Follow Up to Why (High) Calvinism Is Impossible

Follow Up to Why (High) Calvinism Is Impossible March 19, 2014

Suppose someone said “God is sovereign but God’s sovereignty is different from our ideas of sovereignty. God is sovereign but possesses only the power of persuasion.” Someone else objects saying “But wait. There is no meaning of ‘sovereignty’ known to man that is compatible with having only the power of persuasion.” The first person responds, “Oh, but you are assuming a human idea of sovereignty; God’s sovereignty is higher and better than any human idea of sovereignty. We can’t project our ideas onto God; we must learn from God what ‘sovereignty’ means.” The second person says “But wait again. When you say God is ‘sovereign,’ then, we have no idea what you mean because the word ‘sovereign’ becomes equivocal. It is compatible with anything.” The first person responds, “Well, God is mysterious and his ways are higher than our ways.”

In other words, two can play this game. The Calvinist believes God predestines people to eternal torment in hell apart from any truly free decisions they make (since he “designs, foreordains, and governs” all creaturely decisions) and could rescue them from it (because election to salvation is unconditional and grace is irresistible) but doesn’t says “God is good,” even though there is no OTHER meaning of “good” compatible with such behavior. This is no different from, say, a process theologian saying “God is sovereign” even though there is no OTHER meaning of “sovereign” compatible with total lack of power other than power of persuasion. In both cases we really have no idea what the words mean.

Almost all Calvinists insist that God is NOT the “author of sin and evil.” Why? Because that would be incompatible with being “good.” SOME Calvinists challenge that and ask why God can’t be good AND the author of sin and evil? The other Calvinists really have no answer to that because they have already emptied “good” of all meaningful content by saying it is compatible with God predestining people to hell (as described above).

Words cannot mean whatever we say they mean (contrary to the character in Alice in Wonderland). This is the whole point of saying that theological language must be analogical and not equivocal. High Calvinism makes “good” equivocal. Then, “good” becomes possibly compatible with anything and everything–including deceiving others. If God’s “goodness” is so elastic and equivocal, then there is no reason to expect that it could NOT be compatible with God deceiving us in which case we have no good ground for trusting the Bible.

I am convinced that all objectors so far have missed the point entirely. What scenario in human existence and experience can you think of in which something like predestining fellow human beings to eternal torment in hell apart from any free decisions they make would possibly be compatible with “goodness?” What scenario in human existence and experience can you think of in which refusing to rescue a fellow human person from eternal torment when one could rescue him is compatible with “goodness.”

If you say “Well, whatever God does is automatically ‘good’ just because God does it,” then you have made my point for me. We don’t have any dependable understanding of what that might exclude. In that case “good” MIGHT include deceiving us in God’s “Word” such that the reality is exactly the opposite of what it says–viz., that salvation is by works alone rather than by grace alone.

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