About “judging God’s morality”

About “Judging God’s Morality”

Recently an acquaintance asked me if I am guilty of “judging God’s morality.” He explained that his reason for asking is my answer to my student’s question “If it were revealed to you in a way you could not doubt that God is as Calvinism says, would you still worship him?” My answer was “No.” Apparently this response caused my acquaintance some consternation. I responded that I didn’t see why. He further explained that it seemed to him inappropriate to judge God. “But, I said, I’m not judging God. God is worshipful; I worship him. How is that judging God?” My acquaintance replied “But you said you wouldn’t worship God if he was as Calvinism says.” Again, my response was a puzzled “So what?” But I could see my acquaintance was still dissatisfied. So I reflected on his question a bit more and waited until I felt perhaps I understood his concern and then replied. Here’s my reply to him:

If I am guilty of “judging God’s morality,” so is everyone else. Unless, of course, someone is a nominalist—a person who believes God doesn’t have a definite character but is capable of having whatever character he chooses to have. Such a person probably also believes that whatever God does is automatically good and right, that is, morally righteous and worthy of worship just because he’s God. C. S. Lewis gave us the test for determining whether someone is a nominalist or a realist with regard to their belief about God. The test is a question: “Is something good because God wills it or does God will it because it is good?” A nominalist will answer that something is good just because God wills it. A “realist,” someone who believes God has a definite character, will answer that God wills something because it is good. There’s a world of difference between those views of God.

If a person claims he doesn’t “judge God’s morality” it can only be because he is a nominalist. To such a person I ask “What makes God worthy of worship?” The answer must be “just because he’s God.” To that I can only respond “Oh, really? Why, then, do Psalm 106 and 118 (among other passages of the Bible) say to worship God because he’s good? It’s obvious to me that the Psalmist was telling his listeners (and us who read his Psalms) that God is worshipful, whereas “the gods” are not, because our God, the true God, is good. And, according to Psalm 106, God is good because “his steadfast love endures forever.”

Was the Psalmist judging God’s morality? Is someone who obeys him by worshiping God BECAUSE he’s good judging God’s morality? It seems ridiculous to say so.

I said everyone judges God’s morality—unless they are a nominalist. I don’t really know what to say to a nominalist except that I don’t really know how you can believe a being, even the supreme being of the universe, is worshipful just for existing. It seems to me that is to baptize naked power as worshipful.

What I get from the Bible is that God is worshipful because he is good. Yes, also because he is all powerful and holy.  But it’s a package deal. Take away goodness and he wouldn’t be worshipful. That’s how I understand Psalm 106 and Psalm 118.

Now, to my acquaintance who’s worried that I might be wrongly judging God’s morality I asked: What if it were revealed to you in such a way that you couldn’t doubt that God is really Satan , that Satan and God are one and the same being? He said he couldn’t imagine such a thing. I asked him to imagine it, even if it is inconceivable that it could ever happen. Finally, he said that, no, if he came to believe that God and Satan are one and the same person, he would not worship him. I asked him if that isn’t “judging God’s morality?” No, he replied, because I’m not evaluating the real God’s morality; I’m evaluating (somehow he had trouble using the word “judging”—for understandable reasons, because it’s a loaded term) an imaginary being who doesn’t exist as unworthy of worship. Right.

Then I asked my acquaintance what if it were revealed to you in a way you couldn’t doubt that the god of Mormonism is the true God. His response was that if somehow he had to believe that he would not worship God. I asked him if that means he’s judging God. He said no because that’s in the realm of the imaginary and hypothetical. Right.

I cannot imagine any Christian saying that if it were revealed to him in a way he could not doubt that God is as Mormonism says (a human being) he would still worship him. The main reason most Christians don’t consider Mormonism a form of Christianity is precisely because its god is not worshipful. By what standard? By the standard given to us by God himself in Scripture. Is saying that you would not worship the god of Mormonism if he were the only true God “judging God?” I wouldn’t think any Christian would put it quite that way, but there’s a sense in which it’s correct. But it’s very misleading because it’s not judging the real God’s worthiness of worship; it’s judging an imaginary God’s worthiness of worship.

Back to what makes God worthy of worship. When I go to a church and the worship leaders says “Let’s worship God just for being God” I don’t go along with that. I don’t worship God just for being God UNLESS what is meant is “because being good is what it means to be God.” That’s what Psalm 106 and Psalm 118 (among other passages) are saying.

But wait, my acquaintance interjected. Aren’t you using your own autonomous standard of “goodness” to evaluate God? Aren’t you judging God’s goodness by your idea of goodness? Not at all, I replied. The standard of goodness I’m using as the criterion is the one given by God himself—loving kindness and steadfast love. That’s the standard I’m using to judge OTHER so-called “gods.” I’m not “judging” my God, the God of the Bible, at all. I’m simply accepting the standard he has revealed for worshipfulness and using it to rule out worshiping other gods (which, of course, don’t exist as real gods because they’re not worshipful).

Okay, my acquaintance finally said, but it just seems there’s something wrong with saying you wouldn’t worship God “if.” I don’t see why, I replied. I’m only saying that I wouldn’t worship God if he weren’t worshipful, which he is.

Finally my acquaintance asked if I am saying Calvinists aren’t worshiping the true God. I haven’t accused Calvinists of that, I responded. I’ve only said that’s why I’M not a Calvinist—because IF I believed what they believe about God I would have to also believe what they don’t believe about God. They say God is good. I’m not sure exactly what they mean, but I take them at their word and say they are simply being inconsistent when they ALSO say they believe that God predestined the fall and fallen people to hell. That’s simply incompatible with the standard of goodness given by God himself and applied to himself as the reason to worship him in Scripture.

  • aaron

    Loved the dialogical style in this post.

  • http://OurRabbiJesus.com Lois Tverberg

    You know, you’ve got a precedent right out of the Bible — Abraham. When God told him he was going to destroy Sodom, Abraham challenged God’s morality, saying “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? …Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18: 23, 25)

    God didn’t respond by telling Abraham that he was guilty of a sin. Rather, He agreed to withhold judgment on a whole city to protect a very few. Yet according to the text, Sodom didn’t contain even that minimum quota of people.

    God allowed Abraham to haggle him down to a minimum, just to let him see that his judgment on Sodom wasn’t arbitrary and indiscriminate. He didn’t just tell Abraham to stop challenging his morality. So I don’t think that God minds our challenges, or worries that He can’t respond to them.

    • rogereolson

      Good point.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      It is curious that you bring up Abraham. He didn’t haggle (or it is not recorded) when God asked Abraham to destroy Isaac, his own son. My question to you, Lois and Roger, is if your idea of loving kindness and steadfast love also includes this – and if this God is also worthy of worship. Or what about the God who says, “Slaves, obey your masters”? Or “I do not permit a woman to teach . . .”? Or One who makes bets with the devil about a man’s motives and destroys his family, property, and livelihood in the process? Or One who wipes out entire groups of people in His bid to give His chosen people a good place to live? Or hardens the hearts of Egyptian rulers that bring all sorts of chaos and death on the Egyptian people? and on and on . . . .

      The difficulty that I have is not that you hold God to a standard, but that you hold God to a standard that is too narrow for Him – as He has revealed Himself. I understand that this eventually becomes circular reasoning when pushed to the extremes, but don’t we have to deal with the God who is, not the one we theorize about in the abstract? If we start doing that, we get pushed to crazy notions, such as suggesting the recipients of Paul’s letters might be right to oppose him (as Roger proposed in the comments of a recent post). We would get all twisted in knots trying to explain away God’s actions, commands and wishes as revealed in the Bible in order to defend who we want God ideally to be – so then we could worship a God that we consider worthy of worship.

      Doesn’t God calling Himself “I will be whom I will be” flout parameters and scorn judgement that might be placed on Him from those who would disagree with Him?

      • rogereolson

        Sounds like an opening to nominalism to me. Surely as God incarnate Jesus Christ is the standard for who God is.

        • Tim Reisdorf

          You say that God incarnate Jesus Christ is the standard for who God is. Was this second member of the trinity absent when the others sent the Flood? Did Jesus protest some of Paul’s writings, yet get outvoted? Was God incarnate busy with other things when Jeremiah was penning how God was like an enemy?

          It struck me that what you’re proposing is similar to what was bugging Job. He had a view of God’s justice; and it seemed like that view of justice enabled him to worship God. When that was forcefully dismantled in his own life, Job railed against God – because God was now acting unjustly (in Job’s eyes). Following the encounter between them towards the end of the story, Job changed his mind on God’s justice. What Job experienced in his own life, he incorporated that into his view of God’s justice. Yes, God is just – and for that (among other things) God is worthy of worship. But the original thought of “God’s justice” was too narrow for the real God.

          In the same way, Roger, I would say to you that God is good, and that God is worthy of worship because of that. Yet, you seem to have a view of “good” that does not encompass the all actions and commands that we see God carrying out in the Bible. (I listed some examples in the previous post.) You may appeal for yourself that you don’t believe in inerrancy, and thus can dismiss parts of the Biblical account that you don’t want to associate with God. But you are missing very significant aspects of God by this narrow view.

          • rogereolson

            I’m not sure where you’re coming from. All I have said is that the Calvinist God, taken to that view’s logical conclusion, is a monster. But there’s nothing in the Bible that requires anyone to believe in that God. The only reasons I recall giving is that such a God is the one who foreordains and renders certain the rape and murder of a child and eternal suffering in hell for those he predestines to go there. You’re simply reading things into what I have written about this subject. Please don’t. I have never said (to the best of my knowledge) that God cannot rightly allow Satan to cause havoc and suffering in the world even on faithful people of God.

      • http://atdcross.blogspot.com/ Nelson Banuchi

        Tim Reisdorf says: “The difficulty that I have is not that you hold God to a standard, but that you hold God to a standard that is too narrow for Him – as He has revealed Himself.”

        It seemed to me as I read Dr. Olson’s article the the standard he said is to be used is that revealed in the Bible. If that is tha case, are you suggesting that the revelation of God’s character shown to us in the Bible is too narrow? Where else outside the Bible are we to understand Gid’s character?

  • Margaret

    I’m with you on this. I read part of John Piper’s The Pleasure of God, but stopped reading when I got to the chapter which told me that God the Father has joyfully decreed that some people will not be given the gift of faith, and are therefore predestined to be condemned for not doing what he has determined they will not be allowed to do.

    In the meantime, “God the Son” and “God the Spirit” (Piper’s titles – not mine) share God’s pleasure in this determination.

    I did read all of his book The Justification of God, for the simple reason that a young friend of mine thought it was wonderful. It had the very profitable effect of making me take a long and careful look at Romans 9 and 10, for which I am really grateful. If you have a post (or posts) dealing with those chapters, please give me a link to it. I’d like to read it/them.

    • rogereolson

      In the past we have discussed the Arminian interpretation of Romans 9 a lot. Perhaps you can find those posts and comments in the archives. Also, go to the web site of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (www.evangelicalarminians.org) and you’ll find evangelical Arminian interpretations of Romans 9 there.

    • Constantine

      Margaret,

      Maybe this will help.

      Proverbs 16:4. The LORD works out everything to its proper end—
      even the wicked for a day of disaster.

      Because God has pronounced man as thoroughly evil (Genesis 6:5), His action is entirely understandable.

      Peace.

      • rogereolson

        He uses the wicked; he doesn’t make them wicked.

  • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

    I think you mean Plato rather than CS Lewis… right?

    • rogereolson

      No, actually C. S. Lewis posed that question. Maybe Plato did also. Surely he would have said “the gods,” though, right?

      • Jordan

        Yes, in the Euthyphro. Plato, of course, doesn’t talk about nominalist or realist positions though. The dialogue ends in aporia(s).

      • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

        Really? Cool fact about Lewis! Yes, Plato used the term ‘gods’ and ‘piety.’ Lewis is more up to date. :)

  • Ryan S

    Hey Roger,

    I am not saying that this is the case, but I believe that it partially is. It seems that when books like Rob Bell’s come along or for instance your argument against God’s morality (I jest…) that traditionalists appeal to mystery far more than they typically do.

    For instance in Francis Chan’s video on atonement and God’s wrath he explicitly appeals to God’s ways being above our ways.

    I understand that there are things we can’t understand about God, but what I don’t understand is that “new reformed” types only seem to invoke mystery when they can’t defend their own theological beliefs.

    It seems similar in this case. The claim “we shouldn’t judge God’s morality” is like you said “power” shielded in mystery.

    Is this something that we all do? When our beliefs are attacked, we cloak the weak points in “mystery” jargon?

    • rogereolson

      I think appealing to mystery in theology can be legitimate or an escape from critical thinking. The difference is whether it is a last resort or first (or middle) appeal. Appeal to mystery should never happen until all critical-rational thought has been given to the meaning of revelation.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Hi Ryan,

      I think that we face a crossroads sometimes. While we know that God’s ways are indeed higher than our ways, it does seem like a cop-out. That being said, an appeal to something being Biblical has significantly more weight – even if it cannot be explain entirely. The Bible is law, story, gospel, history, letter, revelation and it found its way to us, originally, by God’s breath. So maybe we can explain it or maybe we have to appeal to mystery why God commanded the Israelites not to steal and not to eat pigs. One should study and learn as best they can. But if the Bible says it, that’s a powerful argument all by itself. (This is not an argument for wooden literalism!)

    • barobin

      @Ryan S.

      I am with Roger on this one. While there is mystery in faith we must be careful about where we place this mystery—as Olson comments, it should happen after ‘critical-rational thought has been given to the meaning of revelation.’ A simple reflection of Chan’s view can reveal problems in this ‘mystery view.’ For example: If we allow for complete mystery in God’s ways—in that God’s attributes are so completely different than our understanding of these attributes, because it is mysterious, and His ways are not our ways. Then when we describe God as Just, Loving, and Forgiving; we really would have no idea what this actually means, and thus could not describe God as such. In other words, we might as well be saying goobledygook unless we first have some sort of understanding of what Justice is, what Love is, or what Forgiveness is. And for Francis Chan’s position, we could not say that it is actually Just for God to send people to hell, because we have no idea what that concept is.

  • Greg Milford

    When I was in college debating Calvinists, I would often make a similar commitment, that if God was the way that they were insisting upon, that I would no longer worship him, but they shouldn’t worry about me since if He were as I they said (or as I feared they said, and feared that they were right for a while), then it wouldn’t be up to me anyway whether I worshiped him or not! I never would get a satisfactory response other than some sincere concern. I think your construction as well illuminates the contradiction (in the sense of being the opposite of a tautology).

    • Robert

      Hello Greg,

      “When I was in college debating Calvinists, I would often make a similar commitment, that if God was the way that they were insisting upon, that I would no longer worship him, but they shouldn’t worry about me since if He were as I they said (or as I feared they said, and feared that they were right for a while), then it wouldn’t be up to me anyway whether I worshiped him or not! I never would get a satisfactory response other than some sincere concern.”

      Greg hits the nail on the head, if the theological fatalist/Calvinist is correct that God has decided EVERYTHING already as part of a total plan he has envisioned for world history. Then we never ever make any DECISIONS.

      As Greg puts it: “it wouldn’t be up to be anyway whether I worshipped him or not!”

      If all is already decided by God then we never ever make any decisions.
      Any decision making is a sham.

      We may mistakenly believe that some DECISION is up to us, but it never is. It has already been decided.

      Think you are considering whether to accept Christ as Savior or not (No, it is not your decision, God has already decided for you). Think you are considering whether or not to give into this particular temptation or resist it (No, it is not your decision, God has already decided whether you will give in to the temptation and sin or resist it). Take any seeming DECISION that you may be considering, if theological fatalism is true you never ever have a choice (it is not up to you EVER, instead it is already predecided by God).

      What is both absurd and comical at the same time is that theological fatalists are outraged by comments like those made by Roger Olson.

      They get all up in arms and blog about his comments and trade insults of Roger for the DECISIONS he makes which result in the comments that he makes. Never connecting the dots of their own theology: if Roger says or does anything, he is only doing what the divine puppet master controls him to do. So why the outrage when he is merely doing what God controls him to do? If theological fatalism/Calvinism is true, then NOTHING IS UP TO US. We never have a choice and no decision is ever up to us. It has all been predecided and is already prescripted (we just carry out the pre-assigned roles).

      Robert

      • rogereolson

        Yes, and I explain this as a “Calvinist conundrum” in Against Calvinism.

        • Robert

          “Yes, and I explain this as a “Calvinist conundrum” in Against Calvinism.”

          Roger I believe that you did a great job of fairly presenting Calvinism and showing its problems in your book AGAINST CALVINISM. So much so that calvinists are constantly trying to attack you on their blogs and sometimes even here. Keep up the good work, the negative response is in direct proportion to the extent that you have challenged their mistaken beliefs and interpretations.

          Speaking of what you call the “Calvinist conundrum” for a moment. Consider the picture that emerges if their view is true. That would mean that calvinists have to believe that everything is prescripted (i.e. that God ordains every event that occurs in history and his predeciding of everything includes every detail): they then have to attack other believers such as yourself who challenge or question their beliefs. Both your challenging of their calvinism and their outrage at your challenge of calvinism are equally predestined. So they have to think what they think and you have to think what you think because everybody’s thoughts, beliefs and actions are all equally predestined.

          This would mean that ***believers*** who question or challenge calvinism are doing **what they have to do** (in fact it is impossible for them to do otherwise, they have no choice, it is not up to them as to what they do or don’t do, they can’t help themselves, their thoughts and actions are completely unavoidable, their every action is necessitated, in every instance they would be doing the will of God).

          Why would God do THAT to His own people?

          Simultaneously, God would be predestining that calvinists be outraged by our actions when God himself predestined them all. God would both be predestining that you write your book AGAINST CALVINISM and predestined every word in it, and he would simultaneously have predestined that calvinists be outraged by what you wrote. So God would be predestining you to be wrong, calvinists to be right and for calvinists to attack you, a fellow believer, regarding something you had no control over (just as you had no control over where you were born or who your parents were, you have no control over your thoughts and actions as they are all predestined by God). God would be attacking his own work as it was His will that you wrote your book and every word in it. And it is His will that your book and you be attacked by other believers!

          It also makes no sense that God would predestine that the*** vast majority*** of ***his own people*** would get things wrong in this area of soteriology (this would have to be true because most believers are not Calvinists; believers who are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Independents, etc. all reject and question Calvinist theology and Calvinist interpretations of biblical texts such as John 3:16).

          I could understand that if all was predestined that God would predestine that at least His own people get things right while others get things wrong. But I don’t understand why (if God predestined all things) would predestine that ****most of His own people**** would get things wrong. That most of them would question and challenge and reject calvinism (which would be the truth if everything was predestined)! So you’ve got one group of believers alarmed and outraged that most other believers reject and question their theology and interpretations (and that is the will of God). And you’ve got another much, much larger group that reject and question the theology of those who actually have it right. That does not make sense.

          And for what purpose? How does this division and confusion and error among God’s own people glorify God or accomplish his purposes? I thought that Jesus said that a House divided against itself could not stand? This would also mean that God is constantly **using his own people** to perpetuate errors, to challenge and reject what is true. None of this fits with the God of the bible who is a God of truth. It’s a conundrum all right! :-)

          Robert

          • rogereolson

            I agree completely, of course. Well put. I go even further and argue that IF Calvinism is correct, and I think every consistent Calvinist will agree, then every evil thing and every heresy are predestined and rendered certain by God “for his glory.” That means, then, that open theism, something most contemporary conservative evangelical Calvinists abhor, is actually “for the glory of God.” Why get all worked up about it if that is true? Sure, I can see an explanation that says God predestined open theism to overcome it with the help of his faithful Calvinist followers and somehow that redounds to God’s glory. But why express outrage over it? Why foam at the mouth (as some Calvinists of my acquaintance do–figuratively speaking of course)? I really don’t get that. It boggles my mind. If I believed what Calvinists believe I could never feel righteous indignation or moral outrage over anything because everything I look at and consider would be “for the glory of God.” Therein lies the conundrum.

    • Constantine

      Hi Greg,

      I’m sorry you encountered such ill-prepared Calvinists.

      The Calvinistic doctrine of God’s sovereignty is clearly delineated in the Scriptures:

      Isaiah 26:12. all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

      46:10. I make known the end from the beginning…My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please.

      Psalm 47:4. He chose our inheritance for us.

      Philippians 2:13: f”for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ”

      And many, many more…

      That, however, nowhere impinges on man’s free will. The Westminster Confession puts it this way: “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.”

      The error of the Arminian, I would contend, is that he seeks to reconcile the matter, not according to God’s revelation (Isaiah 55:8) but according to man’s fallen understanding (Genesis 6:5). Therefore, he commits a category error.

      Now, I agree. The matter seems irreconcilable from a human standpoint. That is as it should be and in no way negates its truth. (Deuteronomy 29:29 seems to lay that foundation.) But where does God way we should rely solely on our own understanding?

      Peace.

      • rogereolson

        I should let Greg respond as this is addressed to him and in response to something he wrote here. I don’t know about him, but I always cringe when I hear or read someone saying a matter about which equally sincere God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians have disagreed for centuries is “clearly delineated in Scripture.” For example, why did you quote Phil. 2:13 but omit verse 12 (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”)? Your litany of Calvinist verses is, of course, open to different interpretations than yours. And who says Arminians are relying “solely on our own understanding?” I take umbrage at claims like that. It’s a perfect example of why this conversation between Calvinists and Arminians gets stalled. I could just as easily say Calvinists are relying on their own understanding with their interpretations of John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4 and many other verses that reveal God’s universal will for salvation. Let’s not join in a conversation and then stack the cards in our own favor by accusing the others of relying solely on their own understanding as if they don’t read their interpretation of the Bible is “obviously” biased by some extra-biblical perspective. That’s simply a ploy to close off conversation and amounts to the same as saying “I’m right; you’re wrong; end of discussion.” Where does conversation go from there? Maybe you (and a lot of Calvinists I know) could pray for a little more intellectual humility and consider the possibility that there may be other interpretations of Scripture than your own that are not based solely on the interpreters’ understanding.

      • http://atdcross.blogspot.com/ Nelson Banuchi

        Constantine says: “The Calvinistic doctrine of God’s sovereignty is clearly delineated in the Scriptures…”
        This might help you to re-evaluate how you support your srgument wt=ith scripture: See http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=glynn.CALVINIST-RHETORIC.Prooftexting

        May I also suggest reading the Arminian view of the texts cited before offering any suggestion that Arminians interpret the Bible on the basis of “man’s fallen understanding”. A good place to start is the Society of Evangelical Arminians website: http://evangelicalarminians.org/

        Just one quick observation on your citation of the WCF: “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.”

        The problem: Aside from the issue of predestination to salvation itself, Calvinism teaches that God gives man – specifically “the elect” and no one else – the necessary nature to believe, that is, to be saved. The “elect” are given the faith and will to obey God; they are regenerated – given the saving nature, salvation – before they meet the condition in order to meet the condition to be saved. There is nothing forced because God unilaterally changed the nature of the individual unconditionally elected to where he “freely” chooses God and the good (if you can call putting your hands in a puppet and deciding yourself what it does is freely choosing by the puppet).

        As far as Duet. 29:29 “laying the foundation” of those things that are deemed irreconcilable, at least, as far as the Calvinist is concerned, note that the chapter discusses issues of blessings and obedience, and disobedience and curses, and their respective relationship. It is made clear that when God punishes it is not due to some secret will but plainly due to disobedience on man’s part.

        Therefore, whatever “secret things belong unto the Lord”, it is clear that what is revealed to man is God’s requirements for salvation and what deserts are rendered for its rejection; there is no “secret will” as far as whom God intends to save is concerned and, therefore, no need (from my reading of the Bible) to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s free will; it is not a mystery because God is good.

        Dr. Olson, would you agree with my comments here, especially the last paragraph?

        Therefore, to imply, as it seems the quotation does, that man can choose to believe in God or not by a divine endowment of “natural liberty” is not only misleading but false as it pertains to the Calvinist doctrine of salvation; it’s just a remark that confuses the issue rather than coherently explains it. I wouldn’t be surprised to find another statement in the WCF that flatly contradicts that one.

        • rogereolson

          In answer to your direct question to me–yes. Now, about “natural liberty” in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Calvinists distinguish between “natural” and “moral” freedom. Human beings all have “natural” freedom which means nothing is determining them to sin or not to sin. Moral freedom is the ability to refrain from sinning. Adam had that before the fall but not afterwards. Since the fall, Calvinists say, we all have natural liberty but not moral liberty–a scholastic distinction without a difference (IMHO).

  • http://www.merechristianradio.com Orthodoxdj

    I’m a non-Calvinist. I think, though, that worshiping God because He is who He is is not a problem. He is not God because He’s good. His goodness is intrinsic to His nature. Thus, the famous Euthyphro dilemma is really a false dilemma. God does not will the good because it is good (making God one who conforms to the moral law), nor is it the case that God wills the good and thus it is good (making good arbitrary). Rather, goodness flows from God’s nature. He wills that which is good because goodness cannot be separate from Him.

    Calvinism destroys the concept of goodness. Lewis points that out in “The Problem of Pain.”

    “If God’s moral judgment differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear–and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity–when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing–may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.”

    • rogereolson

      Where is that in Lewis? Of course, when I (or Lewis) say that God commands something because it is good I mean (I thought this would be obvious) because it reflects his own goodness. Of course “goodness” is not something outside of God. I’ve never hard of any realist Christian theologian who thought that. Sometimes when we’re talking to other Christians we just take something as basic as that for granted.

      • http://www.merechristianradio.com Orthodoxdj

        It’s in “The Problem of Pain.”

        Would you say that philosophically you hold to libertarian freedom? That’s the position I hold. I think determinism and compatibilism are a joke.

        • rogereolson

          It depends on how libertarian freedom is defined. Most Calvinist critics of Arminianism define it (as Churnock does in his Modern Reformation article) as absolute freedom from constraints. I don’t know any thinking person who believes in that kind of freedom. So I’m careful about using the term. I prefer to talk about “situated freedom” and define it as limited power of contrary choice.

      • Andy

        Third paragraph of chapter 3 (Divine Goodness) in my copy of “The Problem of Pain”

  • Theophile

    Hi Roger,
    What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? When Job received news that his farm workers, and oxen had been killed while plowing by an enemy neighbor, and in the same minute learned fire had fallen from heaven killing his sheep herd & shepherds, and then another unassociated enemy group had taken out his camels and their keepers, this alone would convince most people that God Himself had judged Job, but when the “great wind” like a tornado picked out the house his children were in immediately following these events killing all of them, from Job’s perspective, it would of had to seem God Himself had done it. What did Job do? 1:20, he fell on the ground and worshiped, why? How could Job “focus” on God’s goodness at a time like that, stripped of every possession? Job’s worship of God at this place of calamity brought scorn and contempt from his partner in the losses, so what mutual comfort Job and his wife may of been to each other, became strife for Job.

    What did Job know about God, that against every physical proof to the contrary concerning God’s nature as “good”(his wife undoubtedly pointing this out in 3 part harmony), he still worshiped God? We see the question about “what God wills” cannot be connected to the actual physical events that struck Job, as in God willed that these things happened, because we are privy to the conversation in heaven. What was Gods “will” here? That Job remain faithful to God, regardless of all evidence that it(his faith in God’s worthiness to be worshiped by him) was (to use a modern chide)childish, wishful thinking, about a “good” God.
    A better question would be: What does the opening chapters of Job tell us about what Satan would do to each of us(who worship God), if God allows it. This is echoed in Jesus’s words “count the cost”, which brings up the question all Christians should ask themselves: Do You really want God to “brag” on how faithful You are? Or how strong Your faith is? Really?

    • rogereolson

      There is a world of difference between Job’s suffering and the eternal torture and torment of the “wicked” willed by God in high Calvinism. Let’s talk about hell, not Job.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Job ought not be dismissed so easily. The God of Job is the God of the OT, the God of the NT, and the God whom Jesus worshiped. Coming to grips with the goodness of this God seems pretty important to your overall thesis.

        The God of High Calvinism, however, is not so unequivocally found in the Bible. imho.

        • rogereolson

          My point entirely. See my response to your earlier comment.

      • Theophile

        Hi Roger,
        I was not arguing for Calvinism or against Calvinism there, although quotes out of the prophets where God says, He would every man turn to Him, and from their sin, flies in the face of the doctrinal logic gleaned from the (questionably authored)book of Hebrews, where God has made “some for destruction”, created for the very purpose of eternal torture. I think the Revelation is very clear there is a new earth for those God saves(dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and liars), and a new Jerusalem where God will be, with the ones who overcome, and followed Christ to the cross, not to kneel, but to be put on and killed(if need be) by the world, for the word of God and His testimony. Now I don’t think anyone thinks this saved list are model Christians, unless lying, murdering, mongering whores and so forth are models for Christianity, but did John the Baptist say the Lamb of God came to take away the sins of the world, or just part of the world?
        Lets talk about hell, isn’t hell thrown into the lake of fire with the disobedient angels it was prepared for? If so then Hell is a distinctly different thing than “the lake of fire”, and perhaps it’s just a temporary state, as it gives up it’s souls for judgement before it’s tossed in the lake.
        The more important thing really is maybe we have this kingdom of heaven reward for righteousness(allowed in the new Jerusalem on the new earth) mixed up with salvation in general from the second death(outside Jerusalem on the new earth, but not allowed in). This scenario would in fact put most our hell fire sermons to shame questioning God’s morality.
        I used Job as an example(is God good) because of the reward Job received for his faithfulness, after that ordeal, let’s see, 7 times the wealth, and many children, grand children, and great grandchildren, and he lived longer from that point than any of us live today.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      To Theophile,

      Job’s worship was short-lived. It was right of him to do this in the beginning of the story, and it would have been better for him to continue. But instead, Job became very angry and we got a very instructive story about God, Mankind, and the nature of good and evil.

  • http://boastingweakness.blogspot.com/ Matt Richard

    Dr. York’s “Worthy of Worship” comes to mind when I think about the point you are making.

  • William/godrulz

    Is some of this the same as the Rex Lex vs Lex Rex debate (I affirm the latter)? Nominalist vs realist (I was not familiar with those)….

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    Well done, Professor.

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen

    Yes, this is just the way I have felt about it myself, but you put it into words better.

  • Fred

    Psalm 138 more clearly defines the goodness of God.

  • http://www.styleye.se/kol128 Andreas

    I think there is one more option to go for. Something is not good because God wills it, nor is God good because he wills the good. Rather something is good because it is in line with Gods good nature. That is, God simply is good by his nature, and everything he wills flows out of his nature and can’t be in conflict with his good nature. God is by his very nature the locus and standard of what is good or evil.

    Now I think that God’s nature would never allow him to act in the fashion calvinists think he does but that I guess is a completely different question.

    But reading your replies to some of the comments makes me think this is in fact very close to your own view allready.

    Lastly, sry for bad English. I come from Sweden and did not have time to run it through a spell checker.

    Blessings

    • rogereolson

      You express my view well.

  • prchrbill

    I believe that you are confusing God’s worthiness to be worshiped with worshiping Him concerning or because of an aspect of His character. The aspect you have decided it rests upon is His ‘goodness’.

    You will notice that in Psalm 135 that we are to praise the Lord for He is good, but also for a whole host of other reasons, including the killing of the firstborn in Egypt. Was His killing of the firstborn in Egypt good? Yes it was. Why? Because God did it.

    Psa 135:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.
    Psa 135:2 Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God,
    Psa 135:3 Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
    Psa 135:4 For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
    Psa 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
    Psa 135:6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
    Psa 135:7 He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.
    Psa 135:8 Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
    Psa 135:9 Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.
    Psa 135:10 Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;
    Psa 135:11 Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan:
    Psa 135:12 And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.
    Psa 135:13 Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.
    Psa 135:14 For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
    Psa 135:15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
    Psa 135:16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
    Psa 135:17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
    Psa 135:18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
    Psa 135:19 Bless the LORD, O house of Israel: bless the LORD, O house of Aaron:
    Psa 135:20 Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD.
    Psa 135:21 Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

    Or how about Praising God because He carries out vengence?
    Jdg 5:1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
    Jdg 5:2 Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

    And again here:
    Psa 9:1 To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David. I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
    Psa 9:2 I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.
    Psa 9:3 When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.

    So we worship God because He is God and there is none else beside Him. Not just because He does good things. By that measure you could worship quite a few human beings. He is the Creator. Praise Him for being our Creator.

    Call me what you will, but everything God does is good, because of the character and nature of God. God is not good because He does good things, everything He does is good because He is God.

    And besides, how can you determine what ‘good’ is outside of God?
    “I don’t really know what to say to a nominalist except that I don’t really know how you can believe a being, even the supreme being of the universe, is worshipful just for existing. It seems to me that is to baptize naked power as worshipful.”
    So if God did not do that which could be considered good by you and the Psalmist, he is not worshipful? Should God be worshiped because He is powerful? If so, is that baptizing naked power as worshipful or recognizing that our Creator should be worshiped because He is God and a powerful God at that?

    Your approach tries to separate the being that is God from His attributes, as if that were possible.

    With that….
    I am prchrbill

    • rogereolson

      No, I believe that is what you are doing. I detect nominalism in your account of God and his worshipfulness. Besides, God’s defense of his people with violence is not “not good” and nowhere have I said otherwise. What is “not good” is predestining millions of people (or however many) to eternal hell apart from any free decisions they make.

  • M. 85

    Dear Dr. Olson, really interesting post. I think the whole problem really comes down to this: what is the relationship between a healthy conscience ( by conscience i mean the God given ability to distinguish good from evil) and God’s actions? Is there a correspondence between what a healthy active conscience considers good and what God considers good? Obviously humans are weak and limited and certainly don’t understand everything, but if we are made by God i don’t see how the two forms of “goodness” can be completely separated to the point that they are in complete antithesis. Jesus said that our light should shine so non believers may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven……so it would seem that even non christians can understand what good is to some extent. I would really like people to talk about conscience more because i think its a really important topic in the Bible. Paul says in 1 Timothy that certain people abandoned a good conscience and shipwrecked their faith: they perished!!! The problem is when a person loses the ability to distinguish between good and evil and starts calling good evil and evil good he’s really in Satan’s hands.
    Blessings

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  • Tom

    Roger,

    I really like this post. It seems to me to be so obvious that we as Christians do not worship a nebulous ‘God concept’ just because we’re told to, but a God with attributes and character which are worthy of worship and makes us want to worship him.

    I was sharing this with a friend and pointed me towards a “third way” http://carm.org/euthyphro-dilemma but it seems quite close to what you are saying anyway. Have you seen this before?

  • Ken

    Roger,

    I have read 3 of your books so far and I really benefited from the one on the Trinity, but I’m over halfway through your book Against Calvinism and your logic is misguided.

    1. How often do you think of Calvinism in a day time? Are you overly excessive with it?

    2. I am wondering if your moral dilemma with Calvinism isn’t really a moral dilemma with the God of of Scripture itself.

    3. From what I’ve read so far, you are against Calvinism, period! The only Calvinism you are for is a revisionist Calvinism stripped of Calvin, TULIP, Warfield, Edwards, John Piper, Sproul, etc.

    4. Your logic taking to its full end is that Calvinism’s God is a different god, a monster in your own words. He is not the Triune God which Calvin and other Calvinist have worshipped. You write that you deny that, but it’s the only logical conclusion to your statements against Calvinism.

    I think other Calvinist should take that same charge up against you and your book. Your argument taking to the end is that we Calvinist like Calvin worship another God.

    • rogereolson

      Nice example of ad hominem argumentation–something I strictly avoided in my book.

  • Scot Miller

    Interesting response. I’ve always said that if the nominalists are correct and something is good because God says it it is good and for no other reason, then all bets are off when it comes to God. After all, suppose God said that lying was good. If lying is good because God says it is good, then everything we are told by God would be a pack of lies. Further suppose that I believed everything that God said (not knowing it was a lie), that I accepted Christ as my personal lord and savior, that I responded in faith to God’s grace, that I was baptized, went to church, prayed, gave everything to feed the poor, studied the Bible every day, led others to Christ, etc. Then when I die and come before God in the afterlife, and God said, “Go to hell.” “But, Lord, I was saved by grace through faith.” God would say, “You actually bought that crap? I lied to you, worm, and and because lying is good, your eternal torment for accepting Christ by grace through faith is good, because I say so, and I’m the most powerful SOB around. Might makes right.”

    If the God of the nominalists is the case, and we are in no position to evaluate whether God is good or not, then I wouldn’t try to follow God, nor would I not follow God. I would shut up about God and avoid God and hope that things work out for me. If divine goodness can’t be judged, if I can’t tell that something is good independently of God’s commanding that something is good, then there is little human beings and God would have in common, and little for us to say about God.

    • rogereolson

      As most people know, Luther was a nominalist which led him to believe in a “hidden God” who is the author of evil. Zwingli also.

      • Greg Milford

        Roger,

        I loaned out my copy of your book “The Story of Christian Theology” (I believe that was the title) so I cannot look this up at the present, so I thought I would ask. Was there a significant repudiation of nominalism from later protestant reformers or perhaps the founders of Anglican, Arminian, or Wesleyan movements?

        I am trying to get a sense as to how fundamental nominalist assumptions were to reformation theology. If Luther had not been been so influenced by nominalists such as Ockham would the reformation have even happened? Perhaps the better question is, have significant voices in the Calvinist tradition repudiated nominalism, or does it remain a core influence in the way they see God and develop their thought?

        • rogereolson

          This is a great book idea! The only scholar I know right off hand who has discussed this matter is Heiko Oberman, the great Luther scholar who also wrote about the Reformation in general. He emphasized Luther’s nominalism as crucial for his view of God as the source of evil (Luther’s “hidden God”). Zwingli was clearly a nominalist; his book on Providence says repeatedly that God is not tied to any law and can do absolutely anything. He defends God’s omnicausality including God’s causality of evil by rejecting any attempt to limit God to a moral code-even one within himself. Clearly for Luther and Zwingli whatever God does is automatically good by definition. I think Calvin departed from that strong nominalism/voluntarism but not completely or consistently. He appeals to a hidden will in God when dealing with the problem of evil. Overall, however, my take on it is that the Reformed tradition moved away from strong nominalism toward an inconsistent hybrid of realism and nominalism. I think one reason many contemporary Reformed theologians have revised Calvinism toward something much more akin to Arminianism is their recognition of the disease of nominalism and determination to cure it completely. Barth was not a nominalist. Nor was Berkouwer. Nor was H. Berkhof or T. F. Torrance. I think this difference is a continental divide within Reformed theology itself. Arminius was clearly a realist with regard to universals and God having a permanent ethical nature. It’s interesting you should ask about this because right now I reading the nineteenth century theologian I. A. Dorner who explicitly writes about it and rejects nominalism. However, that rejection pushes him in the direction of a “relational theism” in which God is capable of change–not in his character which is immutable but in his experience with the world. Dorner was a theologian of the Prussian Union; I haven’t been able to find out if his roots were Lutheran or Reformed. That would be interesting to know.

  • Ken

    Nice sidestep, but fail! Roger, you can only use ‘ad hominem’ as a negation, because you can’t answer the logical truth found in number 4. You don’t like when Calvinist call all Arminian theology ‘pelagian’, but you are doing the same thing with ‘ad hominem’ against me, when you are the one who said that Calvinism’s God is a monster. The only logical conclusion is that Calvin worship another god other than the Triune God of Scripture. You just don’t like when your same logical argument is use against your own statements against biblical Calvinism.

    The fact is that you can’t answer number 4 and you sidestepped it. You don’t offer much alternative for the New Calvinist seeking deeper theology when you yourself have to use ad hominem and not argue the point made with your own theology. Where is the richness of your theology? I don’t find that, but I find that in Calvinism.

    If you are a Arminian theologian, you should have the historical richness to answer any question instead of sidestepping it.

    Ken

    • rogereolson

      You clearly don’t understand the meaning of “ad hominem.” I do not attack persons, only beliefs. Your post was a personal attack on me and completely unwarranted. You are in my living room, so to speak, so either be civil and avoid personal attacks or go away. To say that someone’s belief, if taken to its logical conclusion, implies that God is a monster, while acknowledging they do not think so (as I have done in my book) is not ad hominem. It is ad hominem to begin by asking someone when they stopped beating their wife or how many times a day they think about Calvinism (etc.). If you read Against Calvinism you have read my explanation of why I think Calvinism, taken to its logical conclusion (which I am careful to say most Calvinists do not), makes God a monster.

      • Robert

        Ken wrote:

        “4. Your logic taking to its full end is that Calvinism’s God is a different god, a monster in your own words. He is not the Triune God which Calvin and other Calvinist have worshipped. You write that you deny that, but it’s the only logical conclusion to your statements against Calvinism.
        I think other Calvinist should take that same charge up against you and your book. Your argument taking to the end is that we Calvinist like Calvin worship another God.”

        Ken also wrote:

        “You don’t like when Calvinist call all Arminian theology ‘pelagian’, but you are doing the same thing with ‘ad hominem’ against me, when you are the one who said that Calvinism’s God is a monster. The only logical conclusion is that Calvin worship another god other than the Triune God of Scripture. You just don’t like when your same logical argument is use against your own statements against biblical Calvinism.
        The fact is that you can’t answer number 4 and you sidestepped it.”

        Roger replied with:

        “To say that someone’s belief, if taken to its logical conclusion, implies that God is a monster, while acknowledging they do not think so (as I have done in my book) is not ad hominem. It is ad hominem to begin by asking someone when they stopped beating their wife or how many times a day they think about Calvinism (etc.). If you read Against Calvinism you have read my explanation of why I think Calvinism, taken to its logical conclusion (which I am careful to say most Calvinists do not), makes God a monster.”

        I want to talk about this “God makes a Monster” charge that Roger has repeatedly made and I believe to be warranted and I have made the same point myself to the chagrin of Calvinists. Some Calvinists have been intentionally dishonest regarding the charge that deterministic theology makes God a moral monster. They intentionally twist what Roger and what I have said on this point, I want other fair minded readers to understand what we are saying and what we are not saying. So some distinctions are in order.

        If a Calvinist is a genuinely saved person (and this is true of any genuine Christian regardless of what theological tradition they are a part of): then I believe they have a saving relationship with Jesus and they worship the true God (and the God they actually worship is not a moral monster, but is the God who reveals Himself in scripture as loving, good, merciful, just, etc.). Roger and I do not claim that Calvinists **consciously** worship a God who is a moral monster. This has to be out on the table and absolutely clear.

        So neither Roger nor I are claiming that for example, Calvinists are devil worshippers. They are **not** Satanists (i.e. people who intentionally and consciously worship the devil, usually because they believe they can obtain power via the other side).

        So where does the Calvinism makes God a monster charge come from?

        It is a logical implication that comes from the Calvinistic deterministic premise/assumption that God predetermines every event.

        If God really does this then some really bad consequences follow. For example it would mean that God desires and preplanned in exact detail every sin and evil that occurs as part of history. It also means that God chooses most of the human race to be “reprobates” before they are ever born. God decides that these people will be unbelievers, decides their every action and thought (which includes their every sinful thought and action, their rebellion against God, their rejection of God and the gospel). On top of necessitating their unbelief and sin, God will then punish them eternally for doing exactly what God preplanned for them to do. They could not help doing what they did, thinking what they thought, it was impossible for them to do otherwise, their every thought and action was prescripted and predecided. God then punishes them for doing exactly what he predecided they would do and controlled them to do. If God DOES THIS, then he is doing the most hateful thing that could be done to a person (if you want documentation then I can quote a Calvinist pastor who is quite consistent and open about this **hatred** for reprobates that God would be manifesting).

        Now carefully note the disconnect here between:

        (1) the God that Calvinists worship (which is the true God of the bible)

        versus

        (2) WHAT GOD DOES IF CALVINISTIC DETERMINISTIC THEOLOGY IS TRUE (i.e. He would then be predestining every evil and sin, He would be predestining nonbelievers sin, unbelief and damnation).

        When Roger and I speak about how Calvinism makes God a moral monster, we are not talking about (1), we are talking about (2).

        (1) Involves whom Calvinists worship (they worship the God of the bible).

        (2) Involves the logical entailments of Calvinistic deterministic theology.

        So when Roger or I (and others including John Wesley make the claim as well) claim that CALVINISM makes God a moral monster. We are not talking about whom Calvinists worship, we are talking about what would be true if the Calvinistic deterministic theology were true. If that theology is true, then God would be a moral monster.
        Ken and others need to understand these distinctions to understand what Roger and others are claiming about CALVINISTIC THEOLOGY.

        We also believe that Calvinists are inconsistent with their espoused deterministic theology (i.e. they live in the same world the rest of us do, so they experience free will just like everybody else, they worship a God who is different from what their theology logically entails, they do not live as if they never ever have a choice as if decisions they make are never up to them, they believe that people have to decide and think for themselves, etc. etc. etc.). So while Calvinist theology says one thing, that is not the God that Calvinists worship. They worship the same God that other believers do whether those other believers be fellow Protestants that are not Calvinists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Independents.

        Robert

        • rogereolson

          Very well put, but I’m not very hopeful that the closed-minded ones among our interlocutors (e.g., who use ad hominem argumentation) will get it. They are determined (as God predestined it if they are right) to misunderstand and misrepresent what you and I are saying. I thought I resolved that misunderstanding in my post “A Parable” a couple months ago.

  • Robert

    [This if in response to something said earlier in this thread by Roger, but I am posting it here]

    Roger you wrote:

    “I agree completely, of course. Well put.”

    I figured you would agree, but it’s nice to see anyway, confirms my thinking.

    “I go even further and argue that IF Calvinism is correct, and I think every consistent Calvinist will agree, then every evil thing and every heresy are predestined and rendered certain by God “for his glory.””

    Absolutely true.

    “That means, then, that open theism, something most contemporary conservative evangelical Calvinists abhor, is actually “for the glory of God.””

    And this is yet a again a perfect illustration of what I was saying. If God predetermines everything, then MOST Christians get to be unlucky and argue against Calvinism and hold non-Calvinistic views (and that would include Open Theists as I believe an open theist may be a Christian as well, e.g. I am quite sure that people like Greg Boyd are as far as I can tell). And SOME Christians, the extreme minority get lucky and get to know and argue for the truth (Calvinism if all is predetermined). And again how does the opposition of open theists (or any of us for that matter) to calvinism glorify God? Why does God predetermine that some of his own people who are saved individuals get to hold to open theism and be mistaken about God’s foreknowledge? Definitely leads to “haves’ versus “have” not’s forms of Christianity!

    “Why get all worked up about it if that is true?”

    We need to take this one step further, while we believe it does not make sense to get worked about it, if all is predetermined and so necessitated, has to be that way, impossible for it to be otherwise. If all is predetermined, then God also predetermines that folks like you and me get to know this, know that we are predetermined to hold false beliefs and be wrong about things, and yet God wants us, His own people to be deceived, mistaken, ignorant, and going against what is true! I agree with you, that I personally would not be outraged about what other people believe or do, if I believed everything was predetermined: IF GOD ALSO PREDETERMINED THAT I WOULD NOT BE OUTRAGED!! This is why I say we need to take this further.

    At first you and I say that we believe that if we believed it we would not be outraged. But we sometimes forget that even that reaction would itself be predetermined. So God might predetermine that we be outraged or he might predetermine that we not be outraged.

    What this means is that no matter what we think, our thoughts themselves are all predetermined. So we have no control over our decisions (God makes them all first, we then carry out whatever he decided already) our choices (we may believe that we have a choice between this or that, but in reality having a choice is an illusion, we have no choices, we only make the choices that we were predetermined to make) or even our bodily actions (the decision to say certain words or refrain from saying certain words is not our decision, God decides what we say , think, do, whether we will raise our hand, whether we will move our hand to the left of the right, how far we will move the hand we move, all of it, nothing is ever up to us, it is all predecided).

    “Sure, I can see an explanation that says God predestined open theism to overcome it with the help of his faithful Calvinist followers and somehow that redounds to God’s glory.”

    But open theism is not being overcome, some believers choose to believe it. Some are persuaded that it is true and superior to other theologies. And speaking of persuasion, persuasion presupposes that the decision of what we will be persuaded by is up to us, that it is our decision to choose one set of reasons for one position over another set of reasons for another position. But if all is predetermined and so no decision is up to us, the choice is not up to us whether we will hold one view rather than another, then there is no such thing as personal persuasion. Instead if all is predetermined then we will simply be “persuaded by” whatever God decides we will be persuaded by and hold to. There are some extremely strange and bizarre and destructive beliefs and views out there. Doesn’t’ matter, if God predetermined for us to hold those beliefs, then we will hold those beliefs. [disclaimer - note I don’t believe that persuasion does not exist, I am speaking of the logical implications of if everything is predetermined].

    “But why express outrage over it?”

    Two reasonable possibilities.

    If we have free will, if personal persuasion is an individual issue, if we decide and if it is up to us, then we express outrage over something because we choose to do so and choose to do so freely. A while back Roger you wrote an essay on this innate capacity that we all have to choose or decide for ourselves (forgot what it was titled can you recall this for me?). Even small children have it, as the smallest child can still say “No” to a large adult if they choose to do so! :-)

    On the other hand, if the theological fatalists/calvinists are correct, then free will does not exist, if we never ever have a choice, if all is necessitated, if we must do whatever we do and it is impossible for us to do otherwise, if another person controls and determines our thoughts and actions, then we express outrage when we were predetermined to express outrage. We do not express outrage when we were predetermined not to express outrage. We are merely puppets of the divine puppet master.

    “Why foam at the mouth (as some Calvinists of my acquaintance do–figuratively speaking of course)? I really don’t get that. It boggles my mind.”

    My own view of course is that this is a choice that they freely make. And I further believe they **choose** to hate open theists because some of the open theists are extremely smart and philosophically sophisticated in their rejection of calvinism and espousal of libertarian free will. The determinist hates free will, so someone who strongly promotes free will is going to be perceived by them as something that needs to be destroyed.

    Of course if my view is incorrect and if instead all is predetermined then they have outrage because God predecided that they would have outrage and then controlled them like puppets to ensure they had the predecided outrage! :-)

    “If I believed what Calvinists believe I could never feel righteous indignation or moral outrage over anything because everything I look at and consider would be “for the glory of God.” Therein lies the conundrum.”

    I agree with you, I do not believe that I would feel this righteous indignation or moral outrage, if the choice was up to me.

    On the other hand, if I was wrong and everything is predetermined, then I would have or not have outrage depending upon whether or not God had predetermined for me to have it or not have it.

    Robert

  • Ken

    Sure I do and it wasn’t a personal attack either, because there is much that I agree with you on except your monster idea. I’m not a cessationist and it may of just been a charismata, because it just popped in my head and it was a concern.

    • rogereolson

      Just because you agree with me on “much” doesn’t mean yours wasn’t a personal attack. As for our disagreement about my “monster idea”–I’m quite sure you don’t even understand what I am saying there. Go back and read some of my posts explaining it and especially a post entitled “A Parable” that I put here a couple months ago. It makes clear that I am not saying Calvinists worship a monster.

  • tim e

    Jesus creed linked to your essay today in its weekly meanderings. he also linked a new blog and under the heading of evangelism i found this lovely pericope that i think nicely sums up how many of us view Calvinism but needed someone to put it into words for us.
    “In addition to the Christian religion participating in tendencies common to all religions Christian religion has made its own peculiar bad contributions as well. Its doctrines of election and predestination and its doctrine of atonement also make God more demonic. Only a few have been given the chance to hear the Gospel. And, only a small proportion of those who hear the Gospel respond in faith. As for everything God has to bear responsibility this phenomenon of only a few accepting the Gospel is interpreted as due to God’s own choice of those who become believers. All others are by God’s own inscrutable decision left out of the pale of salvation. Such an understanding, indeed, is perverse to the extreme and turns God who is love and who is passionately just into an arbitrary and capricious monster.

    The redemptive work of Christ is understood in terms of a legal transaction as price paid for sin. What this really means is that atrocious caste overlords who oppress the Dalits (i.e. the deemed untouchable people of India), men who ill treat their wives, callous capitalists who exploit the labourers, political leaders like Bush and Blair who inflict so much pain in the pursuit of their imperialistic political ends …all can receive forgiveness direct from God claiming that Christ has atoned for their sin and they do not need to seek forgiveness from those whom they have hurt. Some of them also have the audacity to believe that they are instruments of God in bringing God’s punishment to those whom they hurt. So they do not even seek God’s forgiveness.
    this is found at http://ntscholarship.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/commitment-for-evangelism/

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  • Bob Brown

    Thanks for emphasizing God’s Goodness as the reason we worship Him Roger.

    The Spirit has impressed me with Moses’ request to see God’s Glory. God responds by saying He would make His goodness pass before Moses. God’s goodness is His glory. When He passes by Moses God clearly tells us seven things about His goodness, He is:
    1 gracious
    2 compassionate
    3 longsuffering patient, abounding in
    4 lovingkindness and
    5 faithfullness,
    6 merciful in forgiving all manner of sin, transgressions and iniquity and lastly
    7 Just in that will not allow the guilty to go unpunished (wrath).

    Moses bowed His head to the ground and worshipped God in response.

    God is good and desires ALL men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. He is not willing that any should perish. This is in harmony with His goodness. And all who reject His kindness shall surely die….not burn forever …but have the gift of life taken from them. That is why we must fight for the annihilation of the wicked. Burning them forever is not in harmony with His goodness.

  • Ken

    Roger, do you read what you are doing? You are saying one thing but your posters are wise enough to logically conclude, that Calvin’s and Calvinist god is a monster other than the Triune God of Holy Scripture.

    “In addition to the Christian religion participating in tendencies common to all religions Christian religion has made its own peculiar bad contributions as well. Its doctrines of election and predestination and its doctrine of atonement also make God more demonic. Only a few have been given the chance to hear the Gospel. And, only a small proportion of those who hear the Gospel respond in faith. As for everything God has to bear responsibility this phenomenon of only a few accepting the Gospel is interpreted as due to God’s own choice of those who become believers. All others are by God’s own inscrutable decision left out of the pale of salvation. Such an understanding, indeed, is perverse to the extreme and turns God who is love and who is passionately just into an arbitrary and capricious monster.”

    That’s how pernicious this is! You don’t have to say it, but your logical conclusion says it…. just like Rob Bell who doesn’t have to specifically write that he is for erasing hell, but his theology points some readers to such a belief.

    Ken

    • rogereolson

      With all due respect, I must say you haven’t understood me. Try harder.

  • Ken

    Good excuse but fail again. I’m sure death role convicts use the same thing.

    • rogereolson

      Did you mean “death row?” In any case, I have no idea what your comment means.

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  • http://www.humblewonderful.com Tony

    Thanks for this clear blog post. I was unaware of the terms nominalism and realism when I wrote my own thoughts on this topic. ( http://www.humblewonderful.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/beyond-logical-theology.html ) I come from a non-theistic perspective where really it is only those attributes of God (love, mercy and kindness for example) that I worship sans God so to speak. I can’t stand the opposite, as you say Calvinist, view that God is beyond any appraisal and yet deserving of worship. It empties those words (love etc) that are so important of me of any meaning.
    I think what is also lacking from this Calvinist view is the idea of relationship which is so key to Chrsitianity. You don’t have a loving relationship as child to parent with someone you worship no matter what. Equally a relationship involves trust. So they are right in saying you don’t always judge quickly and regret later. It’s just in a relationship trust gets earned and trust can be lost. That seems to me to be consistent with the operation of God in the Bible who is usually demonstrating their comittment to Israel and their prophets at least.


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