Where Calvin Went Wrong

At the core of Calvinism is God’s sovereignty, but just what sovereignty means is the essence of of Calvin’s core: sovereignty means determinism in that God elects, God awakens, God shows grace, God predestines, God regenerates, God preserves and God glorifies. John Wesley, on the other hand, can be said to teach each of those, but where he thinks Calvin went wrong is that Calvin’s view of sovereignty so overwhelmed his theology that he ends up denying the capacity of humans to choose to believe. We are looking at Don Thorsen’s fair-minded comparison of John Calvin and John Wesley, in his book Calvin vs. Wesley: Bringing Life in Line with Practice.

Do you think meticulous sovereignty denies human’s capacity to choose (for and against) something? Does it deny, in that sense, “free will”? Do you think Christ died for all?

In his study that compares their views of salvation, Thorsen begins with conversion experiences — comparing Wesley’s famous Aldersgate experience and Calvin’s cryptic comments in the introduction to his commentary on the Psalms, which differs slightly from other tellings of his experience. What perhaps ought to be observed is that folks like Calvin and Wesley didn’t up and say “Here’s when I got saved.” (That, perhaps, is worth our pondering more than it is often pondered.)

Both believed in a penal substitutionary theory of the atonement: Christ died to take upon himself our punishment. The big issue between them is that Calvin’s theory of the atonement was “limited” while Wesley’s was “universal” (or “general”). Though he does not always say so in explicit terms, Calvin sees the effectual atonement only for the elect, so it is fair to say Christ died (only) for the elect while for Wesley Christ died for all. Once again, here comes free grace or will — God did the work but he grants humans the opportunity to choose and they therefore become accountable to God.

Yes, accusations in both directions: Wesleyans think Calvinists end up denying “faith” in justification by faith or free grace’s gift to choose while Calvinists sometimes accuse Wesleyans of ultimately being universalists. (Actually, only a Calvinist can be a universalist because to believe all will be saved means no one can choose not to be saved, which is a form of determinism.)

In the ordo salutis, the order of salvation, Calvin’s emphasis was the grace of God accomplishing each while Wesley’s was the necessity of the Christian to pursue sanctification and holiness and love. Calvin emphasized two themes in salvation: union with Christ, the ground of it all, and justification, which is a juridical framing of salvation.  Wesley’s themes are not dissimilar but Wesley differs over faith as a condition of salvation. For Calvin faith is the result of grace; for Wesley grace is the source but faith is the condition (67). For Calvin faith shows effectual grace; for Wesley it shows prevenient grace.

On assurance, Thorsen’s sketch wobbles a bit for me: at first I thought he saw Calvin affirming the certainty of assurance but Calvin’s theology of election and sovereignty (by the end of his sketch) seemed to minimize assurance a bit, which is not how Wesley taught it: for him one could be assured of one’s salvation. The witness of the Spirit is where Wesley focused.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Bob DeGray

    Dear Scot; I assume you’re tongue-in-cheek in your parenthetical remark ” (Actually, only a Calvinist can be a universalist because to believe all will be saved means no one can choose not to be saved, which is a form of determinism.)” If this isn’t supposed to be ironic, then your logic has failed you. You’re saying that because Calvinism is deterministic and universalism is deterministic that only a Calvinist can be a universalist. This is like saying that because Macintosh are fruit and apples are fruit only a Macintosh can be an apple. Some might agree with you, especially this time of year, but the logic fails.

  • scotmcknight

    A libertarian free will can’t be a universalist. This was discussed on the blog some time back. To be universalist largely requires determinism.

  • Bob DeGray

    All true, and we can agree or disagree on that. I’m not denying a link between universalism and determinism. I’m just denying that the only kind of universalist is a Calvinist. There are other kinds of apples in the field of universalism.

  • http://www.wheretoreach.us/ T Freeman

    This is turning out to be a great book for someone like myself who has made a decision years ago to avoid this very debate but would like to have a one-book recommendation for friends who need to explore the differences. Thanks Scot.

  • Derwin L. Gray

    I bought the book at your recommendation. It’s a easy, fun read. I also recommend Chosen But Free by Norm Geisler.

    I’m motivated by the God who is Love and who sent Love Himself on mission to redeem the world.

  • Brian Metzger

    I thought you were going to say, “When he started killing the people who didn’t agree with his theology…”

  • zKatherine

    Sounds like a very interesting book. Will put it on my Wish List! Thanks for the review.

  • mark

    I think it’s worth comparing the worldviews of Calvinism and Islam. For example, the philosopher (and recovering Calvinist) Peter Kreeft had this to say about those two worldviews:

    In response to one question, about Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address, Kreeft pointed to the pope’s explicit comparison of Islamic theology and that of Calvinism–the faith in which Kreeft was reared. “They both, in the end, reject the use of reason in trying to understand God. In the West, this led to modern secularism, as Pope Benedict pointed out. Among Muslims, it led to the death of philosophy. In a profound sense, Islam and the secular West are mirror images of each other.”

    The passage from B16′s address that Kreeft is referring to is this one. In it Benedict reflects on how–in a way very similar to that of Islam–the Reformers’ rejection of philosophy ends in a “denial of access to reality”:

    Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this programme forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.

    Here is a links re Islam which makes no mention of Calvinism, but it’s worth reading and comparing what the author says about God’s absolute sovereignty and contrasting that with Calvinism’s take:

    The Pope and the Prophet

    Louis Bouyer places that emphasis on God’s sovereignty in a somewhat different perspective:

    The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism

  • Andrew Dowling

    While I find Calvinism deplorable, I think both Calvin and Wesley were too obsessed over the question of “who gets saved?” Jesus certainly was not obsessed with this question like they were, and doesn’t preclude salvation/”Kingdom fellowship” in the Gospels with belief in the atonement of his impending death.

  • http://restoringpangea.com/ Nathan Smith

    Bob, I didn’t read that Scot was making that claim. It’s not a matter of logic as much as it is a comparison (which is a logical comparison – but not an argument of logic). i.e., “it follows that…” I see him comparing the ingredients of two different faith constructs (determinism & universalism) – neither of which are actual “faiths” as they can be applied to different faith environments.

    Anyway, I see this in the same vein as understanding an element of religion like “grace” – understood as unmerited favor granted by one’s deity. Christianity isn’t the only religion that has this element. Timothy Tennent argues in his “Theology in the Context of World Christianity” that,

    “two important branches of Vaishnava Hinduism are the Vadagalais and the Tengalais. The Tengalais teach that salvation comes through a total surrender to the sovereignty of Lord Vishnu and a full and complete trust in his bestowal of unmerited grace.” (pg 135)

    Buddhism also has a similar element. The difference between what Tennent is saying and what Scot is saying is that to be a Hindu one doesn’t have to believe in unmerited favor – though certain “branches” do, but to be a Christian one does. Anyone claiming to be a Christian requires that they trust in unmerited favor as essential to their faith. As I understand Scot, with determinism, one doesn’t have to be a determinist to be a Christian, but to be a universalist one does.

    What’s problematic then is when Calvinists require determinism to be a “true” Christian – they are in effect requiring something that isn’t essential to being a Christian, but surprisingly is essential to being a universalist, making anyone who requires determinism more like (emphasis on “like”) a universalist than an orthodox Christian.

    This leads us to believe that determinism isn’t a necessary element to following Jesus and therefore shouldn’t be a required element of one’s faith construct.

    And yes, there are other forms of determinism in other religions and philosophies.

  • http://thesometimespreacher.com/ Andrew Holt

    Here’s my question for Calvinists: If the actualizing element of salvation is God’s choice of certain individuals, then why do we need a cross at all? If God’s choice is what saves us, then Jesus’s entire life, from incarnation to ascension, was pointless, and in no way affected salvation for anyone. If Jesus didn’t die for all, then why did he die at all?

  • Andrew Dowling

    I believe they would say that without the cross no-one gets saved; all would be damned.

  • Ethan Luhman

    What about Luther’s view? Christ indeed died for all, but God has chosen only some. We can be assured God chose us because he marked us with his name in baptism and bestowed in us the Holy Spirit. But there is an unsolvable mystery to whom God has chosen (“Who are you, o man, to talk back to God?” Romans 9:20). And at some point, we have to let God be God. Does the book address Luther’s impact on both of these other theologians?

  • http://thesometimespreacher.com/ Andrew Holt

    But the same could be said for God’s choice. If God chooses no one, then all are damned. My point is that, in Calvinism, God’s choice trumps the cross, but both come from God. Why would he trump his own Ace?

  • Rory Tyer

    I think the phrase “only a Calvinist” is governed by its context, i.e., “only a Calvinist [rather than both Calvinists and Wesleyans]“.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    “(Actually, only a Calvinist can be a universalist because to believe all
    will be saved means no one can choose not to be saved, which is a form
    of determinism.)”

    Yes, this is what I tend to think too:

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/salvation-by-love-erlosung-durch-die-liebe-unten/

    But to my mind it is clear that if eternal torments are at stake, God ought to overturn the will of any individual risking that fate.

    But if God has two choices whern confronted with a Christopher Hitchen unwilling to spend the eternity with Him:

    A) transform him so that he will become a different creature
    B) let him cease to exist

    then it is far from being certain, to say the least, than choice A) would be more loving than choice B)

    But in the end I don’t know, this is a very difficult question.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Yes it is true there are striking similarities between these blaspheming religions which teach that God predetermines men to kill and rape and will hold them accountable for this.

  • Denise

    How sad is it that when I saw the title of this post, my first thought was of Calvin and Hobbes?

  • C&H

    I’m more of a Calvin-and-Hobbesian, but isn’t this a confusion of categories? The who & the how?

  • http://thesometimespreacher.com/ Andrew Holt

    I don’t think so, but I imagine explaining my self would take far more time than is appropriate for this forum.

  • Cosmo

    About “free will” my problem has always been how such a belief connects with our sinful nature. In my mind there is quite a difference between being equally capable to choose good or evil (free will) and having the capacity to choose (volitional). If my understanding of the two is accurate then I cannot see man having a true, free will. On the other hand man certainly is a volitional creature and does make choices.
    I see this to be a good bit in the realm of mystery, but just my thoughts.

  • Rick

    “About “free will” my problem has always been how such a belief connects with our sinful nature.”
    Wesley (Classic Arminians) still believe that God’s grace is needed, and is the starting point, partly because we are impacted by sin and unable to respond in our sinful state.

  • Bob Wilson

    My empirical observation as an evangelical universalist is that many ‘free’-willers are found among us. I assumed Scot meant that he thinks it is impossible to be ‘logical’ and believe all could freely choose Christ. But of course, they dispute that and think that there is ultimately a compelling logic to undergird choosing the truth of Christ.

  • Steve

    The disagreement has been fierce, I think, because both sides are grasping at something which is true. The Calvinist holds firmly to God’s omniscience, grace, and providence. The Weslyans emphasize the necessity of humans being free agents if we’re to justly be held accountable for our actions. BOTH sides of this coin are taught in Scripture.

    It is my tactic to simply admit that both are true, but I don’t understand it as well as I’d like. God willing, I’ll have all eternity to chew on this mystery.

  • Andrew Dowling

    But the concept of “grace through faith” or sola fide (which in the traditional Armenian notion enables one to make moral choices in a free choice dilemma . . in Calvinism it’s just all predetermined anyway) ends up becoming a logical fallacy, because you can find countless examples of Christians making the wrong, immoral choice in life and believers of other faiths/non-believers making the right, moral choice. I find the classic Armenian-Calvinist debates unrewarding because I think both rest on faulty assumptions.

    Which is why, IMO, the often completely misunderstood and caricatured Pelagian theory (which tosses original sin out the window) makes much better sense. It doesn’t deny grace in assisting good works, but it views grace as something that “exists” like oxygen, not something selectively bestowed on some people and not others.

  • Steve

    I’m not a Calvinist, but I’ve heard it said (by Calivinsts such as James White) that God chose the cross as a means to show his spectacular love and mercy for the elect – thus glorifying Himself.

    But if you think about it, your question could be asked of all Christians. God could have redeemed mankind in any way He chose. Why that? I think the James Whites of the world have an important insight into how the cross revealed the depth of God’s mercy. I’d just contend that Christ did it for the whole world.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Well again, I’m not a Calvinist, but I think their position is that God makes both choices; he needed his wrath satisfied first through the cross, and then once that occurs, he can select the elect. I think the whole framework is silly but this is what they claim.

  • mark

    Amen re “the often completely misunderstood and caricatured Pelagian theory.” Grace is often best understood according to the Aristotelian notion of “final cause,” i.e., as something that draws toward by attraction, rather than an “efficient cause,” i.e., something that forces the issue. Grace can thus be anything that draws us toward God.

  • http://asthescripturesays.blogspot.com.au/ Josh

    Hey Scot, could you consider answering the question below please?

    ‘Capacity to choose something’?

    I’m involved in ministry with soterians who are in leadership positions above me. Quite difficult if you want to preach the gospel as a story. However, their gospel generally ends calling people to respond, asking or demanding them to repent and trust in Jesus for forgiveness. It seems to me the soterian gospel hinges on this final part. Persuading people to see Jesus is the only way they can be saved and then putting the decision in their hands whether or not they want to trust Jesus for forgiveness.

    Q. Does the discussion of how faith comes about (Calvin or Wesley) assume a context and framework presupposed by soterian gospel ministry?

    Otherwise

    Do you think meticulous sovereignty denies human’s capacity to choose (for and against) something? Does it deny, in that sense, “free will”?
    Determinism or free will? Generally I go with compatibilism (both), but I cant prove it. I don’t think it has been proven The bible seems to suggest both.

    Do you think Christ died for all?

    Is this now within the categories of determinism and free will? Whether someone is 4 or 5 point Calvinist…

  • David R. Graham

    I think Calvin by sovereignty means glory, not determinism. His motivating emotion – Divine Glory – is rather pure and Prophetic in the OT sense. I think everything else – determinism (which he over- thought while driving to show the divine glory, and which should not be a bugaboo for that reason, but rather his motivation grasped), sovereignty, subsistence, soteriology, iconoclasm, etc. – everything else for him illustrates the Divine Glory. He experienced that Glory, directly, deeply, decisively. Thus the power of the movement starting through him. Everything he wanted to say is in para one chapter one of Institutes, especially the phrase about all being subsistence in God. That means all in his glory, for his glory. Calvin’s not here to answer for himself.

  • http://www.ecksermonator.com/ Jason Hess

    Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for posting about it.

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    I think it’s almost an unnecessary bifurcation, and perhaps appropriating something like middle knowledge can help us out in this regard (but whether this requires libertarianism or can work with compatiblism I’m not ready to answer).

    And I also think Andrew Dowling down in the combox is on to something: both systems reflect what they inherited—an obsession over how individuals get saved at the expense of the mission to which baptized folks with faith are called.

  • scotmcknight

    Chris, I agree that soteriology is the driving issue for both. That’s why I have Arminian conclusions on some of these issues but don’t see myself primary as an Arminian. That frames the whole through soteriology.

  • scotmcknight

    Too many questions, brother. Yes, as I just commented in this thread… both are framed into soteriology. Meticulous sov… yes, at some level it’s logic, regardless of deus ex machina claims that it is compatible, denies free choice (libertarian free will). Compatibilism is at some level tossing up one’s hands to say I think both are present but can’t put them together. Yes, he died for all. 1 John 2.

  • http://asthescripturesays.blogspot.com.au/ Josh

    Thanks mate. If I ask questions I will try and keep the number down.

    “Compatibilism is at some level tossing up one’s hands to say I think both are present but can’t put them together.”

    :-) Yep, that’s me!

  • Rick

    “both systems reflect what they inherited—a obsession over how individuals get saved at the expense of the mission to which baptized folks with faith are called.”
    I don’t know if you are separating the “systems” from their originators or not, but Wesley’s view was one towards the individual, the community (ex. helping the poor), and society in general (ex. ending slavery).
    Wesleyan scholar Randy Maddox did a good lecture (at SPU) that included this idea of a wide-view of salvation and its impact.

  • Rick

    I think most Arminians would agree in the idea of a “common grace” given to all. There may be disagreement on whether this is the same a prevenient grace.

  • Rick

    I think, for Wesley, he was very interested it that union and experience of knowing God, that only comes by grace. He saw that as the fuel for a holy life lived, and thus for impacting oneself, one’s community, and society at-large.

  • Rick

    From Prof. Keith Drury (an Arminian):

    “just as Calvin and Luther believed, Wesley agreed that some vestiges of the “image and likeness of God” remained in humanity after the Fall, allowing for some degree of rationality and understanding to continue to exist in human beings, Wesley taught there are small remnants of the natural image and political image of God remaining, enabling humanity to retain some degree of rationality. However, none of these “vestiges” for Luther, Calvin and Wesley can offer any resources in the work of salvation. On this Luther, Calvin and Wesley agree.”

  • Dan Allen

    The main resulting difference that I see between these two is that in Wesley’s theology, man gets some of the credit (glory) for salvation; whereas, with Calvin’s theology, God gets all of the credit and the glory. I don’t believe everything that Calvin wrote, but I will side with God getting all the glory for His sovereign choices.

  • Rick

    Keith Drury wrote:
    “Prevenient grace, to Wesley is primarily a restoration of humanity’s responsiveness to grace not the granting of the power to believe. To Wesley prevenient grace brings to power to respond to grace, not the power to believe. Wesley would say that as a result of prevenient grace human beings are able to cooperate with further offers of grace by God—not that they had the power to believe when they heard the gospel. For Wesley prevenient grace in itself does not restore to people the ability to exercise faith, much less express repentance—these are works of God not men and women.”

    Likewise, Arminian B.P. Burnett wrote:

    “Grace carries salvation from beginning to end, and leaves no glory for the sinner who received it. Could a poor man on the street who reached out his hands to receive generous alms boast that he somehow earned them? Could a drowning man saved from the ocean by a rescue boat boast because he put the provided life buoy on and was pulled to safety? It seems just absurd to suggest that a man could boast in such things. How much more the grace of God in Christ saving us from Hell and doom!
    But someone might still complain, “But didn’t you ultimately make the free will choice to believe?” I suppose at the end of the day if you wanted to push it then I’d says that I did make the free choice to believe in the Son of God, and thus I am saved. But the bloated consequence commonly drawn from that point often seems so desperate and confused. What about the above analogies of the poor man and the drowning man? I am not saved by virtue of my believing per se, but by Christ’s dying and rising for me applied by the Holy Spirit. What the Arminian wants to stress is God’s kindness. Christ never had to come into the world; without Him there wouldn’t even exist the hope of salvation, we would be ‘without God and without hope in the world’

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-glory-which-is-ours/

  • Bob Wilson

    Nathan, when you agreed Scot is assuming a “LOGICAL comparison,” but say this “is Not a matter of LOGIC,” I have no idea what distinction you are making. Again, when you assert, “determinism… is Essential to being a universalist,” I’m not seeing how one would evaluate dissenting universalists like Talbott or Parry, where “logic” had been deemed irrelevant.

  • http://restoringpangea.com/ Nathan Smith

    Bob – I was addressing the difference between an exercise in formal logic vs. a “that makes sense” use of logic. I saw Scot’s comment in the, “that makes sense” category. It seemed like he was being critiqued for using formal logic incorrectly, which didn’t make sense in the context of his post. Anyway, I was helped by Scot’s comment so I am biased because of my buy in.

  • Wayne Webb

    The true glory of God centers in His wonderful and boundless love. That is what and who He is. (1 John 4:8) And the glory that God will receive will be because he bestowed that Love in sending His only begotten Son for whosoever will.(john 3:16,17) Likewise concerning “will”; It is God’s will that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9)Those who “choose” to accept and receive Jesus do so because He first loved them. (1 John 4:19) Those who reject will be revealed to have had the same opportunity to receive His same free, wonderful, and boundless love..(Romans 1:20) Therefore all credit will be His alone and rightly so.

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    Exactly why I continue to see myself as more Augustinian (though Arminius was himself quite Augustinian) in this regard, if I had to choose. Somehow, he held libertarian freedom and God’s sovereign election in tandem. Perhaps Aquinas shows us the better way . . .

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    Sounds good. For Calvin’s part (and it is a bit odd to compare the two, given they were from such different times), his Geneva included relief for the poor, construction of hospitals, schools (which were free), new prisons, laws protecting consumers, provisions for refugees, and a sanitation system that made Geneva one of the cleanest and healthiest cities in Europe (unless you were anti-Trinitarian, I guess. Ha.).

  • Bob Wilson

    Thanks Nathan. In saying Scot believed something was “logical,” I didn’t intend to imply a distinction contrary to “that makes sense.” But I probably assume that whatever “makes the best sense” would be in accord with “logic.” In any event, I’m simply wary of assertions on who can be a universalist, without spelling out why such a claim makes sense.

  • Andrew Dowling

    It was also the harshest theocracy in western Europe, complete with a culture which encouraged people to “out” friends and family members for such sinful activities as playing games, along with harsh corporal punishment for children. A religion built on fear, which is what arises out of Calvin’s complete obsession with some anthropomorphized version of God that only cares about humans giving him his “props” since they are just detestable creatures, leads to very poor outcomes and is simply not healthy for individuals or the community they are a part of.

  • http://restoringpangea.com/ Nathan Smith

    I understand your original intent much better. thanks

  • Luke Breuer

    It’s interesting that you use the word “credit”, when a similar Greek word was used in “Abraham believed God, and he credited it to him as righteousness”. There’s no direct biblical evidence that God forced, coerced, or otherwise caused Abraham to do the believing. Next, let’s look at Jeremiah 9:23-24.

    Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

    So it’s actually OK to boast—in one specific thing: knowing God. How do we know him? By hearing him and believing him. Notice the repetition of “Today, if you hear his voice” in Heb 3:7,15,4:7. I would say that we very much do get glory for one thing: believing God. Remember Ps 8:4-6, which is quoted in Heb 2:6-8; God originally put everything under Adam & Eve’s feet, and after they gave their sovereignty/dominion over to Satan, Jesus had to re-claim it and re-give it to his followers. Remember that Jesus brings us to glory (Heb 2:10, 2 Cor 3:18).

    The secret to God’s glory is that it can be shared; man’s glory cannot, since it is in the form of “I am better than you.”

  • Luke Breuer

    I’ve heard a bit about this; would you care to share some sources? One thing that’s important to do is to compare Calvin with his local predecessors, to see if he improved over them. But yeah, what you say certainly seems horrible. According to Wikipedia, this is what Calvin said about questioning his treatment of heretics:

    Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.

    It was just so convenient that Calvin got to be the one who figured out what God is actually saying.

  • Luke Breuer

    Sometimes I wonder how Calvin’s Institutes would read if one were to replace ‘glory’ with ‘raw power’. Jesus had harsh words for those who would “lord it over one another like the Gentiles” (Mt 20:20-208).

  • Luke Breuer

    It’s not clear to me that Paul is rebuking the person who is talking back to God about who is saved and who isn’t; this presumes that the vessels “for dishonorable use” are the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”. It’s not at all clear to me that these two are the same. Instead, I read that passage as Paul rebuking those who complain about the accident of birth: some are born into riches and others into poverty. 2 Tim 2:20-21 even indicates that it is possible to cleanse a dishonorable vessel so that it can be used for honorable things.

  • Luke Breuer

    1. Premise: The only interesting form of libertarian free will is the ability to choose “not God” (i.e. reject God).
    2. Definition: Universalism says that nobody can indefinitely reject God.
    3. Conclusion: No ‘interesting form’ of libertarian free will allows for universalism.

  • Dan Allen

    The issue with the word “credit” is that I was using a different meaning of that word and a different part of speech (verb vs noun) than Gen 15:6. As for God sharing His glory, Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” So I’m not sure at all that he ever shares his glory. As His children, we reflect His glory, but it’s never ours; it’s always His glory. My point in all of this is that when our salvation is God’s sovereign choice, then He gets ALL the glory. When I have a “free” choice, and I “decide” to choose God over the evil things of the world, then I get some of the glory. And I don’t want it. I want Him to get all of it.

  • Luke Breuer

    I will not give My glory to another

    give ≠ share

    The whole ‘glory’ topic is quite complex; consider 1 Cor 11:7, which contains “[man] is the glory and image of God”. The more man believes and then obeys God, the more God is glorified, no? Furthermore, note that the Hebrew word translated ‘boast’ in Jeremiah 9:23-24 is often translated ‘praise’ and ‘glory’—including ‘glory’ in that very passage, in the KJV.

    When I have a “free” choice, and I “decide” to choose God over the evil things of the world, then I get some of the glory.

    This just seems to beg the question. I could just as easily say that God is glorified by libertarian free-willed agents choosing him over the alternative(s). Why not describe the choice as: “I choose to reflect God’s glory by believing him.”?

    ———

    I would suggest that Calvinism oversimplifies the concept of ‘glory’.

  • Bob Wilson

    Bob, Sure, if ‘free will’ is defined precisely as some will use that to “choose not God,” then I’d agree they Must reject God. But this seems to smuggle the debated conclusion into the definition of one’s original premise. The serious philosophers who disagree probably nuance ‘freedom’ differently.

  • Luke Breuer

    I don’t think I smuggled in the premise

    some will use that to “choose not God,”

    ; here is my attempt to clarify:

    1. Premise: The only interesting form of libertarian free will is the ability to choose “not God” (i.e. reject God).
    2. Definition: Universalism says that nobody can will indefinitely reject God.
    3. Conclusion: No ‘interesting form’ of libertarian free will allows for universalism. We cannot be guaranteed that zero agents will indefinitely reject God.

    Better?

  • Bob Wilson

    Much better, thanks Bob! But, my sense is, we mean by ‘free,’ choices aren’t externally forced, but agents at each point can choose whichever option makes the best sense to them. If it meant ‘randomness,’ sure, we’d expect results must ultimately be quite divided.

    Otherwise, I can’t see how it dictates which choices will eventuate. Convictions on the end result would seem to require divine revelation (=guarantee) or one’s philosophical sense of what would reasonably result over infinite time if a resourceful God kept pursuing a fully informed choice (encouraging at least great hope of universalism).

    I suspect this comes down to definitions & conceptions of ‘freedom’ and the ‘power of contrary choice.’ I’m willing to say that I have ‘freedom’ “to choose reject” chocolate forever. But I’m not seeing how that reveals anything about what the actual outcome of such a choice will be. In fact I suspect the deck is a bit stacked. You may be able to clarify the semantics here.

  • Luke Breuer

    By the way, I hijacked this and am not Bob. :-|

    I would say that we ought to hope for universalism, but not in the sense that we can lie back and let the chips fall as they may—on the contrary, we are at least responsible for helping people learn the easy way instead of the hard way! God begged, cajoled, threatened, and just about everything else, to try and get Israel to return to him. That seems to be a standard for us to follow. We probably ought to be careful with the ‘threaten’ bit, though. See this and nearby comments.

  • Bob Wilson

    labreuer, Many universalist friends would enthusiastically affirm Every one of your points here. Perhaps that’s why I found the original item misleading in asserting that universalists ‘can’t’ be free-willers. Many think a lot like libertarians.

  • Luke Breuer

    Nobody says those universalists are being self-consistent. :-|


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