Scot McKnight vs. Those “Pesky Calvinists”: What Does it Mean for God to be Sovereign?

Last week I read a brief e-book that just came out by my friend Scot McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian PerseveranceHis point is a simple one and he gets to it in the very first paragraph: McKnight doesn’t like how “the resurgent Calvinism” talks about God’s sovereignty.

These “pesky Calvinists,” as McKnight calls them, promote “meticulous (or exhaustive) sovereignty,” where all things that come to pass are determined by God (weather, disasters, murders, sexual abuse, etc).

Though applicable to many issues, McKnight focuses his comments on personal salvation, namely whether someone can “choose for God and then later choose against God.” In other words, whether someone truly saved can lose that salvation.

McKnight makes it clear he is not arguing for Arminianism, nor is he critiquing all of Calvinism. He is just going for the “meticulous sovereignty sort,” such as John Piper, D. A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells, as well as the institutions that “prop up these voices.”

McKnight says one can lose his/her salvation–it’s called being apostate. Calvinist theology, by contrast, includes “double predestination,” that God determines who will be saved and who will be damned. Though acknowledging that Calvin himself did not teach this, and many Calvinists do not adhere to it, for McKnight the two are necessarily linked if you adhere to “meticulous sovereignty”–for God to choose sovereignly one group means he is also choosing sovereignly the other no matter which way you slice it.

McKnight takes direct aim at this view by turning to the “warning passages” in Hebrews (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29).

Here is a quote from the introduction to set up the book’s argument:

My aim is to defeat this view of meticulous soverignty among resurgent Calvinists by showing that the biblical view of sovereignty–a robust version if ever there was one–means God has chosen–because he loves those whom he has created and grants them freedom–to limit his sovereignty by giving humans that freedom. My argument is not philosophical; my argument is biblical. I affirm what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, and biblical sovereignty entails human freedom both to choose God and un-choose God. If that view of sovereignty can be demonstrated from the Bible, then resurgent Calvinism’s view of sovereignty is unbiblical, pastorally disastrous, and harmful to the church.

After an opening chapter outlining his own journey through Calvinism and relaying the story of Dan Barker–who went from preacher to atheist–McKnight spends most of the book in Hebrews. He interprets each of the warning passages through the lens of four questions: Who is the audience? What is the danger? What are they to do instead of the sin? What will happen if they don’t respond properly?

McKnight’s conclusion: According to Hebrews, “God gave us the freedom to choose, but if we choose to walk away we will be damned.” Hence, meticulous sovereignty in salvation is wrong. In the concluding two chapters, McKnight looks at the profound practical implications of these warnings and briefly how all this relates to another biblical theme, God’s faithfulness to us and the “assurance of salvation.”

For me, I am not so sure what place in the pecking order the “rhetoric of warning” in Hebrews should have in New Testament theology, but that is a huge issue that McKnight only touches on in this brief book. At the very least, interested readers will find McKnight’s exposition of Hebrews thoughtful and compelling, and one that “resurgent Calvinism” will not be able to answer easily.

 

 

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    Amen

  • Matt

    By* contrast

  • revdrdre

    Thanks for passing this along. I find this theologically helpful even if pastorally challenging

  • Jeff Martin

    As Dr. Witherington says, “You can’t make a shipwreck of your faith if you are not on the ship!” I realize that for Calvinists the “boat” is the church made up of redeemed people and non-redeemed. Ignoring the issue I have with this thinking that is contrary to what is actually described in Hebrews, as a pastor, whether Arminian or Calvinist, one still has the responsibility of warning people in the church that what they are doing is making a shipwreck of their faith. So on a practical level I have seen and would hope that Calvinist pastors would still take Hebrews seriously enough to warn those who make a mockery of what Christ did for them, or in Calvinists’ case what he could have done for them! That last statement sums up why I would find it difficult to be a Calvinist.

    A much more important pastoral concern with regards to Calvinism is how to answer someone when they say “God had a plan in allowing my daughter to get raped”. From a Calvinist viewpoint it can, from my viewpoint, be so destructive an answer to hear that it was God’s plan for this to happen. So, in practical terms, I see this as the only major issue that needs to be addressed by pastors in the pulpit regarding Calvinism and Arminianism.

  • Charlie Payne

    So…here’s a question. Job 37: 6-13 NLT says that “He (God) directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down…V. 10 “God’s breath sends the ice, freezing the wide expanses of water. He loads the clouds with moisture and they flash with his lightning. V 13: He makes these things happen either to punish people or to show his unfailing love”. Metaphoric language aside, the gist is that God is in control of the weather. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of God dealing out punishment via natural disaster but isn’t that a real theme in the OT? I teach a young-adult sunday school class; know more than the average pew sitter about theology. I understand the idea of human freedom and that God chooses not to interfere with that freedom, hence a women can get raped, a husband cheated on, etc – Human freedom seems an answer to much of human pain but I do struggle with knowing how to answer the Calvinist regarding ‘meticulous sovereignty at least regarding nature.

    • labreuer

      Two responses come to mind:
      A) God can have the ability to control the weather without always utilizing said ability.
      B) Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1 both speak of God actively upholding nature. Is this more or less ‘manipulation’ than the Job passage?

      Note that the Bible sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Furthermore, there is the possible goal of convincing the Israelites that God is in more control of nature than the other gods of the time. This would give them less reason to worship e.g. fertility gods. If Rodney Stark is at all correct, it could also provide enough confidence to conduct science.

      • Name

        The Bible doesn’t exaggerate when it asserts that God is actively involved in all of nature. That is simply twisting Scripture in order to believe in a God of your own liking….

        • labreuer

          I can be actively involved on some project with another person, with the result being shaped by both of us. I suspect you meant to use a stronger term than ‘actively involved’?

          Roger Olson notes that Calvinists prefer not to use terms such as ‘divine determinism’ because while they communicate the idea accurately, they have icky connotations. It would appear that you are following that pattern. It may be worth investigating how much of your “own liking” is seeping into your thoughts.

          • Name

            I don’t use the term “divine determinism” because it denotes an impersonal God. That is not what is revealed in Scripture, and it does not accurately communicate the idea.

          • labreuer

            What would make God personal vs. impersonal? All of the human-God interactions have been predetermined, have they not? Why does it matter whether the Calvinist God set everything up to happen exactly as he wanted it to from the beginning (a kind of Deism), vs. constantly shaping the world to be what he wants? In both cases, God is able to make every particle and every field go exactly as he wants.

            Remember, the human-God interactions recorded in the Bible, such as God threatening to destroy Israel and re-start with Moses, are fictions in this important way according to the Calvinist. God never had any intention of destroying Israel, despite what he said to Moses. Moses didn’t change God’s mind; no human can change God’s mind. It’d be like having a magician’s show where the audience is seeded with all the ‘volunteers’, with precise scripts set for each volunteer. It might look like a true, personal interaction is happening between magician and volunteer. In fact, this would be false; no person would consider scripted, predetermined interactions as ‘personal’.

          • Name

            This subject is too big to lay out in a com box. Your points are common ones and have been address in the corpus of literature on the subject. You will need to pursue the study of those works.
            Blessings,

          • labreuer

            Can you point to a specific location in a specific book or blog post which demonstrates the above implication, which I repeat below, to be true?

            {divine determinism, meticulous sovereignty} => {God is impersonal}

            I’m not at all aware of the above being well-addressed in the literature. I don’t recall Michael Horton making anything like that claim in For Calvinism.

          • Name

            You can search the archives at http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com. Steve Hays has dealt with the philosophical objections to Calvinism extensively.

          • Name

            I’m not sure what the issue here is. From our perspective, it’s personal. Since God is personal, it’s personal. How does God’s sovereign rule render the relationship impersonal? Because you can’t “change his mind”? Sometimes I have difficulty changing my wife’s mind, or my kids, but I still have personal relationships with them.

          • labreuer

            My point was merely that the following implication is false:

            {divine determinism, meticulous sovereignty} => {God is impersonal}

            If you cannot demonstrate that the idea of God setting up the universe like a music box is invalid or unscriptural, then I claim you must accept the ‘divine determinism’ moniker as semantically valid, even if the connotation bothers you. Note that you have already agreed that God merely appears to change his mind; this explanatory mechanism must also be employed to other instances before you claim that you’ve found a passage in scripture which cannot be explained by the Calvinist-Deist music box model I’ve constructed. Let me be very clear: I do not see Deism as a heresy if we have meticulous sovereignty, as God could simply pre-program the universe to make it appear as if he is relating to people in time, when all those interactions were really ‘rendered certain’ before time began. He really would be interacting with those people as well; it is simply also true that these interactions were predetermined.

  • Susan Gerard

    This sounds like a very good book. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • superbri

    Read the eBook and think that McKnight misses it, probably because he has such an ax to grind with the pesky Calvinists. Too bad. He draws conclusions of “freedom to choose” and “love requires a choice”, which are interesting thoughts but not supported in Hebrews as the basis of the warning passages.

  • rvs

    I have been looking for a better vocabulary vis-a-vis my conversations with “pesky Calvinists,” haha. This helps.

  • Name

    If God is not “meticulously” sovereign, then he’s not sovereign at all. Not sure why some people make such a big issue of something so obvious.

    • labreuer

      There exist ideas of sovereignty where God is not so insecure that he must maintain the strictest of control over all of reality. Consider this: your idea of sovereignty results in God being unable to create human beings with libertarian free will!

      • Name

        I don’t believe in libertarian free will. And I don’t think God is insecure to be who He is. A God who is not in control of all that occurs is not God by definition.
        You have to limit His sovereignty in order to defend the precious man-pleasing doctrine of libertarian free will.

        • labreuer

          So anonymous person, when you are striving to “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” and consider how you treat fellow human beings, do you treat them as if they each have their own free will, or do you strive to control them just as you see your Father in Heaven controlling?

          To take another famous example, is every rape of a six-year-old required for God’s glory? As in, for every instance of such rape, would every alternative lessen his glory? Can you in truth tell every rape victim that you’re sorry it happened but God needed it to happen so that he would be maximally glorified? N.B. Changing ‘needed’ to ‘wanted’ doesn’t change anything of import.

          You err when you assume that I am defending a “precious man-pleasing doctrine”. I find the above two examples as offensive to any recognizable conception of ‘goodness’. There are others, but they would make this post long.

          • Name

            You should understand a position, and be able to re-state that position so a person holding to it could say “Yes, that is what I believe”. Your straw men caricatures will not do it. When you understand the position you’re seeking to refute, we can speak then.
            You might begin by reading the voluminous work already done addressing the problem of evil and theodicy.
            Blessings,

          • labreuer

            In general, I agree with you. The best test of understanding is if you can simulate another person’s viewpoint to their satisfaction. There is at least one lurking problem: what if that viewpoint is inconsistent and/or incomplete—in the sense that it fails to follow stated propositions to their logical conclusions?

            You claim that the rape example is a straw man; I take this to mean it is a position you do not hold. I do not contest this. However, I claim it is a position you should hold. It is a “good and necessary conclusion”, to steal a phrase from Olson, from propositions you hold to.

            Sadly, this tangent will probably end because I cannot yet simulate what you would say about the rape example, extract rigorous propositions and conclusions, and show how regardless of the words you use, you end up saying what I said with the words I used. Maybe some later time I will be able to do this.

            I will say that it is hard to simulate viewpoints that fail this sort of analogy: if I had mind-control technology and used it to force you (against your will) to commit rape, I would be culpable. Yet God, who by your viewpoint mind-controls everyone, is somehow not culpable. All this talk about “secondary causes” seems like verbal slight-of-hand.

          • Name

            The conclusions you draw from calvinism are the result of your own deficient understanding of it. That is why you think I should hold the position you mention above. I don’t hold it because it is an incorrect implication. It may be implied by your premise, but I don’t accept your premise.

            Blessings

          • labreuer

            What books would you suggest I read to correct my deficient understanding of Calvinism? For example, I’ve read Michael Horton’s For Calvinism, which I did not find especially motivating. It would be nice to find a book that deals with some of the more common objections to Calvinism.

            On a different note, what books have you read which critique Calvinism, which you found the most valid? I realize that you don’t think any of those critiques obtain (at least against your version of Calvinism), but I would still be interested in what you think are good attempts. (vs. say, Roger Olson, whom you do not respect) It seems like you’ve been around the block a few times on this issue, so I’m hoping you’ll have book recommendations (and perhaps debates posted online?) in both categories.

          • Name

            Good questions. I would begin by suggesting a thorough study of Calvin’s Institutes (of course). Many criticize him without having read his work. Van Til’s “The Case for Calvinism” is helpful. The Canons of Dordt are essential, as well as “Calvin: A Guide for the Perplexed” by Paul Helm. “The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism” by Brown is also good.

            As far as valid critiques go, I certainly do not imply that any particular theological position is air tight. The best attempted response to calvinistic doctrine was presented by the Remonstrants back before Calvinism was “officially” formulated. The various modern critiques, such as “Whosoever Will” and “Chosen But Free” (and many others, see Olsen et al) are weak on exegesis and sometimes emotional and philosophical in opposition.
            Hope this helps.

    • Phil Miller

      Probably because God made them do it… If there’s no libertarian free will, as you assert below, than it’s all God’s fault. So, really, you’re just arguing against God here. Might as well go spend your time elsewhere…

      • Name

        There are many examples of what is called “compatiblism” in Scripture, see Acts 2:23 for a common one. I’m not arguing against the God revealed in Scripture here, I’m arguing against a false one molded by modern sensibilities and errant philosophical notions.

        • Phil Miller

          Compatibilism or soft determinism is in and of itself a philosophy that has origins in Greek thought. It’s an inherently contradictory philosophy. It still says the future is predetermined and any other alternative futures are simply hypothetical. To claim it’s a “Biblical” philosophy is just mistaken.

          If anything the Bible seems to lean more towards favoring libertarian freedom, but it doesn’t do so at the expense of God’s sovereignty. How the two interact is a mystery. Calvinism essentially tries to solve the mystery.

          • Name

            Well, that’s easy to say.

            Give an exegetical explanation of Acts 2:23 then, and numerous other passages like it.

            Thanks

          • Phil Miller

            Well, Acts 2:23 is talking about a specific event in regards to God’s plan and foreknowledge – the crucifixion of Christ.

            If I have a specific plan regarding a specific event it doesn’t mean that I predetermined everything leading up to that event or everyone’s actions who was involved. If I send out wedding invitation for a wedding at 2pm on Saturday, June 15th, all I’ve determined is that the wedding will occur at that time. There are certain details that I arrange – booking the caterers, florists, etc., but I don’t control the actions of these people. In fact, they could very well choose not to participate in the wedding.

            Now compared to God’s ability, my ability to plan and determine things is pretty meager, but still, I have some ability to determine future events.

            There are plenty of ways to handle the typical passages that Calvinists point to without resorting to meticulous determinism. And historically, the Calvinist position is not the mainstream Christian position.

          • Name

            The passage teaches that men are held personally responsible morally for doing something God planned and pre-determined would occur ahead of time. And yes, everything leading up to that event was also pre-determined, it’s all a part of the plan of salvation revealed over thousands of years in Scripture. We’re talking about God’s sovereignty over all, not “meticulous determinism”.

          • Phil Miller

            and yes, everything leading up to that event was also pre-determined

            The text doesn’t say that… You’re reading what you want to read into it.

          • Name

            The plan of salvation begins being laid out in Genesis 3, God didn’t simply come up with it just before the incarnation. What does “the pre-determined plan and foreknowledge of God” mean? I’m hardly “reading” what I want into the text.

          • Phil Miller

            It means simply that – God had plan for salvation from the beginning. But you are making a huge leap to assume that means that everything that has happened in history is part of that plan.

          • Name

            Phil, what historical events has God not planned? What surprises God?

          • Phil Miller

            I don’t believe surprise is a word that has any real meaning when dealing with God. The question is whether or not everything that happens in the future has to be a certain way or whether or not there are real possibilities. In other words, the question is whether the choices we make actually mean something or are they simply illusions. God can foresee see everything that possibly could happen, but that doesn’t mean He actively determines everything that does happen. There are some things where He obviously does intervene in a special way, but there are other where it seem He doesn’t in the same way.

            The long and the short of it is that there are no easy answers when dealing with these questions. Simply saying “God is sovereign, que sera sera…” is the ultimate cop-out answer.

          • Name

            Well, I’m not trying to cop-out of anything. I’m asserting that God is sovereign. I didn’t say our choices don’t mean anything. But you’re right, there are no easy answers….

          • labreuer

            We’re talking about God’s sovereignty over all, not “meticulous determinism”.

            What’s the difference? The two terms obviously have different connotations, but are their denotations different? If so, how? For example, what incorrect idea would one form from “meticulous determinism” which one would not form from “sovereignty over all”?

          • Name

            Sovereignty is an attribute of God, and is taught in the Bible. Meticulous determinism is a philosophical concept used to represent God’s sovereignty in a derogatory way (like fatalism). It’s another straw man.

          • Phil Miller

            But what’s the functional difference between the two terms? The objections you’re raising here to free will are essentially the same that a believer in hard determinism would raise. You are defining the term “sovereignty” in a particular way that isn’t necessary.

          • Name

            The functional difference is that God is personal, and what He plans or allows is in accordance with His goodness and purpose. Fatalism or determinism is an impersonal philosophical concept, a lifeless unfeeling force.

          • Phil Miller

            I don’t see any difference between the god you’re describing and a lifeless, unfeeling force, to be honest.

          • Name

            I’m sorry if that’s so Phil.
            Blessings,

  • Tiffani Fussner Cappello

    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother, Edward Beecher gave had an interesting preface in his book against Calvinism. He noted all the mental and emotional illness that resulted from the doctrines promulgated by his own father, Lyman Beecher, the most noted Calvinistic preacher of his time – particularly in regards to the doctrine of election for eternal damnation. Imagine coming to the conclusion that you are NOT one of God’s elect and can never be (perhaps due to a inward sensitivity to your sin). Read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book The Minister’s Wooing.
    Calvinism is still leaving scars today and causing and/or contributing to mental illness. The Lord said he brings us peace. I don’t know how I can sleep at night thinking that the God that rules the universe creates people with the intent purpose of sending them to hell. Sounds like a cosmic Hitler, not a loving Father. And if God’s sovereignty is the only factor in salvation, then why does he not choose to save everyone then (Christian universalism)? If he can bend the human heart to his will, then why not bend all towards salvation. To me Calvinism is not even logical.

    • Name

      He doesn’t “bend” the human heart to His will. This language reflects your own misconceptions about Calvinism. He changes the heart, gives the sinner a new one, to love heavenly things.

      The God who rules the universe creates some people who will go to hell and some that will go to heaven. This is undeniable. It is the case with every theological system, accept universalism–which, of course, is untenable.

      • Tiffani Fussner Cappello

        Why it undeniable? It has been argued and denied by multitudes of very godly men who studied the Bible extensively. These are not fly-by-nights, but scholarly men with plenty of godly fruit to back of their testimony of faith.

        Think about it… he deliberately creates some folks to send them for hell and watch them burn for all eternity – a LONG time. Nice. Like I said – Cosmic Hitler.

        I can only imagine trying to explain to Children’s Services why I had 7 children, but only chose to love and care for one. The other 6 I bore with the sole intent purpose of torturing them.

        • Name

          The part that’s undeniable is that some are going to hell, some are going to heaven, and God made all men and knows where they will ultimately be. The only ones who deny this are universalists.

          Secondly, God has the prerogative to do whatsoever is consistent with His own nature and is pleasing in His sight. Since He is the ultimate standard and personal expression of goodness, nothing He does is evil. And whatever evil He plans or allows has an ultimately good purpose. For example, the crucifixion of the Son of God is a great evil which God used for a good purpose.
          Comparing the Lord God Almighty to a cosmic Hitler is not only incredibly off-base, but blasphemous.
          The fact that God shows mercy to any sinner is an expression of amazing grace. God cares for all people, but He redemptively loves only those of his choosing. You, after all, love some people more than others, no?
          And hell is not torture, that would be a gratuitous evil with no purpose. It is retributive justice for offending an infinite and holy God. You’re thinking in human terms, you need to aim higher.

          • Tiffani Fussner Cappello

            I am not comparing the Almighty God to a cosmic Hitler. I am comparing the Calvinistic god to a cosmic Hitler. I do not believe they are one in the same being.

            Yes, I do love some more than others – human nature. Don’t believe that is divine nature.

            Fact is, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not claim to know everything. I can be wrong. But I have seen many people buckle under mentally because they had a God ruling them who might not love them enough to save them. But maybe, in his sovereignty, he chose for them to suffer in this life as well as the next – with mental torment? Well, I just cannot buy it. I have met believers struggling with sin and trying to get victory who have determined that they must not be one of the elect. Sad.

            As a health professional, I have investigated various theologies and their effects of physical and mental health. Calvinism has one of the worst track records. As you can tell, I am not and have never been a Calvinist. And I have learned one thing… no use engaging most Calvinists because they are firmly entrenched in their views.

            I admit I could be wrong about the nature of God. I am not so arrogant to think I am 100% right on everything. But we become like the God we serve and I have seen some pretty scary stuff coming out of the Calvinist reconstructionist camps. Not talking out of my ear here. Used to be fully entrenched in the Quiverfull, Vision Forum, ATI, Reconstructionist homeschooling camp. Seen some seriously nasty fruit growing on that tree. Never did buy their perception of God though.

            I feel the Calvinistic perception of God is not anything like what the scripture teaches in 1st Cor 13 about love. And God is the very personification of love. Including justice – yes. But as in my previous analogy about Children’s Services, I don’t feel that the Calvinistic perception of justice is accurate or just. Nuf sed.

          • Name

            The people who struggle with assurance because they don’t know if they’re elect simply misunderstand the biblical teaching on the subject. The struggle is due to their error, not the teaching.

            Movements like theonomy, etc. like you mention are fringe at best. They do not represent historical, classical Calvinism. It would be like me judging your theology by the most deficient representations of it.
            Anyway, nuf sed

          • Seeker

            Whatever… See my comment above. You are parroting the words of others to defend a system that has got some serious issues. Sorry, but I understand the teaching of election quite well. And I understand historical, classical Calvinism… Do you? Have you read through Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion? If so, did you find anything there that you wrestled with? Or is “historical, classical Calvinism” somehow inerrant in your mind? Kinda sounds that way – which worries me…

          • Name

            I responded to your comments above. I’ve read Calvin extensively. However, I perceive that discussing this further with you would not be fruitful.
            Blessings,

          • Beakerj

            I feel that your first paragraph here is utterly insensitive…you speak like you’re omnipotent, & you are being appallingly condescending towards those who struggle.

            I have read & re-read your contributions to this thread & feel that almost everything you have said carries this tone, & makes you almost unreadable. My experience with calvinistic theology has often come along with this kind of ‘personal’ tone – I begin to wonder if it is a natural outworking, along with the fact you choose to be anonymous & thus impersonal…kind of mirroring a deterministic deity. Is this really the most living way you could address such a gigantically important issue?

          • Beakerj

            That should say ‘loving’…but maybe ‘living’ is also appropriate…

          • Name

            One last response to Tiffani’s comments. I am very sensitive to the spiritual abuses that some calvinisitic movements have perpetrated. They are misguided and imbalanced, all of which grieve me. However, the people in those movements and their errors are not arguments against calvinism. Proponents of every theological position have poor representatives of that position.

  • Guest

    Go get ‘em, Scot! In my experience, Calvinism (as typically taught) defangs Hebrews. We need those fangs!

  • Another perspective.

    It seems to me that he’s rejecting Calvinism but retaining on to errors in earlier thought. Namely of course, damnation.

    I’d argue that Hebrews 2: 1 – 4 is talking mainly about salvation and deliverence from such things in this life. Of course we wouldn’t be delivered from these things if we went off of the way, and apostate.

    2nd. I’d argue that Hebrews 6: 5- 6 is talking in relation to later on in Hebrews where it clearly says that Christ sacrifice took away all sins once for all time (and several times it says this). So then in Hebrews six its saying that its impossible to re-sacrifice Christ again if one has gone astray. But why is it possible…. but because Christ’s final and completed self sacrifice has done away with the sacrificial system in full. But it warns that some people have tasted the heavenly gift of Christ’s full forgiveness, but have fallen to the side of this and returned to needing to sacrifice for forgiveness like in the old system, thus exposing what he has done to public disgrace. It is powerless for us to bring them back, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t come to their senses.

    So I don’t think that text is talking about loss of forgiveness, but rather that they were completely forgiven and fell away from this in their understanding to the idea that they needed to sacrifice again for forginess.

    Likewise in Hebrews 9: 28 – 29 I’d argue that its not saying that those (who stay) apart from sin will receive a salvation, but rather that people *are* apart from sin because of Christs shed blood, and will therefore receive a deliverence.

    So I don’t think there are any real warnings about damnation in Hebrews, but rather just a encouragement that we are completely and utterly forgiven on the cross, once for all time.

    Then I’d add to this Hebrews 2: 15 – 16 where it says that Christ came to take away the fear of death. Any warnings about damnation certainly are not taking this away.

    Plus. The Ultimate Reconciliation texts of Hebrews 2: 7 – 11.

    Add to that the text in Hebrews 8: 10 – 12 where it says that the New covenant was made with Israel (not individuals). We know from Acts that they apostles learned that the gospel was for everybody.

    But it then says the prophetic promises of this Covenant. “And I *shall* be with them for a God, and they *shall* be with me for a people….. for all *shall* be aquainted with me.

    For I shall be propitious to their injustices, and of their sins and lawlessness should I under no circumstances still be reminded.

    So. This covenant was made with Isreal (and also the gentiles) whereupon all of humanity is forgiven on the cross, and it contains these promises.

    There therefore is no warnings about punitive punishment in Hebrews, just about going off of the way whereby we lose salvation from self-destruction.

  • Neo

    Crap. Another misconstruing of Hebrews out of it’s context. It was written to Judiazers and those being swayed by them. Not mere apostates.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Honestly, I don’t even consider neo-Calvinists Christians. They follow a bastardization of Christianity completely foreign to the first 1000 years (and more) of Christianity and have the arrogance to proclaim they managed to discover vast truths that the apostles apparently couldn’t figure out. The idea of double predestination is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus and, contrary to their cherry pickings of obscure biblical passages, is not found in the Bible whatsoever.

    I see how psychologically speaking, that sort of message (God is BIG and mighty, you are small and sinful) speaks to some people (it seems to carry particular resonance among some people who have suffered through addiction) , but I think it helps foster and develop a completely warped view of the world which is completely unhealthy and unproductive.

    I see a lot on Christian blogs a sort of “can’t calvinists and the rest of us find common ground?” but IMO there is no common ground if your foundation is rust

    • Name

      Nice. Very gracious and fair. I wonder how you would take your own remarks were they written by a calvinist?
      I don’t know any calvinists that assert non-calvinists are not even Christians.

      • Andrew Dowling

        Ha, neo-calvinists call other Christians heretics and apostate all the time; they wear judgementalism like a badge of honor. I hear much more offensive and ugly comments coming from the likes of Piper and Driscoll all the time. And while I understand not all Calvinists are on that bandwagon, really the whole theological school has major issues. Heck, the movement’s namesake was a guy who turned Geneva into a center of religious totalitarianism (like a Euro-Kabul circa 16th century) and who championed burning his enemies at the stake.

        • Name

          You are simply trying to paint a very unfair picture of others, not to mention your historical claims about Calvin are ignorant. You have an agenda, I’ll leave you to it.

          • Andrew Dowling

            So Calvin didn’t write a letter supporting Michael Servetus’s execution and after he was burned to death said it had been “for God’s glory?” He didn’t help codify a city code which encouraged citizens to ‘turn in’ their family members and friends they suspected of ‘unchristian behavior’ such as playing cards? I’m just dealing with historical facts.

          • Name

            These “facts” are widely disseminated by the ignorant or those who are already prejudiced against John Calvin. My recommendation is to do some scholarly historical reading instead of regurgitating misinformation from anti-calvinists.

          • Name

            One further comment. Calvin was an immensely godly and humble servant of Jesus Christ. He was also a flawed man who was a sinner. For you to paint a picture of him as some kind of heinous miscreant is disingenuous, lacking either grace or objective fairness.

          • ajginn

            Letter to the Marquis Paet, chamberlain to the King of Navarre, 1561. “Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels [Anabaptists and others], who stir up the people to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.” — John Calvin

          • Name

            Note the complete lack of historical context, “those scoundrels” were seeking to stir up insurrection, were violent usurpers of the established authorities, etc.

            I’ve already addressed Servetus. You’re trying to build a case that cannot be built. I think the atheist dictators have Calvin beat significantly when it comes to killing…..about a billion to one.

          • ctrace

            That letter rings a false note. Many forgeries made by Roman Catholic biographers and historians over the centuries following Calvin’s death. One big point on Servetus: Geneva was surrounded by Roman Catholic armies. S. had already been condemned to burn by Rome. He escaped them and came to Geneva to try to turn the city against Calvin. The Reformation was a vicious war. The lives and well-being of entire city populations were at stake regarding every move in that war. Burning S. was as much a practical decision of war as anything else. That it was a sentence brought down by the local political council and not Calvin plays into this aspect of it.

          • ctrace

            One more salient point: Calvin had a multi-decade history with Servetus. Servetus dogged Calvin for much of his life. Calvin tried to counsel him and made many efforts to engage him and so forth. Servetus was a devil, pure and simple, and he seemed to have a death wish. He just seemed to want his death to be associated with Calvin rather than with Rome. You fill in the blanks.

          • labreuer

            Your comment here and the one below don’t make the argument you think they are, given my comment. Calvin didn’t say that Servetus’ execution was due to practical matters; he said that I, in questioning his motives, am just as guilty as Servetus. If Calvin were transported to this time and merely told that I object to his treatment of Servetus, he would want me to be executed. He likely thought he was imitating Christ in wanting this. That’s scary.

          • labreuer

            From Wikipedia’s article on Michael Servetus:

            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.

            The full citation can be found at that article, including a link to the original Latin.
            I think it’s a bit iffy to merely call Calvin “a sinner”, given the above. A question which naturally rears its head is that if Calvin got the above so horribly wrong, what else did he get wrong? Somehow I think God cares a lot more about how we treat our fellow beings than defending his honor by executing people we find offensive. Perhaps Calvin was stuck in the OT, refusing to let the revelation of Christ fully impact his thought?

          • Name

            No one is denying Calvin was wrong in this. He was no more wrong than King David killing Uriah the Hittite and committing adultery, or the apostly Paul in persecuting and killing Christians. What’s the point here?
            Let’s see some actual arguments against Calvinism, haven’t read any yet.

          • Name

            “apostle” Paul, that is

          • labreuer

            I disagree; King David realized his error and so did the apostle Paul. Indeed, once he met Christ, Paul never advocated for the execution of a heretic. Paul certainly advocated “turning over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”, but to claim that this means execution is to do violence to scripture.

            The connection to Calvinism is straightforward: Calvin had a view of God which does not match the [correcting] example of Christ in at least one extremely important way. Can you show me anything from what Christ said, did, or how he was described by the apostles, which would indicate that Christ would approve of Calvin’s thoughts I posted re Michael Servetus? It would be like Paul continuing to burn heretics after Jesus’ appearance to him. This is an attack on Calvin’s character, and it is based on following Jesus’ command to judge a tree by its fruit.

            If Calvin fails to have the right attitude toward people he views as heretics, I really do wonder what else he got terribly wrong. You’re right that I haven’t read his Institutes; I just downloaded a first-chapter sample onto my tablet. I’ll be surprised if I find that my view of him is very erroneous, as I’ve never encountered Calvinists who quoted Calvin to set me straight on something I was saying.

            Let me explain myself by an analogy. In his Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer fails to ever talk about the servant-nature of God. He talks about many of God’s attributes, but not that one. Given that Jesus is the “exact imprint of [God's] nature”, it is more than a bit concerning that Tozer would fail to pick up on how Jesus corrects bad ideas of Yahweh. This omission of Tozer’s makes me seriously doubt how well he understands God!

          • Name

            My point was that saints can do some pretty bad things. You don’t know how Calvin viewed the whole Servetus affair later in life.

            No person has a complete understanding of God, not Calvin or Tozer. Just because Tozer failed to highlight an aspect of God’s character in his book doesn’t mean he didn’t understand God well.
            I commend your efforst to read Calvin. Don’t read him with prejudice now!

          • Name

            “efforts” to read Calvin, that is…

          • labreuer

            It isn’t important whether Calvin changed his view on Servetus if his writings did not reflect this change. It is his writings and his ideas, formed up to and including his decision to support Servetus’ murder, which will bear the ideological contamination. Only the last revision of Calvin’s Institutes was published (1559) after Servetus’ murder (1554). All four previous Latin editions were published before 1554. Wikipedia says that the contents “remained basically the same in its content through several revisions”. I think the burden of proof is on you to show how he changed his understanding of how to deal with heretics between 1554 and 1559.

            Clearly nobody has a complete understanding of God. I simply think that certain misunderstandings will wreak havoc on one’s understanding of God. The Pharisees got many things right, and yet Jesus called them vipers. For Tozer to fail to recognize that our God is a servant-god is a huge error. For Calvin to think that people who sufficiently disagreed with him ought to die is a huge error. Neither of these errors would have happened if the authors had a few clues about Jesus Christ. Failing understand basic things about Jesus Christ is a huge error.

          • ajginn

            Calvin was a control freak and an evil dictator. Only someone blinded to the truth would dispute that.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            ajginn, have you ever read Calvin? I didn’t think so.

          • ajginn

            Actually I have but your question is irrelevant. One can judge a person’s actions without a complete knowlegde of the person’s philosophy. Have you read Mein Kampf or The Little Red Book? Even if you have not, you can still criticize Hitler and Mao for their ideologies and actions.

            Now I’m not saying Calvin is a genocidal murderer like the two above, but he did advocate the extermination of a group of “others” as my quote below makes perfectly clear. Even I agreed with his theology (and I do not; I think it perfectly exemplifies the tyrannical nature of Calvin), I am justified to call him a tyrant. His actions and words condemn him.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            Actually my question is not at all irrelevant. Just because you say it is so, doesn’t make it so. And the way you caricature and interpret Calvin’s actions in the worst possible light, and by 21st not 16th Century standards, tells me you are not at all familiar with the true spirit of the man. Comparing him to Hitler and Mao tells me all I need to know about your visceral hatred of the man and nothing about the facts of his life. Thus I would call you a dishonest an intellectual tyrant; your words condemn you.

          • Susan Gerard

            Mike, it is you who is being intellectually dishonest; ajginn did not compare Calvin to Hitler or Mao, he merely said that you can have a reasonable opinion of a famous person without reading their seminal works. You argue your case by calling anyone who disagrees with you ignorant.

            I did read Calvin, at least his Institutes. He is legalistic, and definitely not interpreting Scripture in light of Christ’s saving work.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            I beg to differ, Susan. I don’t disagree that you can have a reasonable opinion of a person without reading their seminal works. But he judges Calvin by dishonest standards. And you are most definitely wrong, hugely, about how Calvin interprets Scripture. Am I saying Calvin is perfect? Of course not. Was he wrong in the Servetas case? Most assuredly. I simply believe Calvin was a Christian who wanted as best he knew in his context, in his time, how to honor God in his teaching and life. I do not think you can read the Institutes and know his life’s work and think otherwise. This is my opinion based on what I know, and blog comments will not convince me otherwise. Cheers!

          • Susan Gerard

            “I do not think you can read the Institutes and know his life’s work and think otherwise.”

            But I did read the Institutes. I do think he was Godly, and doing his best. I really do. But that doesn’t make him correct in his conclusions. Do I think he was humble? Yes, actually I do. He did exhibit some (well, a lot of) righteous indignation. Not obviously tempered by the grace of Christ’s redemptive work.

            At the risk of antagonizing many, look at one of his admirers, Rushdoony. He so loved Calvin that he named his magnum opus “Institutes..” Was he Godly? I think he was trying his best, yes. Was he correct in his interpretation of Scripture? No, he was not. Look at his life and works; it is obvious. While Calvin is not Rushdoony, please do not think that anyone who has read his Institutes and is familiar with his life needs to come to the same conclusion that you have.

          • ajginn

            I simply believe Calvin was a Christian who wanted as best he knew in his context, in his time, how to honor God in his teaching and life. I do not think you can read the Institutes and know his life’s work and think otherwise.

            Mike, I actually agree with you that Calvin was sincere in what he professed and how he lived. That doesn’t make him right, though. You’re just predisposed to believe he was because of your worldview. I also believe the radical Muslim imams that call for worldwide jihad are sincere in what they preach. That doesn’t make them right either.

          • Name

            How do we determine what is right? By measuring everything by “your personal feelings”. Radical Muslim imams are right according to their personal feelings. Who are you to judge them?

          • ajginn

            How do we determine what is right?

            Probably utilitarianism, but I admit I’m not sure. I profess to adhere to the Golden Rule which predates Christianity by many centuries. By recognizing that each of us is an individual with similar wants and needs, we can form a workable moral framework in which civilization can thrive. Since radical imams wish to tear down that framework, I am opposed to their philosophy.

            So how do we determine if slavery is right or wrong? Certainly not with the bible which gives advice only about how to holds slaves properly. If you’re relying on the bible as the edifice on which to build a moral foundation, good luck with that.

          • Name

            If you’re not sure, why are you arguing for your position?

          • ajginn

            Because I’m honest and am willing to admit I do not have all the answers. If the study of ethics were so simple, philosophers would not have been arguing about it for centuries.

            Morality is merely a set of preferences that has developed in our species through natural and artificial selection. Many species (particularly the great apes) demonstrate behaviors that align closely with our idea of morality.

            The reason most people abhor murder is not because of a “gold-shaped void” in their hearts but because morality helped perpetuate homo sapiens. Certainly, Christianity with its history of misogyny, support of slavery and conquest has no better claim to the moral high ground than any other philosophy. You can use the “No True Scotsman” fallacy to state that those things do not represent real Christianity (like Calvin’s burning a heretic at the stake), but then God doesn’t seem to care what his representatives on earth do in his stead.

          • Name

            But you’re arguing for a position, which you admit is not objective and has no cash value outside of your “personal feelings”.

            If you were right, we would have no reason to listen to you. If you’re wrong, we have no reason to listen to you.

          • ajginn

            So don’t listen. I offer you nothing more than what I believe to be true just as you believe theism to be true and yet have no empirical evidence to substantiate that belief.

          • Name

            You’re missing the point. Based upon your own premises, there is no reason to listen to you. You are not even claiming there is a reason. Yet, you continue to defend your position. You attempt to utilize the laws of logic and argue that your position is the correct one, and that other people ought to agree with you. Do you not see the inconsistency (if not the absurdity)?

          • Andrew Dowling

            “And the way you caricature and interpret Calvin’s actions in the worst possible light, and by 21st not 16th Century standards”

            That’s a complete cop-out and completely bogus. A number of Calvin’s contemporary’s decried Calvin’s actions surrounding the Servetus execution. Was burning a heretic at the stake less immoral hundreds of years ago than it is now? People wern’t ignorant barbarians in the 16th century . . many good moral Christians stood up for what they saw as a complete perversion of justice and abuse of the Gospel message..

            Calvin was remembered by many as a rigid, humorless jerk and his actions and ideas reflect it.

          • Name

            Not true. A number of Calvin’s contemporaries disagreed with the judgment against Servetus because of his particular case, not the treatment of heretics in general. That is how heresy was dealt with in the sixteenth century, generally speaking.

            And whether or not he was “humorless” is hardly an indictment of his character. Sorry he doesn’t make you laugh…

          • ajginn

            And the way you caricature and interpret Calvin’s actions in the worst possible light, and by 21st not 16th Century standards, tells me you are not at all familiar with the true spirit of the man.

            So burning people alive was okay in the 16th century because “everyone was doing it”? Sounds like subjective morality to me.

            And I don’t buy this argument for a second. Only an insane person would argue that burning someone alive is not cruel and torturous act. Only a zealot would know it is and still not care. Calvin was not insane so that leaves option 2.

          • Mike D’Virgilio

            You seem to know and are right about everything, ajginn, so I guess you are right. I’m grateful to have finally found someone whose opinions and perceptions about things is absolute truth.

          • ajginn

            There is no absolute truth (other than empiricism) and I made no claim to hold it. My opinions are just that, opinions. You are free to take them or leave them as such.

          • Name

            well, my personal feeling is that we should leave them. You have not established your position via argumentation, just expressed how you feel. As long as we all know where this stands. Thanks

          • Name

            Burning someone alive is cruel. I can make that claim based upon an objective moral standard.
            However, your personal feelings about the matter don’t make it wrong. Based upon your assertion that there is no objective morality, Calvin wasn’t wrong at all to do what he did. Other people don’t need to live in accord with your personal feelings.

          • ajginn

            Burning someone alive is cruel. I can make that claim based upon an objective moral standard.

            Apparently, Calvin couldn’t.

          • Name

            Calvin’s sin doesn’t change the objective moral standard. That’s what sin is, the transgression of God’s moral law. Without it, Calvin’s actions were an expression of his personal feelings.

          • Name

            As a materialistic naturalist, how do you ground an objective morality? And if you don’t believe morality is objective, why should we care about your opinion of Calvin or any other moral judgments you make?

          • ajginn

            There is no objective morality, but my personal feeling is that burning a man to death and advocating the extermination of a group of people who oppose your tyrannical rule is wrong. It doesn’t matter to me whether you think I have a right to feel that way without an ultimate lawgiver. I still do. All of us have preferences and intuitions about what actions are right and what actions are wrong. You mindlessly appeal to a book for your guidance which is why Christians can argue that exterminating Canaanite infants is somehow “good” because God commanded it.

          • Name

            You borrow your morality from your former Christian faith in order to judge Christianity. However, based on your own premise, who cares what you think? Your opinion bears no intellectual weight in this matter.

          • ajginn

            You seem to care because you keep responding. It doesn’t matter to me one way or another if no one agrees with me. My opinions are my own.

            Anyway, I’m going to check out now. Neither of us is going to convince the other.

          • Name

            I was responding to what I thought were your arguments, I was not aware we were talking about your personal feelings. Thanks for letting us know about your opinion.

          • Name

            First, you’d have to explain to me how someone who rejects the Christian faith and it’s objective truth claims in areas like morality could justify rendering a moral judgment, like asserting Calvin was “an evil dictator”.
            Secondly, Calvinism cannot be evaluated or judged based on the actions of John Calvin. Nice try though
            Thirdly, to retrospectively impose your own moral intuitions back on Calvin and the times he lived in without any qualification is sloppy scholarship and plain ignorance. It doesn’t make what he did right, but it certainly needs to be understood to accurately judge the situation.
            Only someone blinded by apostasy would dispute that….

          • ajginn

            First, you’d have to explain to me how someone who rejects the Christian faith and it’s objective truth claims in areas like morality could justify rendering a moral judgment, like asserting Calvin was “an evil dictator”.

            The idea that Christianity makes objective claims about morality is absurd. Are we talking about the OT or NT versions or objective moral standards? This is why Marcion is probably the most honest of the early church fathers. He recognized that the person of Christ was at odds with the OT Yahweh. No one can read the Hebrew bible with open eyes and claim it contains objective morality or absolute truth.

          • Name

            Absurd? Is that your personal feelings or an objective truth claims?

          • Name

            The OT and NT standard of morality is the same. It is layed out in the Ten Commandments, which are then summarized in the two greatest commandments as stated by Jesus. Love to God and love to neighbor.

          • ajginn

            Did you notice how Name failed to answer your direct questions? They were simple ones for which a yes or no would suffice. Instead he calls you an ignorant or prejudiced person regurgitating misinformation. Only someone who is very confused or blinded by hero-worship would call a man who oversaw the deaths of many “heretics” godly and humble.

          • Susan Gerard

            As we interpret Scripture in context of culture, so should we look at Calvin’s culture. Burning heretics was de rigueur. Do you think Sir Thomas More was Godly and humble? Or Martin Luther? I do, More more than Luther. More condemned 6 to burn, though he denied having them tortured. He did oppose Luther. But what a godly life he led. Luther condemned Jews in the most sinful fashion late in life, without mercy as vile, unrepentant sinners deserving extermination.

            We are, most of us, caught in our culture.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Do you think Sir Thomas More was Godly and humble? Or Martin Luther?”
            No, I don’t. Martin Luther humble? Have you read his writings?
            Is not transcending your culture at crucial times kind of what Christianity is all about? Of course we are all subconsciously products of the environment we’re brought up in, but I don’t see how burning another human being alive gels with anything Jesus taught. And, for the sake of argument, if I’m just reflecting my post-Enlightenment, modern upbringing, well then the ‘modernist, secular culture’ that Calvinism and other brands of conservative Christianity love to condemn is clearly far superior to what they purport it is.

          • Susan Gerard

            I love More. I am grateful to Luther. No, I don’t think he was humble either. And, yes, I’ve read much of Luther’s writings.

            I do not disagree with you that as Christians, we should transcend culture. Christ certainly did. I’m not sure Paul did as great a job. I am saying what you have acknowledged: we are all subconsciously products of our environment. It is easy to look back and condemn slave owners, imperialists, segregationists. I think we all sin, and in future centuries, they will (hopefully) identify our sins as things not to be repeated.

            I have seen much to be avoided in Calvinism and especially the New Calvinism Movement. It is frightening to hear some of what they think of as Godly, without having the excuse of living in the 16th Century. I just think when looking back, we need to at least give a head nod to culture. I wish we were above it but we’re not.

          • Name

            Did you notice how ajginn missed the whole point in why I didn’t answer yes or no?

            I don’t worship other sinners. I’m well aware of Calvin’s public transgressions. Only someone who is very confused or blind would accuse a Christian of hero-worship

        • Susan Gerard

          Ugh, please do not mention Piper and Driscoll in the same breath. One is trying to be godly; the other is a repulsive sex-addict.

      • ajginn

        I don’t know any calvinists that assert non-calvinists are not even Christians.

        Ever typed “open theism heresy” into Google?

        • Name

          I said “I don’t know any Calvinists that assert non-calvinists are not even Christians”. I don’t know any….

          You can find any wingnut who will say anything on the Internet. Google is useful for that…

          • ajginn

            I’m glad we agree that John Piper is nuts.

          • Name

            Piper doesn’t assert non-calvinists are not Christians. Your success rate is rather low thus far…..

          • Name

            Also, “open theism” is a much smaller category than “non-calvinists”.

          • ajginn

            You didn’t say “all” non-calvinists. R.C. Sproul has said “Arminians are Christians. Barely.” How generous of him.

          • ajginn

            He calls open theism heretical. Are heretics Christians in your world?

          • Name

            No, I wasn’t addressing open theism.

          • ajginn

            Open theism is non-calvinist christianity, therefore it applies to your assertion.

          • Name

            so is Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Guess I should have been more specific, but I thought it was obvious

          • ajginn

            Mormons are polytheists. JWs deny the divinity of Christ. Open theists do not deny any part of the creeds. They simply assert that the nature of the future is such that nothing is known with absolute certainty. Big difference.

          • Name

            They claim to be Christian.

            If you deny essential attributes of God, you may not formally deny any part of the creeds while still holding to heresy. You simply re-define the terms. However, there is disagreement among Christians about whether open theism is formal heresy. Given this disagreement, I’ll grant you that some calvinists consider open theists to not be Christians.

            Since Andrew condemned all “neo” calvinists, I hardly think this is on the same level.

          • ajginn

            They claim to be Christian.

            Irrelevant. There must be line over which one can cross where one no longer is considered a Christian. Otherwise, the term is meaningless. If I claim to be a Christian but stand opposed to the creeds how am I a Christian in any sense of the word?

            If you deny essential attributes of God, you may not formally deny any part of the creeds while still holding to heresy.

            Most open theists assert God’s omnipotence. They believe that God knows everything there is to be known. The nature of the future is what is in question. Does it exist to be known? Is the future set in stone? To them, saying that God knows the future with certainty is like saying God knows about the six-foot invisible rabbit sitting next to me.

            Heck, I don’t have to look too hard to find quotes from heavy hitters in the calvinist camp that assert that Catholics are not Christians either. That’s the largest subset of Christianity. Calvinism engenders an “us vs. them” mentality.

          • Name

            I’ve already responded to this. I didn’t deny some calvinists consider RC or open theism to be heresies. I said “I don’t know any…” that do this.
            Andrew denied that “neo” Calvinists were Christians. I responded by pointing out such a charge is worse than calvinists, in my experience, typically make.

  • Seeker

    I grew up in Calvinism. And when I say “I grew up in Calvinism”, I mean it was the air I breathed for at least the first 2 decades of my life +. If I told you my credentials, you’d get that I am no stranger to the system defended by the person entitled “Name” below. The crappy part is that the words they use and the way they defend their system is so laden with the stuff that I heard over and over again growing up that it makes me sorda want to throw up when I hear it now… Sorry for the image, but its basically true. I wonder if those like “Name” realize that they sound very much like parrots repeating the same ideas and phrases of those they undoubtedly surround themselves with?

    That is one scary part of Calvinism that I observed over
    and over again – so much pride that we can’t hear voices of challenge or
    correction to our system. So much pride that there is no room for
    genuine dialogue… So much pride that it seems there is never a need to even engage the thoughts of those who might differ from you.

    Here’s my take: If it is “pleasing” in God’s sight to create some people to enjoy eternal life, and to create others to experience eternal hell, then I guess I’m not too sure that I want to hang out with that kind of God for an eternity… He/She sounds pretty scary. And I don’t care if you call that “blasphemous”… I’m not scared of that God anymore. And I’m not scared of zealous Calvinists and their doctrines anymore either… And I think I’m leading a lot happier, fuller life because of it.

    “Name”, if you are out there, I’d encourage you to try taking a break from Calvinism – you’ll like it. :-) And don’t worry, God won’t be mad at you for taking a break – and maybe even asking some questions about the system you are a part of…

    If any die-hard Calvinists would like to read another really concise and wonderful book on this topic that will take their views seriously – but also point out some major problems, grab a copy of Roger Olson’s book “Against Calvinism”. It is a great starting point for a “renewing of the mind”. But don’t let your Calvinist friends catch you with a copy laying on your coffee table – they may think
    reading it is “blasphemous” (right Name?)… GASP!

    Peace to all from this “Seeker” (who is probably, in part, a genuine seeker because his sight of God was so miserably obscured under the dark cloak of Calvinism for so many years)

    • Name

      “Seeker”,
      I have carefully studied and thought through the various issues with regard to Calvinism for years, so your trite comments are off base. I can’t “take a break” from those doctrines commonly referred to as “calvinism” because they are taught throughout Scripture.
      You are certainly welcome to refute them exegetically. Assertions without arguments are still no more than assertions, regardless of your personal experience for 2 decades of your life.
      And Roger Olsen is inept as a scholar, I have a hard time taking him seriously. I’ve read plenty of his work.

      • Seeker

        Ok, I’ll hand it to you, my comment was a little trite. :-) It is tempting to take you up on the offer to refute Calvinism exegetically, but I don’t think I have any interest in doing so anymore. Had someone asked me to do this 4-5 years ago, I probably would have leaped at the chance. Now it seems like a waste of time. We could go around on an exegetical merry-go-round for a long time… Life has other interesting things to do, and I have a day job that doesn’t pay me to work these things out. So perhaps I’ll leave my set of Calvin’s Institutes and my Greek New Testament buried in the garage for another time. These days I usually can’t muster the enthusiasm to wrestle this stuff out. I’ll leave those arguments up to McKnight and Olson. If you don’t respect their scholarship, I doubt you would hear what I have to say either.

        Peace

      • Carl McCann

        ‘inept’ – whether intentionally or not you reveal arrogance and pride in that one word. Your Calvinist stance might be right and you may well be intellectually justified when you stand before the throne of God, but could it be that the arrogance and pride will greatly overshadow the rightness?

        • Name

          I didn’t know my opinion of him as a scholar was due to “pride and arrogance”. I thought it was due to the fact he doesn’t understand what he is trying to criticize, which I discern based on what he’s written. After all, what he’s published is all I have to work with….

          • Carl McCann

            i genuinely type this with immense sadness – your response to me is dripping with sarcasm.

          • Name

            Carl, I wasn’t being sarcastic at all. Rendering an assessment about a scholar is not prideful and arrogant. Do you assert this when Dr. Olsen criticizes Calvinists? He doesn’t exactly tiptoe around the tulips….

      • labreuer

        Would you list a few examples of how you consider Olson ‘inept’? It’s hard to take your mere statement on faith, given that you e.g. accuse opponents of “twisting Scripture in order to believe in a God of your own liking”. Anyhow, it’s much more interesting to read support for arguments than to see quick dismissals.

        • Name

          One glaring example is that he faults God (under calvinism) for being the “author of evil”, yet he cannot effectively explain how allowing evil to take place when God could have prevented it (as in Arminianism) is any less morally culpable.
          He also, ad nauseum, uses oft-refuted “defeaters” and illustrations against calvinism, such as….”if calvinism is true, that would make men robots, love would not be real, etc etc.” This shows he doesn’t really understand what he is attempting to refute, because he cannot accurately state the opposing position.

          • labreuer

            I’m pretty sure Olson compared the Calvinist reason for allowing/causing evil (maximize the glory of God) to the Arminian reason (allow humans to be libertarian free-willed). One of these is a self-centered reason, where only some humans benefit and that not of their own accord. The other makes humans something more (perhaps more truly in God’s image?), with the fault lying in the laps of those (everyone) who received prevenient grace and spat it back out into God’s face. It would appear that your idea of ‘glory’ is distinctly different from Olson’s and mine. Raw power is not glorious. Might does not make right. Jesus’ glory lay in exactly the choice to not exercise the power he had to control people; instead he chose to work through weakness, despite the awful choices of many humans around him.

            When it comes to not accurately stating the opposing position, I think you’ve done that right in your post. If compatibilism is true and God completely determines the nature of human beings, the metaphor of ‘robot’ is completely accurate in denotation. The connotation is trickier: just what is it that makes you believe that when an entity communicates “I love you”, that this is 1 John 4:19-type love? If you found out that this entity never had a [real] choice to not love you, would you still call it ‘love’? It is the nature of robots to always do what they were programmed to do. We’re just not used to thinking of robots with flesh and bones and beating hearts. What are the errors in this paragraph?

            I may have inadvertently uncovered a paradox. The Arminian believes that God loves everyone equally (John 3:16, with ‘world’ meaning what would be commonly understood by the term), not in the sense of giving everyone the same starting condition, but in terms of giving everyone the shot at an excellent relationship with him in this life and the next. If God does in fact love everyone, we might ask whether he chooses to or simply must. Humans obviously express choice, because plenty choose the ‘no’ option. The Calvinist believes that God definitely chooses some people to love, but his idea of meticulous sovereignty precludes attributing any such meaningful choice to humans. It seems like either God gets to say ‘no’ to loving people or people do, but not both? This is odd!

          • Name

            Regardless of the “reason”, Olsen does not effectively argue how God is not equally culpable for allowing evil when He could have prevented it as He is for planning it (assuming Arminian premises). Libertarian free will is not a sufficient reason to allow evil, is it? Violate anything but man’s free will, that precious, indispensible aspect of man under which all things must be subservient.

            Be that as it may, this has been dealt with voluminously in the literature. I cannot re-invent the wheel here in a com box.

            Blessings,

          • Name

            Wow. I just went over to Justin Taylor’s blog and look what I found:

            http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/06/17/we-are-all-compatibilists-at-the-cross/
            Check it out.

          • labreuer

            That appears to be bad philosophy. By that, I really just mean incorrect thinking. The Arminian does not hold that God could not be meticulously sovereign; she holds that God chooses to not be meticulously sovereign. This connects with the response you got to Acts 2:23, whereby God can ensure that certain things come to pass without determining every detail. The Christian needs assurance that God can do what God says he will do. This assurance does not require meticulous sovereignty.

            I do not see how the cross makes one a compatibilist; Justin Taylor does not spell out the argument. The fact that God has plans that came from his ‘determining power’ does not negate the claim that we have plans that came from our ‘determining power’. Perhaps D.A. Carson made a compelling argument; Taylor certainly doesn’t seem to think it is worthwhile to expose his readers to the full rigor of the argument. What I see can easily be swept away by the claim that the only kinds of worlds which require Jesus’ sacrifice are those in which the people would unjustly murder him.

          • Name

            This position of yours “God choosing not to be something He is” is novel. Where is this layed out in Scripture? The post referred to asserts the position based upon the text. You assert your position based upon bad philosophy–not revelation.

          • labreuer

            “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

            Jesus was not omniscient, and he withheld his omnipotence, which apparently isn’t going to be withheld when he comes back, given the “every knee shall bow” bits. Add to this that Jesus says he only does what he sees his father doing.

            I flatly reject your undefended and unsubstantiated claim that for God to be able to be meticulously sovereign, that he must always be meticulously sovereign. No; God can ensure that certain events happen the way he wills, without ensuring that all events happen in that way. This is one way to make sense of 1 Tim. 2:3-4. I’m sure you have an alternate explanation (such as God wants to be glorified more than he wants all men to be saved), but that does not give you a monopoly on that passage.

          • Name

            This would bring us to some interesting exegetical discussion about the Incarnation, but I would suggest to you that this text does not teach that Jesus chose not to be something he is by nature. It teaches that he had humanity added to his divinity.

          • labreuer

            Given that in Jesus’ first coming he didn’t force every knee to bow and that in his second coming he will (or God the Father will, whatever) force every knee to bow, I’m pretty sure there is divine choice going on.

          • Name

            God’s ability and nature are two different issues. He doesn’t do everything He has the power to do, obviously. However, He cannot deny Himself and be something other than who He is.

          • labreuer

            I suppose we end this with you saying that meticulous sovereignty is part of God’s nature, where I describe it as merely an ability that his omniscience and omnipotence allow him. Just as Jesus had the choice to not ‘grasp’ the abilities which equality with God provided him, I say God can refrain from completely determining people’s actions.

          • Name

            You say….but Scripture doesn’t. That verse doesn’t prove your case exegetically.
            Thanks for the interaction.
            Blessings,

          • labreuer

            I’d be happy to dig into scripture some more, but I am not happy to start off our conversation with the premise that God is meticulously sovereign by unchangeable nature. You brought up Acts 2:23 and then claimed that “everything leading up to that event was also pre-determined”—without supporting that with scripture.

          • Name

            When you make plans with an ultimate purpose you plan each stage leading up to that purpose. God laid out, in seed form, His redemptive purposes in Gen. 3. He didn’t just come up with the Incarnation and the cross a few thousand years later as a kind of salvation improv.

            I’m not sure I understand the root of your philosophical objection to God’s total sovereignty. Is it because you would then blame God for all the evil in the world? Or you don’t care for God doing all things for His own glory and the good of His people? Or you would like to take credit in some measure for choosing Christ and believing the gospel? I don’t get it….

          • labreuer

            I have no doubt that God has an ultimate purpose and some specifics that go along with it. One would do great violence to the Bible in denying this. On the other hand, why must God plan and render certain every detail in order to accomplish his ultimate purpose via a few specifics? You seem to implicitly assume this requirement, while I don’t see any support for it. Perhaps there are scriptures which are more articulate than e.g. Acts 2:23?

            My objection to claiming that God is meticulously sovereign is scriptural as well as philosophical. I don’t see why it is required and I don’t see it anywhere in the revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the exact imprint of [God's] nature. God must exert enough control to guarantee that what he promises will come to pass, but does that preclude libertarian free will? If you want to talk about Biblical support for libertarian free will, I’d start with imago dei and point out that God certainly has something more like libertarian free will than compatibilist free will.

            Another objection to meticulous sovereignty is the same as the first paragraph of an early reply to you: micromanagement is not glorious. Creating fantastically sophisticated robots (any being which is 100% programmed) is not glorious for an omniscient, omnipotent being. Why would either of these be glorious?

          • Name

            I think the heart of our disagreement lies within the doctrine of God. We could discuss this at length, but this is not the venue. I would refer you to Frame’s work on the subject as a helpful, well-balance presentation of the Scriptural evidence for what I have attempted to lay out.

            From where I sit, I’m totally comfortable with the good and gracious God of heaven and earth sovereignly ordaining all that comes to pass. He works all things out for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
            Blessings,

          • labreuer

            Is there a better venue? I’m much more likely to engage on such topics if there are knowledgeable people with whom to discuss them.

            Perhaps there is a forum you frequent which is not subject to groupthink and enforces high quality of conversation? I once got banned from a Christian forum for questioning a member’s hateful attitude toward the homeless.

          • labreuer

            Is it that complex? If you choose to have children and one of them turns out to be a serial killer, are you necessarily culpable? You took a chance to introduce joy into the world; whether the joy outweighs the [avoidable] suffering is not entirely in your hands because you are not sovereign over your children. God could similarly choose not to be entirely sovereign; he could choose not to be meticulously sovereign.

          • Name

            Sovereignty doesn’t come in degrees, He is either sovereign or He is not. All of God’s attributes are weaved together and cannot be fenced off as if separable. He is also omniscient, does He make Himself ignorant for man’s liberterian free will too? Your position makes nonsense of the doctrine of God.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

      As one who also spent so much time as a Calvinist, let me say thank you for mentioning the pride element.

  • gingoro

    Pete Isn’t this all a bit disingenuous in that the older Calvinists like Presbyterians (PCC and PCA) and Christian Reformed also accept meticulous sovereignty as well. The big difference is that they don’t emphasize it to the same extent as the neo Calvinists do. I have attended a Calvinist church since the late 70s and have never once heard meticulous sovereignty mentioned by name from the pulpit although it is occasionally present by implication. In particular one time John Gerstner was a guest preacher and he raised his arm and said in effect that God had caused him to raise his arm. Now obviously God is in the chain of cause and effect that caused Gerstner to raise his arm, since God created all that exists either directly or mostly indirectly but that IMO was not how Gerstner meant it. As I understood Gerstner he mean immediate causation. BUT if one reads the creeds of the older Calvinists IMO they do not make internal sense without meticulous sovereignty especially the Canons of Dort but it is present in the Belgic and the Heidelberg catechism as well, although these later can be read in the sense that God’s sovereignty acts in an overall controlling or governing manner (which as it happens is how I see it, although I do think that God is quite able to exercise meticulous sovereignty if the situation warrants it). .I have read Roger Olsen’s blog and some of his books over a number of years and in all that time I never could figure out what his understanding was of God’s sovereignty. It would be helpful is Scot and Roger would be clearer as to what they mean to provide a contrast to the view of the neo Calvinists, not that I think their view is the same.
    DaveW

    sovereignty
    “meticulous sovereignty”
    meticulous soverignty
    meticulous soverignty
    meticulous soverignty

    • http://www.nbierma.com nbierma

      As a believer in one of those “older Calvinist” traditions I appreciate this nuance, and would go as far as to endorse this distinction between neo-Calvinists and neo-Puritans:

      http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/04/neocalvinist-no-neopuritan.html

      Piper et al are neo-Puritans, and they often embarrass and offend those of us in older Calvinist traditions (not that I’m uncritical of my own tradition). Not to put too much attention on labels. But then again, the label “Calvinism” is often used to cover all manner of sins.

  • Bryan Hodge

    The Book of Hebrews, as many other books of the Bible, speaks from two perspectives, the one from above and the one from below. When we ignore this, and emphasize our perspective to the diminishing of God’s, or God’s perspective to the diminishing of ours, we no longer allow the context to speak. By failing to allow context to speak, we end up ignoring or attempting to dismiss the passages in Hebrews (or the rest of the Bible for that matter) that clearly show that believers turn away from the faith and those that clearly show believers do not turn away from the faith, depending upon the perspective.

  • Craig Vick

    Discussions of ‘meticulous sovereignty’ are rife with examples of philosophical problems entering theology in well disguised forms. The way to proceed, in my not as humble as it should be view, is to isolate the philosophical issues. One challenge is to make sense of human actions (or choices) without obliterating what is truly human. The German Idealists, starting with Kant, provide a point of departure for that discussion. The enemies, so to speak, are reductionistic determinism on the one hand and views that make human choices mere random acts on the other. Another challenge is to make sense of evil. These are not easy matters to think through. I don’t think it’s fair to any theological tradition to blame it for not being able to solve very stubborn philosophical problems unless that tradition claims to have solutions.

    Of course the real elephant in the room here, as Dr. Enns alludes to and some of the comments touch on, is the doctrine of damnation.

    • Lars

      I second this! The elephant, that is. After dispensing with Adam and Eve, can we now tackle hell? Despite much depression and sincere attempts, this became the hurdle I simply could not get over, no matter how much I considered free will, free choice, and God’s perfect holiness. For many years I didn’t want to get married because I didn’t want to have children and be complicit in their potential eternal damnation. I spent my childhood terrified that I would somehow screw up and not get to heaven, no matter how often I begged forgiveness for any perceived slight to God. It wasn’t until I scuttled my belief in hell, and the God that would consign some of his own children there, that I became a more functional adult, and a married father of two. I am by no means perfect but I refuse to believe an act I had no responsibility for – my conception – essentially sealed my fate for eternity, divine justice or not. This is old territory but, ultimately, the ‘love me or endure my wrath (forever)’ is a lousy sales pitch for anyone, much less God.

  • bonaparte3

    It is astonishing the lengths that people will go to to convince themselves of the reality of an ancient Jewish tribal mythology.

    • ctrace

      It has something to do with history and our human nature, bonaparte3. And Spirit speaking to spirit.

  • Name

    The moderator appears to be deleting comments. In which case, I’m out.

    • peteenns

      I haven’t deleted any, Name. Is there a comment I deleted you can point me to? Or try reposting? I’ve had some minor issues with Patheos’s new commenting system. Now, I DO delete comments VERY RARELY when they get personal, insulting, etc., but in those cases I always email the commenter. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done that in the last 2 years.

      Though, with that in mind, do you all (not just you, Name) think you are spinning your wheels at this point re: Calvinism?

      • labreuer

        Perhaps we are spinning our wheels, but some of us think that just maybe we are getting somewhere and that the repetition is worth the cost. :-)

      • Name

        Several comments I had posted, which were on the site, are not there now. A few. No sense in re-posting at this point. Thanks

        • Name

          whoah. The comments are there now, weird. Must be an internet glitch on my end. Sorry

    • labreuer

      By the way, I’ve had comments be lost when posting from iPad and iPhone. Because comments are not submitted by entire page refresh and Disqus has some flaws, I don’t think you get notified if the comment fails to make it to the server. To protect against this, copy the entire contents of your comment before posting it, and then ensure its full text shows up on the page. This indicates the server got it.