Francis Chan the Bud-Light Calvinist

*NOTE: Some have personally written me and are of the opinion that I have displayed some arrogant sarcasm in the following critique of Francis Chan that is uncharitable to him. As strange as it may sound I actually love Francis Chan! I agree with so much of his preaching and message. He is excellent. But Chan also professes to be a Calvinist–which is why I am concerned for him as well as his readers. Chan’s preaching and message in the public square is astonishingly inconsistent and contradictory to his privately held Calvinist believes. This actually makes him somewhat “dangerous” because his likability can cause novice believers to be initiated into Calvinism without knowing the horrifically dark elements that accompany Calvinism. My motivation is concern and the genre is more or less satire so please keep that in mind.*

If Mark Driscoll, James White and John Piper were Budweiser beer than Francis Chan would be Bud-Light. In other words Francis Chan is Calvinism-Light. Still Calvinism but diluted enough for the uninitiated and uninformed masses to savor its taste without being burdened with all those heavy Calvinist calories that sit around the gut of the heart and constrict it of life.

Another way of putting it would be to say if Driscoll, White and Piper were the drugs of heroin, cocaine and meth, Chan would be mariguana. Chan is the “gateway” drug for further Calvinist exploration and experimentation.

Chan is a warm-hearted, congenial, passionate speaker and teacher. So much of what he says I can only applaud with a hearty “amen.” But that is because so much of what he says is grossly inconsistent with Calvinism. Throughout his book Crazy Love and similar themed sermons Chan couches God’s love of sinners in universal terms. He pleads with his unsaved readers and listeners: “God loves you! God loves you with such a crazy love he died for you so that you don’t have to go to hell! You just have to choose to accept him.” [1]

Really? Can he say that as a Calvinist? No he cannot. In Calvinism God has no redemptive love for masses upon masses of people whom Calvinism informs us he sovereignly predestined for hell. Moreover a pillar tenant of Calvinism is to repudiate any thought that suggests Jesus died for the sins of all persons and sincerely desires their salvation. God forbid anyone started believing that insidious heresy. It would leave Calvinists too naked and exposed to the patent truth of John 3:16-18. Moreover they would be without a leg to stand on in asserting God’s sovereign reprobation of multitudes of people and his unconditional decree to sequester them outside the orbit of his redemptive intention before they were born! Contra Francis Chan’s Bud-Light Calvinism, in Budweiser Calvinism God has decided your eternal destiny and no alleged acceptance, choice or response on your point affects that eternally sequestered decision.

So how does a Bud-Light Calvinist like Francis Chan justify telling people without qualification that God loves them and is genuinely “crazy” about saving them? At minimim it gives people false hope. At worse it’s a blatant lie! Now perhaps Chan is thinking there will be a “lucky” few predestined souls that have been foreordained to come across his book and discover that God’s “crazy love” is true for them (in virtue of being one of God’s unconditionally predestined elect). But Chan must admit that for everyone else outside the orbit of God’s love and redemptive intention, his comments are a sad and remorseful lie. They just aren’t true!

So Chan has a choice. He must either renounce and repudiate the mistaken impression he has given that any reader can pick up his book and subsequently read themselves into passages about God’s universal, redemptive love and intention.

Or Chan must repudiate his Calvinism.

He cannot have his cake and eat it too. He cannot hold to two incompatible beliefs for the sake of being a congenial Calvinist that doesn’t want to make waves. Calvinism-Light is still Calvinism and it just as easily leads to a “drunken,” theological stupor where one stumbles around, tripping over his own tangled doctrines trying to convince himself that his Calvinist belief in God’s determinative sovereignty and foreordination of all sins doesn’t therefore mean God is the author of sin.

Sadly for many people Chan’s Calvinism-Light will undoubtedly serve as a principle gateway to being initiated into heavy, calorie-induced Calvinism where doctrines about Jesus dying for the sins of only a chosen select and not all mankind, and God’s meticulous foreordination of all vile sin and wickedness accumulates to become the unsightly fat gut you may despise but can never part with…ever.

It’s time we start calling Calvinists out for their shameful behavior in not putting all their cards on the table.

It’s time we start calling Calvinists out for condemning Arminian theology in their scholarly papers while simultaneously keeping the darker, more “sinister” elements of Calvinism out of the public square by intentionally borrowing Arminian terminology and theological phraseology in order to shield their own horrific theology from view whenever they speak to general audiences of lay people– like Passion Conferences.

Francis Chan– I believe you to be a man of great credibility and passion. You display a heart that appears to have a unrestricted desire that “no man perish” and that is truly commendable. We beg of you to discard Calvinism in its entirety. In your heart of hearts you know you’re not one of them. You know you don’t have it within you to carry around the burden of thinking God decreed all of our unholy, relationship destroying sin and disobedience… or that it pleased our loving Heavenly Father to unilaterally predestine many of your readers and listeners to a damnation that cannot be changed.

Please put down your Calvinism-Light before you enter a state of irreversible, theological “drunkenness” like your mentor John Piper. No disrespect intended. I have no doubt that your friend Piper has a genuine heart to extol God’s faithfulness, love and glory–but he has become self-stricken with a severe case of cognitive dissonance. For he does not allow himself to fully pursue and appreciate the tragedy and horror of what he privately believes. We hope it does not become so with you. God bless you!

[1] I am not the first to use this term of Chan. Another article that speaks of Chan’s “Calvinism Light” can be found here.
[2] Calvinism is an untenable way of thinking that butts heads with cognitive dissonance at every turn. In order to shield itself from its own incoherency and internal inconsistencies it must cloak itself behind Arminian assumptions whenever it’s evangelistic efforts are publicly put on display for mass consumption. In his online video appeal to a world of lost sinners Francis Chan carefully closets and shelves his 5-point Calvinism and shows his knack for borrowing full-fledged Arminian theology and terminology. Chan preaches:
“The Bible says you have no excuse–no excuse–for not believing in God because you can see God in everything… The Creator of the world actually loves us and wants to give to us. If you miss out on that you’re going to miss out on the whole point of your life… The message of the Bible is not how there is this harsh Being up in heaven who has given us these harsh commands that he forces upon us… [but] his commands are a gift to us, they are a necessary thing. When God said, “Thou shalt not murder” He is saying, “Look I think your life would be better on earth if you didn’t kill each other…if you could love each other as much as you love yourself this place could be amazing.” So think about it, God created you and I; he gives us these laws; we break these laws; and so at the end of our lives he has every right to punish us as severely as he sees fit…so if our lives ended that way, with his punishment, it would be completely fair, completely just. But I’m going to tell you something. Despite everything you’ve done in your life, God still loves you. He doesn’t want to punish you… In the greatest act of love ever… Jesus was taking the punishment of our sins…The Bible says he loves us that much. Guys, this is the most amazing truth in the world! The God of the universe loves you. You have to make a choice. Right now God want to have a relationship with you. He wants to forgive you…but you’ve got to choose to accept him… God is begging you, it’s like he’s on a knee and he’s saying, “Will you take me? Will you have a relationship with me–Almighty God?” And you have to say, “I do”– that’s it! You’re whole eternal destiny rides on this. You can know for sure today you’re going to heaven… the God of the universe is crazy about you and screaming out for your attention. So don’t just walk away and go back to your routine. This could be the greatest day of your life.”
Moreover at Francis Chan’s evangelistic team website (that includes fellow Calvinist David Nasser) at www.juststopandthink.com they unequivocally assert without reservation and qualification Arminian-styled statements that would make most Calvinists reel in horror behind the safe walls of their private chambers and confessions. For example:
“God loves you. In fact he is crazy about you and has done something so that you won’t have to go to hell. He has provided the way to be declared not guilty. This is why Jesus came….To know Jesus Christ personally and have your sins forgiven, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner separated from God and that your only hope is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came and died for your sins…There are two things you must now do to enter into a relationship with the God from whom you have been separated: 1) Repent….You see, there are some things only God can do and some things only you can do. Only God can remove your sins and give you the gift of eternal life, but only you can turn from your sins and receive Jesus as your Savior. That brings up the second thing you must do to respond to God’s offer. 2) Believe in Jesus Christ and Receive Him Into Your Life.” Having seen the enormity of your sin and having decided to turn from it, you then must believe in and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior… you may have felt on your heart from the Holy Spirit showing you your need for Jesus. He may even be speaking to you right now! It is at that point that you must open the door. Only you can do that. Jesus will not force his way in.”
Do I affirm and agree with these aforementioned displays of theology and evangelism? Yes–absolutely! Can a professing Calvinist like Francis Chan legitimately endorse or proclaim such an Arminian, evangelistic viewpoint? Not at all! It runs roughshod all over Calvinism as taught by its scholars and confessions.

About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt and I'm a single guy of somewhat contented singleness and as my blog suggests I live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I direct an orphanage of amazing children and seek to provide assistance to the poor and disabled through a faith-based humanitarian NGO. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an even more broken and apathetic church.
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20 Responses to Francis Chan the Bud-Light Calvinist

  1. Benjamin says:

    I think you misunderstood Calvinism. The bible clearly and explicitly teaches God’s sovereign choice in the salvation of man. You mentioned that according to Calvinism, “God has decided your eternal destiny and no alleged acceptance, choice or response on your point affects that eternally sequestered decision.” That is a gross misunderstanding on your part. By saying that, you are implying that every human being deserves to be saved by God. One thing we all need to realize is that because of the Fall, all men are naturally hell-bound, being dead in sin and unable to seek God on his own. God would be perfectly just if He had not died for anyone’s sins. If any Christian claims that he chose God on his own accord, what he is in fact implying is that he was not spiritually dead (like the bible teaches) and can make a contra-nature decision on his own. You can nudge a dead man, you can even bring him to church, but you cannot raise him up. Only God can do that with sinners. The only way anyone can come to faith in Jesus is if the Father draws him. Jesus said, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him”. Jesus also said , “you do not believe because you are not part of my sheep.” The point it, without God’s sovereign election, NO ONE would ever be saved because ALL are spiritually dead and can never come to their senses on their own because dead men have no senses.

    I humbly ask you to read church history. Read about the Reformation. Read about the Pelagian heresy that states that man is not affected by the Fall in any way and can come to God on his own without the grace of God. If you just read on church history, from the early church, to the Reformation, to the Great Awakening, etc., you will soon realize that this so-called “Calvinism” is indeed the mainstream orthodox Christian biblical teaching and is nothing new. Sadly, in modern times, the tables have turned and now the orthodox are treated as the heretics.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Benjamin, thank you for your comment. However I must be honest and say you demonstrate very little comprehension of Calvinism, Arminianism and above all church history. For starters all the church fathers affirmed indeterminate free-will up until the 4th century when Augustine shared his contrary views which Calvin and others later picked up. In fact you don’t find anything remotely expressing Calvinism’s view of unconditional election until the 4th century. Moreover you quote one of my statements and declare it to be a gross misunderstanding of Calvinism–but you don’t bother to share why or how. The fact is, in Calvinism, all has been determined by our holy God–including your own vile sins Jeremiah. Does that sit well with you? If all has been determined and individuals selected unconditionally then no choice or response can change what God has exhaustively determined. For indeed all our choices and responses have been determined as well–including whether you become an Arminian, Calvinist or a Pelagian heretic you fear so much.

      So really Jeremiah you didn’t REALLY choose to be a Calvinist and I didn’t REALLY choose to be an Arminian–God chose it for us. In fact you must believe God predestined Arminianism! But that probably never occurred to you because it is too strenuous for Calvinists to wrap their minds around the logical implication of believing that God determined all things. After all Calvinists would have to stop writing books against Arminianism because to do so would be to fight against what God determined…unless of course God determined them to fight against his own divine determinations…and on and on we go until you enter a state of irreversible vertigo of the mind Jeremiah. Lastly you state that I imply that all men deserve to be saved. But I neither stated that nor can that be extrapolated from what I wrote. God’s stated universal desire to save all people (1 Tim. 2:4) is where you need to aim your attack. It has nothing to do with what we deserve and everything to do with what God desires.

      And finally you seem to equate Arminianism with Pelagiansim…showing again that you have not studiously and objectively studied church history. I would encourage you to balance your Calvinist diet with scholarly works in the Arminian camp (such as anything by Roger Olson) and you will realize how greatly misinformed you are on what true Arminianism teaches (i.e. we do not teach that men deserve salvation, or that fallen man can seek God on his own. We teach that men can only respond to the gospel when they are aided by divine, prevenient, drawing grace. But unlike the Calvinist we don’t believe that God’s grace is coercively applied and unable to be resisted. After all God’s grace post-conversion does not operate upon us irresistibly–otherwise we would all be perfect. Shalom.

  2. Benjamin says:

    Thank you for your response to my comment. I am sorry if I sounded critical of you or anything. I just want to humbly clarify this matter, as I have been a “free-willer” all my life until only recently when I got exposed to the Doctrines of Grace. Even then, I struggled much with it. But the more I read the Word, I see God’s sovereignty in all of it, even with respect to salvation. Paul says God has mercy on whom He wills and He hardens whom He wills. And it does not depend on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9). These are just among some of the many passages that explicitly state that it is God’s choice, not the individuals.

    I am,however, not stating that in Calvinism, God simply coerces or forces His will upon man. I still believe that in order to be saved, man still needs to respond to the gospel in faith and repentance. What I am saying, however, is that in the unregenerate state, man has no capacity to respond in such a way, until the Holy Spirit regenerates him, leading him to be irresistibly drawn to Christ because his spirit eyes are now open. The one thing that makes it impossible for me to believe Arminian doctrine is that unregenerate men are spiritually dead and can never respond to God if left to his own free will.

    Might I humbly recommend you watching this documentary called Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism. It might clear things up.

    God bless.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Hi Benjamin, I do appreciate your desire to clarify your position. No offense taken and no apology necessary. I’ve got some time tonight… and so I’m going to try and address some of your comments more in depth. Please don’t get offended if some comments sound blunt and brief.

      1) I see you did not bother to comment on the patent truth of 1 Tim 2:4 that states God desires all people to be saved and that no man perish without the light of his Son. And it’s ludicrous to think God intentionally and sovereignly works against himself on this greatest of all desires. I also see you never answered my question as to whether or not you believe God sovereignly and unilaterally predetermined all your sins. In Calvinism God’s mind is the origin of every sin both logically and chronologically–making him the author of sin despite every attempt of some Calvinists to avoid this conclusion through pronouncements (i.e. Westminster Confession)…but never explanations.

      2) As a Calvinist you are required to believe that sovereignty equals God’s exhaustive determination of all things such that ever choice we make is merely the effect in time of what God “scripted” for us in his sequestered decree… which pretty much makes a mockery of the many scriptures that assume human free-agency and admonish us to make choices and decisions that we alone are ultimately accountable for. So here is the question. If you are a Calvinist you must believe you are a Calvinist ONLY BECAUSE God predetermined for you to be one. And my disagreement with Calvinism, and hence my Arminianism, is likewise God’s determinative will that I am powerless to avoid or change… until and unless God preordained that I change my mind at some future juncture. Therefore if God has indeed predetermined all things, then our entire dialogue is pointless and meaningless, is it not??? We are simply actors on God’s cosmic stage spitting out our scripted lines that were pre-written for us in eternity past. But if God did not divinely determine all things, then that means Calvinism is incorrect in its assumptions on God’s sovereignty…which in turn brings Calvinism crashing down in one big heap. Either way you have a serious matter to consider that I hope gives you pause before swallowing the whole hook.

      3) BTW as someone who use to think Calvinism was the only viable interpretation of the Bible, I have read more Calvinist writers than need be mentioned. After my study and thought my conclusion is that Calvinism is simply misinformed and misguided on a host of biblical scriptures and issues that make it untenable. In 1 John 1:1 “world” does not mean “elect.” “World” in John 3:16 also does not mean “elect” and the hermeneutical gymnastics Calvinists attempt to say so are frankly unconvincing and embarrassing. If a Calvinist interpretation of world, election, predestination, Romans 9, free-will and grace were the strongly held beliefs of the apostles, we would see early records of such thoughts in the writings of the church fathers during the first three centuries. For they are much closer than you or I in terms of inheriting apostolic doctrine being passed down. However we do not. But we see a great deal of classical Arminian theology over matters of free-will, grace and salvation. Sorry–it is a fact you have to face.

      4) Moreover it seems you continue to think Arminianism teaches man can respond to God of his free-will unaided by divine grace. Maybe slip-shod, lazy Arminianism speaks in such language but not historical, scholarly Arminianism. A failure to engage true Arminianism in their own words has long been the scourge of Calvinism. Much easier to attack straw-men and scare little Calvinist initiates into thinking rejecting Calvinism is to embrace a man-centered theology that holds fallen men can believe in God without being enabled by God’s grace. However scholarly Arminianism from Arminius to Wesley to the present day never state such nonsense. Rather we believe fallen men must first be encountered by God’s spirit and grace. We read a great deal about enabling, drawing grace, Jeremiah, but nothing of irresistible grace. A grace and love you cannot resist is forced love and no grace at all. The fact is the Bible speaks quite plainly that we can resist God’s grace Acts 7:51; Eph 4:30; Heb 3:7-8. It is one thing to state that man WON’T believe without the Holy Spirit (Arminianism), but it is quite another thing completely to say that man MUST believe because of the Holy Spirit. God seeks to draw the heart, convict the heart, open the heart, persuade the heart and appeal to the heart for reconciliation– but he does not force his love or grace on anyone. You may not like the language of “force” or “coercive” but you are stuck with it. If something is impossible to resist it is coercive not just persuasive or inclining.

      5) Man is indeed dead in sin Jeremiah (as you mentioned)–which biblically has principally ALWAYS signified his separation from God’s life. The Bible states that in sin we are “separated from Christ…without hope…but we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Adam became dead in sin the moment he disobeyed but he could still hear and respond to God’s voice. Paul’s usage of “dead in sins” does not mean “unable to respond to Holy Spirit influence” anymore than his later statement “I consider myself dead to sin” means he is unable to respond to sin’s influence. We are now “alive to Christ” because we have been separated from sin’s wages!

      6) It’s probably best to hear Jesus’ take. In Christ’s parable of the prodigal son (sinful, lost humanity) the loving father (God) proclaims “This is my son who was DEAD and is now alive; he was LOST and is found (Lk. 15:24). Being dead is correlated with being lost which compliments Christ’s words that he “came to seek and save the lost. Christ could have said he came to seek and save the spiritually dead and it would mean the same thing. Moreover it is noteworthy that the son in his dead, lost state “came to his senses” in the pigsty (Lk. 25:17) and decided to return to his father.

      7) You state that fallen men must be regenerated before he can believe and be saved. However regeneration is being born-again and being born-again is salvation. Being born-again does not occur prior to faith. Being born-again (such as Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus) and being regenerated into a new, resurrected nature–Christ’s nature–is the essence salvation! It is not something that precedes salvation. Calvinism results in the strange anomaly of there being a born again, regenerated unsaved person. Calvinism insists that a spiritually dead sinner who is not yet born again is incapable of seeking God’s truth or fearing God. But this would mean that the numerous gentile “God fearers” (and Cornelius) that Paul meant on his missionary journeys were born again and infused with Christ’s resurrected life months if not years BEFORE they believed in the gospel upon Paul’s arrival. Very strange anomaly indeed–and wholly without biblical support.

      8) All of Paul’s regeneration verses and terminology about God “quickening, making alive” those dead in sin who are cut off from God’s life substantiate my point that we were “born again”, “resurrected”, “quickened”, “made alive” and “born of God” UPON RECEIVING CHRIST and the power of His resurrection through belief in the gospel. In the Calvinistic paradigm that you are working out of, (i.e. quickening, being born again, resurrection precedes faith and salvation) we are forced to hold the absurd notion that Paul DOES NOT have saved people in view who have believed the gospel. For instance, we would need to insert the following brackets to understand Paul’s point in Colossians 2:13 “And you being dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh, he hath quickened [but not saved] with Him, having forgiving you all trespass [but you still need to believe the gospel and get saved because you have only been quickened.] And again in Ephesians 2:1-6, “And you he hath quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins [but did not yet save through faith] . . . even when we were dead in sins, he quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved [but you still need to take the final step of your quickening and believe the gospel in order to get fully saved.]” (I’m using KJV for flare :)

      9) Calvinists often turn to 1 John 5:1 to substantiate their view that regeneration and resurrection into new life occurs prior to faith in Christ… so as to enable faith in Christ. However that verse is a declaration of the STATE of a believer and NOT a declaration of WHEN a person believes. The word “believes” is in the present tense in the Greek. In other words he who presently believes in Jesus shows that is a born again individual. At the very first moment sinners first believed they were immediately born again by God and manifest that new nature or change of state in the present through their continual belief in Christ and their love for brethren who have also “been born of Him.”

      10) To deny the biblical truth that the new birth of spiritual resurrection is a result of believing the word of God, and to continue to insist that resurrection precedes belief in the gospel, is to consequently deny that Jesus IS the “resurrection and the life.” No man receives Jesus without faith and thus no man receives the life of resurrection that HE IS without faith! For didn’t Jesus declare, “I am the way, the truth and the LIFE?” And did not Christ also proclaim, “I AM THE RESURRECTION and the life?” Jesus did not say, “I HAVE life” or “I HAVE a resurrection to impart.” He said, “I AM THE LIFE.“ “I AM THE RESURRECTION! He who BELIEVES in me, though he dies, WILL LIVE” (John 11:25).

      11) To belief in Jesus is to receive Jesus and to receive Jesus is to receive resurrection life. We are not resurrected in order to believe and receive Christ, (Calvinist position) for that would be to separate Christ from who He IS- resurrection life. Rather we believe and receive Christ and thus receive His resurrection (Arminian position). Nothing could be simpler in my estimation. Yet I believe Calvinism has a head on collision with this biblical truth.

      The bottom line Jeremiah is the new birth or resurrection is brought about through belief in the Jesus Christ and is not a precursor to it.

      12) Lastly, don’t let Calvinists be your sole instructors for Romans 9. Their interpretation of that chapter is woefully inadequate, narrow and governed by strict presuppositions that ignore Paul’s main argument seen elsewhere in Romans. For a good explanation of the Arminian position see this article: http://reknew.org/2008/01/how-do-you-respond-to-romans-9/

      13) For a short little intro on an Arminian understanding of election and predestination (which we do believe) see this intro video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3DrCa_l3Iw

      You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual. However I doubt you really researched scholarly Arminianism before you were inducted into Calvinism. (Your exposure to Arminianism was probably the “crayon version.” I hope you have the courage to revisit the issues more in depth (read Roger Olson’s treatments) and say goodbye to an incoherent theology that requires you to believe that God only died for some–not all, unconditionally predestined multitudes to hell, and that his holy mind is the origin and author of all your relationship destroying sin and disobedience.

      Your future and beliefs are yet undetermined Jeremiah– enjoy the exploration and journey :) God bless.

  3. Benjamin says:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment and explain your position. I am grateful for that. I would just like to say one more thing. For us who believe in the Doctrines of Grace, we do in fact believe that regeneration occurs prior to saving faith. This is because, no man can have saving faith without being “spiritually alive”. There is no such thing as “God made a person alive spiritually (quickening), and then leaves that person to see IF he has faith”. We believe, on the other hand, that the faith itself is given by God (Eph 2:8-10). The regeneration and man’s response occur almost simultaneously as to be seen as almost indistinguishable from the human end.

    Having said all that, you have definitely given me much to think about. I definitely do not want to be sucked up into a system of theology per se. I am foremost a Christian who believes in Jesus and who has been saved by grace alone, through faith alone. However, please, I urge you, do watch the documentary Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism.

    At the end of the day, I am glad to have had the privilege of discussing doctrinal matters in an amicable way (it’s hard to find Christians who care about doctrine nowadays).

    In the end, even if the both of us do not come to an agreement, we can always agree to disagree. We are still all brothers and sisters in Christ and we serve the same Lord.

    God bless!

    • StriderMTB says:

      Hi Benjamin, I appreciate the heart and attitude in which you write. During our brief pilgrimage on this earth the scriptures tell us we will always see dimly as through a veil…until Christ and Truth is revealed unfiltered. I often find the core effort to be made is to embrace a theological viewpoint that does the least amount of damage to God’s holy character and glorifies Him to the greatest degree–which will ultimately be intertwined with God remaining far removed from decreeing and determining the vile, perverse, God-dishonoring sin of this fallen world.

      I do not embrace Arminianism primarily because of its retainment of genuine, indeterminate, free moral agency (which I see as fact of human constitution assumed all over scripture), but rather its shielding of God from the horrific and hardly-spoken of sinister implications of Calvinism– that being that God’s holy mind is the ultimate origin for each and every act of sordid evil. Calvinists LOVE to point to the crucifixion as a hermeneutical key that unlocks God’s determination and predestination of all sin! They say if the cross was predestined, and that was an evil act of wicked men, then what is the problem in saying God predestined all sin?

      For starters the scriptures tell us that according to the “determined plan and foreknowledge of God” Christ would suffer and die for sins at the hands of “wicked men.” That Christ would suffer and die for sins speaks of his determined plan. That it would be at the hands of wicked men speaks of his sovereign knowledge in knowing hearts and what men will do in certain circumstances—they ought not to be confused by being subsumed together to the degree Calvinists attempt.

      It is indeed sad that so many have been deluded into seeing the glory of the cross as some sort of sick justification of divine predestination of sin, that ultimately makes God and the devil indistinguishable. In Calvinism even every act and choice of the devil first logically and chronologically originated in the mind of God… and Satan is simply another one of his cosmic stage actors who is under the delusion (as we apparently all are) that we are owners of our decisions.

      People like John Piper who point to the crucifixion as an evidence that God divinely predestined every person’s sin completely fail to see the absurdity (and heresy!) in pointing to the ONE act of God to rid this world of sin’s curse as an evidence that God foreordained all the sin of that very world! Piper says God predestined all sin for his glory–to reveal his holiness as a redeemer from sin. That is the base line of where Calvinism takes you. It is no different that a man setting fire to his neighbors house just so he can sweep as the hero and rescue the family to splash his face across the papers. I truly hope, Ben, this gives you great pause before committing yourself fully to a theology that requires you to think in such paradigms.

      Lastly Ben, the alleged “Doctrines of Grace” is nothing more than a theologically charged term that nullifies discussion. Firstly it means that any who disagree with Calvinism can’t affirm God’s grace as a necessary element in salvation. Secondly, as I sought to spell out before, Calvinistic grace is antithetical to grace! It is more akin to “Doctrines of Compulsion.” A grace that is impossible to say “no thanks” to… and that MUST overwhelm all resistance is no grace at all! Rather it is a coercive force that goes way past persuasion. Thirdly the term does little to further dialogue. Imagine if Arminians started calling their tenants of belief “The Doctrines of Salvation.” It would arrogantly consign all non-Arminians as “unsaved.” But of course Arminians hold that Calvinists, despite their gross errors of theology, can still have a saving relationship with God to the same extent as they do.

      Lastly, just a short follow-up is in warranted for your comment:

      “For us who believe in the Doctrines of Grace, we do in fact believe that regeneration occurs prior to saving faith… There is no such thing as “God made a person alive spiritually (quickening), and then leaves that person to see IF he has faith.”

      There is “no such thing” Ben because regeneration is God’s sovereign, transformative work effected through saving faith wherein we are resurrected in Christ anew. Baptism is a symbol of this. You go down in the water and your old man dies there and you come up resurrected anew with Christ’s life. God’s prevenient grace enables a response of faith which in turn results in a regenerated new nature in Christ. Regeneration and spiritual resurrection is not a preceding groundwork wherein we are made ready to believe in Christ–it just isn’t scripturally there. It flows out of Calvinism’s misconceived assumptions not the Bible.

      Calvinism inverts the biblical order and separates spiritual resurrection from the One who is the very essence of spiritual resurrection. As I stated in my last post, Calvinism says no man can even fear God unless he is first regenerated or born again. But this poses many problems–for many people seek God and struggle through their journey of decision and ultimate surrender FOR YEARS before they finally become a disciple of Christ and pass from death to life. I have seen this first hand time and again as a missionary in Asia. You state that it is an “undistinguishable, simultaneous” event….but in actuality Calvinism doesn’t let you hold this. As I stated Calvinism posits the strange anomaly of a regenerated – unsaved person. For instance Calvinism must believe the Gentile “God-fearers” who Paul met were regenerated and born-again with Christ’s spiritual life of resurrection years before– BUT not yet saved. The scriptures know of no such thing as regenerated, spiritually alive–unsaved person. Regeneration is the result of repentance and faith and not the condition for faith. This is where Calvinism is in great error.

      We are indeed dead in sins, cut off from God and without hope in an un-regenerated state. In such a state no fallen, un-regenerate person will seek after God of his own unction. But God’s grace seeks us out in love. God’s prevenient, drawing grace enables a response of repentance and faith that would otherwise not be possible. “We love him because he first loved us.” Indeed the totality of God’s salvation is a gift–it is not of ourselves either in source, power or origin. But gifts can also be rejected and the Holy Spirt can be resisted! (See Jn. 7:51, Lk 13:34) Therein is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. Spiritual resurrection and life does not come to us outside of covenant with Christ. No– it only comes when we are “in Christ” who is the source of a regenerated, born-again life.

      Again, keep in mind that Jesus said he “is resurrection” and he “is life. “He’s not just talking about a future resurrection of our bodies. To believe in Jesus is to receive Jesus and to receive Jesus is to receive resurrection life and spiritual new-birth. We do not receive the power and life of Christ’s spiritual resurrection so that we can later receive Christ, (Calvinist position) for that would be to separate Christ from who He IS- resurrection life! Rather through God’s drawing grace we believe and receive Christ and thus receive His resurrection power which results in the “new man.” (Arminian position). In placing regeneration and spiritual resurrection prior to being “in Christ” Calvinism unfortunately separates Jesus from who He is–resurrection life and spiritual renewal!

      Lastly, I will watch the video if you promise to read this: :)

      http://evangelicalarminianism.wordpress.com/category/romans-9/

      I wish you well Ben. God bless us both in our continued studies and desire to discover truth without losing needed grace and humility in the process. Sometimes I err in this regard.

  4. Andrew says:

    First and foremost, I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is most important, and that our only job is to accept the free offering of grace and, as a result, strive to be more like Christ and share the good news with all the people that we know, and even to the ends of the earth.
    Now, regarding Calvinism, I believe that had God predestined for sin to exist, we cannot question God because God defines good and not our presuppositions about goodness. And regarding salvation according to the Calvinist, they believe that we cannot reach God on our own accord (Rom. 3:11). Therefore, it is not God who predestined them to hell, but man choosing hell and God choosing whom he will save.
    It is as if we are all on a sinking ocean liner and God is on a lifeboat. He would be viewed as a hero for saving them, not evil and vindictive for not saving the rest of mankind. (This is a poor example of God’s redemptive salvation, so don’t try to pick apart the flaws in this illustration. No illustration can fully explain God’s amazing grace.)
    Both sides have their fair points, and I can see where they arrive at that point.
    Arminianism focuses on man’s free will and the ability of all men to be saved, while Calvinism focuses on the sovereignty of God. Both are found in the Scriptures, so I believe that it is some strange hybrid of the two, that somehow both are true to some extent, and that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes in the tension between them.
    P.S. It is up to each Christian to continue looking through the Word of God and allowing the Spirit to illuminate in them the truths of God’s Word. They should not take a side because of what their friends believe, what their pastor says, or what conforms best to their worldview, but what the Holy Word of God says.

  5. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate the spirit in which you make your points. However I think a few comments are in order:

    1. You mention that our responsibility is to “accept the free offering of grace.” I agree. But this is fundamentally at odds with Calvinism. If we are not truly free to resist and reject God’s offer of irresistible, invincible grace (i.e. Calvinism’s efficacious grace) then God’s grace is not truly free but forced and ultimately coercive.

    2. You state, “regarding Calvinism I believe God predestined sin to exist.” How awful Andrew. God is altogether holy and righteous and separate from evil. So how can God’s mind and character (which “tempts no man to sin” James 1:13) be the ultimate origin (and therefore author) of sin? Calvinism doesn’t just say God predestined sin (as a general curse), but he predestined and divinely determined every one of your sins Andrew—such that you were not truly free to do otherwise. What horror! God becomes morally ambiguous and hardly distinguishable from the devil. In fact in order for Calvinists to maintain their thoroughly confused, extreme teaching in “universal, meticulous sovereignty” they must concede that God has divinely determined every thought, desire, intention and action of Satan. In Calvinism NOTHING can be planned, conceived of and accomplished outside of God’s prior divine predestination. How sad and deplorable! Calvinists can only hold on to a belief in God’s essential goodness by being willfully ignorant of the darker side of their beliefs. This is why Calvinism is the pinnacle of cognitive dissonance.

    3. You seem to think Calvinists alone hold to the belief that fallen man “cannot reach God of his own accord.” This is not unique or special to Calvinists. This is fundamental to Arminianism. Calvinism often survives on mischaracterization and outright lies concerning historical Arminianism. One must look to Arminianism’s recognized, scholarly proponents and defenders to critique the view—not popular level, slipshod, lazy “Arminian” preachers. Fundamental to Arminianism is the belief that fallen man–unaided by divine, drawing grace– cannot believe the gospel under his own unction. He must be supernaturally aided by God’s grace which is the doctrine of “Prevenient Grace.” Prevenient grace is assumed throughout the N.T. It is a drawing grace—but not an irresistible, coercive grace.

    4. You state “God did not predestine them to hell. They chose hell and God chose whom he will save.” This simply won’t do Andrew. I feel you have fallen prey to some “bud-light Calvinists” who have kept the darker, sinister side of unconditional election from you. It is UNCONDITIONAL remember? That means God did not consult ANYTHING—including our sin or the Fall of man before he chose who he will create and save and who he will create for hell. Not only that, in Calvinism, God doesn’t foresee human choice and then decree. God decrees and men act according to God’s decree. Nothing happens apart from what God decreed prior to the creation of the universe in eternity past. That means God determined the Fall, determined men to fall into sin, determined every one of your own sins—and then determined who he would choose to rescue from the very “sinking ocean liner” (to use your analogy) that he personally sabotaged. So even if a Calvinist tries to put unconditional election after the Fall of man—it makes no difference because in Calvinism God determined man to Fall (even though he yet had no fallen nature or inclination to choose evil).

    5. While initially seeming appealing your “ocean liner analogy” furthermore doesn’t reflect the Calvinist scenario because salvation is ultimately an exercise of God’s coercive power. If he finds a stubborn will He simply gives them a double-whammy of his irresistible grace-power and forces their will to be inclined to His. Since salvation is simply an exercise of God’s raw power, what he can do for some—he can do for all! Imagine a scenario where a rescue ship arrives at the scene of sinking ocean liner but the captain only decides to let down a few lifeboats into the water even though he could have given an order to let down all the lifeboats and save everyone! Such a “rescue” would be a farce and such a captain would no doubt be brought up on charges of willful neglect and manslaughter. You warn your analogy is insufficient—as all analogies are— (I agree) but I feel the main thrust of your analogy completely ignores the true implications of Calvinist theology. I better analogy would be God purposely setting fire to a house and then running in to save a few (even though He had the power to save all) just so he could be praised as a hero in the newspapers and ultimately extol His glory as one who triumphs over fire (sin). Since Arminians believe the clear biblical teaching that “God desires that no man perish” and that “God desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” and that “God so loved the world” and that Jesus’s atonement is not limited in its salvific intention and scope but is rather “the propitiation of sins, not only for us, but the whole world” –then we understand that man’s failure to come to Christ is no fault on the part of God’s love, desire, power or intention—but is rather God’s sovereign choice to honor their image of God bearing free-will to reject His drawing grace.

    6. Lastly you state that Arminianism is founded on a belief in “man’s free will and ability for all to be saved.” I would not define it in that way. Arminians are not really motivated by a desire to defend man’s free-will. Rather we are motivated by a desire to protect God’s character from the insidious and horrific implications of Calvinism’s doctrine of universal, meticulous sovereignty which finds God predetermining every rape, porn rental, genocide, divorce and aborted baby. Free-will is simply an essential feature of mankind that allows the evil of this world to ultimately be grounded in man—not God’s holy, ordaining mind.

    For these reasons I do not think a hybrid is possible—but I do understand your sentiments and the spirit in which you may hope for one. Personally I think all the scriptures Calvinists use to affirm their doctrines (like Romans 9) can be reasonably and persuasively interpreted differently that does not require us to believe God determines all evil and limits the scope of his salvific intention. God bless you Andrew and may the Spirit of God refresh and renew our minds and hearts each time we approach His Word.

    (P.S. I would highly recommend Roger Olson’s book “Against Calvinism” for a concise rebuttal of Calvinism and the multifaceted errors they make to arrive at their conclusions. I would also recommend http://www.reknew.org and typing in search keys like “election” or “Romans 9″ etc.

  6. Chuck says:

    All models are wrong but some models are useful. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out how to love my neighbor.

  7. fokis116 says:

    It amazes me how people try so hard to pull God down in trying to raise themselves. God raises dead men to new life. Dead men cannot and will not ever be able to please God. Jesus Christ saves. He does not just make it possible or just lays it out and says to a dead man here take it. He does not say please please i want to save you let me save you. No. He saves his people from their sins. He propitiates, satisfies the judgement due. If he has died for every single individual on what basis can God judge anyone if he has already judged everyone in Christ. Gods love is not equal for all. Christ loves His bride in a unique way that He shares with no other people. A man can not love anyone the way he loves his wife. He loves his wife in a special love. God loves His people, church, and bride in a unique fashion. These people were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Loved uniquely before the foundation of the world. Those he chose for eternal to display the glory if his grace and those he left in their sins to display the glory of his justice. You can use words like “forced to believe” or “against your will” but be honest in a synergistic soterology you have to use words like “tries to save” and “makes salvation possible but not definite.” It amazes me that a pagan king aknowledges more of God’s soveriegnty then most of so called “christians.” ALL GLORY GOES TO GOD IN SALVATION. Man only recieve the blessings of another finished work. The grace of God is poweful. God accomplishes all that he desires. Do we preach a messagez that saves men or only makes them saveable. If it only makes them saveable then its possible Christ death was in vain. Christ said He WILL save his people from their sins. I believe not to be made alive. I believe because i was made alive. Soli Deo Gloria

  8. fokis116 says:

    Cant help but read the comments that say God is the author of sin and rape and porn rentals. First the problem of evil is a problem for synergist just as much as monergist. Second your not protecting God’s holiness but deminishing it by taking away from His soveriegnty. In a synergistic view God cant violate the rapist free will and restrai n him from doing that very thing because then God becomes the rapist. That is obserd. Then what he hopes for a

    • fokis116 says:

      “Willing” person to come along and try and bring good from evil? Or doesnt it make sense that God leaving man in his fallen evil nature to carry out only what his nature can do which is evil so that God would bring out good from evil. This establishes God’s soveriegnty over evil. Have you ever thought of doing something horrible that others do with ease but you youself dont carry out. Why is that that others do it and you dont. God who is able to keep you from sinning restrains men from doing all the evil they are capable of doing. He also gives them over to their evil passions in times in which they carry out their evil desires and uses that to His own glory. That or we can believe that God waits on the side for a moment when he perform his will. I believe God is soveriegn over evil and His allowance and restraining of proves it. We all have the ability to be far more evil then we are but by Gods grace we arent.

  9. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Fokis116, thanks for your comments. But to be honest your comments display quite a bit of confusion as to the Arminian position and a very novice, uninformed apprehension of the logical implications of your own Calvinistic theology. So I will largely pass on responding in depth and simply ask you a few questions:

    1) Has any rape occurred that God did not first decree?
    2) Is there any porn video made that was not predetermined by God before the foundation of the world?
    3) Fokis, have you ever made a choice to sin that God did not sovereignly decree and render certain that you would make?

    I’m sure you can see where I’m driving at. If you bother to answer these questions honestly (i.e. according to the logical implications of your own theology) you will hopefully see why much of what you wrote is misguided and misconceived.

    It helps you none at all to appeal to man’s sinful, depraved nature to explain the ultimate reason as to why one evil occurs and not another. In your theology sinners aren’t even FREE to choose which evil they will commit–such as whether to click on porn site A or porn site B! In Calvinism God’s “sovereign” will is the decretive origin for every desire and choice made by men. Saying that God permits men to carry out evil is the Arminian position. You have no real claim to the phrase “God permits.” Any alleged “permittance” in Calvinism is simply a formality of means and is rather a meaningless statement. It is quite disingenuous to say “God permits men to do what he sovereignly decreed they MUST do.” For all your zeal you seem strangely unaware that the Calvinist position is that all our choices are the effect in time of what God decreed and determined before time began. You also seem to be unaware that the Calvinist position logically entails God is the principle origin and author of evil. Perhaps you would like to explain the difference between God authoring a person to commit the sin of X and God decreeing a person to commit the sin of X?

    It is my hope that one day you recognize the glory of God is not found in him decreeing all evil but in him triumphing over all evil with good in the age to come.

    Shalom, Matt

    • fokis116 says:

      Although you ask these questions as if they can be answered in a yes or no manner. I will answer in as much clarity is i can.

      1. First the question is a question intended to spark emotion and awe. In answering i will use Pilate and Herod. Acts 4:27-28 27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. We see individuals, Pilate and Herod, being predestined to do all that God had intended. These people were destined to do all that they did to Christ. Does that mean God was there saying to Pilate or Herod “you better beat him and crucify him or else?” No. The nature of these men wanted to crucify him. They did not do this with gusto to say “look we helped bring about salvation” they did it with their own evil intentions and motives. God did not need to tempt them to commit this act or MAKE them perform these action. He did choose to use these me for this very purpose. He did not violate their free will which only does evil. If anything he gave them more freedom to do these things. God rightly condemned them for their intentions. Yet it was God’s plan. This the same with the Assyrians in Isaiah 10 and in the case of Pharaoh, In the case of rape, a horrific act of mans sinful nature and evil desires which man and man alone are responsible for, it is no different. The creation ordinance of sex is good. It is to be use as God intended. God would be honored if the rapist did not rape but instead used the gift of sex given by God for the purpose it was intended. I ask can God keep the man from CHOOSING to rape? I say yes God does it everyday. Men can be more evil then what they are and it is by God’s grace they are not. Their are rapist who are around potential victims everyday why do they not carry out their desires everyday? Because God restrains them. So do you believe God can and does keep men from committing rape?

      2. Lets look at the same passage in Acts 4:27-28. These men were destined to commit these horrible acts. Could these men do anything other than what was decreed by God? No. These men cannot act contrary to their sinful natures. With regard to porn videos, once again used for awe and shock, has God been glorified by men who repented of these things and grown in holiness? Yes men by the grace of God overcome these sins. At the same time God gives men the FREEDOM to make these videos. Not that He is pleased with the perversion of His gift of sex. Also these men who make these and watch these only build up wrath for themselves. God will be glorified by His display of justice toward them for the evil intent of their hearts. I ask you does God allows evil to happen with the specific intention of bring good out it or does God says “Oh evil happened, HOW can i bring good out of it?”

      3. You ask the question as if i could do good in and of myself. When people sin they do so not because God MAKES them but man living according to his nature. Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, not even one;
      11 There is none who understands,
      There is none who seeks for God;
      12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
      There is none who does good,
      There is not even one.”
      13 “Their throat is an open grave,
      With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
      “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
      14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
      15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
      16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
      17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
      18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      This passage says it perfectly. God did not say “you will do this even if you don’t want to” The desire to evil and sin is what we do. Could Pilate have chosen to act contrary to his evil nature. Not without the grace of God. You ask the question in regard to sin. I ask you the same question in regards to good. have you ever made a choice to do good that God did not sovereignly decree and render certain that you would make? If so wouldn’t that mean that in and of yourself you have the ability to do good. Which would be contrary to the passage above and other such as Romans 8.8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Man can only do good in a regenerate state. even then it is not a good of his own but by Gods grace.

      If I could ask a question or two.

      If God has exhaustive knowledge of all events, which i believe and i think you would affirm, how do you claim to have a free choice. If God looks down to the point in which you would respond in faith to the gospel and at that point in time when this choice is laid before you can you choose to not respond in faith? I do not believe this is how God’s foreknowledge works but am only using it to prove that even the Arminian position does not have a free choice. You can only act in the manner in which God knew you would respond right? If not then does that mean man can do things God doesn’t know will happen?

      You use verses in a previous response that speak of Christ being the propitiation for the whole world. I ask you is that an active definite propitiation in which He took the punishment in my place and that of the WHOLE world, every single individual and pay the price once for all not needing to do anything else to secure the salvation. If He propitiated the sins of every individual why then is there anyone in hell. Surely that would include the sin of unbelief right? When people say Jesus died for you. Does that mean that He paid your sin debt? If so then can God demand you pay that same debt in hell if you don’t believe?

      People say its not fair if we don’t have freewill, which calvinist believe you do have you only choose that which is evil. Well what about when we are in glory. Will we have the ability to fall from heaven. Can we choose to sin in heaven. If not isn’t that not fair?

      Just a few question that I would seriously love answered.

      Thanks StriderBTM.

    • fokis116 says:

      I had answered your questions in a reasonable manner. I write now to address some other statements you made in regards to God permitting evil. It perfectly ok for me to say permit evil because the evil intent of man can line up with God’s decree. Take again Pilate. His intent was evil in the sense that he sentanced Christ to death, not with the intent God had of bring salvation, but for political reasons. So God permited the evil of Pilate to fulfill His decree. You talk as if God is their saying “you can do good but i decreed you to do evil so tough luck” the evil is ourselves not God making us. Men want to do evil and can only do evil because of their fallen nature. In saying that God cannot violate your will is to say God doesnt permit evil becuase He cant stop evil if it means violating your free will. Permiting involves the ability to stop. In arminianism God cant stop you from doing evil because he would be violating your free choice. I keep wondering if you believe that evil has no purpose. Does evil happen with a specific purpose that what God brings out of it will glorify himself whether by displaying his grace or justice? Or is it something God has no controle over because it comes from our free choice? Lastly im not sure but by you last statement of God overcoming evil inthe age to come, are you implying God doesnt overcome evil in the now? If so why not? If thats not what your say just bypass the questions on the topic. Thanks

  10. StriderMTB says:

    Fokis, I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I don’t have the time to answer all of your questions but you can find them answered in some form in the posts I have already written if you feel so inclined to read more. I do appreciate your attempts to defend your grasp of the finer aspects of Calvinism…but you seem hopelessly mired in confusion concerning what Calvinism actually teaches and the logical implications that fall out of holding that God decreed everything that occurs–that is to say every evil thought, desire and action of men.

    You stated, “I have answered all your questions in a reasonable manner.”

    No–Fokis, you didn’t answer them at all. You circumvented them by offering up an interpretation of Christ’s crucifixion that interpretively ASSUMES as true the very error of your theology under question.

    Fokis, the related texts only require us to understand that by God’s “predetermined plan and foreknowledge” Christ was “delivered over” to “wicked men” to carry out their own wicked intentions—intentions that are fully known to God. It bears repeating that the event of the crucifixion was predestined—not the evil motives and characters of those involved. This where I think most Calvinists get tripped up. God can exploit and use to his own advantage the evil intentions of others. God can override evil–not by decreeing that it first occur–but by exploiting it for his own purposes. That is his glory. You erroneously think God needed to exhaustively and meticulously predetermine all the means (what motives they would have and what wicked character traits they would adopt) in order to reach a predetermined end. As such you think God had to predetermine certain persons to have certain evil characters to do certain things to arrive at a certain, predetermined end (i.e. Christ’s death). But this just doesn’t follow. When you read that Herod, Pilate and certain Jews “did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” you automatically and mistakenly assume that Herod, Pilate and others must have had their individual, wicked characters causally determined via God’s irresistible decrees in order to carry out the crucifixion.

    But this just isn’t true. There are more reasonable interpretations that don’t require us to think God is the primary and determinative cause for men having evil characters, etc. God could have sovereignly arranged Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem to occur when it did—knowing it would naturally force the hand of the ruling authorities to respond in a manner resultant in Christ’s crucifixion. Arminianism and Molinism allows for God to foresee obstinate hearts and characters, and know what men will do given a certain set of circumstances. God knew that given the conditions and situation of Israel’s religious and political leadership “at the fullness of time” that Jesus, in response to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, would get crucified just as it was foretold.

    Now, you may be tempted to say, “But if you allow that God can providentially arrange certain conditions to acquire certain events to reach a predetermined end—like the crucifixion—then I can equally say God has compatibilistically determined each and every necessary condition to bring about every sinful thought, desire and choice to carry out every depraved act of mankind throughout history!”

    However this is an unwarranted extrapolation. It is thoroughly ridiculous for Calvinists to continue to point to the crucifixion and think they have good grounds to hold that God has also determinatively rendered certain all moral evils such as child pedophilia, spousal abuse, adultery, and every rental of a rancid porn movie—the very evils Christ sought to overcome in death. To attempt to highlight the crucifixion of our Lord as a hermeneutical perch to sit upon whereby we can cast God’s determinative ordination net into the world and “catch” every sin and every sordid evil event of world history is absurd and wide of the mark.

    Put simply to view the one act which removed the sin of the world as the hermeneutical key to justify how God could have determinatively ordained all the sordid sin of that world is an exegetical leap that is unwarranted and ill-advised. I don’t think the one event in history to rid the world of sin is very sound evidence that God ordained all the sin in that world!

    But more importantly Fokis–rather than answer the force of the questions you avoid the logica of them. They are very EASY “yes” or “no” questions. Either God determinatively decrees and renders certain every choice men make OR God does not. Calvinism says he does. Arminianism says God does not–because if God’s ordaining mind were to be the conceiving origin for the sins men choose, and his will were the decretive and determinative origin for the sins men commit–then freedom is invalidated and God becomes morally responsible for the evils he renders certain through irresistible decrees. You may not like this conclusion–but you (and no Calvinist to date) can offer an explanation as to why it would not be the logical implication. Calvinists are infamous for appealing to mystery when their views become too threatened by logical implication.

    Most surprisingly, you avoid the force of the questions by adopting Arminian theology! It is Arminian theology, Fokis, that says God decreed to PERMIT humans to misuse their freedom and commit evil. It is Calvinism that says God decreed the evils committed. Big difference.

    Fokis, you are basically falling way short of your own doctrine—you simply aren’t unraveling the banner of your theology fully when you attempt to define the Calvinist position as “God decreeing to allow evil in order to bring about good.” But my guess is you have probably sat under the tutelage of Calvinist teachers who have shielded you from thinking too logically about the inconsistent and absurd premises within Calvinist theology.

    That is fundamentally dogma Calvinism asserts is that God has determinatively decreed and rendered certain every choice of man. Therefore you can’t borrow the language of permission and say God permits people to freely carry out the evil of their heart. That is to only go HALF-WAY. Calvinism advocates that GOD DECREED ALL EVIL—NOT THAT HE DECREED TO ALLOW EVIL. Surely you must see how it is disingenuous and dishonest to blur the critical distinction between decreeing it certain that someone do something and knowing and allowing someone the free exercise of their will to do something.

    If a teacher determinatively renders it certain that all her students will fail an exam, can we honestly say the teacher “allowed” her students to fail? If a father were to determinatively render it certain that his child disobey him, is it sufficiently accurate to say the father “allowed” his child to disobey him? Of course not. Yet this is the view you are adopting.

    Does God have some sort of split personality in which he needs to get permission FROM HIMSELF to “allow” the very things he decided, determined and decreed?

    Lastly, your view of human depravity is quite suspect. You seem to think God just withholds his grace and the natural result is that men are simply left with evil choices. But here again–you are only going HALF-WAY. If Calvinism is true then it means even the very sins we choose are themselves determined by God. In other words, Fokis, sinners aren’t even FREE to choose which sins we will commit because the range of possible sins has been constricted down to just one choice and one sin–the one God determined. The “justice” and “sense” of your view would be like me saying to you, “I’m not responsible for you getting lost and running out of gas—I wasn’t the one driving. I only manipulated and recalibrated the GPS and withdrew the gas from the tank before you left.”

    You seem like a bright and intelligent person, Fokis, and it is my sincere hope that you haven’t swallowed the hook of Calvinism down so far that you find it impossible to spit out. I do hope that you will one day realize how the cost of affirming Calvinism is to ultimately surrender God’s glory, goodness and morally perfect nature on the alter of bogus interpretation of sovereignty. Sovereignty is ultimately about who has ultimate authority and who is ultimately in charge–it does not mean meticulous control over everything that happens. A king can be sovereign over his kingdom without controlling and determining everything his subjects do. The very word “sovereignty” has a rich, linguistic history that does not at all entail what Calvinists claim “it must mean” for God.

    Blessings on your day, Matt

  11. Tim Potter says:

    StriderMTB:

    Thank you thank you thank you for your defense of the plain sense of the Bible.

    I am a physician who loves Christ. I am curious about a lot of things, but my number one obsession in John 17 and the unity of the Body of Christ. For this reason I long wanted to look at this debate as an unnecessary and divisive distraction — however, I am increasingly sensing that there is thinly veiled war on between Calvinism and any other systematic theology, declared by an increasingly ubiquitous and strident Calvinism which condemns all other schools of theology as heretical. I think appropriate analogies may be the devil at war against God, religion at war with the saints, and the power of death (cold sterility) warring against life (organic flowering growth). And Calvinism is growing, and when it gets the minds of men, it grips them like a vice. Maybe it must be addressed aggressively (I am still trying to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom on this decision though). Wesley thought it needed to be addressed, and so has one of my contemporary heroes, Dr. Michael Brown (of the excellent hermeneutical and apologetic series “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus”). So now here I am posting my first explicit public thoughts on this.

    I am not yet learned enough in the salient points of the debate to add much to what you have already said above, but I will point out these few things I haven’t heard said too often, so that someone may correct me if the only reason they haven’t been pointed out is their obvious weakness:

    Death (or, to say more softly, non-life) is so much neater, so much less messy, uncontrollable and unpredictable, than Life. Sterility is easier for humans to handle than living movement and volition, that’s why we pave bumpy dirt paths and disinfect our kitchens and mow our lawns. Calvinism is a wide asphalt pavement masquerading as the Way, and it may be a pavement of biblical interpretation that is easier to walk on than the messy truths of the Bible’s seemingly wild, sometimes paradoxical, and (to the person without faith) contradictory stories and statements, many of which it effectively mows down like so many weeds. And these days in America’s intellectual evangelical climate, Calvinism is the road more travelled. At least among nearly every serious White Evangelical I’ve met in the last ten years, it appears to be The Way, The Truth, and … well, the Neat Package that makes everything Fit? (I dare not call that, even in appearance, the Life — it resembles human activity like blueprints and railroad tracks, but not natural virgin Life.) Notice I say “it” appears to be all these things. This is because the HE (Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life) seems to be way too often replaced by the IT (i.e., “the finished WORK of Christ”, “the DOCTINES of grace,” the “FIVE POINTS”, etc). Salvation has become a course to be learned, like the degree one must acquire before being hired to design bridges and highways. But isn’t Salvation supposed to be a Person to be known? Again, sterile objects in place of lively subjects.

    I am also very interested in the analogous debate between Christianity and atheism (naturalism), and it is plain in that debate that the core flaw of naturalists is that their beliefs are the acid that eats their own minds and (if true) all of ours. If the Big Bang plus the laws of physics and mathematics thoroughly predestined every cause and effect that have come since, including all the circumstances that led to my birth and every synapse my brain uses, then in a very real sense I do not exist as anything other than an extension of the Big Bang.

    At the center of the Universe is either Power (ie, the impersonal Big Bang, or maybe a personal God who is all, essentially, power) — or Love. The whole world knows the Creative Force is powerful, as does the Christian religious mind unaided by the Spirit. This is the “insight” of Darwinism. It takes revelation to know God is Love. Love, as we know from the Trinity, is expressed only in relationship. I think if God loves us, we must exist, as real agents, not as finger-puppets.

    In Calvinism: If our seeming choices are all negated by His sovereign initiating and ever-acting omni-potent authority, then we are not actors, we are only expressesions of Himself. He “loves” Himself in the ones of us He loves as His “bride” (the love, the relationship, gets more and more singular and restricted in this view the more one meditates on it, kind of makes me wonder if the core “Sh’ma Oh Israel” of Mystery Monergic Calvinism is that Christ Himself is the finger-puppet of this God who wants to LOOK like He gives others real existence in order to “love” them — i.e., Does this acid even dissolve the reality of Jesus?). If God expresses His “wrath”, it is on the characters, in the scenario, that He decreed — again, on Himself. This would be either a humorous charade or a real schizoid personality in our God.

    But again I must repeat, I think if God loves us, we must exist, as real agents, not as finger-puppets.

    The world apart from God knows all about the God who is Power — every pagan religion and philosopher interpreted that God in some way, sometimes by relegating him to the regions unknowable (most religions), sometimes by splitting him up into a million pieces (Hinduism and Greek religion), sometimes by calling him an impersonal force (Buddhism), sometimes by trying to talk directly to Him (“heaven”) through sacrifice (as did the Emporers of China). Nature tell us about that Power. Who knows about the God who is Love? Islam does not — they say he is condescending, kind, and merciful, but they expunged the Trinity because a God who is Love, or who ever looks weak or vulnerable (as real Love is always ready to do) doesn’t make sense to them. And we (Christians) do the same, when we try to understand God with our carnal minds, which are at constant enmity against Him and cannot know Him. The natural mind will always substitue a more logical God for the God who is Love. It’s by our spirit’s union with the Holy Spirit that something else can be envisioned.

    I think for God to relate to us in Love, we have to exist, to be given the opportunity to bring something real to the table (like the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, or anyone’s true sacrfices in Scripture). The only things in our experience that are complex yet make no real choices are machines. If total depravity means God ordained (or allowed) us to become machines (clay) again after He had once breathed the breath of life into us, well I doubt that’s scriptural. And what good does it do to say that God later called life again into us Lazaruses, when even those who were thence “alive” are still completely inert and passive responders, righteous puppets? They still are not “resurrected”, not alive — they may be “heaven-bound,” but they still do not exist except as finger-puppets on the Golden Chain of Redemption, and they (as non-agents, inert under compulsion) do not really interact with this God who calls Himself Love.

    Those that believe a personal God is the only real actor in history cannot, at the core, be very far removed from those who believe an impersonal god (ie the Big Bang or the Cosmic Energy) is the only real actor in history. Both kinds of gods are amoral and completely encompass all that is. They do not have any direction (except maybe — in this context — an amorphous concept of “Glory” — and I suppose the Big Bang or the nihilism of Buddhism’s sunyata are also glorious in similar ways). Therefore there is no way to really tell what is good and what is evil to them. They just are what they are. Nature (Impersonal “God”) is glorious in its supernovas and predation and bloodshed and pretty flowers and rainbows. For His part, Personal God is Himself and angels and demons and cute babies and genocides and … us, and it’s all part of His Glory. And we (necessarily) are God, if God is the only real, glorious actor. So how are Calvinist Christianity and its polar opposite, atheism, any different? In Calvinism, the Universe contains one living Being. In Atheism, one non-living Being. That’s the only difference.

    The revelation of Christ and the Trinity and the God who is Love changes it all at the core. Relationship gives direction to all things in creation — self-giving love, investment in others, is good, and a hoarding, selfish disregard for others is bad. This starts in the Trinity, where the Father glorifies and loves the Son through the Spirit, the Son glorifies and loves the Father through the Spirit (I think this is how they all work togetheranyway). Both (all) are engaged in constant self-giving, I think. God’s goodness toward us (in this scenario) starts with making us real, really there, actual actors, actual agents, people in His image with a contribution to bring to the table. And then the relationship builds from there into the great Drama of fall and redemption, and God (the Father and the Son) goes to War for His Creation, both to ransom us and at the same time (no surprise) to make propitiation for Justice (the Good Rules that God estabished for this relational world, or in other words, the Word, or perhaps, Law, that He exalted even above His Name, as in **Ps. 138:2, and see footnote at the bottom). And He even loses some battles — the Cross, this most inglorious of all Deaths, is a LOSS or it is nothing. And He ultimately wins ALL, with the Resurrection a firstfruits of this victory over HIS enemy, Death (I Cor. 15). In this world, mystery of mysteries, GOD LOSES, to WIN, glory to His Name! (and Jesus tells us to do exactly the same — consistent, is it not?). Does He HAVE to, like some math equation or accountant’s audit, account fully (to us at least) for the efficacy of every drop of atonement blood? Does He get justly taunted by all those He went to War for who refused His help, as if they have real power over Him, rejoicing in their ability to thwart Him by achieving damnation? Hard to answer, as He gives us no strong clues in Scripture. Those who answer it answer with their philosophical (and possibly carnal) notions. Does He have to account to us fully for the ethics of hell’s existence and purpose? Probably not. But He has given us some clues in the Bible, and they don’t point to an exultant glory over (or because of) the damned (Prov. 24: 17-18).

    It is Islam, it is the pre-Christian and atheist conceptions of God, and 400 years after Christ it is Bishop Augustine and his successors, that posit a god who controls all and never loses. I grant that God losing anything at any time (even just temporarily) is a mystery, but so is life from and through death, so is God’s presence in hell (Ps. 139), so is a God who “repents”, so is a God who can weep, so is a God who becomes flesh, so is a God whose Word says “I don’t know (that day or hour) but my Father does,” so is the God who knows every word before it’s on my tongue yet tells me to choose life, so is suffering as an instrument in redemption, so is creation ex-nihilo, so is human thought ex-nihilo, or even the decisions of a dog to chase the butterfly or come for dinner, or of my friend’s parakeet to flirt with her today or call her an ass … and so is Love. These are the kind of mysteries which are fountains of unlimited insight.

    The kind of mysteries I must reject is the kind that says “HOW in the WORLD could God act like that and still be good?” It is the kind of example that we should study but must not try to follow (despite the fact that this God, this Jesus, is our “rabbi”). It is these …
    “How could God blur the lines of His character so fantastically as to decree Sin?”
    “How could He consistently teach us through nature, the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus’ mouth that His standards of morality and justice (or even His system of cause and effect) are comprehensible to us, and then (seemingly, to some) pull the rug out in a few words of Paul’s epistles and entirely divorce reaping from sowing?”
    “How could He tell us to behave, think and act in ways utterly unlike the ways that He does (Prov.24:17)?”
    “How could He create a Justice for a World that includes irresistible damnation for ‘crimes’ one could not but have committed”?
    “How could He have chosen to allow the proper interpretations of all these ‘mysteries’ to be missed by all the early Church Fathers and revealed only 400 years later for the first time in a way that the original recipients and authors of Scripture (the Jews) and the early Church Fathers had long rejected explicitly?

    If the choice is the head-mystery, “How could God who is so powerful permit Himself to even LOOK like He loses, even for a MINUTE?”, or these heart-mysteries that you my brother point out make Him indistinguishable from His (postulated) puppet Satan, I will gladly take the first set of mysteries. They are a fountain of Life and discovery. This second set is a pond of Death and a dark cave of increasing ignorance and moral confusion. But that set has one real intellectual advantage: it gives us a set of answers that point the intellect toward the human conception of omnipotence, and a huge pile of ashes that effectively smothers out the flames of every seemingly competing and less tame-able biblical doctrine. Death is so much neater, so much less messy, so much more controllable and predictable, than Life, and coldness so much more orderly than the Tongues of Fire.

    **re: Ps. 138:2:
    I will worship toward Your holy temple,
    And praise Your name
    For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
    For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

    “*In the biblical culture, it was common for rulers to use their authority to break the rules and go against even what they themselves had promised. But our God is different from earthly, sinful rulers. He exalts His Word above His authority, and lives by His own rules. This is just what we would expect from our Just and Loving God, who lives by His own rules and keeps His promises. That is why we can trust God, but cannot trust man. We could not ask for a better God, or a better example.”

    the above quote copied from:

    http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=1029

  12. StriderMTB says:

    Tim, thank you for this. I really enjoyed reading it! I really hope other viewers and commenters take the time to engage your insightful critique–I can only give it a hearty AMEN. I especially liked this quote:

    “It appears to be The Way, The Truth, and … well, the Neat Package that makes everything Fit? (I dare not call that, even in appearance, the Life — it resembles human activity like blueprints and railroad tracks, but not natural virgin Life.) Notice I say “it” appears to be all these things. This is because the HE (Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life) seems to be way too often replaced by the IT (i.e., “the finished WORK of Christ”, “the DOCTINES of grace,” the “FIVE POINTS”, etc). Salvation has become a course to be learned, like the degree one must acquire before being hired to design bridges and highways. But isn’t Salvation supposed to be a Person to be known? Again, sterile objects in place of lively subjects.”

    Like you I would not hesitate to concede that the interchange between God and man contains certain mysteries and tensions that lie deeper than our probing efforts can fully plumb their depths. But like you, I also agree that: “The kind of mysteries I must reject is the kind that says ‘HOW in the WORLD could God act like that and still be good?’”

    Exactly. Calvinism invariable results in the positing of mystery and enigma on matters where God has clearly spoken–His moral character and trustworthiness. He IS love, He hates and abhors evil, He cannot be tempted to evil or tempt others to evil. Yet Calvinism would have us believe that God’s holy mind conceived of every one of our sins and determinatively decreed all the vile, sordid evils of this world–for his glory. In such a world God becomes morally indistinguishable from Satan. This is not a mystery or logical inconsistency God would have us live with.

    Your critique reminded me of William Lane Craig’s 5 arguments against Calvinism’s view of sovereignty (divine, causal determinism). You may enjoy checking it out–especially #4 and #5:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

    Although I’m not fully convinced by WLC’s arguments for Molinism (i.e. Prior to creation, God’s possession of middle knowledge allowed him to foresee/purvey an infinite number of possible free worlds and actualize one of them) his critique is the most concise and cogent summation I have yet to come across. It’s worth a look.

    Thanks again Tim!

  13. Tim Potter says:

    Exactly! Great link. I copied it to my facebook page. I loved the one about how the system undermines its own rationality in a sort of intellectual vertigo — I believe what I believe because I was determined to believe it, not because it is the most rational choice (note the word “choice”, so ironic). Whoever rejects this determinist theology will do so for the same kinds of reasons. Therefore, in principle there is NO way to test its truthfulness — not even by comparing it to the Word, as this would involve a real “us” to do the comparing.

    This is a perfect parallel to atheist determinism, another soul-eating acid. Darwin expressed the acid this way: ““With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has always been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” The best argument against this (i.e., unguided materialistic evolution), by Occam’s Razor, is the one made by WLC. I think it applies to all forms of complete determinism, and is the simplest argument for its irrationality. If one wants to make it more complicated (by not noticing the philosophical problems with determinism and Biologizing everything), First Things summarized Alvin Platinga’s case based on the lack of need for survival advantage to match Truth, and calls it “all but incontrovertible.” Not directly on Calvinism, I know, but beautifully sharp and relevant weaponry in today’s battles against the New Atheism that is (trying to) “poison everything.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/09/should-you-trust-the-monkey-mind

    • StriderMTB says:

      Hey Tim, I’ve never come across that quote of Darwin’s but found it very telling. You would be correct to note the similar end to both naturalistic determinism and divine determinism–neither can be rationally affirmed. If everything is determined–including our convictions of truth and reality–how does one transcend his own “determinism” to objectively reason through the pro and cons of a given belief and affirm it as being objectively true? I noted in another post that when one truly fleshes out the Calvinist doctrine of divine determinism (including compatibilism) one is left with more questions than answers. In fact one is left with a system that is wholly untenable– a three ring circus of doctrinal assertions that run afoul of cognitive dissonance at almost every turn. For example if everything that occurs is foreordained by God that necessarily means Arminianism! So whence comes the vigorous determination to write so many books against Arminianism as if it is an insidious infection of the mind that opposes God’s will– and as such must be contained and eradicated?

      According to their own theology are they not writing books against what the will of God has determined? Unfortunately questions like this ask far too much of the Calvinist. He is simply unwilling to think through his own beliefs in any way that would require him to deal honestly with its widespread logical implications.

      A fellow writer named Ben or kangaroodort at http://www.arminianperspectives.wordpress.com takes Calvinists to task on their stubborn refusal to let their own theological pronouncements inform them of their logical conclusions. It is a good read and can be found here.

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