is found in 7:3, so again it appears we should read “If I make Pharaoh stubborn, then I shall multiply my signs and wonders…”. That this is a correct understanding I think is reinforced by 7:13, where although “and *he* hardened Pharaoh’s heart” is often read, with God as the presumed subject, in truth God has not been mentioned for 5 verses, and it seems more natural to read “and *it* hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (the “it” being the incident described in vv10-12). This then dovetails with v22, where Pharaoh’s heart is said to be hardened by itself as a result of similar circumstances, with 8:15 where Pharaoh hardens his own heart, with 8:19 where again his heart hardens by itself, and with 8:32 and 9:34 where again Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart. Simple consistency requires that what is going on in each case is Pharaoh foolishly being stubborn as a result of God’s actions, not God directly controlling his mind: “the LORD hardened”, ” his heart was hardened” and “he hardened his heart” are treated as synonymous.
            Nothing in the above militates against God knowing that Pharaoh would be stubborn, and permitting it for the greater purpose of displaying his power, but it does not require that God actively caused or willed Pharaoh to sin.
            I should also point out that there is nothing in Romans 11:25 to indicate Paul is saying that Israel’s hardening was actively willed by God or caused by him, Paul simply states that it occurred.

      • ahermit

        Ultimately, man acts freely in carrying out the decretive (secret) will of the Lord. How this works – I don’t fully understand…

        Maybe that failure to understand is due to the completely incoherent, self contradictory nature of the whole idea. It simply makes no sense.

        • Gilsongraybert

          No. We operate with limited knowledge of things on our own earth all the time – yet still have a basic understanding of how they function. Just because it is difficult to conceptualize in our own limited faculties does not mean it isn’t so, it simply means there’s more to it than your own abilities can assess in full measure.

          • barry

            No.
            —-Barry: Hold your horses…if you are like most Calvinists and you won’t go as far as to deny the salvation of Arminian Christians, then you have to admit that even if you are spiritually alive, this won’t be enough to make you appreciate the truth of Calvinism. If that is the case, then why are you expecting us spiritually dead people to find your automatic blind faith in biblical inerrancy the least bit persuasive?

            We operate with limited knowledge of things on our own earth all the
            time – yet still have a basic understanding of how they function.
            ——–Barry: But earth data doesn’t present us with logically contradictory information. The bible does. Since the immediate and larger context of Genesis 6:6-7 is literal and not anthropomorphic, you cannot justify your belief that this verse is mere anthropomorphism, and therefore, we do nothing wrong to take that verse literally, in which case God really did regret his own prior decision to create man, and God’s regret over his own actions is the most fierce defeater of God’s goodness that is logically possible. You will say the literal interpretation should be scrapped because it contradicts other teachings in the bible, but most Christian scholars deny biblical inerrancy, and since inerrancy has nowhere near the universal acclaim that other interpretation-tools like “grammar” and “context” have, I’m am fully rational and reasonable to refuse to exalt biblical inerrancy in my mind to the status of governing hermeneutic (i.e., I’m rational to require something more than “but that would create a contradiction in the bible!” before I’d need to worry that my interpretation was wrong). So unless you can give argument to show that interpreting a bible verse in a way that makes it contradict other bible verses, always signifies improper interpretation/exegesis, you won’t be convincingly reconciling Genesis 6:6-7 with other biblical texts asserting God’s all-goodness.

            Just
            because it is difficult to conceptualize in our own limited faculties
            does not mean it isn’t so,
            ———Barry: But difficulty in conceptualization in our own limited faculties is often viewed by us as sufficient reasonable basis to toss a concept out the window.

            it simply means there’s more to it than your
            own abilities can assess in full measure.
            —–Barry: how would you refute a Mormon who answered all of your criticisms of Mormonism, with “it simply means there’s more to it than your own abilities can assess in full measure”?

      • The Happy Atheist

        “…you are projecting the limits of mankind upon an omnipotent God, as your
        own measure of what you feel is just is the standard rather than what
        the scriptures claim is justice.”

        No. “Inherently contradictory” means that no being anywhere, no matter how powerful, can do it. It’s exactly the same as asking whether god can create a rock that he can’t lift. It’s a nonsensical series of words that – as C.S. Lewis put it – do not take on coherent meaning simply because we include the word “god.” That also means that it doesn’t matter what scripture says about it, in the same way that scripture’s opinion on the sum of 2+2 would be irrelevant if the answer was not “4.”

        If you are honestly asserting that god can condemn a person for doing exactly what he knew they would do *from eternity,* then your concept of “justice” is meaningless. It is manifestly unjust, and appealing to the mystery of god does not change that.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Simply assserting something is unjust because you feel it is unfair does not make it unjust. Justice is not defined by the decree or the results, it is defined as just because the One in this case is just. You are approaching this with the presupposition that God is unjust if He is truly omnipotent and can not only influence, but direct His creation.

          • The Happy Atheist

            No. I am not simply asserting an opinion. You have a real issue of coherent logic here, exactly as though you were insisting that 2+2=5 because the bible says so. This philosophical issue is essentially syllogistic: if this, then that by definition. No being anywhere can coherently do what you are suggesting god does because it is nonsense. If you choose to retreat behind the mystery of god, then you are admitting that god’s creation – of which I am one, according to you – has no basis for understanding what divine justice is AT ALL. To quote C.S. Lewis again, god could, therefore, be a monster and we would have no idea.

          • Gilsongraybert

            No basis for understanding divine justice..? What do you think any holy text purports to do, let alone the scriptures?

            This is reminiscent of the three blind men and the elephant, all approaching it from different angles – except in this case the elephant says, “I’m an elephant!” and all the blind men ignore it.

          • barry

            Simply assserting something is unjust because you feel it is unfair does
            not make it unjust. Justice is not defined by the decree or the
            results, it is defined as just because the One in this case is just.
            ———Barry: which is perfectly unpersuasive to the atheists you speak to, telling us that you are giving a false impression of yourself here. You pretend as if you use human reason to “convince” us, while actually believing your reasoning does no such thing.

            You
            are approaching this with the presupposition that God is unjust if He
            is truly omnipotent and can not only influence, but direct His creation.
            ———Barry: But since the bible doesn’t consistently teach that God is truly omnipotent or just, it’s wise to back off of the absurd systematic theology nonsense and remain open to the possibility that the bible is not a reliable guide to help us discern these matters. If even spiritually alive Christian theologians say the bible has errors, and say Calvinism is a perversion of biblical theology, then apparently you are either a fool to expect us spiritually dead people to find your reasoning the least bit persuasive, or you try to reason with us for reasons other than trying to convince us…which means you are giving us a false impression of your motives here.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            If, as I think you are, you are defining “justice” as simply being whatever it is God does, you are using the word “justice” in a completely different way than it is used in ordinary English, robbing the sentence “God is just” of any meaning. You can’t call God “just” or “good” or “loving” if all you mean by it is that God is the way he is, regardless of what he actually is or does. It’s like claiming the sky is green and then insisting you are right by redefining the word “green” to automatically include whatever colour the sky happens to be.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Romans 9 is an excellent treatment of this in particular, by the way.

      • barry

        yeah, when Paul says we cannot talk back to the Creator because pots don’t talk back to the potter (9:20), we are clearly dealing with a formidable intellect whose pushing of a limited analogy to absurd extremes strikes fear into the hearts of the gainsayers.

  • ahermit

    Your God, if he existed, would be a sick sadist.

    • Gilsongraybert

      “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?”

      • Donalbain

        I am a better being than the monster that you worship. That is who.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Lol, hi Donalbain! Glad to see you’re back with your standard, winsome, and insightful comments once again.

      • ahermit

        Who am I? I’m the guy who watched a dear friend waste away and die of cancer this year, who is watching another beautiful young friend bravely battling another cancer, who is watching his father suffer and slowly die in pain and confusion…and I’m lucky compared to people in other parts of the world.

        If all that suffering is what your God desires he is a sick depraved monster. It is better that such monsters not exist.

        And you aren’t much better, inventing these ridiculous rationalizations to try and explain away the obvious.

        • Gilsongraybert

          First, I am incredibly sorry to hear of your friends; I have gone through the same exact thing with relatives and friends – and it is no small thing. My own father, respectively healthy with exception to unchecked type I diabetes that wreaked havoc on his heart until it was randomly found in his late 40’s, had a heart attack and died only a few short years ago.

          Secondly, I believe this actually offers hope if you have a foundation drawing off of what is true. This world is subject to a host of horrible things due to sin – yet there is redemption to be found, and ultimately hope, because there is a clear end when all will be made new and every tear is wiped from the eyes of those who are in Christ.

          I understand your pain and I legitimately am sorry for you, your father, and your friends. I know this may not come as any consolation or measure of kindness, but I am praying for you and them now that at the very least, there would be an ease to the pain and an understanding of the grace of God. The point in the quotation is that before God, man has no legitimate grounds to stand on as if he blameless.

          I sense you may have misunderstood my point here – and that while suffering is under His control and all men face it under the auspices of His will, there is no pleasure taken in the fact that atrocities take place. It is the result of the sin of Adam, but the second Adam, Christ, has fulfilled the Law and penalty that man deserves so that we might escape the condemnation that is due, and join Him in paradise when all is set right.

          • Donalbain

            What is the point of praying for them? They have either been ordained since before the dawn of time to suffer in eternity, or to live for ever with the monster you worship. What does praying for them achieve other than to make you feel better about the horror of the universe you think we live in?

          • ahermit

            Putting it all on Adam makes no sense; by your own argument it was God who created Adam with the full knowledge of what Adam would do.. If your God existed and had control over suffering and the ability to alleviate or prevent it and did nothing then that God is either an evil sadist or indistinguishable from a non-sentient, natural universe. I can live with the latter. But I wouldn’t call it God.

            And what’s this about blame? My friends are not to blame for the cancers that ravaged their bodies; if your God exists He is to blame.

          • Gilsongraybert

            I didn’t say your friends are to blame for having cancer; that is a result of the fall of mankind and creation. At the end of the day here, you want God on your terms and it simply doesn’t work like that – yet that also isn’t any sort of proof against the existence of God. Rather, it simply assumes that you don’t like the way He does things and hate Him for that, yet He is not beholden to you or any man.

          • ahermit

            I was talking about the suffering of my friends and you came back with a comment about men not being blameless. So which is it? If they are not to blame then do they not have a legitimate right to complain about their suffering?

            This is not about hating anyone or anything, I don’t know why you guys always jump to that characterization. it’s just calling it as I see it. A parent who would subject their children to needless harm and suffering would not be worthy of my praise, so why would I praise some concept of God that does the same?

          • Gilsongraybert

            Mankind is subject to disease and sickness due to sin. All men sin, therefore, all men are guilty before God for violation of His standard. Your friends are not culpable for getting cancer; they are culpable, as all people are, if they are alienated from God. I brought that up because you asked earlier if they were to blame for having cancer – you seem to conflate these categories, which I can’t really help you further than making a clear distinction between inherited guilt due to sin and experiencing the reality of a broken world.

            And you do hate God. All men do naturally. That’s a scriptural teaching and it is evidenced alone in your comments, as you show disdain without hesitation at the mere mention of God.

          • ahermit

            So my young friend’s ovarian cancer is the product of sin and alienation from God? How is that not blaming her for her affliction? Or, just as bad, blaming all humankind for her affliction?

            I do hate the idea of the God you describe, but I don’t hate or have disdain for all conceptions of God, I find some of them quite interesting, even comforting if not entirely persuasive. I’m just taking issue with the undeniably sadistic character of the particular conception of God which you’re describing.

          • Gilsongraybert

            Condemnation is the result of alienation from God, cancer is the result of original sin. If you must ascribe blame for cancer, ascribe it to Adam (and Satan), though truth be told, we all would have done the same thing in Adam’s shoes.

          • ahermit

            You’re still attributing the existence of the affliction to the actions of the afflicted. In other words blaming the victims…

          • Gilsongraybert

            If that is what you desire to take away from this conversation, then so be it. I can’t make it more clear than what I’ve tried to do, at least with the time I have.

          • ahermit

            And what will you take away, if anything?

          • Gilsongraybert

            I’ve faced reactions similar to this in the past more than once, so truthfully, nothing. Saying you believe in Calvinistic theology tends to bring out one of two reactions from most people.

            Again, I am truly sorry you are experiencing a lot of difficulty at the moment in wrestling with these things – I understand why you are upset and sympathize with you inasmuch as I am able via the web.

          • ahermit

            You misunderstand me I’m afraid, I’m not reacting out of some sort of emotional “upset” and I’m not wrestling with anything. Although I’m certainly saddened by it, especially when it strikes so close to home, I came to terms with the inevitable existence of pain and suffering in a natural universe long ago. I did this in part by carefully considering the implications of the existence of a God like the one you describe and realizing the logical incoherence of that God idea.

          • Gilsongraybert

            I didn’t say you were reacting out of that; I’m saying people generally have one of two reactions against Calvinism. If you really accepted a naturalistic worldview, it wouldn’t matter one iota that your friends and family are dying. If it is all part of the evolutionary process and natural causation simply leads one to death – it is literally pointless to be upset by that. The fact that you feel sadness is indicative that you are wrestling with the belief that you recognize death, sickness, disease, etc., are not right conditions. It would literally be disadvantageous for one to feel grief over death under a naturalistic worldview.

          • ahermit

            If you really accepted a naturalistic worldview, it wouldn’t matter one iota that your friends and family are dying.

            Nonsense. Emotions and empathy are a part of our human nature; the welfare of my fellow human beings, especially my friends and family, are naturally of the greatest concern to me. I accept that suffering and death are inevitable in a natural universe, but I am no less saddened by them for that.

            On the other hand if a being such as the Christian God actually existed I would expect that human welfare would also be of concern to that being, but the God you propose creates needless suffering for some ineffable purpose of its own which it refuses to divulge to the people it causes to suffer.

            I can accept the existence of suffering and death in a natural universe, but their existence in a universe created by a supposedly compassionate and loving God makes absolutely no sense at all, and the existence of a monstrous, sadistic God like the one you propose is too hideous to seriously contemplate.

          • Gilsongraybert

            Pay attention, because you keep twisting my words: I am saying you feeling this way is evidence against a naturalistic worldview because a naturalistic worldview assigns no ultimate purpose behind death. You may as well say, que sera, sera.

          • ahermit

            There doesn’t need to be an “ultimate purpose behind death” for me to feel compassion and empathy for my friend’s suffering. That is the natural reaction of a healthy human being to another’s pain.

            Day six of chemo today by the way. How happy your little god would be to see her shivering like that…if such a monster existed.

          • barry

            If you really accepted a
            naturalistic worldview, it wouldn’t matter one iota that your friends
            and family are dying. If it is all part of the evolutionary process and
            natural causation simply leads one to death – it is literally pointless
            to be upset by that.
            ———-Barry: no, the naturalistic processes that created us also caused us to create emotional bonds as social animals, so that our upset at the death of a friend or family member is perfectly natural. By your own Calvinistic standards, you shouldn’t be upset if you came home and found your wife and kids murdered, since that would logically mean you were upset over something that is holy and righteous.

            The fact that you feel sadness is indicative that
            you are wrestling with the belief that you recognize death, sickness,
            disease, etc., are not right conditions.
            ———Barry: no, we approve of sickness and death when it happens to evil people, so our upset at friends and family enduring sickness and death is perfectly natural and does NOT implicate any spiritual anything. Worse, what do you mean “death, sickness, disease, etc., are not right conditions”? Did you forget those parts of the bible wherein God takes personal responsibility for all murder (Deut. 32:39). If your God does it, you have no choice except to call it “right”. So by your own theology, the atheist who grieves over sickness and death is only showing his naturalistic tendency to rebel against the good things of God.

            It would literally be disadvantageous for one to feel grief over death under a naturalistic worldview.
            ———Barry: even granting this false premise, all you are doing in Calvinism when you feel grief upon discovery your wife was murdered, is grieving over an act of God that was holy and good. The truly consistent Calvinist would express no less rejoicing and glee in watching his child get decapitated in a car accident, than he would in watching his child get healed of cancer.

            And that’s to say nothing of the inconsistency Calvinism puts in the bible (i.e., how can the bible ever call any human act “sin”, when according to Calvinism, God is more involved with the choice-inducing neurons in the sinner’s brain than the sinner is)?

          • barry

            “Saying you believe in Calvinistic theology tends to bring out one of two reactions from most people.”
            ———Barry: saying you think rape is ultimately holy and good also tends to bring out one of two reactions from most people.

            “Again, I am truly sorry you are experiencing a lot of difficulty at the moment in wrestling with these things”
            ———Barry: You must not be too consistent of a Calvinist if you are telling an unbeliever how sorry you are that God is working his will in the world. That can only mean you are sorry about a GOOD thing that God is doing, since all of God’s actions are good. Let me know how that works out for you.

          • barry

            If that’s true, then it sounds like human rebellion in the Garden of Eden was inevitable, which completely absolves us of responsibility.

            Nevermind that if your God actually didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, nothing prevented him from keeping the Tree of Knowledge out of their physical reach. If you don’t want your kids to drink bleach, you don’t put bleach into something that looks like edible fruit, put it in the middle of their playroom, then instruct them to not touch it…you simply keep it out of their reach.

            And you cannot refute this by saying God wanted to “test” them, since you believe your God had infallible foreknowledge of what they would do, so you cannot use “to see what they would do” as God’s excuse for putting that tree there in the first place. So if God infallibly foreknew they’d eat of the Tree of Knowledge when given access to it, why did he go ahead and still make it accessible to them?

            Nevermind that the talking serpent in Genesis 3, by being a story-element fulfilling a major archetype of “fable”, counsels strongly that this ancient story is nothing more than shameless fiction, no more worthy of detailed analysis than than Little Red Riding Hood.

            Your need to make ‘god’ the exception to every rule of moral decency and common sense, is a very good reason to suspect that he has less in common with intelligent being, and more in common with literary devices of the ancient world.

          • barry

            Mankind is subject to disease and sickness due to sin. All men sin, therefore, all men are guilty before God for violation of His standard.
            ———Barry: Which is about as stupid as me imposing a law on Fido that he jump 20 feet high, and when he can’t, I point out that his inability to meet my standards makes him worthy of punishment. I then infect him with disease, cause other dogs to come along and maul him nearly to death, telling the world that I’m doing this in the hope that he will draw closer to me. He naturally recoils and rebels from the person inflicting these atrocities, so I put him in a small cage where he cannot move away from me, and then use a blow torch to cause mindless agony to him over an extended period. If anybody says I’m a sadistic lunatic, I just tell my follower that such people are operating under worldly standards of reason.

            Your friends are not culpable for getting cancer; they are culpable, as all people are, if they are alienated from God.
            ——Barry: how do you establish the culpability of sinners who were forced to sin by God (Ezekiel 38:4)? Or maybe you’ll argue that “hook in your jaws” doesn’t bring to mind pictures of forcing people to do things?

            And you do hate God. All men do naturally. That’s a scriptural teaching and it is evidenced alone in your comments, as you show disdain without hesitation at the
            mere mention of God.
            ———Barry: given that your God not only confesses to causing rape (Deut. 28:30), kidnapping (v. 41) and parental cannibalism of children (v. 53), but specifies that he gets a thrill or joy out of watching people suffer such miseries (“delight”, v. 63), a reality check on your part might make our rebellion against your sadistic lunatic a bit more understandable. You don’t allow Mormons to excuse away their theological problems with “God’s ways are mysterious”, so fairness demands that we not allow YOU to resort to that time-dishonored excuse either.

          • barry

            His friends having cancer could just as well also be direct action by God, such as when Jehovah “struck” the child born to David and Bathsheba, and it later died. 2nd Samuel 12:15. My advice is that because your all-wise God could have done an infinite number of other less barbaric things to achieve his allegedly holy purposes for ahermit’s friends, but didn’t, then your god is every bit the sadistic lunatic that Deut. 28:63 already portrays him to be (i.e., he isn’t real, but as a story character, he is evil).

          • Gilsongraybert
          • barry

            What’s the matter, Gilson? Did you run out of academic heat?
            You admitted that God gets a thrill or joy out of watching women be raped and kids eaten by parents, which means I just sunk any hope you ever had of sounding the least bit credible to anybody except other Calvinists. And even most of them are infralapsarian and also feel free to insist biblical truth requires breaking the logic in the 5 points and denying a few of them.

            I’m offering to debate you on any biblical or apologetics topic of your choice, in any forum of your choice, on any dates and times of your choice.

          • barry

            Why are you sorry about his misfortunes? since the bible teaches that God is the author of all killing (Deut. 32:39), you’d be more “biblical” if you expressed joy and glee at those who suffer such misfortune, as these misfortunes are no less god’s will than when somebody is cured of cancer. If your God is all-good, then his decree to send misery among humans must be viewed as good, giving you no rational reason left to avoid expressing happiness and rejoicing at the plight of others. That’s the logical outcome of your bible-beliefs, and that won’t change just because you can’t stand the idea of giggling at another person’s tragedies. Be consistent with what you believe, or stop believing the way you do.

          • Gilsongraybert

            Oh good grief, Barry, you clearly have no clue what you are talking about in holding a consistent approach to the bible lol.

          • barry

            I don’t know why you think ‘consistent approach to the bible’ has any relevance here. You previously agreed with me that on the basis of Deut. 28, God takes “delight” to cause rape and parental cannibalism. This sadistic lunatic attitude in the Deity is too shockingly horrible for any reasonable person to think that it could be mitigated to any significant degree by the mere fact that the bible teaches elsewhere that God is all-good and all-loving.

            First, you are presupposing biblical inerrancy with that approach, and that doctrine is very far from as clearly established as other interpretative tools like “grammar” and “context” are, therefore, I have rational justification to refuse to exalt bible inerrancy in my mind to the status of governing hermeneutic…which means you can’t show my interpretation of Deut. 28 is wrong merely because the bible has more to say about God elsewhere. Second, God’s goodness in the bible rests on his nature, which you admitted is displayed in his “delight” to cause rape, so showing me other bible verses that say God is good, would only require you to interpret “good” to be whatever God does, and there you go…rape is “good” once you insist that God causes it. So a bible teaching on God’s goodness is about as useful to us as Ed Gein describing himself as “good”.

            As I said before, your only hope as a Calvinist in this apologetics debate is to convince me that, despite how convincing it seems to be, viewing rape as absolutely immoral is a mistake both for Christians as well as atheists. But you are a presuppositionalist, which means you, like so many other ‘cultists’, automatically consign to the devil any and all views of the bible or God that don’t square with your particular view of things. It would be nice if us atheists could appeal to the unknown doings of an invisible unfalsifiable unverifiable something or other as responsible for your rejection of atheism, but life has forced us to be more honest in our presentation than this.

          • Chari McCauley

            No, it is a result of us NOT listening to Father. Jeremiah is very detailed about what Father considers crimes. According to Jeremiah, we abuse the gift of land, resources, animals, and each other. You are talking as though John did not mean that we should repent. WE need to stop doing the sadistic things, you keep blaming Father.

      • ahermit

        I’m not talking back to anything called “God” by the way, I’m responding to the incoherent pretzel logic of your post.

      • barry

        Paul’s objector in Romans 9:18-22 wasn’t talking back to God. The objector was objecting to Paul’s OWN logic.

        Worse, Paul reasoned in that context that because the clay pot does not talk back to the potter, then we humans cannot talk back to our Creator. That is, he pushed the “clay/humans-pot-Potter” analogy to an absurd extreme, when any fool can see from the rest of the bible that God often acknowledges that there are far more serious issues going on between God and humans, than which go on between clay and a potter. Clay isn’t being told that it is in danger of eternal conscious torment. Just because God made us doesn’t mean other aspects of the clay/potter analogy are fitting.

        What Paul wasn’t willing to concede was that his logic would, if true, demonstrate that God is a sadistic tyrant who beats his kids in the head, then blames them for their irrational responses to him as produced by their abused brains.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Barry, do you have a coherent argument in here somewhere because from what I can tell, you’ve completely missed the point of the analogy…

          • barry

            Paul’s point was that we are irrational to object to anything that God does, and his proof that such attitude was irrational was his remark that clay does not talk back to the Potter.

            My answer to Paul is an answer that would really shut him up for good:

            Who am I to talk back to God?

            I am a human being who was predestined by God to object to him. Proverbs 16:1, 9

            So it’s nice to see that Paul in the Roman congregation was wishing to discourage questioning God’s ways, since that can only mean he didn’t think God predestined any of them to so rebel. Unless you wish to assert that God predestines people to act in defiance of his revealed will?

            Sort of like the parent who injects a child with heroin, then publicly tells them “pay attention in class today”. Is it common sense, or the brain fog of “sin”, that causes us to view such parent as a lunatic?

    • Donalbain

      On the other hand, a possible reading of this monster that is worshipped by the likes of the author is that it is a victim. Not even their god seems to have much in the way of a choice in what he does. It has its “nature” and everything flows inexorably from that. If something has no ability to change its mind, or change at all, then can it really be considered a moral actor at all?

      • Iain Lovejoy

        I think what you have to understand is that God is only a servant to Almighty Theology, which is Mr Gilbert’s true idol and object of worship.
        Edit: In hindsight, personalising this was a mistake. There is a serious issue to my mind with the way Calvinism effectively requires God to conform to its theology, rather than the other way around, but I think I am being unfair to necessarily single out Grayson Gilbert in particular.

        • barry

          Amen, bro! Only a fool would think the audiences originally intended to be addressed by the biblical authors, would have given two shits about the level of “systematic theology” that paralyzes the mind of the average Inerrantist.

          Let’s give Graybert some credit though. At least he was consistent with his faith and admitted that rape is holy and good. It’s the non-Calvinist Christians who absurdly deny that their bible teaches any such thing, that are a bigger problem, since they aren’t even accepting everything their bible says, while Calvinists do.

  • Tianzhu

    Working as a camp counselor in my college days, I learned one swift lesson: pampered kids were not nice kids, they were selfish brats. Their parents not only provided them with any material possession they asked for, but also shielded them from life’s knocks (including suffering the consequences of their own actions). I shudder to think what a world would be if populated only by such people. People who have suffered little have no empathy for others, they are demanding and impatient, they never really mature. Even if you remove God from the picture, it would still be true. And everyone knows it instinctively, in the repeated gym maxim, “No pain, no gain.” A God who pampered His children would not be a God deserving of worship, because they would be very bad children.

    • Donalbain

      What is the gain to be had when a little girl in Africa is right now having her eye eaten from the inside by a worm? Seriously. What exactly is gained in that situation?

      • Tianzhu

        That is such an astute observation. Next time I go to Bally’s, I will tell the staff that they should cease using the expression “No pain, no gain,” because some child in Africa is suffering, and clearly that proves that “No pain, no gain” is a lie.

        Thanks so much for sharing.

        • Donalbain

          It proves that it is not relevant to the question at hand. But please, ignore questions you don’t like. I expect nothing else from you.

          • Tianzhu

            Well, after all, that’s why you’re here, to confirm your biases and intensify the hate, which appears to be atheists’ chief source of pleasure, other than constructing gulags.

          • Donalbain

            If you say so dear. I hope that little rant makes you feel happy.

          • barry

            Well I’M not here to confirm my biases and intensify hate. I will keep confronting you with my challenge to debate you on any biblical subject of your choosing, any times and dates of your choosing, in any internet-forum of your choosing, until you either accept the challenge, or show us that frightened barking child that we suspect your confident swagger is keeping hidden.

    • ahermit

      There’s a big difference between “pampering” and inflicting needless pain and suffering. A responsible parent certainly challenges their children, but they don’t subject them to horrible diseases or inflict physical injury on them. If we imagine God as a parent then the God imagined by the author of this post is like a sadistic abusive parent.

      • Tianzhu

        Since you hate Christians so much, you can make your life less stressful by not attending church and not reading the Bible. Since you find the existence of so many Christians in America to be so distasteful, you could relocate to one of the atheist utopias, such as North Korea, whose chief of state, an atheist, is loving and compassionate to all, which is typical of all atheist heads of state in the past century, who are models of compassion. I can see why you would object to the God of the Bible for being sadistic and abusive – I mean, just compare him to some of the great humanitarians such as Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Little Kim. God is cruel, atheists are kind.

        • ahermit

          Wow. Where did I say I hate Christians? I don’t find the existence of Christians anywhere to be “distasteful,” in fact some of the people I admire most in life are Christians.

          I just disagree with the concept of God described in this post.

          You seem to have an awful hatred for anyone who disagrees with you, but we’re not all Communists on the other side of this debate.

          • Tianzhu

            Since you do not believe God exists, the time and effort you spend calling him “abusive” and “sadistic” seems to be indicative of mental illness. I find the character Darth Vader to be abusive and sadistic, but I don’t troll the web 24/7/365 spewing my hatred at Vader – because, you know, he isn’t real. I can’t even imagine the inner landscape of someone constantly ranting about how evil a fictional character is.

            Get some medications for OCD. Prozac and Paxil seem to help some people. Atheists’ obsession with Christians is most unhealthy. The typical atheist is not free from religion, quite the contrary, he seems to be its prisoner. Obsessing over what you hate is not freedom, it’s self-imposed slavery.

          • ahermit

            The difference of course being that we don’t have people trying to tie public policies to their belief in Darth Vader, or demeaning people like me for not sharing their belief in Darth Vader, calling me a fool or telling me I deserve to suffer eternal torment for not believing in Darth Vader, trying to indoctrinate my children to believe in Darth Vader…

            Other than that your analogy is right on. You’re right that the average atheist is not free form religion; we are surrounded by it, it’s unavoidable. Occasionally we respond to that constant pressure and someone like you inevitably attributes that response to some kind of obsession (often with some condescending, insulting and unwarranted comment about our imagined mental health problems or sexual depravity or association with Communist dictators) but never with any acknowledgement of the pervasive and unavoidable influence of religion in all of our lives.

            And again, I’m not here out of hate, I have not expressed hatred toward you or anyone else; I have disagreed with a claim about God. I’m sorry you find that so upsetting, but if you can’t handle having your ideas questioned that’s your problem.

          • Tianzhu

            Your posts don’t upset me at all. The atheists who troll Christian blogs have deepened my faith immensely. When I see people so pathetic that they have to boost their self esteem by imagining themselves as Victims of Religion, I can’t help but laugh. The generic atheist is a single male (as confirmed by polls), so typically he’s an emotionally arrested adolescent, no family as an emotional anchor, so pretty much an empty hole. Trying to fill up that hole by creating some melodrama where the sinister Christians are crawling out of the wallpaper is futile, to say the least. Comic books and video games and porn lose their zing after awhile, so go tell the evil Christians that their God is a bad guy, get a brief emotional buzz telling off their imaginary persecutors.

            Yep, OCD people are very entertaining. Paranoids too. If “the Christians are after me!” drama keeps you from jumping off a cliff, that’s cool.

          • ahermit

            Well your lashing out with unfounded insinuations about my mental health looks very much like the actions of someone who is upset. As does your laughable attempt to pigeonhole me with that ridiculous atheist stereotype.

            When you dishonestly attack the person instead of the argument and create some childish caricature instead of dealing with the actual person with whom you are having a conversation it makes you look angry and more than little afraid of having your cherished beliefs challenged.

            I didn’t say anything about Christians being “after me” or being a “victim” of religion; I just pointed out the blindingly obvious fact that religion and its influences (both good and bad) are unavoidable in our world, and that my occasional comment on the subject are not in any way “obsessive” as you would like to believe.

          • Chari McCauley

            Seriously trying to find out which God he represents.

          • Chari McCauley

            Yep, OCD people are very entertaining. Paranoids too. If “the Christians are after me!” drama keeps you from jumping off a cliff, that’s cool.

            Again, are you trying to represent the God you worship?

          • barry

            Since you do not believe God exists, the time and effort you spend calling him “abusive” and “sadistic” seems to be indicative of mental illness.
            ——–Barry: The problem is not “God”, but “the people who believe in him”. Many Christians don’t believe the Mormon god exists, yet they have full time ministries devoted to convincing Mormons that Mormonism is a lie. So under your logic, these Christians exhibit mental illness.

            I find the character Darth Vader to be abusive and sadistic,
            but I don’t troll the web 24/7/365 spewing my hatred at Vader – because, you know, he isn’t real. I can’t even imagine the inner landscape of someone constantly ranting about how evil a fictional character is.
            ———-Barry: but nobody is screaming their heads off about Darth Vader being real and being loving. If they were, and if that fool managed to get a sizable following, we’d probably start dedicating resources to demonstrating that he is fictional and how belief that he is real is delusional.

            Get some medications for OCD. Prozac and Paxil seem to help some people.
            ——-Barry: something tells me you have no interest in fulfilling your Christian duty to pray for that person.

            Atheists’ obsession with Christians is most unhealthy.
            —-Barry: then you must think Christian “apologists” (i.e,. Christians who obsess about how untrue atheism is) are most unhealthy.

            The typical atheist is not free from religion, quite the contrary, he seems to be its prisoner. Obsessing over what you hate is not freedom, it’s self-imposed slavery.
            ———Barry: what a FOOL you are! It was only by obsessing about hated slavery, which was partly responsible for occasioning a civil war, that Blacks achieved their equal rights status. According to your stupid logic, they should have been less obsessive in their fight against slavery.

          • Tianzhu

            HPD – histrionic personality disorder. The technical term for what the layman calls “drama queen.” Therapy is available.

            Hysteria is very unmanly. Do you characters network with each other on some kind of Unhinged blog?

            Get your doc to up the dosage on the Klonopin. Better yet, ask him if it can be given as an IV, 24/7. You sound like you’re just a few steps away from pulling a Dylan Roof stunt.

          • Chari McCauley

            HPD – histrionic personality disorder. The technical term for what the layman calls “drama queen.” Therapy is available.

            Hysteria is very unmanly. Do you characters network with each other on some kind of Unhinged blog?

            Get your doc to up the dosage on the Klonopin. Better yet, ask him if it can be given as an IV, 24/7. You sound like you’re just a few steps away from pulling a Dylan Roof stunt.

            Are you trying to respresent The Father?

          • Michael

            Ahermit stated the he/she disagrees with your concept of God not that God exists. Why such emotional responses to a rational statement?

          • Questioning54

            “Mental illness”. I know good people with mental illness and they are far more rational than you. Good people too.
            It is the god you DESCRIBE who is abusive and sadistic. You think he is real. Basically you believe in a Darth Vader and defend him as good. Quite irrational.

        • barry

          How do you answer Ezekiel 38:4? How can you square the metaphor of God putting hooks into the jaws of pagans and forcing them to commit punishable sin (ch. 38-39), with your idea that God doesn’t force people to sin?

          Wouldn’t that mean that the “hook in your jaws” metaphor is proof that Ezekiel misunderstood what God is like?

        • Michael

          So that is the response? If you don’t want to believe in the Bible go move to North Korea? I’m sorry, if the Old Testament is believed to be literally true and God did subject people to all sorts of torments just because they didn’t repent, then God is not much different from the great humanitarians you mentioned. I don’t see God that way.

          • Tianzhu

            Fine. I don’t care.

    • Chari McCauley

      You don’t think that Father delivered punishement to the fallen children? Eternal torture, for OTHERS were what the fallen ones wanted. Father allows them to know what that would feel like. It is not a symptom of love to keep anyone in eternal pain.

  • barry

    In Deuteronomy 28:15, God begins a long list of the most horrific imaginable atrocities that he threatens to inflict on any who would disobey him, and these include such intolerable horrors as rape (v. 30), kidnapping (v. 41) and causing parents to eat their own children (v. 53).

    You will say God the creator of life has the right to do whatever he wills with it.

    But I answer that anybody who gets just as much “thrill” or “joy” out of watching rape, kidnapping and parental cannibalism, as he gets out of watching people prosper, is a sadistic lunatic..

    You ask “where does the bible say God gets just as much “thrill” or “joy” out of watching rape, kidnapping
    and parental cannibalism, as he gets out of watching people prosper?”

    Deuteronomy 28:63, “delight”. Thanks for asking.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Yes, God takes pleasure in executing His wrath because His wrath is perfectly holy and justified. Yes, this same God extends to every man the opportunity to repent. Again, we’re back to square one where you, as a wicked man, are seeking to take the moral high ground over the God of creation. Let me know how that works out for you.

      • Michael

        “His wrath is perfectly holy and justified”? Doesn’t make sense that a perfect all loving God would even have a need for wrath.

      • barry

        Yes, God takes pleasure in executing His wrath because His wrath is
        perfectly holy and justified.
        ———-Barry: So apparently if you came home from work and found your wife had been raped, you’d be no less exuberant and happy in thanking god for his goodness, than you are when you pass your mid-term exams. What also follows logically from your outlook is the sick conclusion that when atheists are automatically shocked and outraged by rape, this only indicates that they are ignorant about what’s truly good and what’s truly bad.

        Yes, this same God extends to every man
        the opportunity to repent.
        ———Barry: Which means exactly nothing since God is no less responsible for their choice to reject the offer, than he is responsible for extending the offer. Proverbs 16;1, 9.

        Again, we’re back to square one where you, as
        a wicked man, are seeking to take the moral high ground over the God of
        creation. Let me know how that works out for you.
        —–Barry: I’m sorry for so blindly presupposing that if i could prove the bible god gets a thrill out of watching rape and parental cannibalism, that might achieve enough moral common ground between myself and the Christian reader, that the chances would increase for them to seriously reconsider their religion.

        Thank you for clarifying, however, that you are so brainwashed, your normal intuitions that rape and parental cannibalism are always wrong have been dulled down to zero, and your absurdly high confidence in a text that Christians themselves cannot even agree on, has convinced you that these two immoral acts are, in truth, holy and good. Apparently if your 4 year old daughter was raped, you’d discipline her for being upset and angry and confused, since this would mean she was upset, angry and confused about an act that, by your own logic, was holy and good.

        Let me know how that works out for you.

      • rtgmath

        No, God does not give everyone a chance to repent, nor does he give instructions on how to do so in a way people can understand. Children who suffer rape — what did they do to deserve God’s wrath? How can they have faith in a god whose primary delight is in torturing them and humiliating them? Sickness? How is the glory of God found in their diseases?

        You made it clear. God is in complete control. He is orchestrating all things. He is responsible for sin, for evil, for calamity. He is an infant, building things up to delight in slapping them down. He is a lawyer, fixing the contract so no matter what the individual does, he is sinful and must be punished. God controls the circumstances, sets the situation, writes the script, and condemns the players for following it.

        You caution against pointing out these things because God can judge. Yet, if you were to see a great, destructive and indestructible monster, you wouldn’t worship it. You would call it a monster. The god you describe has no love nor compassion, but is a monster. God is not what you describe.

        • Gilsongraybert

          It is quite clear you don’t know too much about what the doctrines of grace teach, for if you did, you would know that not even a single person teaching them spouts off the crud you have displayed here. Straw-manning only reveals you don’t know the subject too deeply. I simply cautioned readers to blasphemy, because undoubtedly, it is an incredibly serious thing to do. Good day, sir.

          • rtgmath

            No straw man, sir. No néed. And I do know the doctrines. I also know that calling something “grace” (and adopting an insultingly superior “I know God and you don’t ” attitude) doesn’t make it so. Grace is not about causing needless suffering for some and ameliorating it for an elect few. Grace is not about writing the script and then blaming people for their part in it.

            Your doctrines have plagued the world. Whatever did God do before Calvinism? The Church fathers did not see God in the monstrous light you portray him in. Nor does Jesus. Jesus describes God as our Father who gives good gifts. It is the goodness of God that brings us to repentance. All you have is an angry, vicious god without love or compassion.

            Remarkable that you, who thinks yourself Godly, must resort to ad hominem when you cannot answer the slightest objection to your theology. Remarkable also, that you have so redefined words in your own mind that cruelty is grace.

          • Gilsongraybert

            If you continue to falsely represent that Calvinism suggests God to be a moral monster, you are either ignorant to what Calvinism teaches, or willingly and knowingly being dishonest and misrepresenting it intentionally. It is no ad hominem to suggest you don’t know what you are talking about when, despite people demonstrating this doesn’t teach what you feel it does and drawing out tremendous biblical support to do so, showing clear, historical support in the early church over God’s providence in all things, etc., that you fail to interact with the substance of the claim and instead raise the text book example of a straw man. You’ve also done a fair share of inserting a host of things that I didn’t say into this conversation, so we can add red herrings to boot. When someone makes an unsubstantiated or false claim, it is not an ad hominem to say: you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • barry

            If you continue to falsely represent that Calvinism suggests God to be a
            moral monster, you are either ignorant to what Calvinism teaches, or
            willingly and knowingly being dishonest and misrepresenting it
            intentionally.

            ———Barry: You already bore the fruits of Calvinism when you asserted in agreement with me that yes, on the basis of Deut. 28:30, 41, 563, 63, God takes “delight” in causing rape, kidnapping, and parents eating their own kids. Even if we agreed to stop talking “Calvinism” and debate only the bible, you confirmed the truth of my own interpretation of that passage from Deut., so now the only question is whether this bible passage teaches that God is a moral monster. I suggest that when your apologetics defenses are not on red-alert, you don’t hesitate to call rape “absolutely” evil.

            It is no ad hominem to suggest you don’t know what you
            are talking about when, despite people demonstrating this doesn’t teach
            what you feel it does and drawing out tremendous biblical support to do
            so, showing clear, historical support in the early church over God’s
            providence in all things, etc., that you fail to interact with the
            substance of the claim and instead raise the text book example of a
            straw man.

            ——–Barry: You already admitted the bible teaches that God “delights” to cause rape. This attitude in God, so indistinguishable from that of a sadistic lunatic, cannot be mitigated by concerns about how other Christian theologians have amassed biblical support that god is “good”. If you delight in rape, in any circumstance whatsoever, you forfeit any and all possible claims to being “good” in any realistic sense, lest you relativise morality itself, and thus contradict numerous Christian apologists who insist that some morals, such as “do not rape” are absolute.

          • barry

            That’s exactly the sickness that plagued me as a Calvinist for so many years, which I finally could not tolerate anymore. I was forced by my theology to say that the badness of child-rape was not absolute because God’s sovereignty over man’s freewill meant that God is more responsible for and intimately associated with what the neurons in our choice-making brains are doing, than WE are, and all of God’s actions are good by definition. Thankfully, as an intellectual, I naturally had far less tolerance for absurd “mysteries”, and when I reached my limit, I tossed this garbage in the Tiber.

            Rest assured, Gilson at some point is going to quote the bible to justify his departure from worldly ways of thinking, no less than Islamic terrorists quote the Koran to the same effect. Lucky us, however, Gilson doesn’t act consistently with where his theology logically leads (i.e., anything I do is good from an eternal perspective even if it is also sinful from a temporal perspective).

          • barry

            It is quite clear you don’t know too much about what the doctrines of
            grace teach, for if you did, you would know that not even a single
            person teaching them spouts off the crud you have displayed here.
            ———-Barry: That was a clever way to avoid the obviously problematic question of why your god allows little kids to be raped. If he is as powerful as you pretend he is, then because parents can successfully get their kids going in the right direction without needing to subject them to the horror of rape, it would appear that an infinitely wise all-powerful God has even more options as his disposal for accomplishing his holy will without needing to drag people through the mud to do it…unless of course you take the position that God causes child-rape for no other purpose than to glorify himself?

            Sure, the “doctrines of Grace” might not teach the “crud” you think rtgmath was mentioning, but you already admitted to me that on the basis of Deut. 28:30, 41, 53, 63, God takes “delight” in causing men to rape women, kidnapping, and causing parents to eat their own kids. If you cannot find any “doctrines of Grace” that teach such things, that’s probably because we atheists are more consistent about what the bible teaches, than Calvin was. Calvin was worried to maintain biblical inerrancy, we aren’t.

            Straw-manning only reveals you don’t know the subject too deeply. I
            simply cautioned readers to blasphemy, because undoubtedly, it is an
            incredibly serious thing to do. Good day, sir.
            ———-Barry: most Christians would find that you committed blasphemy by agreeing with me that God gets a thrill or “delight” out of watching rapes, kidnappings, and parents eating their own kids. Perhaps you’ll say such Christians are just modern softie liberals. Well, let’s just say I won’t be taking in any Calvinist roommates soon. If they wanted to steal my stuff and disappear, they could easily use “God’s secret will is always found in anything I chose to do no matter what” to trump “thou shalt not steal”.

          • Gilsongraybert

            I literally stopped reading your comments after I read like the third one the other day. You showed no interest other than to continue to insert words into my mouth. You’re debating yourself at this point champ.

          • barry

            I have not falsely attributed words to you at all, sir, you are just so stymied that somebody could come out of the woodwork and beat your Calvinism bloody, that god predestined you to lie to the world about why you are refusing to engage.

            I showed very much interest in debating anything you wanted to debate, and you are far from objective if you think you can render absolute opinions about my motives from such a short exchange.

            I prefer to believe, without knowing absolutely, you are fibbing here in an attempt to duck a legitimate challenge while wanting the world to believe you are a capable apologist. The readers will have to decide how far the Calvinism blood spattered after my hammer struck it.

  • Roger Morris

    Calvinism is so five minutes ago.

  • rtgmath

    Ahh yes, it is the will of God that people suffer and die of starvation in parts of the world where war destroys the environment and livelihoods. It is God’s will that corporations take jobs overseas, ruin families and destroy lives. And women beaten by their abusive partners are suffering under the will of God.

    Calvinism tells people to accept suffering and injustice rather than stand up against them. It is a way to preserve the power of abuse and tyrants and rich people who delight in the misery of the poor and powerless.

    And as such, it portrays a god interested in preserving the status quo rather than promoting righteousness. Is such a god worth worshipping?

    • barry

      Calvinists often try to explain away the fatalistic implications of their system by saying if you love Jesus, you’ll want to do what he told you to do.

      The answer is that it is equally true that if God predestined all of our future acts and choices, then the Calvinist who uses the fatalism of Calvinism as an excuse to avoid doing his Christian duty, is conforming to the predestining decree of God no less than the Calvinist who pastors a large church.

      So then Calvinist # 2 responds and says “you probably aren’t saved if you think you can just accept Jesus and then live in sin.”

      Then Calvinist # 1 replies “if it be true that I’m a false Christian, that’s because God predestined it, and I could no more avoid living in sin now, than YOU can avoid producing good works for Jesus. If you know that whatever I do in the future, I was infallibly predestined to do from all eternity, and if you know that our freewill is not sufficient to enable us to deviate from anything God predestined us to do, then by condemning me for living in sin, you are condemning the outworking of God’s will in the world.”

  • Zenon Lotufo Jr.

    What follows is an attempt at psychological explanation for this theology that accuses God of being a sadistic monster:

    “Thus, the combination of the image of God as cruel or indifferent, resulting from childhood experiences with parents, with the belief that God is all powerful and can intervene to help when He wants, creates a fertile ground for resentment to grow as like the theological ideas that flow from it.

    If we could translate into a few words the type of message that unconsciously a resentful Christian is addressing God with his behavior and his theological system, we would have something like this:

    ‘We suffer since we were small, and you, being all-powerful and able to
    intervene, do not do anything. So we will spread very nasty ideas about you, disguising them with a lot of praise and worship. These ideas will produce atrophy in our personalities, but will show what you have done to us, and then, forced by guilt and shame, you will have to act on our behalf’.” From “Heauton
    Timoroumenos – On the Evil That We Cause Ourselves”, by Zenon Lotufo Jr. &
    Francisco Lotufo Neto, in J. Harold Ellens “Explaining Evil”.

  • billwald

    Suffering is a mental state, like freedom and happiness, not always dependent upon external circumstances.

  • Neil Carter

    I’m so glad I don’t have to do these mental gymnastics anymore.

  • HM8432

    I’ll go with the Arminian viewpoint instead, thank you.