Calvinistic Problems

I've separated the following paragraphs from the previous post below in order to highlight specific problems for Calvinistic Christians.

Let me make a few brief comments about Calvinism, coming, as they do, from a former non-Calvinist. I'll make a brief argument against Calvinism. I’m sure my comments here will not convince Calvinists, but they convince me.


There is a huge divide among evangelicals themselves over this whole issue (this is the case in point for my previous post). If God is sovereign as Calvinists claim, then he can do pretty much anything he wants to with a complete and total disregard for decency and morality. I charge this kind of God as showing partiality by revealing himself to some people but not to others (even though he forbids us to show partiality--James 2). I think this kind of God is barbaric, since he lies to us (telling us he wants us to do one thing but secretly “causing” us to do something else); he doesn't abide by his own ethical obligations laid out in the Bible (whereby he can virtually violate all ten commandments and still demand worship as a holy God); and he condemns people to hell simply because it brings him more glory (if, however, he can control our free willed choices, then why didn't he make us all obey in the first place)?

Suffice it to say that if Calvinism is true, then God cannot be a good God because he decrees all of the evil we experience in human history. All of it. No belief in “God’s inscrutable ways” can absolve God of this guilt. And no alternative definition of human freedom can absolve God of this guilt, either.

Evangelical and Open Theist Clark Pinnock responded to such a theology with these words: “One need not wonder why people become atheists when faced with such a theology. A God like that has a great deal for which to answer.” [Predestination and Free Will, eds. Basinger & Basinger (IVP, 1986), p. 58].

18 comments:

Zachary Moore said...

Ah, but are you aware that God has, in fact, two Wills? His Revealed Will may confuse you, but rest assured, his Secret Will is 100% Good.

Not Reformed said...

That's reassuring, Zach. ;)

Paul Manata said...

that's not the two wills, Zach. Quit claiming you were a Calvinist.

Paul Manata said...

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/02/debunking-john-w-loftus.html

Paul Manata said...

also see, http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/forgiveness-through-propitiation.html

Zachary Moore said...

Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 3:

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised of His glorious justice.

VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.


The Will of God as revealed to us in the Scriptures tells us all to repent, but the secret Will of God has already predestined everyone for either salvation or damnation. Does that make more sense?

Paul Manata said...

yeah, I know the confession, Zachary.

The decretive and permissive wills are not involved with what John wrote about.

Zach, don't try me on Calvinism, or Christianwe've already been there, done that.

GeneMBridges said...

Apparently, those who would use the confessions don't read them carefully.

nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Libertarians somehow think that God decreeing is somehow making Him complicit in evil.

First, one wonders how God can murder. Life is His to give and take.

One wonders how God can steal, for the universe belongs to Him.

It's basic items like that which libetarians gloss over.

But, back to the confessions. Reformed theology teaches that both the ends are decreed and the means to the ends. The main objection here seems to be that, since God has decreed the existence of evil things, He is evil Himself.

However, how can one say that if there is no standard of what is good and evil. For that matter, this is, yet another, facile objection that doesn't account for the means to that end.

For example, we teach the Fall was decreed. How? By withholding constraining grace, which God was under no obligation to give anyway. Libertarians object to this, but what this did, within the decree, is allow them to make a choice based on their own desires and motives. Ergo, they made a "free will" choice. Why then is this objectionable to the libertarian? Isn't Arminianism designed such that God is obligated to honor our free will choices?
: In Reformed theology, we distinguish between category and act. There are acts in which God directly intervenes: miracles, creation, regeneration, and conversion and acts in which He allows natural processes to work out His will.

The nature of a thing determines the category of its acts, but not each and every act. The Westminster Confession and London Baptist Confession are clear. God’s determination of men’s acts in this regard comes through decreeing they come about through “the efficacy of second causes.” Individuals still have the freedom to act out any number of possible goods or evils as dictated by their natures.

God can choose goods. Satan can choose from any possible number of evils. Each and every act need not be “predestined” by from any number of possible the direct action of God, much of what happens is predestined by virtue of God controlling the boundings and directings of our choices while giving us freedom to act within the constraints of our natures, intervening directly as He pleases, constraining us and permitting us as He so chooses. Nothing happens apart from the grounding, sovereign decree of God, but certain acts and choices and circumstances come about by God ‘s direct effort (what Charles Hodge calls His “potentia absoluta’) This are: miracles, creation, regeneration, conversion, the events of the eschaton, and specific acts of judgment.
What God decrees for His glory, men do with their own motives. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to judge Egypt’s gods. Pharaoh’s will was not violated, in that God allowed Pharaoh’s love of evil, which was his natural state, to increase, keeping Israel from leaving. Pharaoh did not keep them from leaving in order to glorify God and worship Him. He did it because he hated God, Moses, Aaron, and the slaves. What God did for a righteous motive, Pharaoh did out of hatred for God. The motive behind an act, therefore, determines whether or not it is truly sinful. In theory, if Pharaoh had done what he did to glorify and worship God, he would not have been condemned, however, a man that does such a thing is, in reality acting in faith and love for God and would have to be regenerate. Such a man would not hold Israel back; he would have released Israel and taken down Egypt’s gods. That was not God’s purpose for Pharaoh. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
God is the author of evil, in the sense that He is first cause of all things. This simply goes with pay grade. His decrees, through either action or inaction render events necessary, but, evil is the result of permission, not His direct causation, or a result of His judicial hardening of sinners, an act of justice Scripture supports repeatedly, as in the above text and in Romans 1. Nothing happens that compels a man or demon to act in a way it does not wish to act or against its nature. He may withhold constraining grace, as in the fall, in order to render a thing certain, but the agent of the evil, in this case Adam simply acts in accordance with his nature as a second cause, for reasons and motives sufficient for himself and arising from his own nature. Men thus do what God decrees, but for motives all their own. In so doing, they may incur judgment. See for example, the predestination of Judas betrayal and Jesus crucifixion. These men did, with evil desires, what God desired and planned to happen since before creation, for Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world itself.

Paul Manata said...

amen Gene, now prepare for non-interaction. Or, "interaction." But there will be no interaction.

Zachary Moore said...

"The decretive and permissive wills are not involved with what John wrote about."

Oh, but they are. Asserting is fun, don't you think?

Zachary Moore said...

"God is the author of evil, in the sense that He is first cause of all things."

Amen to that. And I'd go further to argue that there's no moral distinction between direct or indirect causation of evil.

John W. Loftus said...

Gene said, For example, we teach the Fall was decreed. How? By withholding constraining grace, which God was under no obligation to give anyway.

By saying God is under no obligation to give constraining grace, are you not excusing God. Does God have any obligations towards us at all? What are they? I would think he should have the obligation to love us, and have at least as much love for us as we are supposed to have for others. Then when someone is in need of food, are we obligated to give them food? Perhaps not. Does that absolve us from responsibility if we also know that by withholding that food the people will die? And what does that say about our obligation to love others? And what does it say about God's love for us?

God is the author of evil, in the sense that He is first cause of all things. This simply goes with pay grade. His decrees, through either action or inaction render events necessary, but, evil is the result of permission, not His direct causation, or a result of His judicial hardening of sinners, an act of justice Scripture supports repeatedly, as in the above text and in Romans 1. Nothing happens that compels a man or demon to act in a way it does not wish to act or against its nature.

I may not be the direct cause of a child who drowns in a backyard pool, either. But if I could have saved her, and/or was babysitting her then what would you think if you were her parent? Now apply that to God. And what's this talk about God cannot compel another creature to act against its own nature? Who created us anyway?

I knew what I had posted would not convince a Calvinist, but the case is just damning as far as I'm concerned.

Notice how demeaning Paul is, and how sure he's right--about everything. Kinda reminds me of 1 Peter 3;15 everytime I read what he writes. Seems to me he's still a violent man, except now he's just verbally violent.

Paul, you do realize that I cannot always deal with every comment, and I cannot convince anyone who disagrees with me that they are wrong. I can only post things that seem reasonable to me. But as far as trying to beat a dead horse, I just do not do that as effectively as you do. If you had your way we'd still be debating my very first post, as if by further debate you'd convince me I wrong. I don't have such a naive and simplistic view of things.

Paul Manata said...

Zachary, YOU made the assertion friend. The onus is on YOU to show this. Since I don't think it is, and can't see how you think it is, then maybe you can tell me how it is so that I can better respond?

Having the burden is fun, isn't it?

Oh, and John, check this out: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/loftistic-problems.html

GeneMBridges said...

“I charge this kind of God as showing partiality by revealing himself to some people but not to others (even though he forbids us to show partiality--James 2).”

This is basic exegesis here. Of course, its also the typical Arminian gloss, which I would expect from a student of Craig. James 2 is about not showing favoritism on the basis of social status, something intrinsic in men.

As to the charge of favoritism, the "favoritism" God is showing is bound to what in Calvinism? Merit? Foreseen faith? Foreseen wickedness? None of these apply. The reasons are grounded in God and not man, without respect to anything meritorious in men. One wonders how this equates to the favoritism of James 2.

In Calvinism, men have no just claim on the mercy of God, so anything God does is purely a matter of mercy and not, therefore, grounded in men. In Arminianism, election, for example, is based on foreseen faith. All persons believe for different reasons and circumstances, so God elects and reprobates based on intrinsic characteristics in men. This is a type of remunerative justice, and, utltimately, this is the same category of partiality that James prohibits. Ergo, your argument is applicable not to Calvinism but upon Arminianism, the system under which you studied. You have leveled your complaint upon the wrong system.

GeneMBridges said...

What are they? I would think he should have the obligation to love us, and have at least as much love for us as we are supposed to have for others.

On the contrary, who has a just claim on the mercy of God? This is what you must show. Why single out love as God's obligation to us? Why not justice? As to love, by far the majority of texts that discuss this are directed to the covenant community. I would argue that the covenant community is very much loved by God's salvifically and mercifully, so God does love us exactly the way we are told to love others. However, let's not conflate common grace and special grace. We are called to treat all men with respect and dignity, but that does not translate into loving them with a covenantal love. You are assuming things you need to prove.

I may not be the direct cause of a child who drowns in a backyard pool, either. But if I could have saved her, and/or was babysitting her then what would you think if you were her parent? Now apply that to God.

From whom do you get your critique of Reformed theology, John, Dave Hunt? That child is also a mass murderer, guilty of committing vast atrocities against mankind, who spits regularly in the face of God with every breath, an idolater who hates God with all her heart. If that child lived he would commit another Holocaust if he had the opportunity. God sees the hearts of men like a book. We do not. Mr. Loftus, if you're going to argue the contrary position, the least you could do is account for the anthropology of the other position. This is just more incompetence on your part. You may have studied under Craig, but thus far, you're one of the most inept students of his I've ever read.

And what's this talk about God cannot compel another creature to act against its own nature? Who created us anyway?

I did not say that. God does not compel men to act against his own nature and men do nothing contrary to their natures. Why should God cause men do something contrary to their nature? Where is the just claim condemned persons have on God so that He should do that? They agree with the sin of Adam every time they act in a wiillful manner. Will anybody seriously argue that they will behave in a manner that is better than those with whom God walked and talked directly before the fall? I'd add that in its soteriology, God gives life to the believer via regeneration and this causes them to believe and repent so that they can be justified, so God does not compel them to act against their nature at all. He actually changes their nature, something under which He is under no obligation to do anyway, in order for them to believe and repent.

John W. Loftus said...

Gene,
That child is also a mass murderer, guilty of committing vast atrocities against mankind, who spits regularly in the face of God with every breath, an idolater who hates God with all her heart. If that child lived he would commit another Holocaust if he had the opportunity. God sees the hearts of men like a book.

One more comment and I'm done for the night. You do realize of course, that you'd have to say this about every premature child's death. If so, there are a potentially great number of murderers and rapists and horrible people whom God is saving us from by "allowing" them to die at an early age.

So why did Stalin and Hitler, and Dahlmer, and Bundy and the unibomber and BTK plus Jack the Ripper, and David Koresh and Jim Jones and Charles Manson, and and and and and so on and so forth slip by God's providential killing care?

Oh, I know, we just don't know but we're to trust in God's decrees anyway.

Bullshit!

Zachary Moore said...

"Having the burden is fun, isn't it?"

I wouldn't know. I'm not asserting the existence of an immaterial entity.

;)

SRK said...

It seems Loftus doesn't really understand what Calvinism is. Most who rail against it don't however so I'm not surprised. Though I often laugh at how we tend to want to only read half of scripture and not the other half. Romans 9 anyone?