A reasonable blog on atheism, religion, science and skepticism
Follow Patheos Atheist:
John Loftus says that Calvinism is bullshit, and I have no choice but to agree (and it is God’s will that I agree, according to Calvinism). I was a Calvinist for many years, so I should know.
I came from the Arminian side of things, and Calvinism never made any sense to me. In fact, Original Sin in general never made much sense. I’m to blame for my own freely-made bad choices; not pseudo-choices that I was fated to make, and certainly not bad choices made by my (mythical) great^N-grandfather.
I’ve never been a Calvinist. Perhaps it is for that reason that I find Calvinism attractive. I’d rather blame God than freewill. Freewill is just a way out for God; a way for God to elude blame. Calvinism seems rather honest in that respect. God is truly omnipotent, and therefore 50% demon. He’s gonna burn some of us in Hell. We might as well just live with it. Somehow I doubt that a Calvinist would put it this way.
It’s amazing to me how Calvinism and fatalism have become synonymous, even in the Church. I know that this is will be the rebuttal de jour, but I read through this collection of essays and it really seems that this guy has not read The Institutes (despite the claim to be a sort of expert). I’m not going to go into the mass of misconceptions that are inherent in his essays. Feel free to view my apathy as ignorance. But, say what you will about Calvinism, but I believe that most Christians of the Reformed Traditions are at least honest in grappling with the implications of their theology, I’ve found that they very rarely wrap their theology up in a pretty bow for mass appeal, a la Joel Osteen.
Daniel, god totally knew you would say that.
But seriously, picking one piece of theology to point out as more ridiculous than any other is like arguing which monster in the D&D monster manual is the least realistic.
At least with Calvinists I can say, “I really really really hate your version of god, and if you guys are right, it’s because he wants me to.”
Recently I have become a very big fan of your blog. Some of your arguments are rather compelling.
However, posts likes these make me cringe. Asserting something with no argumentation or explanation.
If we atheists want to spread our logic, we need to show our logic, not simply assert it.
Can you include the Fiend Folio as that had some really wayout creatures!
The point of this post is to point to another post – John Loftus’ “Calvinism is Bullshit, and God Wanted Me to Say This.” The link is embedded in Daniel’s post. You’ll find the argumentation and explanation there.
Don’t act surprised. Pointing out interesting things that other people are doing on the web was the original purpose of blogs.
I have never really understood how anyone who believes in calvinism could believe anyone goes to hell. As I understand calvinism nothing we do is our own doing but god doing it though us. If I am wrong about this let me know. So when I deny god it isn’t actually me denying god but god denying himself. Shouldn’t that then mean that god should put himself into hell for eternity for denying himself. Ok I confuse myself a lot when thinking about calvinism.
Somegreencat, see my above post. That is not Cavlinism. That’s fatalism. To disambiguate John Calvin’s actual systematic theology from the contemporary view of Calvinism, you’d actually have to read the entirety of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. If you choose to do this, I hope you have some time on your hands.
Wow, Wade. :-) That sounds like a lot of disambiguating! You mean to tell us that we’d have to read that whole thing? All four books? No *wonder* the poor guy’s so misunderstood! Give me something more straightforward–something more attuned to my lazy modern mind–like Immanuel Kant!
like arguing which monster in the D&D monster manual is the least realistic.
It’s obviously the owlbear. I mean, if you have the ability to crossbreed bears with birds, why would you ever choose owls?
Seriously. Just stick with regular bears.
Oh, come on. Everyone who’s anyone knows the most ridiculous is the Beholder. :)
Calvinism often leads to legalism, condemnation…religion. Not the “liberating” life that Christ offers.
@ Dan Jensen…
haha… yeah, fortunately they make it in a one volume paperback. It’s HUGE, but economical. I think the page count is some where in the 1600s
@ John C
Very insightful stuff there, big guy. I’d love to see your case studies.
Is your name a joke that I’m not quite getting?
My name is not a joke…I was merely pointing out the difference between religion and spirituality…the latter being what Christ offered and the former being what he opposed and ended.
I fail to see what that has to do with Calvinism.
“Oh, come on. Everyone who’s anyone knows the most ridiculous is the Beholder. :)”
I suppose a giant floating eye is a pretty ridiculous idea. However, an invisible sky-daddy that loves us but still lets us burn in hell, now that’s a really realistic concept. :P
I’ve read the Institutes…. all 4 (on a palm pilot even to make it even more challenging).
It is bullshit.
But then so is Arminianism, and every other Theological school of thought.
At least Calvinism has the balls to accept that a omni-everything God would actually have total control.
Fatalism is whatever happens was predestined by God. Calvinism is whatever happens was predestined by God, but people are still responsible for it. (Plus some other theological doctrines usually encapsulated in TULIP.)
Really, IMO, it’s just philosophically inconsistent fatalism. However, I know Calvinists want to distance themselves from fatalism because of it’s negative connotations. And they do focus on human responsibility (though so does Islam, though it is fatalistic).
I agree Calvinism is a better view of God than alternatives — that is, there’s no getting around the “omni-everything” (as Frozen Summers said) as presented in the Bible.
But it’s still bullshit. :)
Wish I had time to expand on this some more, as I’m sure Wade will accuse me of simplifying the nuances of Calvinism, which could certainly be done in a far longer post than this. But believe me when I say, I’m REALLY REALLY well versed in modern Calvinism.
Daniel said: “Calvinism is whatever happens was predestined by God, but people are still responsible for it.”
You sure you’re not talking about Islam, Mr. Florien? :-)
The Qur’an has this pattern of repeatedly claiming that God closes the hearts and covers the eyes of the infidel, but only because the infidel had it coming.
All this need to see God as reliable and people as blameworthy leads me to wonder: if we’re to blame for everything and God’s so reliable, who’s really the creator? It appears that we’re the ones with freedom, and God’s just a machine that we use to hurl ourselves into Hell.
To put it in Hegelian terms,
Fate = Thesis
Fortune = Antithesis
Providence = Synthesis
This actually isn’t Calvin’s idea. It’s Augustine’s, if we were trying to be correct in our labels, what we refer to as Calvinism should be referred to as Augustinism. The theology is very, very, very deeply rooted in the idea of Divine Providence ruling over all. However this providence includes permission as well as order or decree. See Book I, Chapter 15, Section 8.
Synthesis! Obviously an attempt at synthesis, Wade, but dropping names like Hegel doesn’t make it synthesis. It remains a contradiction until you can explain otherwise.
How’s this for synthesis?: we are essentially free because we are God. Quite Easily Done. Solution brought to you by the Church of Pantheism of Latter Day Skeptics.
And FYI, Hegel stole that whole synthesis idea from Herakleitos. All he did was take what the Greek said and spawn a verbose dogmatism from it.
@ Dan Jensen
I was only trying to break it down into the simplest terms possible. I don’t believe that Calvin’s theology neat fits into the Hegelian trialectic, but my hope is that it would give a familiar reference point to what I am trying to express.
If Calvin would have written the Institutes during the 5th Century I think the majority of what he wrote on divine providence would have looked very different as he would have been writing to an audience of Stoics, like Augustine did. But by the 16th Century, superstition (based on an attempt to control fortune) was the issue, at hand, so most of the Institutes’ treatment of Providence deals with a refutation of superstition with only a cursory glance at Stoic fatalism. Calvin and Augustine were fighting the same battle from two different sides, and Calvin gives mention to this many times. So, in reference to the Hegelian Trialectic, 5th Century Stoic Fatalism (thesis) – Medieval Superstition (antithesis) – Doctrine of Divine Providence espoused by Augustine and Calvin (synthesis). I’m not a rabid fan of Hegel, but I think the trialectic is an easy way to conceptualize metaphysical issues that are sometimes hard to express in a brief way.
I don’t see how your “we are free because we are God” statement fits into a Hegelian structure. Could you expound on that?
Also, FWIW, Hegel didn’t “steal” any ideas from Heraclitus. In fact, he cites Heraclitus quite regularly and is really the one responsible for introducing the modern world to Heraclitus. To borrow a phrase from Newton, Heraclitus was the giant on whose shoulders Hegel stood, as Hegel was to Kierkegaard, and Kierkegaard to Sartre, etc.
Why is it that every time anyone ever mentions an idea that belongs to a philosopher, they get accused of “name dropping”?
It sometimes comes across as appeals to authority, though the accusation is probably made more often than is warranted.
Wade, the reason why I accused you of dropping names is that you made no effort to explain your “synthesis,” but simply cited authorities; and you still have not explained your synthesis. You have merely thrown down more names.
Try explaining the idea for once, and maybe you won’t be so accused. Tell us how Calvinism makes sense to you, and who knows, I might just learn something worthwhile.
I presented a simple example of resolving a contradiction by revisiting the premises. The problem that men are seen as free in spite of the existence of an omnipotent God can be synthesized by suggesting that creator and creation are ultimately one and the same. That’s all.
And you’re right in saying that it’s unfair to accuse Hegel of theft; I just get tired of hearing that he conceived the idea of dialectical thinking.
@Dan Jensen I make no effort to explain the synthesis because it’s nothing more than a juxtaposing of ideas, meant to give others and understanding of where I’m coming from.
I’m trying to explain an idea, however this is a very limited outlet for explanation, this is why I have pointed you toward the above section of the institutes. I believe if you take a look at that, in light of my posts, you may gain a better understanding of what I am trying to explain.
I see what you are saying with your example, now. I was just missing the structure of it. I believe that particular notion is similar to a proposition from DeCartes’ Meditation on First Philosophy.
And as for Hegel, yeah, it is kind of crazy how much of that method is pinned on him (I do it all the time for semantic convenience), especially considering he never actually used the thesis-antithesis-synthesis terminology. Actually reminds me of the fact that Calvin, himself, never espoused a 5 point model for his theology.
In regards to name dropping, I believe it is a very useful way to explain methodology with brevity. But, unfortunately, what you say about the perception is very true.
wintermute: “It’s obviously the owlbear. I mean, if you have the ability to crossbreed bears with birds, why would you ever choose owls?”
I don’t know, doesn’t the idea of a bear that can turn his head all the way around (or 135 degrees in both directions according to wikipedia) frighten you more than a bear that can’t?
I don’t think I will be flying Calvinist Airlines anytime soon.
Calvinism is not only obscene but utter nonsense.
If we are to believe in Calvinism then we might as well jack in the whole idea of God and simply become materialists, because it amounts to the same thing: no free will.
The only difference between a Godless universe, where our beliefs and actions are pre-determined by causal chemical reactions, and a Calvinistic universe is that in the latter there is a divine being who has condemned people to suffer eternally from birth. If that’s the way things truly are, he can be no God of love and I don’t want to know him, (and I guess he already decided that for me, and other such ugly thought-games).
If there is any truth at all in a theistic universe, then our fate must live and die by our free will. Think how smug a religious believer could become, if they were lead to believe that God had inescapably made them a “favourite”; and, equally, think how crushing it must be for somebody to feel the complete lack of self-worth in thinking that their life could be inescapably hopeless and damned.
How can people possibly believe such garbage?
Freewill is also bullshit, unless one is willing to admit oneself a polytheist, for any free agent can be nothing but a god. The only will that can be free is the will of God. Anything else is nonsense, though one is welcome to see life in more existential terms.
Follow Patheos on