5 Reasons Why Calvinism Makes Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out

5 Reasons Why Calvinism Makes Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out March 12, 2014

I have a confession to make.

Well, it’s more like a profession:

Out of all of the theologies in the world, I find Calvinism among the most offensive. And frustrating. And irritating.

Like the kind of stuff that makes me want to gouge out my eyes (or something like that).

Truth be told, I like Calvinism as much as I like black olives… and I wouldn’t eat a black olive if I were on a game show for a lot of money (okay, maybe I would– but I wouldn’t become a Calvinist for a lot of money).

I’ve never really been a Calvinist. I tried it out for a few weeks in seminary and it was the longest year of my life. I did give it my best shot though, and even got into an argument with my wife once (while she was trying to take a shower) and told her that she had to become a Calvinist. Thankfully, within a short amount of time I realized this faith structure wasn’t going to work.

Perhaps I was just predestined to rejecting it. Or maybe, I chose to reject it. Either way, I am convinced that Calvinism (especially the neo-calvinism of today) is the kind of stuff that we need to flee (get the hell away from).

Here’s are my top reasons why Calvinism isn’t for me– and why I don’t think it’s for you either:

I couldn’t in good conscience worship the Calvinist’s god. 

One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.

Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road). If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.

Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.

Calvinism, especially Neo-Calvinism today, seems to have a fetish of sorts with God’s anger.

Hang around the average Calvinist very long, and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath. While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like. Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.

When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love. Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.

Calvinism sends the WRONG message to the folks that were Jesus’ favorite kind of people: outsiders & misfit toys.

I still remember starting a new school when I was in the 7th grade– I wanted so badly to be included. We didn’t have much money and I only had 2 pair of pants and a couple of shirts, so I was often made fun of for wearing the same clothes over and over. At the same time, I was one of the only kids in school to get bad acne, and was constantly ostracized and told that I only had it because I didn’t wash my face. It was miserable. To top it off, I was small in stature and not good at sports– which, when you put all these things together, I can safely say that I wasn’t picked for anything.

For the vast majority of my life I have felt like I was one of those “not good enoughs” who doesn’t get picked and doesn’t get included.

The message of Calvinism could have an encouraging message for me: you got picked! However, knowing that most people do not get picked for the team but instead, get picked for destruction and torture, a guy like me will probably always be convinced that I was picked for the latter– because that’s been my experience in life.

I have rejected Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, because in the later, we are able to proclaim the truth that God has picked everyone! If you want to be on the team- you’re welcome; the choice is yours. We don’t need a belief system that leaves us wondering as to whether or not we got picked; we need a belief system that assures us we were already picked and that we’re free to enjoy the benefits of being picked.

Jesus’ favorite people were the outisders and misfits. In his first sermon he was almost executed for proclaiming that those thought to be not chosen were actually included on God’s list, and in the act that ultimately did get him executed, Jesus was proclaiming that God is one who makes room for those who we thought were not chosen.

Calvinism, in contrast to Jesus, teaches that God picks a few and not the rest– that God is the sports captain from my 7th grade gym class, including the glee that comes with pounding on the kids who didn’t get picked.

Calvinism reduces the beauty of the cross.

As a Jesus follower, I think the cross is the central point of all of human history. The cross was God’s ultimate act of nonviolent enemy love, the act that that demonstrated God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16), the act that drew all people to God (John 12:32), and the act that reconciled all of creation to God (Col 1:20).

From a Calvinist paradigm, the cross is quite different. The cross isn’t the moment where Jesus died to reconcile all of creation– the whole world– but the moment where Jesus died simply for the few people God picked. This is a concept they call “limited atonement” that reduces the cross to being an act for the “elect” (those God picked) instead of an act for the world (John 3:16) and all of creation (Col. 1:20).

As such, instead of the Gospel being Good News for the world, it becomes good news for the few people God picked for his team and becomes absolutely horrible news for everyone else in history.

I’m sorry, but I think what Jesus did for us is bigger, and more beautiful than that. I think the cross is actually “good news” for everyone who is willing to chose love.

Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.

I feel somewhat bad saying this, but I think I can honestly admit that there are only 3 Calvinists I’ve met in my life who I actually like– two are friends in my “real” life and one is a Christian blogger whom I really like and respect. Even those inside the movement are realizing the toxicity of the culture as one of my Calvinist friends recently told me that even they find the likability factor of most Calvinists to be wanting. If insiders experience the culture this way, could it be that something is totally depraved about it? (bad pun)

I tried to give it my best shot– really, I did. I think the last straw was in seminary when I asked the guy sitting next to me why he was a Calvinist and he simply replied, “because it’s on every page of scripture”. Or, maybe it was the way many Calvinists treat women as second class citizens. Or maybe it’s the way being told I’m “totally depraved” and that God “might not have picked me” makes me hate myself and live in constant fear. Or maybe it was just the obnoxious behavior of Calvinists on twitter. Perhaps it was even Driscoll himself.

I don’t know. What I do know, is that even if Calvinism were true, I wouldn’t last a day in Calvinist culture. No thanks.

In the end, I can’t ascribe to Calvinist theology because my experience with Calvinist theology does not jive with my experience of a God who loves everyone, who desires to be in relationship with everyone, and who went to the cross… for everyone.

If you’re an outsider like me, I hope you’ll embrace what is really true about God: he picked you. I know that he picked you. Even in all your messiness, he still picks you today. The true message of the Gospel is that you have been picked, you are loved, and that you are free to chose whether or not you’re willing to fully experience that love.

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  • One of my main issues with Calvinism (just finished a run through John Calvin’s writing in my church history class in seminary) is that the assumption that in choosing the Calvinist way, heaven is yours. If you choose Calvinism, you go to heaven. From a broader perspective, we sit here and argue these days as to whether Jesus himself is the only way into God’s love and mercy. Calvinism puts sever limitations on God’s love, but chooses itself as God’s chosen people (with minutiae in the scriptures as justification). As a Wesleyan Christian, it’s the biggest fight we fight in our culture.

  • Theo

    Doesn’t the doctrine of if you choose Calvinism, you go to heaven conflict directly with the idea that people are predestined?

  • Calvinism is no tiptoe through the tulips. If you accept all the teachings of Calvin you must believe that the game is not only rigged but rigged in your favour. Some theologists will try to reconcile free will and predestination but to my mind no one ever has. I suspect that most Christians, including the Pastors of churches that are nominally Calvinist for example Presbyterian reject the doctrine of election. But maybe I just predestined to bitterness because I was kicked out of the Chess Club for not being athletic enough.

  • Calvinists would probably tell you that they were predestined for Calvinism and heaven because they chose it. John Calvin would tell you exactly that.

  • Not if you were predestined to choose Calvinism.

  • Matt

    Wow. You really hit the nail on the head today! You summed up many of my feelings on an issue I have really been struggling with lately. (Uh oh…I said feelings!) Besides the logical and emotional issues I have with Calvinism, the biblical backing used to define it is no more than proof texting, circular arguments, redefinitions, and bad exegesis.

  • This is a fantastic evaluation of some of the huge problems with Calvinism. It amazes me that they have the gall to refer to it as “Doctrines of Grace” when there’s no real grace in any of it at all.

  • Robin Sayers

    Being a part of an Acts 29 community, I have many dear friends that sincerely love Jesus and subscribe to Calvinism. I would say that most of them don’t fully understand the implications that the full doctrine implies though.

    Sometimes the temptation is to put God in a box and insist on figuring Him out- I think that is a big reason why Calvinism is appealing to many today. When Christians can embrace the tension between free will and God’s sovereignty, there’s freedom. We don’t have to have all the answers.

    Good insights!

  • Dale V. Wayman

    Good stuff!

  • I was a Calvinist for a long time. It sort of fit in with the image of God I had formed as a fundamentalist and the arguemtns and things for it fed right into my over-developed since of pride (intellectual and otherwise). I’m not saying all Calvinists are that way, but for those of us who like to be able to win arguments and adhere to rigid views of the world, it can be very attractive and encouraging because it makes you feel like you must be elect (and that being right and having the moral high ground somehow flows from that).

    What made my Calvinism, and my whole view of God, man, and the church, fall apart was being questioned on what happened to people like the Jews in the Holocaust who loved God and worshiped him as they thought was proper, and then another discussion at the same time on what happened to infants. I read different answers to those from different Calvinists, but I started questioning the whole doctrine and what it said about how those who came up with it viewed God and viewed man, that we wanted God to act in that way.

  • Seán Vrieland

    As a Calvinist myself (of the Kuyperian persuasion), I find comfort, not fear, in the knowledge that God has called me, despite myself and all of my flaws. I find that Arminianism puts too much weight on the role of the individual, which to my mind speaks directly against what Paul says in the Scriptures: “…not by works, so that no man can boast” (Eph. 2:9). I would also argue that Scriptural basis of predestination is overwhelmingly evident in Romans 8:30 (“And those He predestined, He also called, and those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified.”)

    I went to a strictly Arminian school, and there I was constantly bombarded with “you must do this, you must do that, you must X and Y and Z.” Kids were saved every week in chapel (the same kids, most often). There were tears, there were promises. There was a culture of earn-your-way-to-God. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. God calls out to you, not the other way around. Moses did not call God; God called Moses (replace “Moses” with just about any name from Scripture and you’ll get just about the same idea). Our works are not to get us closer to God; they are a joyful response for the amazing, game-changing, why-would-a-perfect-God-save-a-sinner-like-me?-kind of action.

    Those who oppose Calvinism often employ the argument “How do you know you’re ‘in’?” Do you hear God calling? You’re ‘in’. You might even extend it to a universalist sort of perspective: we are all called by God to be His children.

    As for limited atonement, well you got us there. Then again, I’m not so sure Calvin himself had much Scriptural backing for that one. Personally I toss the idea, unless of course, from a universalist perspective, the atonement is then limited to, well, everyone. This, then, would be where Kuyper comes in. I’ll leave you with his famous words at an address at Princeton Seminary (I believe that’s where he said it, at least):

    “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence
    over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

  • Slim Smith

    Not that I disagree – at all – but I do reflect on something Spurgeon said of the idea of predestination – “it doesn’t shut anyone out; but it does shut a good many in.” It’s a different view of it, one that is in better harmony with the “whosoever” of John 3:16 and so many other NT scriptures.

  • This is a great summary of some of the weakness that is present in Calvinism, and yet offers a way forward through love and rediscovering Jesus.

  • S. Lawson

    Philosophies must change and grow or else die. Predestination,
    as I have been taught in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), doesn’t mean
    God chooses who goes to heaven or hell, He only knows it because He sees
    all of history from the perspective of a painter who has finished his work. It has also been said that All are predestined for heaven, but some do not choose to
    follow that destiny.

    In the end, it’s a non-essential doctrine, because even if there is any truth in it, we must operate as if all are destined for heaven.

  • Susan Price

    I couldn’t agree more. I was brought up in the Church of Christ, and all that Calvinistic fear drove me from the Church for decades. When I finally figured out that this “dark Christianity” was missing the point – that God is Love, I was able to find my faith again.

  • Jeffery Agnew

    I couldn’t agree more -well, except for the part about olives, yum.

  • Wolf

    I agree. I love black olives. But still – a point well made :)

  • ulyssescastillo

    The entire calvinism/arminianism framework is one that should have been abandoned centuries ago. It’s like trying to understand people based on their zodiac signs. No matter how complex people make the zodiac, in the end, it’s just a bad framework for understanding people. In the end, calvinism/arminianism is just a bad framework for understanding God.

  • Sarah Holmes

    This shows a complete lack of understand of Calvinism and an adoption of views which have been attached to Calvin that he did not state. For example double predestination.

  • $20028221

    what if you’re NOT ‘in,’ even if you *think* you are? since you can’t prove it, it could all just be a wicked joke.

  • $20028221

    and what a horrible result if we are not actually all destined for heaven, in spite of our desperately believing we are.

  • $20028221

    the thing is, if only a “good many” are “shut in,” that’s not really good enough. if John 3:16 is truth, then “predestination” is meaningless. and if it’s meaningless, it’s not Christ-worthy.

  • I disagree Calvin himself wrote “Of the eternal election, by which God has predestinated some to salvation, and others to destruction”. So I’m not sure how double predestination is not a Calvinist view.

  • “We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he determined with
    himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not
    created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for
    some, eternal damnation for others.” (Institutes of the Christian
    Religion,
    Book III, Chapter XXI, Section 5)

  • Seán Vrieland

    I think it points right back to what you say on someone else’s thread about John 3:16: whoever believes. It’s a question of origin, really: do we believe because we are saved, or are we saved because we believe?

  • R Vogel

    I’m sorry, I want to make sure I understand you – are you saying you toss out the idea of ‘limited atonement?’

  • Al Cruise

    Totally agree with you. Well said. Calvinism/arminianism are products of the human mind. Totally individual subjective opinions of the person at the time of writing. There is no evidence that either theory takes place to an individual after death. Theories like those are written for the following reasons, fear of death, and for the pride of believing you explained something that cannot be explained.

  • Slim Smith

    I don’t see your point, bajacalla. What I think Spurgeon was saying is that while “some” are predestined, “all” are eligible (whosoever). I don’t necessarily agree with calvinism in all its manifestations, but this at least is a credible explanation for resolving the contradiction between predesitination/elect and “whosoever”

  • Donna

    An excellent article–I’ve thought about this a lot, and Calvinism make me want to bang my head against a wall–hard (gouging my eyes out is too icky!). One of my favorite quotes is from Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood: “The
    historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply
    mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means
    that God is like Jesus.” When I look at Jesus, it doesn’t make sense to me that he invented and engineers all the evil that happens in the world, and that we’re inanimate chess pieces being moved around for his amusement or to somehow enhance his glory. Jesus didn’t die for automatons–he loves and died for his creatures who have the capacity to love and respond to him. I think there is the sense that God exists outside of time, so for him, everything has happened, is happening and will happen, so he already knows who will respond to him and draws them (and has drawn them) to himself. But for us who live in linear time, this means that we are making choices all the time, and are affected by the choices made by others, and we can choose to accept or reject Jesus’ death for us on the cross.

  • R Vogel

    But how do you resolve the tension between the Jesus of the gospels and the writings of Paul which do seem to indicate predestination? (Rom 8) And how do you respond that leaving salvation up to human agency, choosing Christ, throws a bit of a wrench into salvation ‘through grace?’ Are you any less concerned that someone such as your daughter might be relegated to eternal torment because she didn’t buy the Jesus story because, perhaps, the only vision of Jesus she ever got was from an abusive parent or clergy?

  • Thomas B Robson

    I sincerely appreciate your thoughts. For nearly 30 years (I am now 62) I thought being gay was a predestined condemnation to hell. G-d made me gay because G-d had decided I needed to go to hell. Everything I read in the Bible and learned in an Episcopalian boarding school (The Church Farm School) taught me this. This eventually drove me from Christianity (though I have no memory of anyone ever teaching that specific theology but do remember a summer in Vacation Bible school in a “believe this or you will go to hell” church.) I went from the Episcopal Church to Christian Science, where I tried to be healed of being gay. When I realized there was no illness to heal, no sin to repent of, I became unchurched, eventually drifting back to a vastly different Episcopal Church. While I remain a willing student of Christ today, I stay away from Church and observe from afar. Someday I hope to have the courage to return to an actual Church family- until then I choose to be in community via webcasts, Youtube, and Facebook.

  • annieoly

    Thank you for this, I’ve never been able to understand how such poisonous, venomous, completely devoid of grace concepts have been able to take such deep root in the Christian faith.
    It’s also hard to understand how the ideas of someone who caused/passively allowed/encouraged (depending on which version of history you subscribe to) people to be burned at the stake and tortured could be held in such high regard that an entire theology is created around them. No matter how brilliant their ideas might appear if they do not have love it amounts to nothing.
    Or, rotten tree = rotten fruit

    The only thing I might take issue with is the olives, kind of always liked those. :-)

  • John R Robison

    Of course the Pelagian “work for it, scum bag” theology is so much better.

  • John R Robison

    Rejecting the Synod of Dort is one thing. To present a warped characterization of Calvin is another.

  • And there’s a beautiful example of the misanthropy engendered by Calvinism.

  • Myheck

    While Calvinism is an easy target when compared to the natural sentiments of the human heart, one has to wrestle with the portrayal of God as the Sovereign. We like to emphasize the likability factors in Jesus, but He had Calvinist leanings Himself. e.g. John 6:65, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” Jesus upsets all our apple carts, so even a “Red Letter’ view of inspiration (the words of Jesus stand above the rest of Scripture – a problematic view logically as Jesus endorsed the whole of Scripture) leaves us humbled about our human spiritual strength.I’d like ot be an Arminian, but those doggone verses on God’s sovereign grace keep getting int the way.

  • Seán Vrieland

    To be honest, I’m not sure. The idea of limited atonement in my eyes seems much like the question of how a good and omnipotent and omniscient God could allow (or even originate?) evil, death, pain, suffering, etc.

    Then again, limited atonement also can be viewed as the logical follow-up to predestination: Christ died for those the Father has called to be His Own.

    Of course, the concept of predestination is not to separate the sheep from the goats, as it were, but to understand that there is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will.

    In summary, I guess I don’t know. But there must be a reason you ask, so now I’m curious to hear your take on the matter!

  • John R Robison

    No. The misanthropy would be the rejection of Grace found in the “work for it” theologies. Pelagious rejected grace, and so do many of the people who want to make God a score keeper, which is where as perverse a depiction of Anabaptist/Arminian theology as this is of the theology of Calvin. I am not, by the way, a Calvinist. I’m a historian who intensely dislikes the fashionable caricatures that get tossed around.

  • John R Robison

    Of course, you skip the part about God seeing all of time as a single thing and so makes that judgement based upon the actions of people involved. Also the idea that a “majority” of people are condemned is also your insertion, not what Calvin said. The Grace here is that you do not have to earn your salvation, and that “perfection” is a form of idolatry. It flies in the face of the moral superiority so many Anabaptists hold, be it about drinking or “social justice” issues.

  • If you dislike fashionable caricatures so much, then you probably should engage in throwing them around. Your characterization of anything non-Calvinist as automatically Pelagian is just such a caricature.

  • And the misanthropy is in your characterization of anyone as a “scum bag.”

  • Well, Calvin God must’ve thought my flaws were just too much for his delicate sensibilities. I guess I’ll just enjoy what time I have until I’m slow roasted over an open pit of torment.

  • Tracy

    Interesting post. I rejected Calvinism about 3 years ago, when I discovered Grace, the cross, and God’s undying love for us just don’t go with Calvinism. But to embrace Armenianism has its issues as well. Why do we have to label our selves as anything but Christ followers? I think because of labels and boxes, we have all the different denominations today, which Paul, if he could have come back to this century, would be horrified at the disunity of the christian church. Personally I think Calvinism can make people loveless and judgmental that they are somehow better than others cos God chose them. I love what you said about the beauty of the cross. it really is beautiful when you see Jesus’ sacrifice for ALL of creation. I like Greg Boyd’s stance on aligning more with the Anabaptists due to their peace loving doctrines. So if i was going to label my self, it would be more within that framework. :) Thanks for the post. Love your honesty and how you don’t try and have it all together.

  • Tracy

    Rigged in the favour of whom? Obviously those whom God chose, not the ones he chose for hell….

  • John R Robison

    Hey, that’s what Pelagious said, not me.

  • John R Robison

    I’ve never bee overly convinced that Arminianism isn’t just a rehash of Pelagious. Either God acts first in Grace or does not. And the comment was for effect.

  • Tracy

    Sean – scripture says that God has given a measure of faith to all men. So, when the Holy Spirit calls us ( or woos us if you like) we have that faith inside of us that responds. It can either respond in a negative way or a positive way. You only have to watch people in a crisis to see that is true. People start to pray and call out to God instinctively. God has chosen ALL men to be reconciled to Himself, not just some. But free will, and yes we do have it, gives us the ability to shut down that response of faith to God. Once ‘born again’ we are automatically predestined to be with Him. You cannot be unborn. But all thru scripture we see… Choose this day whom you will serve. There is a choice for us to make. Love would not be love without it.

  • Tracy

    There is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will? Really? Then how can Christians still sin? It might not be God’s will for me to sell my house and spend the money on rubbish…. but i am free to do that. God’s will is that none will perish…. God’s will is that ALL will be saved. Does God always get what God wants?? Obviously not.

  • By rigged I mean that the outcome of the game is predetermined and nothing you do can change that outcome. So either way the game is rigged.

  • dallasfamily

    The best way I learned to really wrap my head around the concept of Calvinism was from a former Calvinist with a great sense of humor, who sang, (sung to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children” – Jesus loves predestined children, all predestined children of the world, you and you, no not you, Jesus only loves a few, Jesus loves predestined children of the world.

    On a more serious note, it is hard to put any credence in a man or his theology that not only supported the deaths of heretics, but was actively involved in those deaths. While many defend these acts as being “cultural”, I cannot believe in my heart that any true Man of God, would promote the death of men that disagreed with him.

  • DoubleDogDiogenes

    I could not say this better.

  • Seán Vrieland

    Does that not then limit the power of God? If God cannot get what He wants, then He is not omnipotent. Granted, you said “does get” not “can get”. But, if God can get it, and does want it, does it not happen? Or is He waiting for us to implore Him before He acts on behalf of His own divine will?

    Obviously there are more questions than answers. As regards your comment above, it has set me further thinking. A reply to come perhaps!

  • KonaGabe

    It isn’t ‘Calvinism’ but the teachings of the gnostic – Augustine.
    Once you realize that Augustine did not have a grasp on the hebraic-biblical view, you realize his followers (Calvin) were drinking from polluted waters. John 3:16.

  • Seán Vrieland

    The beloved King David was a womanizing murderer. There are no flaws too great.

  • Seán Vrieland

    These are definitely wonderful considerations to think about, Tracy. I wonder, what verse(s) are you referring to about “a measure of faith”? In Romans 12:3 Paul writes “For by the grace given me
    I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than
    you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in
    accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Here there is no indication that faith is given to all people, but to each of one of them to whom Paul is writing.

    You are very right to say we are endowed with some kind of longing for God, which, as you say, people in crisis show very often. But why, then, those in crisis who cry out to false gods? What of those who were never given the chance to choose YHWH?

    I know Calvinism in the strictest sense would say these people are predestined to destruction, which I grant you does not settle well with me. On the other hand, if it is the desire of God that all people be given the choice, why has He made it historically impossible for peoples too far away to come to Him? Say, for example, Australian aboriginals around the year 200 AD. There is no way anyone there could have come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour.

    Again, like I said below, there are more questions than answers. To me, what is important (and which you also indicate), is that it’s God first, us second. My greatest issue with Arminianism is that it all too often takes the opposite approach.

  • Brigid Walsh

    Well, I blame Calvin for two things – a rationalist approach to he scriptures which affected the culture of Europe. One thing led to another and now we have ‘economic rationalism’ which, in my view, is a derivative of Calvinism. Now, if Calvin had only prayed the Scriptures and practised Lectio Divina – the world just might have been a different place!

  • Rob Klein

    Are we able to think how GOD thinks ?
    Are we then GOD or foolish ?
    Can not the Sovereignty of GOD do what He will without asking men ? …
    Does He ask us to understand … or to seek Him ?
    Did Moses ask why he was not allowed to enter the promised land ?
    It didn’t go well for Job with his argument either …
    Where is Pharaoh ? … Judas Iscariot ?
    Just Follow JESUS … and help others along also …
    See you in Heaven my Brother <

  • Palamas

    This is a sad article. Sad, because it would seem to indicate that the author has rejected, not Calvinism, but a caricature that has more in common with the way the secular media portray Christianity in general. I wouldn’t embrace the faith that he describes, either. Fortunately, what the author describes as “Calvinism” is no more Calvinism than it is Islam.

  • Tracy

    They why pray? If everything is predetermined, what is the point?

  • Tracy

    It’s not easy trying to sort thru all the issues, granted. The more I dig deeper tho, the more I feel that God approaches people in different ways. I believe the Aboriginal people had the same chance as anyone else. There view of who God was would have been different, but how they responded to Him is what counts, same as us. You see, I became a Christian not thru other people but by God directly. At the time, I just knew him as God, but I have come to see recently it was probably Jesus all along. Would God reject me on the basis that I didn’t understand at the time? obviously not as He didnt. But my response to his calling me and revealing Himself to me was what counted. i really think we have it wrong in our limited thinking.

  • Tracy

    lol… thinking is what it’s all about! Just because God does not get what he wants, in no way limits his omnipotence. Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you WILL. It doesn’t change the fact that it is within your power to do so, but you choose not to. If God willed ( and scripture says so) that none should perish, but we understand they do if they reject Him, then we have a conundrum. Either God is not able, or we have somehow understood scripture incorrectly. I would go with the latter. :)

  • Tracy

    We dont go to heaven anyway. We end up living on Earth… the New earth. There is no scriptural basis why Christians keep on about us all ending up in heaven.

  • Tracy

    I don’t think Augustine was a Gnostic….. where do you find ref to that?

  • KateHanch

    Of course, Calvin isn’t perfect (and neither is Wesley, Luther, Anabaptists, Arminianism, etc.) Not all Calvinists are like Driscoll or Piper. It seems that the type of Calvinism that you describe is what some of my Calvinist influences would reject also. (Calvinists do not apply Calvin fully.) Some Calvinists would see predestination or election (the good kind) as universal to all people and all of creation, and describe it as God’s loving care and concern for creation. Also, Calvin’s pneumatology is quite beautiful. For some alternative Calvinist perspectives than the one you outlined above, see Feminist and Womanist Reformed Dogmatics, and anything written by Serene Jones.

    I was first exposed to Calvinism via the neo-Reformed movement and wanted nothing to do with it (as in that context it was complementarian). When I took Reformed readings under a more liberative perspective, I came to appreciate Calvin and Reformed teachings in a new light. This interpretation would say that Calvin doesn’t make sense when read from a privileged perspective, as he was originally writing to the Huguenots in France, who were facing persecution (This was in the 1536 Institutes). Thus, predestination and election were actually doctrines of comfort and pastoral care.

    I realize that many may not agree with this. To make a long story long, (and for lack of a better analogy) please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • KonaGabe

    Augustine was a Manichaen – hence the belief in fatalism.
    Augustine taught procreation was evil along with human bodies are intrinsically ‘evil’, hence the gnostic worldview.

  • KonaGabe

    Nothing comforting about Calvin’s personal legacy and how he profaned the Lord’s commandment to love one another – whereas Calvin brutally executed those he disagree with.

  • John R Robison

    Umm no.
    While it is a general, and fashionable, line that Calvin was an awful person, much of that isn’t really found in the evidence. Calvin was forced to testify against Servitus and then tried to get him exiled rather than exicuted. It was the Petite Council ( body that Calvin was not a member of) that wanted Servitus dead, not Calvin.

  • Calvin didn’t advocate for his execution, simply via a different method of death?

  • That last part is actually true- when I studied Muslim theology in seminary it struck me that it was quite similar to what I heard from John Piper. “God can do anything he wants, kill anyone he wants” etc. Totally consistent with Islam and totally consistent with things Piper has said.

  • John R Robison

    He first tried to get him expelled. And then, he tried to argue that beheading was faster and more humane than burning. Then he tried to get Servitus drugged so than it wouldn’t be as painful.

  • Interesting spin– so all of his actions were noble and full of nonviolent enemy love as the Gospels command?

  • John R Robison

    It isn’t spin, it’s fact. I’m not arguing he was perfect. If one is going to condemn a person, do it for something they did, not what you want them to have done, thought, or taught. There is little excuse for bad history, except for polemical purposes. For example, much of the image we get of Calvin is from “enlightenment” types, or figures like Bertram Russell. They even go so far as to invent quotes.

  • Why advocate for beheading? Why not advocate that we stop killing our enemies, like Jesus commanded? I’m having a hard time viewing his advocacy of Servitus’ execution as being in line with the Gospel.

  • John R Robison

    He didn’t advocate for it. He tried to get him expelled from the city. When the Council refused that option, sighting that Servitus was under condemnation all over the place. And so he tried to get a more “humane” form of execution. That may seem strange to you, but doing the best one can is sometimes all one can do. Or is it just that anyone who doesn’t meet your criteria of perfection must be condemned?

  • Lisa Martinez

    Benjamin, what are your thoughts on Geo MacDonalds viewpoints? He was stridently anti-Calvinist and yet held views still controversial to many. Just curious of your view on him.

  • I don’t believe that everything is predetermined, in fact if I did I would despair because nothing I did including prayer would have any meaning. That said I believe that we are all saved through grace and once we accept God’s grace we must follow the teachings of Jesus to the best of our all too imperfect abilities. I’m not sure if this is answers the question you asked. That is the kind of thing that is best discussed at a theology in the pub night over a couple of pints.

  • Joseph M

    The doctrine of ‘Baptism for the Dead’ is the Mormon answer to the question of “what about those who never heard of Christ”. Our doctrine is that everyone who ever has lived will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel in its completeness and accept Christ and get to “heaven” if that’s what they want. God’s desire is that everyone of his children returns to him, but he won’t force us to do so I f we don’t want too.

    Regarding our relation to Calvinist doctrine we are about as theologically opposed to it as I think you can get. The whole purpose of Christ’s atonement is to not just to save us from our sins but to make possible real moral choices. by our doctrine Lucifer’s great rebellion was an attempt to destroy that moral agency.

    I think one of the best elaboration of the opposition between the two doctrines is from Stephen Webb’s (evangelical turned catholic =D) ‘Mormon Christianity’ (http://books.google.com/books?id=oYJuAAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA180&ots=11SbuyqFko&dq=calvinism%20mormon%20dog%20bite&pg=PA174#v=onepage&q=calvinism%20mormon%20dog%20bite&f=false)

  • Tracy

    Augustine was a Manichaen before he converted to Christianity. Once Christian, he was opposed to the Manichaen teachings.

  • Jonathan Topping

    Pelagianism teaches that you make the first move towards God, and then He works in you to bring out the righteousness. Arminianism says somewhat the opposite: You are totally depraved (Arminianism does hold this part of TULIP), and thus God makes the first move by an invitation to salvation through Jesus Christ. You then accept.

    If you call accepting His grace a works oriented soteriology, then you have a little bit of an odd sense of how the world works. Imagine a person dangling from a cliff, and a rescuer reaches out his hand to pull the person up. The person then grabs onto his hand for dear life. When they are safe, the person who was rescued then says, “look at how I rescued myself! Aren’t I awesome?” That’s just nonsense. Obviously the rescuer saved the person, regardless of whether they responded to his rescue.

  • Danny Vinson

    The predestination is just logic and definition. If God knows all that has been and will ever be then he knows already who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, you may still have freewill but he already knows what choices you are going to make and what the outcome will be. I at least respect the acknowledgement of the definitions put in place that most sects seem to ignore.

  • KonaGabe

    Yeah, none of it was the fault of the ‘Dictator of Geneva’. Nice reinterpretation of history. Calvin believed his pronouncements were the “holy doctrine which no man might speak against.”

    Calvin declined Servetus’ plea for a ‘humane’ execution via beheading, and Calvin supplied the green wood. Then returned to preaching his Doctrines of Grace. Calvin was slightly more tolerant when it came to women, compared to Rome, only had 34 women burnt at the stake during his reign.

    Calvin employed Augustine’s horrible interpretation of ‘compel them to come’ (Luke 14:23) as justification making church attendance mandatory and for uniting Church + State to stamp out heretics. But according to Calvinist apologists, all the rest of his theology is Divinely Inspired (except for mandatory infant baptism with some modern Calvinists).

  • KonaGabe

    My Calvinist apologist friend reply to Calvin killing his enemies – ‘well that was the times, you are reading into to those actions a 20th century worldview”. Uh huh.

    Find me an similar event in history when Arminius or some Arminians went through the villages using Scriptures as support to torture-execute in the ‘Name of Jesus’. His reply – silence.

  • KonaGabe

    Augustine’s teachings embraced many of the Manichaen teachings – fatalism, dualism, gnostic view of humans, etc.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZMZSp2rgfM

  • John R Robison

    For Pelagious God only reaches down after you’ve tried to climb up your self and/or ask. God doesn’t want to save you, per se, until after you decide you want to be saved.
    A True doctrine of Grace has God do the rescuing, not helping you up but lifting you up. Now, we can discuss the idea of Justification/Salvation as separate from Sanctification and the ongoing work of the Spirit, but that is wandering a bit far.

  • John R Robison

    No, Kona, all of that is an invention. Read a little, and not just polemical works. Calvin wasn’t even a citizen of Geneva and spent most of his time fighting with the Petite Council. They even banished him twice. The image of the Dictator of Geneva was created by the Enlightenment to attack a Bugbear, and many “progressives” still cling to that bad history. I know it makes you feel good, but it is simply not true.

  • John R Robison

    Well, there are the Arminians who helped destroy the Native American’s culture and lives in the name of Jesus.

  • KonaGabe

    Some Christians “killing of unborn babies is horrible, but God will welcome these souls in Heaven”.
    Calvinists “those unborn babies aren’t innocent at all, they took part in the fall with Adam, they were present with Adam (in his loins) and are rightly deserving in eternal judgement”.

    As the author stated in column, Calvinism is horrible set of teaching on every angle.

  • Jonathan Topping

    I think the problem is this; you may find comfort in knowing God chose you, but do you find comfort in the fact that God damns the majority of humanity to hell for all of eternity, on a completely arbitrary basis?
    I grew up in a church that was basically Arminian, and hung out with many Arminians. I’ve actually found the exact opposite of what you say you’ve found. There was actually a lax in “do this don’t do that” sort of attitudes, if anything, they were too lenient and sometimes justified their sins. The Calvinists I’ve known have always been quite strict, to the point of legalism.
    I’ve never heard anyone actually use the “how do you know you’re picked?” argument, but obviously that doesn’t do anything. The argument I hear more often, and consider a good argument myself, is this: If election is unconditional, and if the person has no ability to choose God, and if the person has no ability to reject God if chosen, then the choice is not only up to God alone, but it is also arbitrary. This means that the eternal destiny of each person is decided only by what looks like either random chance, or the fancy of God. This doesn’t bode well for God’s character, as this author has pointed out.

  • kursonis

    The thing that really ends all discussion of Calvinism’s value, if you have the perspective, is the whole reality of Privilege, and how groups with more power oppress other groups with less. Once you start caring about that, Calvinism seems like a sick joke. Wow, it sure is amazing how all the one’s who got chosen are just like me! And we are mostly white and Western and wealthy. (the church in Non-Western areas has not really embraced Calvinism). Too bad for all the brown, non-Western, other religion folks out there, practically none of them were chosen. So hugely ugly. I literally believe that the same people who are attracted to Calvinism would be the one’s in Germany in the 30’s who joined the ascendent party…that kind of personality is drawn to it. (and I spent eight years in the PCA, the HQ of contemp. neo-calvinism, and can report it’s like an a**hole factory).

  • John R Robison

    Try, just so that we can skip the nasty comments about sources, Calvin for Arm Chair Theologians or McGrath’s recent biography. Both take time to deal with your accusations.

  • Seán Vrieland

    Agreed! We are very limited in thought and action. To me, this sits at the core of Calvinism and the concept of election: we, as human beings, through sin, are pre-disposed to all kinds of evil. As limited humans, we can never work our way to “heaven” (which, though is a completely different topic, should not be the goal of the Christian walk). I know at some of the finer points we disagree, but I appreciate how much common ground you and I have here, Tracy. Again, it’s God’s calling, not ours, that leads us to Him.

  • Seán Vrieland

    I must admit I do not know much about the Mormon church and am very unqualified to respond here.

    Regarding what you say about the possibility of making moral choices, that does, to me, seem to jive with Calvinism. Calvin stressed the complete and total depravity of humans (because of sin), meaning when faced with a choice, we will choose evil. Only through God can we choose godliness.

  • Seán Vrieland

    If we completely understood Scripture correctly 100% of the time, a lot of theologians would be out of a job!

    The problem we face, as I see it, is as follows:
    1) Either God has chosen who to call (and, by process of elimination, who to not call), meaning through God’s will some are destined to damnation, or
    2) God leaves it up to us, but already knows who will choose Him and who will not; now we are left with the equally unsettling notion that God created some of us already knowing we would not choose Him.

    Of course we’re never going to answer this (especially not in the comment thread of a blog), but the more we look into how God has revealed Himself in the Scripture and in our daily lives, the more we can learn about Him. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting to know Him more and more each day.

    Tracy, thank you so much for your gracious challenges to my posts! This shows that some of the more dividing points of the Church needn’t be so divisive!

  • Thanks Benjamin,

    Good observation. It’s true that Calvinism and its philosophical views on people marginalizes the purpose and pursuit of salvation; or, even intimacy with a living G-d. If the process of salvation is made inevitable, because G-d know ALL, then that tone/mindset will (instinctively) nullify certain desires and passions to pursue God in ways unimaginable. If salvation is inevitable, then so might be our views on matters outside of “Christendom” (including Christendom, of course)! (lifeseek.org)

  • Molly Griffith

    Sean, thank you for the two points above. These describe my understanding very well. Calvanism – based on our human understanding – makes some people gag because they try to put God in their little, limited box to protect God’s reputation. God can do what he pleases. And he is always good and right. John 6:44 says that no one comes to Jesus apart from God’s drawing them. Period. And if Calvanism is correct – why pray? Because prayer changes US.

  • Translation: if you read something that makes Calvin look bad, it’s just polemical.

  • John R Robison

    Not at all. Your lack of charity is telling though. To busy being a progressive Anabaptist to be concerned with being wrong? Caricature, including of me, is so much more satisfying than the possibility that you might have the wrong end of the stick.

  • John R Robison

    You may say, “Former” but your style of argument and condescension comes strait out of the Fundamentalist playbook. Straw-men, reductionist distortion, dismissive hand waving, stereotyping, pretty much par for the course. Apparently justice isn’t for everybody, it is only for those of whom you approve.

  • So the conclusion that we can glean from all this, is that no matter the sect, Christians are going to destroy people.

  • I don’t have a stake in this comments section melee, so I’m just going to sit back here with some popcorn and watch it all play out.

    I know enough about history to know that Calvin was a monstrous person who did monstrous things and founded a church that created monstrous people who did monstrous things. That’s all I really need to know to avoid it like a plague. The same can be said for Lutheranism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Orthodoxy, Arminianism, and a host of other philosophies both religious and secular.

    While you tear each other’s throats out over whether predestination is singular or double and whether Calvin meant what he said about this point of theology or if the deaths he commanded were technically his fault, the world is turning on. Please tell me which of the 99 comments below me are going to persuade anyone that Christianity is filled with the type of people who have a special message of joy and hope to bring to the world. 99 comments. Surely your gospel is found in at least one of them. Perhaps. Maybe. Or not.

    The only tribe the article and especially the response has done any good for is mine. Is mór againn do chuid oibre anseo i bhfad.

  • dherbert53@aol.com

    Hey Ben, yes, there are problems with Calvinists but you skirt the issue which is that predestination does seem to be a Biblical teaching. Frankly, I have found many Calvinists to be proud, arrogant, self-righteous and having a strange “love of knowledge” that causes some to disown and discredit anyone that intellectually disagrees with them. But again, we can’t have salvation without God’s first working in the heart…otherwise, salvation is of US and not of God. Thanks!

  • Lamont Cranston

    If Calvin is right, then all I’ve got to say is “HAIL SATAN!” Better the actual devil than a lying, jackass god.

  • R Vogel

    I was asking because I did not want to make assumptions about how you have worked out what I would agree is the ‘problem’ of limited atonement. I am uncomfortable with the notion that G*d does not desire that everyone be saved, but there seems to be an equal problem with stating that G*d does not get what G*d desires, that somehow human agency is allowed to thwart the desire of G*d, especially when human agency is so obviously broken in itself. The only path this has left open to me is universal reconciliation. For other’s this is neither palatable nor evident and I was interested from your comments what path you have taken. ‘I don’t know’ is a completely acceptable response, one I deeply respect. In the end none of us ‘know’ and the pursuit of ‘knowing’ often makes us very uncharitable toward each other. I personally find quite a bit objectionable about what I know of the Calvinist doctrine, but I have to stop short of demonizing someone else’s belief structure simply because it does not fit my worldview. I am much more into orthopraxy than doxy anyway. (How’s the fruit?) Frankly, I was raised in a strict Arminian tradition that didn’t provide much better of an example of Christ. I think Jesus might have said something about this with regard to planks and splinters…

  • Chief End

    I’m not bothered by your critique of Calvinism, but what concerns me is the new fad of bloggers using the phrase “god of Calvinism.” As most do, I started off as a free will guy and later grew into a reformed position, but I never “changed Gods” along the way.

  • R Vogel

    And Martin Luther was a raging anti-semite. I think once you open up the floor to ad hominem attacks not many will be left standing

  • Isn’t that a good thing? If you’re going to claim to be a purveyor of the greatest moral truth in existence, shouldn’t you be held up to the highest moral standard?

    I’m not convinced that one of the strongest arguments against the validity of Christianity isn’t the total depravity of most of its founders.

  • Michael

    liked the reading. but with all the comments down below, it has bothered me on how we made the fight from sinners against Christian, to try to show them Gods grace. to sinner against Christian against Christian. if I was an unsaved person, I would not want anything to do with Christ because of the hatred I see with fellow Christians. I feel we need to just READ the Bible, and pray God shows us what he wants to reveal to us. Not someone else who says he has the answer.
    John 3:16 flat out says God loved the world (everyone), so he gave his Son to die for our sins, to pay our eternal punishment, that WHOSOEVER believe should not perish.

  • Chief End

    Your bio should be enough; “Formerly Fundie, the blog, discusses the intersection of faith and culture from a progressive/emergent/neo-anabaptist vantage point.”

  • CroneEver

    Besides the horrific idea of God as eternal torturer, the real problem with the emphasis on Calvin’s total sovereignty of God (which to him led logically to predestination) is that it’s really just perpetuating the situation on earth up in heaven. It’s saying that we believe in God because He is all-powerful, which is a lousy reason to believe in anyone. All-powerful is all-corruptible. The reason to believe in God is because He is All Good (“for His mercy endureth forever). And I can see no other reason. Any one – any BEING – that is merely all-powerful inevitably turns into an enemy, someone to be thwarted, circumvented, disobeyed, etc., because that’s the nature of power dynamics. As you said, you might obey, but simply from fear. Humans do not, perhaps cannot love tyrants – not in any sense that is shown in 1st Corinthians 13. But you can love someone – God – who is all good. And that is what Jesus was. He was not all-powerful – otherwise He would not have been beaten, mocked, tortured, crucified. But He was all good. He was the manifestation of, the incarnation of God – all Good. Loving. Fierce against evil. But loving and tender and merciful. To trade that for the pottage of power is an appalling mistake in logic.

    After reading a lot of Calvin (retired history teacher here), I believe Calvin proves that it’s we humans who demand hell for others on a massive scale, because of our own obsessions with power and revenge and fairness and hierarchy. We’re the ones who make lists of who’s going there, we’re the ones who are obsessed with punishment for sin (mostly of others), we’re the ones who (rarely) believe that repentance is enough for anyone but ourselves: in other words, we’re Elder Brothers left, right and center. The whole story of the Prodigal Son is the father RUNNING to embrace his (in all ways) sorry kid, and offering everything to both children. If that isn’t an image of how God works, I don’t know what is. I do know it isn’t Calvinism.

  • Michael Grady

    You all would do well by accepting that Adam and Eve were the first of all of us, no different in our ex-nihilo maybe-ness response to God, that is, our saying “Maybe” to God’s “Be”. We are all redeemed, but who will choose salvation is a different matter altogether. Depending on our choice to finally saying Yes or No to salvation, our eternal destinies in Heaven or Hell await.

    Ontology theology trumps all your errant and shallow religious theories that have gone on for hundreds of years. Just stop with the foolishness that suggests an infinitely perfect and good God could have created Hell. In reality, it’s we who caused existence, evil, temptation and Hell. Causation is not creation. We needed God for that. See how much God loves us, to redeem all, and to leave our perfect agent will complete?

  • tmarsh0307

    John, just bottom line for us “non-Calvinists is this”: Does God love all people? Does God act beneficently on behalf of all people for their good? Any theology that fails to answer this with an unhesitant, resounding “YES” is best discarded.

  • tmarsh0307

    And are those who do not believe unable to believe because they have not been pre-selected??? That will always be Calvinism’s fatal flaw. Hence, the point of the article…

  • R Vogel

    “Total depravity’ is a bit strong from my view, but I can understand how you might come to that conclusion. ‘Human and deeply flawed’ is probably more where I would go especially when you put them in historical context. Your point about holding them up to their own ridiculously high standard is a fair one and yes, I do think it is a good thing. It was you, in fact, who first taught me about Luther’s anti-semitism, for which I am grateful. I was responding to the intent of the post rather than the content. I am always loathe to venerate people for this reason, but I also try to avoid judging an idea solely by the people who hold it. As I look around the world, I am hard pressed to find an ideology or institution that wasn’t filled with tragically flawed people doing positively awful things. George Washington owned slaves. Would I consider him total depraved? Does this make the entire concept of being founded on the principles of liberty a farce? Some would say yes, and I would be hard pressed to argue with them. I think it was Descartes who skinned a cat alive in order to study the circulatory system. Was he totally depraved? You could certainly make a good case for it. But I tend to view human beings as more complex than that. Part of my family heritage is native american so I am keenly aware of our national contradictions. However this does not mean that I discard my national identity, instead I take it as a challenge to make it better. I accept that many would consider this impossible either with my country or with my faith. They may be right. I do not judge them. I choose to take a different road.

  • Charles

    To me, it was very nice to read someone’s intelligent and reasoned statement of “belief” and “disbelief”. Thank you, Benjamin, for being honest about your path and sharing it with us.

  • R Vogel

    Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.

    Actually, false certainty about things which you cannot be certain creates toxic culture.

  • Charles

    As a non theologian, retired “Christian”, who reads fairly widely on religious topics, I find Mr. Corey’s reasoning to be just a result of a “common sense” approach to Christianity (though 2 master’s degrees and an upcoming doctorate show a more in depth analyses than “just” common sense). Yes, it won’t satisfy those who need to major on Who’s in and Who’s out, or those who must own and control the truth of God via their pet interpretation of scripture. “Common sense” means something that passes a basic “smell test”, and no matter how you dress up Calvinism, it, and sadly, many of it’s adherents don’t pass a basic Smell test, no matter how articulate and sophisticated their reasoning. Argue on, Calvinists. Nail it down. While you do that, I’ll be looking at my daily life and attitudes and behavior, and try to walk at peace and in love with those around me – which also entails leaving angry and frightened “Calvinists” and other fundies to their own fearful company. And I’ll try to stay on God’s path as it becomes clear in my own life.

  • Chief End

    I’m not concerned with your arguments against Calvinism, they’re certainly not unique. What bothers me is your use of the phrase “God of Calvinism.” When I became a believer I was a free will guy, and I later came to understand and adhere to reformed theology. However, I never “switched Gods” along the way. Both positions fall under the umbrella of orthodox, historical Christianity and are simply in house debates amongst Christians.

  • Fair enough. My point in using the term, is that a God who may have predestined my child to burn in hell, is not the same God who I worship in Jesus- at least they certainly don’t appear to be. I realize the debate is largely in-house, but I would argue that the depiction of God as above, versus the God I believe I worship, certainly can’t be the same person. But do I believe the average Calvinist is outside of orthodoxy? No, I believe in a very “generous” orthodoxy.

  • Ryan

    It’s a false dichotomy, and not even a particularly meaningful one.

    First, outside of soteriology, Calvinism and Arminianism are virtually identical. They’re both branches of Reformed theology and they both advocate almost the same things outside of the balance between free will and determinism. They even both affirm total depravity, for goodness’ sake (a point that Arminians have a tendency to sometimes forget). Your average Calvinist is going to have a lot more in common with your average Arminian than he is with a Lutheran, Anabaptist, Anglican, or Catholic. Maybe that’s why they’re always at each other’s throats – if someone with completely different taste in music hates your favourite song, that’s to be expected, but if someone with nearly identical taste in music hates your favourite song, it’s an affront.

    Second, there are a broad variety of theological positions which offer many differing perspectives on the free will/determinism debate. The notion that it’s either Calvinism or Arminianism is rooted primarily in ignorance. Other perspectives abound, including Lutheranism, Thomism, Molanism, Augustinianism (similar to Calvinism, but still different), Open Theism, and others. Then, of course, you’ve got the EO perspective which essentially says “Who knows? God is fully sovereign, humans have free will, somehow the two work out.” Some people see that as a cop-out, but I personally find it refreshing.

  • As an ex-Calvinist, it was most of these points that changed my mind. However, there is still a special place in my heart for Calvinists even thought we no longer agree.

  • You’re not the first person to call the great Reformers ‘human and deeply flawed,’ and you probably will not be the last. It’s an argument I cannot and will not accept.

    I’m a human, and I’m deeply flawed. Do you know what I haven’t done? Arranged for a man who disagreed with me to be burned to death in public. Another thing I haven’t done: petitioned the government for the massacre and enslavement of an entire people. Because despite my deep flaws, I’m still a decent human being, which is why I suspect most Calvinists would assert that I haven’t been destined for salvation.

    There’s deeply flawed, and then there’s monstrous. Calvin, Luther, and much of their ilk fall among the latter. There is a certain line you cross where you cannot give ‘flaws’ as an excuse anymore, and directly causing the horrific deaths of other human beings is a good indicator of it.

  • KonaGabe

    Nasty comments? Ok it is a fact fact that under Calvin’s rule and systematic theology, people were executed for not being predestined to believe like Calvin thought they should believe.
    But Calvin might have been a really nice pet owner.
    Better?

  • KonaGabe

    At least some christian sects that teach they have the authority given by God to kill in Jesus’ name.
    Sadly, the Church of Rome held to that ideology for many centuries. But you won’t find that teaching in any of the Jesus’ teachings.

  • jpoteet2

    You’d feel a lot less like gouging your eyes out if you actually looked at what is called Calvinism and not this ridiculous caricature you’ve made up. Why do all you guys do this? I can’t believe you don’t know that almost everything you said about Calvinists is an outright lie. You completely misrepresent what we believe and then savagely attack it. You’re dishonest. Not mistaken, I don’t think so. You’ve been in the Bible too long, thought about this too much. You HATE the truth, so you create these lies and attack them. Well congratulations! Yes we ALL hate the doctrine you talked about, now would you like to engage with what the Bible actually teaches and what we actually believe? Or are you having too much fun with your straw men?

  • Tracy

    Molly – when you look at people praying in scripture, especially the OT, it is not to change THEM so much as it is to change circumstances. True, prayer does change us, but its the Holy Spirit in us that is supposed to do the changing for and to us. Prayer is communciation between us and God, and we pray to CHANGE things. So I don’t that that is a solid basis for prayer from what you have said. Just MHO :)

  • Tracy

    Sean. There is another option. I am a big fan of Greg Boyd and his theory on open Theism. If he is correct, then God is even bigger than we thought :)

  • Tracy

    haha sorry – we prob live in different countries to go sharing pints, but a novel idea. :) I totally agree with you and I am a fan of Open Theism as well. I do not believe that all things are pre determined, otherwise, why pray. And why not discuss things on here – its great. Christians ought to be doing this more to help them understand who God is and what he desires from us etc. So many I talk to don’t understand much about their faith on a deeper level. i think back in 1st C, they did this all the time and it was a good thing.

  • John R Robison

    The was no “rule” by Calvin. That is an almost total fabrication, made to denigrate a man, and a doctrinal position which was only tangentially his. The “executed for not being predestined” is a really juvenile comment, clever, but untrue. You are more committed to being “correct” from a “progressive” POV than you are in being right. Pretty par for the course, since actual intellectual reflection is a waste of time when *feeling*, and self righteous indignation feels so good.

  • (a) I disagree with you, therefore I “HATE” the truth. Point #5, proven.

    (b) from your own blog, in your own words: “So we see that John 3:16 cannot mean that God sent His Son because He loved every person in the world.” And, you go onto affirm that no, not anyone can be saved.

    So, it sounds like I actually didn’t misrepresent it.

  • Kyle Wood

    Four of your five points do not even reference Scripture. Yikes.

  • Ah, good point. I just double checked the Christian Blogger Manual, and it does in fact say, each main point to every blog posts requires no less than three (3) direct references to scripture from an approved translation. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • R Vogel

    It was not an argument, just my opinion. I would never ask you to accept my or anyone else’s opinion. I don’t follow either Luther or Calvin so I have no need or desire to defend them. I am not that familiar with Calvin, but having read Luther’s anti-semitic polemic, once you made we aware of it, I would certainly agree that the view expressed in that document are monstrous and colors Luther’s legacy, or it least it should.

  • KonaGabe

    Why are you so defensive to supposed impugning of Calvin’s tolerant and loving legacy?

    I would bet if you lived in Geneva at the time and saw people getting burned at the stake for beliefs, you might have picked up and left town. Show me where Calvin did anything to stop the brutal subjugation of those who questioned his Augustinian theology?

    to borrow from a Calvinist rebuke (Reformed Answers)

    “Constantine proved once and for all the negative consequences inherent
    whenever the state enforces orthodoxy — all you get is fake believers
    scared to air their dissent openly. Calvin was wrong to suppose that
    heresy should be punished by the state and by death. “

  • John R Robison

    Kona, I am not arguing for Calvin as a perfect person. I am objecting to the nasty, closed minded vilification in which you are indulging. Making him into Satan incarnate is not only bad history, it is not particularly Christian. You are simply repeating slander, or over simplification, and that is not edifying, nor helpful. Broaden your world view outside of the narrow, little world view you seem to rejoice in and maybe learn something. Otherwise, wallow in your misconceptions, but don’t get as hyperbolic and nasty when you’re called on it.

  • KonaGabe

    John,
    If you want relational nuance, I suggest reading Deepak Chopra. Yes, I point out some obvious and glaring flaws in the live of Calvin, and how the whole Calvinist village turned out – not a lot of love there, and embarrassing chapter for the us to the critics of christianity. That is not Statan incarnate (Hitler reading from Luther is a little closer.)

    Matt 25:40 “The
    King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the
    least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Apologists for Calvin have a tough task, as both his life and his theological writings do not reflect the character commanded above.

  • KonaGabe

    Calvin “We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”

  • not a spot of exegesis

  • be consistent w/ your question to see how stupid it is.. if everything is predetermined, what is the point in breathing?
    means, silly…. means

  • John R Robison

    Quite frankly Kona, many of those “Glaring faults” are less about Calvin and more about the projection onto him. You have, uncritically, adopted a narrative that is simply historically not complete nor correct. I can only assume it is because you like the image and the Bug Bear at which you can throw mud. You persistently cling to a false image, and then go so far as to condemn a man based on that. Your use of Matt 25 is telling since you apparently do not know a thing about Calvin’s private life, except for the bits either invented or distorted by his enemies. It also seems that his chief sin is not being a 21st century hipster Anabaptist. Lack of charity is lack of charity. Since you are so convinced of your own righteousness, and you insist on arguing with what you want me to be saying rather than what I have said I shall simply leave you to stew.

  • KonaGabe

    No, I rightly point out the flaws in Calvin’s misrepresentation of the Good News.

    I wish you would abandon Calvin’s slander of God’s love.

    I also don’t explain away history. Calvin was no Dietrich Bonhoeffer – who acted on the principles of the gospel and to called evil what it is – and paid dearly, while surrounded by fellow reformed teachers who were apathetic to evil.

    To hide behind 16th century societal norms is as pathetic of a defense of conquering under Constitine’s sword.

  • I’m not sure I’d call myself an open theist. I do believe in Grace, the church as Community, in fact I would go so far as to say it is only through Community that we can know God. The early Church knew and practiced community in a way that we no longer do.

  • John R Robison

    I’m not a Calvinist. I am a Church Historian who is tired of the self righteous (and despite your little pious turn at the end it’s essentially what it is) denunciation of a caricature. Then again, you are so assured of being on Gods side that nothing can assail your vincible ignorance. No doubt you will pounce on what you want me to be saying, rather than pay attention, so that you can parade your street cred.

  • BT

    Despite being a Reformed church member, I agree with you straight down the line on your complaints re: Calvinism. There’s much that I like about the Reformed “flavor”, but straight, uncut, no-chaser Calvinism is a tough hurdle to get past for thinking Christians. Like most theologies, it has elements of usefulness and a particular insight but falls apart when pushed too far.

    Thanks for the article, and thanks for not painting all Reformed as strict Calvinists.

    Oh – and to be clear – the Neo Reformed group drives me positively bonkers.

  • Tracy

    Adam can you please re phrase that? i am not understanding you. I didnt say everything is pre determined. In fact, if you read my responses you will see that I believe the opposite. Like I said.. Why pray? If everything is pre determined then what is the point?

  • Tracy

    It is interesting to note in scripture that God changes his mind, is open to our requests to alter things, and is disappointed. How can one be disappointed if one already knows, and indeed orchestrates the outcome? It appears that while some things are set in the future, there are some that are not but God knows each response we could make and has a plan for every response. God is far bigger than we imagine him to be I feel. That is open theism in a nutshell really. So you don’t agree with that? And yes, community was really noticeable around 2nd temple times, but don’t forget they met in houses and endured great persecution, so unity was enhanced. We are very detached and busy nowadays… and community is not high on our agendas. Then we wonder why people feel lonely and isolated. But i agree, the early church was strong on community and unity.

  • Proud Amelekite

    I have a weird sort of like for Calvinism. As a gay person, there is comfort in their doctrine that says I am what I am. Having chatted to one online before about it, the way she made it sound was something along the lines of “Hey, you were made for Hell. It is where you belong. You wouldn’t be happy living under my God anyways so, in the end, it all works out just like it is supposed to.”

    Considering the faux choice the other sects of Martin Luther often offer me (eg “Deny your heart, flee from love, change what you are, live a life ashamed of yourself, and die miserable and apart from the community and *maybe* God will deign to overlook what a disgusting, invalid thing you are and give you eternal life with the rest of us valid people. If you are lucky.”) I have a fondness of Calvinisms straight up “You are gay? Then you are doomed. Don’t feel bad – most people are doomed so you won’t go into the darkness alone. You were designed to be forsaken. That is your destiny. There is no other alternative and Christ died only for the chosen people, his sheep, and not the goats such as yourself so accept this as the truth and live your life as you will.”

    Once you accept that you are damned, it is liberating. Like being terrified in hospice but slowly realizing that it is what it is and that everyone will follow you into death sooner or later. If I am damned, God has no power to inspire fear in me. What can He do, send me to Hell twice? He has played his best hand.

    A somewhat Maltheistic view, I suppose, and not one I personally hold on spirituality, but more comforting than the alternate view of the “Roll your Dice and take your Chances” Salvation too, in an odd sort of way.

    Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Calvinism and know there are many types. If you are reading and a Calvinist then take what I say as a grain of salt from someone whose experience of your faith came from a practitioner and not one of your theologians or more intellectual speakers. Sorry if the words of the gal I talked to misrepresents you. I don’t judge the whole lot of you by it.

  • Kyle Wood

    Proverbs 12:16-“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”
    That’s very discouraging to see someone write a post about how to better understand God and then make an ass out of themselves in the comment section by being unnecessarily rude and sarcastic.

  • Gwyntaglaw

    Well, if that wasn’t the passive-aggressive putdown of the day, I don’t know what was.

  • Molly Griffith

    This piece from a commentary sums up my beliefs on prayer:
    The Scriptures that are interpreted as God seeming to change His mind are human attempts to explain the actions of God. God was going to do something, but instead did something else. To us, that sounds like a change. But to God, who is omniscient and sovereign, it is not a change. God always knew what He was going to do. God does what He needs to do to cause humanity to fulfill His perfect plan. “…declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure … What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10-11). God threatened Nineveh with destruction, knowing that it would cause Nineveh to repent. God threatened Israel with destruction, knowing that Moses would intercede. God does not regret His decisions, but He is saddened by some of what man sometimes does in response to His decisions. God does not change His mind but rather acts consistently with His Word in response to our actions

  • Chief End

    So you wouldn’t worship a god that flooded the Earth killing
    everyone except one chosen family? I also assume you wouldn’t worship a god that killed Egyptian children to free his chosen people. I have two children of my own, so I understand there’s a time when theology and real life collide. With that said, I would rather their salvation be in the hands of God than of their own decisions.

  • Chief End

    I’d also like to go a step further and say that reformed theology goes much deeper than the TULIP. There’s a lot to be said for understanding the role of the covenant family, which I’m confident you can research on your own as I don’t care to use a blog comments section to go into a game of scriptural volley ball.

  • Kyle Wood

    Saying exactly what I was thinking is passive aggressive? No. Alluding to something but not fully explaining is passive aggressive.

  • Nicholas

    The Apostle Paul wasn’t perfect. For most of his life he was a student of the Jewish law of Abraham( which was not based on love). Even after his conversion the cup of his mind was still filled with the old way. The Apostle Paul was a man struggling with deconstructing his previous beliefs with his new found beliefs. This is apparent in his writings. His epistles are not inerrant or infallible.

    About salvation. Didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus that salvation had come to his house after he agreed to pay people their money back? It wasn’t so much that he believed in Jesus but that he obeyed and followed His Way of life. Salvation is fixing things that are broken and healing broken things in this world. It is making the world a better place. This is why Jesus was always actively doing things. This is salvation. If you walk in love, then Christ is in you and there is no hell for you. If you believe in Jesus but don’t walk in love then ‘hell’ is in you already.

  • Lots of interesting comments. I’m not a Calvinist but I’m going to be as fair as possible. I used to be a soft Calvinist and don’t really have the baggage of it that Ben does.

    Where Ben maybe is arguably making a straw man:

    Limited Atonement. Of the TULIP, the L is the one most often rejected, which logically leads to universalism when you keep the rest (some just appeal to mystery and still aren’t universalists). I think Calvin himself probably would have rejected that but appealed to mystery for why some are therefore arbitrarily saved while others are not. They are usually considered Calvinists other than maybe by some extreme 5-point Calvinists.

    The Anger Fetish. Neo-Reformed leaders often have this, for sure, definitely a bunch of the most vocal leaders, but that’s a minority of the Reformed branch. Reformed theology does have the anger of God as a major presupposition for its theology, BUT most Reformed thinkers attempt to downplay this. Really that’s the opposite of a fetish: they will admit it’s there and important but want to avoid talking about it. The same could go for God’s “glee” at throwing some in Hell, although you are stuck with the logical question of why God would choose that if there wasn’t something in it for him.

    Some are thinking that Calvinism does not include predestination to Hell as well as predestination to Heaven. Aside from the logical problem – arbitrarily saving some while ignoring others is effectively the same as condemning those others – that just isn’t what the history says. This was actually a significant point of contention between Luther and Calvin that kept their movements from joining together. Luther wanted single predestination: the elect are arbitrarily saved and the rest go to Hell not by divine decree but by default and lack of election. Calvin insisted on double predestination: God chooses the fate for everyone on both sides. If forced between the two I’d actually opt for Calvin’s option; if you go as far as Luther than it just makes sense to call it what it is with God calling all the shots.

    Other than that, I think we’re really talking about a question of definition. Calvinism, like most other theological labels, means a variety of different things to different people. I find it helpful to separate the Reformed tradition as a broad movement and Calvinism as a theological system. Many in the Reformed tradition would call themselves Calvinist and even have TULIP in their church’s statement of faith but they’d predominately be Arminian. If we’re using this definition, Ben’s critiques obviously don’t apply. I have seen this in the debate quite a bit, where people who grew up Christian Reformed or Presbyterian – groups that at least in Canada are more likely to be Arminian – contend that they’ve been straw-manned when in reality they are of the Reformed tradition but don’t believe in Calvinism proper. The same is true for any denominational tradition, really, as they all evolve and change.

    Typically, though, at least the Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints are considered to be “Calvinism.” Those 4 or 5 points of Calvinism as a theological system seem to be the bulk of what Ben is criticizing as they make God very arbitrary and probably downright evil.
    Maybe to avoid confusion Ben should have labelled this “angry neo-Calvinism” as opposed to just Calvinism, but with the two exceptions I noted above, I think he’s using it correctly.

  • And I believe that was Adam’s point. If everything is predetermined (your question), then why breath? Just because God knows the outcome doesn’t make your choices meaningless. What you do or do not do has real consequences on what happens next, but no matter what you choose, that is what God planned on happening.
    So, if everything is predetermined, why breath? Because by breathing you will continue to live (or did God give you that breath you just took?)
    And if everything is predetermined, why pray? Because by praying you will bring about very real results (or is God bringing those things about through your prayer?)
    Also, what (or more properly, who) is God? Is God an idea that we can fiddle with and change as we so desire? Is God a vending machine that we come to and push the right buttons and out pops the things we like, want, or need? Or is God a personal being who creates, loves, and dies for that creation?
    If God is a personal being, then we can’t create Him into what we want Him to be or worship Him only if He fits our criteria. If we do that, then we’re creating our own image of God rather than worshiping the God that is.
    So why pray? Because you love God and want to know Him, be known by Him, and lead others to know Him. That is the greatest aim we can have in life. If we pray simply to receive good things, I fear we have missed the purpose of prayer.
    Sorry…I ended up saying a whole lot more there than I was planning on.

  • But what if God is infinitely wise? This author states that they could not worship God if their daughter were tormented in Hell by God’s authority, but what if in that moment they realized that God had a perfect plan and there was no other way for this to all take place?
    If you look at any one characteristic of who God is completely separate from all the others He will always look distorted and gross, but when you consider all of them working together you realize that God isn’t an idea that we can finagle with until it is swallowable, God is a person with a character that is perfect and flawless. A person whom we can approach but never understand, whom we can love only because He has first loved us, a person we can know and be known by on a very intimate level, but never a person that we can change.
    At least that’s how I’ve come to know God through Scripture and His Spirit.

  • R Vogel

    I’m not sure that I buy that predestination was a part of Jewish soteriology and the statement that the Jewish Law was not based on love stands in direct contradiction to Jesus’ quoting of Leviticus and Deuteronomy for the 2 greatest commandments ‘in the Law.’ (Matt 22:37-40) I don’t view any part of the Bible as inerrant or infallible. I was interested in how Ben deals with the tension – I assume he is less inclined to simply dismiss the writings of Paul.

  • Scott Miller

    The problem with Calvinism is that it’s based on rationalism, or the concept that the logic of the fallen human mind trumps the teaching of Scripture. The problem with Arminianism is that it’s a rationalistic rejection of Calvin’s rationalism. Try reading the pre-Calvin writers, especially Luther’s and Melanthon’s writings. There’s more to Christianity and Protestantism than the train wreck that begins with Calvin’s Institutes. (I have yet to figure out the great attraction to a theology written by a lawyer anyway).

  • Madame George

    If god created a determinist Universe, one in which there is no human free will, then Calvinism is slightly less crazy than the other Christian theologies which necessitate the existence of free will. Free will, of course, does not exist in our universe. Yet that is not proof in anyway for a Calvinist god.

  • I’m convinced that if Calvinism didn’t exist, atheists would invent it. Its doctrines seem tailor-made to generate the whole ‘All Powerful God Who Creates Suffering’ fallacy.

  • frjohnmorris

    What most commentators on Calvinism do not seem to realize that the vast majority of the world’s Christians reject Calvinism. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches reject Calvinism for the flaws that are mentioned by Mr. Corey as do many Evangelical Protestants especially those influenced by John Wesley. One point in which I disagree with Mr. Corey is that it is the Incarnation that is God’s greatest act of love for humanity. The Cross is only part of our salvation. The deification of humanity by the Incarnation and the deification of the human nature of Christ is what saves us. In Christ God assumed all that is human and reunited it to God. Defeating the power of sin and death was only part of this process that begain when the Archangel Gabriel spoke to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Calvin’s doctrine of salvation was not only faulty. His Christology was Nestorian.

  • frjohnmorris

    You totally misunderstand grace. Grace is not “unmerited favor,” but is Communion with God. Through Communion with God we are able to cooperate with God for our salvation. It is not either us or God. It is us cooperating or synergizing with God that saves us through Christ. It is mostly God, but we must be willing to be saved. We can either accept or reject God’s grace. God does not force Himself on anyone. Nor is God a sadistic monster who sends people to Hell “for His good pleasure,” as some Calvinists put it. The doctrine of the Limited Atonement is clearly un Biblical as are all other decisions of the Synod of Dort’s 5 point TULIP Calvinism.

  • Michael Stauffer

    I have been a Christian for about 33 years and have puposely steered clear of identying myself with any specific “type” or “style” or “subset” of Christianity. when asked what “type of Christian I am, I simply say “Christian”. I have consciously avoided being pulled into or “subscribing” to the tenets of any one movement or theology withing Christianity. I am a sinner, I need forgivemensss, Christ dies for my sins, I love hima nd am grateful for his death and resurrection, I trust fully in him to save me, and I believe he wants all to come to him and recive his forgiveness. Thats it…. simple and straightforward. I get a kick out of how some people are not satisfied with that. They wan to know “Are you Calvinist” or “Armenian” or “Evangelical” or “Pentecostal” etc.? To which I smile and say “I am a Christian and love God”.
    :-)

  • frjohnmorris

    One Bible verse demolishes the whole Calvinist system. Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Predestination is merely the Bible’s way to refer to God’s foreknowledge. God knows how we will use our free will, but He does not force us to respond or reject the Gospel. St. Paul deals with non-Christians in Romans 1 in which he essentially states that they will be saved by what they know that the person trying to serve God to the best of their ability will be saved by Christ.

  • frjohnmorris

    As I have already pointed out above, you neglect to mention the verse just before Romans 8:30. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..” Romans 8:29 God knows how we will use our free will and has predestined those He knows will correctly use their free will to salvation. Calvinists are very good at taking verses out of context to proof text their beliefs. However, when one looks at the entire New Testament, Calvinism falls apart if for no other reason than it contradicts the primary teaching of the New Testament that “God is love.” I John 4:8. The God of Calvinism is not a God of love but is mean and vengeful.

  • frjohnmorris

    You should be uncomfortable that God does not desire that all be saved, because it directly contradicts the New Testament.

    I Timothy 2:4 clearly states that God ” desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

  • frjohnmorris

    That is the one of many major problems with Calvinism, it is an vain effort to understand the mysteries of God with the human mind. The human mind is too limited to understand the mysteries of the infinite God.
    I also have another theory about Calvinism. Calvin suffered from chronic kidney stones. As one who is suffering from a kidney stone, I can understand why one would have a pessimistic view of God and everything else.

  • CatoTheYounger

    All things considered, speaking as a Catholic here, Predestination is undoubtedly one of the most wretched and malicious doctrines ever devised in the mind of man, and with it, any nominal “Christianity” becomes something else entirely; judgmental self righteous amoral hypocrisy that is in clear contradiction with Gospel message.
    It’s been one of the ideological plagues of Christianity, even when it is put forth by good men, from Augustine down through Calvin to todays fundamentalists.
    Thank You Benjamin for shedding some light on this! Though I am sure Calvinism, like all religions, has things to recommend it as well.

  • Tracy

    Hmm. Either way we look at it, i guess we are interpreting it thru human eyes. I guess its one of those things we hold lightly. I do believe tho, that to have free will, we must be able to make a free choice. And prayer is part of that. If I believed that everything was going to happen a certain way, then why would I pray? What difference would it make. But I pray believing it can change things, within the mix of all that God is doing. Which is sometimes why it get answered a certain way, and other times it doesn’t. Its like… if you and me both prayed for a fine day on Sat, but someone else was praying for rain. Who wins? Who is God going to answer. I believe he answers all of us, but within what happens is his over all plan and purpose. Its not that my prayer didn’t count, but I trust that in the bigger plan, someone else s prayer for rain was part of a different plan that over-road my own in importance. I can cope with that. And when I am praying for someone with cancer say – and they don’t get healed, I have to go down the same path. God heard me, but for some reason something else too importance over my prayers for that person’s life. Make sense? But God always hears our prayers and responds. Just not in the way we want sometimes.

  • Tracy

    That’s fine. What you said was good. Praying to know God better is very important of course. And like Molly said, it will change us. But part of prayer is to change circumstances and help good to triumph over evil. That is the bigger picture. We fight not against flesh and blood…. To me, if God knows only one outcome, then it is pointless praying. I believe that there has to be various outcomes! And God knows them all. If we truly are free to make choices, then there has to be more than one outcome! Knowing I am free to choose is what makes everything more exciting and makes me more human. I am not a pre programmed robot – no matter how good, in your mind, that might be. The thought that everything is pre programmed make me want to curl up and die now. I am just going tho the motions till I get to be with Jesus. God is not that boring. Been there, done that way of thinking and my life is far more exciting with God now and I am far more likely to reach out and changing things knowing i can!

  • Tracy

    Oh my goodness do you have children to say that? Are you happy to have your daughter tormented in hell just to fit in with God’s plans? That is horrendous thinking! I am sorry if that is harsh, but that seems to be what you are saying. The only reason i could perhaps live with my children not being with me in the next life, is if they had chosen of their own volition not to be there! I would struggle to worship a god who sent my children to Hell. Why did he create them in the first place? When I look at Jesus i see God coming to our abode to rescue all of us. That is what scripture says. God, by dying has forgiven ALL men. It was something that he did, weather we all wanted it or not. We now have that choice to accept that forgiveness, or reject it. No one goes to hell anymore for sin, it is for rejecting the way that God made possible for us to be saved. Christ.

  • Gracewriterrandy

    You are exactly right. C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “What a wonderful deed has been made by some men in burning figures of their own stuffing. How earnestly do they set themselves to confute what no one defends.” It might have been a good idea for the author to have studied the issue a bit before writing the article. Additionally, a smattering of biblical exegesis in place of his two or three out of context proof-texts might have been helpful. What a shame ignorance isn’t painful.

  • BigDutchman

    All Calvinists believe that God predestines people to heaven. Some Calvinists believe that God predestines people to hell.

  • Excellent post Benjamin but I don’t think it goes far enough to expose the more popular Christian teaching that anyone goes to hell to suffer forever. The arguments you make against Calvinism apply to that general belief as well: God just isn’t like that and the bible doesn’t teach that He’s like that, though I do agree that the idea that God picked people to end up in eternal torment is particularly sickening and those who promote it are sick in the head.

  • “When faced with a choice, we will choose evil” – Nonsense. The bible teaches no such thing.

  • Yes but let’s be more accurate: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” does not equal ” they are predestined to salvation. This verse teaches that those whom he foreknew to be saved he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is what it says, no? Being conformed to the image of Christ is a life-long process and salvation is only the first step.

  • Yes and any doctrine that makes God out to be a monster (as Calvinism does) should be rejected on that basis because we know from our experience of God and from the revelation of God in the scriptures that he is not a monster but a God of love and justice.

  • “Of course, the concept of predestination is not to separate the sheep from the goats, as it were, but to understand that there is nothing we can do outside of God’s divine will.” – Nothing could be further from the truth. Predestination is God deciding what our destiny is once we have decided who is going to be our Lord. God has chosen our destiny to be Christlikeness. Those whom he he foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. Isn’t that what the bible says?

  • “now we are left with the equally unsettling notion that God created some of us already knowing we would not choose Him.” That’s not as equally unsettling as the notion that God chose someone for eternal suffering but you are assuming that conscious eternal suffering is the result of those who reject God. God is not a monster and does not do this. You need to re-examine your underlying presuppositions about what happens to the unsaved. The bible says the wages of sin is death. Not eternal conscious torment. Think about it.

  • JD

    Your assumption in asking the question about ‘why pray’ seems to me flawed. It seems you assume prayer is to ‘get things’ (and these things could be good such as healing for others! peace among nations, etc) rather than a chosen method of God to develop relationship with Him, grow in Him and be transformed in the renewing of your mind in that communion.

  • Touma

    Why is it automatically Pelagian or Calvinism? Those aren’t the only two options, you know.

    But, then again, only a Calvinist deals in absolutes.

  • Touma

    The most disgusting aspect of your first point is when you ask WHY God chooses some to Heaven, and others to Hell. If they are on the less sociopathic side of things, they will say something along the lines of “Because God works in mysterious ways”. But the truly sick people believe that the torture of billions of souls in the eternal lake of fire gives GLORY to God. It gives Him pleasure. In their minds, Hell and Salvation are equally gratifying to God. To me, that would also beg the question, why not save/condemn everyone is they are equally gratifying and glorifying to God?

    There seems to be no basis for election by God, in their theology. God is chaotic and just picks whomever, because He wants to get glory from people burning forever.

    Calvinism: Not Even Once.

  • Mark Jordan

    Hell is bogus. It’s a Norse goddess. The Word should not appear in our Bible. People equate all kinds of things — outer darkness, the lake of fire, Gehenna, hades — with this place but they’re wrong to.

    John 3:16 clearly shows the two possible outcomes for the human who believes or doesn’t: eternal life versus perishing. Perishing is the second death. It’s the death of the soul, as can be seen by its disappearance in Eccleiastes 12 where the body goes to the grave, the spirit back to God, and the soul … Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.

  • keith drevets

    I have really enjoyed this discussion as it covers a lot of points I have been wrestling with since I came to Christ !7 years ago. From a human standpoint Calvinism seems very unfair to those who are not called. My response would be two fold. First, the fact is we are all worthy of condemnation. The fact that God saves some is an act of undeserved mercy, Second, regardless of our opinion about it, Scripture seems very clear that our faith is as Ephesions 2:8-9 teaches, a gift from God.

    I have been studying the upper room teachings of Jesus and again and again he repeats that he chose us vs we chose him. (John 15:16, 15:19,17:2,17:6)

    Paul discusses election in several passages notably in Ephesians 1:3-10. Still, I think the defining passage, which seems irrefutable to me, is Romans 9:14-24. How can anyone read this and argue both that the Bible is God’s truth and that this passage does not indicate that a person’s salvation is totally up to God, not the individual?

    One thing I find fascinating about the age old debate is that even the most die hard Arminian will admit he was dragged into the Kingdom despite himself. I was a poster child for the scoffer who thought the message of the Cross was foolishness. Then things started happening in my life to lead me to truth that once seemed preposterous, but now seemed like wisdom. I was totally incapable of discerning this wisdom until God chose to reveal it to me. It seems clear to me that we are all just as lost as I was until we are shown the light, we don’t find it ourselves, we are shown it. Unfortunately, the reverse must also be true, if a person is not shown the light, he will never find it.

  • Patrick Leduc

    Seems somewhat clear to me: Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

    The problems with most folks is their view of the devastating nature of just one sin in the eyes of God. We too often view sin through our fallen eyes, diminishing it, as though we should appoint ourselves as God, and declare ourselves smarter and greater than God, and suggest/demand, that NO loving God would condemn those who reject Christ to eternal hell….as though we ourselves, in our own sin nature, would know anything about the nature of sin itself, and what one sin deserves (eternal hell).

    So allow me to put it into perspective. We are ALL principals with Adam in every sin ever committed throughout all history and for all time by all people every where. If you have sinned just ONCE, then you are a principal in your guilt with every sin ever committed by everyone throughout all history. Therefore, you, me, anyone reading this…your sin is equal in the eyes of God with the sins of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot…the plague, every disease, every murder, every rape from this fallen world, where because of Adam’s one sin, death entered the world. For it was Adam’s sin that brought death into the World, and we are all sinners, fallen, and all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. Consider Romans 5:12 and 15 ” 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”

    So those who have refused to accept Christ as both Lord and Savior stand before God in their sin, to reap the penalty for their rejection of Christ. (Romans 1: 20 “20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”). We can trust that God is just and holy and wise, and that the punishment for those who reject Christ will fit how they lived their lives on this earth, but the fact remains that heaven awaits ONLY those who have accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior. “For I am the way, the truth and the Life; no one comes to the father but by me!” (John 14:6).

    Funny thing about God’s word. You can learn much by simply reading and dwelling on it…(Proverbs 30:5 ” “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”.) For those who have Christ, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand how clear and certain His word is. These debates, therefore, seem quite humorous in the ignorance that is spewed by many who are fumbling around for God’s truth, which is easily found in the scriptures…Just open the word…Romans is always a good starting point!

  • cken

    And herein lies the pox on Christianity which could lead to it’s demise. The dogma of man has become more important than the teachings of Jesus. This is not new. The apostle Paul warned early churches of the same. Our man made organizations have become more important than the true church. Is it any wonder the number of SBNRs is increasing. Many of them are seeking truth and understanding. Organized religion is enforcing rules and spouting platitudes to support their dogma – truth be damned.

  • Tracy

    Like I said previously, its the Holy Spirits job to transform my mind, and praying is but one medium to do that. If we take the Lords Prayer to be a good model for prayer – praising God, asking for our needs, being aware of the Evil one standing against him in prayer – there are many reasons for prayer. My question was: why pray to change things, if everything is already set and we cannot change anything? That was my question. Not why we pray.

  • Nicholas

    So you believe the Jewish law was based on love? Is that why Moses commanded the murder of men,woman and children? According the old testament it was ok to rape and murder, commit genocide, display heads that had been cut off, kill people with rocks for making a mistake and murdering everyone in your path that didn’t bow down to you. Does this sound like “love your neighbor as yourself?”How about when Moses came down off the mountain and commanded everyone to murder their friends and neighbors(exodus 32:37). Sounds a lot like love to me.

    You don’t view the Bible as inerrant or infallible because you have been brainwashed to ignore the fact that the Bible was written by 40 different authors, none of them perfect. The Bible while inspired and utterly important to humanity is in no way perfect. Christ however, the Living Word, is.

  • Molly Griffith

    Tracy, your question: “If I believed that everything was going to happen a certain way, then why would I pray? What difference would it make.”

    Thing is, you DON’T know how it would happen. Only God knows. That’s precisely why we pray. As we pray, the Holy Spirit brings our desires in line with God’s desires.

    Esther 4:14 – “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

    The big question from this passage is WHO KNOWS? God knows! So, we pray and trust Him for the best outcome!

  • Molly Griffith

    With all due respect, Ben, as I read through your article, I see a lot of “I think” and “I feel”, but very little scripture.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I have a lot of grace for people like Mr. Corey and most of those who reject Calvinism. It can be hard to understand the doctrines of Grace. He clearly has “misunderstood” them. The Calvinism he attacks is very much a straw man. I can agree that God loves all Mankind. But does he really love Mankind more than anything else? Clearly not even the Arminian thinks that! They believe that God loves this idea or property called “free will” more than he loves man. He loves “free will” so much that he gives it to man knowing that it will cause most of them to be in hell. God choose free will OVER man. How is that better? How is that Biblical?

    (1) I [as a Calvinist] can say that God loves every person. (2) God shows his love for every person by giving them life and a host of comforts during life. (3) I can also say that God does not love every person MORE THAN all other things; in other words, Mankind is not the thing that God loves the most. (4) God loves goodness, justice, and his own glory more than he loves man. (5) Accordingly, God chooses to demonstrate his goodness, justice, and his own glory by judging some men for their sins. (6) God also loves mercy and grace. (7) Accordingly, God gives MUCH mercy and grace to all men during this life and he gives ULTIMATE mercy and grace to other men by saving them and preserving them forever.

    Both sides can say that God loves Mankind. Neither side can say that God loves Mankind more than all other things. God chooses “something” over eternal communion with all mankind; either “free will” or “justice, goodness, and his sovereign plan”. I find no warrant for God choosing “free will” over man in the Bible. I find ample warrant for God choosing justice and goodness… and his own sovereign plans… over mankind in the Bible.

  • Brent Stanfield

    tmarsh0307 – But the answer to these two questions is more complicated than that. Yes, God loves all people; but not more than anything else. No, God does not act beneficently on behalf of all people for their good. Some people, many people, God judges and punishes eternally. That is not to their benefit.

  • Brent Stanfield

    frjohnmorris – Communion with God is unmerited. As you say, “through Communion with God we are able to cooperate”. I agree. If God does not commune with us then we are unable to cooperate. Calvinism doesn’t reject cooperation. It affirms it. But it recognizes that cooperation can’t happen unless God makes the first step. We become “willing to be saved” because God makes us willing. Left to ourselves we always “reject God’s grace”. But when God makes us willing we always accept it. God chooses who he will make willing.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Romans 8:30 and Romans 9 preclude your use of Romans 8:29 in this way. Both Calvinism and Arminianism recognize that God must “foreknow” before he predestines. Romans 8:30 says: those whom he predestined HE ALSO called, and those whom he called HE ALSO justified, and those whom he justified HE ALSO glorified. God does ALL of the work here. In Romans 9 it is clear that God chooses not according to what man wills or does but based on what God alone wills.

  • Brent Stanfield

    How can someone who is “totally depraved” accept an invitation to salvation. Yes, I would call believing on Christ a work. John 6:28-29 make that clear. Also, remember the imagery that Paul uses in Ephesians 2; you were dead in sins in trespasses. We are not just hanging from a cliff. We have fallen to the bottom. We don’t just need a “hand up”. We need a resurrection. Reread Ephesians 2.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes. That is not a flaw. God has chosen not to reveal himself to many in the same way he has chosen to reveal himself to the elect. God spoke to Abraham not Hammurabi. Christ appeared to Paul in his resurrection glory not Caiaphas. God has changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. He has not done so for everyone. Accordingly, many will continue in the way that they are and receive justice. By God’s grace, I will receive grace and mercy ultimately. I am very grateful for that.

  • frjohnmorris

    No one is totally depraved. The Bible teaches that all are sinners. It does not teach total depravity. Despite our sins, we are still created in the Image of God. No sin is so great that it can destroy the Image of God. The Incarnate Christ is of one essence with the Father in His divine nature, but He is also of one essence with humanity in His human nature. Because by its union with the divine nature the human nature of Christ is deified. The deification of the human nature of Christ makes it possible for us who are human to respond to God’s offer of salvation.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    God made the first step in the Incarnation. Through the Incarnation, God has reached out to all humanity to offer them salvation. Because of his Nestorian Christology, which denied the essential doctrine of the communication of attributes, Calvin did not fully understand the meaning of the Incarnation. By sending Christ, God has acted first and took the initiative for salvation, which He offers to all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16. Notice that the text states that God loved the world, not just the few lucky ones chosen to be predestined to salvation.
    The doctrine of total depravity and inherited guilt is un-Biblical. It comes from the incorrect Latin translation of Romans 5:12 that Augustine read. The actual Greek text reads, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…” However, the incorrect Latin translation upon which Augustine based his doctrine of total depravity and inherited guilt read, “Wherefore as by one man
    sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon
    all men, in whom all have sinned.” But, we did not all sin in Adam. We inherit the consequences of Adam’s sins, the chief of which is mortality, not the guilt. Because we are mortal we are corrupted and sin earning our own guilt. Even after the Fall, God did not forsake humanity. God continued to speak with Adam, and through the Prophets.

    We are all sinners, but we are still created in the Image of God. That Image may be distorted by our sins, but it can never be completely destroyed. One aspect of the Image of God in man is free will. Because God has acted first through the Incarnation, we can use our free will to respond to God’s offer of salvation through Christ.

    You do not understand, communion with God is grace. Grace is not a created thing or an attitude of God towards the believer, like undeserved merit or unmerited favor, as Calvinists define grace. God is a real experience of God because grace is an uncreated and fully divine energy of God flowing from his essence, just as light flows from the Sun.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Seán Vrieland

    I would say Romans 3 sums it up fairly well

  • Brent Stanfield

    I agree that God acted in the Incarnation. But I believe we were discussing cooperation between the individual and God. God acts first there also by making a person willing to believe. As Ephesians 2 puts it: We were dead. Walking according to the ways of our father Satan. BUT GOD… being rich in mercy… raised us to life. God took the first step by raising his elect to life so that they could have faith.

    Are you absolutely sure the image of God can never be destroyed? Even the sinner who is actually punished by God for eternity bears his image? In what way? How do you define free will and what is your biblical referent for it being part of the “Image of God”.

    I don’t understand the distinctions you are making regarding grace. I understand grace to be the “bestowing of a gift”. By grace I have existence. By grace I have life. By grace I have comfort. By grace I have my faith. By grace I have justification. By grace I will have glorification one day. God has given me these things. Who or what gave the to you? Did you merit them?

  • Seán Vrieland

    There was no purposeful “neglect” of the preceding verse, nor was I attempting to take it out of context. In fact, I would argue that verse 29 only strengthens the argument. I understand your point on “foreknew” being, essentially, “those whom He knew would choose Him”, and find it quite well argued.

    Of course, the love of God is expressed beautifully in Galatians 3: “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has also made you an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?” (7-9a)

  • Brent Stanfield

    How do you deal with Romans 3:10-12? Are we not part of the fallen humanity who has all gone astray? How do you deal with Romans 8:5-8? Were we not all formerly in the flesh? How do you deal with Ephesians 2:1-3? Did we not all walk according to the ways of our father Satan at some point? Is that not the heart of total depravity?

    Without getting too deep into your Christological statements; suppose it is only “possible” for the person to respond to God’s offer of salvation. Why do some respond positively and others negatively? What makes the difference ultimately? Why did Abraham follow God but not Hammurabi? Why Paul and not Caiaphas? Why Moses and not Pharaoh?

  • Sean Rom. 3 does not teach “total depravity,” which says men are incapable of making a decision for God unless God gives them that ability and was chosen by God for that. You should reject any interpretation of Rom. 3 that makes God out to be a sadistic monster and rather seek to find another interpretation. What you are seeing in Rom. 3 is what’s called “hyperbole”, which is defined as “exaggeration for effect.” It is no more literal than “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood to have life in you.”

  • frjohnmorris

    I put the verses you have cited in their proper context with the rest of the New Testament. Roman 8 is a meditation by St. Paul on why the Jews rejected Christ. Calvin takes it out of its context. God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was already hardened, so He used his hardened heart to serve His purpose. God did not make Pharaoh evil. He was evil by the misuse of his free will.
    Why some people accept the Gospel and some reject it is that some use their free will to accept Christ and others use their free will to reject Him. Why is a mystery that we cannot understand with limited human reason.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Your reply doesn’t address Romans 3 or Ephesians 2. Even if Romans eight only deals with the Jews, and I don’t see anywhere in the verses where that is indicated, then Ephesians 2 certainly addresses gentiles. You seem to think that free will is some kind of escape hatch. But what is free will exactly? If we have it, didn’t we get it from God? Didn’t he give it to us knowing that we would misuse it? You might not understand why some people choose God and others do not but do you believe it’s understandable at all? Does God understand it?

  • Brent Stanfield

    I am curious as to how the answer to those questions about what happens to Jews in the holocaust and infants would make you change your mind on Calvinism. Calvinism seems to me to be the only hope for infants as they must be saved apart from their own “free will” decisions. In other words, in order for infants to be saved they must be elect. As for Jews in the holocaust, how is the answer different outside of Calvinism?

  • Brent Stanfield

    If you are truly a Calvinist then you don’t think this is a game. There is no “rigging”. This universe has always been from the outset a demonstration of God’s fundamental goodness, power, and glory and both the election and reprobation will demonstrate different aspects of God’s goodness, power, and glory. Whether God’s goodness abounds ultimately to MY benefit is left up to God’s grace.

  • Tracy

    ok so if we think about that…. that we don’t know the outcome but God does. How is that different from what I am saying? I am saying the same thing, with the added thought that there may be many outcomes, but through my free will and actions and prayer, I am bringing into line one of those outcomes. And God knows them all.

  • frjohnmorris

    Yes we got free will from God when He created us in His Image. God knows why some people reject His offer of grace, but you and I do not because we are mere humans. What we do know is that God sent His Only Begotten Son go save all who believe in Him. We also know that the entire New Testament is filled with the call for us to respond to God’s offer of salvation. Calvinism takes a few verses out of context and completely misinterprets them. Ephesians 2 states that God is the author of our salvation. It says nothing that contradicts thew doctrine of free will. You still do not understand, God has acted first through the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the key to the whole thing. That is why Calvinism is so far off base, because Calvin did not understand the Incarnation and taught a Nestorian like doctrine. Once again, in Jesus Christ there is one person with two natures. The divine nature is of one essence with God the Father. The human nature is of one essence with us. By its union with the divine nature, the human nature is deified. This is the patristric doctrine of the Communication of Attributes. Just as the sin of Adam passed to all men, the deification of the human nature has passed to all men through which, we may accept God’s grace, which is not undeserved merit, but actual Communion with God. Christ died for all humans and offers all humans salvation. Our Lord said, “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32. St. John wrote, “and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Notice that neither Our Lord nor St. John said “for the elect,:” but for all. I could go on all day quoting verses that disprove Calvinism.

    Let me put it this way, if I believed that Calvinism were right, I would not be a Christian, because the God of Calvinism is not worthy of worship. He would be worthy of contempt because He is an unjust and vengeful God, not the God of love portrayed in the New Testament. But I know that Calvin was wrong and that his portrayal of God is totally false. Open your eyes, liberate yourself from the heretical teachings of John Calvin and come and bask in the light of the Gospel of the love of God. I have not minced any words, because I believe that of all the heresies ancient and modern one of the worst, if not the worst is Calvinism because it completely distorts the Gospel.

  • Molly Griffith

    What if God had a chosen family in eternity past and, before the foundation of the world, wrote those family members names down in the book of life. (Rev. 13:8) Then, after his family members chose – with their free will – the enemy over their Father/Creator, God redeemed (bought back) them. To buy back implies prior ownership. Jesus calls his own and they know his voice. (John 10:4) No one comes to Jesus except by the Father drawing them (John 6:44), and no one can be reconciled to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6). If God doesn’t redeem someone, it’s because they were not his to redeem. Some tares were sown by the enemy and they cannot hear the Good Shepherd, Jesus’ voice because they don’t belong to the Father and never did and never will. (Matt. 13:39) “I never knew you – not at any time.” When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God did not give them a choice to be saved or not. He told them he would send a Redeemer, and He did. When the prodigal son rebelled against his father, he remained the son and the father remained the father. God’s children have free will to obey or disobey their Father; but just as we cannot choose our earthly father, we cannot choose our Heavenly Father.

  • StevenLong

    So in Exodus 4:21 when God told Moses, before Moses went back to Egypt, that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart is out of context how…?

    And please explain how Romans 8 is referring to the Jews when Paul begins by stating “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

    Are the Jews the only ones in Christ?

  • StevenLong

    So what about the people who go to Hell that have never even heard the Name of Jesus? Where in Scripture does it say that God acts beneficially for all people on behalf of their good? And please keep in mind the first part of this question

  • StevenLong

    Can you please show us Biblically that grace is not unmerited favor? and that grace is actually communion with God? I think you would be very hard-pressed to find a Biblical solution for that

  • Brent Stanfield

    frjohnmorris – I would not expect you to mince words. This is an important topic. If I am wrong I want to know. However, I am not sure you understand the God taught in Calvinism. He certainly isn’t unfair. He certainly isn’t unloving.

    For example, he isn’t unjust. Either he gives people what they deserve [i.e. justice] or he gives them mercy, grace, and unmerited favor. He isn’t unloving either. He loves himself perfectly [as he should because he is goodness]. He loves Christ. He loves justice and righteousness. He loves his creation. He loves his plan and his purpose. He even loves man… a mankind that sins continually. A mankind that hates God and hates righteousness. A mankind that loves itself. A mankind that prefers darkness and evil to light and goodness. Yes, God loves that mankind too. God proves his love by giving to all mankind common grace such as life, the comfort of friends, food, air to breath, comfort, and a host of other goods that we take for granted moment for moment. But at the end of the day, God loves justice and goodness more than he loves mankind. Accordingly, God will judge mankind and give them justice… UNLESS, he gives some… those whom he chooses, saving grace. This is more than mere common grace. Yes, the God preached in Calvinism is very much a loving God even if you cannot see it.

    I do not see how your Christological views change anything. You seem to be indicating that because human nature was somehow deified that humans can somehow choose to accept Christ or reject him. Even if that were true… even if that was truly how it worked… and I don’t think you are right… how does that change the issue? On what basis does a person… now deified… make this decision to accept or reject Christ? Why do some deified persons accept him and others reject him? If those who reject him go on to eternal punishment… does that mean the divine is then punished since those humans are now deified? Is God punishing himself? What of those who came before Christ; before the deification of the human nature? Are they deified in retrospect? It all sounds very confusing.

    Let me ask it this way. Is it ever effective to pray and ask God to change the heart of a person, to make them see the Gospel, to pray that they come to know him? Can God do that? Can he have an effect on whether a person chooses him? If it is, if God can have an effect, and if he loves us… then why wouldn’t he always do it under your view? Is God not effective at converting hearts? You said that God understands why some accept him and others reject him… why doesn’t he ensure that he brings about the circumstances that would cause everybody to repent and believe? Is he powerless to do it? Or might he have other purposes?

    Finally, yes I agree that the Bible calls for us to respond to God’s command to repent and believe and that all who do believe will be saved. The question we are asking is who will repent and believe? Christ makes it clear in John 10:10-14 that he came to die for his sheep and that his sheep hear his voice. In John 6:37, Jesus makes it clear that all who the father give to him will come to him. In 6:44 he makes it clear that no-one can come to him unless the father draws him and that all who the father draws will be raised up on the last day. The elect hear Christ’s voice and respond. I can agree that Christ died for the whole world in a sense. But in a very special sense he died to save his elect specifically.

  • Justin Hoke

    May God graciously use this gospel message to bring you to himself. http://youtu.be/nO-rNeQe_Go

  • StevenLong

    Matthew 22:14 – Many are called but few are chosen.

    This parable deals with entrance into the Kingdom of God. BTW, please don’t try to pass that passage off as the “many” being the Jews. That’s way out of context.

    I also noticed that his arguments were all grounded in emotionalism rather than the text of Scripture itself.

  • StavinChain

    That is quite fascinating, Susan. The Churches of Christ are highly Arminian in their theology, and reject practically all parts of Calvinistic concepts in regard to salvation. The more conservative teachers of that brotherhood (sadly, I must add) tend to focus more on a legalism that often appears to downplay the concept of grace, and of John’s understanding of the continued cleansing of the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). But for whatever reason you were driven away from the body of Christ, I am happy that you have found your faith in the Lord again.

  • frjohnmorris

    I do not have to. The Holy Tradition of the Church defines grace as Communion with God. Specifically the council that endorsed the theology of St. Gregory Palamas in 1351. I am not a Protestant. I do not believe in solo scriptura. I believe in Holy Tradition, only one manifestation of which is the Bible. Before you start lecturing me on human traditions. What are the writings of John Calvin, the decisions of the Synod of Dort, or the Reformed Confessions but Reformed tradition. The difference is that our Holy Tradition goes all the way back in an unbroken line back to the Apostles and that it is our Holy Tradition that gave you the Holy Scriptures. The Reformed tradition goes back to John Calvin. Where do you get your definition of grace as “unmerited favor,” “or undeserved merit.” Do you know that the word “merit” is not in the entire Bible? You follow the traditions of a man. We follow the Holy Tradition from the Apostles.

  • Kenneth Vendler

    Having read this post, it seems like it could have been taken part and parcel from a myriad of other anti-Calvinism screeds I have read before. It certainly shares a lot in common with them: poor understanding of the tension between God’s infallible decree and the volition of His Creatures, a paucity of any citation from primary sources such as the Reformed confessions themselves, and any meaningful interaction with Calvinism itself.

    Rather, what is presented is a strawman that the author bravely knocks over and over which declares himself the victor. I’d encourage anyone wanting to learn more about Reformed theology to read the things the Reformers themselves actually wrote. A good place to start would be:

    The Three Forms of Unity, which include The Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Synod of Dordt

    The Westminster Standards, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms

    The Second Helvetic Confession

    Some excellent guides in reading through this documents would be Michael Horton’s works such as “For Calvinism”, “Recovering the Reformed Confessions” by R. Scott Clark, and “The Creedal Imperative” by Carl Trueman. James White also has an excellent book entitled, “The Potter’s Freedom.”

  • Riley

    #1 is not a good sign re: being regenerate.

  • Riley

    This whole article can be fixed with Ctrl H: [Find:] Calvinism [Replace With:] Arminianism.

  • Riley

    Hmmmm. Jesus and Paul disagree with you.

  • Brilliant point. I forgot the latter teaches double predestination.

  • Seán Vrieland

    There seems to be a constant focus on the “sadistic” view of God according to people’s supposed perceptions of Calvinism, yet this goes against exactly what I said in my very first comment: Calvinism is not about God’s sadism, it’s about God’s faithfulness. It is not about “being cut from the team,” it’s about being called to a team which we in no way could deserve nor could ever attain on our own.

    By humankind’s first sin humankind was cursed to sin. If you look at the Hebrew text in Proverbs 10:16, for example, you read “The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.” The last word (which translates to “sin and death” in this English translation) is chatta’ath, which means both “sin” and “punishment for sin.” What is the curse of sin? More sin. And death. And separation from God.

    And yet we have a God who has called us out the fire, pulled us out of the pit, and has adopted us to be His children. Notice how often the Scripture uses the analogy of adoption (Paul especially uses it). Does an adopted child have a choice? Not really. Are adoptive parents sadists for choosing Jane and not Jess? Not at all.

  • StevenLong

    And that is the entire problem, John. You rely on the “holy tradition of the church” rather than Scripture. That tells me right away that you are used to having your Bible spoon fed to you rather than digging into it yourself.

  • StevenLong

    The decisions of the Synod of Dort were in response to heresy. They convened for 7 months to actually review the points made by their proponents, not to set “tradition” as the rule. In fact, they examined Scripture during the 7 month Synod in order to make sure that they themselves were not falling into error.

    As far as Calvin goes, no one “follows” his teaching, nor do most Protestants hold him to the same level as Scripture as the EO Church or the RC Church. His writings were simply a systematic way of representing the truths found in Scripture.

  • StevenLong

    Do you know that the word ‘Trinity’ is not found in all of Scripture? Do you believe in the Trinity?

  • Kerry Thomas

    I was ( past tense) a Calvinist. I am also an alumni of a SBC seminary. That said, I no longer support or believe in Calvinism. The pure hatred that comes from today’s Neo-Cals made me question if this was God’s or man’s?
    Thankful, I am not on a church staff or in the ministry to spew this vile hatred….

  • Susan Price

    This is the third time I’ve tried to reply, so if this come in three slightly different forms, I apologize. Anyway – what I remember of the Church of Christ is hearing in Sunday School how Jesus loved me and then the sermon following, about how His father was going to send me to Hell for all eternity. Confusion and disillusion followed. It took re-reading the Bible, the Gnostics, ancient religion, the Koran and numerous reference books to finally understand that it’s really very simple. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Walk humbly and with good will to all around you and do not judge others – it really doesn’t seem any more complicated than that. Thank you again for your kind reply.

  • Amen, sister.

  • I used the word game as a metaphor to explain why I reject some of Calvin’s doctrines. It is my belief that Christians can disagree with each other issues of doctrine. To put it another way God’s Grace trumps man’s doctrines. I think Matthew 22:36-40 sum it up. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

  • Mark Martin

    “Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience.”

    I don’t get it, so if your daughter goes to hell because God chose this for her it is unacceptable, but if you daughter goes to hell because she cannot accept your version of God that’s okay because then she deserves it?

    No one deserves hell, this is my main problem with your beliefs and why I have become an apostate. If a God exists then he knows better than to send anyone to a place of eternal torture.

  • Sean you don’t want to deal with what Calvinism really is and choose to turn a blind eye to it preferring instead to only discuss how it relates to you as one who believes you are of the elect. If you have any integrity and love for the truth you will look at this issue square on and admit that in your theology God chose who would be saved and who wouldn’t and those whom he has not chosen are chosen for eternal conscious torment. This is what you and other Calvinists believe. Your theology makes God out to be a sadistic monster. You need to reject Calvinism based on that, if for no other reason.

  • I’ve been following this thread and one thing I am struck by is how often I find myself agreeing with you and disagreeing with my Protestant brothers. As the bible teaches “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

  • “why has He made it historically impossible for peoples too far away to come to Him? Say, for example, Australian aboriginals around the year 200 AD. There is no way anyone there could have come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour.” – This isn’t nearly quite the issue when you realize God hasn’t damned anyone to suffer for eternity. The wages of sin is death, not eternal suffering.

  • frjohnmorris

    Yes, I believe in the Holy Trinity for the same reason that I believe that grace is an uncreated and fully divine Energy of God flowing from His hidden Essence, the Holy Tradition of the Church. I believe in the Holy Trinity for the same reason that I believe that the books of the New Testament are divinely inspired and infallible in all matters of doctrine. It is the Holy Tradition that tells us which books make up the canon of the New Testament because it was the Church which selected the canonical books and rejected the non-canonical books like the various Gnostic Gospels. You can pretend that you rely on the Scriptures along, but it is only through the Holy Tradition of the Church that you have the canon of the New Testament.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    Unfortunately the Synod of Dort fell into fundamental error. Obviously they did not understand the Scriptures or they would not have taught such un-scriptural doctrines as are contained in TULIP. Calvin’s writings also misunderstand the Holy Scriptures because he rejects the Holy Tradition of the Church that give us the key to the correct understanding of the Holy Scriptures.

  • frjohnmorris

    The problem with people like you is that you presume to interpret the Scriptures for yourselves and ignore the way it has been interpreted through the centuries as expressed through the Holy Tradition of the Church. No contemporary theologian has the insight that the Holy Fathers and 7 Ecumenical Councils had on the true meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Do you actually believe that the entire Christian Church was wrong until John Calvin wrote his “Institutes” in the 16th century? All of the ancient Fathers of the Church affirm free will. St. Irenaeus of Lyons who learned from St. Polycarp who learned from the Apostle John affirmed free will. St. Irenaeus’ credibility if far greater than that of John Calvin.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    God chooses those who are willing. God does not reject anyone who comes to Him, nor does He force someone to reject His offer of salvation. We have free will and can accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. The New Testament is clear, God calls all to salvation. St. John 5:18 “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s
    act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” Notice that the text says all men. It does not say only the predestined. This one verse destroys the whole Reformed Tradition. I can cite dozens of verses from the New Testament that disprove TULIP.

    Father John W. Morris

  • To clarify my earlier remark when I said,”I’m not sure I’d call myself an open theist.” I meant that I’m not all that keen on calling myself this or that type of a Christian. Also, I wasn’t entirely sure what the term open theism,did it refer to an open source theology or a particular point of view. I goggled the term and that lead me to Greg Boyd and I’ve downloaded a couple of his books to my kindle. I am taking a break from reading Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty
    and I like what I’ve read so far. For what it’s worth I think many of the world’s problem have arisen because we have forgotten the importance of community. Our detachment, business, isolation and loneliness all spring from our loss of community and unity.

  • StevenLong

    And you just proved what I said. I pray that you will find true salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and follow Him rather than your tradition.

  • frjohnmorris

    Christ died for all and offers all salvation. Our Lord said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” St. John 12:32. That verse alone destroys the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Christ did not say, that He would only draw the lucky chosen ones, but He said that He would draw “all men” to Himself.
    God acted first by offering salvation to all who will receive it by the right use of their free will. However, in order to receive the offer, we must willingly accept it. We can reject salvation by the misuse of our free will.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    You are right. There is the Holy Tradition of the Church, which is neither Pelagian nor Calvinist. There are the writings of the Holy Fathers like St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Damascus and others who had a far better understanding of the Holy Scriptures than either Pelagius or Calvin. Christians did not live in theological darkness until Calvin arrived in Geneva in the 16 th century. There are 1,600 years of Christian theology before Calvin.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    God has done the rescuing. He sent Christ. Without Christ there is no salvation. God has already reached down to rescue us through the Incarnation. The major problem with Protestant theology is that it is stuck in an Anselmic legalistic understanding of salvation and does not take the Incarnation seriously enough. In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the Anaphora (prayer of consecration) states, “Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven and endowed us with the kingdom which is to come.” We are saved by God, who reached out to offer salvation to fallen humanity by sending Christ, no one is excluded from God’s offer of salvation, but those who exclude themselves by rejecting God’s grace. Why some gladly receive His grace and some reject it is a mystery that cannot be comprehended by the limited human mind. That is the fundamental mistake of Calvinism, it tries to understand that which we humans cannot understand. Instead of exalting God, Calvinism brings God down to our level by presuming to understand and explain the ways of God. How God is sovereign and all powerful and how we have free will is a profound mystery that the human mind cannot understand. All we can know is that Christ died for us and that if we have a living faith in Him, we will be saved by God’s grace.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Brent Stanfield

    I agree that this is largely an in-house debate. But I think you are mistaken as to why you used the word “game”. I think it shows a fundamental belief that the God you are thinking of is “part of the universe” and “must play by the rules”. Whereas, I consider him to be above and beyond the universe and the one who sets the rules. That goes to the very heart of the question in Matthew 22:36-40. Which God are we to love?

  • frjohnmorris

    Your statement shows one of the major flaws with Calvinism. It produces spiritual pride. Who are you to presume to judge what kind of relationship I have with Christ? It is through the Holy Tradition that I know who Christ is. Without the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils, we would not have an understanding of who Christ is. One of the fundamental mistakes of Protestantism is the false idea that the Holy Spirit left the Church after the death of the last Apostle, St. John and did not return again until the Protestant Reformation. There is a whole wealth of Christian experience and theology that predates the Protestant Reformation. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Just a few hours ago, I received the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ when I received the Holy Eucharist.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    Yes free will is part of the Image of God. No, the Image of God cannot be destroyed. It is soiled by our sins, but can never be completely be destroyed. The Bible teaches that we all have sinned, but it never teaches total depravity or that the Image of God can be destroyed. God is the author of our salvation. Had He not sent Christ we would all be dead in our sins. But, He did send Christ and through Christ offers salvation to all who will receive it. Christ died for all, not just for the elect.The term “elect” is merely the way that St. Paul wrote about those who have accepted God’s offer of salvation.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Brent Stanfield

    Earlier in our discussion you “presumed to judge what kind of relationship I have with Christ”. Do you have some special gifting to judge? Or is this just the pot calling the kettle black?

    Both Catholics and Protestants believe that the Holy Spirit has remained in the church since Pentecost and actively helps all Christians rightly divide the word of truth. Protestants merely deny that the Holy Spirit speaks solely through the Catholic Church. Both Catholics and Protestants believe in private interpretation. For the Protestants, we interpret the Bible. For the Catholic, they must interpret for themselves the Bible and Catholic Doctrine.

    I hope you do know Christ. I will leave that to you to work out.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Calvinists agree that God does not reject anyone who comes to Him. God does not force anyone to reject his offer of salvation.

    You have not defined this concept of “free will” or how it works.

    I don’t believe John 5:18 says what you have it saying. John 5:18 begins with: This is why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him…. You must be thinking of another verse. But supposing it did. If the “all men” truly meant “all men” as in a categorical universal; then nobody would ever be judged unrighteous. Are you a universalist? Wouldn’t you at least agree that the atonement is limited only to those who come to Christ?

  • Tracy

    Greg Boyd is one of my favourite authors/theologians so its great to hear you reading material of his. He was the one who made sense of this for me, so I hope he can do the same for you. He is also a lovely man who loves animals and hates violence, which i relate to as well. I would love to know how you find the books. :)

  • frjohnmorris

    I am not a Roman Catholic. I am Eastern Orthodox. I agree with the Protestants in rejecting purgatory and the Roman Catholic doctrine of temporal punishment. I believe and preached this morning that when God forgives our sins, thy are completely washed away by the blood of Christ. We are saved by grace, not by works. But to be saved by grace, we must cooperate with grace. as St. Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only
    as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own
    salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philipppians 2:12-13. It is not either grace or free will, but is both grace and free will. Calvinism creates a false dichotomy between grace and free will. God has accomplished our salvation through Christ. Now, we have to receive the free gift of salvation.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Brent Stanfield

    John 12:32 does say that. But wouldn’t it be better to interpret it as “all sorts of men”? Wouldn’t it be better to interpret that as a statement that the Gospel will be opened to all nations and all people and not just to the Jews? After all, verses 20-26 deal with “Greeks” who wanted to see Jesus and Jesus refers to this fact… that Greeks would seek him out… as part of his glorification. In verse 31 Jesus talks about the world being judged and the ruler of the world [i.e. Satan] about to be deposed. I think it is much better to see Jesus statement as a statement that he will draw men from all nations of the world. I think you are taking this verse out of context.

    But please define this free will of which you speak.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Where is it taught in Scripture that free will is part of the Image of God? How do you know this isn’t just a philosophical commitment you have made?

    Again, does the person in hell, eternally punished, still bear the image of God? In what way?

    The term elect is the term both Paul and Peter use to refer to those whom God predestined before the foundation of the world.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Got it. Well everything I said goes double for Eastern Orthodox. ;-).

    Calvinists are very much in agreement that we must work out our faith. In fact, Ephesians 2 makes this clear. Paul makes it emphatically clear that we are saved by grace through faith. He also makes it clear that even this faith is a gift of God. Finally, he makes the most Calvinistic statement in the Bible in verse 10: FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS FOR GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD PREPARED BEFORE HAND, THAT WE MIGHT WALK IN THEM.

    The import of this verse cannot be missed. Paul makes it clear that in our salvation GOD MAKES US a new creation and that as part of this work that GOD IS DOING he has prepared before hand good works in which we are to walk. The mark of a person who is GOD’S WORKMANSHIP is that he does good. Good Calvinists are very much invested in working out our faith.

  • frjohnmorris

    It does not have to be in the Scriptures. I am not going to do theology according to your Protestant prejudices. I do not accept the Protestant doctrine of “Sola Scriptura.” I believe in Holy Tradition, part of which is the Holy Scriptures. There are other parts that are equally important such as the consensus of the Fathers as an expression of the mind of the Church, and the 7 Ecumenical Councils, through which I believe the Holy Spirit guided the Church to a correct expression of the truth about doctrine. Where is it taught in the Holy Scriptures that God ceased to guide the Church after the death of St. John and the writing of the Book of Revelation? It is important not to contradict the Holy Scriptures because they are divinely inspired and infallible, but the other manifestations of Holy Tradition give us the guidance that we need to understand and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. If you were intellectually honest, you would admit that you are just as committed to the Reformed tradition as expressed by Calvin, the Reformed Confessions and the Synod of Dort as I am to the Holy Tradition of the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Brent Stanfield

    Ok. So in over 2000 years of divine revelation [i.e. Sacred Scripture] there is nothing indicating that “free will”, a concept you have not defined, is part of the Image of God. For such an important doctrine that seems to me to be quite an omission. Can it be clearly discerned through reason? Is there a strong consensus of the church fathers on this issue? If so,what was their argument? Was it addressed in any of the 7 Ecumenical Councils you cite?

  • JD

    So, if I understand your logic, Brent, when the Bible states God so loved the world….it really wasn’t the whole world but rather only a certain portion of it….and that When Jesus states He came to seek and save the lost, it was really I only SOME of the lost….and that you believe a supreme being that consciously creates a thinking, feeling entity (humankind) knowing in advance that this entity will ultimately be subject to hell for eternity (nay, even ORDAIN it to be so) …. That is a God of love and worthy of praise? What does it say about a creator that would expressly create someone for a destiny of continual misery and torture?

  • JD

    Actually, your question was why pray – there was no condition on it other than if it doesn’t change things, what is the point? And the point is prayer isn’t the equivalent of rubbing the lamp to get the genie out to grant wishes. But having said that, I would also question your thesis on everything being predetermined (from human point of view, anyway) as there are instances in Scripture where God changed His mind as a result of prayer (see Exodus 32:14, Deuteronomy 9:9-19, 2 Kings 20).

  • Tracy

    What? Do you not read my posts? i believe in open Theism. I do NOT believe everything is predetermined – which is WHY I said why pray if it all is? I AGREE with you that not everything is pre determined.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I am not sure you read my post thoroughly JD. God does love the whole world. But he does not love it all equally or for the same reason. This is obvious. He loves the mountains… but he does not love them more than mankind. He loves mankind, but not more than Christ. God’s love for all mankind is manifested in the many blessings, the common grace, mankind receives. Whereas, Christ receives much more than this… Christ receives God’s eternal communion… as do all who are raised up with Christ. Nevertheless, just because Christ receives more than the mountains and more than most of mankind does not mean that God does not love mountains or mankind. He just loves some things more than mankind… including justice. If you think God’s saving a portion of mankind but not all of it is a demonstration of a lack of love towards those who are not ultimately saved then I think you take for granted God’s common grace and you cheapen the over abundance of grace poured out on those who God is saving.

    But perhaps you are referring to John 3:16 directly. If so, then yes… I admit… that I take the “for God so loved the world” to mean that God loves HIS CREATION in general and it does not refer to some universal salvific love for all mankind. God loves his creation [i.e. the world] and he will save it for and through those who believe [i.e. the elect].

    Next, I agree that Christ came to save the lost. He specifically refers to them as his lost sheep. There is a clear distinction in scripture between Christ’s lost sheep and goats. See Matthew 25:31-46.

    As for your last point, I do believe that God created man knowing that many if not most would receive judgment according to their works and that this judgment would be that they are not worthy of communion with God and Christ in eternity… thus subjecting them to Hell. But this is not a distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism. Both systems affirm that God made man knowing that most would be subjected to judgment; if this is a critique of Calvinism I don’t see how it helps you.

    Also, I would be careful about your understanding of God’s judgment. It will be according to works. I find that it is common for people to assume that each person so judged will receive the same punishment [usually some kind of conscious burning in a physical hell]. I would be very careful about understanding the metaphors used to describe judgment in a wooden literal sense. I do not say that to give comfort that hell or eternal punishment will be… easy or even bearable. But I do want to make clear that each person… upon receiving their judgment… will know and believe it is fair. If you don’t think God’s judgment is fair then one of two things is true: (1) You either fail to appreciate what really is just judgment for human action or (2) you misunderstand God’s judgment.

  • Riley

    The Bible does.

  • Riley

    I can relate to this article in that my first step toward becoming a Calvinist was when I realized that Calvinists are Christians.

  • Riley

    #1 is a bad sign re: salvation.

  • JD

    You’ve essentially avoided the question, Brent. Namely, your logic leads to the unavoidable conclusion that God willingly created conscious beings for a horrible destiny (regardless of how you define hell, Jesus clearly indicates it is horrible) with no hope, no decision, no way of salvation. The obvious implication of ‘the world’ in John 3:16 is mankind as a whole – as are other verses in which the cross is to draw all (not some) men – being drawn meaning confronted with the truth of the cross not necessarily accepting it. Your logic is similar to one in which a person could realistically offer salvation to all who were in a shipwreck at sea, but instead chooses only to offer salvation to a few and leave the rest for destruction. Such a person would not be labeled as good – the offer would need to be made to all for that one to be good (since that one has the ability to make the offer to all) .

  • Brent Stanfield

    I have not avoided the question. But I will continue to answer any questions you have. My logic leads to the unavoidable conclusion that God willingly created conscious beings for a just destiny. If the destiny is horrible it is because the creature is horrible. There is hope for many that God will make them good. There are many decisions. Calvinism does not deny that people make decisions. The decisions the creature makes demonstrate the “kind” of creature it is… i.e. good or bad. Calvinism does affirm that God, as the creator, made the decision to create the world as it is for his purposes. I agree that not all will be saved.

    I do not agree on John 3:16. In the Greek “the world” is Cosmos and it clearly refers to the entire created order. That makes sense because even the salvation offered at the end of the verse is only offered to those who believe… not to all mankind. God will save the created order for and through the believing mankind. If there are other verses you would like to discuss I am willing.

    I do not think the example you give [i.e. shipwreck at sea] is applicable. Yes, I would consider a person who was able to save all of the persons in a shipwreck but only chose to save some and let the others perish to be a bad person absent extenuating circumstances. But the reason I would consider that person bad is because God has commanded men to preserve and save life. Accordingly, the person in your example would be violating God’s law. But it is a category mistake to apply this reasoning to God. God is not a man among other men. He is not bound by the moral laws that bind men. He makes the moral laws and is himself above them. God can choose who to kill and who to preserve… and he does. The reason why this is so is obvious: God gave existence to all of the men floundering in the ocean. God gave them life and existence and he can take those things away. That is why we let God be God; it is why we leave the judging to him.

  • JD

    Interesting your thought that God is deemed good…..but is not bound by morality as is man …. who is created in His image. Interesting also that you deem the creature (created by God) as horrible. In the end, it seems your arguments/ logic collapse under their own weight. The conclusion regarding such a God as that is we cannot count on Him to be good as we understand good and also that it would be better not to have been created at all. In the end, any logical reasoning regarding is ignored or tossed aside under the general, capricious ‘because He’s God’ …. but I’ve appreciated the illumination on Calvinist thought.

  • R Vogel

    “You don’t view the Bible as inerrant or infallible because you have been brainwashed to ignore the fact that the Bible was written by 40 different authors, none of them perfect.”

    What?

    “So you believe the Jewish law was based on love?”

    You might want to ask a Jewish person what they think about that, not the silly polemical caricature of Jews as represented in the NT. As I already pointed out in the last response, Jesus quoted the Jewish Scripture when formulating the greatest commandments, so it is obviously in there for someone willing to find it. It is difficult for a Christian to read the OT in anyway beside the polemical lens provided by the NT which, keep in mind, was written mainly by people who were thrown out of the Jewish synagogues in a rather contentious schism. Christians read the OT as an open wound that the NT provides a salve to heal. Jews, obviously, do not.

    “According the old testament it was ok to rape and murder, commit genocide, display heads that had been cut off, kill people with rocks for making a mistake and murdering everyone in your path that didn’t bow down to you.”

    Again, since Jewish people are still around, much to the chagrin of much of historic christendom, and they don’t seem to go around raping, committing genocide, displaying heads, et al, you might want to ask them how they read their own book without falling into such an obvious trap….you might also reflect on how the ‘living word’ of Christ has been used to rape, commit genocide, display heads, etc through the centuries. The sword cuts both ways….

  • Brent Stanfield

    I have not “deemed” God to be good. We do not observe God’s actions and then conclude that he is good because he conforms to some external standard. God IS the Good. God created the universe. Accordingly, he is the most valuable thing to the universe. Value = good. God is the standard and source of good by virtue of being its Creator.

    Good is an equivocal term. When I say my dog is good [e.g. he does not go to the bathroom in my house, he does not bite my kids, he is fluffy and cuddly] I do not mean it in the same way as when I say my wife is good. My wife is judged by a different standard. So it is with God. He is not judged by our standard. God is not bound by human morality because he is not a human. God can order the death sentence for sin. Man cannot. God can wipe out the world in a flood. Man cannot. God can order the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. Man cannot. God can judge the world. Man cannot. If a man tried to do what God does every moment of every day he would violate God’s command to men. But God does it because he is above man… he is divine. He is a law unto himself.

    On the other hand, Christ, in his human nature, was bound by the same morality that binds man, but not the divine nature. The proper place of the creature is to always subject itself to the divine as did Christ. Christ said “Let thy will be done” even when that meant he would suffer and die. By that standard yes… the rest of us are horrible. We do not “reflect” the image of God if we were to judge ourselves on the example of Christ; whereas Christ is the express image of God. But I only argued that our punishment would be horrible “IF” we are indeed horrible. I will let you be the judge and decide if you deserve better and on what grounds. Do you truly submit to God as did Christ? How should you be judged in comparison to him?

    We can count on God. He is not capricious. Who he is and what he does are eternally fixed according to his nature and character. It is very important that we understand that God is good and what that means. It does not matter to me if you adhere to Calvinistic thought. But I do hope that you at least develop a higher view of God instead of dragging him down and attempting to judge him as you would any other man. That is exactly what Paul condemns in Romans 1… the remaking of God after the image of man or created things instead of respecting him as the Creator.

  • Tony Carmody

    But why did God choose Abraham? To bless the whole world. And why did God choose Paul? To be a light to the Gentiles. Why did God choose you, Brent? It wasn’t about Abraham or Paul as individuals, it was and always has been about the whole world. God chose these men, and you, to go into the world and glorify The LORD to all nations. So stop debating with Fr. John, turn your computer off and go share the Good News of Jesus with ALL men.

    Guess I better go and do the same . . . :)

  • Tony Carmody

    Just wanted to thank you for all you’ve shared on here. I’ve always had an interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church and you have piqued that even more. May The LORD continue to bless you and your ministry.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Tony – Of course. I do share the good news of the gospel with all men. But along the way it is required to defend the Gospel I preach from those who misrepresent it or misunderstand it. This article and many of the comments would have you believe that I don’t preach the gospel but rather a rank heresy and liable against God. It is necessary to set the record straight and seek understanding so that we can work together to preach the gospel. This is part of that process.

  • frjohnmorris

    Your mistake is that you confine God’s divine revelation to just the Holy Scriptures. There is also 2,000 years of teaching by the Church as expressed by the Fathers and the 7 Ecumenical Councils. In fact there is a strong consensus of the Fathers in favor of free will. . The Ecumenical Councils did not deal with the issue of free will because there was no controversy over free will. Everyone believed in free will until Augustine, and he had only influence in the Wes, not the East, which considered him a minor father at best. The 3 Ecumenical Council, Ephesus in 431 condemned the heretic Pelagius because he taught that we could save ourselves by our own efforts without the necessity of Grace. It is not either grace or free will, but both grace and free will working together in synergy that opens our hearts to God’s transforming and uncreated grace.

  • heather ristau

    Yes. this. I’m purposely not reading the comments b/c it’s another big fight with calvinists getting offended…. but this is amazing.. beautiful, and thank you for sharing it.
    Oh and.. reformation theology… was initially created to be ‘in a continual state of reforming. by John Calvin himself. … not sure when the process got stuck..
    thanks for writing this. i’m cheering.

  • I agree, but think I you mean Romans 9. That’s the one that talks about Israel, Pharaoh, etc. ” For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”

  • Brent Stanfield

    I recognize God’s revelation both general [e.g. nature] and special [e.g. Holy Scripture, prophetic, and apostolic]. There has been much controversy over free will and its definition. You have not given your definition of free will or explained how you think it works. Augustine believed in a type of free will… as do I. The Council of Ephesus condemned a pagan view of free will… i.e. that the will can choose good without grace; or put another way, that the human will is neutral and “free” to pick between good and evil. Both Augustinians and Calvinists… and I… agree that people are free to choose as they want. But we deny… as does the Bible… that people without grace want the things of God. Without grace, you cannot want anything good… especially God. But that is the issue. I am not sure you understand what us Calvinists are arguing. Of course there is synergy… after grace. If you want my definition of “free will” then I will give it to you: “It is the ability to know the good, want the good, and do the good.” If you do not know the good, want it, or do it… then your will is in bondage to sin. Until your heart is recreated in Christ, until God has made you a new creation, until God has raised you from spiritual death to spiritual life… you are in bondage to sin. Romans 6:5-7.

  • Dean

    If there is no standard by which we can judge whether God’s actions are “good” or “bad”, how can you possibly distinguish between God and Satan? It would seem that from your perspective, you could never be 100% sure who you’re worshiping. This is a point that Roger Olson has made and I think it’s sound. I think your entire premise belies the entire Biblical narrative and has terrifying consequences for your moral compass and it comes at no surprise to me that the Calvinism would be stained with the blood of Michael Servetus. I think this is clear in how Calvinists typically treat outsiders, if God hates the reprobate, then certainly so should you too right? Imago Dei means nothing, shared humanity even less, I hate to sound alarmist, but dehumanization is a necessary precursor for every atrocity that has been committed by human beings in history. This cannot possibly be the Gospel message.

  • Dean

    Because Calvinists would say that the vast majority of Jewish men, women and children in the Holocaust were imprisoned, tortured and then murdered en mass, only to wake up the next day in an even worse place, where they’re going to be for eternity, to be constantly burned alive by Yaweh. So in fact, even Hitler was a little more merciful in that respect. I’m not sure how any human being can stomach a belief in reality that looks like that.

  • Brent Stanfield

    We distinguish between God and Satan ontologically. God is the being that exists as the uncaused first cause; the prime mover; the being that creates all things and all reality. Whatever that being “is like” or “does” is good as he sets the telos for the universe he creates. That being which creates all other things IS THE GOOD. All other things derive their ultimate value from the being that ultimately creates them. I can distinguish between God and Satan quite easily. Satan and the spirit of the Evil One is whatever opposes God and his telos. We can be sure we are worshiping God if it is our desire to worship the one who created the world and everything in it. I don’t think Roger Olson’s point is sound.

    The more difficult question is determining whether the Bible actually comes from the being that created the world and everything in it. If it does then whatever moral injunction it goes to man OUGHT to be followed as God and God alone sets the moral agenda.

    Calvin probably should have opposed the killing of Michael Servetus. I agree with Sebastian Castellio that: “To kill a man is not to protect a doctrine, but it is to kill a man.” But the death of Servetus does not refute Calvinism anymore than Catholic inquisitions, crusades, Lutheran rebellions, or Southern Baptist support for slavery, refute the specific doctrines of those sects.

    I have found that Calvinists, those who truly understand the doctrine of grace, treat others with incredible grace. As I have explained on here already, God does love even the reprobate. Further, he has commanded men that we are to love our fellow man and has not given us any indication who is truly elect or reprobate. We are to treat all men as if they are our brothers in Christ and to love them and give our lives if necessary to bring them to faith. We do this knowing that God is sovereign and he has commanded us to this great love for our fellow man.

    Imago Dei means a great deal to me. Others seem to want to water it down so that even the worst sinner in Hell is the very “image bearer of God”. I think Christ is the image bearer of God as the author of Hebrews tells us; and we also bear his image as we become more like Christ. Far from dehumanizing, it is my call that we see that mankind has “dehumanized” itself by falling into darkness. As a Calvinist, I see it as my job to act as God’s chosen instrument to bring people into the light so that they can achieve their full humanity. What I am more concerned about is the “de-deification” of God… where modern Christians try to drag God down to a being that serves mankind. Most Christians seem to think that “God is good…. only if he is good to me”. But that is anthropology; not theology. Mankind wants a God who serves them. That is not what they have.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I don’t know any particular Calvinists who would say that. I would say that each person killed in the Holocaust will get just judgment for their lives. A judgment that will be different for each and according to their works and the light that they have. That is what all Christians would say. In addition, all Calvinists and Christians would say that Hitler broke God’s law by killing. He also will receive just judgment for what he did.

    I am not sure how any human can stomach a reality where people do not receive justice.

  • Dean

    Molly, I challenge you to read those stories and come up with an explanation as to why they would be written that way except for the fact that God did indeed change his mind. You say a word such as “regret” is a human attempt to explain how God feels about a situation, but doesn’t really mean what we think it means. If that’s the case, then what else could it be? You can’t “regret” something that you’ve ordained from the beginning of time. The concept makes no sense, but God regrets all sorts of things in the Bible. It’s odd that determinists say other folks import philosophy into the Bible when they are clearly the worst offenders.

  • Dean

    You’re forgetting his “secret” will. :)

  • Dean

    Consistent Calvinists shouldn’t have children at all. The stakes are simply too high, there is a high probability that at least some of your progeny will be reprobate.

  • JohnH2

    Really? How is it a different or unique judgement or according to their works if the result is Hell except for when the random number generator says Heaven? Oh, that is right, we all apparently merit Hell regardless of what light or works we do (or because of it?).

    Hitler could be one of the elect and destined to heaven, God’s irresistible grace could have mind raped him at the last second contrary to all choices and merit his, and perhaps Hana Brady or Saint Edith Stein as well as many millions more killed by Hitler were reprobate and will get the apparent “justice” of God of moving from one furnace that destroyed their body for their race or belief to another infinitely worse where they burn unceasingly (because they weren’t perfect and God didn’t choose them for mind rape). As clearly, “the elect” (say Hitler) don’t get what they deserve, they don’t get justice, and their actions (and will, or desire) play no part in their being saved, and “the reprobate” (being everyone else) get God’s (arbitrary) justice, which is anything but unique as it is eternal damnation for all regardless of anything they did or tried to do in their lives.

  • Molly Griffith

    Our prayers change us, not God. To say that God changed his mind or regretted a decision is to limit his omniscience, don’t you think? Many times, the Bible talks in human terms about God’s eyes, arms, etc., and yet we know that God is a spirit. Numbers 23:19 – God is not man, one given to lies, and not a son of man changing his mind. Does he speak and not do what he says? Does he promise and not come through?

  • Benjamin, Calvinist would disagree with your description of their beliefs for most of your points. Thus the reason much of what you have covered has been argues by brighter minds than ours for centuries. However, your third point is very strong and it is a point I have not heard before. You have convincingly shown that Calvinism’s nature is diametrically opposed to Christ’s as he displayed on earth with his interactions. How can the God who in flesh sought to bring those on the outside in, to include all, be the same God who picks an in group and out group?

    There are problems and contradictions with all doctrinal systems. One area Calvinist are strong on biblically and rationally, I believe at least, is God’s sovereignty. After all how is he God if he is not? But while God is sovereign he also has revealed his character as gracious, inclusive and loving. How does God’s sovereignty and all the omnis that follow also produce a character such as Christ’s? Sorry to go on too long but these are big questions that have never been settled for me. Thank you for pushing me to consider them once again.

  • frjohnmorris

    I am afraid that being a sinful and finite human, I cannot understand the mysteries of the perfect and infinite God much less His secret will. I only what God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ, as preserved by the other manifestations of the Holy Tradition of the Church.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Correction: in your opinion, it does.

  • frjohnmorris

    The Greek word “Kosmos” means world. I think that the Greek Fathers had a much better understanding of the Greek language of the Bible than John Calvin or any modern European or American theologian. The text means exactly what it says, God loves all humanity. One thing that I have noticed about Calvinists is that they twist the Bible around to make it fit their Calvinistic presuppositions. They also completely ignore such authorities as Sts. John Chrysostom, Irenaeus of Lyons and all the Fathers. Like Calvin, they cite a few of Augustine’s more extreme statements without realizing that he was out of step with the rest of the Fathers of the Church on issues like total depravity, original sin, and the denial of free will. They also do not seem to recognize that Augustine could not read Greek, but instead based his conclusions on a Latin translation that is filled with errors.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    St. Paul addresses that question in the first two chapters of Romans. Romans 2:14-15, ” When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law
    requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the
    law.
    They show that what the law requires is written on
    their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their
    conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them…”
    We must let God be God and recognize that He knows what is in a person’s heart. Christ accomplished salvation for all humanity, if a person follows God to their best knowledge and ability, they will be saved through Christ because we are saved by grace not by works.
    A point that I keep making, but which is completely ignored is that God has already reached down trough the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Through Christ it is God who has acted first for our salvation. Therefore the whole argument about whether or not we can take the first step in our salvation ourselves is a mute point, because God has already taken the first step for everyone’s salvation through the Incarnation of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ did more than die on the cross for our sins, he began the deification of humanity, by the deification of the human nature of Christ, which effects us because just as the divine nature of Christ is of one essence with the Father, the human nature of Christ is of one essence with us. By it union with the divine nature, the human nature of Christ is deified. This is a doctrine called “the communication of attributes” by the Fathers. Because the deified human nature of Christ is of one essence with us, we are able to use our free will to respond to God.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • frjohnmorris

    I have read enough of the “Institutes” to know that John Calvin had a very poor understanding of the Scriptures. Basically Calvin took a few of Augustine’s more extreme positions added his Protestant prejudices and created a new religion that has only a very superficial resemblance to what Christians have believed for almost 2,000 years.

  • frjohnmorris

    I never presumed to judge the nature of your relationship with Christ. I disagree with the doctrine that you teach. There is a major difference between disagreeing with someone on doctrine and judging the validity of their relationship with Christ.

  • frjohnmorris

    Have you actually read the canons of the 3rd Ecumenical Council, Ephesus 431? If you did you would realize that the council did not condemn free will at all. The canons of the council affirm free will. Your mistake is that it is not either free will or grace. It is both free will and grace. With our free will we cooperate (synergize) with God’s grace.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Hell [or the place of God’s judgment] can be different for each person according to their works. I don’t see a problem there.

    What is this business about a “random number generator”? God is not random. He has reasons for doing everything he does.

    We all merit judgment for what we do; yes.

    Yes, Hitler could have been elect. Paul was murdering Christians yet God sovereignly chose him. But Paul demonstrated fruits that made his election sure. Hitler was still in the throws of his murderous rampage when he died. I doubt with everything in me that he could possibly be elect. But God can save anybody. I have no idea of the eternal fate of Hana Brady, Saint Edith Stein, or any of the millions more killed by Hitler except that they either received justice for what they did during their lives or grace.

    You have many misconceptions. First, how could God mind rape anybody? Nobody would have a mind except that God gives them one freely. He gives them their mind with all of its attributes. To some he gives a mind capable of understanding his Gospel and running to it. Others he does not. But it is not as if you have a mind… that is all yours… independent of God… and then God comes and takes it over. Your mind is from God altogether. God cannot rape your mind. He can make it better so that you come to understand his glorious grace. Second, your will and desire play a very important role in being saved. When God gives you a mind that wants him and loves him then you will yourself to follow him and begin to desire the things of God. This is why we can surely doubt Hitler’s salvation. When did he ever show fruit that he loved God, desired him, or willed himself to follow God’s commands? Paul did… but Hitler did not. That gives us pretty good evidence that Hitler was not elect. Third, God’s judgment is not arbitrary. He has reasons for his judgment of everything. His creatures that he does not save will meet their just and natural end. God will take into account what they did in their lives. Judgment is based on their works. Finally, you have clearly bought into some wooden literal interpretation of divine judgment and see it as nothing other than Dante’s Inferno. But using that with me will not be effective. God will be just with each person and if your conception of what judgment will be like is anything other than total and complete justice then I will summarily dismiss it as irrelevant. It is just a false characterization pulled from pop culture.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Kosmos has several meanings depending on the context. Here is a link to an online lexicon: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/kosmos.html

    It does mean “world” and also the “universe” [i.e. the created order]. Jesus continues to use that word in verses 18 and 19. In verse 19 he says: “the light has come into the Kosmos, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil”. If you want to read it as “the light has come into [all men]”… then I just don’t know what to tell you. That clearly isn’t the intention of the passage. The light has not come into all men. In fact, in verse 19 we read that men reject the light and love the darkness. We read in verse 21 that it is only those who “do what is true” who come to the light. What is intended is that “the light has come into the created order”… i.e. God has become incarnate through Christ.

    You can tell me that I am twisting the Bible but the text says what it says. It is a huge stretch to read the word “Kosmos” in 3:16 to mean “all men” rather than “the universe” or “the created order”. It is ironic that your post says “the text means exactly what it says” and then you insert the words “humanity” instead of Kosmos. It doesn’t say humanity.

    I don’t ignore anybody. I am not ignoring you. I am having a frank and honest discussion about what I see in scripture. I am willing to listen to all sides. As I said earlier, Augustine and I both believe in free will. We simply reject Pelagian free will. Man can do no good thing without grace. As the Council of Carthage said in 419:

    Canon 113:
    That without the grace of God we can do no good thing

    It seemed good that whosoever should say that the grace of justification was given to us only that we might be able more readily by grace to perform what we were ordered to do through our free will; as if though grace was not given, although not easily, yet nevertheless we could even without grace fulfil the divine commandments, let him be anathema. For the Lord spoke concerning the fruits of the commandments, when he said: Without me you can do nothing, and not Without me you could do it but with difficulty.

    It was the Council of Carthage that actually dealt with the Pelagian Heresy.

  • Brent Stanfield

    There is almost no difference. Especially when you have called the doctrine I am teaching a complete fabrication and you claim that the God I love is worthy of contempt. You have accused me of being a rank heretic. Which is fine if I am. I would not have it any other way. If you truly believe I am wrong then I pray that you expend all of your efforts to bring me to right. I want to know nothing but the truth.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes. At Ephesus the council did little more than pronounce Pelagius a heretic along with Caelestus. The main statement declaring that the will is in bondage to sin is at the Council of Carthage in 418 where it was declared:

    Canon 113. (Greek cxiiii.)

    That without the grace of God we can do no good thing

    It seemed good that whosoever should say that the grace of justification was given to us only that we might be able more readily by grace to perform what we were ordered to do through our free will; as if though grace was not given, although not easily, yet nevertheless we could even without grace fulfil the divine commandments, let him be anathema. For the Lord spoke concerning the fruits of the commandments, when he said: Without me you can do nothing, and not Without me you could do it but with difficulty.

    The church has clearly stated that without grace, man is not free or able to choose the good.

  • JohnH2

    Hence unhappy consciences find no rest, but
    are vexed and driven about by a dire whirlwind, feeling as if torn by an angry God, pierced through with deadly darts, terrified by His thunderbolts and crushed by the weight of His hand; so that it were easier to plunge into abysses and whirlpools than endure these terrors for a moment. How fearful, then, must it be to be thus beset throughout
    eternity!

    – John Calvin

    That is all.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Is there a point in using that quote? It sounds like good theology. What a terrible thing to have the grace of God removed from you and to have no hope. At that time, I am sure all who experience it will realize how they have taken the grace of God for granted in this life.

  • Riley

    This has nothing to do with opinion. Romans 9:18, 1 Peter 2:8

  • Riley

    “fetish with God’s wrath”, ok, misusing the word “fetish.”

    But there are very good reasons to make God’s wrath against sinners a point of emphasis: 1. It glorifies God’s righteousness 2. It is the true state of every human being outside of Christ. The truth is important. 3. Only a conviction of God’s wrath drives sinners to Christ for salvation. You have to realize your condition before you will take the medicine.

    The early Arminians and Wesleyans knew this, too, and God’s wrath was a distinct point of emphasis in their preaching.

  • JohnH2

    You just contradicted yourself; if we have taken the grace of God for granted then we have the ability to not take it for granted and therefore our salvation depends on our choices; the grace is not irresistible and election is not unconditional and by being able to choose good and live we are not totally depraved.

    Furthermore, by accepting the quote you demonstrate that my view of your Hell is similar to yours and comes from your founder, not pop culture. Given this, your entire comment above is misdirectional fluff attempting to excuse the sadistic barbarism of a Demiurge.

  • Brent Stanfield

    If you are currently taking the grace of God for granted then you are currently UNABLE to appreciate the grace of God. You are only able to do whatever it is you are currently doing. I hope that God gives you the ability to appreciate his grace.

    Our choices do matter. I have been very clear about that. But they do not matter more than God’s choice. They are dependent upon God’s choice.

    Our views of Hell are not similar. In that very section [Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 25, Section 12], Calvin is saying that the imagery of judgment used in the Bible is metaphorical. Yes, God’s judgment is terrible. The imagery used in the Bible does evoke dread and terror because God’s judgment is a dreadful and terrible thing. But your view of Hell fails to look at the imagery for what it is and instead you are left to quote mine John Calvin quotes. Your method is both misleading and uncharitable.

    John Calvin is not “my founder”. He is a theologian I respect and who has written great things about scripture and God’s sovereignty. Christ is the only founder of our faith. I identify as a Calvinist because it is the term people typically use describe reformed theology. But my theology is basically Biblical.

  • JohnH2

    ” You are only able to do whatever it is you are currently doing.”

    Is completely contradictory to “Our choices do matter”; we don’t actually have choice, we can only do what God has designed us to do according to His will, and so God is author of all Sin, and caused the Devil to fall from heaven having created him in just that way.

    I am not sure whether I should introduce you more to some forms of Gnosticism which claim that the Devil is the actual hero of the story as he is the protestor in the street against the evil Tyrant vainly shouting for true justice and freedom, as being damned for the way we are created through no choice of our own is anything but justice. Or to the Cathars who used essentially the Calvinist position to do a proof by absurdity that there are Two Principles rather than one, I guess The Two Principles might be better.

    I am not the one “misleading” by claiming that Hell is a pleasant place full of sunshine and flowers, nor am I “misleading” by claiming that children guilty of only the supposed “original sin” are judged justly for any value of justice. Or that am misleading by twisting what “all” means to be exactly contrary to what “all” actually means.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Those two concepts are not contradictory. Our choices demonstrate the type of being we are [e.g. good or bad] and thus dictate our destiny. At the same time, we are only able to do what we want to do. If we are a “bad creature” we want to do bad things. If we are a “good creature” then we want to do good things. In both cases our choices definitely matter.

    God is the “author of reality”. Yes, he created the Devil. Yes, he created the Devil to do what he does. But ultimately even the Devil serves God. God will bring about a good END to his creation even through the actions of the Devil and evil men. I think the God as “author” is an apt analogy. An author can create a story which contains evil but which ultimately resolves in good. The evil in the story highlights the good when that evil is overcome. Evil plays its role as the foil of the good. Yes, Satan is the foil of God and his Christ. As God is working ALL THINGS together for good that will include God’s overcoming of evil. The evil is real; but it will go to make the GOOD END that God has established from eternity. This is God’s story. He can write it how he wants. He has written it how he wants.

    I am more than familiar with Gnostics but if you want to discuss them then be my guest. If you want to argue that the Devil is the hero then go ahead. It will not be persuasive to me who understands the ontology involved. The Devil is merely the champion of Chaos. Arguments that he is truly for justice are absurd. Truth comes only from God as he is “being itself”. Those who oppose God oppose being, order, and truth. It makes complete sense that the Devil would want people to believe that he is in fact fighting for them against God… when in reality he will lead them to nothing but “nothingness” and insignificance.

    You are misleading. I have not stated that Hell is “pleasant” or full of “sunshine and flowers”. I have said very little of children except that they, like every other created thing, will be judged justly and that they too survive by the grace of God. All things survive moment to moment by the sheer grace of God who sustains them. I don’t know what you mean by “twisting what all means”.

  • JohnH2

    You really, really, should read The Book of the Two Principles.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I have scanned halfway through book at http://gnosis.org/library/cathar-two-principles.htm. It actually has some good thinking in it to a point. However, it goes wrong about 1/3 of the way down when it begins to argue that God did not “create” in the proper sense all things but only remade from pre-existing things.

    I can only assume that this is then this is used to argue for the “other Principal” that pre-existed with God. I have some sympathy for the argument but find it unnecessary. Nothing is added to knowledge that cannot already be found in the traditional and orthodox arguments for God where God is conceived of as “pure being”. It is not as if there are “two Principles”. There is only “being” and “nonbeing”. As a creature is found in God [i.e. being] then he has godliness, goodness, existence, significance, meaning, and is sustained. As a creature is further and further removed from God then he is ungodly, evil, nothing, of no repute, and is removed. And so if God, by his grace, draws us closer then we increase in all that is good, significant, and we BECOME more. As God withdraws his grace then we BECOME less. If God moves away… man falls by his own weight… and comes to the nothing contemplated by Hell where there is a total lack of God’s grace. The more a creature is given of God’s grace the larger the fall. Hence why Satan’s fall is so great. He is a great being and was endowed by God with great power and authority by his grace… and to have lost it and become nothing is a terrible thing.

    So, I find that that The Book of the Two Principles, while in places cogent and well argued, adds little to the orthodox understanding of God. But if there is a specific argument contained within it that you would like me to read then I will check it out.

  • JohnH2

    But God created Satan in just that way, and placed Him in just that position, causing God to be the cause and author of Satan’s fall, that is the point, that is the absurdity that the Two Principles is getting after. There is no Darkness in God yet somehow God, who is perfectly Good is supposedly also the author of Evil and Sin and caused and created the Prince of Darkness as Darkness. Not only could Hitler be one of the elect, but God created and ordained and placed Hitler to do exactly what Hitler did do, making God solely responsible for Hitler and all that Hitler did.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes, God did create Satan in just that way and placed him in just that position. Yes, God is the author of that reality. God had good reasons for creating Satan that way. God is using Satan to bring about God’s good end.

    God is not the author of sin and evil because God does not intend sin or evil to prevail. Sin is overcome and evil is defeated. If God were to allow the work of Satan to prevail and continue then we could accuse God of sin and evil. But God will set everything Satan and evil men do to right. He will overcome evil ultimately. In that way, God is the author of Satan in the same way that JRR Tolkien is the author of Orcs. They are in his stories for a purpose… purpose which is that they are ultimately overcome.

    God is ultimately “responsible for Hitler”. God takes his responsibility very seriously. That is exactly why God will work all things… even the Holocaust… together for good. Nothing Hitler did that was evil will last. It will all come to naught. Ultimately, this universe turns out good. Ultimately, this universe has a good end. Ultimately, good wins and vanquishes evil. Accordingly, God is the author of a good reality. To accuse him of authoring sin is to look from too short of a perspective and to miss the whole. It is to have a fundamentally human perspective which only sees the past and the present but neglects to trust God for the future. God will bring good out of all things just as be promises through Paul in Romans 8. Satan, though evil in his actions and his intentions, will be used by God to bring about good in the same way that Joseph’s brothers, in throwing Joseph into the pit, were ultimately used to bring good by getting Joseph to Egypt where he could save many.

    There is no darkness in God. God uses the darkness to show that the light can overcome it.

  • JohnH2

    For God to use darkness there must be darkness, and if there is no darkness in God, no evil in God, no sin in God, then whence those things to be overcome? If God is not the author of sin then either there can be no sin, or there must be at least one other author.

    If Satan is doing justly that which God has ordained him to do, then Satan is good and God responsible for all that Satan does so God is responsible for evil, however transitory it may be both of which are absurd.

  • Dean

    I’m not sure Christians are the ones that should be overly concerned about everyone getting their comeuppance, do you? The original post is correct, Calvinists are obsessed with God’s wrath and so called justice, even as they “shun” anthropomorphizing God as your “grandfather in the sky”. Well which is it? How can your omniscient, impassable, immutable, sovereign God have any emotional capacity at all? Everything was his sovereign will to begin with wasn’t it?!?

    Brent, answer me this, can a computer programmer rationally rage against his computer program running exactly the way he programmed it too? We would call someone like that a maniac. Appeal to mystery I guess?

  • Dean

    So what does the Bible mean when it says God “regrets” something? What concept is that meant to convey to us? Let me ask you again, can you regret something that you knew was going to happen (or from God’s perspective, has already happened and has always happened), and for the Calvinist, that you in fact decreed to happen? How does that even make any sense?

  • Brent Stanfield

    Darkness, evil, and sin are merely the absence of God. That is why we call them “ungodliness”. God does not need to contain ungodliness to be able to overcome ungodliness and thereby show his power over it. As I mentioned before, God is pure being, truth, and light. All things that do not abide in God are nonbeing, lies, and darkness. God’s power is shown in this universe as he creates [i.e. brings into being] and ultimately brings truth and light by overcoming the darkness. But it is a mistake to call this dichotomy between being/nonbeing or light/darkness as a difference in equals or two co-existent principals. Non-being is literally “no-thing”. It has no existence; no being. It is not as if there are 2 forces in the world, being and non-being. Non-being is not a force. It is the lack of anything.

    Further, the idea that there are two co-eternal beings is refuted by the idea that if there are two beings then something must govern the relationship between the two. If there is a “good being” and a “bad being” then whatever governs the relationship between these two beings is actually God.

    Finally, it does not hold that just because Satan is doing what God ordained that Satan is “good”. True, God will use even Satan to bring about good. That is why God is good. But Satan is the evil one and that is why he will be defeated ultimately by God bringing about the good. The transitory nature of Satan’s evil is important. The fact that God ultimately defeats it allows God to retain his good character.

    Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a totally righteous man who has done no wrong and who has no spot or blemish on his character. Suppose God were to allow him, even ordain him, even desire him to be tortured and murdered in the most horrible way. We could justly say that the torture and murder of this man was evil. If God allowed it to stand then God would be evil. However, suppose God then raised that man from the dead. Suppose, that God used that evil event to make that man great so that even that man could look at the evil done to him and have wished it no other way. If that sequence of events occurred, then God is then exonerated even though he allowed, ordained, and desired the transitory evil to occur. God allowed it because he knew the 2nd estate of the man would be even better than the first. So it was with Job, so it was with Joseph, and so it was with Christ.

  • Dean

    In what way does God love the reprobate? It would have been better for the reprobate if they had never been born don’t you think?

    I hope you don’t say (as Piper does) that God gives the reprobate “temporal blessings” like rain and sunshine. I hope you don’t say that because you are speaking from the perspective of your comfortable Western suburban lifestyle. I would like you to tell that to a Muslim sub-Saharan African mother and child who were created by God to starve to death and then move on right into the pit fiery eternal hell “all for his glory”. I’m not sure God’s “ontological” goodness is much comfort for them, do you?

  • Brent Stanfield

    I think Calvinists tend to take God’s wrath seriously. I can agree that when we talk about God’s wrath we know little about divine “emotions” per se. The descriptions of God’s wrath are not to be confused with human emotional responses. However, I do think we should probably recognize that human wrath is merely a representation in physical form of divine wrath. But whereas human wrath is mediated through the body, God’s wrath is not and so you are correct to say that we should not confuse the two.

    But I think your analogy is amiss. God is not mad a the “computer program”. Rather, the computer program [i.e. creation] is programed in such a way by the creator so that when a function within it is triggered [e.g. man sinning] a consequence follows [e.g. man dies and is judged]. Computer programs do this all of the time. The law of sin and death is no different from any other natural law. If you walk off a high precipice you will fall. If you sin, you will die. The moral law results in its consequences just as surely as the law of gravity results in its consequences. Viewed in this way, it is a miracle that every person isn’t dead immediately after their first sin. It is as if God continues to hold the sinner in thin air rather than letting them fall. God’s grace abounds even to the sinner. He has suspended the program. He will save many. But eventually, many will also come to the end the program [i.e. the created order] requires.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I do agree with Piper. It is appropriate to say that from my Western suburban lifestyle and from a sub-Saharan African lifestyle. Yes, God gives all men grace every day. The reason why God’s eternal punishment will be so severe is because it will be a loss of the things God has given to us in this common grace. If you don’t believe you have any common grace… if you have NOTHING to lose… then what do you have to fear? How could God hurt you? If you have something to lose… then you must recognize God’s common grace.

  • Dean

    Well, I guess it’s conversations like these that confirm how I could never be a Calvinists. It’s like because of your system of theology, things that would bother a normal person don’t seem to faze you at all. Let me just ask you a personal question, does the hypothetical scenario I outlined above trouble you at all from an emotional level? I’m just curious how comfortable you are with some of the conclusions about how the universe operates according to Calvin(ism). I will be honest with you, that is my primary obstacle, which is why I believe these kinds of discussions are rarely solved with exegetical arguments (which Calvinists typically employ, but I appreciate it that you have not).

  • Brent Stanfield

    Am I troubled emotionally by the thought of someone going to a fiery pit for all eternity? Of course. But I am not convinced that the Bible teaches that this literally happens. Even if it does in some circumstances, I am not convinced that it happens in any particular case. It is easy to type up a short blurb about some “presumptively” innocent sub-saharan african native and then imagine untold horrors that await because of God’s judgment and wield it as a rhetorical tool. But as I have said already, any characterization where the punishment a person receives isn’t based on the life they lived doesn’t match the clear teaching of scripture that all will receive justice. Accordingly, if you imagine a situation that you perceive as manifestly unjust then you either imagining God’s judgment incorrectly or you are under a false impression regarding what a person actually deserves or both.

    I am very comfortable that the universe operates how I am arguing it does. I believe this quite apart from anything I know about Calvinism. In fact, my preference for the Calvinistic framework is because it appears to more closely match reality. We are totally subject to the world and IF the world has a Master/Creator [and I believe it must] then we are totally subject to Him. But even if you are just a pure atheist and deny that there is a God altogether you still cannot get away from the unavoidable conclusion that what you do is subject to the very whims of nature. Whereas the naturalist simply admits that he is the fortuitous and undirected outcome of blind chance that comes from nothing and goes to nothing; the theist admits that man is the purposeful creation of an almighty God that plays a real role in the story God is trying to tell. It is the theist who can say that man has a purpose in God’s plan… and that this purpose is eternal. But I don’t think anybody can argue that it is man who makes his own destiny… that it is man who creates his own reality. That avenue… an avenue that most men seem to desperately want… simply isn’t open to us. It is this vain hope that surely led Adam to conclude that he could trust the lie of the Serpent and “become like God” if only he disobeyed.

    But let’s be honest; you know that you are a product of your circumstances. You were born into a certain time, into a certain country, into a certain family, and given a certain body. You have had certain experiences, learned certain information, had certain relationships, and your body has produced certain emotions and reactions. You have certain skills and certain fallibilities. You have a certain intellect and a certain level of education. You are a product those things and many more. All of which either “nature” [as the naturalist would imagine it] or the God of nature have brought into your life. They have shaped you and made you what you are. Calvinism understands this and acknowledges that God has made us what we are and has brought many of us into this grace by which we stand justified before God. Man’s fate is inextricably tied to his closeness to the only source of being in the universe; God. If man departs from God for but a moment he will fall.

    Let me return the question to you; why are you the way that you are? Do you at least admit you would be different if only your circumstances had been different? If you had been born in Africa would you hold different views? If you had more or less intellect would you be different? If your circumstances had been different might you make different decisions and be a different person? How does the Calvinist say anything different from you?

  • Molly Griffith

    I don’t know . . . I think the Bible writes like a human narrative – showing that God has strong feelings about his creation. What do you think the Bible means when it says God does not change his mind? Do you believe God was surprised that man turned evil?

  • Molly Griffith
  • Dean

    Well here’s the thing, I think Open Theism is the best explanation as to why there is something and not nothing. If we as Christians believe that God has always existed but that Creation has a beginning, well then it seems to me that God one day decided to create things because he wanted to. I’m not sure how you get around that. The act of creation requires change, a change in God’s emotional and mental state. The plantonic God that Evangelicals worship is not a person, he’s a concept. The God of the Bible changes his mind all the time in response human actions. I guess I’m just not sure why this is so controversial for people to consider, it’s a perfectly straightforward way to read the Bible.

    Regarding your question as to whether God was surprised that man turned evil, first of all, I don’t think man turned evil, I think man sinned. But I’ll respond this way insofar as Calvinism is concerned, the most obvious reason for me that Calvinism can’t possibly be true is the existence of the infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism debate. If there is anything in the history of religion more ridiculous than that discussion I can’t think of it, it reveals how silly the entire Calvinist theological system is.

  • Molly Griffith

    I’m sorry . . . I’m not sure I understand. By “plantonic” to you mean “platonic” as in relation to Plato? Also, I don’t know what infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism are. I’m just a simple person who loves discussing and learning. I read “God of the Possible” by Greg Boyd and still can’t quite espouse his Open Theistic beliefs. Maybe some day . . .
    But
    what seems perfectly logical to you does not seem logical to me. That’s the beauty of being individuals under a Creator who cannot be defined.

    In my humble opinion, Open Theism is mans way of re-making a God we can be more comfortable with.

  • JohnH2

    Dean,

    What you say is interesting and not something I was familiar with even having been considered as much as you say outside of my own faith, Mormonism. I’d ask questions but it would be completely tangential to the discussion of Calvinism.

  • Dean

    Sometimes I think theology is a total waste of time, so I definitely sympathize with you. I thought God of the Possible was an amazing book, growing up as an evangelical, it provided a lot of answers to questions that have always nagged me about what we are typically told the God of the Bible is really like. I understand it can make people uncomfortable, but as someone who has never been satisfied with pat answers about tough theological questions, I appreciate folks who are willing to challenge “orthodoxy” for the sake of making better sense of the Bible and bringing greater light to our relationship with God and how we go about ollowing Jesus. So yeah, I take traditional notions of soteriology, eschatology, atonement, Biblical “inerrancy”, heaven/hell, etc., with a grain of salt. If you read just a little bit of the history of Christianity, it will surprise you how long the Church can get certain doctrines completely wrong. I think all Christians have a responsibility to question what they’re being taught by their religious leaders, religion is apparently the only segment of our society where we are told to shut off our brains and let those in authority tell us what to think, where questions and reason are mocked, where scientific knowledge and free thinking are discouraged. That’s the biggest travesty with Evangelical Christians today in my opinion. Here’s the thing, teach people everything, if what you’re teaching is false, it’s not going to last. If Christians believe the Holy Spirit is real, false teachings will always get corrected over time. The heresy hunting of fundamentalists only reveal the latent insecurity of their own theological beliefs. Sorry for the rant!

  • Dean

    I’d be happy to discuss these things with you. Check out God of the Possible by Gregory Boyd, the book that Molly referenced. It completely changed how I think about God and our place in the universe. I’ve been looking for a robust challenge to Open Theism, but I have yet to read anything that is convincing. The only qualm I might have about it is whether or not the early church thought of God’s relationship with creation in this way. I’m not really convinced that they did. But then again, they didn’t know anything about heliocentrism, quantum mechanics or evolution either. So if our knowledge of the universe can grow over time, I’m not sure why our knowledge about God should be fixed in the first century. The new testament obviously suggests that our understanding of what God is like can be progressive.

  • Dean

    I actually think the word “fetish” is entirely appropriate here, on a number of levels. ;)

  • “Only a conviction of God’s wrath drives sinners to Christ for salvation” — C’mon man, that’s simply not true. Yes, it’s a common line from Way of the Master, but you went to Gordon-Conwell. They’re better than that there. If that were true, Jesus would have majored on wrath… but he didn’t.

  • This is the problem with the MDiv at Gordon-Conwell. Only has 4 electives and not nearly enough theology.

  • Molly Griffith

    I understand. I’ve always been a rebel when it comes to theology. Love the fact that God is not threatened by my questions! I’m going to keep an open mind . . .

  • Riley

    He did, if talking to the proud and self-righteous. What did Jesus have to say to the Pharisees? He spoke more about hell than any other figure in Scripture. After Jesus example, when we meet with those already broken and repentant, we can simply give them the love of God in Christ. For them the law has done its work. But for those yet unbroken by a conviction of their sin and God’s just sentence against them, they need to be humbled before they will bow the knee. What did Jesus say to the rich young ruler, and why? Ray Comfort is on the right track but he’s still no Wesley or Whitefield.

  • Riley

    I agree, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that most of my theology came from the MDiv program. Learning is a lifelong process. Seminary is most helpful in giving tools for future learning, in my opinion.

  • JohnH2

    I have no idea how or if you are familiar with the Mormon position. It is very unique, and depends on additional and continuing revelation from God so while I can argue for it via the Bible, by for instance suggesting that one not read the Trinity (being an attempt to fit Christianity into Platonic thought) into the Bible but instead see what happens when one takes all the verses about God having a body, as well as other properties, quite literally; our partial co-eternal nature as sons of God (D&C 93:29) and the exact nature of the Godhead is only sparsely arguable and so depends much more on what God has revealed more recently; which is obviously quite the claim.
    .

    I do wonder why in the book he didn’t use Romans 8:28 to show that God is able to use everything that happens to work together for good.

    A few more points of difference, Everything is independent to act for itself, not just people (D&C 93:30). There is no end to God’s creations, nor beginning, as the course of God is one eternal round, so there are worlds without end whose inhabits are also children of God.

    I am not quite sure how one rejects Plato/Aristotle and still manages to hold to the creeds, seems like one would either have to only partially reject Plato or ignore the context and meaning of the creeds twisting them to be other than what was originally intended. Not that I have a problem with rejecting the creeds (JS-H 1:19), but it is just odd.

    It was an interesting book, thanks for it, I am glad to see that the restoration and pruning continues.

  • Darkness, evil, and sin are merely the absence of God. That is why we call them “ungodliness”.

    I would call it absence of awareness of God. But for me God is all. Nothing is not God. The dilemma of mankind, is a dilemma that God shares.

    Love and redemption are built in. The Father and the Son not different.

    All things that do not abide in God are nonbeing, lies, and darkness.

    So much of Christian theological debate seems to reinforce the illusion of separateness. Even at these rarified levels.

  • Kevin Osborne

    I had not heard of Arminianism, but assume that it means that if God will allow Armenians to go, anyone is welcome.
    This seems a bit far-fetched, but regardless, I would say that heaven and hell are personal concepts and have meaning as we each choose to look at them. Since God entire is already here, entry into the Godhead is also personal choice. It is just how you choose to look at it.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Nonbeing is separation from God. I can agree in a sense that God is all in all. But that means that where there is “lack”/”evil”/”nonbeing” there is separateness from God and it is not an illusion.

  • For me it is like the confusion caused by a hall of mirrors.

    Each mirror believing that it’s image is real. Something in and of it’s own self.

    This is the illusion of separation. The root of sin.

    If the separation were real there could be no realization of the seamless identity in God. No Christ.

    God is the all in all. Including the seeming lack of being, as you call it; the suffering of our lives and the dream called death.

    God’s love is not love of, or for, anything or anyone, but rather the very fabric of eternity.

  • But you said yourself that salvation comes by Grace.

    Scripture, Church and Holy Fathers. This is what we concern ourselves with while Grace ripens our hearts.

    Even an illiterate, deaf, blind and mute life may awaken to the infinite God.

    I have l liked much that you say. But then you burden me with Tradition.

  • He is no more bound than you.

    I have never understood why Christians refer to Christ as “Jesus Christ”.

    He shows us the nature of our True Self. But we make him a god instead.

  • He is not apologizing, just highlighting the strident absurdity of much that is being said.

    There’s too much certainty in flatland, about what the shadows mean.

  • God is a person with a character that is perfect and flawless.

    I wish I could help people think more in terms like:

    “God is the Entirety”
    “God is Existence”
    “God is Self”
    “God is Infinitude”
    “God is All”

    So many squabbles are then resolved.

    Nothing is not God. Jesus as Christ knew this. We are suppose to as well.

    It is not redemption to be addicted to a soap opera version of Salvation; With winners and losers.

    A person whom we can approach but never understand, whom we can love only because He has first loved us,…

    If you cling to your separateness then you cling to the original sin; The ignorance of our seamless non-separateness.

    Jesus demonstrated that this does not have to be so.

    It is not us who God loves. God is us.

    …a person we can know and be known by on a very intimate level, but never a person that we can change.

    God is Change – Infinitely, and therefore utterly Still. The eternal present moment.

    At least that’s how I’ve come to know God through Scripture and His Spirit.

    Leave the scriptures behind then.

    Grace is sufficient.

  • “why doesn’t he ensure that he brings about the circumstances that would cause everybody to repent and believe? Is he powerless to do it? Or might he have other purposes?”

    The circumstances already exist. We always have the nature of God to turn to. When the suffering and foolish hubris of Man’s way becomes all too clear, we will.

    When we do, is it not God that does so? Is it not Man that stops turning the wheel of Samsara?

    Those that have difficulty will most surely be assisted by those who have found it easier.

  • Brent Stanfield

    You may have to walk me through this a little more thoroughly. Isn’t illusion falsehood? Isn’t falsehood truly separate from the truth? You will need to expand on your concepts a bit more. They seem to esoteric to understand. Are they based on scripture? Or are they your philosophical musings?

  • Brent Stanfield

    If the circumstances already existed then everybody would repent and believe.

    Yes, we always have the nature of God to turn too. But as you say, to many the foolish hubris of Man’s way has not become clear to all. Accordingly, the circumstances that would cause everybody to repent and believe do not exist. Even if Man became aware of his foolish hubris, his hardness of heart may still prevent him from clinging to God.

    If God brings about the circumstances that lead to repentance and belief then man will repent and believe.

    Are you a buddhist?

  • Ah, now I’m starting to get this stuff. It is rooted in the idea of eternal death; An end point when the whole show wraps up.

    Condemning creation to eternal relativity. Divorced from the absolute.

    This can not be true. Sorry, whatever happens next, we are all in it together.

    God’s love is only subject to degrees of gradation in man’s way of thinking. Those limits are transcended in Christ.

    If the Bible confuses you, then burn it.

    If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Go bare footed.

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

  • ” My logic leads to the unavoidable conclusion that God willingly created conscious beings for a just destiny. If the destiny is horrible it is because the creature is horrible. “

    If our “original sin” is to forget that we are seamlessly not-separate from God, then all our actions from that point on, reflect our self serving viewpoint.

    We are not “horrible” in our essence. The horrors as well as the virtues are still, in truth, seamlessly not-separate from God.

    The redemption of Christ, is knowing that the Self of God, is our self. In this awakening, “it is finished.”

  • Brent Stanfield

    Where do you get this from? We are separated by God to the extent we are not virtuous. The redemption of Christ is Christ bearing the punishment for our horribleness so that we do not have too. It is a buying back of a people who is separate from God. The plain meaning of redemption is to “buy back” or “regain possession”. This obviously indicates that at one time, what was redeemed, was not together with the redeemer.

    The “Self of God” is not “our self”. That would be a truly horrible thing. Are you God or am I? If you and I are on a plane together and it begins to crash, who do I pray too for deliverance? You or myself?

  • What you call falsehood, in this case, is the confusion of identity. It is like a dream.

    Any degree of falseness in our experience, has it’s complementary opposite in a truth.

    But the Truth of God has no opposite. No theology worth it’s salt ignores this.

  • Brent Stanfield

    You seem to be speaking in riddles. Fine, if confusion of identity is like a a dream; a dream is not reality. Falsehood is not truth. Confusion is not clarity.

    Falsehood is not the Truth of God. Falsehood is the opposite of truth. Are you saying that there is no falsehood? You are not being clear.

  • If the circumstances already existed then everybody would repent and believe.

    I’m not sure why that would be the case. Our dilemma as humans is very much rooted in this aspect of God that is aware of otherness. The echo of the primordial I AM. The beginning of creation.

    To end our dilemma would mean ending Creation. No otherness to confuse us. Probably not even possible for God.

    The fact that you think in terms of Hell and Heaven means you don’t think this is the case either

    I would say that Hell is a work in progress. The results of our actions and thoughts. We become more and more trapped and impoverished in the world that we destroy out of ignorance.

    It is God that suffers in ego bound darkness. It is God that finds the way back into the Light.

    One Self. Never lost to begin with.

    Is’nt this what the life of Jesus demonstrates?

    Are you a buddhist?

    Not much into religion per se.

  • Perhaps you could just assume that I am speaking clearly about a familiar topic; Just from another angle and with a different emphasis.

    Knowing what is wrong with us, is the path to freedom. How else can we recognize the shepherd come to guide us home.

    This is what I would call turning towards God.

    The Falsehood that you stress, is the veil of illusion to me.

    I of course, do not advocate remaining under the influence of illusion.

    The more I “get” that my sense of self is not the property of some co-existent other sense of self, the more clearly I see the nature of God behind and through all experience.

    This is the why of Love and Forgiveness.

  • We are separated by God to the extent we are not virtuous.

    What is virtue? What is the lack of virtue?

    Is the lack of virtue what you call horribleness?

    What aspect of this virtue/horribleness dyad is so key to God that all of relative existence hinges on it?

    What is the root of virtue? Of horribleness?

    The redemption of Christ is Christ bearing the punishment for our horribleness so that we do not have too.

    This is strong medicine. But still, we must accept the medicine for it to work. Does accepting the medicine make us virtuous and therefore free from punishment; no matter what?

    Or, and this is important, by accepting the medicine, do we now know that we and God are one?

    The “Self of God” is not “our self”. That would be a truly horrible thing. Are you God or am I? If you and I are on a plane together and it begins to crash, who do I pray too for deliverance? You or myself?

    I wasn’t going to address this because it casts such an absurd meaning to my words. However, it does demonstrate nicely how the images in the hall of mirrors process their reality while under the influence of their dreams.

    Does Jesus mean to keep Christhood for himself?

  • Lugene Blair

    Yes. Gouge my eyes out is a good description.

  • I would say that God is infinite potentiality. This is why free will is free will.

    Where do people get this idea that God knows the future?

    Future is in the realm of time. That is Man’s domain and God must experience time through us.

    Since we don’t know, it remains infinitely malleable and mysterious.

    What matters to me is that my will be guided by the Truth; My self is not separate from God.

    Recognizing the nature of ego and taking steps to unravel it’s maze.

  • The only tribe the article and especially the response has done any good for is mine. (We appreciate your work here much.)

    Alas but I fear it is true. What a racket! But then I’ve had the same conversation on sites sponsored by your “tribe”.

    The gaelic was a nice touch though.

  • Google translate is not your friend.

  • “Is mór againn do chuid oibre anseo i bhfad” properly translated to English would be rendered:

    “Benjamin Corey is my hero.”

  • The fidelity of any translation, or even the space between two sets of ears, is always suspect.

    I keep extra grains of salt handy.

  • Cute.

    Next time you play, try to at least manage to correctly identify the language when you attempt to show off your knowledge (there’s a reason even Google Translate calls it ‘Irish’).

  • Tracy

    agreed. Well put.

  • Tracy

    Do you actually know what Calvinists believe then?

  • Tracy

    God’s wrath is against sin, not humans. That changes things quite a bit… God’s wrath is not like human wrath, quite the opposite. We equate wrath with anger and rage…. God’s wrath is quite different to that. Check out Paul Ellis at Escape to Reality website… he explains it well.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes. They believe the Bible. They believe that each person will receive a just judgment and/or mercy and that God will save some.

  • Tracy

    “He created the Devil to do what he does? Hmmm thats why you think he created us to do what we do? God cannot create evil…. Lucifer made his own choice, as we all do either to accept or reject God. I agree that the Devil serves God in that thru his actions, God works his marvelous plans regardless of Satans choices and those who serve him.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes, we all make our choices. But God intends for us to make the choices we make, and created us knowing we would make them, because he has a purpose “over and above” our purposes.

  • Tracy

    Love the rant! I own Greg’s book God of the possible. Molly and I went thru it together and we are quite different in some areas of our beliefs, but we both LOVE discussing theology and getting some light shed on those hard questions and elusive answers to them :)

  • Tracy

    I guess people have always accepted from that scripture that ‘God knows all things, and that he knows the beginning from the end” to mean that he knows all things, from beginning to end :) I don’t think it means what we have thought it meant.

  • Tracy

    Interesting that you think we are all tearing each others throats out, when actually what we are doing is debating what we believe to be true, and allowing others to say what they think is true. We can disagree, but I think we play nicely? I have been on atheist sites when you get utter hatred spewed at you along with words like hater, homophobic, islamaphobe…. etc etc… I find none of this here. Think you are being a tad dramatic to allow you sit comfortably in your firmly held position maybe?

  • Tracy

    What a awful position to have to live under. Being gay does not make you doomed anymore that being heterosexual makes you doomed. We are ‘doomed’ by our rejection of Christ. Do you accept Christ as your savior and your Lord? Then biblically, if you truly do, you are saved. It is by GRACE you are saved, NOT by anything you do or don’t do ( works) thru FAITH in Christ. ( my version of Eph 2:8) We all come to Christ as imperfect creatures, with ‘stuff’ in our lives that we have brought along for the ride. :) When Christ died 200 years ago, paid the price in full for ALL sin, for ALL time. We are not judged now on our sins ( people hate that as they can’t say..”you are sinning God will judge you”… no… people will be judged on weather or not they accept the One who paid for their sins. So now its not you being judged by what you do, its you being judged on who you know. THAT is grace. That is what fires people up. That you can, if fact sin as a Christian, and ‘get away with it’. The catch is.. sin has effects on our bodies and our minds. We do pay when we sin. And if we truly love God, we don’t do what we know is unloving towards Him. If we truly love him, we will be growing in likeness to Him, and that means sinning LESS. So if you love Jesus, KNOW that He loves you, and that you are saved. As far as your sexual identity, just be open to him changing you in whatever way he sees is fit, and stop worrying what others think. They are not your judge.

  • Tracy

    Keep in mind we are a product of our society and the way their justice systems did things, as to how we do things to day. In the West anyway, we don’t go around burning people to death for disagreeing with us. Back then, who knows! You cannot compare what we do today and how we act, to another culture in another time period.

  • Tracy

    Molly – so God chose this family to be His in eternity past and wrote down their names. Then his family had to chose Him, or they got their names rubbed out again? How does that make sense?

  • Tracy

    I believe the bible and i believe that Jesus paid in full for the judgement of sin we all deserve when he died on the cross. We now HAVE received already his mercy. The kingdom of God is not just a future thing… we are not just hanging out here till judgement day. It is a present Kingdom.. that we participate in now. We have PASSED from judgement, and have received grace. There is no more judgement for you if you have accepted Christ. Also – Jesus died for EVERYONE’S sins, not just some sins. So he died for the practicing homosexual, the pervert, the prostitute. That’s everyone. ALL sins have been taken care of. Now we are free to accept his offer of salvation. So the message is one of reconciliation with God, not ‘turn or burn’ etc.

  • Tracy

    Then God is wasting so much time feeling sorry he did certain things, and regretting other things – when he knew all along and had planned it. Yes, that makes total sense to me.

  • Brent Stanfield

    How is he wasting time doing anything? Everything he does serves his plan.

  • No.

  • Murder is wrong. Period.

  • Tracy

    Well it seems like you and God agree on something then. :)

  • Tracy

    Oh my goodness – so you have just suggested that God intends rapist to be rapists, because he has a purpose for them doing that? Answer this please – If Godalways gets what God wants – why isn’t everyone saved. If it’s God’s will for ALL to be saved ( scripture says that) and yet we understand not all will be, God’s will is not done. The Lords’ prayer ‘Thy will be done’… that suggests that it can ‘not be done’ as well… Where do you draw the line Brent – does God will what you eat for breakfast – what car you drive – where you live – or do you get to make those choices? You also missed my point about God wasting time. If he regrets things – does that not tell you he wished they had happened some other way?

  • Tracy

    My reply was meant to be to this post sorry :) Check below.

  • Brent Stanfield

    No, God does not ultimately intend for “rapists” TO BE rapists. Ultimately, God intends for “rapists” To BE judged. Or, if he gives them mercy and saves them, then ultimately He intends for “rapists” TO BECOME holy. Their raping is not the final word. Evil is never the final word.

    When we speak of God’s will there are two ways we refer to it. God’s decretive will refers to what God decrees and what actually comes to pass. God’s prescriptive will is what God commands of his creatures. We can disobey God’s prescriptive will. We can not thwart God’s decretive will. What he decrees will come to pass.

    Everyone isn’t saved because God has not decreed that everyone will be saved. God’s primary purpose is not to save all men. If God wanted to save all men then he could do so since whatever God decrees comes to pass. If God doesn’t decree for all men to be saved then he has another purpose for those men whom he will not save. If you have a verse in mind that you would like to discuss and that specifically says that God wills to save all men then I am happy to discuss it.

  • Proud Amelekite

    “I am not sure how any human can stomach a reality where people do not receive justice.”

    Because justice, like vengeance, is a selfish act that serves no purpose and appeals, primarily to the flesh rather than the conscience. I understand the appeal of living in a universe that works like a Hollywood action movie; where the jerk bad guy dies at the end, the good guy gets the girl, and all live happily ever after. It is justified by the evils of the bad guy and feeds into our love of watching other human beings suffer – a feeling we all secretly enjoy from time to time, if we are being honest. A feeling so ubiquitous to the human experience there is a whole word for it (eg “schadenfreude”).

    I don’t see justice or purpose in punishments that are punitive rather than corrective. Don’t see much purpose in hell beyond allowing priests to wield fear and filch money and power for themselves from their underlings and followers. I would prefer a Universalist sort of universe where reconciliation was the rule and punishments were meant to correct rather than simply to exist, meted out by a mindless God little better than a computer program. I think your approach, while certainly logical, also elevates human beings to a status above and beyond God. In that scenario, God becomes little more than a puppet, dancing on our strings, morally inferior to us.

    I could be wrong though.

  • Brent Stanfield

    If there is no justice, what would there ever be to correct? True correction implies justice.

  • Proud Amelekite

    Oh, my apologies if I caused you to worry. This is not a position I truly live under – that would be positively dreadful. I have been close to death and have a certainty that the empty legalism and nonsense is all meaningless, in the end. I trust my heart and conscience more than any man or Magisterium concerning the hereafter. That said, I was raised Catholic and always have a degree of uncertainty. I know I could be wrong.

    I will be a good person. As best as I can. I will try to love others and show mercy in all ways. I will do the best I can and I will defend my fellow homoromantic folks and those who find themselves wearing the label that places them beyond the reach of God in the eyes of most.

    Even if I am wrong and hellbound, I will do this. Abandoning those who need me to save myself isn’t my style. That said, I suspect you are right and my mercy will be repaid with mercy in kind.

  • Proud Amelekite

    It depends on how you define justice, I suppose. If your concept of justice is corrective change then I can agree with that. For example, if you take a thief and punish him by making him work for the man he stole until he has worked off the debt he owes in order to teach him that his thieving was actively harming the workers, that would be something I would agree with. Often, simply by putting an evil doer in the shoes of his victims and forcing him to empathize with their position he can come to see that he does harm by his crimes. If, on the other hand, your idea of justice is to simply lynch the man I would disagree that such justice is implied. Killing the man does nothing but grant onlookers the pleasure of watching a fellow human being suffer and die at the end of a rope. In this instance, justice serves no purpose beyond a pleasant distraction for those of underdeveloped conscience.

    Often, when justice is brought up in the context of Hell I tend to find myself not really buying into it in the classic sense (eg infinite torment or destruction of the soul). Doesn’t feel right to me. Seems pointless and punitive. Also makes God seem like his concept of justice and mercy are inferior to my own (which makes it seem all the more man made, even if you don’t take into account the pagan connections to the whole eternal hellfire thing as compared to the Jewish view of it).

  • Kevin Osborne

    I LOVE hell is a work in progress, could not have stated it half so well. You should write a book or poetry, with your gift for turn of phrase.

  • No. God commands the murder of entire nations in the Bible, and of individual people over and over and over again.

    I do not agree with the morals laid out by the Christian god.

  • Scripture serves it’s purpose only up to a point.

    The rest of the journey is a surrender to Grace.

    It doesn’t happen if we have to check the rule book first.

  • My apologies. I hadn’t even considered that taking poetic license would be a crime in your book.

    Like I said, translation is tricky. But if you’re always this irritable, it’s probably not worth trying.

  • Kevin, I was hoping you were still around. I’m counting on you to help me keep it real.

    Is your website down or have I lost the correct URL?

  • – You engage me with a nearly nonsensical response to something I posted days ago.

    – You sneer at my use of my native language as ‘a nice touch.’

    – You give an incorrect translation and don’t even correctly identify the language (Gaelic is colloquially used for the Scottish language, more correctly it’s a language branch).

    – You cover up for your misinformation when I call you out on it by claiming ‘poetic’ license.

    – You assert that the space between my ears is suspect and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

    – And you feign offence over me being ‘irritable.’

    No, I’m not irritable, but I will not permit you to talk down to me without pushing back – hard.

  • Molly Griffith

    God is the one who gave them the faith to choose in the first place. John 6:44 When they hear and believe, the Holy Spirit “regenerates” them. Titus 3:5 This is why we evangelize everyone – only God knows whose are his. I see a lot of “logic” and “reasoning” on this blog but very little scripture to back it up.

  • Molly Griffith

    God knows the future. It’s called prophecy in the Bible.

    Question: “Does God know the future?”

    Answer: The Bible is always 100 percent accurate, including its prophetic content. Take, for instance, the prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, as foretold in Micah 5:2. Micah gave his prophecy around 700 B.C. Where was Christ born seven centuries later? In Bethlehem of Judea (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12).

    Peter Stoner, in Science Speaks, has shown that coincidence in prophetic Scripture is ruled out by the science of probability. Taking just eight prophecies concerning Christ, Stoner found that the chance that any one man might have fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Of course, Jesus fulfilled many more than eight prophecies! There is no doubt that Bible is totally accurate in foretelling the future.

    Since God can foretell the future, He certainly knows the future. Isaiah recorded these words about God: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God is the only One who can stand at the beginning and accurately declare the end.

    God is omniscient; He knows everything actual and possible. God is also eternal (Psalm 90:2). As the eternal, omniscient God, He has lived our yesterdays, our todays, and our tomorrows, the past, present, and future. As the popular song says, “To You my future is a memory / ‘Cause You’re already there” (John Mark Hall and Bernie Herms, “Already There”). God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 21:6).

    There are still prophecies in the Bible that await fulfillment. Because God knows the future, we can count on all the prophecies to eventually be fulfilled. Events are taking place in God’s calendar according to His plan. We know who holds the future—the one true, personal, eternal, and all-knowing God of the Bible.

    © Copyright 2002-2014 Got Questions Ministries.

  • Molly Griffith

    So . . . what does omniscient mean? :) And what does the Bible mean when it says “God knows all things”? And what does God mean when he says he knows the beginning from the end? And what about the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies? :)

  • Kevin Osborne

    Hi BR,
    Thank you!
    I wondered why traffic dropped off so much. The webmaster must have been having troubles and forgot to let me know. I checked it and the site is up. Please let me know if you can’t access it. http://www.theunderstandingapp.com . I have been having some interesting experiences with “the other side” that are helping make things more clear. (Obviously it is my creation of the other side, but unconsciously so.)

  • Kevin Osborne

    By the way I don’t think you need any help but enjoy reading your stuff.

  • Wow, talk about getting off on the wrong foot.

    I am going to try to straighten this out.

    Let me emphasize at the beginning that I am not being ingenuous. (at least as best as I can tell.)

    – You engage me with a nearly nonsensical response to something I posted days ago.

    Ok. But, in my defense, it is sometimes hard to avoid that kind of lapse when using this medium. I wish you had just said that, at the start. But of course, how were you to know where it was going?

    – You sneer at my use of my native language as ‘a nice touch.’

    Actually my mood at the moment was one of a kind of “comradie”. I actually meant it. And was enjoying what turned out to be a false sense of who I was talking to.

    – You give an incorrect translation and don’t even correctly identify the language (Gaelic is colloquially used for the Scottish language, more correctly it’s a language branch).

    I incorrectly assumed that you (and others reading it) would find my naive use of Google Translate, as amusing as I had. I wasn’t even thinking about the accuracy of the translation. Although, I thought it fit the sense of your comment quite nicely.

    How the hell would you expect me to translate Irish when I don’t know it, and don’t know anybody who speaks it?

    – You cover up for your misinformation when I call you out on it by claiming ‘poetic’ license.

    Actually, I knew that it was Irish and was abstracting to the language branch for poetic purposes. (you’ll just have to accept my word on that.)

    What I didn’t anticipate, was how important the distinction would be, to the stranger on the other end.

    – You assert that the space between my ears is suspect and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Remember, you have already misinterpreted my sense of levity. It was not the space between “your” ears but the space between “sets” of ears that make translation difficult. I think that this exercise has made that abundantly clear.

    – And you feign offence over me being ‘irritable.’

    I wasn’t feigning anything. It was truly distressing to me, since I seemed to have completely misread who I was talking to. Still not sure. Depends if I have managed to be clear about things now.

    No, I’m not irritable, but I will not permit you to talk down to me without pushing back – hard.

    To summarize: I was NOT talking down to you.

    I, as is typical of me, failed to edge in sideways and assumed a more telepathic understanding than existed.

    Ouch.

    So, sorry.

  • Kevin Osborne

    So hoser, I’ll put another shrimp on the barbie for you, eh? (That is Aussie Canadian for those wondering)

  • Kevin Osborne

    “I don’t have a stake in this comments section melee…” A stake is commitment. I guess this means you want to have the freedom to throw your Irish ancestry into the fray without acceding to Ireland’s considerable history of blood, or the vast repertoire Irish borne literature has granted to humanity, or to your personal responsibility, if such exists, to understanding the All. No stake in my book means your pretty little foot stays well away from the water’s edge. So be it, pretty one.

  • I’m trying to figure out what my nationality has to do with anything, considering I never once mentioned it the comment. Aye, feel free to clear that one up.

    And don’t hate me because I’m pretty. There are so many better reasons.

  • And after all that, I still have no idea what you were trying to say in your original comment to me.

  • Kevin Osborne

    You claim nationality in your title on the board. Being Irish sets a high standard, at least in the U.S. We love you, just for being you.
    I can’t hate, but can alliterate.

  • Until I use examples from my nation of origin to illustrate a point or reference a part of the culture I grew up in to further an argument, neither my nationality nor ethnicity has any bearing on the subject at hand.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Then why do you title yourself “The Irish Atheist”? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or at least not stinketh.

  • Because I grew up in Ireland and my experiences there led to my atheism.

    If my national origin causes such a stink to you, then I suggest the odor doesn’t come from me. It’s astonishing that multiple people, both here and around the internet, have taken great issue with things I say, but you are the only one gravely offended by the mere mention of my own nationality.

    Get over it. You have issue with something I say, then say it. Insinuations that I ‘stink’ because of the country I was born in can, and will, end now.

  • Max_T

    You have just described the New Calvinist movement in my area! I’ve been trying to think of an acrostic to affix to your “5 Reasons”. TULIP didn’t fit, nor BINGO. However, I settled on the latter since that was my exclamation after reading your article. Calvinism is a misrepresentation of the character of God and the cross of Christ. I continue to be amazed that so many (otherwise) intelligent people fall for this theology! I’ve never seen so much arrogance rolled up into a movement in all my life – they’ve been Piperized, Driscollized and Mohlerized. One of the greatest mission fields for Truth can be found in the pulpit and pew of New Calvinist churches. I particularly lament the proliferation of the young, restless and reformed in the Southern Baptist Convention and its associated lack of genuine evangelism (once SBC’s gifting).

  • Well, hey. You had to have been there.

  • But it’s time to move on. That’s all the contrition and explanation this business warrants.

    The term “Irritable” now seems more euphemistic.

  • Thanks Kevin,

    I got a chance to bask in some of your recent writing. Now I’m looking forward to it’s effect on mine.

    What I mean when I say, “helping me to keep it real”, is that you provide the proof that I’m not just talking through my hat.

    And so, I am more likely to walk the razor’s edge without fear

    Others will benefit as well.

    God speed.

  • Kevin Osborne

    It is not your origin but the claim of origin, and the stink is an undefined past coming up through the floorboards. Thank you for mentioning it above. I’ve read “Portrait of the the Artist…” and was raised Catholic, and have a book or two on Irish history, so could guess at your foundation. However any particular reasons for it would be interesting to hear.
    A note from the peanut gallery, any one who approaches the subject of God is, for me, on the path and my interest becomes looking it over with you. All paths are interesting.

  • You choose to ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room. Calvinism IS about God choosing people to suffer for eternity. That’s the Calvinistic view of predestination. Most Calvinists will not deny this. Why do you?

  • Yup!

  • Amy B

    Arminianism =/= Pelagianism (or even semi-pelagianism)

    Be careful not to make a caricature out of the other side :)

  • Cory Klein

    Seems like Benjamin is the one being toxic in this article.

  • John
  • jp

    Its going to be a sad day when the Lord reiterates that no liar, drunkard, sexually immoral or murder has any inheritance in the Kingdom. On that day its not going to matter what “banner” you hang out under.. God made the first move by first promising Christ and then delivering Him. Now, every man has the opportunity to respond of his own volition. The wicked will perish because they love darkness, not because they weren’t given an opportunity to repent and believe.
    “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

  • sevines

    How? Because he disagrees with you cultic soteriology?

  • sevines

    Ah, yes, the truth spoken in love. /sarc

  • Cory Klein

    Another toxic remark doesn’t help your case.

  • Wayne Pavy

    I’ve had it with people trying to convince me of this re-born false doctrine of Calvinism. I will resist it with my last breath. Whose God would form children in their mother’s womb knowing full well they were predestined to an eternity in hell? Not my God. He is the Alpha & the Omega, the author & finisher of our faith, the great I Am, Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father & the Prince of my Peace. When my Lord and Savior bowed his head and said, ‘It is finished’ He did so for you and for me, not because we deserved it, not because we were somehow more worthy than others and therefore ‘ELECT’ but because in His eyes each of us were worth every drop of his sin cleansing blood. Glory to the Lamb of God who was slain, who became sin for us though no sin was found in Him. My God is a God of love, of mercy and of grace, not a tyrannical demented dictator willing allow the birth of millions predestined to eternity in Hell although stripped of their ability to accept or reject him. Who is this God of the Calvinist? Does he on the one hand form millions in their mothers’ wombs predestined to fill the corridors of Hell while on the other elect a select few to enter the Kingdom of God? Does this god produce predestined robots and if so would this not diminish the power of His own Cross? If only the ‘ELECT’ shall enter the kingdom would he not have simply accepted a sacrifice of fresh fruit or of prize cattle and taken the ‘elect’ long ago? No, my Saviour came to save the lost, the sinner, the tax collector, the prostitute, the drunkard and the dispossessed. He came to heal the brokenhearted and to break the chains of sin and conquer death on behalf of the lost. He commanded us to love one another and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, to be a light unto the world and to Preach the Gospel for faith comes by hearing the word of God. So unless we speak who will hear? Yes, he is also judge of the living and the dead. If you hear His call get smart, get off your pedestal, come down from your lofty mountain of pride, let go of self righteousness which is as filthy rags to him, understand that you will be judged by the same measure that you judge others and bow your knee, confess with your tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord and be saved. He is worthy to be praised.

  • Judy Santmire

    Amen, and Amen and AMEN!

  • Okay, so Benjamin Corey has gone on record as finding Calvinism as one of the most offensive theologies in the world. A typical example of the academic rigor he brings to this conclusion may be found when he writes:

    ‘Calvinism, especially Neo-Calvinism today, seems to have a fetish of sorts with God’s anger.’

    I assume he’s using the word ‘fetish’ here to mean ‘a strong and unusual need or desire for something.’ Thus he seems to believe that Calvinists have made the wrath of God into ‘an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion’ (an alternative definition for ‘fetish’).

    Of course, he’s careful to employ the mother-of-all-weasel-words: ‘seems.’ I use that word occasionally myself, when I cannot prove something, or when I am simply trying to describe my own impression about something. In such cases I try to make it clear that I am submitting my own subjective judgement, but Corey ‘seems’ to go beyond the subjective in his next sentence:

    ‘Hang around the average Calvinist very long, and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath.’

    So now he is inviting others to collect their own empirical data on this topic, and he confidently predicts (theories, after all, must make predictions) what his invitees will find: that the ‘average’ Calvinist defines God mostly in terms of wrath, and thus he actually reverences (i.e., turns into a fetish) said wrath.

    Now, how Benjamin Corey has established just what an ‘average’ Calvinist thinks and believes he does not say. He cites no surveys. He refers us to no scholarly studies. He supplies not empirical data. So apparently we are to assume that his own personal experience is so comprehensive on this topic, totally unfiltered by such things as bias or ignorance, that we should expect it to be accurate, normative, and representative for everyone.

    Now, lest we should misunderstand him, he goes on:

    ‘While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like.’

    Okay, so when God gets angry, it’s not such a big deal, or Jesus would have talked about it more. Apparently He only gets angry about the kinds of things that anger Benjamin Corey, which must comprise a very short list. Never mind the fact that we read of Jesus referring to hell far more than any other person in the entire Bible (Jesus: 11 times; Peter once; James once—just counting the actual use of the word ‘hell’). And never mind the fact that Jesus said that the only alternative to believing in Him was to have ‘the wrath of God abide’ on you (Jn 3:36). Forget about all that. Benjamin Corey says Calvinists major on things Jesus did not, and just to make sure we get what that means, he goes on:

    ‘Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.’

    Fascinating! In my reading and interaction with non-Calvinists (which began somewhere around the time that Benjamin Corey was born) I have observed that Calvinists have usually been accused of building their worldview on God’s sovereignty, and have been attacked for building it upon that. And then there have been others who have actually taken the time to read Calvin and historic Calvinist theologians who have attacked Calvinists for building their worldview on total depravity. Normally, building a worldview on anger has been an accusation that most have pinned on the medieval Roman Catholic Church.

    Sovereignty and depravity must no longer be sufficient reasons to hate Calvinism, so Benjamin Corey has to look for more, and he figures he’s found it in God’s wrath. He also believes that he has not only found the one thing that explains Calvinists, but the one thing that explains Jesus:

    ‘When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9).’

    Well, there you go! If you want to know what God is like, look at the man who talked about hell more than anyone in the Bible! What could be simpler? But—uh-oh!—wait a minute. I must have it wrong, because Benjamin Corey says:

    ‘In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love.’

    Okay, so scratch all that stuff in the New Testament where Jesus said stuff like, ‘The servant who…does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows,’ (Luk 12:47), and how He promised He would one day tell people, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,’ (Mat 25:41), and by all means get rid of all those reference to hell coming from Jesus’ lips, because even though they’re in the actual New Testament, they might give people a false impression.

    Because Jesus just can’t be the kind of person that Calvinists supposedly make Him out to be—He just can’t! Because you know what just thinking like that does to people like Benjamin Corey? Well, allow him to tell you:

    ‘Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.’

    In other words: it makes him really, really ANGRY!

  • WilmRoget

    Bearing false witness is a sin. Please repent.

  • whatsinaname?

    Emotion. Where is the careful exegesis of your cited verses? God does not care about our feelings more than his holiness/soverignity. The bible does not present both “I choose” and “I have been chosen.” “There is something good about me, I am not all that bad.” is the human mantra. It just goes against our psyche(flesh) that we are 100% bad(dead in sin). “There is none good, no not one.” just does not sit well with us. A dead man floating face down in the sea of sin does not reach out for God’s life preserver. God has to perform CPR to that dead man to bring him to life.

  • Very late to the topic I know. But, if this is truly your view, then you have not read and understood classic Arminianism and its teaching of prevenient grace. In Classic Arminianism, God does act first in extending grace which enables a choice to have faith in God or not. God then responds to this choice by applying to that person the full work of salvation.

  • Michael Cummings

    I skimmed the remarks I will comment here please because the thread is long. If it wasn’t covered, and people aren’t too caught up in believing this world around them, I would remind people we are all dead in sin and the full manifestation will come soon enough. Dead people don’t do anything. And those Jesus revives would rather live in His Spirit (as much as grace would allow). Why must people make it all about them, what they chose, mixing God’s grace with works to which Paul said “be accursed twice in Galations. Where were you when God chose you (if He did and that’s good enough for you)?
    Oh BTW predestined is a biblical word in the KJV so please don’t leave it out of your theology. As is Romans 9 God predestined Pharaoh for destruction to glorify Himself.

  • theprozacqueen

    I know this is old but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who notices the “flip side” of the “elect” doctrine-that if some people are predestined to go to heaven, that by default means that some are chosen for Hell. Unless there’s some sort of “third option” I don’t know about…I’ve just had people say I’m reading too much into things or misquoting Calvinism when I’ve said this in the past. It’s good to see someone who is educated and publicly respected say this because I feel a little less “off in left field” now.

  • J. Neil Barham

    The jerk who said it was on every page of Scripture was just a jerk. Like Scripture matters! This is the 21st Century! Doesn’t that “every page of Scripture” jerk know that we’ve grown beyond all that superstitious nonsense? Doesn’t he know that in this modern, enlightened age, we’re supposed to get our theology from our preferences and feelings, not from some Bronze Age compilation of fairy tales? Doesn’t that bigot understand that God is what we imagine him to be, and that we — not some silly book — are the measure of all things and the standard of truth? Who cares about prophets who predict stuff hundreds or thousands of years before it happens? Who cares about Jacob and Esau? Who cares about Isaac and Ishmael? Who cares about Abram chosen out of Ur of the Chaldees? After all, Abram was the only man in Ur wise enough to deduce the existence of the True God, and virtuous enough to follow him who knew where. And what was that idiot Moses thinking when he had God say to Pharaoh, “For this reason I raised you up, that I might display my power in you…” Forget all that incoherent nonsense in Ephesians 1; burn Romans 9; who cares about Luke — who was obviously on drugs when he wrote that ridiculous statement: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

    Scripture? Seriously? Like you’re gonna go with a Bible that says asinine stuff like that? What a JERK!

    I dislike Calvinism because it offends my view of myself.
    I dislike Calvinism because it offers a very inconvenient God who won’t conform to my desires and preferences.
    I dislike Calvinism because it doesn’t keep up with the times and adapt to today’s ways of thinking.
    I dislike Calvinism because it leaves too much in God’s hands and nothing in mine.
    I dislike Calvinism because its God does things that I don’t like and that I don’t understand. (Surely any REAL God, any God worthy of my worship, would ask me what I think, and only do things that I find palatable!)

    I dislike Calvinism because ME.

  • No, I dislike Calvinism because of comments like this.

  • Noah

    So I concluded I’m probably just a bad Calvinist (if that) after I had a lengthy response on my phone before I hit refresh.

    I here you about 7th grade. Mine was 6th grade, as I was grossly overweight, wore sweatpants everyday and was the new kid (as I often was). I definitely see the outsider when others don’t.

    My experience with Calvinists has been different, both at church and Conwell. Generational shift, perhaps. Borgman is seeing it in other areas, if you had him.

    Growing up outside the church in Mass certainly gave me a pretty big reason to not like Calvinism, but the church I came to faith in and haven’t left leans that way. We loved Driscoll (I was leery before others), but have moved on. We also like Lewis, Spurgeon, Bob Goff, etc. At the end of the day I conclude that God chose me before I chose him.

    My understanding has been that God chooses those who he knows will chose him. I’m not comforted by a god who doesn’t save everyone anyways. Or that I’m born as someone who cannot not sin. That stinks. Yet, I obviously see myself as that.

    All that said, I’ve definitely avoided any real embrace of Calvinism or other doctrine. Just a vague protestant here.

  • Dean

    Love the Calvinists coming out en masse here to “defend” their doctrine, because how dare you criticize the Gospel like that, you can add that to the list. Oh, that and John Calvin was a murderer.

  • Dean

    “God shows his love for every person by giving them life and a host of comforts during life.”

    I guess that’s fine for you to say, I take it you live in the “burbs” rather than sub-Saharan Africa? Never had Ebola wipe out your village? I guess that was all God’s sovereign will too huh? Hope all those folks made it to Heaven cuz jeez, not sure what kind of “comforts” they got out of this life.

  • Dean

    Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure most Calvinists will miss the irony in your post. I’m convinced that the mere existence of the doctrine of the reprobate goes against the very foundation of scripture. God always sides with the oppressed, with the outcast, there is no one beyond hope, the dead can be raised, in fact, death has been conquered, the Gospel is good news to all people, Jesus, as the rejected cornerstone is the one who advocates for all who are rejected, those who think they are in are probably out and those who are out will be in, God will go out to the streets and gather random people to the feast, for God so loved the world…I can go on and on. None of these clear passages in scripture are compatible with Calvinism at all, they all require some sort of caveat, to which I say there are none provided in the scriptures, and that is the appeal, that is the power of message of Jesus Christ.

  • Dean

    No, just those who are held on undeserved pedestals.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Yes, I do live in the “burbs”. But I have been to sub-Saharan Africa and find that there is often more joy in that place than in my own neighborhood. The Apostle Paul was blessed more by God than I will ever be and he did not have iPhones, cars, or large homes with manicured lawns. He had stonings, beatings, shipwrecks, prison, and a beheading. But God granted him comfort throughout. I have witnessed more happiness amongst children who have lost both parents to AIDS than I have seen in my own children at times. You have a very petty view of grace. You equate “material” with “blessing”. He who has the most toys wins. But the grace God gives is so much more. It is the happiness that comes from a child. It is the satisfaction of a success… regardless of whether it is a $1,000,000 sale or finding food to fill your stomach for a day. It is companionship of a good friend. But all of those things fade. Only the grace of Christ doesn’t fade. So it doesn’t matter whether the “burbs” or “Africa” in the final analysis. All that matters is God’s saving grace. God gives all of us every good thing that we do have. No one could suffer any loss at all unless God had first given them something good to lose. God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21 It is all under his sovereign authority.

    We should work so that all those, in the “burbs” or in “Sub-Saharan Africa” make it to heaven. But none of us deserve it. We don’t deserve any of the good things God gives us. The fact that we receive good… good that we will ultimately loose without Christ… is a testament to God’s grace to those of us who are unworthy… who have been raised from the dust… by God’s pure sovereign grace.

  • Dean

    I think you are missing my point. I’m not sure you are in a position to say something like I quoted you saying. I know that’s a common Calvinist trope and I know you think that’s what the Bible says, but you have to realize how flippant you sound when you say things like that. It’s too convenient that all the Calvinists I know are middle class and white living in affluent suburban neighborhoods in the United States or UK. I’m not saying that to guilt you or shame you, I’m just trying to get you to recognize your place in the world when you say something like how God loves the reprobate that way. It honestly sounds like religious nonsense and I’m really surprised how oblivious you are to that. For a lot of people in this world, life is a tortuous hell hole and then you say they’re going to roast in hell for eternity after they die on top of that and it was all predestined for God’s glory, and oh yeah, God loves you. There is nothing systematic about this kind of theology, it is incoherent.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Oh, I get the point. You don’t like the view so you put yourself as judge to try to disqualify the person. The point is not persuasive.

    It sounds like you need to get out more. Maybe come and take a trip out to Limuru Kenya and Kenya Baptist Theological College and meet some of the great reformed bush preachers trained there who one day were just handed a Bible and made pastor because they were the only ones in their village who could read. Now there are strong reformed evangelists doing excellent preaching in one of the poorest areas of the world. Or maybe you should learn more of the great African American tradition of Calvinist preachers like H.H. Garnet or Lemuel Haynes. Or modern day greats like Voddie Baucham. Or up and comers like Kempton Turner out in East St. Louis and Billy Bernhard here in Houston. For hundreds of years following the Reformation, Reformed Theology was the theology of the oppressed. Persecution that drove the Puritans to America where they endured the hardships, death, and disease of the “new world”. They didn’t live in “the burbs”.

    Your “limited” perspective on Reformed Theology and the people who hold to it says a lot about you. You are presumptuous. You think you are able to judge the “quality” of others lives like a savant. But judging is God’s work. You have also “presumed” to know my doctrine of hell. But you don’t. I have not mentioned hell or the judgment at all. You don’t have enough information to understand whether my theology is coherent at all. You are not interested. You are merely interested in attacking what you don’t truly understand.

  • Dean

    I’m pushing back on a doctrine that I think is sub-Christian on a number levels. If I’ve made it personal, then I apologize. But here’s the thing, it’s hard to separate your own personal feelings and biases from this discussion. If you can agree on that, then at least we have a starting point. I find that most Calvinist believe that their peculiar doctrine is somehow the only position squarely grounded on the Bible and if we would just “submit” ourselves to the biblical text we would suddenly all agree. Well it seems obviously to me that can’t be further from the truth. I certainly wouldn’t say that about any one of my beliefs about anything, they always arise from the particular circumstances in ones life, from a particular, place and time. I would never make the claim that Open Theism or Arminianism or Universalism, or whatever is clearly taught by scripture, of course it’s not. But neither is Calvinism. We pick and choose the theology that matches our experiences, both with other people and with God. What do you think?

  • Dean

    Which is why, btw, it stuns me that so many Christians (albeit historically a minority) would be attracted to Calvinism. The Calvinist God is arbitrary and capricious except to those who are “in”. Well guess what, many of us will never “feel” like we’re “in” and many of us will always be concerned about those who are “out”, now and in the hereafter.

  • Proud Amelekite

    I did bring that up and the answer I got was that when Christ is spoken of as raising the dead (or “elect”) that he is referring to a specific group of people. Only those written of in the Book of Life. That whole “Book of Life, Book of Death” thing was big with the one I talked to. Your name is either in one or the other and has always been there since before you were born.

    It is a bit dark, really.

  • Mr. WAC

    Regarding the toxicity of Calvinist culture, I (a Catholic working for a Calvinist institution) have found that their emphasis of the Sovereign Will of God is often used as a license to treat other people like crap. “Sorry to have to do this to you, but, you know, God is Sovereign, and . . . “

  • Brent Stanfield

    The difficulty in separating your own personal feelings and biases from the discussion is evident in the fact that you took your very limited view of who holds to Reformed Theology and used it as an indictment against the whole system. Of course, it is difficult to remove personal feelings and biases from the discussion. I will try to do it also.

    I find that all sides at least make an attempt to ground their view in scripture and in reason. They try to take what scripture says and understand it in a coherent way. Of course, Calvinists will argue that it is their view that is found most clearly in scripture. That is why they are Calvinists. You think that it isn’t clear in scripture that is why you are not a Calvinist.

    But you go further and say that none of your beliefs… or anyone’s beliefs… are grounded in scripture. That they are only grounded in our own discrete experience. While I will admit that all of our beliefs are filtered through experience, they are not grounded entirely in our experience unless you have give up truth all together. In other words, although all of our beliefs are subjective to us they are ultimately attempts to understand some “truth” which is objective to us. We are all trying to understand what the Bible really says… and the Bible really does say something. Some are simply more successful than others at understanding what scripture really means… like some people who have better eyesight or better hearing than others. The aim of this discussion is to try to help others see better. Perhaps you will help me see better. But you cannot do that if you deny that there is nothing in particular to see. If you claim that there is just your eyesight and my eyesight [i.e. your experience and my experience].

  • Brent Stanfield

    The Calvinist God is not arbitrary or capricious. Look up the definitions, those words imply that he can change. That his desire can be one thing today, another tomorrow. But the Calvinist God wants what he wants and does what he does because of his unchanging nature. It is by definition a grounding in God’s good nature. It is the very opposite of arbitrary and capricious.

    All of us ought to continually strive to work out our salvation and prove our election sure by doing good works. That is the Biblical command. For us, election will not be something we can declare in the moment but will be something that will be demonstrated in the end. Until the end, I agree that we should do our best to be the means to make any and all “elect”. That is the mission the Sovereign God of this universe has given to us.

  • I seldom finish a Blog post but I have to stay I really enjoyed this one.
    The whole limited atonement idea sounds so preposterous that I can’t believe it deceives so many people in the world. At the same time tho I want to say that, even if all my heart feels that all that gibberish isn’t true, who are we to say we know God’s plan for us? Ultimately we have to be humble, patient and someday we shall see…
    ” For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”1 Corinthians 13:12

  • Dean

    How about this basic question, if the Calvinist God can predestine some for eternal conscious torment before the beginning of time, how you can trust him? How can you be sure he is looking out for your best interests? How can you make the distinction between Satan and Yahweh (without simply making the assertion of course)? To make this even more explicit, if you are a member of the Reprobate, could you possibly distinguish between God and the Devil, and if so, how?

  • Dean

    Brent, it occurred to me last night that my response to your initial assertion that God loves the reprobate by showing them temporal blessings was not appropriate, I apologize for that. The appropriate response is the one that Jesus made, he said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

    Jesus consistently teaches that we are not to value the things of this world, we should not build bigger barn houses, that we should be looking forward to the age to come. Paul consistently says that we are visitors here, that our citizenship is in heaven and that the sufferings we temporarily endure will be nothing compare to the glories of eternity. The Psalmist says life is like a shadow, like a breath. James says life is but a vapor.

    My point is, that’s simply a bad argument, it has no basis in reason or the biblical text and it’s ironic that you would turn something like this, when applied one way, on it’s head when applied another. It’s like saying to a prisoner who has been granted a life sentence, I’ll let you out of your cage for about 2 minutes and then back you go for 100 years, what a mercy! Some of your Calvinists friends are honest enough to say that God hates the reprobate. But arguments like the one you made are ad hoc, sound totally disingenuous to those who are not in your camp, and reveal how uncomfortable a lot of Calvinists are with the consequences of their own theology.

  • Brent Stanfield

    To you “basic question”, let’s back up. How about we just ask, how can we trust God? If we are thinking clearly about God then we understand that God is “the reality maker”. God creates. He makes reality. He is truth. What God does is what “is”. To NOT trust him is to believe what is “unreal”; it is to believe the lie. If God predestined from all eternity some to eternal conscious torment then you can TRUST that it will happen. It is “reality”. Now, I have not weighed in on whether or not I think God’s judgment involves eternal conscious torment. But if God has done “it” then “it” is what will happen and you can trust that absolutely.

    Next you ask, “how can you be sure he is looking out for your best interests”. First, let’s be clear… he doesn’t have to look out for your best interests. Good does not equal being good to you or me. Of course man wants God to be good to him. We want a god that will prosper us, give us things that we want, that serves us… instead of the other way around. God does not have to be good to us. If he is good to us it is totally by GRACE and not by our right. The FACT that God is good to us is something we only know because God has revealed it to us in scripture. It is the Gospel. It is the GOOD NEWS. Without this revelation then at best we could presume that God is willing to tolerate us for 80+ years after which we die usually uncomfortably. We would only know that God is willing to let us live like grass, grow for a season, wither away, and die. But BY GRACE we discover that God in fact wishes more for us. It didn’t have to be that way. But BY GRACE God has decided to save many from this fate. To many he has given this amazing gift of living eternally, of growing closer to him, of being family with him. None of that HAD to be. There is no cosmic law requiring it. There is nothing in us saying we deserved it. There is only God’s gracious disposition towards man.

    How can you distinguish between God and Satan. Satan never tells the truth. He always lies. Satan might tell you what you want to hear. But God will always tell you what is TRUE. God is the “reality maker”. Satan is the “fantasy maker”. Satan will tell you that you can be like God if you eat the fruit. God will tell you that you will go to perdition. You might like to hear what Satan has to tell you; but what God has to tell you is true. Note that the difference between the two is not that God is good to you while Satan is not. God may be your enemy. God may crush you. He will certainly do that to Satan. The difference between God and Satan is that God is truth. If God will save you then you are saved. If he damns you then you are damned. Satan can promise you everything you ever wanted but it is a lie.

  • Brent Stanfield

    We are not to love the temporal blessings. We OUGHT to be grateful for them. That is a huge distinction. The message of scripture is always that we should look to the one who gives us the blessing. That is the trick isn’t it. The reason why it is hard for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of God is because he balks when Christ tells him to give away all he has to come follow him. If he had been grateful to God for his riches he would have had no problem giving them away to do the will of God’s servant. But he reckoned the riches are what blessed him… he loved his riches more than God. Take Abraham as the antithesis of that. Abraham is given a son. He was grateful to God for his son. When God tells Abraham to go to Mt. Moriah and give back his son, Abraham, knowing that it is God who blesses and not Isaac, shows his willingness to go and give back his son. That is the attitude of faith. To understand that all that we receive in this world is a gift from God.

    Riches, children, life, companionship, health, influence, etc…. all of the things we can have in this world are things that we can be grateful for to God. We can enjoy them. We can thank God for the blessing. But we must be willing to put God first knowing that he is the source of all blessing.

    When the Bible uses the world love and hatred to describe God’s disposition towards a thing it uses it in the original sense of the phrase. Love means preferred. Hatred means being left out; not preferred. Jacob God loves [i.e. preferred], and Essau God hates [i.e. not preferred]. Jacob gets the blessing because God, for his sovereign purposes, prefers Jacob and does not prefer Essau. When Jesus tells his disciples that they must hate their father and mother if they are to love him; it is a statement of dramatic preference. Jesus is to be preferred far above all other things. When I say I “hate” traffic, I am saying that I prefer the open road. It is the sense of the term without the more visceral human emotion we tend to pump into it.

    Does God hate the reprobate? Yes as is compared to the elect. Lets be clear. Jesus is loved [i.e. preferred] above all. The elect are loved [i.e. preferred] in Christ. The reprobate are hated [i.e. not preferred] as it relates to the elect. But the reprobate are still showered with grace, preferred above the dumb animals, grass, stones, etc…. There is much given to man that is not given to a cow, or a sheep, or an oak tree. The reprobate have achieved great wealth, social status, and power. They are “loved” in terms of their standing in creation. But they are hated for the sake of the elect. They are not preferred.

    So what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? I think the word profit is perfect. It profits him nothing. To the man who obtains much in this world but loves the world and not God, that which he obtains is like a loan… a loan which God will call one day and take back… making him pay the last farthing. But to the man who is in Christ, who obtains in this world and in the next, all is given him as a free gift from God, purchased by Christ. All is profit. All is grace.

  • Dean

    This is so interesting, it definitely clarifies how you think about these things. I guess I tend to think of Christianity more pragmatically than you, I believe it has “utility”. In the end Brent, you can only believe things are are useful to you. If there was a reality where you and I both happened to be in the “reprobate” group, I actually don’t think either of us would actually “believe” that to be the case. Maybe this is getting too philosophical, but I actually don’t think it’s possible for anyone to have any form of spirituality that doesn’t involve a God looking out for your interests, I don’t say that flippantly, in fact, I don’t believe any such religion exists. But I will make the same assertion, to the reprobate, Satan and God are the same person, I’m not sure how you get around that. What could Satan do to someone who is reprobate that God hasn’t already done? How can you further hurt someone who is literally godforsaken? I can’t accept a theology that can arrive at such a conclusion because I find that the narrative of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ totally inapposite. Ultimately, that’s why I find it so hard to understand why anyone would embrace this kind of doctrine, I find it impossible not to empathize with such people, there cannot be a group of folks who are rejected by God for nothing they have done, that class of people cannot exist in a Christian worldview in my opinion.

    But I’ll leave you with this, 1 John says, we are to love each other because he loved us first. I wholeheartedly agree with you that God IS reality. But I think you are incorrect when you say that there is no cosmic law that says he has to look out for us, that he has to love us, in fact there is. It’s the law of Love, it is his intrinsic being, it is his essence (not wrath, not justice not any of those things), he can’t be anything other than that, it’s why we are here and why we have hope and why there is the incarnation, it is why I’m still a Christian despite many reasons not to be. This is not because we deserve it, of course we don’t deserve it, but this is why we should love and worship, and this is why we should trust him. But if you really think God could possibly do otherwise, than I think you have gotten lost in the weeds after reading too much John Calvin or Piper, or whatever other Johns you’ve been reading.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Nothing I have stated detracts from the utility of being a Christian. Christianity is the most practical of faiths BECAUSE it is ultimately true. It deals with realities; not just human desires. It describes what “is”; not necessarily what we want to hear. Nothing is practical that is not true. All other religions, no matter how good they sound, are not true and are therefore not practical.

    I agree that if you or I were in the reprobate group it is unlikely, if not impossible, that we would accept it. Part of being reprobate is to be deceived. The reprobate will never come to knowledge of their dire condition until judgment has come upon them. Realizing that no one is self-righteous or worthy to be saved [i.e. reprobate] is the means God uses to bring the elect to repentance and faith. If we truly understand our deserved reprobation then we
    will call out to God to save us and we will be saved. That is how God works in the hearts of people to bring them to faith. God opens their eyes to their own lack of righteousness, their own lack of self worth, their desert of reprobation. Having their eyes opened they then fall to
    their knees and ask God to save them from this condition. It is very likely that it is only the elect that can come to understand the reprobation. The reprobate will usually believe in their own self-righteousness and self-worth
    and so will deny the reprobation unless God convinces them otherwise and saves them. That is why I worry about those who seem to believe that nobody is “in fact” reprobate. For example, you seem to believe that if God is good then he will see the “self worth” of every man. You seem to assume that all men are by default worthy of God’s love and therefore it is incomprehensible that he would ever “not prefer”, “not love”, all men. You deny the basic reprobation [i.e. unworthiness] of all men. Did you truly repent? Or did you believe that God is required to save you because you are in fact worthy?

    I also agree that few, if any, have a spirituality that does not invoke a god or gods in their favor. It is quintessential to the religions of men to engage in activities that seek to
    invoke the gods on their behalf. It is the hubris of man to create “religions” whereby he can manipulate the gods. How many human hearts are needed to appease Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec sun god? How many children to Molech? Have you prayed enough times to Mecca today? What will it take to satiate the gods and make them do our bidding? That is where Christianity cuts the Gordian knot. You can do nothing to appease God except be perfect as he is perfect. Religious practice is irrelevant. God cannot be manipulated. Our only hope is to be made perfect by God. Those who do as God commands and please him are those who God has already favored. Christianity is not a religion. It does not describe the particular practices man must do to appease God. It describes what God has done. God has appeased himself through Christ. Christianity or Christians are the body of people that God is perfecting. Christianity is God’s movement. It is what God is doing through humanity. It is not what humanity is doing through God. If your perspective only sees Christianity as how it benefits you, pragmatically, then you have the wrong perspective of it. [See next Post]

  • Brent Stanfield

    To your question about how the reprobate view God: Is he a demon to them? If you are having difficulty distinguishing God from a demon then you no doubt have prestigious company. No less than three times in the Gospel was Jesus accused of having a demon. Why? Because he defied the religious expectations of the people. If ever there existed a group of men able to claim that they had rights to invoke God because of their religious observance it was the pious Pharisees who tithed even their “mint and dill” and followed every law. Yet, when Christ comes and commands them to
    repent and bear fruit worthy of repentance, he defies their expectation of self worth. He tells them that they are not perfect. He warns them that they are spiritually dead. When they object and claim that Abraham is their father and that they are not slaves to anyone, Jesus declares them children of Satan and slaves to sin. They accuse him of being a demon. To those who do not understand their complete dependence on God and total lack of self-righteousness the difference between God and a demon might not be clear. Why would it be? If your starting point is “I am worthy” then
    you will object when God declares that you are not. You will see God as deficient when he works against you. If you are worthy and God is against you then God must be the demon.

    I would imagine that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah believed it was a demon that rained down fire and brimstone on their towns. Perhaps the Egyptians believed this Hebrew God a demon for inflicting them with plagues. Perhaps the Canaanites believed Yahweh a demon when he toppled the walls of Jericho. Why not, there they were, observing their particular religions with all due piety, sacrificing to Ra or Baal, bowing down before statues of wood and stone when all of the sudden they encountered the REAL God of this world who ushered in calamity upon them. The gods they worshiped were impotent. The God of reality was not. But you and I can understand their confusion. They were worthy before their false gods, gods they believed they could control, who promised them safety and security, demons in fact. When the real God shows up and their unworthiness was exposed their expectations are dashed.

    But the actual difference between demons and God cannot be more pronounced. Demons like Baal, Ra, Molech, Huitzilopochtli, promise much, they promise righteousness, but deliver nothing. God does everything he purposes to do. Demons will take you to a high mountain and show you the kingdoms of this world and promise them to you. But they will not deliver. They cannot make you righteous. [See Next Post]

  • Brent Stanfield

    But what about God’s love? You want to assume that God is FOR EVERYBODY. Your reasoning from 1 John follows from this assumption. You take 1 John to say that God loves everyone even though 1 John doesn’t say that. You want to say the 1 John 4’s “God is Love” really means, “God loves all of mankind indiscriminately”. But 1 John 4 doesn’t say that. God’s love, his preference, has always been displayed through his elect.

    In Romans 8:31 Paul says: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The question is rhetorical of course. No one can stand against us IF God is for us because no one can stand against God. But note the conditional: “IF”. Paul does not declare that God is for everyone. Rather, he says that IF God is for a person then nothing can stand against that person. You seem to want to go that extra step. If God is for everyone then nothing could stand against anyone. But
    Paul does not go there. In fact, in the very next chapter he makes it clear that Jacob he loved [i.e. preferred] and Essau he hated [i.e. did not prefer]. God was “for” Jacob he was not “for” Essau.

    God is love. But that does not mean that God must “love” all things. All true love comes from God. God necessarily loves everything that is worthy of love. For example, he loves his son. The elect, those who are in Christ, are also loved since we are in Christ. God has made us worthy to be loved by imputing to us the righteousness of Christ. It did not have to be that way. It is that way because God is gracious towards man. He has made some worthy who were not in fact worthy. He did that totally by grace. We were not worthy of love. But he has loved us anyway.

    To the rest of mankind, they remain reprobate. He has not decided to show favor to them forever. He has restricted their life to about 120 years. He will take away what he has given to them. But in the meantime he has given them much grace. Although they could have it all taken away at any moment. Instead, he has given much grace. That is love. I think you take for granted God’s love. Love is allowing an unworthy humanity to exist at all. It is a gracious act. No man can complain that God has ever taken something from him that God didn’t give to him in the first place. There is no injustice with God. As Job says in verses 1:21: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    I can honestly say that I have never read a John Piper book and I have only read excerpts from Calvin’s institutes. But my main thoughts come mostly from reading the ENTIRETY of the Bible. Books like Ecclesiastes, Habakkuk, Job, Psalms, Revelation, the Gospels, Isaiah, Jeremiah, The Pentateuch. I honestly don’t see how you can understand most of what is in the Bible on your view.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Dean, beside my three posts below, let me also recommend to you this youtube video from C.S. Lewis’ screw tape letters. These are great to watch by themselves but I think this one speaks to our discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GtrzTNgQSg

    I hope you enjoy.

  • Dean

    “For example, you seem to believe that if God is good then he will see the “self worth” of every man.”

    I just simply disagree with so many assumptions that you need to make to be a Calvinist, such as this one. You have to just ignore a lot of verses that clearly teach certain very specific things about what God is like and what he cares about. I think the fact that the Bible says God is Love actually means something. It means that God doesn’t hate people, he hates what sin has done to people. You end up with a really perverted definition of love otherwise.This is Kant’s categorical imperative. It is the basis for all human morality. The Calvinist God is not Love, he is a conflicted, he loves some and hates others, even though he created all.

    Here’s another Bible verse for you to ponder: “So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them.” This one verse has been the beacon of hope for humanity, it is what differentiates Christianity from all other religions. The rabbis say that if you save one life, you have saved the entire world. Our modern liberal societies are based on the premise every human life has infinite worth, this is the gift that the Christian tradition has given to the world, it is how we justify fighting for the oppressed and the marginalized.

    But think for a moment what the Calvinist caste system does to Imago Dei. The Calvinist God thinks so little even of his own image that he created the massa damnata, freely and without compulsion, and for his own pleasure and glory, just so that he can have a cosmic BBQ. In the Calvinist universe, we who are created a little lower than angels, are actually lumps of clay to be discarded on a whim. That is NOT what Romans 9 means, it flies in the face of the weight of scripture. I know I sound flippant, and I don’t want to be disrespectful, but that is EXACTLY how I perceive the doctrine of the reprobate. You call it mysterious, I call it abhorrent. And I am totally surprised that it doesn’t bother you. Calvin called it the horrible decree, all the Calvinist mainstream mega pastors are extremely embarrassed by it, and the psychos like Robert Morey and Vincent Cheung who actually own up to what the theological consequences of this terrifying doctrine are and embrace it, well are sociopaths.

  • Dean

    “Or did you believe that God is required to save you because you are in fact worthy?”

    Same thing Brent, I don’t believe God is morally required to do anything, but his NATURE compels him to save mankind. For God so loved the world, that’s what he does, that’s what he is, he really is that good, you don’t have be scared, Jesus was willing to die for you, not because God killed him in your place, but because he laid down his life willingly to save humanity. You consistently fail to understand that those of us who push back on Calvinism do so because we believe you are impugning the character of God and your posts consistently reveal a God who is certainly to be feared, but not so clear to me should be loved. I’ve often wondered why Calvinists don’t seem to get survivor’s guilt.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Dean – On the whole you have been very courteous and generous in your objections. Thank you for that. But before I respond to your post more thoroughly let me ask a few questions to gain some clarity:

    1) Did you read all three of my posts from yesterday? I responded to my own posts so you may have not received notifications regarding each of them. But they continue on to address some of the questions you raised including the 1 John 4 passages.

    2) Do you understand and do you agree that statements of love and hate are basically statements of preference? When you or I say: “I love my wife” are we not saying that I prefer her against other women? Can God prefer one thing to another? Or must his “all-lovingness” mean that he must prefer all things equally? Must he prefer a stone the same as he prefers mankind? Can he prefer mankind over a cow? Does he prefer his Son, Jesus, equally with Hitler?

    3) You say that God does not hate anyone. What do you do with verses like:

    Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”

    Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”

    Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”

    Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

    Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

    You see it seems to me that it is your position that ignores vast swaths of the Bible where God clearly says that he hates [i.e. does not prefer] some and loves [i.e prefers] others. The entire story of the Old Testament is virtually a story of how God prefers a specific people [i.e. Israel] over the rest of the nations. So much so that it involves God driving out the Canaanites from the Promised Land.

    Let me say in short conclusion, I don’t think your definition of God is Love in fact means anything. It seems to me to be a statement that God prefers all things equally. But I can make no sense of that. If God prefers all things equally then God prefers nothing in particular. Love literally becomes meaningless. It would be like me saying: I love my wife… just as much as I love my dog… just as much as I love cockroaches.. just as much as I love cancer, just as much as I love EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I can make no sense of that nor do I think my wife would find that very appealing. If that is what you mean by God’s love towards us then why should I be at all happy about God’s love towards us?

  • Brent Stanfield

    I understand why you push back on Calvinism. I have no problem with it. I would do the same thing in your shoes. But obviously, I do not believe you understand Calvinism or what it addresses. I think you bring certain hidden assumptions to the table that skew your view of Calvinism. I am trying to help you understand those assumptions.

    We agree that God’s nature compels him to save at least some of mankind. The question is whether it compels him to save all of it. That is where we disagree. I think God can prefer to save some [i.e. show great love and grace towards some] while at the same time let others fall. You have taken away God’s right to have preferences and imputed some absolute requirement that he love all equally.

    Let me ask this: If God loves all equally and desires all to be saved equally then why isn’t everyone saved equally? Or are you a universalist?

    [By the way, my other three responses to yesterday’s posts are below.]

  • Brent Stanfield

    One last thought:

    It has been my experience with non-Calvinists that they always bring to the table the assumption that “If God is good then he will recognize that man is worth saving and save him.”

    When I object, as I did in your case, and point out that people are not self-righteous that man is NOT worthy to be saved they usually agree. But then they go the line that you have tried… that God is love… that his nature requires him to love all equally and to save all equally.

    When I object and point out that God can and indeed does have preferences; that he can love some things more than others; that he has demonstrated his preference both in and through Israel and declared it clearly in passages like Romans 9, they tend to fall back into some argument that if God were good he would save man [i.e. man is worthy to be saved].

    It is a vicious circle with the belief of man’s worthiness to be saved at its base.

  • Dean

    Brent, I have read all your posts, it’s just hard to respond to every point and there are many rabbit holes, so I am trying to stick with this one issue which I believe is the greatest weakness of Calvinism: it dehumanizes people.

    I don’t make that statement lightly. Every man-made human tragedy begins with a simple statement of I’m in, you’re out, we are elect, you are reprobate, God loves me and hates you, I am human and you are not. That is how every act of mass murder starts. Now, of course I am not accusing you or any Calvinist of advocating mass murder, but the Calvinist caste system absolutely has the seeds of that kind of thinking.

    To answer your question directly: no, God does not have the ability or the right to love people differently. I can list my own Bible verses for that, Acts 10:34, God shows no partiality, Deuteronomy, Job, Galatians – God show no favoritism, James, you can look all these up. And why would he? That’s a human failing,don’t you think? All the examples you gave are God showing preference for human actions that reflect his character and hating human actions that are evil. He doesn’t hate PEOPLE who he created in his own image (which you did not address btw, and which I think it the most compelling argument against Calvinism).

    Furthermore, the tired argument that God loved Jacob and hated Esau and therefore, shows favoritism is really weak, I’m glad you didn’t pull out that verse. God blessed Esau as well, and it was Jacob who said he saw the face of God in Esau. God chooses people for his work, not for salvation, that is shown over and over again in both the OT and the NT, first with Israel and then with the Church. And the work he elects people to do is not glamorous, it usually involves suffering, but always involves blessings for the rest of the world THROUGH the elect. Calvinists somehow miss this very obvious biblical narrative. The gentiles are saved through the chosen people of Israel, the covenant that God made with the Jews was used by God to save the gentiles. The work of the Church, is to bless the world, it is the mechanism by which God uses to save the lost. There is no room for the doctrine of the reprobate. The Elect are not chosen to differentiate between those who God loves and those who God hates, the Elect are chosen for the specific job of spreading the gospel, and its membership is not fixed, membership is available to all who believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is all very crystal clear in the Bible. There’s no mystery required, no two wills, no secret decrees, no conflict in God’s mind, no ambiguously immoral eschatology.

    God loves people because he made us in his image. He didn’t make dogs or cockroaches in his image. God loves all equally because he is neither arbitrary or capricious, he is fair and impartial. He judges people according to what they do, he did not make certain people evil so that he could display his wrath by punishing them, that’s psychotic. One more time, man does not deserve to be saved, but God WANTS to save everyone because that is his nature and it’s also what the Bible explicitly says, he doesn’t want anyone to perish.

    Finally, it’s odd to me that you would compare your love for your wife above other women as something that should apply to God. It’s usually the Calvinist accusing the non-Calvinist of anthropomorphism. I hope that God’s love extends well beyond the kind of love that a man shows for his wife, it is kind of like that, but way beyond that. And guess what, I don’t need God to hate anyone for me to feel special, that’s really what I hear you saying. As for universalism, I am a hopeful universalist, which is not something that is beyond your theology, there is something compelling to me about God dragging everyone kicking and screaming into heaven, if you want to talk about sovereignty, well that’s the kind of sovereignty I can get on board with.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Dean – Let me reassure you that Calvinism in no way dehumanizes man. On the contrary, it is the antidote to the “deification” of man. It is the recognition that God is God and that man is NOT god. It is the humanization of man and the recognition of God’s sovereignty over him in every respect.

    If everyone was a “good Calvinist” then it would prevent all human tragedies. First, any good Calvinist knows that he is in no position to say who is in or who is out. God has not made that known to him. Second, every good Calvinist recognizes that God is sovereign. What he says OUGHT to be followed to the letter because he is the King. Accordingly, God has commanded his people that they should not kill. Indeed, that they should love even their enemies and be kind to and pray for those who persecute them. That vengeance his God’s, not man’s. Accordingly, anybody adhering to Calvinism would be absolutely barred from any type of “mass murder” if they intend to follow God.

    It is exactly because Calvinists view God as God that they can leave the life and death decisions of man up to God… not their individual discretion. In fact, everything is left up to God. Who is born and not born, who is rich and who is not, who gets sick and who doesn’t, who dies and who lives, who is saved and who isn’t. God decides! That is his prerogative. No, if we were all good Calvinists there would be no human tragedies. We would do as God commands. We would love one another. We would remember that the sovereign God has commanded us to do so.

    The problem is not Calvinism. It is the opposite of Calvinism. It is the deification of man. It is man thinking he can do what is right in his own eyes. It is man thinking that he has made himself rich, he has made himself powerful, he has power over life and death, he can save himself. That is the problem. That is what leads to human tragedies. Calvinism is the antidote for that. But the fact that you “go there” does show just how little you understand Calvinism.

    By the way, when I use Calvinism I am using it as a place holder for the basic Reformed understanding of what Calvin taught… and what I allege the whole Bible teaches… with respect to the sovereignty of God. I do not agree with everything Calvin taught and I am not sure I would consider him in every respect a “good Calvinist”. For that matter, I am not sure there are any truly “good Calvinists”… except Christ himself. But Calvinism is a convenient name so I don’t mind using it.

    I am a bit stunned that you would claim that God does not have a right to love people differently; to prefer one over another. Who took away this right? Even the verse you cite [i.e. Acts 10:34] is off kilter. Sure, Peter says that God does not show partiality [e.g. between Jew and Gentile] but in the very next verse [vs. 35] is says that anyone who does good is acceptable to God; implying that those who do not do good are not acceptable. People who do good are preferred over people who don’t. So we can agree that God’s preferences of one person over another is not based on nationality. That would be a human problem; a human distinction. God does prefer [i.e. love] people who do good more than people who do evil. In John 10:17, Jesus says: “The REASON my Father loves me is that I lay down my life…” Perhaps you think Jesus should have said: “The REASON my Father loves me is because he loves everyone equally…”.

    As for your claim that God doesn’t hate people I just don’t get it. Again, I think we are missing each other on this “love/hate” thing. You are not applying it as “prefer/not prefer” as I am. It is somewhat of the key for us speaking on the same level. If you understood it then you would absolutely agree with me that God loves [i.e. prefers] some and hates [i.e. does not prefer] others. Even if we just agreed that this was based on actions. I don’t get the distinction you are trying to make with respect to God hating actions but not people. It is people who will ultimately bear the consequences of the actions. It is people who will be judged for their actions. I don’t get the distinction you are trying to make. If God hates my actions, won’t I be the one to suffer the consequences?

    But let’s move on to Jacob and Essau. I do think this is the crucible example. Yes, God did love [i.e. prefer] Jacob. Yes, God did hate [i.e. not prefer] Essau. The “good Calvinist” would agree entirely that God gave many great blessings to Essau. God’s “hatred” of Essau did not mean that Essau didn’t get anything from God. On the contrary, Essau received SO MUCH from God. He received the common grace! In fact, he received the “common grace” in “uncommon amounts”! He received great wealth. God gave him a good life. God prospered his people. Romans 9 does not say that God hated Essau with respect to wealth, or life, or inheritance. Roman 9 is about ELECTION. On the issue of ELECTION, God loved [i.e. PREFERRED] Jacob and NOT Essau. Why? As Romans 9 makes clear, on the issue of ELECTION God’s choice is NOT based on works but on God’s purposes.

    We can agree that God chooses people for his work. That is not in dispute and I don’t know any Calvinist, good or bad, who has “missed that narrative in scripture”. But God also chooses Christians for salvation. As Ephesians 1 makes clear: He choses his elect before the foundation of the world.

    Your claim that there is no room for the doctrine of the reprobate is also shocking. You say it as if you don’t know what “reprobate” means. You have already agreed that man is NOT WORTHY. Reprobate simply means to regard as UNWORTHY. The reprobate are simply those who are UNWORTHY to enter the Kingdom of God and who will be judged. Unless you are backtracking and now alleging that all men have self-worth then you too have a doctrine of the reprobate. You too believe that ALL are reprobate unless God makes them worthy. The ONLY people that God will make worthy are those found to be in Christ. Those not in Christ will be regard by God as UNWORTHY and he will judge. If you believe that… then you too have a doctrine of the reprobate.

    Perhaps the only point of difference between us on the issue of reprobation is that I believe that God has known from eternity who will be in each group. I am not an open theist. I believe that if Steve is not going to be saved then God knew that when he created him… and yet he created him anyway for his purposes… knowing that Steve would never be WORTHY to inherit the Kingdom of God. Perhaps you are an open theist and deny God’s omniscience. But if you do then your quarrel is not with Calvinism.

    We can agree that God is not arbitrary or capricious. Those adjectives cannot apply to a being that is immutable like God. We can agree that God is fair. But again, how can a being be UNFAIR to a being that he has given everything too. God only takes away what he has given freely and by grace. It is literally impossible for him to be unfair to man.

    If God made a man evil so that he can display is his wrath through him then he has done no unfairness to the man. God’s wrath is the taking away of what God has given freely. It is the making right of wrongs. It is settling the scales of justice.

    God’s love does extend far beyond my love for my wife. But again, I don’t think you will understand the analogy I was trying to make [it was not an anthropomorphism… it was an analogy] until you understand the meaning of God’s incredible love and that love is a statement of preference. Your definition of love as equal in all respects for all things makes love meaningless. God’s love is so great that he can show AMAZING preference to the objects of his love. That is what he does with Christ when he raises him up in glory. He shows an amazing preference for the chief object of his love. On your view he should do the same for Hitler. If Christ gets the royal treatment then so should Stalin. After all, God loves them equally.

    But I find your hopeful universalism even more interesting. You state in your reply that God does not desire that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Yet you admit that your universalism is only “hopeful”. I don’t see how you can say your version of God is sovereign in any respect if he cannot carry out what he desires. Ah, but I bet you would even agree that God has preferences. He prefers some things to others. I surmise that you would probably say that God “prefers” to give men free will… to let them decide who will come join him in Heaven… more than he desires all men to be saved. In your view, God has made man sovereign over who goes to Heaven.

    On my view, it is God who is sovereign. He can choose everyone if he chooses. I can be a hopeful universalist. God chooses who will be saved. And when he saves someone he doesn’t have to drag them to heaven kicking in screaming. He can simply do the same thing he has done for me. He changes their heart so that they love God and honor Christ. I can be a more hopeful universalist than you can… since you must leave it up to some “free will” choice of whimsical man.

  • Dean

    “If God made a man evil so that he can display is his wrath through him then he has done no unfairness to the man.”

    Yeah, I guess that’s the crux of it. I think that’s fine, I don’t believe that, and we both work backwards from it. We can keep discussing this if you like, but this is probably the brick wall where these conversations usually end. I have actually really enjoyed it and I also appreciate that you have been so civil in this discussion and that the number of “crazy” things you have said have been so limited. :)

    But I guess at the end of the day, I just think a priori the reason that statement you made is false speaks for itself. I think reason and experience and a basic sense of fairness makes it self-evident. I think you need to work through the “logic” of Calvinism to arrive at a different conclusion, but I really think you have created a number of theological problems by coming up with a solution for which I didn’t see a problem to begin with. You know what I’m saying? What I mean is, the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty is a an attempt to make sense of a bunch of verses, mainly in the writings of Paul, but the system you need to reconcile those verses lead you to a place where God can do something that is patently unfair to anyone who you would explain this to, anyone who hasn’t been down the rabbit how. As Austin Fischer would say, God’s sovereignty becomes a black hole, it sucks everything into it and leaves with you having to accept things about the character of God that make no sense to anyone who hasn’t already accepted the doctrine. This is why Calvinism will always be a minority position, that and the fact that most Calvinists think the number of Elect will be quite small in relation to the Reprobate, so who cares right? In fact, it almost HAS to be minority position for it to be credible.

    That’s fine of course, but I’m just going to fall back on practicality, I just don’t think Calvinism is that useful. The God that I have come to know and understand through my life and reading the scriptures loves everyone, and he loves everyone indiscriminately and wants ALL to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, and I want to be able to tell people that without qualification or without some sort of asterisk attached to it (i.e., oh, but I don’t know who the reprobate are, or the “common grace” loophole). I don’t want to feel like I’m lying to people or giving some people false hope, I think that’s irresponsible and cruel, because after all, there will be lots of people, friends, family, neighbors, who God in fact, does not want to be saved, because if he did, the Calvinist God certainly could. THAT, my friend, is the real reason I could never be a Calvinist, apparently I love people more than God does, and that doesn’t’ sound right to me at all.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I truly do appreciate the discussion. I believe your intentions are entirely honest. But my problem with your view goes far deeper than simply trying to understand a few verses from Paul that seem to support Calvinism. They are deep philosophical issues. Let me try to explain.

    We both take for granted that God created everything out of nothing. At that point, I hope we can agree that God could have made the world anything he wanted. God “brings about” the world he wants. All of it. God creates what he wants for his purposes.

    I think of it like an author. An author can write any story he wants. Starting with only the thoughts in his mind he CREATES worlds. He can write a mystery, a drama, a comedy, or a tragedy. Even within the story he can write characters of all types. He can write hero, villains, monsters, love interests, comic relief. All serve their part. What he writes depends upon his purpose in writing. The author puts together his plot for the story, writes the characters and events to bring about his plot, and directs the whole course of the story to his desired “THE END.” In terms of the story, the author creates the reality of the story.

    It seems to me that when we are talking about the God of this world we are talking about its AUTHOR; the one who creates reality. We are talking about the being that literally created EVERYTHING. Nothing exists that God did not create. He creates the stars, the planets, the plants, the animals, and humans. He created them for a purpose. If he didn’t have a purpose for them then he would not have created them.

    Now at this point those who do not like the implications of where I am going might sit up and object. They might say that “yes, God had a purpose, but man messed up that PURPOSE by sinning.”

    I have a big problem with that objection. I think it denies the orthodox Christian view… and Biblical view… that God is omniscient, that he knows the future. If God knows the future then he would know from the outset that mankind was going to sin when he created the world. Nevertheless, he chose to create mankind with full knowledge that mankind would sin. Accordingly, mankind’s sin must have been part of God’s purpose for the world. God knew it was going to happen and yet he created anyway, just as he did, for his own purposes.

    Some might be tempted to counter that God is not omniscient in that way. He doesn’t know the future. He doesn’t know everything. He didn’t know what was going to happen. I have an even deeper philosophical problem with that view. I think omniscience is a required property of the being that creates everything. A being that creates everything from nothing but that is not omniscience seems like a contradiction to me. Let me give you this example. Suppose I want to make lemonade. I go pick lemons, buy sugar, and get water from my faucet. Those are the ingredients to lemonade. When I mix them all together I take a drink and much to my surprise discover that it doesn’t taste like lemonade, it has a metallic taste to it. I created something I did not expect. Obviously, there must have been something about the ingredients that I did not know that gave me this unexpected creation. Maybe the water had some chemical to it. Maybe the lemons were to ripe. Maybe the sugar was mixed with something. Because I was not creating “ex nihilo” I did not know what the ingredients I uses might actually produce. But God is in a different situation. He is not using ingredients that he did not create. In order to create the world he must have known EVERYTHING about it. He must have know all of the properties of all of the things that he created, how they would interact together, what they would develop into. Indeed, they could not become something he did not create them to become otherwise they would have had to obtain a property from somewhere other than God. But that is impossible. There was nothing other than God. The very act of creating the universe out of nothing means that God must KNOW EVERYTHING about the universe. He created ALL OF IT.

    I don’t think the importance of this point can be overstated. Again, if God knew EVERYTHING about the world and what it would become then he must have had a purpose for it, even sin. God must have know that Hitler would be born and that he would one day rule Germany. He must have had a purpose for it. God must have known that one day Joseph’s brothers would throw Joseph into the pit out of jealously. He must have had a purpose for it. God must have known that one day men would take his Son, beat him, accuse him falsely, and crucify him. God must have had a purpose for it. In fact, I would argue that God he made the world with the particular properties necessary just so that those things would come about, for his purposes.

    The only attempts I have ever heard to try to get around these things are arguments for something called “libertarian free will” (LFW). I must confess that I have never had anybody explain to me exactly what LFW actually is other than to say it is some kind of property that man has to make choices “independent” of everything… including God. I don’t know how it works. I don’t make decisions independent of everything. My choices depend on where my wife wants to go to eat, how hungry I am, what restaurants are in town, is there a college football game on, etc…. I find that my choices are dependent on so many things, including the circumstances, my desires, my needs, and my abilities… including my ability to think clearly… which is sometimes sorely lacking. Accordingly, I don’t know what people mean by LFW. Furthermore, if God has given me everything I have, if he has imbued me with a certain intellectual capacity, biological makeup, and put me in particular circumstances then I don’t see how my choices can be God independent in any way. If God has given me all of my faculties then what I choose is very much dependent on what God has given to me.

    But supposing for the sake of argument that there is this thing called LFW and that it somehow gets God “off the hook” and makes me independent in my “choices”. How would that in any way get God “off the hook” for the consequences of my choices? Take Cain and Abel. Cain picks up a rock to kill Abel. Suppose he makes that choices according to something called LFW that is independent of God. But God controls everything else. Why couldn’t God have just turned the stone to butter the moment before it hits Abel? Why didn’t God appear to Jacob and tell him not to send Joseph alone to go meet his brothers? Why doesn’t God stop all of the tragedies in the world just before they happen? Heal every sick person? Why doesn’t he send manna from heaven to every town in East Africa currently in famine? Why didn’t he send 10,000 angels down to earth to stop its greatest tragedy and injustice… the killing of Christ? Could it be that he has a purpose for it all?

    If the attempt is to try to get God off the hook from all of the evil in the world, from the decisions of man, and the consequences of sin, then LFW will not do the trick. God created the world knowing that these things would take place and with a purpose that these things should take place.

    I appreciate you bearing with me. That is the philosophical conundrum that I have. If God did create the world and has power over it. Power over the wind, the sea, the molecules as they travel. If God controls all of these things and God is as you say… he loves everyone the exact same and indiscriminately… that he wants the exact same thing for every person. If that is what the Bible teaches. Then the Bible doesn’t seem to teach about reality. It would be just another pie in the sky religion that proclaims what man wants to hear.

    But fortunately, I don’t think that the Bible teaches that at all. It teaches of a God who is the creator, who is the author of all things. It teaches of a God who INTENDS that Joseph’s brothers sell Joseph into slavery so that GOOD [Genesis 50:20] might be done ULTIMATELY… at the end of the story. It teaches of a God who prospers people and who brings calamity upon them [Isaiah 45:7]. It teaches of Job, the “innocent man”, who God ordains to lose everything for his PURPOSES at the end of the story [Job 1]. It teaches of the God who calls forth the Babylonians, a wicked nation, to take his people captive as a judgment [Habakkuk 1]. It teaches of a God who through his own definite plan and foreknowledge caused Jesus to be crucified [Acts 2:23]. It teaches of a God who raises up Pharaoh so that he might show his power through Pharaoh’s disobedience and destruction and who molds the pots either for noble purposes or ignoble purposes [Romans 9]. It teaches of a God who works ALL THINGS… ALL THINGS… for the good of those who love him and are called according TO HIS PURPOSES. Did you get that? ALL THINGS work for GOD’S PURPOSES.

    Finally, the Bible teaches of God in Isaiah 46:9-10:

    “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…'”

    You see, it is the Bible that answers my philosophical questions, that reveals to me a God who is the author of reality just like the God of this REAL universe must be. The Bible’s expression of the sovereignty of God alines with what must philosophically be true about the sovereignty of God. He is a God in total control. A God who brings about his purposes through EVERYTHING that happens.

    I go back to my author analogy. God relates to this universe like the author to his work. God sets the plot. God creates the characters. God establishes the events and moves the story along. God brings about THE END of the story through all of these things. A good end. What is that end? That is a legitimate question. It is a question that is answered in scripture. God’s purpose for creation, for the whole world, is to exalt Jesus. It is Jesus that is the chief protagonist of God’s story. He is the main character. We are the supporting cast. Some of us will be villains. Some of us will be heroes, friends, and companions to Christ. God decides. He has decided this from eternity. From eternity he picked Judas, Caiaphas, and Pilate to be those instruments that would carry out that foreordained plan to put Jesus to death. From eternity he picked Abraham to be the man through whose like the Messiah would come. From eternity he chose Adam and Eve to be the ones that would represent mankind in the garden and who would fall. That is God’s role AND his prerogative as creator. It is his story for his purposes.

    It is with this understanding that I move on to understanding God’s common grace and his wrath. Knowing that God gives all men everything that they have by pure grace… their existence, breath in their lungs, food for their stomach, their intellect, their parent, their education, the era in which they live, etc… it is no injustice for God to take it all away. Perhaps you object to that. But suppose I describe to you a man who had done nothing wrong, who God prospered, gave to him a large family, a good deal of wealth, and good health. All “common graces”. Suppose God, to prove a point to Satan, agreed to allow Satan to remove most of the common grace that God had given to this man, sparing only his life, despite the fact that he had done nothing wrong. Suppose God watched as Satan proceeded to kill his family, have thieves take his fortune, and as an illness robbed him of health… and sent to him “friends” who then began to accuse him falsely of being a sinner. I suppose you would call God cruel on your view? You would say that this is unjust?

    Well certainly you would if this very story was not found in the Bible. But it is the story of Job. But even Job in his distress, in his suffering, recognizes that it is God who gives and it is God how can take away. He blesses God. He refuses to curse him. Job knows something you do not. Job knows that even if the “wrath” or the “hand” of God comes against him that he has no standing to accuse God of injustice. Everything he had was from God. God can take it away. If Job can understand that God is not unjust, not cruel, then why do you deny it and call him cruel if he does the same thing with a wicked man? Suppose God gives life to Pharaoh. Suppose he raises Pharaoh up to the greatest King on earth. Suppose he gives to Pharaoh great wealth, power, and a family. Suppose Pharaoh enjoys all of these things despite being evil. Suppose God then brings is wrath upon Pharaoh and takes away his first born son, his power, his wealth, and eventually his life. What injustice is there in God? Pharaoh was naked when he came from his mothers womb and he will return the same way. God has done him no injustice.

    What you must understand is that suffering is the loss of the good God has given to you. For you and I, as children of God, it is intended to draw us ever closer to God. To call us back to a remembrance of the God who gives us all good things. It is a blessing and part of God’s chastening of his people. But to those who are not children of God it is simply justice. God takes back what is his. He can do that as creator.

    Finally, I can appreciate your practical concerns when it comes to evangelism. You are having trouble reconciling God’s sovereignty with the call to evangelism. Well let me try to bring some clarity to that issue as well. Have you ever watched Star Wars? Do you remember when Luke Skywalker asks Han Solo to come help him free Princes Leah? It is a crucial scene that basically flips Han Solo from a mercenary to a comrade with Luke to help the Rebellion defeat the Empire. Luke persuades Han to come and join him with the promise of great wealth. So who is responsible for Han joining the Rebellion? We would be tempted to say Luke wouldn’t we. If we are thinking inside the story we would be right to say Luke. But we know in fact that it was George Lucas who is ultimately responsible for Han Solo joining the Rebellion. He writes the characters that way. He has Luke ask the question. He puts it in Hans Solo’s character to join the Rebellion and free the princess. But he gives the task to Luke to ask the question.

    You have been given the task to evangelize. You have been given the task to ask people to join the Rebellion. Wondering about what the author will have other characters do or not do is irrelevant. You and I need to worry about our own characters… whose goodness will be determined by how well we carry out the mission of the author… which is to exalt the Son. Let’s undertake our mission and leave “THE END” of the story up to God.

  • Guest

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I are facing a blood thirsty pack of Calvinists at our church within the ‘leadership’. And by ‘leadership’ I mean a group of guys that do nothing but go to several elitist Bible studies and sit around saying “God’s sovereignty” about every aspect of the scriptures and then spend the rest of the hour self aggrandizing because non-Calvinists are so stupid unlike themselves. They have ganged up on a retired missionary couple for believing in free will and screamed them out of the church. I was told by a ‘leader’ not to pray for a girl in our kid’s ministry for salvation because it didn’t matter anyway if she wasn’t one of the elect. These are the most cruel, unloving, arrogant people I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. As for our so called “church” I’m out! I need to be loved and Calvinism can’t or won’t do that.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Looks like a choice to me. It actually DOESN’T have to be either/or. God is bigger than your finite mind, and your inability to understand how we can both make choices in life with God still being in ultimate control is irrelevant.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    This is when you actually provide evidence of toxicity on behalf of the author. Maybe if he questioned the faith of a particular calvinist. But he didn’t do that. He called out calvinism as a theology.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    What matters is what’s true. Telling lies is bad, even if it “makes God look good,” somehow.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    That’s why one should stick to the Bible instead of a prescribed theology.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    But not all Christians are calvinists. I know if you’re a spurgeonite you might think otherwise, but you’d be wrong.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    What you’re asking for (for God to ignore His own nature) is logically impossible. It’s like somehow expecting something to be both hot and cold, or light and dark. It’s not because God wants people to burn. It’s that, being what He is, He cannot associate with that which is contrary to what He is.

    He did provide an out though for all who would take it, which calvinists pretty much deny. To them, it’s only for those in the club.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    It need not be either/or. God can be both the one leading us to salvation and in a sense, because he knows the future, predestining us, while also allowing free will and desiring that no man perish

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Doesn’t mean he’s wrong on this matter. Probably on a lot of other matters, but that doesn’t matter. The “Calvinist or not a Christian” thing is so stupid. I guess Lutherans, Catholics and Orthodox, etc. are not Christian, and of course the arminian churches, methodists etc. are also not Christian. How could they be? They denied the almighty savior of John Calvin…

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    I think predestination is correct, just not in teh sense that calvinists believe in it. It’s there because God knows the future, not because He’s chosen every decision made by every person in that future. There’s some truth to calvinism, but it’s incomplete. It cuts off parts of God’s nature, allegedly to show how sovereign He is. I don’t care what kind of lie a person tells, if it’s not true, it isn’t in service of God.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    That’s what most non-Calvinists might mean when they say we are predestined. But calvinists mean more than that. Calvinist God CHOOSES that future, He isn’t just aware of it.

  • SuperMark

    Yes, yes god can do anything except for the things he can’t do. like just forgive us without preconditions…

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    The problem with Calvinism isn’t that God chooses people, it’s that He chooses them at cost of others. In Calvinist doctrine, you absolutely, no matter how much you want to know God, cannot seek Him out. I think the truth is a bit more balanced than that. God chooses us, but we also choose Him. Human love, which is modeled after God’s love after all, works that way. Sometimes the man pursues the woman with no support from her, other times she goes after him, and other times it goes both ways. We shouldn’t be applying hard and fast rules to a limitless God, who didn’t tell us exactly how it all works.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    He uses the term predestination, yes. But predestined in what sense? In the sense that God chooses some for heaven or hell, or just in the sense that He knows what will happen?

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    That’s worse than actually being destined for hell? If the PCUSA position is universal to presbyterians, that’s great, and honestly a bit surprising. I’d always been under the impression that the denomination was highly calvinistic.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Yes, God is wise. And wise has a meaning.Same with being a God of justice, mercy, etc. You can’t just redefine the words to suit your theology.

    The problem with calvinism, as with many of its competitors like arminianism, is that they say “this is how it is,” and then interpret the Bible in that light, instead of letting the Word speak for itself and changing their views to match it. That’s totally backwards.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Okay, this is going more than just a bit too far, this is 100% off, even more than the calvinists. If you oss out the scriptures, you’ve tossed out your standard by which you can judge what’s right and wrong to begin with. You’re making humanity into the ultimate judge of right and wrong, and frankly, humanity doesn’t have a good track record.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    “It is not about “being cut from the team,” it’s about being called to a team which we in no way could deserve nor could ever attain on our own” No, that’s not just calvinism, that’s the gospel. Calvinism says a lot more than that, and it’s most of the rest of it that’s the problem.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Not any genuine believer would disagree with that, though. Again, that’s Christianity, not just Calvinism. Put your faith in Jesus, not John MacArthur.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Well, arminianism isn’t the polar opposite of calvinism, so it makes sense that there would be some agreement.

    To me, they’re both wrong. God IS in control. But He also DOES give us free will, and DOES want us all to follow Him and be His children. Inasmuch as those ideas seem to conflict, that’s just too bad. Quit trying to box in God.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    He waited for Moses to implore Him. In fact, Moses got Him to change His Mind.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Prayer does change us, but not just us. God’s nature doesn’t change, but His Mind, oh yes, it can change. A good example is when Moses convinced God to change His mind about destroying Israel.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Terms like decretive will, secret will, etc. become much more necessary when you hold to your theology above God’s revealed word. You aren’t supporting the Bible but your own preheld views and biases. STOP it. You’re making God look bad, and He isn’t bad. That’s about one step away from blasphemy.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    No, they really don’t.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    He is God. He said so Himself. Should I only accept the parts of His message that I like?

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    You insist it’s out of context because you’re holding to your preconceived views instead if getting your theology straight from the Bible. You have the order of operations totally backwards.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    But your’e not a calvinist. You just hold to all the calvinist views and everything that makes a calvinist a calvinist.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    God doesn’t love justice more than mankind. God IS justice. He can love God and want more than anything to be with him, but He is still bound by His own nature. God cannot be not God, and God is Just. This is one of the most confusing things about calvinism to me is how you guys seem to think God can just be anything, because He’s omnipotent. This is what muslims think. God can do anything, but, that does not include, not being God, or not being like God, because He is God. To suggest that a merciful, just God can simply choose to be unjust and bring some into light but not others just because He wants to, is to suggest that God can not be like Himself. It’s like saying something can be both light and dark, or hot and cold. It’s logically impossible.

    Can God make a burrito so big He can’t lift it? By your logic, we must say yes, lest we be somehow “limiting God.” No, that isn’t limiting God, that’s being logical. (Logic, by the way, is another great gift that He has given us, because He is logical)

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Finally admitting how cruel and capricious calvinist God is, huh?

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    God did create the universe, but He created it to operate according to His own nature. We can know what Justice is, because God is Just. We can know what Mercy is, because God i Merciful. If God does not have the characteristics of Justice, He is not Just. But He is Just. So He can’t logically be unjust. So, calvinism is absurd.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Thankfully, there’s a lot more to “Protestantism” than calvinism. If there weren’t, I’d jump ship and go Orthodox immediately. As it is, reading everything by frjohnmorris does have me curious, and I do think I might have to check out my local Orthodox parish some time.

  • Brent Stanfield

    We all bring our traditions to the table. Those who deny it are the ones who are most steeped in their traditions.

    But the terminology I am using is clearly derived from scripture. God’s decretive will is clearly seen in his ability to “speak” and the world leaps into existence. Or in Isaiah 46 where God clearly states that he will establish all of his purpose and accomplish all of his pleasure. What God decrees will happen, will happen [i.e. his decretive will]. God’s prescriptive will is also clearly seen in scripture through things like the 10 Commandments. God prescribes behavior that “ought” to be followed if judgment is to be avoided.

    If you think the terminology is un-Biblical then show it.

  • Brent Stanfield

    No. I have insisted that when it is taken in context it is consistent with the rest of scripture and with experience. The rest of scripture is the context.

  • Brent Stanfield

    I agree that God cannot be not God. No Calvinist I know argues otherwise.

    God can do whatever he wants. That is the essence of being God.

    The statement that “God can do whatever he wants” does not include doing things that are clearly non-sense. No. God cannot make himself not God. No. God cannot make a burrito so being He can’t lift it. Those are non-sense statements. They do not really communicate any information.

  • Brent Stanfield

    There is nothing cruel and capricious about anything I have described. Man exists purely by the graciousness of God. If God chooses to take away what he has graciously given then he has done absolutely nothing cruel or capricious. There is absolutely no moral obligation on God’s part to continue giving us free gifts. It is not cruel if he decides to stop. It is not as if we merit the gift of existence God gives to us. Accordingly, if God removes his grace from us, it is anything but capricious. God’s choice to remove grace from the creature could simply be grounded in our lack of merit for that grace.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Nothing the God of Calvinism does is unjust. God gives us everything by grace he can take it all away for any reason at any time. We do not merit what God gives to us. We do not merit saving grace. We do not merit ANY grace.

    The rules of justice that apply to men do not apply to God. I give you nothing by my own grace. You give me nothing by your own grace. But God gives us both everything purely by his own grace. If you think God must “play fair” with you, give you what you deserve, treat you this way or that… then you are not thinking of God. You are refusing to see that God owes you nothing. He gives you everything you have freely by grace already.

  • “… this is 100% off,”

    That is one way of thinking about it. But “off” of what?

    ” You’re making humanity into the ultimate judge of right and wrong,”

    Not sure why you think that from what I have said.

    “If you [t]oss out the scriptures, you’ve tossed out your standard by which you can judge what’s right and wrong to begin with.”

    I would rather let God show me.

    Scripture (of all traditions) are like footprints on the beach. They confirm that others have also found their way to the Sea.

  • “…this is going more than just a bit too far, this is 100% off,”

    Too far “off” of what?

    “You’re making humanity into the ultimate judge of right and wrong,…

    What have I said that justifies *this* conclusion on your part?

    “If you [t]oss out the scriptures, you’ve tossed out your standard by which you can judge what’s right and wrong to begin with.”

    Scripture (of all traditions) is like footprints on the beach. It confirms that others have also found the Sea.

    I find it best to let God teach me. (This is a complex statement. What do you suppose it means?)

  • R Vogel

    Christians throughout history have used all sorts of devices to get around this to their own satisfaction, including foreknowledge does not equal pre-destination (which to me is just a bit of sophistry), but none of them are really convincing unless you begin with the particular position. The reality is the bible was written by different people at different times (and in the case of Paul’s letters TO different people) and presents contradictory ideas. The Calvinist position didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, it was taken right out of scripture by people who took it deadly serious. Arminianism also has biblical support and has at least as many problems. Depending on your particular bent you will fall from one side to the other. Confirmation bias rules because there is no way to settle the issue. Believe what you will, but don’t ascribe too much certain to things which cannot be known for certain. That’s how ideologies eventually lead to violence.

  • Herm

    In the image from which I can associate me with thee I can empathize. So must it be with a Creator from which begins an entire species in Their image.

    I did not not predestine the results from the USA’s invasion of Iraq but with an extremely heavy heart told my wife what would happen if we proceeded. It did and is following the blueprint of each crusade inflicted in the same arena chronicled for nearly a couple thousand years.

    Projecting in the same manner, what would it be like for God to have an eternal relationship with adopted beings, into their very Family, when They knew and would tell exactly what would happen for the rest of relational time without end? If we were God it would be hell.

    As a father it was the mystery and anticipation of what my family would share with each other of their hearts, souls, strengths and minds bonded to the results as one in love and respect for one another that got me up in the morning. Being one of the responsible more educated and experienced members of the family I could vocally project what would happen if my child continued to act in a destructive or constructive manner (I was the lecturer) at very nearly a 100% success rate. I did not predestine what would happen but could project on reactions based on actions I knew from education and experience my child did not have. I was and am continually and pleasantly surprised at the different perspectives each member brought to the family that could not have been anticipated. That’s what keeps a parent on their toes and alive to learn from and adapt to what their child has to offer in hers/his uniqueness unlike any other forever. Books and articles still continue to be written trying to encapsulate all that is necessary to be the perfect parent and each will fail to finally become the tell all handbook for certain robotic parenting.

    Predestination is only a result of so many human projections that insist there must be, “oh, please dear god there just has to be”, an end to having to struggle, learn and adapt in relationship. I understand this by the early picture taught me of the afterlife relief of finally forever sitting on a cloud strumming my harp. As a child my knees already hurt when taught forever being able to kneel (or prostrate myself) while singing praises to the Lord. That would be hell for me!

    I hope this gives some solid stimulus for others to project upon in their own hearts and minds where this is going.

    I anticipate and welcome life after this only if there is the guarantee of forever mystery in relationship bonded in love without the influences of intimidation, manipulation, inflicted confusion, subjugation and coveting. I want to struggle to get stronger and smarter by sharing and savoring all our uniqueness of individual family member’s hearts, souls, strengths and minds without end.

    I don’t want to fully know what’s around the next bend until we’ve had the chance to share and savor together what makes whatever it is so special. In the image of my Creator I cannot believe it is any different for Them.

    Love your defiance to the norm!

  • bp

    I have read a lot of articles and blogs about calvinism and I have to say that this one sir is so refreshing. So thank you.

    This is a subject of great interest to me bc I have found myself after 12 years of marriage and two children that I had been attending a Calvinist church that my husband grew up n. I am honestly ashamed to say that I truly had no clue of what the message really was. I was just going through the motions that probably most church attendees do. But as my children grew and I began to share Jesus with them, my eyes and ears were opened.

    So here I am now. Things r not the same as they were bf I realized that the Calvinist message was the one being taught. I have since then left that church and do not allow my children to go with their father. But as long as we keep our faith out of the equation things r okay. Anyway, I just wonder what your take away from this is. Does a marriage survive without Christ as their glue?

  • R Vogel

    Hi Herm! Good the hear from you as always.

    Of course the operative words in there are ‘very nearly’ since that is the only place in which freedom can exist.

    Ironically I am not sure I personally believe in free will from a scientific perspective rather than a theological. Like many things I think free will might just be a story we tell ourselves. But it’s not something I dwell on too much since even if it is a myth, there doesn’t seem to be a way to live without it.

  • Molly Griffith

    Numbers 23:19 – God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.
    I believe God was testing Moses’ integrity and leadership.

  • Molly Griffith

    I think God violates our free will all the time. Jonah told God “NO” yet where did Jonah end up? Right where God told him to go in the first place. Like a Father who violates his child’s free will to eat a cookie before dinner. We are not puppets or robots – God allows limited choice – as a loving Father to his children. Our choice is to obey or disobey – just like every child we’ve ever known.

  • Molly Griffith

    Is there a third option? Could God already have a family from eternity past – from the foundation of the world as the Bible says? Revelation 3:15 says that Eve would have ‘offspring’ and so would the serpent. The language is the same – offspring means descendants. Look at the parable of the wheat and tares. There are ‘seeds’ sown by the enemy, which Jesus told his disciples was Satan. God calls his own, they hear his voice and follow. If they do not follow, it is because they are not his, never were his. He has no claim on them. John 10:26 – “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. God elects all of his children – when someone believes the gospel, it is proof that they belong to God. Their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world – how could this mean anything else? And what of Free Will? Just as children have free will to obey their parents or not, we have free will to obey or disobey God – yet he remains our Father. The Prodigal came home in the parable, but what if he hadn’t? What if he had died? Would he cease to be the son? Of course not. Would his father cease to be his father? No.

  • Tracy

    I think we are talking about the difference between things that God ultimately wants to happen regardless of our choices, as it’s his bigger plan, and our day to day choices that don’t effect that bigger picture. Ultimately God wanted the Assyrians to hear that he was God, not their pagan deities. It was part of a bigger plan to bring the Gospel to the nations. Me buying or selling a house is not. :) So i only think God intervenes when its to do with the metanarrative stuff.

  • Riley

    What’s true is that God is God and we are not.

  • Riley

    True, however they should be. Calvinism is Christianity at its most consistent.

  • DTJR

    I am going to try and be as nice as I can but also speaking the truth. The idea you have of God is arrogant and unbiblical. Does God send people to Hell? YES! Does God choose some to go to Heaven? YES! Does this make God unfair or unjust? NO! Why?

    God is holy. Man rebelled against Him and is therefore unholy. We ALL deserve Hell. Yet, God in His wonderful Mercy saves some of us from that despair. Is that injustice? No, that is mercy. Justice is required of God, mercy is not.

    To say that you would not worship God because you don’t agree with His holiness, will or choosing, is extremely arrogant and sinful and you should repent. You clearly do not understand who God is and His holiness and I would urge you to search the Scriptures to learn who God truly is.

  • Robbie Solom

    Calvinists are like these nerds in high school who act according to the rule and citing every single verse literally to support their obnoxious behavior. They are incapable of thinking metaphorically. They are cold robots who follow the instructions that are programmed into their mind.

  • Robbie Solom

    *beep* *beep* God is sovereign..*meep* *meep* T-U-L-I-P..

  • jjw

    The title is quite accurate, but perhaps not as helpful or edifying as “Why Calvinism Makes Scripture Want to Gouge Its Eyes Out.” And since Benjamin Corey didn’t die on the cross for my sins or show me the light of the gospel, this particular article here doesn’t mean shit to me.

  • Sam Medina

    We’re all born Arminians and die Calvinists.

  • The_Wretched

    Clearly JJW, articles only have worth if they mean something to jjw. /eyeroll

  • Connor Haskins

    Although I’m a Calvinist, I’d agree with many of your points about Calvinists themselves. Some are rude, and groups of them can become toxic, which is sad. I usually avoid the Calvinism/Arminianism debate because it often brings up hurt feelings. At the same time, I’m a little disappointed to see so many ad hominem attacks on Calvinists. Just because Calvinists have fallen natures (don’t we all) doesn’t mean Calvinism is therefore false. A strong argument for the sinfulness of Calvinists does not make for a strong argument against Calvinism. If philosophy worked that way, Christianity would have been debunked by the Crusades thousands of years ago.

  • Slow learner

    Jesus tasted death for EVERY MAN. Hebrews. For God so LOVE the WORLD. John. God was in Christ RECONCILING the WORLD unto Himself. 2 Corinthians. God who WILL have ALL men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the TRUTH (Jesus) 1st Timothy . My simple question is this,,,,are WE ALL sinners? Yes. Did Jesus die FOR SINNERS? Yes Does GOD have to DRAW us to Jesus? YES . CAN He? Certainly. Can he forgive EVERYBODY because Jesus died for OUR SIN? Absolutely. Are we saved by being GOOD or By Gods MERCY and GRACE (kindness)?. It’s ALL up to God. The GOSPEL (GOOD news) is NOT an OFFER,its a PROCLAMATION. .Now keep believing and go be HAPPY. UNLESS You want to be an ELITE (more than likely, self deceived ) Calvinist

  • John Lujan

    “Created for Hell” is an Arminian problem as well. In the Arminian model, God foresees who will choose Christ (choosing them on that basis), yet still allows the Christ rejecters to exist. How many honest Arminiians see this?

  • John Lujan

    Arminians also believe in Limited Atonement unless they’re prepared to admit to universalism. Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient to atone for the sins of all who would ever live, but effective only for those who believe. How many honest Arminians recognize this fact?

  • John Lujan

    In Arminianism, you choose if you get saved and if you keep your salvation. I’m here to tell you that if it were up to me to keep my salvation, I’d fail miserably not even a week after conversion.

  • Brent Stanfield

    Of course God is not unjust. Calvinism does not make him so. It defines him as just and so whatever it is that God does is just.

  • Jonathan James Rychart

    Mercy is just as much a part of God’s nature as justice. He is not “required” to do anything, but God IS merciful, just as much as He IS just. To deny that is a slap in His Face.

  • David Pulson

    John, if people ACCEPT what God has done, and their hearts long to follow him, God will give them the strength they need. He ALSO will allow them the opportunity to put forth much effort, mature, and develop their character. If God was actually making it possible for someone to love him, or be saved when the human had no ability, then God has gained himself a bunch of false love and loyalty.

  • David Pulson

    some of us are born neither, and die neither. Total Depravity is not an ingredient in all Christian theology.

  • Henry Rappleyea

    I was thrown out of a street preaching ministry because I wasn’t a calvinist. I cannot stand calvinists they seem to have an agenda, I said I hope God blesses your socks off, and the calvinist jumped in and said I don’t! Hmmm I am thinking about Jesus who said bless those who curse you, well apparently Christ does bless them too.
    Then they swear up and down that this country is going to be judged for its sins. That to me seems like its railing against sin not preaching the gospel. Why is it when Paul preached the gospel he had to end up correcting the church in how they used their liberty? It seems to me if the gospel is preached right if grace is preached it can be misunderstood as a license to sin. Thats the gospel I want to preach, not this judgment loving God who is angry at sin. All his wrath was poured out on Christ until the last judgment.

  • Rick Williams

    This is a couple years old now but still a good blog. There are many reasons why Calvinism is lacking as a systematic theology but the problems that it causes with the character of God are some of the most difficult in my mind.

    I really hate the circular logic. God has the right to choose whomever he will because he’s sovereign. We don’t like what this means, but that’s just because we don’t understand. Why don’t we understand? We’re not God. It’s an exegetical shortcut that allows simple answers to a complex problem that they’ve created in the first place.

  • Connor Haskins

    Sure! Feel free to ask any questions you have.

  • jim

    Dear John
    I believe all Bible believers except Calvinists believe that Christ died for all! Christ made it clear that you could accept or reject His selfless act, all throughout scripture. After studying scripture for 40 yrs I stumbled over a Bible teacher named RC . And was mortified at what he taught .I personally can’t believe that anyone studying their Bible without the benefit of calvin could ever come to the conclusions of calvinism. Even RC testifies that the very concepts seemed EVIL until he was fully indoctrinated.

  • jim

    Again dear John
    Christ has made it perfectly clear He has chosen all, every man ,every man born,all the inhabitants of the earth! He made it so abundantly clear that Calvinism has to literally try to change the meaning of the words to fit their theology (twist scripture ) .Such a dangerous stance to take. He said. “if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me”
    Your stance is forced to change the meaning of “draw” and or “all” and you have chosen to attack both of His very well chosen words.

  • jim

    DTJR
    I would encourage you to study ALL the scripture, not just the few go to scriptures that all Calvinist believers
    are stuck on. There are 1200 pages of gospel out there that are Very clear and not at all dificult to understand.

  • jim

    Whatsinaname
    Have you ever bothered to read the passage that Paul is quoting? Would it be so bad to study the scripture for yourself? Do you understand the idea of “context “?
    Psalms 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good….
    14:4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.
    So apparently fools and workers of iniquity don’t call upon the Lord. However, we are all free to call upon the after hearing the Gospel of Christ, the good news available for all!

  • jim

    Good Word Wayne!

  • jim

    Brent
    What an amazing writer you are! But I must point out that Esau DID get the Blessing!!
    However he sold it for a bowl of beans. Jacob earned the blessing when he wrestled with God. And as far as “sovereignty” which I think is misaplied, God doesn’t say hate ( prefer ) until the book of malachi , hundreds of years after esaus death. God didn’t send esau wherever he ended up, esau Sent himself. I don’t see double predestination in my Bible , only obedience or rebellion.

  • jim

    Really good word Dean. Thanks

  • Louis

    The straw man arguments that is used here is quite bad. There is some prideful Calvinist, but that can also be attributed to zeal for discovering the truth, but Calvinist understand how deeply humble we should be because God has chosen us.

    Some points:
    1. Double predestination is not part of Calvinism, no matter what Augustine said.
    2. Talking to arminians, I have found they jump to philosophies and not to biblical texts.
    3. I know people’s pride is important to them but God will not allow for it, hence he makes salvation of his doing choosing those to his and sending his Son to save them as a bride for his Son.
    4. The passages of scripture leaves the arminian without defense and they usually resort to one liners and emotional arguments.
    *** And btw the arminians also limi the atonement, maybe not in scope but in efficacy.

  • Dean

    Thanks Jim! I was just re-reading some of these posts and I think I got the better of him. ;)

    But in all seriousness, over the past two years since this exchange with Brent, I am even more convinced that Calvinism is simply unbiblical. Here’s two arguments I should have made with Brent that I picked up:

    (1) “The Calvinist God is not arbitrary or capricious. Look up the definitions, those words imply that he can change.”

    The definition of “arbitrary” at dictionary.com is “subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion”.

    Well, that sure sounds like the concept of Election to me. The Calvinist God chooses the Elect not based on anything they have done or will do, or anything within that person or anything at all (as far as we know) for that matter, “so that none may boast” as they say. Well, I can’t think of a better definition for arbitrary than that! It has a bad connotation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit the bill!

    (2) “I am a bit stunned that you would claim that God does not have a right to love people differently; to prefer one over another. Who took away this right? Even the verse you cite [i.e. Acts 10:34] is off kilter. Sure, Peter says that God does not show partiality [e.g. between Jew and Gentile] but in the very next verse [vs. 35] is says that anyone who does good is acceptable to God; implying that those who do not do good are not acceptable. People who do good are preferred over people who don’t. So we can agree that God’s preferences of one person over another is not based on nationality. That would be a human problem; a human distinction. God does prefer [i.e. love] people who do good more than people who do evil. In John 10:17, Jesus says: “The REASON my Father loves me is that I lay down my life…” Perhaps you think Jesus should have said: “The REASON my Father loves me is because he loves everyone equally…”.

    He slipped up here. He sounds like he’s making an argument that God loves the Elect because they “do good”, or as they say, obey his commands. That’s Pelagian, that’s what they accuse Arminians of. God absolutely has the right to love people differently, and to favor those who obey his commands, and in particular, to condition salvation on repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ. It’s Calvinism that says salvation can’t be conditioned on anything. The Calvinist says that salvation is totally unconditional and that God doesn’t save the Elect based on anything good they do or even because they obey his commands. He just arbitrarily chooses them. So this statement makes no sense in his theology.

  • The Watchman

    Congrats. The world loves you.

  • Me too. They’re so sarcastic and flippant. Just look at the tone he uses, kind proves some of your points.

  • What you believe sounds a little bit like Molinism, which in my opinion is a more complete systematic theology than Calvinism and is therefore more reflective of his grace / mercy but includes his sovereignty.

  • Charles

    What I don’t understand is why Calvinists find this life worth living at all? We are all going to die, and a few of you who are lucky enough to be elected will then spend all of eternity with your god, while the rest of us are thrown into hell for all of eternity. Now, tell me you can manage to worship this absurd image of god and live a psychologically healthy life. Calvinism truly is a despicable theology. Hell is a lie conjured up by priests to control the sheep. Wake up.