Musings on Calvinism

May 29, 20

A a record of my journey exploring and ruminating on this issue. I strive to present the issues in as simplified a manner, in order to aid understanding. Great thanks especially to Leighton Flowers, Kevin Thompson, William Lane Craig, Tim Stratto, Braxton Hunter, Eric Hernandez, Michael Heiser, and the many posters and commentors on various FB groups whose insights and explanations (from many different viewpoints) have proven invaluable.

I have cleaned up and organized all my posts related to this topic. Click on this to sort for only those posts:

https://scottthong.wordpress.com/category/soteriology/

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The following are the most important ones that have to do with common proof-texts or arguments for Calvinism, as that is the crucial issue in my opinion:

*** 111. ROMANS 9 – SUPERPOST

6. ROMANS 9 – A NON CALVINISTIC INTERPRETATION

15. YOU ACCEPTED THE GOSPEL? SO YOU THINK YOU’RE SAVED BY YOUR WORK?

20. VESSELS OF MERCY/WRATH

22. LIKE OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN VS LIMITED ATONEMENT

28. ROMANS 9 AND OLD TESTAMENT CONTEXT

31. JOHN 6 & DRAW

32. ROMANS 9 & JEREMIAH

36. ROLE-MANS 9

39. HOW WOULD THE ORIGINAL RECIPIENTS OF ROMANS 9 HAVE UNDERSTOOD IT?

43. DOES ACTS 13:48 TEACH UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION?

47. HEBREWS 12:2 AND FAITH NOUN/VERB

64. REGENERATION SO YOU CAN BELIEVE, OR BELIEF SO THAT YOU ARE REGENERATED?

67. WHAT CONTEXT ARE THE OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES CITED IN ROMANS 9?

69. THE PROVISIONIST VIEW OF ROMANS 3:10

71. WHO IS THE INTERLOCUTOR OBJECTING TO GOD’S WAYS IN ROMANS 9?

74. ‘SOTERIOLOGICAL’ PSALMS IN CONTEXT

79. PASSAGES THAT UNDERMINE LIMITED ATONEMENT, GOING FURTHER THAN JUST ‘ALL’

83. BRAD SAAB ON CALVINIST & NON-CALVINIST INTERPRETATION OF EPHESIANS 1

84. EPHESIANS 1 AND PREDESTINATION – TO WHAT?

85. WHO IS PREDESTINED, AND FOR WHAT?

86. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG ON ROMANS 9 & 10, EPHESIAN 2 ‘FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD’

87. FALLACY OF EQUIVOCATION: IS ACCEPTING SALVATION A ‘WORK’?

88. ROMANS 8 – THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF ADOPTION FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ACCEPTED CHRIST (NOT THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF SALVATION FOR THE TOTALLY DEPRAVED WHO ARE UNCONDITIONALLY ELECTED)

90. 1 CORINTHIANS 2:14 – ABOUT UNREGENERATE UNBELIEVERS, OR IMMATURE BELIEVERS?

91. ROMANS 8:29-30 – PAST TENSE OLD TESTAMENT?

94. LIMITED ATONEMENT – LIMITED IN ACCEPTANCE BY CALVINISTS

108. N.T. WRIGHT ON ROMANS 9 & ELECTION TO PURPOSE

116. DOES JEREMIAH 19:9 TEACH DETERMINISM?

119. ARE DICE ROLLS ANALOGOUS TO HUMAN WILL?

130. REFORMED SCHOLAR CHARLES CRANFIELD – ROMANS 9 IS ELECTION TO HISTORICAL FUNCTION, NOT SALVATION

133. LAMENTATIONS 3 – THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD WANTING EVIL & GOD ALLOWING EVIL

139. JOHN 3:16 – GENERAL OR SPECIAL LOVE?

145. JOEL WEBBON STUMPED ON COLOSSIANS 2:12 BY LEIGHTON FLOWERS

148. POTTER PROOFTEXTS – TALKING BACK TO GOD & THE EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA

151. A TEXT WITHOUT CONTEXT IS PRETEXT FOR A (CALVINIST) PROOFTEXT

152. Man’s Steps From the LORD = Determinism?

178. Passages That Exclude Divine Determinism

181. COMPATIBILISM, LFW, REAL OPTIONS & 1 COR 10:13

208. PROVERBS 14:6 – GOD MAKES DAMNED PEOPLE?

211. SHORT EXPLANATION OF CALVINISM’S TULIP USING LOGICAL NECESSITY & ORDER

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Or, browse by all post titles in chronological order below, with the above most important passage-related posts bolded:

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1 PETER 3’S TRIFECTA OF MESSIANIC CONQUEST

October 6, 21

I just realized this, despite reading and listening to Dr Heiser on this topic and passage multiple times. Did I just overlook it, or has he not put the passage this particular way before?

This passage references all three of the divine rebellions, the three reasons why humanity is so corrupt according to a Second Temple Jew (as Dr Heiser would put it) – sin from the Genesis 3 fall (suffered once for sins), the corruption by the Watchers of Genesis 6 (the spirits in prison), and the mismanagement by the gods over the nations of Genesis 11/Deuteronomy 32:8/Psalm 82 (angels, authorities, and powers):

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. – 1 Peter 3:18-22

DIVIDING TWO CATEGORIES OF ‘-ISMS’

October 5, 21

After thinking about the subject, I feel that we should separate ‘-isms’ into two categories.

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CATEGORY 1: God’s foreknowledge and human free will

If God perfectly and infallibly knows what we will do in the future, are we still free to make real choices?

If no, then either God still knows all but we are not free (determinism, many Calvinists); or God doesn’t know the future and hence we are free (Open Theism).

If yes – both God’s future knowledge and our free choices are true at the same time – one of the options is Molinism.

But if you notice, Open Theism and Molinism don’t say anything about how we are actually saved from sin. As it’s been said, Molinism is more of Theology Proper (what is God like?) than Soteriology (how are we saved from sin?).

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CATEGORY 2: How sin and salvation ‘work’

Calvinism says Total Depravity (Inability) has caused everyone from the moment of conception to not want God, hence we will never freely accept the Gospel. To overcome this, God sends Irresistible Grace to only some, which 100% guarantees they will accept the Gospel.

Arminianism agrees on Total Depravity, but says instead that God gives Prevenient Grace to everyone, which allows them to freely accept or reject the Gospel.

Provisionism rejects Total Depravity, instead saying that we already can freely accept or reject the Gospel (without needing any additional action by God, or because the Gospel itself is inseperably an action of God).

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So it’s actually possible (and perhaps more accurate) to state that we hold to one ‘-ism’ from each category.

“I am a Molinist” means that (at minimum) I believe God knows all possible outcomes stemming from human free will, and actualized one feasible world where Martin Luther is saved – but it does not actually describe Martin Luther’s condition before and after being saved.

Hence why Tim Stratton is fond of saying that one can be a Calvinist or Arminian while affirming Mere Molinism. (NB: Even when he adds ‘God is maximally great’ to make it ‘Soteriological Molinism’, it still doesn’t purport the mechanism of sin/salvation.)

“To clarify: to directly compare Calvinism with Molinism is to compare apples with oranges. This is the case because Calvinism is a soteriological system (issues regarding salvation) and Molinism is not.” – https://freethinkingministries.com/molinism-calvinism-apples-oranges/

My Theological Essays

September 29, 21

I’m putting up my essays for posterity and in case any are helpful to those seeking more information on their pertinent topics.

Jurgen Moltmann’s ‘The Trinity & The Kingdom’ Review – I review his lengthy book musing on various views of how the Trinity functions. Not an easy task deciphering his thoughts, especially as he’s a German theologian being translated into English! In particular, he affirms a controversial view that all believers (and even all creation!) will join with the Trinity to become part of God. Although he says he denies pantheism, he already seems to support panentheism as the current state of affairs – so really what else is there in further joining to God than straight-up pantheism?

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Christopher Ash’s ‘Bible Delight: Psalm 119’ Review – A short review of a book with the full title ‘Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Bible Hearer.’

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How John’s Gospel Portrays Jesus Christ – In which I argue using many example passages that John portrays Jesus as the very same YHWH, one true God of the Old Testament Jews. This explains why strictly monotheistic, shema-affirming Jews could worship Jesus without considering it blasphemy. I peruse quite a bit of Two Powers in Heaven and other material related to the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish belief in an embodied, multipersonal YHWH.

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High Christology in Colossians (With Divine Council Worldview) – I took this opportunity to introduce the Divine Council Worldview (as popularized by Dr Michael Heiser), where Jesus is the very same God who arises to reclaim the whole earth as per Psalm 82:8, who conquered every spiritual power and principality – as Paul mentions multiple times in Colossians. If anyone is totally unfamiliar with the concept of the Divine Council Worldview, this essay is a good primer using mainly familiar Old & New Testament passages by showing how they are linked as part of a coherent whole.

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Elwell and Yarbrough’s ‘Encountering the New Testament’ Review – A short review of their introductory overview of the New Testament. I liked the explanations of geographical, cultural and historical backdrop – but their chapter on Revelation is extremely short, especially for such a long and complicated portion of the Bible!

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Tall el-Hammam: Fire From Heaven – Archaeology and arguments for why this is Biblical Sodom. Lots of impressive images, and over 100 footnotes with useful links to further information. The Sodom narrative is one of the most spectacular and memorable in the Bible, and the fact that the evidence of its firey (and salty!) is still around to be dug up and archived is simply amazing.

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Finding Sodom in 15 Slides (Tall el-Hammam) – Companion short Powerpoint presentation (with audio) for the above essay.

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Psalm 82 – Gods or Frauds? – I use four layers of context (the Psalm itself, the wider Old Testament, the surrounding and rival Ancient Near Eastern religions with their divine councils, and Jesus’ use of Psalm 82 in the New Testament) to argue for a supernatural interpretation of the elohim, bene elyon of this passage. Like my Colossians essay above, this essay is geared towards a reader who might have zero exposure to Divine Council Worldview or the plurality of elohim in the Bible. As might be expected when it comes to the Divine Council, Dr Michael Heiser is cited and referenced a lot – especially since his PhD thesis was on this very Psalm! There are over 60 footnotes with lots of useful links to more in-depth material related to this topic, including many articles by Dr Heiser (some obscure, some better known) and other Old Testament scholars. A sneak peek from the New Testament section:

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Psalm 82 – Gods or Frauds? (Original Long Version) – An extended version of the above, before I drastically cut down the number of words to somewhat fit the wordcount target! The footnotes are roughly the same though less by An expanded version of the above table with relevant explanation:

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1 Peter 3, A Trifecta of Hope in Christ I point out how various groups use parts of this passage to prooftext for things like apologetics (v15), the Harrowing of Hell (v19) or baptismal regeneration (v21)… Not that these are invalid! However, I argue that as a whole the passage is about reassuring believers to hold on to their faith despite persecution and suffering, by knowing why they can have such confidence – because Jesus Christ has overcome the three historic divine rebellions of the Fall, the precursor event to the Flood, and the division of nations to Babel (see also my essays on Colossians and Psalm 82 above). Dr Heiser has often stated that Second Temple Jews expected Messiah to reverse all three of these afflictions, but to my knowledge he hasn’t pointed out how all three rebellions are mentioned in 1 Peter 3.

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JOHN WESLEY’S ‘WORSE THAN THE DEVIL’ SYLLOGISM

September 7, 21

You might have seen this quote of John Wesley before, full text at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N03929.0001.001/1:4?rgn=div1;view=fulltext

Here’s the syllogism I think he’s making:

1) The Bible as God’s word cannot teach anything false, illogical, unholy, etc.
2) Systematic X interprets the Bible as teaching something false, illogical, unholy, etc.
3) Therefore, Systematic X is a wrong interpretation.

The above premises in Wesley’s words rearranged:

1) Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That GOD is worse than the Devil? It cannot be.
2) You represent GOD as worse than the Devil: More False, more Cruel, more Unjust. “But, you say, you will prove it by Scripture.”
3) Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this. Whatever its true Meaning be, this cannot be its true Meaning.

PAUL CITING 3 GREEK SOURCES IN ACTS 17

September 7, 21

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_God#Archaeology

For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ – Acts 17:23

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In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment.
… They all of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own districts;
… Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order. (Critias, Plato)
http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/critias.html

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place – Acts 17:26

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They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being. (Minos, Epimenides)
http://garrymullen.blogspot.com/2014/11/for-in-him-we-live-and-move-and-have.html

In him we live and move and have our being – Acts 17:28

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Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbor are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring … (Phaenomena, Aratus)
http://garrymullen.blogspot.com/2014/11/for-in-him-we-live-and-move-and-have.html

For we are indeed his offspring – Acts 17:28

OPEN THEISM & PROPHECY

September 7, 21

Prophecy is one immediate objection to Open Theism. If God doesn’t / cannot / chooses not to know the future (depending on the variant), how can God give accurate prophecy?


Alan Rhoda’s responses are:


1) Some prophecies are special cases where God will do it regardless of what humans think or feel about it, ironically cites Isaiah 46 & 48 where God says He declares the future – they will happen because God Himself directly accomplishes it. [NB: I have also read at least one Open Theist who says God DOES use mind control in a few specific cases, to ensure certain events happen such as the crucifixion.]


2) Some are because God knows people so well, He knows what they will do and how they will respond (e.g. Jesus with Peter’s denial). Not as strong as Middle Knowledge, more like my analogy of Batman predicting Joker’s next move than Dr Strange’s checking 14,000,065 futures.


3) Some are because God intervenes to affect people’s decisions, not mind control but like how we can ‘make’ people angry or happy or afraid through mundane actions (e.g. showing up to threaten Balaam, sending a spirit of fear onto the Canaanites). Again, this is Batman territory.


4) Categorical predictions that are actually conditional, God announces things that He will change if the people repent (e.g. Nineveh in Jonah, Hezekiah’s).



I’m not an Open Theist (yet – I always try to keep myself OPEN to all data!), but it’s important to steelman arguments.

But also:

This kind of extremely bad outcome, even if possible, is nevertheless extreme unlikely


Forgive me but this doesn’t exactly give me confident assurance that God will fulfill solemnly sworn promises.

SHORT EXPLANATION OF CALVINISM’S TULIP USING LOGICAL NECESSITY & ORDER

September 7, 21

Total Depravity – Everyone is so sinful they’ll never accept the Gospel.


Irresistible Grace – So the only way to make them accept is to unstoppably change their hearts.


Unconditional Election – Since everyone is so sinful and would never accept the Gospel on their own, they are equally worthless. Hence who God chooses to grace must not be based on any conditions.


Limited Atonement – But if the above are true, why isn’t everyone unstoppably changed into Christians? It must be because God doesn’t want them, and Jesus died only for a limited selection of people, otherwise Jesus failed which is impossible.


Perseverance of the Saints – And anyone God chooses will make it all the way to the end without quitting, otherwise God failed which is impossible.


Note that human free will to accept or reject the Gospel is nowhere in there. The consistent application of these is that the Sunday School Gospel or street evangelism are lies – God doesn’t really love everyone or want everyone to be saved, people can’t choose to accept Jesus, Jesus likely didn’t die for the people you’re trying to preach to. It’s all God all the way, whether you’re destined for salvation or damnation.


Arminianism: Avoids this by adding Prevenient Grace to replace Irresistible Grace, God makes everyone able to freely accept or reject the Gospel.


Provisionism: Says Total Depravity is false, people CAN freely accept or reject the Gospel by default, it’s the closest to bare basic Christianity – no extra philosophical ideas required.

LEGAL MINUTIAE AND BELIEVING LOYALTY AND THE TRINITY

September 7, 21

I’ve been thinking about all the minutiae laws in the Mosaic Code like not using two types of thread or not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk, and maybe it’s meant as a test of Chesed (Believing Loyalty) in preparation for even more ‘ridiculous’ tests of faith.


If the Jews won’t obey and believe YHWH on something ‘dumb’ like those laws, would they really obey and believe when YHWH asks them to take something like Two Powers in Heaven, or the Trinity, or YHWH dying but also still in heaven and by believing this you get saved?


Maybe some things cannot be made sense of by YHWH’s intentional design. Logic and philosophy fail because YHWH requires us to take a Chesed step of faith across the gap of credulity.

I’m currently thinking that it’s fine to leave it at MYSTERY for how God’s future omniscience and sovereignty is true while also real human freewill agency is true.

Just like how it is a MYSTERY how things like the Trinity, Jesus is both man and God, God is eternally uncreated (this one really hurts my brain trying to envision), God made everything out of nothing…

(If anyone disagrees that these things are MYSTERY, they should cite a model of how the Trinity works that everyone accepts)

PROVERBS 14:6 – GOD MAKES DAMNED PEOPLE?

September 7, 21

Proverbs 14:6 is always used by Calvinists to argue that God made the wicked for the purpose of being destroyed, ie unconditional reprobation.

But looking at the word ‘made’ (paal), it is NOT the word for ‘created’ (bara) in Gen 1:1. Instead, by looking at other occurrences it can mean do, work or ordain: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/proverbs/16-4.htm

So Proverbs 14:6 more correctly is saying that God has ordained the ultimate end, the final destination – the pre-destination – for everything, which includes the wicked being headed to destruction (hell) – but this doesn’t mean God created some people just for the sake of destroying them, nor does it ever say that God determined some people to be wicked (the rest of the proverb warns us not to choose evil!)

Above: Dr Michael Heiser

HOW ENOCH LED TO A DR STRANGE MEME

August 6, 21

Some background to the creation of the attached meme.

It is commonly acknowledged that 2 Peter 2 and Jude reference 1 Enoch in their mention of ‘angels sinning’. For those not familiar with it, 1 Enoch takes the ‘heavenly beings’ view of the Sons of God in Gen 6:1-4 and greatly elaborates on their activities. In particular, they sin by procreating with human women and corrupting humanity with forbidden destructive knowledge & technologies (kind of like what people say about aliens now, but I digress!). For this they are punished with imprisonment. Even Jesus and Revelation possibly reference 1 Enoch which has the lake of fire for rebel angels.

This has led to the debate over whether 1 Enoch should be considered part of the inspired canon. Or maybe only parts of it are true, the parts that the New Testament cites – after all, 1 Enoch also has things that surely cannot be accepted like Enoch being the Messiah!

One notion is that Peter and Jude are using 1 Enoch’s material as a ‘sermon illustration’ – much like Jesus’ parables, referencing commonly known stories or experiences to make a theological point, but without assuming any of it actually happened. In modern times, preachers often do this with pop culture – for example, referencing the latest movies or series. This doesn’t mean that they consider the events of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones to be actual history!

Which leads me to Dr Strange, because his looking into the outcomes of 14,000,605 possible futures has often been used by Molinists as a way to explain God’s Middle Knowledge.

And looping all the way back to 1 Enoch now… If 1 Enoch should be considered canonical just because several New Testament books reference it, then the sheer amount of Molinist referencing of Dr Strange should eventually get the MCU canonized!


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