Monday, August 4, 2008

Some Things that TULIP Doesn't Mean

I'd like to address some things that I've seen as common misunderstandings of the Calvinistic TULIP doctrines. I'm approaching this negatively, in terms of what it doesnt' mean. Hope no one is confused by that.

Total depravity: We don’t believe that

1. TD means that humans are incapable of performing any “good works.” But we’d say that even those are tainted with sin and thus unacceptable on their own; and they certainly will never be enough to purchase salvation.

2. TD means that all people are as bad as they could possibly be. They are as bad as God allows them to be. There is always room for deprovement, as John Gerstner said.

3. TD is contradicted at all by the human being’s ability to hear the gospel with his ears. Yes, you could say that the dead man hears. But that is a non sequitor. We’ve never posited that TD means a natural inability to process sound waves impinging on the ear drum: we’ve said it means that the gospel is rejected.

4. TD means that God forces people to choose evil and will not allow them to choose good. Rather, TD means that men always choose what they love, and reject what they hate. God is not holding a gun to anyone’s head; but the sinner will not choose that which violates his own nature. He will choose what he loves, which is darkness.

Unconditional election: We don’t believe that

1. UE means that salvation is random. That is how UE is often mockingly portrayed, as if God simply goes down a line, pointing at people and saying, “Heaven, hell, heaven, hell, heaven…no wait, hell, hell, hell, heaven.” In fact, there is a condition to election; there is a reason why one is chosen and one is not--but the rub is that that reason does not lie in the person chosen. The reason lies in the mind and will of God, and He hasn’t decided to let us in on those particular thoughts of His. Election is not random. He has chosen in accordance with His own good pleasure. I can’t answer farther than that.

Limited atonement: I don’t believe it means

1. That God is stingy with salvation. I believe with Spurgeon that on the last day it will be manifest that there are overwhelmingly more that are saved than not saved. The tiny remnant will be in hell. LA does not have to mean that few are saved.

2. That anyone is barred from heaven by the Limitations of the Atonement. Meaning, some mock the doctrine by speculating that there will be people who believed in Jesus who will be damned to hell because they were not part of the group chosen for salvation. This is not LA at all. If you believe, then you are one of those to whom the Atonement of Christ is limited. No one goes to hell because they fell outside the limits of LA: they go to hell for their willful sins. Big, big difference there.

3. That there is less grace available in the Calvinistic view than in the Arminian view. I’m convinced that a lot of the hatred of LA is nothing more than an emotional reaction against the terminology itself. It strikes natural ears as somehow curmudgeonly. Rather, we revel in the belief that our Limited Atonement actually accomplishes more for the believer than the Arminian’s supposedly Unlimited version. Specifically, our LA actually saves people, while ULA saves no one, apart from assistance from the sinner.

Irresistable Grace, does not mean

1. That God forces people to be saved. Those who are saved are saved in accordance with their wills, not contrary to them. Nobody’s in heaven now murmuring, “Dang! Y’know, this is really not what I wanted.” Nobody goes to heaven kicking and screaming.

Having said that, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that

2. IG is a quick work, or that resistance is not offered by the sinner. We do often kick and scream. Sometimes we kick and scream for years. But in the end, God wins and we are glad that He does. Some people try to disprove IG by pointing to places in the Scripture where the Gospel is rejected. This misses the point. We are not saying IG means no resistance is offered. We are saying that for the elect, no amount of resistance is ultimately successful. It is a war of attrition: at some point, you give in if you’re elect. And you give in, or surrender, not because your will has been forced somehow or overwhelmed; but because it has been graciously changed. You give in because you begin to love what you once hated.

Star Trek’s villainous monsters, The Borg, have the catch-phrase: “Resistance is futile.”

Okay, that’s not what we’re saying when we speak of IG. For the Borg, they were saying, Resist all you like: we are bigger and badder than you and we will dominate you regardless. For the elect, while it is true that resistance to grace really is ultimately futile, the reason is not overwhelming force. The reason is miraculous mercy, which sweetly and softly changes our affections.

3. That we are fatalistically doomed to whatever has been chosen for us. We don’t believe in fatalism, where it doesn’t matter what you do: your fate will happen anyway. We are determinists, not fatalists: so that your actions matter. Just because we believe in IG does not mean that the human will is unimportant, or that his choices do not matter. You still must repent and believe in order to be saved. If you choose not to, and persist in that decision, your own choice will confirm your unelect status forever. If you want to come to Jesus, then by all means, come to Jesus! Heaven forbid that anything you hear us say should prevent that!!

Perseverance of the Saints, does not mean

1. That once you’re saved, you can live like the devil and be assured of heaven. Without holiness, none will see the Lord. Salvation is not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that you simply put in your back pocket and whip out when necessary. If, since you’ve been “saved,” your relation to sin has not changed, then your relation to God has not changed either, as Paul Washer has said.

2. That your salvation is dependant upon your faithfulness. I know, darkened minds will think I’ve just contradicted what I wrote in the above paragraph. They’ve got root and fruit mixed up. Your perseverance is not what gets you in the pearly gates. Your perseverance is the result of the saving graces of God being genuinely present in your life. If you are faithful unto death, it is 100 percent a work of God’s free grace, and you get no credit. Sorry.

3. That you can’t really know if you’re saved while you’re alive. Some try to say that the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance destroys the Assurance of salvation, by tossing it all “up in the air” until the time of death. After all, they say, until it’s all over, the possibility of apostasy is real, so you can just never know…

But we believe that real, genuine assurance is in fact possible in this life (though not guaranteed) as the elect exercise genuine, saving faith in the promises of God, and cling to them in all joy and confidence.

I hope this helps.
Gordan

25 comments:

Rick Beckman said...

Excellent list, Gordan, but may I ask for some clarification on one point?

You mentioned that on the last day, you would not be surprised that God will reveal that the saved far outnumber the unsaved.

Doesn't that run contrary to what Jesus said about the way to destruction being broad and the way to salvation being narrow -- that many will be doomed, but few saved?

Or are I and many others grossly misinterpreting Jesus' words? (That's certainly possible!)

Gordan Runyan said...

No, I don't think you're grossly misinterpreting anything. I would merely offer that that particular statement needs to harmonize with others as well, which picture the redeemed as a great multitude which no man could count, and the knowledge of God covering the earth as the waters cover the sea, etc. I guess I'm saying I don't think Christ was speaking to the total number saved in that passage so much as he was talking about the narrowness and exclusivity of His way. But I could be flat wrong, which I why I prefaced that bullet with the disclaimer that I'm not speaking for all Calvinists with it.

Gordan Runyan said...

err...to clarify that last phrase...I mean that's why I tried to state that at least Spurgeon agreed with me....I was trying to imply that not every Calvinist did.

Rick Beckman said...

I thought about that shortly after posting my comment, that "broad is the path" could simply refer to the fact that there are quite a great many different ways *away* from God and truly only one way *to* Him. The Father certainly does have the ability to draw as many people as He wants to Jesus, no matter how many they be!

YnottonY said...

Hi Gordon,

Concerning #2 under your Limited Atonement heading, I can't tell if you mean:

(A) That anyone [who may believe] is barred from heaven by the limitations of the atonement.

or

(B) That anyone [who has believed] is barred from heaven by the limitations of the atonement.

It sounds like you're interesting in refuting (B) as a caricature of the position. If you mean to refute both (A) and (B), then I think you're going to run into a problem.

If by "Limited Atonement" you mean limited sin bearing or a limited imputation of sin to Christ, then no one else can be saved except those from whom Christ suffered. Not only do they have their own sinfulness to blame for their damnation [i.e., moral barriers], but they never even had an adequate means whereby they could be saved. If Christ only bore the wrath due for the elect alone, then all the others are entirely left without a remedy [i.e., natural barriers also pertain]. On this scheme it could be said these are "barred from heaven by the limitations of the atonement," and not merely on the grounds of their own moral depravity.

Have you considered this issue before? I think some of the critics of "limited atonement" are attempting [even if incompetently] to argue the above, instead of saying (B) some who have believed are barred from heaven by the limitations of the atonement. At least, that's what I pick up in the literature dealing with the topic.

Tony

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Just to clarify Gordan, are you sure about PS not implying "That your salvation is dependent upon your faithfulness"?

I thought the paradigm was (at least for some Calvinists) "it is dependent on faithfulness, God just ensures faithfulness." I seem to recall reading 1 Peter 1:5 being interpreted that way.

Gordan Runyan said...

Joshua,

Yeah, I'm pretty sure about that. If we narrow the question down a bit from

"What is salvation dependant on?"

to a better question:

"What is the ground of our justification?"

then I think all that becomes clear.

On the Calvinist scheme, that ground is solely and only the atoning work of Christ.

Of course, I can't account for how others may have argued, so I won't try to explain them.

Gordan Runyan said...

Tony, yeah, I have considered that, but it's not what I was writing about. I had in mind more the Nelson Price Bus Stop illustration, where the two believers are barred from boarding the heaven-bound express because they were not chosen.

But what you've proposed strikes me as if a prisoner were to say, "I am in jail for my own crimes (which I did commit) but the real reason I languish here is because the Governor is a little stingy with the pardons. So it's really his fault, when you think about it. He could set me free if he wanted to, but here I am. What a jerk he is."

The argument seems to presuppose that God has an obligation to at least try to save everyone. But if I shoot myself in the head, does the fault lie with me, or with God, who chose not to miracle the bullet into another space?

Rick Beckman said...

I wonder, though... If the prisoner in jail truly did come to understand his fault before the Governor, isn't that something which only comes via enlightenment? The nature of the lost is to love their darkness, and while they may regret certain actions or even see themselves as bad, is it superficial or is it a realization born from a truly penitent heart?

If a person grasps God enough to understand his guilt before Him, then the person should believe. If they do not, they are only revealing further their guilt and depravity before God by remaining hardhearted before Him. The guilt still lies within them.

Gordan Runyan said...

Rick, I can go along with that. The point I'm making is that the argument Tony relayed gets all of its gunpowder from the idea that it would be right to blame the Governor in that situation, at least partially.

Rick Beckman said...

But the Governor is to blame...

...for doing nothing to prohibit those in the jail from receiving justice.

Leveling a charge of being Just against the Governor isn't likely to hurt his feelings.

:D

YnottonY said...

Hi Gordon,

While I don't think your analogy fits [or properly compares to] the point I made above, I won't labor the point here since you were actually addressing (B) only, or some "Nelson Price Bus Stop illustration." The issue I was raising does not pertain to the subject matter of your post.

Grace to you,
Tony

Gordan Runyan said...

Tony,

Okay, that's fine. But you're welcome to labor the point if you like. I'd be interested in understanding it, if I've missed it. Your call, though.

Blessings,
Gordan

Dusty McDust said...

Could you expound a little on your #1 under Limited Atonement? It's intriguing, and I find myself pretty much on-board with the thought, but I can't quite nail down the orthodox, Biblical angle there.

Gordan Runyan said...

You may have missed it above, but that's what the first couple comments were about. Basically, I'm saying that the promise to Abraham was of descendants like the sand of the seashore; and Revelation 5 pictures a saved multitude of every tribe, tongue, and nation which could not be counted, etc. As for one side out-numbering the other, well, there are now more people on the planet than have ever lived in history previously, so if a revival were to happen in which a vast majority now living were saved, that would work out to a vast majority in history, so the math is at least possible.

Again, I'd concede that not every Calvinist is that optimistic, of course. In fact, most are not.

Dusty McDust said...

Oh, okay, I gotcha. So, if the world ended 2 minutes from now, you would concede that the vast majority of the population would in fact end up in hell and only the tiny remnant would be saved. Unless the revival happened one minute from now, of course. (That revival-yet-happen thing was the missing element.)

Gordan Runyan said...

Yeah, I'd have to concede that. But I think the conversion of the world lies ahead, predicted in the Revelation, btw. And we could be a looooong way from the end of all things... So here's another place where eschatology impinges on other doctrines.

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

Long time no argue. Are you as psyched about football as I am? I suppose you can't be quite as psyched since your team has nowhere near the chance of winning it all this season as my team, but I am sure you are at least nearly as psyched.

Anyway, I have problems with sooooo much of what you have written here but I will just narrow it down to two things. I am not trying to pick a fight or start an endless debate here. I really just want some clarification from a Calvinistic perspective (which seems to be the purpose of this post).

Regarding limited atonement, do you not find that the Scriptures condemn us for our unbelief which at least in part pertains to our unbelief in Christ as our Redeemer? If that is the case then doesn't a limited atonement view have God condemning people for refusing an atonement that was neither provided for them nor intended for them?

Regarding this comment,

The argument seems to presuppose that God has an obligation to at least try to save everyone. But if I shoot myself in the head, does the fault lie with me, or with God, who chose not to miracle the bullet into another space?

Doesn't Calvinism teach that God controls our thoughts and our actions? Now I don't mean that God makes us do what we don't want to do as you noted above, but doesn't God determine what we want to do? Isn't that how you maintain that we get no credit for believing as per your comments on irresistible grace? But why then do we get full credit for acts like shooting ourselves in the head and yet God is blame free? I am really baffled by this.

Did God determine that so and so shoot himself in the head? Could he possibly have done otherwise? Did God not control his desires and actions in that situation? If God determined the action, controlled the desire and therefore the will, and the person could do nothing other than shoot himself in the head, then how does your above comment really answer anything?

Dusty,

I am reminded by this that I left a discussion between you and I unfinished a long time ago and I apologize for that. I am working on a post that will address your questions (indirectly) and I will let you know when I get it up. I am also reminded that I need to link to your blog.

God Bless,
Ben

arminianperspectives said...

Dusty,

What happened to your blog? Do you just have the website now?

Gordan Runyan said...

Hi, Ben,

What a funny comment! About the NFL I mean, and whose team has a shot. But yes, I am excited. Our guys will actually play each other this year. In fact, you'll play our whole division and we'll play yours. Then I guess we'll really get to see who earned bragging rights at the end. I think your crew will run away with your division. A lot of people have it being pretty close between Pitts, Cleveland, and Cincy. I don't see it. Cleveland's 10-6 was a product of playing 10 weak teams and 6 against tough teams. Cincy is in a downward, imploding spiral.

------------

To some of your questions about the post: (Realize I'm hoping to merely clarify what I think, not necessarily to argue with what I think you think.)

1. "Regarding limited atonement, do you not find that the Scriptures condemn us for our unbelief which at least in part pertains to our unbelief in Christ as our Redeemer? If that is the case then doesn't a limited atonement view have God condemning people for refusing an atonement that was neither provided for them nor intended for them?"

People are condemned for their sins, of which unbelief is one among many. But the reason I'd say this condemnation is just (regardless) is because those who hear the Gospel hear a sincere offer. God doesn't create their unbelief or force their rejection of the offer. If they repent and trust, they'll be saved. There's nothing dishonest about that. That's not like offering with one hand and taking it back with the other. The offer is sincere, period. The fact that the outcome of it all is certain doesn't change that, at least for me.

2. " Doesn't Calvinism teach that God controls our thoughts and our actions? Now I don't mean that God makes us do what we don't want to do as you noted above, but doesn't God determine what we want to do?"

No, I don't believe Calvinism teaches this. I can only speak for myself, but I believe your person-hood and mine is real and that this is what makes it just to hold us accountable.

I think you believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. But I'm betting that you don't think God simply dictated the message by over-riding the personalities of the human authors...? Somehow, I think we'd agree, God was sovereign over that process so that even with using human writers who spoke according to their own idioms and education levels, etc. God still got the exact Bible He had determined to get.

God got a perfect Bible to us, using imperfect people who spoke the words that were in their own heads; but He didn't dictate it to them (with the exception of a few prophetic passages.)

I'm saying that's how it works with us in our lives. Yes, I believe in determinism, but not in spiritual robotics, or in over-ridden wills, or whatever.

God's will is done, even with our own wills being truly "ours." Even you believe God did this with the writing of Scripture, so I'm puzzled as to why you'd have such a problem with it elsewhere.

3. "Isn't that how you maintain that we get no credit for believing as per your comments on irresistible grace? But why then do we get full credit for acts like shooting ourselves in the head and yet God is blame free? I am really baffled by this."

We get full credit for the evil we do because we do it completely out of ourselves, unforced and quite willing. We get no credit for the good that we do because it is all supplied to us from an external souce. We're as naturally incapable of it as pigs are of flying. Therefore, when we do good, it's really a miracle, and only God gets credit for genuine miracles.

4. "If God determined the action, controlled the desire and therefore the will, and the person could do nothing other than shoot himself in the head, then how does your above comment really answer anything?"

This is a restatement of the age-old puzzle of theodicy. If God is all-powerful, how can He escape the charge of authoring evil?

Ignoring for the moment that I'd never phrase it like you have, I'll be honest here and say I don't really know.

But in exchange for that candor, I'd like to call upon you, Ben, to man-up and acknowledge that your own view cannot escape the same charge. For you too, unless you've recently slipped into Open Theism, posit a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who hates evil on one level and yet has decided to let it exist for a time; a God who chooses not to intervene and miracle away the suicide bullet, for example; and who will then call the dead man to His judgment bar.

An appeal to "free will" only pushes this back a step, and now we must wonder why God allowed free will in view of all the evil it would cause, when He could've done something different.

If my view takes a hit for God ordaining the existence of evil, so does yours, unless, of course, you've got a revolutionary explanation. And I'd love to hear it.

Blessings all over you, Ben.

Gordan

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

Just read your response and I don't have time to comment right now, but I will try to get to it before the week is out. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I find your answers unsatisfactory but I was going to leave it alone and just thank you for sharing your understanding with me until I read the whole "man-up" part at the end there.

So when I get a chance I will man-up and tell you why I think your other answers are hardly satisfying as well.

As far as your inspiration of Scripture comment I suspect you read a little pyromaniacs lately. I left a comment there concerning my view. I haven't checked to see if Dan Phillips or Phil made any dismissive comments concerning it yet, but it is there nontheless.

God Bless, and I look forward to that Dallas/Pittsburgh match-up. Should be fun.

Ben

Gordan Runyan said...

Ben,

No offense was intended with the man-up comment. But I do look forward to your critique.

I don't read much at the Pyros blog, honestly. You may have to respond to me directly. :(

Dallas 33 Pittsburgh 17

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

I didn't take offense. I was just trying to hold to my word that I wasn't looking for a fight or debate. But you threw down so now it's on!

Anyway, it may not be till late next week before I get to it. I don't have the time right now and I will be off Friday through Tuesday (Yippee!!). I will try to respond sometime next Wednesday or later.

Pittsburgh 27

Dallas 17

(look familiar :)

Later,
Ben

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

Sorry I didn't get to it this week but I promise to respond next week. Enjoy the games!

Ben

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

Please forgive the delay. I understand that you may find some of what I say here to be misrepresenting your position. That is not my intention. If I have expressed Calvinist thought in a way that is not appropriate then please feel free to correct me, but please explain why I am incorrect rather than just assert that I am incorrect. I really want to understand how Calvinists can believe what they believe and not be troubled by the problems I have described below. If there are reasonable solutions I would love to hear them.

People are condemned for their sins, of which unbelief is one among many. But the reason I'd say this condemnation is just (regardless) is because those who hear the Gospel hear a sincere offer.

Please back up this assertion so I can make some sense out of it. If God never intended for them to be saved and made no provision for their salvation, then how in the world can the offer be sincere? Not only is there no provision for their atonement but there is also no provision of the ability to respond to the offer. It is like telling a cripple that if he will just get out of his wheel chair and take the check in your hand, he can have the money when there is no money in the bank to make the check worth anything. And you call that a genuine offer? What’s worse is then beating the cripple and throwing him in prison to be tormented because he did not get out of his chair and take the fake check. And you call that justice?

“But the cripple is to blame for his condition because he threw himself off the building” I suppose. But in Calvinism the cripple threw himself off the building because God determined for him to do that before he was even created. “But he wanted to throw himself off the building. He did it according to his desire and is therefore to blame.” Really? Is he in control of his desires? If so, hello LFW. If not, then God controlled his desires. So God irresistibly causes him to throw himself off the building (by controlling the desires that he cannot help but act upon), and then condemns him for refusing to get out of his wheel chair and take a check that isn’t worth the paper it is printed on and tortures him endlessly for it in order to magnify His glory. Bald faced Calvinism in all it’s glory.

God doesn't create their unbelief or force their rejection of the offer.

Didn’t God decree and determine his unbelief from all eternity? How then is he to blame for his unbelief when he could not possibly do anything other than reject Christ according to an irrevocable divine decree? To suggest that they create their unbelief is to suggest that they are in control of their desires and actions. Well then, welcome to Arminianism. If they do not control their desires and actions then they cannot create their unbelief and if they do not create it, who does? And why are they judged according to unbelief that they did not create? Please Gordan, I really want to understand this. Apparently it makes sense to you. Could you please help me to make sense of it as well?

If they repent and trust, they'll be saved.

So God did provide atonement for them?

There's nothing dishonest about that.

I think there is. We are saved through faith in Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25). “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son (as a necessary atonement) so that whoever believes in Him (and the blood that was shed for their sake) should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) Jesus refers to the provision of the bronze snake in the wilderness as an illustration of the provision of his atonement in verses 14 and 15. The snake was a real provision for all of Israel and those who looked to it were saved from death. So it is with the atonement. God made a provision for all those who are afflicted by sin and offers life to those who will look to the provision of His blood in faith. So it is dishonest to say to those who have been provided no atonement, “If you put faith in Christ’s blood (which was not shed for you) then you will be saved (see illustration above). It is also unjust to condemn them for refusing to believe what was for them a lie (that Christ shed His blood for their redemption). Why doesn’t God instead reward them for refusing to believe a lie? Shouldn’t they be commended for rejecting falsehoods and refusing to believe lies?

That's not like offering with one hand and taking it back with the other. The offer is sincere, period.

So you assert but can you make any sense of it at all?

Me: 2. " Doesn't Calvinism teach that God controls our thoughts and our actions? Now I don't mean that God makes us do what we don't want to do as you noted above, but doesn't God determine what we want to do?"

You: No, I don't believe Calvinism teaches this. I can only speak for myself, but I believe your person-hood and mine is real and that this is what makes it just to hold us accountable.

This is a remarkable statement. I have never encountered a Calvinist that would say this. If God does not control our thoughts and our actions then how can He be sure that we will do what He has decreed for us to do? Do you believe that you can think and do things that God has not decreed? Where then is determinism and Calvinistic sovereignty? If we can do things that God did not predetermine for us to do then how can He know what we will do? Isn’t that the charge that Calvinists make against Arminians? Don’t they assert that God can only foreknow something because He decreed it and determined that it should happen (and certainly will happen since He will ultimately and infallibly bring it to pass)? How can He possibly do this without controlling your thoughts and actions?

I think you believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. But I'm betting that you don't think God simply dictated the message by over-riding the personalities of the human authors...? Somehow, I think we'd agree, God was sovereign over that process so that even with using human writers who spoke according to their own idioms and education levels, etc. God still got the exact Bible He had determined to get.

God got a perfect Bible to us, using imperfect people who spoke the words that were in their own heads; but He didn't dictate it to them (with the exception of a few prophetic passages.)


I take a different view. I don’t have a problem with God overriding the will to get His word across but I would suggest that God could communicate His word and make sure it was properly transmitted without having to meticulously control the will at every turn. I believe that God influenced the inspired writers to express His truths according to their own personalities and writing styles. That is what God wanted so that is what we got. God determined that His word would be communicated through the personalities of those who wrote it as they were influenced (inspired) by the Holy Spirit. The writers may have freely surrendered to God’s inspiration in writing His truths according to their own styles and personalities which was what God intended (His perfect truth expressed through unique personalities, i.e. as God moved them to express His word according to their unique personalities and writing styles, they did so freely). He may have intervened and overridden the will at times to prevent those writers from expressing their own thoughts rather that God’s thoughts (though God’s thoughts were expressed according to each writer’s unique writing style and personality).

On the Calvinistic view one wonders why the Bible is any more inspired or unique than Calvin and Hobbes (or worse yet the Satanic Bible) since according to determinism God orchestrates and controls everything including the thoughts of Anton LaVey or Allister Crowley. So what makes their work any less a work of God than the Bible? The inspiration of Scripture was a unique event and took place through unique means. Inspiration would seem to lose its uniqueness in light of Calvinistic determinism.

I'm saying that's how it works with us in our lives. Yes, I believe in determinism, but not in spiritual robotics, or in over-ridden wills, or whatever.

That’s fine but could you please explain how God can know your every thought and yet not control those thoughts? Did God know every thought you would ever think before He created the universe or not? If He did then how did He know them? Did He know them because He decreed that you would think them and then infallibly brought about your every thought? How is that not controlling your thoughts? If God can only foreknow the future because He will make it happen just as He planned then doesn’t He also make your thoughts happen? Your actions? Please explain. I really want to understand this.

We get full credit for the evil we do because we do it completely out of ourselves, unforced and quite willing.

But we do not control our wills unless you are suggesting that we can will things that God did not decree and infallibly bring to pass. Do we control our desire or do our desires control us? If God decreed from all eternity that I would do evil and could only foreknow my evil because He would infallibly bring that evil to pass then how am I in control of the evil I desire and do? To say that I should be blamed because I do it willingly when I am not ultimately in control of my will doesn’t explain anything.

If a man slips a date-rape drug into a girl’s drink which destroys her inhibitions and causes her to desire to sleep with him should she be blamed for her actions because she did them “willingly?” I think you would probably say “no” since the drug controlled her desires and not her. Why then should we be blamed for the evil we do when God controls our desires and not us even if we do those things willingly? Forgive the analogy but I don’t see the difference. Maybe you can help me understand.

Now lets’ consider salvation. We can take no credit for our salvation according to Calvinism because God does everything. Yet Calvinists don’t want to say that God believes for us. We believe. Now how is this different than the case of the sinner as you have described it? “Yes, God controls everything”, you say, including our sinful actions. Yet we should be blamed because we are the ones who desire to do them and actually perform the action. It is our unbelief and not God’s. Does God create a desire in the “elect” for salvation? “Yes”, you say, “but we desire Him since we are not just robots”, etc. Does God “believe” for you? “No”, you say, “God gives us faith but we do the believing.”

Here is the problem as I see it:

God controls the desires but the sinner is justly condemned because He does the desiring and willingly sins (though God makes Him willing and causes his unbelief).

The sinner “feely” believes but God controls his desires. He comes “willingly” to Christ but since God gives him the desire and controls the will he can take no credit for believing.

Don’t you see the inconsistency here? It is exactly the same scenario in both places only in the first instance the sinner gets all the credit for what God does and God gets none (because it is the sinners desires and unbelief); and in the second place the believer gets no credit for what God does and God gets all the credit (even though you affirm that it is the believer who does the believing and not God believing for him. In both cases God operates the same way.

For a short post that probably does a better job describing this problem see here.


We're as naturally incapable of it as pigs are of flying. Therefore, when we do good, it's really a miracle, and only God gets credit for genuine miracles.

But it is the same in both instances. God controls the sinner’s actions and desires when he sins just as He controls the sinner’s actions and desires when he believes. If God always controls our actions and desires (and I don’t see how you can deny this and hold to Calvinistic sovereignty and determinism) then why is it all of a sudden a miracle when nothing has changed. God has just controlled the desire and will in a different direction, but He is no more or less in control in either situation.

This is a restatement of the age-old puzzle of theodicy. If God is all-powerful, how can He escape the charge of authoring evil?

He can escape it by not controlling the thoughts and actions of sinful man (Arminianism). Theodicy is really only a problem for Calvinistic determinism.

Ignoring for the moment that I'd never phrase it like you have, I'll be honest here and say I don't really know.

Fair enough, but don’t blame Arminians and non-Calvinists for pointing out that your system doesn’t make sense if you freely admit that you can’t make any sense out it.

But in exchange for that candor, I'd like to call upon you, Ben, to man-up and acknowledge that your own view cannot escape the same charge.

Well, since I don’t believe that God controls the will irresistibly and do not believe that God can foreknow only what He intends to infallibly bring to pass and do not believe that foreknowledge is causative; I am not sure how I can possibly be faced with the “same” charges.

For you too, unless you've recently slipped into Open Theism, posit a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who hates evil on one level and yet has decided to let it exist for a time;

“Let” (i.e. allow, permit) being the key word here and the main difference between what you believe and I believe since there can be no legitimate “let”, “allow”, or “permit” in your determinism. It is also the reason why this “charge” does not apply to me and my belief system.

a God who chooses not to intervene and miracle away the suicide bullet, for example; and who will then call the dead man to His judgment bar.

Yes, I believe in a God who has the sovereign right to create free moral agents and hold them accountable for their actions; a God who is not obligated to “intervene” when His creatures act in a way that He has forbidden and do things contrary to His will and intentions.

An appeal to "free will" only pushes this back a step, and now we must wonder why God allowed free will in view of all the evil it would cause, when He could've done something different.

I don’t need to “wonder”, just trust that God had a good reason for “allowing” His creatures to choose to disobey Him.

If my view takes a hit for God ordaining the existence of evil, so does yours,

Not at all, as explained above.

unless, of course, you've got a revolutionary explanation. And I'd love to hear it.

You just heard it though I would certainly not call it “revolutionary” since Arminians have been making these (very valid) points all along. Now I will eagerly wait to hear your “revolutionary” explanations to the questions I posed above, unless of course you are unwilling to “man-up.” :)

God Bless,
Ben