Monday, November 06, 2006

Calvinist Vs. Wesleyan (A.K.A. What The...?)

You know what? I think too darn much. That seems to have been the main theme of my life these past few days. I've been questioning things--everything from politics to my own personal relationships. I present myself with different points of view--all of which seem to have merit--and knowing that a decision has to be made between the contradictory stances, I become complacent and throw my hands in the air. "I give up!" is the verbal equivalent. I just can't make a decision about what my convictions are sometimes. And so I take non-movement as the best course of action, even when I know it isn't.

Case in point: Today I somehow got myself into an argument (with myself) about Calvinism vs. Wesleyan/Arminian theology. I think someone mentioned the opposing schools of thought in a comment thread somewhere, and so I decided to look them up myself (ain't Google great?). The first thing I came across was an objective, point-by-point comparison of the two. After looking at that, I pretty much figured I was a Wesleyan (no surprise there, really--I was raised Methodist after all).

But I always love hearing opposing sides, so I found a comparison from a Calvinist perspective. That made me pretty confused. For one, it was pretty persuasive. It really does seem like the Bible presents more evidence for a Calvinist theology than an Arminian one. Basically, there are just a lot of verses where God "hardened their hearts" or "gave them over to sin." Those are the verses that I've always had trouble with, and it's a shame that they seem to outnumber the ones that advocate a freedom of will and conscience.

But, despite the persuasiveness of the comparison, I really just don't like Calvinism. It seems totally unfair and downright illogical to think that God put effort into creating human beings and then predestined them to Hell. I mean, "What the...?" God knew us while we were still in the womb, if I'm not mistaken. Saying that He knows whether or not we'll get saved is one thing, but saying that He elects those of us who will go to Heaven is quite another. Plus, there's really no security in Calvinism, is there? I mean, what if you think you believe, but at the end of your life you find that God really didn't elect you, and you were just fooling yourself?

Plus, Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the homosexual persuasion. It's hard to believe that one of God's elect would have to deal with being gay. And a lot of hyper-Calvinists (like the psychotic Fred Phelps--who doesn't deserve to have any term associated with Christianity attached to his name) use this as an argument as a way to say that gay people are gay because "God gave them over to shameful lusts." And hey, that's in Romans 1, so it has merit. But it just doesn't sound like something a loving God would do.

So, I'm not exactly at a crisis of faith right now, but I am trying to figure out exactly Who God is. There are places in the Bible that don't make Him out to be so pleasant, and I'm trying to reconcile those places with the image of the all-loving, all-knowing, great God that I've known since childhood. It's dangerous territory. A lot of people don't make it out of these questions with their faith intact, but I feel that if I want to have a real, solid faith, then it needs to be challenged. Otherwise, is it not built upon sand?

(Oh, and I found a comparison of Calvinist and Wesleyan theology from a Wesleyan perspective, but I'm too tired to read through all of it just yet. That's the thing I've come to notice about myself. Any rational, persuasive argument usually has the ability to get me second-guessing myself. I don't want to be a flip-flopper, but I need to find my convictions. Pray for me, guys. Things are still going well here regardless).

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jay,

God is indeed a loving God. But he loves only those that Christ has bought with his blood. The rest receive his wrath. God is perfectly holy and just. Therefore he must punish all who do evil. I'm not trying to beat you over the head with this, but like you said in your post, it's repeated over and over in Scripture.

-Walt

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I'm also not quite sure what Calvinism has to do with homosexual persuasion. If you have those tendencies, so what? You're saved by grace through faith, not by being heterosexual. God doesn't elect only heterosexuals to salvation. Yes, Romans 1 is at play, but it also condemns those who disobey their parents. We're all under the same condemnation unless we trust in Christ.

-Walt

Jay said...

Hey Walt. Thanks for coming over from LBC (I really need to link to her). Okay, here's my biggest problem, and hopefully it's an understandable one.

To me, Calvinism makes me think of a classroom. The teacher gives students a test with material that they've never studied and have no way of knowing. She then gives some students textbooks that contain the answers. They don't have to use the textbooks, but they're there for them if they want to use them. The other students don't have the textbooks: they're destined to fail from the outset, and from no fault of their own.

Honestly, let's say Calvinism is true and a person is among the un-elect. What's the point of that person's existence? Why does he exist at all? And why is God giving him the mercy of being alive if he's just going to send him to Hell later (a fate that the man can do absolutely nothing to change)? Personally, I'd rather not have existed in the first place.

(That last part kind of gets into a debate about whethor or not you believe hell is a place of eternal torment or merely a second death/annihilation, but we can get into that some other time).

Jay said...

(Oh, and I only threw the gay bit in there because, well...just check out the blog some and you'll understand why :-)

You do believe that homosexual actions are a sin, though, right? I mean, it just seems unfair that God would make me this way, because it really does make it that much harder to be a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I need to get a stupid blogger ID.

I think you're mixing doctrines, though I struggled with the same thing myself when I began to learn about Calvinism and the doctrines of grace. My issue was, how do I know I'm one of the elect? I got into quite a panic about it. What if I was deceived into thinking I was a Christian, and wasn't really?
But then I began to understand that this very struggle to determine if I was actually saved was a sign that I was. Over time, I began to see a work of God in my life that testifies to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I still struggle with assurance, but Calvinism and assurance are two separate doctrines. Check the Westminister Confession of Faith for more on this. Finally, if you come to the conclusion that you are not saved, the promises of Scripture to those that trust in Christ are still extended to you.

Walt

Anonymous said...

Jay,

The doctrine of unconditional election speaks to your issue of homosexuality. There is nothing in us that causes God to elect us to salvation. We are all equally unworthy, whether homosexual or heterosexual. It's a matter of God's pleasure and will as to who he elects. There doesn't seem to be anything in Scripture that places homosexuals in the reprobate category. I do believe homosexual acts are a sin. However, Jesus doesn't ever separate the thought from the act. This applies to heterosexuals the same way. Whoever looks at a woman adulterously has already committed adultery. My point is, we are all equally worthless.

Jay said...

Finally, if you come to the conclusion that you are not saved, the promises of Scripture to those that trust in Christ are still extended to you.

With all due respect...huh? Note that I'm pretty young and not very Bible literate (I'm only in Exodus on my first run-through of the Bible right now.) Are you saying that there is a difference between being saved and trusting in Christ?

Please respond, even though I'm about to go to dinner right now. This is very interesting and you seem to know your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I was simply pointing out that some people have a mere profession of faith, with no actual regeneration. Salvation is a supernatural work of God. There are people who "make decisions for Jesus" (which is completely unscriptural BTW) and then go on living the same way they did before, with no evidence of that supernatural work. I'm not saying that this is you. I'm saying that if you or I ever come to the conclusion that we were never genuinely saved, the offer of the Gospel still stands. Scripture commands us to "test yourselves to see if you're in the faith."

Walt

Anonymous said...

BTW, I just read your post on "I don't hate being gay". Your view on your SSA seems to be pretty Scriptural. I bet you get treated like some kind of a freak at church. I've heard of this happening to other people with the same issues.

Jay said...

Okay, I'm back. They didn't have much good in the dining hall anyway :-/

No, I don't get treated like a freak. Word hasn't exactly spread that far ;-) The people I have told have, thank God, been kind, generous, and understanding. I've gotten a little bit of a "you poor thing" attitude from some, but that's better than some alternatives.

Irrational Entity said...

The Calvinistic perspective may have the problem of why God would predestine someone to hell, but Arminian thought also has to deal with why God would create someone who God knows with absolute certainty will reject Him. Another position is open theology, which argues God knows all possible futures but not which one humanity will choose.

As a side note, I like the "you poor thing" line. I think that describes my position on such issues.

tilts_at_windmills said...

Speaking as someone without a dog in this fight: the way I read the Bible, it seems more consistent with predetermination than free will. St. Paul seems inclined toward the predestination of human souls. Grace is something God gives you, not something you can earn, and if you can't earn it (even by faith), I don't see how you can choose it. Also, the gospels say at various points that Jesus did something "so that the prophecy would be fulfilled" which to my mind implies that even the life of Jesus himself was predestined.

Predestination does seem monstrously unfair, particularly if you believe in hell. I would say that's the chief argument against it. And certainly the Bible never says explicitly that there's such a thing as "the elect" in the Calvinist sense. That's the thing about religious texts, on a lot of issues they can be interpreted in contradictory ways.

Personally, I've always believed in free will on the theory that if I'm wrong it doesn't matter, since in that case what I believe doesn't change anything, anyway. But maybe that's just what I was predestined to think. ;)

Irrational Entity said...

From a theistic or atheistic perspective, I doubt people are capable of emotionally believing in predestination. Even if I were destined to type this sentence from the big bang onward I would not believe it deep down. Intellectual arguments may convince us, but our very experience would seem to contradict our understanding. We think “I want an apple” rather than “a combination of biological and environmental factors cause me to want an apple.”

Though I came from a conservative Arminian tradition, I have to agree that the Calvinistic outlook can be readily sustained with the Bible. However I also agree with Thomas Jefferson when he stated Calvin’s God sounds very much like a “daemon of malignant spirit.”

grace said...

Jay,
In your post you mentioned the times in the Bible where it speaks of God "hardening the heart." I like to think of it like this....

The sun is always the same, and yet, the same sun that melts butter, hardens clay. It's not the sun so much as the response of the matter the sun is shining on.

Does that help you at all?

love you!
pam/grace

Jay said...

Irrational: Yeah, both Calvinism and Arminianism have problems when you think about it. I guess that's why the Bible refers to God's plan as the "mystery." There are some things we're just not intended to know. Jefferson was right: a Calvinist God doesn't sound like that much of a nice guy, but then again--He's God; He can be whoever he wants.

Tilts: Nice post. I pretty much agree. Predestination is a weird concept, but I could think that because I was predestined to think that ;-)

Grace: That makes sense. But do we have any say at all in whether or not we're butter or clay? Or does God make some of us butter and some of us clay? Always good to hear from you.

Irrational Entity said...

Certainly if such a being exists, God could do whatever God wanted with humanity, yet I find such conceptions fall far short of the "all-loving" description. Borrowing from a theology student I met yesterday, God is (1) all-knowing, (2) all-powerful, (3) all-good. Pick two. Of course any being of such capacity would be by nature a mystery to us, so I think any ideas about God's intent or ability are highly anthropomorphic.

Cynthia said...

Hi, I found your blog after being impressed by one of your comments on another blog. I'm a 39 year old (het) married mother of 3, and a Christian (and a Christian college survivor).

Thinking too long on Calvinism vs. Arminianism still hurts my head (and often soul) to this day. I say this not to discourage you from delving into this theological area, but only to show solidarity. You're having growing pains, and if you persevere through them, you will grow. Much strength and peace to you.

I like to imagine there's a middle-ground between the two theological points of view, where most of us probably live in reality (even many who strongly identify as either Calvinist or Arminian). That middle-ground is full of bumpy places where it's difficult to get a foothold. As we struggle to understand our God, who is eternal, sovereign, perfectly just, omnipotent, and omniscient, we often stumble. The place where I see the most steady Christians stand (Calvinism vs. Arminianism aside)--the place where the rock is smooth--is where we can see all the above-listed aspects of God, in context of his perfect Goodness, his Love, his mercy and his grace.

At the end of the day, our (for now) finite, weak, ignorant selves cannot fully comprehend absolute sovereignty, or what 'eternal' even really means, and we fall back on thinkers like Calvin and Wesley to explain it to us, but they are limited, too. They're as finite (for now), and weak as we are, no more sovereign than we, and no less susceptible to blind spots.

So, what do we have, then? Well, we have given and received love, and have benefitted from (and, hopefully, blessed others with) grace, and have been rescued out of mercy, by our fellow, imperfect humans. These are things we know (at least in part) just from our everyday interactions and we recognize their goodness, when we see it.

As you investigate your theological questions, and any others that compel you, throughout your life, keep your eyes on the cross. The one who suffered and died on it, the one whom death could not hold -- that one is our best and only chance of understanding God. Anything Calvin, Wesley, Lewis, Sturgeon, Edwards, Luther, Benedict XVI, Graham, Origen, Aquinas, Moody, Augustine, or St. Paul (or Haggard, or I) have ever said, anything that has been of any worth, points back to Christ (and him crucified).

You stated, "Plus, Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the homosexual persuasion."

I'm abruptly switching course here, from encouragement to...well, to I don't know. I just wanted to let you know I laughed and laughed and laughed when I read the above. I laughed at myself, because I see so much of myself in that statement. I'm not heterosexual, but I have plenty of my own struggles, ones so regular and predicatable that God must get bored to tears when I confess my sins. When I first read yoru statement, I spent minutes making it into an ad-lib for Christians:

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the prideful persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the hypocritical persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the idolatrous persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the blasphemous persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the adulterous persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the tempermental persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the gossipy persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the judgmental persuasion.

Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the lazy persuasion.


You get the picture. I think I finally settled on 'human' to fill in my own blank. Of coure, I then realized I could swap 'The Gospel' in for 'Calvinism', because I'm so full of flaws, it doesn't take a Calvinist to convict me of how much I need my savior, nor how uncomfortable that conviction is to acknowledge, sometimes. It just takes looking at myself in the mirror, and letting go of the mask for one, brief moment.

Again, peace and strength to you as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Jay said...

Hey Cynthia! It's good to have you here. Thank you for your reply. It was eloquent, thoughtful, and I really enjoyed it. You, plus another blogger, have really helped put this in perspective for me. Bottom line, both a Calvinist and a Wesleyan rejoice when a sinner comes to Christ. So what's the big deal, right?

Glad I added some humor to your day. I really didn't mean that line the way it came out. I suppose what I meant to say was that there are several fundamentalist Christians (don't know if they're Calvinist or not, but it seems likely) who take a literal interpretation of Romans 1 and seem to believe that gay people are the way they are because God is punishing them (i.e. giving them over to a reprobate mind, etc.) Obviously, I disagree.

But yeah, "The Gospel doesn't sit well for those of us of the human persuasion" is definitely true. Thanks for pointing that out for me. Have a nice day, and come back sometimes!

P.S. In paragraph seven you meant to say "I'm not homosexual", right?

Jimmy Gatt said...

Dear Jay,

You bring up some interesting points, and it is bound to lead to a crisis of faith for any Christian who examines the Bible with a critical mind.

God is described as doing particuarly horrible things, such as commanding the murder of children and infants (1 Sam 15:3) and commanding that pregnant women be torn apart (Hos 13:16), which I find inconsistent with a god that is described as love (1 Jn 4:16), and both merciful and forgiving (Dan 9:9).

Christians insist that we have free will, even though you have yourself discovered places where God usurped individual's free will. The worst case of this was in Ex 10:27, where God hardened Pharoah's heart. The result of God's choosing to harden Pharoah's heart was that the angel of death killed every firstborn male child in Egypt. I find this inconsistent with the notion of free will.

The problem that you've encountered is that your religion teaches you that your god is loving, merciful, and forgiving, and that humans have free will, and these notions are not supported by scripture. This is because your religion does not come solely from scripture. It comes from your culture as well, and the people in your culture have chosen to define their god and their truth as they want those things to be. Scripture is used to support those definitions, and you can find verses to support those things as well. Does scripture contradict itself? Of course it does. But that's nothing that a little "interpretation" can't handle, and most Christians who have chosen to examine scripture critically become quite adept at "interpretation" because the cost of giving up your faith in inspired (or even "inerrant") scripture is far, far, far too high -- and I'm *not* talking about "going to hell". I should know: I am an ex-Christian, and I don't suggest that you follow my path. It was very painful for me.

I think the only thing that bothers me about the reinterpretation of God's character is that many Christians insist that being gay is wrong, and they use the Bible to support that. If the verses which support God being vengeful, cruel, malicious, and manipulative can be ignored, then why can't the verses about homosexuality also be ignored? The answer is because there is a long-standing animus against gay people in the Christian religion. It, too, does not necessarily come from scripture. It comes from our culture, and the Bible is used to support it.

I wish you peace of mind and happiness.

Jimmy Gatt said...

One correction: It was actually God, not the angel of death, that killed every firstborn male child in Egypt (Ex 12:29). I think I was influenced by that movie -- was it "The Ten Commandments"?

Cynthia said...

Oh, dear, Freud's having a field day.

Yes, I meant to write, "I am not homosexual." If I can edit (or delete and repost that comment) I will.

I first wrote "I am not homosexual." Then I decided that I'd prefer to define myself as something (as in 'I am heterosexual') rather than as not-something, but apparently, I forgot to take out the 'not'. I think I need an editor, as I also meant to type "Mad-Libs" earlier, rather than "ad-libs." Thanks for calling it to my attention, Jay.

You said, Glad I added some humor to your day. I really didn't mean that line the way it came out. I suppose what I meant to say was that there are several fundamentalist Christians (don't know if they're Calvinist or not, but it seems likely) who take a literal interpretation of Romans 1 and seem to believe that gay people are the way they are because God is punishing them (i.e. giving them over to a reprobate mind, etc.) Obviously, I disagree.

I did get your serious point as well, and I think I largely agree with it. I just laughed because no matter how I look at it, whether I see it as "God made me ____________," or as "As a result of the fall (which God allowed), I am _______________," or "God is testing me with _______________," or "Is God punishing me for ________ with ____________," or, "God can use _________________ if I give it to him," I am so sunk, until I remember God is my savior, my refuge and my strength (which is so much easier to remember on paper, than in practice.)

While I'm rambling, I'll mention that I think I buried my lead in my first comment, so I'd like to restate it.

When I'm studying theology (which is an important aspect of a mature faith), and happen upon a difficult idea that is having a negative impact upon my faith, I do better if I put it aside for a time, and concentrate on God. It's more important to learn about God than to learn about the study of God.

Think of the apostles, and the times their primary reaction to one of Jesus' teachings was, "That's a hard teaching."

Now, think of what they did about it--they kept on following him, just the same.

Sometimes, a theological concept is going to be difficult for you, because it is sophisticated--nuanced. But a lot of times, you're going to struggle because something is wrong-headed: either the concept (in part or whole), or you.

When you're studying something in any depth, it can be hard to discern the right head from the wrong one. This is a challenge I've struggled with my whole adult life (and still do). Let Jesus be your filter for theology, and it will go better for you, than if you take a theological stance and try to filter Jesus through it.

I expect I will be back. And someday, maybe I'll even update my woefully neglected blog with some content. Take care, Jay.

jerubaal said...

"It really does seem like the Bible presents more evidence for a Calvinist theology than an Arminian one."

Which is exactly why I became a Calvinist five years ago.

From Romans 8:

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He FOREKNEW, He also PREDESTINED to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
8:30 Moreover whom He PREDESTINED, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

The consequence of being chosen by God before the worlds were made is that He loved you before anything ever was and has designed everything to manifest His love for you and to bring you to love Him.

Here's one possible reason for it in Luke 7:

"36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among [8] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”"

From this alone we can infer that God has willed that some should love Him very greatly, and from His own logic we see that those are the ones who would offend Him greatly first.

Soli Deo Gloria

jerubaal said...

Jay

If you ever arrive at the place where you accept Calvinist doctrines, you will see that they fit together like stones in a building. They compress towards each other. They fit together. Each one of them necessitates the others, so if you accept one of them you arrive at all of them. I'm paraphrasing Charles Spurgeon "The Prince of Preachers" on this, but it's true.

I'm writing this in response to this that you wrote:

"That's the thing I've come to notice about myself. Any rational, persuasive argument usually has the ability to get me second-guessing myself. I don't want to be a flip-flopper, but I need to find my convictions."

I spent most of my life Arminian and I can tell you that I have never had greater theological strength in my convictions than I have in the Calvinist view of scripture. It is so persuasive, and it so powerfully engages the mind, that when my whole family heard it preached to us, we all believed it. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind about the smallest point of Calvinism, and I would have you enjoy the same strength of heart in these matters. Don't give up on Calvinism too soon.

Ask yourself, which view of the Bible - the Calvinist or Arminian - explains the meaning of the scriptures best? One of them is better and more consistent than the other.

Soli Deo Gloria

jerubaal said...

Alright, I'll say something more.

I do not think it possible that if God loved me with what must be unimaginable divine love, that He could ever condemn me to hell. The Arminians think He loves everyone and yet condemns some of those He loves to hell.

Human love couldn't be so cold, much less God's.

Everyone God loves WILL go to heaven to be in the seat of His undiluted love for eternity. If any human who was ever created had even a chance of going to hell, then prescient and omniscient God could not ever have loved them. Love casts out fear, as the good book says.

That's another consequence of Calvinism. God will surely save everyone He loves. When we get to heaven, every seat is going to be filled. If anyone He loved could go to hell, then we should say, as some Arminians have blasphemously said:

"POOR GOD!!! POOR GOD!!!"

He wants to save us, but He can't?????

NO!!! Tear your clothes! Blasphemy!

God gets everything He wants in the end, this I promise.

Soli Deo Gloria

tilts_at_windmills said...

Interesting take, Jerubaal. You seem to be suggesting that God only loves some human souls, and not others. But why would God bother to create people He takes no interest in, or even actively hates, just so he can send them to Hell? It seems cruel to allow them to be born at all if no matter what they do, they'll always be cut off from God, and unjust to punish them for something which by definition they can't control.

Or are you saying that because God loves everyone, everyone will be saved?

Anonymous said...

Birdman here.

Since by your admission you are in Exodus in your reading I assume that you have read through Genesis. Therefore, you know that on the sixth day God created man and said "It is very God". God has only the best intentions for us and didnot create sin within us. What He did give us was free will to choose His way or our way.

Enter the serpent who enticed the woman who in turn enticed the man to violate God's command forbidding us to eat of the fruit. That violation of God's command is the sin.

Calvinism starts from the point of view that God created sin; that we are what we are by His creation; that some of us are pre-destined to Hell and nothing we can do will prevent it.

I believe that God created first man perfectly; that Adam willfully sinned; that salvation is available to all men/women by turning from their own will and doing God's/Jesus' will. It is a continuous effort on our part.

He condemns us to Hell only because of our willful sin against Him.

This is the short version.

Jay said...

Hey Jerubaal! In true Townhall fashion you've posted a lot! Your posts are excellent, even if I don't agree with all of your points. I'm a little overwhelmed right now, so I might save the rest of this debate for a "Calvinist vs. Wesleyan, Part II" post.

Thanks to everyone who's contributed (and welcome, Birdman!). I'm probably no less confused now than I was before, but hey, I'm only 18. :-) No one said I had to have everything figured out right now. Heck, no one said I had to have everything figured out, ever.

Since this is an open forum, I'll let you all talk amongst yourselves about this if you'd like. I'll probably post something tomorrow (but it might not necessarily be about this).

Have a good day, everyone, and God bless.

Anonymous said...

tilt,

Jerubaal is saying that God loves some of us, and doesn't love others (Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (Ro 9:13)). While this looks harsh to us, it works according to God's purpose and glory in the grand scheme of things. Man does not set the standard for God, it's the other way around.

Birdman,

Not quite right. God gave man free will that was constrained within the covenant of works he made with Adam at his creation (do not eat of the fruit of the tree...). Adam chose to become a law unto himself and eat of the fruit. He thus enslaved man's free will to sin, unless they repent and trust in Christ. Adam's sin enslaves man's free will. It is only through the Spirit's regeneration of the sinner that man's free will is released.

-Walt

Irrational Entity said...

A problem with perfect humans and the fall is reconciling this account with our evolutionary origins. I think the concept should be understood as humanity's developing a different sense of right and wrong relative to our more instinctive past rather than humanity leaving a world that was without disease, suffering, and death. I do not think this shift solves the Calvinism-Arminian divide, as God could predetermine everything behind the scenes.

Jay said...

Walt: Okay, I said I wouldn't comment, but the concept that God loves some humans and doesn't love others is just so foreign to me that it can't go without addressing. Tell the vast majorityt of Christians (be them Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) that God creates people and doesn't love them, and they won't believe you for a second. We are commanded to love our fellow man as ourselves. Why would God command us to do something that even He doesn't do?

Jay said...

Ahem, that's majority

jerubaal said...

tills, you raised an excellent question, one that the Bible expressly deals with.

You noted:

"But why would God bother to create people He takes no interest in, or even actively hates, just so he can send them to Hell? It seems cruel to allow them to be born at all if no matter what they do, they'll always be cut off from God, and unjust to punish them for something which by definition they can't control."

He doesn't take no interest in them, as you will see from Romans 9:

""And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of ELECTION might continue, not because of works but because of his call— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”"

Here we see that God intended to love Jacob and hate Esau before they were created.

Paul elaborates the point here, also showing that in God's divine justice He owes mercy to no one, because at the time He gave the law He stated to whom His compassion would flow:

"14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, [2] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."

Next, Paul deals with the objection pertaining to free will:

"19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?"

This scripture dramatically flips our objections on their head. We object that God finds fault in us for things we were always inevitabtly intended to do. But Paul turns that objection upside-down by saying God has all right to do what He pleases with us, and that we have no right to object. We're dust - we're clay. We are a formed thing, our purpose coming from He who formed us.

The next verses deal with the objection that God has no interest in some of us, or that He is just plain cruel:

"22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"

God has taken interest in those whom He is determined to punish for their sins - to manifest His justice and wrath against wickedness, and also to manifest mercy on those who would be saved from it.

Calvinists do not believe that God created sin; however, we do believe it was an inevitable consequence of the free will and circumstances He placed in His creatures. It is the free-will part that cuts off God's responsibility. And what is free will? A being choosing what pleases it. In sinning, man and fallen angels have gone after their own pleasures in defiance of God's law for them. It is choice that brings condemnation.

Every time anyone sinned they chose to sin. God did not make Adam eat the fruit - Adam clearly chose to do so. But God knew that Adam would choose it and intended it to happen. Otherwise, He could have put the serpent on any other of trillions upon trillions of worlds He has made.

From eternity God has purposed in Himself that every attribute of His divine nature would be manifested and made known to an image of Himself. Mercy and justice, love and wrath, beauty and power, majesty and lowliness, in infinite measure forever. This required, as we know from the scripture, that man fall from perfection and that some of them be redeemed, others punished.

We also know from the scriptures that the people who He would save were PREDESTINED, ELECTED, and FOREKNOWN. Those words are not of Calvinist origin - they are the Bible's. The same also applies to the damned.

It's tough to believe, even though it's plainly stated. "Who has believed our report?"

Soli Deo Gloria

jerubaal said...

Jay,

You're wrong about the Lutherans. Also, the protestants of the reformation all agreed with me. That's why this belief is called Reformed Christianity or Reformed doctrine. It was not until Jacob Arminius that there was any real dissent from these doctrines.

The command is to love your neighbor as yourself. Who is God's neighbor? And if that answer doesn't satisfy you, remember that God said, "Esau I have hated". You either must absolve God of being under that law with respect to all humans, or you must think He is a confessed lawbreaker. I think my interpretation is the more consistent.

If God has any neighbors, it is Himself, and Calvinists love and take comfort in the awesome and unimaginable degree to which God loves Himself.

jerubaal said...

Also, Jay, you're argument, "why would God command us to do something that even He doesn't do?", while appealing, may be even weaker than I first thought. The Bible commands, "thou shalt not kill", as we all know.

But God kills all the time! As Jesus said, "do not fear man, who can destroy the body, and after that can do nothing, but rather fear God who, after He has killed, has power to destroy both body and soul in hell."

jerubaal said...

Oh yeah, forgot to add.

If God loves the people suffering His pure and eternal vengeance in Hell, what kind of love is that? It's not love - it's hatred. Do you think God changes from being a lover of one to being a hater? I thought "love never fails" and "I AM the LORD - I do not change".

Jay said...

I don't know much about Lutherans. What I meant to say was that there would be far, far less Christians if they all had to believe in Calvinism.

I have to ask...what is your belief about Hell? Do you think it is eternal torment and suffering, or do you think it is a second death/annihilation? To me, both pretty much suck, especially if Calvinism is true. But eternal torment is even worse. After all, why would God punish something for doing what he had predestined it to do? In your opinion, do those that God hates even have a sense of self? Do they feel? I'm sorry, but the Calvinist God seems to be the utlimate sadist. It goes against everything that I've always considered good.

Heaven won't be heaven if people I loved in life won't be there. If they made the choice to reject God themselves, then I'll live with it. But if God predestined them for Hell, how could I love such a God? That may sound blasphemous to you, but it's how I feel and I won't be anything but honest about it.

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I think Jerubaal and I are on the same page. REgarding "Thou Shalt not kill," our relationship to our neighbors is different than our relationship with God. All man is under the same curse, and therefore those of us who have been saved should love our neighbors out of empathy for those in a common state. We humans are born offending God because of Adam's sin (1 Co 15:21-22). We are born with God as our judge (the natural state). God hates sin, therefore God can hate us.

The majority of Christians in the Western church do not believe this. However, this is Biblical Christianity. Just because beliefs are popular does not make them true. When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal in Israel (1 Kings 19), he was in the extreme minority. However, he was on the side of truth, even though it was unpopular.

Regarding my beliefs about Hell, it is a place of eternal suffering and torment (Mark 9:48). To man, the Calvinist God appears like a sadist. But really, we all deserve hell. We owe an enormous debt because of our offense to God. God can not change his standards. But, thanks be to God, we have Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26). Therefore God is just, but he is also merciful and loving.
-Walt

jerubaal said...

It doesn't sound like blasphemy Jay. I love questioning and wrestling with these issues - it's totally Christian to do so. Honesty is all that's required, and it's one of your most endearing traits.

I believe Hell is eternal torment and not annhiliation. "their worm does not die" is the scripture on point there. I think that when you anger God, who exists outside of time, His anger is expressed of necessity forever.

"why would God punish something for doing what he had predestined it to do?" - that's the exact question Paul dealt with in Romans 9. His answer was "what if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory". He did this 1) to show His wrath, 2) to make His power known, and 3) to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy.

The text also says "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction". I don't see how it is possible, if you come to terms with that verse, to believe that there aren't people prepared specifically for destruction. And the same language goes for people "prepared beforehand for glory".

Also, I don't see why a Calvinist hell is worse. In the Arminian hell, people burn forever even though God loves them. That, to me, has to be twice as bitter and very unjust.

"But if God predestined them for Hell, how could I love such a God?"

Because He loves you, and infinitely so, so much so that He never took a gamble that you would be lost by your own choosing, but instead ensured, from the very fabric of reality from the time of the first morning, to His own Spirit living within you, that you would love Him and choose to be pleasing to Him.

You also said this, which I totally agree with: "If they made the choice to reject God themselves, then I'll live with it."

Me too. I would have problems with a God who condemns those who believe in His salvation and from it choose to be pleasing to Him, being condemned to eternal fire.

Everyone who goes to hell has rejected God's salvation. Calvinists and Arminians have no dispute with that. The difference is that Calvinists believe that God has predestined and elected that some would repent and be saved and that others would not. But they all do this by choosing what pleases their heart.

Calvinists understand that the human will always does what the human heart pleases. The only way a human will will choose to try to be pleasing to God is if God gives them a new heart with new pleasures that honor God, because the heart of fallen man despises God and cannot choose to please Him, because it does not find pleasure in it, nor does it hate sin.

The old heart loves sin, is self-seeking first and foremost, and does not take pleasure in doing God's will. It sees beauty in gratifying the self and in earthly things.

The new heart that God gives to people is God-serving first and foremost. It cannot take pleasure in sin, but is downcast, depressed, overthrown by it. The thought of grieving God hurts it like heartbreak. It takes pleasure in being pleasing to God - indeed it loves God. It sees beauty above all other things in God. Such a heart will choose to please Him where the old heart could not.

Predestination means that we Christians were predestined to be given a new heart by God, out of which flows the will to please Him.

Those who were not predestined retain their fallen hearts, out of which flows the will to please the self.

Therefore each group chooses to accept or reject God and they do so freely, because they are doing exactly what they wish in their hearts.

A will that does other than what pleases it is not free.

Therefore God is just, because He only condemns people because of their own free choices.

Jay said...

Therefore God is just, because He only condemns people because of their own free choices.

But, you just said that we don't have any choice when it comes to what heart we were given. And if our heart is in charge of our choices, not choosing our heart would mean that we don't choose our choices. Therefore, none of us have free choices according to you.

This conversation is overwhelming me, and it's hurting my head (and my soul). Go easy on me, Jerubaal.

Irrational Entity said...

Perhaps a video game would help develop an example. We could program an environment with specific rules then populate the area with characters. Each one would operate according to their programming even if we did not directly control their every move. We would pick some to be intrinsically kind while others would be intrinsically cruel, and then rewards or punishments can be met out for each individual character’s behavior.

In other words humans have limited free will, but we cannot choose God. God has to choose us. Humans are not free to change their own hearts. I am not a Christian, but I can decide to be kind or cruel. However being kind is not enough to save my sorry sinner self from hell. Unlike my programmed environment, faith is a required fruit of the spirit.

Calvinism does make God out to be rather cruel in human eyes. I think the entire edifice is based on incorrect premises, yet the belief system is rather self-consistent if you accept the assumptions involved.

jerubaal said...

Sorry Jay, I'm not trying to be overwhelming, and I know it's deep stuff.

Correct, we don't have a choice what heart we are given. You cannot choose what your pleasures will be... I thought that you of all people knew this.

But just because you cannot choose what your pleasures will be does not mean that you are not free when you do as you please. Doing as you please IS free will.

Who chooses what pleases them, to change their pleasures from one thing to something else? The heart doesn't work that way. Even Alcoholics Anonymous knows you have to acknowledge you are powerless to do so and ask God to change you.

Jay said...

I understand that we can't choose what our pleasures are (oh, believe me, I do! ;-) If that's all you meant, then we're in agreement.

What I thought you were saying (and basically what I understand about Calvinism), was that some people are born with the capacity to love Christ, yet are still free to accept Him or reject Him, and will be rewarded or punished appropriately. And others are born without the capacity to love Christ, and therefore they're simply punished. It's the second part I'm uncomfortable with, and that won't change overnight.

(Oh, I'm hungry. And I need a shower. I'll catch you later, man... :-)

jerubaal said...

There is an alternative understanding of free will that I think you are touching here, Jay. Hypothetically, free will could be that we choose not only that which pleases us, but also we choose what our pleasures will be. This is self-refuting though, I hope you will see.

Choosing what our pleasures will be (assuming we can) is a choice. For that choice to be free, it must be according to the pleasures we already have.

Track back along all the chain of choice through your entire life to the first choice that you ever made. This had to be governed by pleasures that you never chose to have. Otherwise, your choice to have those pleasures would actually be your first choice, and it would have been made because of pleasures that were already in you without your choosing. Those initial pleasures that you did not choose to have therefore flow through the entire chain of choosing and determine all your pleasures and choices forever.

Thus, this definition of free will - the choosing what pleases you and the choice to own those pleasures - is self refuting, because the initial pleasure cannot have been freely chosen.

If there is free will at all, it must be only in choosing according to the pleasures in your heart, because this does not refute itself. Whatever the source of my pleasures, I always follow them.

M. said...

I am really enjoying this conversation, but I can understand why it is bruising your soul, Jay. But hang in there; this is good.

I do have two questions for your erudite commenters, and please take it sincerely. And please excuse the lay language; I'm not a theologian.

1. If we are predestined, why was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ necessary?

2. Not being familiar with either school of thought, I am wondering why this can't be summed up by saying, since God knew that free will would result in sin and knew who would love him and who would not, isn't it a matter of God simply choosing to love only those whom he presciently knew - before the world was created - would love him?

I'm wondering why Jesus would have asked his apostles to go and witness to nations if God the Father, in his omniscience, knew which humans he loved and which were destined for Hell.

Also, where can I go to read a good discussion on eternal hell vs. annihilation?

Thanks, Jay, for starting this post. I hope your head and heart and soul heal soon, sweetheart.

M.

Amanda said...

Jay: I hope you don't mind if I join the discussion.

Jerubaal:

But just because you cannot choose what your pleasures will be does not mean that you are not free when you do as you please. Doing as you please IS free will.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but your views seem inconsistent. First you say that God chooses who will be saved and who will be condemned. Then you say that we choose God or reject God. Then you say that God gives us the heart that makes us choose God or reject God. Which is it? Obviously you think God's pulling all the strings, but you haven't identified that consistently in your arguments here.

How is doing as you please free will if God dictated what you please? (Did that question just make sense?)

Even Alcoholics Anonymous knows you have to acknowledge you are powerless to do so and ask God to change you.

How can asking God to change you do any good if God has already predetermined that you are condemned?

Anonymous said...

m.

It was absolutely necessary for God to intervene in history to save us from our sins, as he promised to do in Gen 3:15 just after Adam sinned. God could not just simply forget about the sins of those he chose to save - he had to pour out his wrath for our sins on his own Son, to satisfy His justice. However, within the triune Godhead, the Son agreed with the Father and the Spirit to work out salvation for man. This is known as the covenant of redemption (Is 59:16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.) Romans 3:21-26 is also again useful here.

In answer to your second question, yes. He chose us (believers) before the foundations of the world, before time began. Remember that time is just a part of the creation.

walt

jerubaal said...

Jay, eat and clean yourself up man. Otherwise you'll starve to death in a puddle of your own filth! ;D

Newayz, back to your questions.

Calvinists don't believe that any human is born with the heart that is able to choose to please God. In other words, original sin. To quote Romans 3:9-18:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Calvinists think everyone sucks and is born that way. Those who God chose to save are called the elect. Alone they cannot choose God or even really want to be saved or have faith - before they are saved the only difference between them and those predestined to hell is God's intention to save them; everything else is the same. The Holy Spirit must regenerate them (literally, give them new life). This means giving them a heart transplant, so that they love God and find Him pleasing, and also infusing them with a new ability to understand His words and believe them, and to see His beauty that is hidden from the world, causing them to love Him more.

The elect (people God chose to save before He made anything) are free to honor God. I don't say accept or reject much, because I think the accepting and rejecting is what God did in choosing some and not others to be saved. What the saved are free to do is good works that please God, to love and fear and honor and trust and enjoy Him (all of which is the meaning of worship). (And Ephesians 2:10 tells us that the good works are also predestined to occur as a gift from God to us: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.")

I don't think that God's chosen people are free to reject Him permanently. We know that Peter denied Christ repeatedly, but since he was one of God's chosen people, his eventual salvation was certain, so no matter what, he would be saved. God controlled everything such that Peter did not ultimately or permanently reject Christ. Calvinists believe that God ensures the salvation of all His chosen people such that, as Jesus said in John 10, "28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, [1] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

There are three proofs that ultimately, the saved are not free to reject Christ.

1) "No one" excludes everyone, including the one held in the hand. We are not free to reject Christ permanently if we are saved, God ensures that, and besides, our heart doesn't desire self more than God. The longer our lives go on as saved people, the greater the Godward desire and the lesser the selfward one.

We also are not free to reject Christ permanently if we are saved, because "they will never perish". That's a certainty. That means that ultimately, the saved are not free to reject Christ, because then they would perish.

Finally, the saved are not ultimately free to reject Christ because of the tense of the verb "give" in the phrase "I give them eternal life". It is present tense - not "will give" but "give". That means that the saved already have a life that will never end. If you could lose it, it would end - it was never eternal.

This certainty that God will save everyone He intends to save, and that nothing can rob them of the life that they have because of that, is a comfort to Calvinists. We all go through times when our faith is somewhat weak or God seems distant, but believing this doctrine we are certain that God has not left us nor will He ever forsake us. It is precious to us.

You said, "And others are born without the capacity to love Christ, and therefore they're simply punished. It's the second part I'm uncomfortable with, and that won't change overnight."

Then be twice as uncomfortable, because Calvinists in fact believe that no one since Adam and Eve has ever been born (other than Jesus) with the capacity to love Christ. Exceptions are divine interventions called salvation and result in the capacity to love Christ.

God chose before the worlds were made whom He would save, as a result, none of those ever had ultimate freedom to reject Christ.

....

As you can see, I can go on forever about this.

Anonymous said...

Jay -

You mentioned that you found a book comparing Calvinism with Arminianism. Take your time read the book with a Bible handy. compare the verses both use to make their arguments. It will take time - more time than we here can devote to it in one day. Make up your own mind.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour at the age of 32. I am now 61 and have been reading the Book for 29 years and I have to say that I still am learning every day. I have attended churches of both sides and I disagree in part of both sides.

If you want to ask me any questions, send me an e-mail: grebirdman@aol.com

I commend you for your beginning and I pray that you keep up going. At 18 I was not nearly as mature as you are now. God Bless you.

Birdman

Jay said...

As you can see, I can go on forever about this.

Indeed you can... ;-)

I think I'm going to follow Cynthia's advice on this. If you want to read a post that I've had no problem with at all, read her first comment here.

Basically, would it be too much if I asked all the readers for no more comments tonight? I need some time just to reflect on the Lord, my own beliefs, and my own life. Just me, my Bible, and God. This whole theology thing is turning out to be very emotionally taxing, and I really don't know why. I do know that I just need some quiet time, so please respect that right now.

I hope everyone has a good night. We'll resurrect this in the near future, trust me, but I need a break for now.

If you really want me to hear your opinion, or have something you want to tell me, then just e-mail me. Good night, and God Bless.

Jay

jerubaal said...

m, thank you for questions. Theology is a struggle for everyone; no theologian has all the answers, which is why we all have to read the Bible and search it and pray alot. And I'm not a theologian either; I've just been blessed with three very awesome preachers. The two I have now totally rock: pics of Justin and Duane: http://www.sdreader.com/published/2005-06-23/sheep-1.jpg
The church website: http://www.theresolved.com

Anyway, onto the good points you brought up.

1. "If we are predestined, why was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ necessary?"

God's wrath, a result of divine justice, burns against sinners forever. This requires a penalty to be paid for every sin. Eternity in hell on the soul of each finite sinner suffices. The only other payment that will appease divine wrath and satisfy divine justice is the death of the infinite and divine Son of God on behalf of an unlimited number of sinners.

Predestination of sinners to salvation is impossible without appeasing God's wrath and satisfying His justice. As it is written, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins".

God could have divinely protected a group of souls from ever sinning, and for them there would be no sacrifice required. He did not do this for humans, however.

2. "Not being familiar with either school of thought, I am wondering why this can't be summed up by saying, since God knew that free will would result in sin and knew who would love him and who would not, isn't it a matter of God simply choosing to love only those whom he presciently knew - before the world was created - would love him?"

It's a pretty good summary, actually, but it misses one very important piece of information. Left alone, no one would love Him. So He not only foresaw some people loving Him, but He also caused them to do so. This is more than mere foresight or prescience - it's a plan.

"I'm wondering why Jesus would have asked his apostles to go and witness to nations if God the Father, in his omniscience, knew which humans he loved and which were destined for Hell."

There are probably many reasons in the divine mind for doing it this way. First of all, there are many people who are saved, and they are mixed in with the unsaved, so as a practical matter, witnessing to everyone is more efficient. Also, for reasons that might be pretty apparent, God hasn't told us who the predestined are - if He did this, who knows, we might get lazy and not "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling". God doesn't appoint the ends, but also the means that His will is to be accomplished. In addition, I've heard it preached, but haven't seen the biblical support, that hearing the word of God restrains sinfulness even in the unelect, which benefits mankind. So it could be a blessing for Christians to preach to everyone.

"I hope your head and heart and soul heal soon, sweetheart."

Thanks for loving on Jay, M. I hope the same.

__________________________________


Now Amanda, thank you for really good points.

"First you say that God chooses who will be saved and who will be condemned. Then you say that we choose God or reject God. Then you say that God gives us the heart that makes us choose God or reject God. Which is it? Obviously you think God's pulling all the strings, but you haven't identified that consistently in your arguments here."

I have issues with the "choosing God" and "rejecting God" - I think it's more a matter of choosing to honor God and to try to be pleasing to Him; I tend to think of God as being the One who chooses or rejects us. But in either case, there are willful actions we make or refuse to make towards God, and let's call those what you called them, "choosing God" and "rejecting God".

Given the above, your question states my claim that

1) We choose or reject God (I really don't like that language, but let's go with it).

2) God gives us the heart that makes us choose or reject Him.

3) God chooses who will be saved and who will be condemned.

I don't think these are inconsistent, but I can see how they look that way. In that case, it's a paradox, and here's the solution:

God chooses to save some people
by giving them a heart
that is pleased to choose Him.

God chooses to condemn some people
by leaving them with their own heart
that is pleased to reject Him.

I say the will is free when it does what pleases the heart. Therefore God's predestination interferes with the heart of those chosen for salvation, but He never interferes with the will of anyone to do as they please.

Next you brought up this point:

How is doing as you please free will if God dictated what you please? (Did that question just make sense?)

The question makes perfect sense. The choices are still free because they are want you want. I think freedom is doing what you want. Now, if God gave you the wants, that doesn't interfere with your ability to choose what you want, it just changes what you want.

If free will means not only choosing that which pleases you, but also not having any pleasures within you other than those that you chose to have, then that meaning of free will is self-refuting and cannot be true. Here's why: somewhere in your history you made your first choice. That choice, if it was free, had to be according to the pleasure of your heart. But in the case of your first choice - even if it was a choice to have certain pleasures later - had to be according to pleasures that you already had, and this being your first choice, they were not chosen by you. So if free will means not being governed by pleasures you never chose to have, then there is no free will, because those initials pleasures that determined your first choice will effect and control all your subsequent pleasures and the decisions that flow out of them.

If will if considered free, it can only mean that you choose what pleases you, because this definition makes sense (freedom is doing as you please) and does not refute itself.

"How can asking God to change you do any good if God has already predetermined that you are condemned?"

The instant answer is that it wouldn't do any good, as Hebrews 12:17 says of Esau, who God hated by the way, "but no place was found for him in repentance, though he sought it diligently and with tears".

However, I'm inclined to believe that the fact that you are aware of your sinfulness and asking God to save you is good evidence that you might be predestined for salvation. Other evidence, and this is straight from the Bible, is that you love God, you love God's people, you mourn over your sin, and you experience repentance and sanctification and good works, persevering until the end. The persevering until the end part is the only evidence that cannot be faked by an unelect individual, and so the longer you live in the faith, loving God and His people with good works and repentence, the stronger your assurance of being saved becomes. This is what Paul called, "running the race" - not to become saved, but to be assured in your mind that you are already saved. The theological term of art for this is "assurance" and naturally appears in the New Testament concerning this very topic.

I hope that gave you some food for thought and maybe even answered your questions, Amanda. Thank you for them.

____________________________

Walt, I tend to agree with you that time is just a part of creation, although I've also heard it described as an effect radiating from the nature of God Himself. Since space and time are the same thing according to general relativity, I tend toward your view. I think that time is part of creation; God is outside it. Which means that to Him, all time and space from the beginning to the end exists as one moment and are plain before His sight. I think He is omnipresent in space and time.

jerubaal said...

Sorry Jay, it took me a very long time to respond to all the points everybody made, so I didn't refresh and see your request until just now.

God bless you all. Thanks for the discussion Jay.

jerubaal said...

Jay

I think I was a little too undiscriminating in my explanation of God's love for the people who eventually go to hell. He does have a love for the lost, but it's not a saving love.

Jake

Anonymous said...

Jay.
There are plenty of bible passages that talk about as though Free Will is assumed. Also, passages used by Calvinists usually have another explanation when you look at them in context.

But lets first go back to the basics. Take John 3:16.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

A Calvinist might argue that the "whoever" believes will be saved is true, but only those that God Elects will believe. But Calvinists have trouble explaining away "For God so loved the world". It doesn't say "For God so loved the Elect".

Also, it is a faulty argument to say that this love isn't a saving love. Why? Because the act of love was in sending his Son Jesus. So in other words, Jesus death was intended for the WORLD.

I'll use an illustration to help show that following the Calvinistic line of thought, God does not love the reprobate (which are part of the world):
There is a man called Joe. He wishes to show his love to the poor. So he sells his house and gives his money to the poor (keeping in mind that if the poor chose to, they could reject the money).

Joe Showing love according to the Calvinist:
Joe Sells his house. Holds out the money in front of the poor. Lights a match, and burns the money.

(Some Calvinists also incorrectly try to say that the word 'world' only refers to the elect).

I hope this helps

-Dan

Jay said...

Hey Dan!

Welcome to the blog. I don't mean this to be disrespectful, but my religious tradition has already shifted to Calvinism (as evidenced in the post "Didn't See This One Coming").

It's still a new and developing Calvinism, but I find it to be more logically consistent than any other tradition of faith I've come across (which is not to say that I think Calvinists are inherently better Christians than any other denomination).

I also had a problem with John 3:16 and its implications, but I actually managed to get around those without using the "standard Calvinist" arguments you mentioned. Here's a good post from one of my favorite blogs that pretty much sums up my views on the matter.

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/09/god-so-loved-world.html

Thanks! And I hope you stop by again!

Anonymous said...

Jay,

I am familiar with the site you posted. But I think my last post did show the problems with the arguments used there. Note that John 3 does not distinguish between "types of love", but does say that God's love is shown (to the world) by giving us His son Jesus. This stands in direct oposition to limitied atonement.

Having said that, I'm sure we can respectfully disagree. I am a former Calvinist, and struggled leaving Calvinism, especially in the face of passages that, at the time, I could not explain away. (Eg Eph 1, Rom 8, Rom 9, Acts 13:48 etc.) It has taken much time for me to develope my own understanding of Salvation and election, and I am still refining it. It seems that you are a person who doesn't accept things at face value, so I pray that you will continue to look into both sides (as do I). If you still interested in learning about the system of Arminianism, I encourage you to check out our site at
http://www.evangelicalarminians.org/
Blessings

-Dan.

naturgesetz said...

Jay,

Having just found your blog, and following your instruction to look at the important ones you listed, I find myself here. I don't even have time to read all the previous comments. But to your basic issue, it seems to me that both sides have to "explain away" certain verses the other side bases their position on. To me, a very important one is 1 Timothy 2:4. No doubt the Calvinists have an answer for it, but the Calvinist pastor with whom I am in occasional dialogue has yet to convince me that it does not refute the Calvinist take on predestination.

I also think that we have to realize the scripture is the word of God in the words of men. It is impossible for human language to completely express divine truth. But the true word of God is Jesus, and for example, Luke 13:34 shows him as yearning to gather the children of Jerusalem. It is not that God was unwilling, but that they were unwilling. To me it would be absurd to read this as saying that Jesus truly wanted to gather them, but they were unwilling because God had chosen to make them unwilling.

Sorry if I'm plowing old ground, but I wanted to get my two cents' worth in.

But ultimately, "Who has known the mind of the Lord?"

The boy with the green tambourine said...

I was going to read all of this comments thread, but I got bogged down about half way through.

"We must believe in free will. We have no choice."

Did you ever sort out your Calvinist/Armenian problem, Jay? I'd recommend Jonathan Bennett's short essay "The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn", which makes a scathing attack on the character of the theologian Jonathan Edwards.

I am an atheist, but not by desire. I rather wish that a God of some sort existed. But there are some conceptions of the deity which I am absolutely delighted are fictional. Edwards paints God as a monster. And then he praises and worships this monster.

As Bennett says "When God is presented as being as misanthropic as that, one suspects misanthropy in the theologian." Edwards had a remarkably ugly view of human nature, perhaps as bad as that of Tertullian, who wrote that one of the delights of the blessed in heaven was to witness the accursed suffering eternal fire in hell.



***

Related reading: The Moral Life, where I first met Bennett's essay, and God Is Not Great, where I first encountered Tertullian's loathsome depiction of heaven. If anyone deserves hell, it is the mind which came up with that depiction of heaven.

The boy with the green tambourine said...

I don't get Calvinists.

I can respect, to a certain extent, those who say we much love and worship God. And I can respect, to a certain extent, those who say that God is a tyrannical monster. But Calvinists manage to say both in the one breath, and this disturbs me.

I'm a reluctant atheist. I rather wish that there was some sensible reason to believe in a god. Unfortunately, there isn't. But there are some conceptions of the deity which I'm glad are fictional, and the Calvinist God is certainly one of these. I am delighted he doesn't exist. Who would want him?

"The God of hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A god who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved; cursed, not worshipped. A heaven presided over by such a god must be below the meanest hell." Robert G. Ingersoll

TRiG.

naturgesetz said...

I'd be very surprised if "tyrannical monster" is a phrase any Calvinist writer used to describe God. I suspect it is an interpretation (caricature?) that anti-Calvinists use to characterize the Calvinist theology, rather than what the Calvinists themselves say.

That said, we have to realize that if there is a God, which I firmly believe, he is so far beyond our capacity to comprehend, much less describe in our finite words, that anything we say is only a small part of the truth. Furthermore, anything we say is capable of being misunderstood, especially if we think it is definitive.

In other words, Ingersoll is right about the God of hell, but that is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is also the God of the prophets and the God of Jesus.

The boy with the green tambourine said...

Next question: How did I manage to write much when I intended to write must?

Preview is my friend.

TRiG.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jay, I encourage you to read this sermon by John Wesley, titled, "Free Grace". The 2nd page is a strong stance against Calvin's views of predestination. I have to side with Wesley. I will not base my theology on the premise that a "JUST" God predestines some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation. Here is the link:

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/128/

May God bless you.

Mike H

Anonymous said...

Growing up Nazarene (Wesleyan) I alwasy wondered why I didn't "feel" anything until I got saved at age 19 (almost 20). It's because there was nothing for me to feel. God chose me (not the other way around) and revealed Himself on His timing. I am certain of that and little else...