Monday, February 19, 2007

Questions for Arminians

I have heard numerous Arminians ask questions such as, "If God has predestined people to be saved, why evangelize?" More specifically, "If God has predestined some for salvation, and others for damnation, why evangelize the non-elect?" We answer, we do not know who the elect are, and God has given us a command to preach to everyone. We preach because God commands it. We preach because it is the method he has chosen to bring about salvation. But anyway, through a recent conversation, I have discovered the Arminian cannot answer similar questions either. Granted, the Arminian does not believe in predestination. They do believe that God forknew who would repent from sin and receive Him, and who would reject Him, before he even created the world. So, I have some questions for Arminians:

  1. Why would God create someone knowing the person would never choose him, thus creating him knowing his eternal destiny was hell?
  2. If God knows someone will reject him, before he creates them, why would he send Jesus to die for that person anyway?
  3. If God knows someone will reject him, why would he send the Spirit to "woo" him, even though he knows that this person will reject Him no matter what?
  4. If God knows someone will reject the gospel, before he even creates them, why preach the gospel to them? The answer, so they have an opportunity to choose does not suffice, for God knew before creation what the choice would be.
Although the Arminian likes to through questions to the Calvinist, they do not have sufficient answers for their own questions either. As I was conversing with a friend, he was asking me these questions, that he doesn't have an answer to. He then went on to say he doesn't know how to interpret the predestination and election passages, and yet he feels called to be a pastor! My friend, if you disagree with the reformed view, then you cannot simply neglect the passages that discuss predestination and election, but you must face them, and develop some exegesis of those passages. Ignoring Inspired Scripture, and claiming that you simply don't understand it doesn't work. If called to preach, it is your duty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to study those passages and to be able to feed them to the flock. The Arminian tries to ask questions of the Calvinist that he himself cannot answer. IF there are any Arminians who read this blog, I challenge you to sufficiently answer the above questions, and offer a solid exegesis of the predestination and election passages!

17 comments:

Rhett said...

I like that...

Turn the tables on them for a change!! ;)

These are some of the same questions that caused me to move to the Reformed camp.

RK

Gordan said...

Let me know when you get some answers to these :)

Exist~Dissolve said...

I am no Arminian, but I'll take a shot at these questions:

1. Why would God create someone knowing the person would never choose him, thus creating him knowing his eternal destiny was hell?

Define "knowing." By stating the question this way, you impose a certain epistemological hegemony upon the divine, conditioning the question in favor of a conception of divine knowledge in which knowledge of that which exists is premised upon the actualization of the thing within the eternal will of God.

As I would reject a Reformed understanding of the so-called "eternal decrees," so too do I reject your definition of knowledge upon which this question is based.

In this way, you have asked a questioned that is loaded in favor of your argument, one which is unanswerable apart from the criterion you have thus established.

Personally, I would answer that God does not "know" that this will occur. However, this lack of knowledge is not based on any deficiency in the divine nature, but rather in the nature of the thing under investigation. Since I would posit that this object is not something to be "known" (in the causal and linear way in which Reformed theology understands divine knowledge), so too God does not "know" of it.

But the counter to your question is obvious: Why would God create someone to reject God? As God's glory is neither added to nor detracted from by the actualization or non-actualization of a choice for God by the subject in question, there is certainly nothing to be gained from this. Therefore, one must unavoidably attribute the rationale to some interesting neurosis within the will of God whereby God would infallibly create an object for damnation, instantiate the means of its damnation, and then subsequently adjudicate that the damnation of the subject was premised upon the depravity of the subject itself, rather than upon the will of God which (according to Reformed theology) is the only meaningful locus of action of which to speak.

I have to get back to work, but I will return to answer the remaining questions.

Exist~Dissolve said...

2. If God knows someone will reject him, before he creates them, why would he send Jesus to die for that person anyway?

Again, you are presuming that divine epistemology can be adjudicated along the lines of causally and linearally determined values. As no such limitations would seem to be applicable to God (at least not based on any necessity extraneous to the divine being), such an epistemological assumption is hardly self-evident and, I think, should be rightly questioned.

Your question also presumes that Christ's sacrifice is only meaningful if it results in the absolute actualization of the salvation of those for whom the sacrifice is made. However, if we are to take Reformed theology seriously, it must be questioned why Christ's sacrifice is meaningful at all. After all, as all things (including sin, the damnation of individuals, etc.) are primally and infallibly located and terminated within the eternal will of God; and as all that God wills is absolutely and indellibly consistent and essential with the divine ontology (for how can God will that which God does not desire); the meaningfulness of salvation and damnation are entirely dissolved within the eternal caprice of the divine will. That is, as God is the only power at work in the actualization of damnation and salvation (per Reformed theology), then there exists no necessity whereby Christ's sacrifice or atonement would be needed. If God has eternally ordained the salvation of certain ones, then nothing--not even the non-actualization of Christ's sacrifice--can prevent the eternal will of God from attaining.

And resorting to claiming that Christ's sacrifice is part of God's eternal plan of salvation is no sufficient recourse, for such a suggestion only introduces and reinforces the aforementioned divine neurosis whereby God would concomitantly damn individuals (infallibly and in keeping with the immutable eternal decrees of God), only to subsequently require that Godself be punished to save those under damnation for that which God has, in the eternity of the divine will, previously and infallibly ordained to happen.

In this way, God punishes Godself for God's own eternal decision--this is sado-masochism in its most depraved form, for the only active and responsible agent in this whole charade of the complex of salvation/damnation (per the very tenants of Reformed theology) is Godself.

I have written enough; the remaining questions will garner similar reasoning from me, so I will not proceed to repeat myself.

I welcome your response.

Gordan said...

E-D,

Your first sentence was quite correct: you are no Arminian. And, so, it seems to me that to complain about the way the questions are stated, when said questions would be perfectly understood by the average Arminian, and they are in fact the ones to whom the questions are addressed, is a bit circular.

Your questions are bad, because I don't agree with your terminology. Never mind that they were addressed to those who would agree. They're still bad because I can't hang with them.

It's a bit like barging into a Super Bowl party, where opposing fans are razzing each other, and loudly trumpeting your opinion that the Chutley Cannons are the best Quiddich team in the world. You shouldn't be shocked if the football fans stop in mid-chew of their hotwings and wonder out loud what the heck planet you just arrived from.

However, now that I've wiped my face of BBQ sauce, let me interact a bit with your answers.

You're not going to make much headway with the Reformed by trying to beat something with nothing. You don't like what we propose about things like omniscience in God, things Christians have historically seen taught in Scripture. Fine, show us where Scripture teaches some other sort of divine epistemology. You speak of us "limiting" God's knowledge, but by your definition (supposedly more unlimited)God actually winds up knowing less. For people who value the bible as the Word of God, you're going to have to do better than that.

I also humbly believe that your portrayal of Reformed soteriology actually resembles fatalism much more closely than anything we believe.

Lastly, Exist, I cannot reject God's use of means to accomplish His will, and the concept of moral responsibility, simply on the grounds that it makes no sense to you. Sorry, but now I think it is you who limit God by restricting His actions to those you deem logical. If it doesn't make orderly sense to you, it can't be right. And again, you've marshalled no Scripture to sway us from the historical view.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

I believe my friend Gordon has stated much of what I would have said, and has done a better job with it. What I would like to address is a few sentences that you presented.

That is, as God is the only power at work in the actualization of damnation and salvation (per Reformed theology), then there exists no necessity whereby Christ's sacrifice or atonement would be needed. If God has eternally ordained the salvation of certain ones, then nothing--not even the non-actualization of Christ's sacrifice--can prevent the eternal will of God from attaining.

In this paragraph, you state that if God has ordained the salvation of certain ones, then the sacrifice of Christ is not necissary. Certainly, we would affirm a monergistic salvation. God even being sovereign in regeneration and granting repentance and faith. However, one thing that it seems you have missed is God's Holiness. because of God's absolute holiness he cannnot simply decide to save individuals without punishment of sin. If God could do that, he would not be holy, and thus, not be God. The Holiness of God, I believe, is his chief attribute. Sin has to be punished. Either the individual will be punished, or a third party will be punished, so they guilty could go free. Thus, the necessity of the cross. Jesus Christ, who was the God-man, was the only sufficient sacrifice, and the only means by which any of God's chosen can be saved. The sacrifice of Christ is of utmost importance and necessity, because God's Holiness demands that sin be punished, and it was punished at Calvary.

Thus, your statement that the sacrifice of Christ is not necissary in the Reformed view has no merit.

I appreciate your dialoging with us, but if you dismiss the foreknowledge of God then I echo my friend Gordon to show us in the scriptures of your position.

Exist~Dissolve said...

However, one thing that it seems you have missed is God's Holiness. because of God's absolute holiness he cannnot simply decide to save individuals without punishment of sin. If God could do that, he would not be holy, and thus, not be God. The Holiness of God, I believe, is his chief attribute. Sin has to be punished. Either the individual will be punished, or a third party will be punished, so they guilty could go free. Thus, the necessity of the cross. Jesus Christ, who was the God-man, was the only sufficient sacrifice, and the only means by which any of God's chosen can be saved. The sacrifice of Christ is of utmost importance and necessity, because God's Holiness demands that sin be punished, and it was punished at Calvary.

I did not miss this point, actually. In fact, the entire crux of my argument in re: the lack of necessity of Christ's atonement within Reformed soteriology is that because God is the sole actuating will in the universe, the meaning of sin is entirely dissolved. That is, if sin and evil are wholly consistent and essential with the nature of God (which they must be if they have their primal terminus in the eternal and immutable will of God, which will is necessarily essential with God's ontology), there is no need to conceive of a scenario in which God must "punish" sin. After all, if God has--per the good and holy will of God--infallibly ordained that sin and evil should exists, then there is no basis upon which one can conclude that said sin and evil are antithetical to the nature of God, for how can God will that which God does not desire and that which is not consistent with the will of God? Therefore, as Reformed theology incontrovertibly locates the sin and evil within the eternal will and ontology of very God, to surmise that God must punish sin is only to suggest that God must punish Godself for that which God has eternally, and in keeping with the holy and good pleasure of the divinity, ordained to occur.

So then, the cross is really a charade in Reformed theology, for the entire crisis of divine punishment could have been averted merely by God choosing not to ordain that which is supposedly opposed to the will and ontology of God (even though it is of necessity to conclude that such are actually not opposed, per their location within the eternal and immutable will of God).

Thus, your statement that the sacrifice of Christ is not necissary in the Reformed view has no merit.

Perhaps, but only because you have dodged the force of my argument. I would ask that you engage the previous paragraph that I have revisited from my last comment.

I appreciate your dialoging with us, but if you dismiss the foreknowledge of God then I echo my friend Gordon to show us in the scriptures of your position.

Exist~Dissolve said...

You're not going to make much headway with the Reformed by trying to beat something with nothing.

Perhaps not, but it helps pass the boredom.

You don't like what we propose about things like omniscience in God, things Christians have historically seen taught in Scripture.

I do not deny the omniscience of God, only the materialist and anthropocentric view of it which Calvinism imposes upon God. The modus operandi of Reformed theology assumes that God knows in terms of linearality and causality; to suggest anything that contradicts this is anathema.

However, it seems from the most elementary considerations of the divine nature that such tensed conceptions of epistemology are hopelessly misguided.

Fine, show us where Scripture teaches some other sort of divine epistemology.

How am I supposed to "show" you from Scripture? Your philosophical presuppositions will immunize you from seeing the Scriptures the way in which I do. Therefore, I think the only reasonable way of dialoguing about this issue is to begin with the philosophical, clear the area, and move on to Scripture from there. Anything else is simply going to amount to a phallic standoff in which each side tries to amass the most number of proof-texts that will accomplish no meaningful end.

You speak of us "limiting" God's knowledge, but by your definition (supposedly more unlimited)God actually winds up knowing less.

Less, to you. In my opinion, there is no limitation to God's knowledge in the propositions I have laid out, for all that is "lost" are the unhelpful clutterings of human epistemology which are incongruously applied to the divine nature.

For people who value the bible as the Word of God, you're going to have to do better than that.

I will ignore that personal slight, and reiterate what I said before: no amount of proof-texts is going to convince you, for your philosophical presuppositions have already pre-determined the conclusions that you will draw. Even as the categories which are assumed in the questions that were asked in this post will inevitably form-fit a particular strain of answers, so your philosophical biases will condition the conclusions that you draw from Scripture, even as mine will do the same for me.

So you want me to show you why my perspective is reasonable from Scripture; I want you (and others like you) to show me why your interpretation of Scripture is philosophically compelling.

I also humbly believe that your portrayal of Reformed soteriology actually resembles fatalism much more closely than anything we believe.

Perhaps you are not being intellectually honest with the philosophical conclusions that are necessitated by the creeds that you believe. My representation of Reformed thought is based entirely upon the categories assumed in its creeds, minus the philosophical dodges that are made throughout.

Lastly, Exist, I cannot reject God's use of means to accomplish His will, and the concept of moral responsibility, simply on the grounds that it makes no sense to you. Sorry, but now I think it is you who limit God by restricting His actions to those you deem logical.

I have no intention of saying what God can and cannot do. ALl I have done in my thoughts here and above is to outline the necessary conclusions that must follow if God does, in fact, "DO" the things that you advocate God as doing. I fully affirm the infinite freedom of God to whatever God pleases. All I am attempting to do is to bring some clarity to the character of God that follows in such scenarios.

You believe that God has, in keeping with the good pleasure and holiness of the divine will (which is, by necessity, essential with the ontology of very God), ordained from all of eternity that sin and evil should exist. I have no problem allowing that God could do this. My issue is with Reformed theology's inexplicable reticence to follow this through to its necessary conclusions, obfuscating the issue in the smoke and mirrors of humanity's culpability for the very sin that God has infallibly and indelibly ordained.

As I have mentioned before, I have yet to see a philosophically consistent or responsible response to this question that does not devolve into rhetorical theatrics and retreats to the inconsistent propositions of Reformed creedal statements. So I challenge again that an answer be made.

If it doesn't make orderly sense to you, it can't be right. And again, you've marshalled no Scripture to sway us from the historical view.

I hardly see how 500 odd years of theological reasoning attains the label of the "historical" view.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Exist....Here we disagree....You believe in philisophical reasoning and then engaging the scriptures....that will not work here....Until you show your position through biblical exegesis, though it be different than ours, I will not debate with you. That is my problem with people who want to debate theological issues. I don't care how much philisophy you know, if it is not derived from biblical exegesis, I don't care to hear it. Though it may be true that we all approach scripture with presuppositions, let me share my story. I used to be a Calvinist-hating Arminian. I approached the scriptures through that lense and became a Calvinist. I had opposing presuppositions, but the scriptures spoke for themselves. So please, unless you engage in serious biblical exegesis, then please refrain from commenting on this blog. Thanks.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Exist....Here we disagree....You believe in philisophical reasoning and then engaging the scriptures....that will not work here....

You misunderstand me. I do not have a problem with doing the both at the same time. However, I do think it is fruitless to have a "biblical" exegesis battle unless the philosophical cards are first on the table. After all, the act of exegesis is itself an act of philosophizing; to interpret is to parse the meanings derived from exegesis through one's presupposed philosophical "filters." So I simply want to clear the air of any suppositions about a face off of potential objective interactions with Scripture--such is entirely impossible, even though most use the Scriptures in such a way anyway.

Until you show your position through biblical exegesis, though it be different than ours, I will not debate with you.

Fine. What will constitute a biblical exegesis for you? As far as I'm concerned, I have already dismantled any potential exegesis that a Reformed thinker might argue, based simply upon the philosophical framework under which they operate. Are you looking for a certain number of textual citations, citations from particular sections of Scripture? You may think I am being obtuse, but I have played this game many times; inevitably, my exegesis of Scripture -- no matter how erudite or in depth --is without fail maligned by my detractors as "unbiblical." So the provision of the hermeneutical criterion before hand would be helpful.

That is my problem with people who want to debate theological issues. I don't care how much philisophy you know, if it is not derived from biblical exegesis, I don't care to hear it.

Why? It seems that an unwillingness to have the presuppositional framework through which one interprets Scripture questioned would indicate an uneasiness with the tenability of said position. After all, any one can interpret the Scriptures to align with their preconceived philosophical methodology. Believe me, I am accused of it daily by the Reformed.

Though it may be true that we all approach scripture with presuppositions, let me share my story. I used to be a Calvinist-hating Arminian. I approached the scriptures through that lense and became a Calvinist. I had opposing presuppositions, but the scriptures spoke for themselves.

I would suggest that the reason this happened is because Calvinists and Arminians share about 75-80% of the same categories in re: the eternal nature of God in relation to human salvation. The phenomenological level aside, the transition is not that materially dramatic. So then, there was already a significant philosophical tradition in place which resonated with the alternative interpretive complex you assumed.

I too was an Arminian at a time, but abandoned both it and Reformed theology because of the severe philosophical problems which they each import to interpretation of Scripture and theologizing about the eternal nature of the divine.

So please, unless you engage in serious biblical exegesis, then please refrain from commenting on this blog. Thanks.

I will. Tell me what will constitute such, and I will provide it.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Ok...when you quote a scripture...quote the scripture in context of the passage....Who is the writer talkiing to? believers? Jews? gentiles? What verbs are being used and what are the verb tenses (it helps to have some understanding of the original languages). What is the subject matter of the text you are quoting? Context, word order, subject matter, all of those are important.

If you are not Arminian...what are you? Are you an Open Theist?

Exist~Dissolve said...

Ok...when you quote a scripture...quote the scripture in context of the passage....Who is the writer talkiing to? believers? Jews? gentiles? What verbs are being used and what are the verb tenses (it helps to have some understanding of the original languages). What is the subject matter of the text you are quoting? Context, word order, subject matter, all of those are important.

That's not, exactly, what I am asking. For example, let's take Romans 9--the juicy bits about the "fairness" of God. I see the context of this as Paul's overarching discussion--beginning from chapter 3--about the relationship of the Jews' wrong-headed assumptions about the exclusivity of their claims on God and the acceptance of the Gentiles apart from the Jewish cultus of worship.

Therefore, when I see Paul's imaginary conversation about the fairness of God, I see it as related to this previous discussion. The Reformed, on the other hand, foam at the mouth about this being a definitive proof-text for the "sovereign" choice of God in the salvation of general humanity. I rebut, arguing that this makes no sense in Paul's discussion, for he is (IMO) obviously talking about the objections of the Jewish people who assumed that they had exclusive access to God's grace by virtue of their cultural identity and participation within the cultus of Jewish worship. That is, the arguments against fairness are not about God "choosing" some and not others in some eternal, infallible moment, but rather the "fairness" (from the Jewish mind) of God "choosing" Gentiles when they have done nothing the Jews thought would garner justification.

So I make my case, and the Reformed balk, call me unsaved, and scream at me to repent and stop presenting unbiblical arguments.

Obviously, then, this is not about hermeneutics in isolation; it is quite apparent that there are philosophical biases which are at play, subversively shaping and forming not only the approach to the text that one assumes, but also the conclusions which one takes away. I fully admit that this occurs with me; however, I have difficulty stomaching what I consider to be naive assumptions by others that they are immune to such, or that they can somehow discern an objectively identifiable meaning within the text.

Therefore, I ask again: what is the criterion, if the philosophical is supposedly to be set aside (even though it ultimately cannot)?

If you are not Arminian...what are you? Are you an Open Theist?

No way. Open Theists and Calvinists are materially the same; I would argue against Open Theism as strenuously as I would Calvinism. Both impose linear, causally-qualified epistemological structures upon God, making the same the criterion for omniscience. The only meaningful difference is phenomenological, in that OT's simply redefine the boundaries of what can be known.

Gordan said...

E-D, I really meant no personal slight above, so thanks for ignoring it. :) No, really, I'm sorry that's how it hit you.

Let's put our philosophical cards on the table, then, as you say.

I am a Biblical presuppositionalist, at the moment more of a Van Tillian stripe as opposed to a Clarkian. I start from the idea that the Bible is the Word of God, and further that God gave it to us intending that it be understandable. And yet it's given in human language, which does necessitate that we take into consideration things like grammar and culture as we study it. I do buy into the notion of sola scriptura.

What do your cards look like? If you had to label your approach, could you? And what would that label be? As I read your comments, I think I detect a 20th Century German influence, a la Bultmann or Tillich...? Am I close?

As to Romans 9, I appreciate your desire to see it in context. However, even as a Reformed guy I see no reason to scream at you and label you as damned (at least not yet, LOL.) I do think, however, that you've stopped halfway on that whole context thing. Yes, Paul was careful to prove that God had indeed chosen to save Gentiles as well as Jews. But he doesn't stop there. In Chapters 2 and 3, he especially takes pains to show that both the Jews and Gentiles are stranded in the same leaky boat, and taking on water. That is, they're both shut up in sin. It's not just that God has chosen to save Gentiles but also that the mere fact of a previous covenant with the Jews does not insure Jewish salvation. They both need a better atonement.

You mention Paul's imaginary argument in Romans 9, and I wish you'd look at that again. The way to tell whether or not you've followed his positive argument about election is to see whether the imagined argument against it "fits."

The imagined argument is, "How does God still find fault, then?"

I submit that the view of "election" that you have proposed in no way merits or leads to this counter-argument. In fact, it would be an irrational argument, having nothing to do with what Paul is trying to teach. If Paul is teaching human autonomy as opposed to a meticulous providence, the counter-argument he makes is nonsense.

On the other hand, you have in fact used just such an argument in this comments section to philosophically demolish, supposedly, the Reformed view on election. Do you not see that? That your argument about the meaninglessness of sin is the same as the imaginary counter-argument that Paul is proposing? You've said that categories of human sin and righteousness are vacuous since all things are determined by God: and that is the exact point of Paul's imagined rejoinder.

If He's determined everything, then how can He justly judge a sinner, who, apparently, only sins because God determined that he should? That's a summary of both your argument and Paul's imagined opponent, unless I'm totally missing your point.

Exist~Dissolve said...

I am a Biblical presuppositionalist, at the moment more of a Van Tillian stripe as opposed to a Clarkian. I start from the idea that the Bible is the Word of God, and further that God gave it to us intending that it be understandable. And yet it's given in human language, which does necessitate that we take into consideration things like grammar and culture as we study it.

I've never really understood what "biblical presuppositionalism" means (not in a technical sense, but rather how this is materially different from any other form of presuppositionalism). But thank you for informing me.

I do buy into the notion of sola scriptura.

Okay.

What do your cards look like? If you had to label your approach, could you? And what would that label be? As I read your comments, I think I detect a 20th Century German influence, a la Bultmann or Tillich...? Am I close?

I appreciate the insights of modernistic interpretive methodologies. However, I am hesitant to capitulate entirely to the categories of modern historicism, for I do not believe that current definitions of historicism are necessarily equivalent with "meaningfulness" in re: the assumptions about history of the ancient writers. That is, while I do not believe that many of events in the Scriptures (like the flood, creation week, etc.) "happened" in the way that modern hegemonies of historical criticism would define "historical events", I also do not assert--contra modern conceptions of historicity--that said lack of historicity equates to lack of meaning to the interpreter, nor--and most importantly--to the original writers.

As to the possibility of "understanding" the texts, I have already mentioned (at your blog) that I do not believe that an objective, ascertainable meaning lies within the text, waiting to be excavated by the interpreter. More precisely, I am agnostic about the existence of said objective meaning altogether, for even if it does exist it will be modified by the presuppositions and personal subjectivities of the interpreter, thus eliminating any conceivable objectivity. An objectivist may balk, claiming that the lack of objectivity divorces meaning form the text...to which I rebut that this is precisely the assumptions of historical/critical methodology, against which the objectivists are (supposedly) opposed. To me, however, meaning is found precisely in the subjectivities of human existence and language.

So with that out of the way, I would describe myself as a historicist in approach. What I mean by this is that I begin with the orthodoxy of historic Church as my interpretive lens. Those things on which the creeds are silent, IMO, are open to interpretation (so to speak!), although in all things I would attempt to bring my final conclusions within the larger framework of historical interpretation. One might argue that this criterion, itself, is prone to the same criticisms that I offer to other approaches. I fully acknowledge this, and merely offer what I believe to be reasonable, and consistent interpretations within the larger framework of historical theology and my philosophical evaluation of the same.

As to Romans 9, I appreciate your desire to see it in context. However, even as a Reformed guy I see no reason to scream at you and label you as damned (at least not yet, LOL.)

Check out bluecollar's
site--this is all-too typical of Calvinistic responses to my "interpretations". Of course, bluecollar is not nearly as thoughtful as you, preferring blustering and name-calling to any serious dialogue.

I do think, however, that you've stopped halfway on that whole context thing. Yes, Paul was careful to prove that God had indeed chosen to save Gentiles as well as Jews. But he doesn't stop there. In Chapters 2 and 3, he especially takes pains to show that both the Jews and Gentiles are stranded in the same leaky boat, and taking on water. That is, they're both shut up in sin. It's not just that God has chosen to save Gentiles but also that the mere fact of a previous covenant with the Jews does not insure Jewish salvation. They both need a better atonement.


I would agree with that. Paul argues that reconciliation with God is based not upon cultural or religious identity, but rather upon being joined to Christ in faith.

You mention Paul's imaginary argument in Romans 9, and I wish you'd look at that again. The way to tell whether or not you've followed his positive argument about election is to see whether the imagined argument against it "fits."

I would assert that my suggestion does, in fact, "fit."


The imagined argument is, "How does God still find fault, then?"



Not exactly. In the verses immediately leading up to this supposed discussion of eternal election, Paul is speaking precisely about the relationship of Gentile salvation to the assumptions of the Jewish "corner" on justification through God through the Hebrew cultus of worship. He argues that just as Jacob and Esau were justified and condemned based not upon their "works," so too Jews and Gentiles are not justified on a similar basis, but rather that of faith. However, his point is not about why God chose one "human" and not the other, but rather the fact of the equity of God in choosing both. It was not the fact that God chose some "generic" people and not others to save, but rather the fact that God chose the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, to be reconciled to God--this is what scandalized the Jewish people. They believed that they had an exclusive "in" with God based on their allegiance to the Jewish religious system, the cultural identity, circumcision, etc. But Paul wipes this out, showing that God has extended divine salvation to all people, not simply to the exclusive onclave of God's supposed "elect."

I submit that the view of "election" that you have proposed in no way merits or leads to this counter-argument. In fact, it would be an irrational argument, having nothing to do with what Paul is trying to teach. If Paul is teaching human autonomy as opposed to a meticulous providence, the counter-argument he makes is nonsense.

I do not see how it is irrational. Paul's discussion in this passage has nothing to do with "autonomy vs. providence." The thrust of the argument throughout is wholly focused on the propriety of the extension of God's grace of salvation to the Gentiles in the face of the supposed exclusivity of "election" of the nation of Israel. This is why this entire imaginary arugment is surround--beforehand--by discussions of the non-cultus based justification/condemnation complex of Jacob and Esau and--afterward--by the Hosaic text which Paul understands as prophesying the inclusion of the Gentiles and demolotion of the exclusivity of the Jewish cultus. In my opinion, it is your interjection of a disconnected discussion of general principles of election which is non-sequitur, for Paul's goal before and following this imaginary discussion is singular--to prove that the inclusion of the Gentiles in the history of God's salvation is not oly proper, but moreover that the exclusivity of Jewish conceptions of election are wholly unfounded and entirely depraved. Therfore, there is more at play than simply plugging defintions into a few verses as you propose should be done. In fact, I would assert that your conclusion would have Paul changing his argument entirely right in the middle of a very specific discussion of the relatioship of Jews and Gentiles to the complex of God's salvation in the history of humanity.

On the other hand, you have in fact used just such an argument in this comments section to philosophically demolish, supposedly, the Reformed view on election. Do you not see that?

Not at all. The "fairness" of God in making decisions about salvation has nothing to do with my argument. I fully acknowledge that God can do whatever God pleases; my interest is in being philosophically and intellectually honest about what one must conclude in light of such considerations, an honesty to which I do not believe Calvinism to meaningfully attain.

You've said that categories of human sin and righteousness are vacuous since all things are determined by God: and that is the exact point of Paul's imagined rejoinder. If He's determined everything, then how can He justly judge a sinner, who, apparently, only sins because God determined that he should? That's a summary of both your argument and Paul's imagined opponent, unless I'm totally missing your point.

If this is what Paul's interlocuter was proposing, and if Paul was asserting the categories of Calvinistic conceptions of the divine nature, then this statement would be accurate. However, as the context of this passage (IMO) indicates that Paul is not assuming the categories of Calvinistic conceptions of election and eternal ordination, but is rather making an argument for the propriety of God's extension of salvation to the Gentiles in the face of Jewish prejudices about the supposed exclusivism of their cultural/religious identity, one must also necessarily adjust the philosophical trajectory of the objections which Paul places in the mouths of his detractors. In short, your conclusion is only valid if one assumes the presuppositions of Reformed thought in interpreting this passage, an assumption I obviously do not make.

But really, this underlines my previous point. We will both go back and forth on this, outlining the way in which we each interpret this through the personal subjectivities of our philosophically presupposed categories concerning God, salvation, etc. You will say that I am creating a non-sensical argument out of Paul's words, I will say that you are ignoring the "obvious" context which necessarily qualifies Paul's entire discussion.

So then, returning to my original question, has my interaction attained to a "biblical" one in your opinion? Or will it remain indelibly an unbiblical one until I reach the conclusions that you have outlined?

Gordan said...

Exist,

As to your last paragraph, I'd happily grant that your interaction right here has been biblical, at least as to the question of Romans 9. (Defining "biblical" as hoping to square one's beliefs with the text.)

I do believe you are wrong in your conclusions (understanding you think the same of mine.) You will be more biblical when you agree with me. :)

We would need to delve into some detailed work on individual passages to continue this discussion with any hope of fruitfulness, though. I agree that the "context" of the passage really does include the concerns you've focused on. I would not seek to disuade you about that, and my protest would be that I have not brought Calvinistic presuppositions to the text, but that Calvinistic conclusions rightly rise from it (as, when I was an Arminian, I avoided this chapter altogether because, even though I hated it, I could see what was being said.) I knew it was Calvinistic long before I had those sorts of presuppositions.

That's not a very scholarly way to talk, but it is my "experience" and so may hold meaning for you. LOL

Exist~Dissolve said...

As to your last paragraph, I'd happily grant that your interaction right here has been biblical, at least as to the question of Romans 9. (Defining "biblical" as hoping to square one's beliefs with the text.)

I appreciate your grace in this regard.

I do believe you are wrong in your conclusions (understanding you think the same of mine.) You will be more biblical when you agree with me. :)

Sure, but you knew that was going to happen :) :).

We would need to delve into some detailed work on individual passages to continue this discussion with any hope of fruitfulness, though. I agree that the "context" of the passage really does include the concerns you've focused on. I would not seek to disuade you about that, and my protest would be that I have not brought Calvinistic presuppositions to the text, but that Calvinistic conclusions rightly rise from it (as, when I was an Arminian, I avoided this chapter altogether because, even though I hated it, I could see what was being said.) I knew it was Calvinistic long before I had those sorts of presuppositions.

That is where I would most strenuously have to disagree with you. In my understanding, this passage is quite devastating to Calvinistic interpretive methodology, for it reveals the underlying biases which drive subsequent interpretations, yours and mine included. In that sense, the "Calvinistic conclusions" arise from the text only in the presence of the Calvinistic interpreter--to get really geeky here, you are the quantum Calvinistic interpreter that dissolves the wave probability of this passage in the act of interpretation, which act returns the desired result based explicitly upon the act of observation and the nature of the observer.

/end geek mode

That's not a very scholarly way to talk, but it is my "experience" and so may hold meaning for you. LOL

LoL, indeed.

Fundamentally Reformed said...

I'm entering the conversation a bit late here.

I am honest enough to admit that some of Exist-Dissolve's arguments leave my head spinning. I need to go to Epistemology 101, right about now.

Call me simple, but the message of Scripture -- the gospel that Paul trumpeted, isn't quite so complex. Affirmative, concrete statements abound. Objective understanding seems assumed.

But let me cut to the chase. E-D basically (I'm pressed for time, else I'd quote) said that Reformed Theology pins the presence of sin on God. Since God ultimately ordained for sin to be, it is nonsensical for God to punish Sin. God doesn't really know things before the things exist, because they wouldn't be.

Now here's my contribution. Think with me.


GOD

(imagine a big circle around "God" here)



everything else
(imagine innumerable other smaller circles with names like "Person A", "Angel C", "cute butterfly #12345432", "the concept of beauty", "the concept of truth", "the 2nd law of thermodynamics", "2+2=4", etc.)

All of those little circles are outside of God. None of them are God. None of them contribute to his being. Ultimately, if we were to rewind our picture to before the dawn of time, none of the other circles would have existed. Only God.

"In the beginning, God..." Scripture assumes God's God-ness. He is, and nothing else IS, in the same sense He IS. I would argue that universal laws and abstract concepts find their origin with God too. There could be worlds where 2+2 doesn't equal 4.

Anyways, Scripture is abundantly clear that God created everything that is. God is supreme.

Now there is no way to avoid saying that God is the ultimate prime cause of sin. Without God, nothing would be, not even sin.

Scripture in fact describes scenarios where God is seen as one who caused sin, albeit with a good result in view. (Think Joseph's enslavement, Jesus on the cross).

So philosphically, either sin exists apart from God. Or God (in some sense) caused sin. Scripture affirms that God is absolute, therefore option 1 is ruled out.

In short, it seems that E-D is doing more than attack Reformed Theology. He is attacking Arminianism and Open Theism. In short, he is overturning evangelicalism and orthodox theology both. I'm sure if you were to quiz the epistemological views of those who voted in the councils that created the early church creeds, they would agree largely with our "simplistic" epistemology which characterizes evangelicalism today.

If E-D wants to redefine everything, to negate the need for and importance of the Reformation he is welcome to. Don't be surprised when I and others don't join you.

But go ahead and blame it on our foolish/naive philosophy. That's fine. I'll stand with the Reformers and scores of believers since the Reformation.

I'm not saying I've arrived. But I think E-D is off base.

My 2 cents. Take it or leave it.