Musings on Calvinism


What follows is a record of my journey exploring and ruminating on this issue.

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How do we understand Romans 9? Is it about individual election to salvation / damnation as Calvinism teaches? Or perhaps election of Jews and Gentiles to different roles in bringing the salvation message?

It’s been said that we should let Scripture interpret Scripture. So why not let Paul in Romans interpret Paul in Romans:

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. – Romans 11:11

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James White holds the standard Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9, God unilaterally elects individuals to salvation or damnation. Leighton Flowers’ view is less well known, so I’ll summarize it.

Flowers is a former Calvinist, his current interpretation of Romans 9 is that YES, the chapter is about the unconditional election of individuals. But individuals from the Israelites like the rest of the chapters in Romans are focused on (i.e. it’s not applying to all humanity), and to bear the message of redemption (i.e. not whether one is saved or damned). The contrast as in the rest of Romans is ‘faith vs works’ and not ‘monergism vs synergism’.

Paul’s quotations in their original OT historical context are from Micah, where the Edomites (“Esau I hated”) were then oppressing the Israelites. And from Exodus where God hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to lead to the Passover – paralleled with the recent events where God hardened the hearts of Israelites in order to lead to the crucifixion.

Hence the judicial hardening and election are all in the context of whom God sovereignly chooses (focus on the Israelites) to bring about Messiah and the spreading of the Gospel to all nations. Only some Israelites were chosen to carry the message, just as only some were chosen to be the ancestors of Messiah – hence why Paul uses the examples of Isaac/Ishmael, Jacob/Esau. And now this task has been opened up to the Gentiles a well. Does this mean that God has failed, since many Israelites are not part of this task? Paul argues no, since it is thru their rebellion that Jesus was crucified for all nations.

Flowers’ does not agree that all people are born hardened-hearted and God just elects some to turn to salvation. As he puts it, if everyone is born dead then why would Jesus need to blind dead people, why would God need to send a spirit of stupor to a corpse? They should already be hardened and unable to receive God’s offer of salvation anyway. He makes the claim in rebuttal period that no church father taught total inability until (former Gnostic) Augustine in the fifth century.

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From the Flowers vs White debate above, this is what I think is Leighton Flowers’ interpretation of The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22), used to illustrate that God chooses/calls/elects several times (not just that one time before the creation of the world), as also seen in Romans and in line with the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people are chosen to bring the message, some people are chosen to be given the message, all people are then chosen to be given the message – but people must freely choose to respond to the message.

[And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants]

☝️This is God choosing some from among Israel to be prophets and bear His message.

[to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.]

☝️This is another choosing, God sending out His message to specific recipients – Israel, who overall rejected His message.

[Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.]

☝️This is God choosing to extend the offer to those who were not the original recipients – the Gentiles.

[So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”]

☝️Those invited must respond – they must come, and they must also follow the terms set by the king – be clothed correctly, in the righteousness of Jesus’s sacrifice. The king didn’t send soldiers to drag them to the feast.

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This is the video that introduced me to Leighton Flowers and really kicked me off on my endeavor to learn more fully about Calvinism (and how it is wrong).

Starting of course with the debate between himself and James White about Romans 9.

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RESOURCES FOR COUNTERING CALVINISM

Other than this page of course!

Do comment with more suggestions I can add to this post as a resource for all of us. (Please recommend only those resources you have actually listened to or read!)

Dr. Leighton Flowers
Converted to Calvinism for ten years until the writings of CS Lewis and AW Tozer started his journey into seriously considering the alternatives to Calvinism (not the straw man versions he superficially heard of). Now the Director of Evangelism and Apologetics for Texas Baptists and holds to Provisionism which is very understandable and familiar to any lay Christian. If you want more Biblical based refutation of Calvinism, that’s his thing.
https://soteriology101.com/
https://facebook.com/soteriology101/

Dr. William Lane Craig
Molinist philosopher with vast experience in debates and writings. If you want a logical and philosophical refutation of Calvinism, this is the resource.
https://www.reasonablefaith.org/
https://facebook.com/reasonablefaithorg/
https://www.youtube.com/user/ReasonableFaithOrg
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=William+Lane+Craig (for his many debates)

Tim Stratton
Formerly a Calvinist and now a Molinist. If you want philosophical refutations of Calvinism with plenty of pop culture references, he’s your guy.

Homepage


https://facebook.com/freethinkingministries/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjoJHrgHyjBgOiSTxFT0Dag

Mike Winger
Doesn’t focus on soteriology per se, but some of his videos are excellent unpacking and defusing of Calvinist arguments.
Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7u2HaYBKDaLPcWmldxgGEA
Why I Think Calvinism Is Unbiblical – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxakEl8BYBE (refutes the fallacious argument that accepting salvation by faith is a ‘work’)

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Some musings where I conjecture that Calvinism concludes in the TULIP doctrines because it operates with the notion that mankind has no (libertarian) free will.

Firstly let me say that I think T, U & I are redundant and superfluous when there is no free will.

Why even say mankind is afflicted with Total Depravity/Inability when we have no wills of our own? Of course we can’t freely choose God, we are not free to choose anything at all!

With no free will, of course God Unconditionally Elects – the logical order is that God picks in eternity past which individuals He wants to be saved, then creates them, then controls their lives via their un-free wills to accept the gospel and be saved.

And honestly what Grace is not Irresistible when have no free wills? What ANYTHING God decides is at all resistible? Being able to resist entails having free wills. ANYTHING God orders us to do, we will necessarily do – we are mere puppets dancing to the deterministic strings held by the divine.

That leaves only two of the Doctrines of Grace that need some elaboration.

Limited Atonement is one of the two remaining petals. You may have heard the standard Calvinism trope, “If you say God wanted 100% of men to be saved, if you think Jesus died for 100% of the world – then you believe God failed, because not everyone is saved.” The argument is as follows:

A) God is the one who Irresistibly Graces those He wants to save.
B) You think God states that He wants to save 100% of mankind, sending Jesus to die for 100% of the world.
C) However, we see less than 100% of mankind accepting the gospel.
D) Therefore, you are saying that God must have failed to achieve B. This is anathema. (Plus, His Grace is clearly Resistible which falsifies A. This is anathema to Calvinism.)

However, this logic only entails because Calvinism assumes divine determinism – since the only one with any actual agency is God, every success or failure of the gospel is on God. There exists no factor that could prevent anyone from accepting the gospel (in fact, there exists no factor outside of God’s solitary free will).

Whereas for those who affirm that God sovereignly decreed mankind to have free will, then free will is the factor that allows less than 100% of mankind accepting the gospel – and this is by God’s sovereign choice not to override the free will He gifted us with.

Next and finally, we go to Perseverance of the Saints. Again, in divine determinism the only real actor is God – and as an extension of Calvinism’s logic described for Limited Atonement, if God wants something (i.e. that someone be saved) then it is necessary that He gets that something. Otherwise, Calvinism views it as God failing to keep those He elected as the elect forevermore. If God has chose from eternity past that someone accept the gospel, then of course that person will never let go of the gospel – there is no factor that could make it otherwise, no other will apart from God’s. Unless of course, God wills that the person apostasize – in which case that person was ‘never truly saved’. All part of God’s ‘hidden will’ of course.

“NO FREE WILL!” is the stem that the conjoined petals of TULIP grow out from. This also means that free will is the pruning shears that can snip them all off in one cut. If we don’t start with the preconseption that God does not grant us free wills – together with all the choices, responsibilities and Imago Dei this entails – then the TULIP never grows in the first place.

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AUGUSTINE’S BACKGROUND & TULIP

None of the early church fathers taught predestination until Augustine in the 300sAD.

He was a debaucher who is known for praying to God, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” So I can see why he would conclude that God uses an Irresistible force to change the nature of a Totally Depraved person, Unconditional of the person’s willingness or unwillingness.

He was also a former Gnostic (Manichaeism). So I can see why he concluded that this saving act is wholly the result of direct divine intervention leading to special revelation of God’s ways – but this is not offered or given to all persons.

John Calvin was heavily influenced by his teachings.

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It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century. The earlier church fathers placed chief emphasis on good works such as faith, repentance, almsgiving, prayers, submission to baptism, etc., as the basis of salvation. They of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel.

Some of their writings contain passages in which the sovereignty of God is recognized; yet along side of those are others which teach the absolute freedom of the human will. Since they could not reconcile the two they would have denied the doctrine of Predestination and perhaps also that of God’s absolute Foreknowledge.

They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will. It was hard for man to give up the idea that he could work out his own salvation. But at last, as a result of a long, slow process, he came to the great truth that salvation is a sovereign gift which has been bestowed irrespective of merit; that it was fixed in eternity; and that God is the author in all of its stages. This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine, the great Spirit-filled theologian of the West.

– Calvinist theologian Lorain Boettner

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DETERMINISM & DEMON POSSESSION

You know what, demon possession makes no sense under hard divine determinism.

Every creature’s thoughts and actions are already directly determined and controlled by God.
So a demon possession would be God controlling a demon to control a human… That’s like controlling a puppet that controls another puppet.

We can even up the levels of regression with a hypothetical scenario where God controls a demon to possess a mad scientist to brainwash an engineer to build a robot to write a computer program that runs various scenarios. And maybe one of the scenarios is what I just described, infinitely regressing.

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

Has a Calvinist friend ever tried this ‘Leading the Witness’ line of questioning on you?

What they are doing is actually a form of Fallacy of Equivocation, where they define ‘work’ as ‘any sort of action whatsoever’.

But as thix excellent video by Mike Winger shows, Paul specifically and clearly contrasts ‘salvation by faith’ against ‘works’. Follow the Biblical definition, and the misleading Calvinist argument crumbles.

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WHICH PREMISE DO YOU REJECT?

Examine the following three premises. Only any two of them can be simultaneously true at the same time. Trying to accept all three at the same time results in a contradiction. So as a Bibe believing Christian, which of the three premises do YOU reject?

A) God is sovereign over creaturely will, including making some rebel.
B) God has prepared eternal punishment for creatures who rebel.
C) God is good and just.

Again, here are another three premises where only any two of them can be simultaneously true. Which of the three premises do YOU reject?

A) God authors sin.
B) God is not evil.
C) Sin is evil.

Most of us would reject premise A) in both cases as a clear contradiction of a plain reading of the Bible. But because of the interpretative lens that Calvinists force themselves to wear, they are forced to affirm A) and would sooner reject C) in both cases.

NB: I am not being facetious.

“You just don’t understand Calvinism”? Well attached is a screenshot from John Calvin’s writings, where he states clearly on the first case his belief that God controls every decision people make – which would include rebelling.

CalvinGodAuthorEvil

And a link to various Calvinists on the subject: https://atheologyintension.com/2013/03/21/2376/?fbclid=IwAR3SABn8519-azX2vd4yr-zpVqO1nhnXQk-4mGImuofHOKKnWYf4haoWpiM

Here is John Piper trying very, very hard not to come to the conclusion of C) on the first case. You can almost feel his agony at the horrifying thought that his idea of God has a terrible and terrifying aspect. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/where-did-satans-first-desire-for-evil-come-from

Here is a Calvinist responding to William Lane Craig on the second case, whereby he uses the (commendably creative, actually) method of arguing that God is exempt from C) because ‘God never commanded God not to cause people to sin’. I kid you not ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ https://www.godcontention.org/christian/william-lane-craig-and-divine-determinism

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ROMANS 9 SAYS STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME A CALVINIST

The logic is as follows:

A) You believe Romans 9 is about God’s sovereign election of individuals to salvation/damnation;
B) You believe that soteriological belief is of salvific importance;

Therefore,
C) According to Romans 9 only God can make me believe Calvinism!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I’m a big fan of Dr Michael Heiser who is mainly known for his work on the Divine Council Worldview as explained in his book The Unseen Realm. Spoiler alert: it requires both God’s sovereignty and also libertarian free will.

One of Dr Heiser’s precepts that I have found very valuable is “Our worldview should be able to explain and fit all of Scripture, not just parts of it”.

For example when a person denies that Jesus is divine, he has to creatively reinterpret countless passages to fit his worldview.

Personally this precept has made me seriously reconsider the Biblicalness of Calvinism. For example I was given as 1053 page (!) PDF explaining away passage upon passage that seem to contradict TULIP when taken at plain reading.

It’s not just that the Calvinist explanations and interpretations for the passages are often less than satisfactory, it’s the sheet fact that there are so many passages that need explaining away in the first place!

“Our worldview should be able to explain and fit ALL of Scripture, not just parts of it”!

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A Calvinist friend responded to my video about Superheroes & Mere Molinism by posting me this Ligonier link refuting Molinism: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/molinism-101/?fbclid=IwAR1DXl5kD5SATgFv_pOX8Useyr8tXzYfed54T-ZL4euTpq2csc8_m6O7Be0

However Ligonier somehow manages to skip over the real issue: God specifically said that Saul would come, and that the men of Keilah would surrender David. Neither of these things happened.

This is hence an excellent proof text for Molinism since (as Dr Michael Heiser of The Unseen Realm fame puts it) “Foreknowledge does not equal Predestination”.

But how does Calvinism explain it? What happened to the God’s irresistible sovereign ordaining will after He stated to David that those two things would happen?

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VESSELS OF MERCY/WRATH

Other than in Romans 9, vessels are used as a metaphor elsewhere in the Bible for example in revelation where bowls of judgment are poured out. It’s not that the vessels themselves are treated to mercy or wrath, they carry it within them and bring it to the recipients.

Romans 9 would fit this in the sense of individuals or groups being selected to bring mercy (Messiah lineage) or wrath (Pharaoh, hardened Pharisees). That is, the chapter is about God’s election to purposes in bringing the Gospel, not election of individuals to salvation or damnation.

After all, a potter doesn’t make vessels just for the sole purpose of tossing them in the trash for his own glory, does he?

Now in a great house there are not only *vessels* of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone *cleanses himself* from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. – 2 Timothy 2:20-21

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https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/molinism-vs.-calvinism/

By rejecting a doctrine of divine providence based on God’s middle knowledge, Reformed theologians are simply self-confessedly left with a mystery. The great 17th century Reformed theologian Francis Turretin held that a careful analysis of Scripture leads to two indubitable conclusions, both of which must be held in tension without compromising either one:

that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed, but most certainly secures, the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the Word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1: 512).

Here Turretin affirms without compromise both the sovereignty of God and human freedom and contingency; he just doesn’t know how to put them together. Molinism offers a solution. By rejecting that solution, the Reformed theologian is left with a mystery.

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Matthew 5:43-48 does not seem to fit the Limited Atonement view that God loves only the Elect.

Taking the Vocational Sonship aspect (a son grows up to do the same job that their father does), we are told to love everyone including our enemies – people who hate us – in order to be like our Father in heaven.

But Reprobates will never love God. They will always be His enemies. And according to Limited Atonement, He will never love them.

How then can loving our enemies make us similar to what our Heavenly Father is like? If Limited Atonement is true, then the passage should ask us to hate those who will never love us.

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4) CALVINISTS ULTIMATELY APPEAL TO THE SAME MYSTERY:

While the Calvinist may feel he has the “upper hand” when asking about the “decisive factor” in man’s choice to reject God’s words, the role reverses quite dramatically when the conversation shifts to man’s first choice to reject God’s words. Whether discussing Satan’s first act of rebellion or Adam’s first choice to sin, it becomes quite evident that the Calvinist has painted himself into a corner by denying libertarian free will.

While on the one hand arguing that mankind will always act in accordance with his nature (assuming the nature could not be libertarianly free, mind you), the Calvinist has no rational answer as to why Adam (or Lucifer) chose to rebel. [4] For instance, John Piper openly admits:

How God freely hardens and yet preserves human accountability we are not explicitly told. It is the same mystery as how the first sin entered the universe. How does a sinful disposition arise in a good heart? The Bible does not tell us.”[5]

And RC Sproul similarly teaches,

“But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.”[6]

As you can clearly see, the Calvinist has just “kicked the can down the road,” so to speak, when it comes to appealing to the mystery of free moral will.[7] They eventually appeal to the same mystery that we do, all the while thinking they are taking the higher moral ground by giving God all the credit for the Christian’s choice to repent and trust in Christ. In reality, however, by not accepting the mystery of man’s free will, the Calvinist has created a new mystery that is simply not afforded by the text of scripture.

Are You Better Than Your Friend Who Refused to Believe?

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“I AM NOT A CALVINIST.”

How to demolish minutes upon minutes of poorly informed argument in one quip:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/debates/the-existence-of-the-christian-god-the-craig-curley-debate/

First Rebuttal – Dr. Craig
1. I want to thank Dr. Curley for his very personal and sensitive remarks. In this speech, I hope to show, however, that most of his objections are aimed at a false target, at a conception of God which I, as a Christian, reject. What Dr. Curley offers is really seven deadly objections to the Calvinistic God, not the Christian God. It is only by equating Calvinism with Christianity that his objections have any force. And I just deny that equation. I am not a Calvinist.

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A WORLD OF (UN)HAPPY SLAVES

First, read my old post Ultimate Fantastic Four: Why God Allows Us Disobedience (A World of Happy Slaves) https://scottthong.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/ultimate-fantastic-four-why-god-allows-us-disobedience/

To summarize, a superpowerful psychic brainwashes an entire planet to feel nothing but happiness, contentment and ‘love’ for him.

Silver Searcher confronts him that such a blissful existence is a lie – his subjects have no choice but to feel and think that way. They are of robots programmed to obey unquestioningly – a world of happy slaves.

Two important points from this:

1) It is not real love or a true image of God to be mind-controlled, as CS Lewis states in his ‘A world of automata’ quote or Alvin Plantinga’s More Valuable World. That is why God even placed the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, so that humanity would have an actualizable FREE CHOICE to rebel or obey.

2) That said, even a universe where we are all created as happy slaves would be preferable (or at the very least, merely acceptable) compared to what divine determinism proffers – a universe where countless people are created from eternity past for the sole purpose of being UNHAPPY SLAVES, damned to suffer in agony forever – for no choice they ever made, just following the programming they were given before the foundation of the world. All to the glory of God of course.

God could have just made them all happy slaves instead! If you MUST have only automata, at least make them happy automata! Even a world of happy slaves is preferable to a world of unhappy slaves.

The psychic dictator in the comic could arguably be viewed as benevolent – even if misguidedly so – for wanting his subjects to feel no unhappiness. Now imagine if he intentionally made all his mind-slaves feel torment, agony and sadness instead. Suffering perpetually, and unable to do anything about it – as decreed.

And I will leave you to digest that mental picture.

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Divine Foreknowledge Does Not Necessitate Divine Predestination

This is from Dr Michael Heiser’s excellent and paradigm-opening book, The Unseen Realm. Small wonder James White was at odds with him, eh?)

The Calvinist view of God’s foreknowledge and predestination actually collapses into the conclusion: God knows everything about the future perfectly, because God controls everything deterministically. There is only ONE possible outcome with no alternatives, by definition there is a 100% chance to pick the right answer. It is literally impossible to guess wrongly about the future.

The Calvinist panelist Chris Date says as much from 12:30 onwards:

TBH this is a pretty lame kind of ‘omniscience’.

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PEOPLE MUST BE DAMNED FOR GOD’S GLORY?

The argument that God’s glory cannot be manifested to the Elect without damning the Reprobate is faulty. It is akin to the childish argument that Evil must exist otherwise Good has no contrast. Evil is not a ‘thing’, it is the lack of Good – just as cold is not a ‘thing’, it is the lack of heat.

Or as I have put it, imagine you are surrounded by intensely bright light. Everything around is light and only light. You can only see light, with no darkness. Does this mean that the light all around does not exist? Of course not!

“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all; for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory, for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify himself at all.”

“Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from.”

“How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great, as we have elsewhere shown. We little consider how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect; and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also; for, as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Dissertation Concerning the Divine Decrees in General and Election in Particular

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5 Reasons Why I Stayed Out of Calvinism

2. Calvinism Excludes the Old Testament

“And the Lord said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two peoples will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen 25:23)

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. Yet you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of Armies says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked countryand the people the Lord has cursed forever. Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The Lord is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.’” (Malachi 1:2-5)

Under what circumstances would you conclude that either of these passages are speaking with specific reference to God’s special salvific favor upon the individual Jacob or his irrevocable hatred towards Esau? In fact, in Genesis 33, Esau runs to and embraces his deceitful and treacherous brother Jacob a lot like the father graciously welcomes the prodigal son in Luke 15. Therefore, why would Paul be quoting these passages out of context in Romans 9 to talk about God’s plans to save Jacob and damn Esau before they were born or “done anything good or bad”? After all, the passage in Malachi was written some 13 centuries after the twins’ deaths! Since Romans 9 is a lynch-pin passage for Calvinists in Scripture, the Old Testament passages quoted there must be kept in view and ultimately do not support their reading of it; unless, of course, we permit Paul to quote these passages out of their OT context.

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INTERESTING STATEMENTS BY WILLIAM LANE CRAIG IN TWO DIFFERENT DEBATES

Gee, I woooonder if there is some common link between these two debate statements by William Lane Craig??? 😜

03:37 Nowhere does the Quran affirm that God loves unbelievers, that God loves sinners. He only loves those who love him. His love is conditional and partial. He says but you don’t end up in heaven because of your righteous deeds. Perhaps not, but they are a prerequisite and therefore if you do not have them God does not love you, and that is the bottom line in the Quran. But that’s a morally inadequate conception of God.

91:26 Are there any Christian denominations you regard as false?
91:29 >> William: Certainly.
91:30 >> Christopher: Could I know what they are?
91:32 >> Um. Well, uh, I’m not a Calvinist, for example. I think that certain tenets of Reformed Theology are incorrect.

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BOTH/AND WITHOUT CONTRADICTION

Our theology should be able to accept and reconcile all of Scripture – WITHOUT contradiction and convoluted reworking of passages.

For example, Unitarianism focuses on the passages stating that Jesus is not The Father and conclude that Jesus is not God. However it runs into countless problem passages that state or imply the divinity of Jesus.

Meanwhile, Oneness focuses on the passages stating that Jesus is divine and conclude that Jesus is The Father. However it runs into countless problem passages that state or imply that Jesus and The Father are distinct.

Finally, the Trinitarianism accepts and reconciles all the passages stating or implying that Jesus is divine, yet is not The Father.

Calvinism will of course affirm the Trinity and praise how it solves the apparent dilemma. No contradiction or either/or false dilemma is necessary when it comes to this matter. But why can’t Calvinism affirm both God’s sovereignty AND human free will as sovereignly granted by God? No contradiction or either/or false dilemma is necessary when it comes to this either!

Instead, it is forced to creatively re-interpret the plain, face value meaning of countless passages that state or imply that humans have real, meaningful choices. At the same time as it invents contradictory, counterituitive and illogical manmade philosophies such as Compatibilism and The Two Wills of God.

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IS MAKING ANY ACTUAL SENSE AT ALL BIBLICAL?

Can Incoherence Be Biblical?

I suggest that exegeses and interpretations that generate incoherence, inconsistency, and contradiction have hermeneutical significance, that is, they indicate that such are not valid exegeses and interpretations of the relevant biblical texts. Coherence, consistency, and non-contradiction serve to determine exegetical and interpretive validity. Therefore, non-Calvinists also reject Calvinism for the logical and moral incoherence it generates. As Justin put it, Calvinism doesn’t “square off” with other biblical teachings, our moral intuitions, how we reason and how we live.

It seems to me that non-Calvinists believe logical and moral reasoning are indispensable to a sound hermeneutic whereas Calvinists do not.

So, even in the face of their logical and moral incoherencies and contradictions, the Calvinist remains theologically unmoved. Why? Because the Calvinist thinks that their logical and moral incoherencies and contradictions are ultimately not significant for determining the validity of their exegesis and interpretations. The Calvinist claims that their exegesis transcends any philosophical and moral objections non-Calvinists level against the interpretive conclusions of that exegesis.

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JOHN 6 & DRAW

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

How does the Father draw people? Is it by Irresistible Grace? Let Scripture interpret Scripture, just go to the very next verse.

It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me – John 6:45

So the drawing is by hearing and learning, not by a mysterious and inexplicable force. The immediate hearers of these words had the Old Testament writings, read out in the synagogues weekly. Scripture testifies to the coming of Messiah, and once Jesus pointed it out to the disciples then we have this effective grace from God fully open to us.

And skip down a few verses where Jesus says almost the same thing, but with a slight change:

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” – John 6:65
So the drawing = the granting. It is by God’s granted grace yes, but we must also have the desire and intention to come to Jesus.

See also where Jesus compares Himself to the bronze serpent back in Moses’ time, and says He will draw ALL people when He is lifted up. The offer of healing was open to all, but they had to make the choice to look up at in order for the promise to take place. Their free choice is why not all are saved, Limited Atonement is not necessary.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. – John 3:14-15

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. – John 12:32

So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9

PS. Consider also, if John 6:44-45 is about the Irresistible Grace of the Holy Spirit, how can it be so when the Holy Spirit had not yet been given – as John Piper admits with confusion? https://soteriology101.com/2019/04/29/why-john-piper-is-wrong-about-john-6/ Versus, if the ‘drawing’ is the word of God as revealed in even the Old Testament.

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ROMANS 9 & JEREMIAH

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?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? – Romans 9:20-21

Romans 9 is a lynchpin of Calvinism, as it is used as a prooftext for Unconditional Election of individuals by God to salvation or damnation.

The above portion is actually harkens back to the Old Testament book of Jeremiah:

So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. – Jeremiah 18:3-6

But notice what happened to the clay vessel – it became spoiled. That is why the potter repurposed it for a different usage. The potter did not toss the misshapen clay into the trash. Vessels are used to carry contents – oil or perfume or waste fluids – not made for the specific purpose of being smashed and trashed.

And take heed what follows immediately after:

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’ – Jeremiah 18:7-12

Did you get that? The full context of the Potter quote is God stating that He will change the original purposes He had for a nation (NOT INDIVIDUAL) if the nation DOES OR DOESN’T TAKE HEED. This clearly is at odds with Total Depravity.

This is what Leighton Flowers means when he talks about the historical context of the passages Paul references.
Speaking of Determinism, let’s see what else the book of Jeremiah contains.

And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. – Jeremiah 14:14

Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind – Jeremiah 19:4-5

They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. – Jeremiah 32:35

Catch that? Repeatedly God states that He did not command, decree or even think the horrible things the people are doing – such evils are a deceit of THEIR OWN minds.

As has been said: A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.

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Leighton Flowers’ testimony of when he struggled with sin.

93:15 This was part of my testimony as a young Calvinist where was dealing with some addictive behaviors in my own life. And and so my conclusion was first to start doubting whether I was elect, because I would begin to wonder whether God would elect somebody and then have had these desires and these lusts, those thoughts and things? And so I first started doubting whether I was elect or not.

And then once I was told that if you have any desire to follow God, then it must come from God. You must be alive, you must be reborn, you must be regenerated if you had that desire. So I go okay, well then that must mean I’m elect.
And so then therefore I would go, okay am I struggling with this this lust or this issue or this addiction? And then the only answer I can come up with at least if I’m consistent within the logic of my Calvinism is well, because God decreed for me to have these desires. This lust is from the decree of God. That’s ultimately the cause of it. And therefore my only recourse really is to say, “God please remove this lust”.

And I even had people around me saying well, that’s the thorn in the flesh, that lust that you had, that’s the thorn of the flesh. And God gives it to you to keep you humble. And so I had really fallen into this addiction and really begin to think, okay, God has decreed for me to have this lustful addiction and and I can’t stop doing this. Seemingly I keep promising God I’m not gonna do this anymore, I’m not gonna fall into this addiction anymore, I’m not gonna do this anymore.

Then I’ve continually would. And then I, well, I must be what God decreed. And let me just say there’s nothing worse for the the healing of an addict than the than the idea that God has sovereignly decreed for you to desire to do something for His own glory.

Nonetheless, until you own that it’s your own choice your own determination, in other words God has – as 1st Corinthians 10:13 says – given you a way out, He has given you all that you need to resist the temptation. And you have to own, “I messed up, I looked at that pornography when I shouldn’t have, I clicked on that link” and it that was my libertarianly free choice. That was not a sovereign decree of God that I could not control. Until you own your actions and your behaviors and through your choices, you can’t begin to find true freedom.

At least that’s my testimony. Now, I’m not trying to put that onto every Calvinist. Sometimes Calvinists may not make the link that I made. I’m just simply giving you a testimony of one Calvinist, young Calvinists, when I was in my 20s who struggle with this.

And when I’ve given testimony on this on my broadcast there, Soteriology 101, I’ve had dozens of young twenty-year-old guys just emailing me and said “I’ve been struggling with this sex acts and things”. Many of which are coming from the same background, because they’re they’re falling into a more fatalistic mindset of saying “Well, I guess God decreed for me to have these sinful desires and thoughts”. And that is devastating to recovery.

Just like in the Alcoholics Anonymous, you know the first step is what? You have to own your sin, you have to say, you know, “My name is Leighton Flowers and I’m whatever it is”. And you’ve got to own it. And that’s true of any sin, you’ve got to own it. And the only way practically speaking that you can own it, I believe, is to affirm a libertarian freedom of the will. That you are responsible for your decisions, and that you self determine. You are the determiner of your determinations, and that’s only practical way to live theologically in a healthy environment.

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Church Songs With the Correct Romans 9 Potter Context

Romans 9’s mentions of God as the potter should be viewed in light of its reference back to Jeremiah 18, as well as Paul’s other mention of vessels in 2 Timothy 2:20-26. It is about our current lives being moulded into shapes better suited for service (not about Unconditional Election of individuals to salvation from eternity past!).

These songs we might have sung before should remind us of that.

Take me, Mold me
Use me, Fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hands
Hold me, Guide me
Lead me, Walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
– The Potter’s Hand (1997)

Take me, break me, mould me, Lord
As the Potter shapes the clay
Pleasing you in all I do
Approved in every way.
– Approved in Every Way (1982)

Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way;
Thou art the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mould me and make me
After Thy will,
While I am waiting,
Yielded and still.
– Have Thine own way, Lord (1907)

Lord, Thou art a potter skilled
And a glorious builder too,
Molding for Thy vessel great,
Building with Thy house in view.
I am both a man of clay
And a new-made living stone,
That Thy vessel I may be
And the temple Thou wouldst own.
– Lord, Thou Art a Potter Skilled (2015)

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Something I find attractive and even persuasive about Provisionism is how simple, intuitive and relatable it is to the ordinary churchgoer. It’s a Sunday School, plain reading of the Bible, take the passages at face value kind of garden variety Gospel for the common man.
You don’t need to go through lengthy explanations, redefinitions of words and concepts, or a degree in philosophy to explain it. You don’t need to upend and overturn basic conceptions about Christianity like ‘God loves everyone’ and ‘Jesus died to save us all’.

Or imagine you’re doing street evangelism like Ray Comfort of Living Waters, you can get the basics of PROVIDE across to even the unchurched who only know about Christianity from indirect exposure (try accurately doing that for TULIP for contrast).

Our Beliefs

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ROLE-MANS 9

Go read Jeremiah 18 which is what Paul is referencing about the potter, especially vv5-11. (I posted on that above this.)

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CALVINISTS & INTERPRETATION

Do you believe in annihilationism? Well Chris Date does, and he’s a Calvinist.

Do you believe in Eternal Functional Subordination? Well Wayne Grudem does, and he’s a Calvinist.

Do you affirm Molinism? Or free will? Well Greg Koukl does, and he’s a Calvinist. (https://www.str.org/w/sovereign-grace-free-choice)

Do you interpret Psalm 82’s ‘gods, sons of the Most High’ as heavenly beings? Well John Piper does, and he’s a Calvinist.

Yes, they’re all Calvinists. But on other matters, they have wildly different interpretations of Scripture. And don’t even get me started on the many different interpretations within the TULIP tenets!

So who is to say that the Calvinist interpretation of soteriology is correct? It’s not quite as plain to see as they claim.

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To all those who affirm free will here, be secure in your beliefs. Because…

THE FREE WILL WAGER

You know Pascal’s Wager? Well this is the Free Will Wager.

In the disagreement between divine determinisn and libertarian free will, there are four possibilities:

1) You affirm determinism and are correct. Yay.

2) You affirm determinism and are wrong. You have no excuse as you made this decision of your own free will.

3) You affirm free will and are correct. Yay.

4) You affirm free will and are wrong. Well, it’s not like you ever decided to affirm free will, you were causally determined by God to affirm it.

Affirming free will has only upside and no downside. Whereas, determinism has only downside and no upside.

Hence, the rational option is to affirm free will.

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

The intended recipients of the Book of Romans (note: this section edited on advice) was the mixed Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ.

They would have been familiar with the Old Testament stories, passages, citations and references that Paul brings up – the potter of Jeremiah 18, the lineage of Messiah, Pharaoh and the judgment upon Egypt.

How would they have understood Paul’s usage of those references in Romans 9? As a description of God’s using people for different roles in His plans, or as a prooftext for Unconditional Election of indviduals to salvation? (Tip: Flip back to Romans 3 where the same audience is raising objections, just as in Romans 9. The objector isn’t some Arminian or Pelagian.)

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NEVER TRULY SAVED? AS GOD DECREED

Recently there has been some big hoohah over prominent Christians who have declared their disbelief or path to losing faith. Joshua Harris. Marty Sampson. Jon Steingard.

Or going back to the past, Charles Templeton.

According to Calvinism, from eternity past God designated them for apostasy and hell for His glory.

And if countless believers have their faith jeapordized by them, and end up apostasizing and going to hell? Also for God’s glory.

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1:58:30 onwards, as a consistent Calvinist back then, Tim Stratton was praying for unsaved friends when he realized it’s pointless since they’re either already elect or not.

And then realized God was making him go play Xbox instead.

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1:49:30 he plays a clip of two former Calvinists (Matt W Cook and Derek Webb) who turned atheist, and don’t need your persuasion because if God has predetermined them to be reprobate there’s nothing that can change that, only God can change their heart.

Fatalistic, apathetic, but ultimately the doctrinally correct understanding of Calvinism.

Full chat between Cook and Webb at https://mwcook.com/2018/09/10/conversation-with-derek-webb/

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DOES ACTS 13:48 TEACH UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION?

This passage is often portrayed as a prooftext for Calvinism and a problem for those who disagree with Unconditional Election.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed [tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed. – Acts 13:48

However, elsewhere the word tetagmenoi is also translated devoted:

Now I urge you, brothers — you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted [tetagmenoi] themselves to the service of the saints – 1 Corinthians 16:15

In other passages, it can also have this sense of people devoting themselves to a task or decision: https://biblehub.com/greek/5021.htm

Hence, Acts 13:48 does not necessarily teach that God chose certain individuals from those Gentiles to believe (as per Unconditional Election).

It could rather be that those Gentiles had already devoted themselves to the message of the God of the Jews, and when Paul stated that God’s word was now coming to the Gentiles, they were overjoyed and immediately bought into that promise. Note the context of their conversion:

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. – Acts 14:44-45

Hence the Gentiles had come BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD. And thus, ‘as many as were devoted [tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed’.

The Gospel is God’s free offer of grace, powerful and effective to save!

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Paul Cooper starts off by showing the pretty side of the Unconditional Election coin, namely how good and wonderful God’s love is to the Elect.

Braxton Hunter flips that same coin to show the ugly side, namely that the Reprobate are doomed to eternal hell and there’s nothing they could ever do about it from eternity past.

This debate is credited by Leighton Flowers for starting Cooper on the path to leaving Calvinism, though Hunter demures.

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2 years after the above debate, Paul Cooper talks about his doubts and questions regarding Calvinism. By the end of the show, he admits that he doesn’t affirm some tenets of Calvinism any longer.

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A SORT OF VERTIGO SETS IN

I was causally determined to post this. You were causally determined to read this.

And then you are causally determined to think about what I just wrote above.

And then you are causally determined to think about that thinking you just did.

And then…….

“…a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control.”

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/molinism-vs.-calvinism/

2. Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed. There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.

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HEBREWS 12:2 AND FAITH NOUN/VERB

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith – Hebrews 12:2

The word ‘faith’ here is a noun, not a verb – https://biblehub.com/lexicon/hebrews/12-2.htm

The passage is referring to the ‘set of beliefs’ (noun) we hold, not to our ‘act of believing’ (verb).

What ‘faith’ do you adhere to? Christianity, the religion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who founded and perfects this noun-faith? Why, Jesus of course.

So is this passage talking about God Unconditionally, Irresistably making verb-faith appear inside our Totally Unable hearts? No.

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A DIFFERENT GOSPEL

I want you to think about the Gospel message you heard back in Sunday School. Or the invitations you’ve heard or given during street evangelism. Something bare basics like this:

“People sin, because of this we will go to hell when we die. But don’t worry, because God sent Jesus to die on the cross to save us all from our sins! If we repent and believe in Jesus, we will be forgiven and receive eternal life.”

Simple and straightforward right? Well guess what, none of the above is true according to Calvinism. Instead:

“People sin by the sovereign decree of God who controls their wills. Some were chosen by God before they were born to be predestined for hell for those sins God willed that they do. God sent Jesus to die for some people only, we call them the Elect. If God already decided before time began that you are one of the Elect, then He will irresistibly cause you to repent, believe in Jesus and receive eternal life! (But you won’t know for sure until you die, it might just be a delusion that God gives the non-Elect to make them mistakenly think they’re Elect.)”

And the kicker? Some of them will accuse YOU of having a ‘false Gospel’ if you don’t affirm what the same things as they do!

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HARDENING, BLINDING AND DEAFENING – TEMPORARILY, FOR A PURPOSE

Jesus many times hid His true nature, gave instructions to keep His identity secret, spoke in parables, gave hard teachings and etc, in order that the masses of Israel would not recognize Him as their Messiah – and thereby eventually form a mob to crucify Him.

But was this to harden, blind and deafen them for hell as corpselike, dead-like-Lazarus-in-the-grave, Totally Unable, damned from eternity past Reprobates? Or was this to accomplish a specific purpose as part of God’s plan for redemption – namely, the Crucifixion?

In Acts 2, the very same people who had demanded that Jesus be crucified are among the 3000 who are saved:

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. … Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” … So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:23,36,41

These very same ‘Romans 9 vessels’ who were used to bring about wrath (God’s wrath against sin, poured out onto Jesus) now turned around and were remade as vessels of mercy (bringing the Gospel to Israel and beyond) – just like Paul urges the ‘vessels’ to do in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, just like the prophet witnesses the potter do in Jeremiah 18.

The very same people of Israel whom God used to bring about ‘the greatest act of evil in history’ were given the gracious offer to be forgiven for their wrongdoing. The blind receive their sight, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up indeed!

Let Paul’s own words in Romans summarize:

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! … And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. – Romans 11:11-12,23-24

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I was looking forward to see what good arguments the Determinists bring as the second to speak, after the Free Will side used convincing logic and Scripture.

Instead first we get a venomous tone, appeal to writer’s quotes, and lumping the Free Will side with those (bad, bad, wrong, bad!) Catholics. Then we get an overactor taking a mocking tone like his role model is Jim Carrey at his prime. And both argue against a straw man of “They elevate muh man’s free will above God” and hardly any Scripture. It’s straw man after logical fallacy after false dilemma after flat assertion all through the debate.

Much disappoint. A friend put it more concisely: “2 man-children stuck in their cage stage”.

These guys do show they can talk like normal human adults during the rebuttal onwards. But although their presentation improved, their attitude doesn’t. One of them catches himself calling his opponents brothers (fellow believers in Christ), and actually corrects himself. Because as he has to answer during the Q&A, he isn’t sure they understand the grace of God.

Although IMO the Free Will side should have repeatedly challenged the Determinist side every time the latter cited Bible passages:

1) That passage doesn’t state that God determines thoughts and desires of that person.
2) Even if it did, the passage doesn’t state that this extends to all people, in all occasions – a fallacy of Faulty Generalization.

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METICULOUS DIVINE DETERMINISM BIBLE PASSAGES?

Show me where in the Bible that divine determinism is taught, qua God meticulously controlling everyone’s thoughts and desires.

No, I didn’t ask for where God uses persuasive means to change already existing thoughts and plans – such as sending a storm or a vision or an angel.

No, I didn’t ask for where God uses the already existing evil desires and plans of people to accomplish His purposes.

No, I didn’t ask for where God controls inaminate objects like the wind and waves, or non-sentient animals like fish, or the outcome of a cast lot.

No, I didn’t ask for where God shows knowledge of the future. Foreknowledge does not equal predestination, as 1 Samuel 23 clearly shows where God states two future things that don’t ever actually happen. You’re importing philosophical assumptions about determinism into the text because you conflate foreknowledge with predestination.

What’s that you say? God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Okay, let’s say I give you that and don’t bring up the other times where it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart, or the different Hebrew words with different usages but all translated into English as hardened. Where does it say that this applies to all people, in all occasions?

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DOES DETERMINISM ACTUALLY IMPACT ANYTHING?

Is it just me, or is a belief in determinism functionally and practically identical to a belief in free will?

For example, a materialistic determinist isn’t about to commit crimes with the excuse that his genes, upbringing and environment causally determine him to break the law – he knows (or ‘is causally determined to think he knows’) that even a secular atheist judge is going to throw that reason out of court and throw that punk in the slammer.

And divine determinists will still explain their views to you, or engage in debate, or attack (often their straw man understanding of) free will beliefs – as if doing so would achieve anything, when ‘God has already predetermined every thought and belief’.

Now one might argue (or ‘was causally determined before the foundation of the world to argue’) that the very act of presenting their deterministic views is part of God’s sovereign plan to get others to affirm determinism too. We really don’t know until it’s done, see. If it looks like his good argumentation convinced the listener to freely change his beliefs, well, that’s just what the divinely predetermined outcome SEEMS like to us mortals!

Which is why I said at the start that ‘determinism is functionally and practically identical to free will’. It’s an evidentially unproveable claim and at the same time an unfalsifiable assertion.

Pic related.

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ISRAEL AS THE NEW EGYPT

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” … But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. – Matthew 2:13-15,19-21

Notice WHERE/WHEN Matthew places the fulfilment of the prophet’s words “Out of Egypt I called my son.” – it’s many verses before Joseph brings his family out of physical-land Egypt and back into physical-land Israel. But Matthew does place it immediately after Joseph and family LEAVE PHYSICAL-LAND ISRAEL.

I’ve read an argument that Matthew intends to portray first-century Israel as the ‘new Egypt’. Consider the parallels:

– Jesus is the new Moses (countless parallels including immersion into water, 40 time periods in the wilderness, miracle typology e.g. turning water into red liquid, meeting God on a mountain).
– Herod is the new Pharaoh, ordering the slaughter of male babies.

And I’d like to add another parallel I just linked to the above:

– God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t let the Israelites go, leading to the Plagues on Egypt and the Passover, with word of these terrible judgments reaching the ears of the Canaanites.
– Jesus hid His true identity, speaking in parables and giving hard-to-swallow teachings to the general crowds, leading to the nation of Israel as a whole rejecting Him and handing Him over to be crucified. By doing so, God’s plan of redemption is fulfilled and word of this Good News eventually reaches the entire world.

Israel is the first-century ‘new Egypt’ from the time of Herod the Great all the way to the crucifixion of Jesus.

And just one more parallel:

– Immediately after the Exodus out of Egypt, about 3000 Israelites died because of their idolatry (Eodus 32:28). They took the gift of freedom and life, and exchanged it for bloody death.
– As Acts 2:22-24,37-41 shows, about 3000 of those in the same mob which crucified Jesus repented and now accepted Him! They took their blood-stained guilt and exchanged it for life.

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THE MESSIANIC SECRET (HEY DEMONS, SHUT YO’ MOUTHS)

So I just realized why Jesus keeps commanding evil spirits / demons not to reveal His true identity as God who has come to reclaim the earth (as per Psalm 82:8).

It’s tied in with the Messianic Secret, why Jesus similarly told various people not to reveal too much information about Him.

It’s tied in with Judicial Hardening (at least, the Provisionist view of it), why Jesus spoke in parables and gave hard-to-swallow teachings to the general crowd.

The reason was so that the nation of Israel as a whole would reject Jesus, and thereby crucify Him. And by doing so defeat the power of sin, death and the power of the spiritual forces over the nations. The blessing of Abraham is opened to all peoples, and the Gospel makes them all citizens of the Kingdom of God.

“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. – 1 Corinthians 2:8” applies to both the spiritual forces (as Dr Heiser states) and also the human leaders of the Jews (as Leighton Flowers uses the passage).

But that’s not the end of the story. Because as Acts 2:22-24,37-41 shows, 3000 of those in the same mob which crucified Jesus repented and now accepted Him! Even the very hands who handed Jesus over to death are offered acceptance into God’s family on earth.

——-

THEY LEFT CALVINISM

A short list just to show that no matter how hardcore, those who affirm TULIP can change their minds by using their God-given libertarian free will.

Ooooooor maybe Calvinism is true, so they were never Elect or God causally determined them not to remain Calvinist.

Leighton Flowers – 10 years a Calvinist, actually studying the alternatives (instead of just hearing the strawman versions portrayed by Reformed writers) made him become a Provisionist now. https://soteriology101.com/2014/12/08/the-5-points-that-lead-me-out-of-calvinism/

Tim Stratton – Now affirms Molinism, 1:58:30 onwards of here: https://youtu.be/oSMJRTghRtM

Greg Boyd – Now affirms Open Theism: https://youtu.be/SyZQySJeg4g

Paul Cooper – After a debate with Braxton Hunter on Calvinism (https://youtu.be/3MJd4zEl8zA), he gradually began to doubt and question the system, admitting to no longer affirming some of its tenets towards the end of this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdk38BlOSuI&t=1144s

Jordan B Cooper – Now affirms Lutheranism, and mentions here that many others left Calvinism and became Catholic, Orthodox or others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-Yw29JviQw&t=1011s

Kevin Thompson – Spent a year as a Calvinist and now has many videos refuting it – https://www.youtube.com/user/KevinThompson1611/videos

Herman Melville (possibly) – Author of Moby Dick, which contains his struggles with some tenets of Calvinism: https://www.grin.com/document/176967

And these former Calvinists whose beliefs about God directly caused or aided their apostasy into atheism should serve as a warning:

Derek Webb – Singer and songwriter for Caedmon’s Call, which released many songs with a Calvinistic bent (example: https://songmeanings.com/songs/view/107788/). https://soteriology101.com/2018/10/25/derek-webb-a-reformed-atheist/

Matt W Cook – Turned to Calvinism, and then turned to unbelief: https://mwcook.com/my-journey/ (He chats with Derek Webb at https://mwcook.com/2018/09/10/conversation-with-derek-webb/ which is clipped from 1:49:30 onwards of https://youtu.be/eZ-Rtt4KCUI )

Edwin Curley – Raised in a tradition that he mistakenly assumed all Christians, including William Lane Craig, believe in – https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/debates/the-existence-of-the-christian-god-the-craig-curley-debate/

——-

OKAY FOR GOD, NOT FOR YOU, BECAUSE.

But I need to ask: Do they actually have a valid point?

After all, “WHO ARE YOU O MAN?” and “My ways are not your ways”.

Discussion and some insights requested to help me parse this issue.

Example 1: God is transcendant, not contradictory.

Chris Date’s Self-Defeating Doctrine of Transcendence

… the real crux of Chris’s argument. Which is this: Unlike human beings, God can plan, intend, and design evil things in a morally pure way.

You may be shouting at your screen “That’s impossible!” but follow Chris Date’s thought further. He would agree with you that is impossible for human beings, but God is transcendent and so all things are possible with God, including intending evil things in a morally pure way. Including fore-ordaining all things without causing all things, ie. being outside the chain of cause effect we humans are bound to. God is transcendent. God can square that circle. Therefore, human beings’ criticisms of what He intends are fundamentally invalid.

Example 2: It’s not sinful for God to cause people to sin, because God never made a law stating ‘God shall not cause people to sin’.

https://www.godcontention.org/christian/william-lane-craig-and-divine-determinism

It is suggested that “if it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd”, and we of course agree that such a conclusion is absurd, quite simply because it is not evil for God to make a human do something sinful. In rejecting the premise, as the scriptures do, we are not bound to the absurd conclusion. In elaboration, the Bible defines sin as the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Thus, in order for God to sin, we must first believe that there is in fact some kind of law that governs Him. Since He is the source of all laws, He would have had to order Himself not to cause anyone to sin. Then, in order for Him to be a sinner, He would have had to disobey His own order for Himself. We see no such command governing God in scripture, and since we do clearly see God causing people to sin, and since we know that God, the one in absolute authority, cannot possibly sin or err in any way or else He would be opposed to Himself and therefore no longer in authority, we must necessarily come to the conclusion that God has not in fact ordered Himself not to cause people to sin. Thus, it is not a sin for Him to do so.

——-

WHY A CORRECT BELIEF DETERMINISM CANNOT BE RATIONAL

If determinism is true then the determinist’s belief in determinism was not the result of a careful study and consideration of the facts and logic of determinism. It was merely the causal agent (whether biology and neurons firing, or God) causing that person to hold that belief. Just as it is the causal agent making other people reject determinism.

A screenshot from a book by Greg Koukl (five point Calvinist, but affirms free will):

kouklondeterminism

Here is the late Ravi Zecharias explaining the same over 6 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysilAAo5RcA
Crime detective J Warner Wallace explaining the same over 3 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlI5FDg5Xlw
Philosopher Tim Stratton explaining it at length over 2 hours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFKg0veH7fo&t=5469s

——-

DETERMINISM & EPISTEMOLOGY

At 89:50 of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFKg0veH7fo&t=5443s it is mentioned that Guillaume Bignon dislikes the mad scientist analogy Tim Stratton makes for determinism, because it ‘may cut the link between evidence and belief’.
Reformed Epistemology is the philosophical view that ‘religious belief can be rational without any appeal to evidence or argument’. It stems from the theology of John Calvin, particularly the idea of Sensus Divinitatis.
May I observe that OF COURSE such an epistemology is required under exhaustive divine determinism such as Calvin’s! Determinism makes it impossible to rationally believe anything, because you aren’t weighing the evidence and coming to a reasoned conclusion – it is an outside factor causally determining you to hold that belief.
The syllogism being:
1) Rational beliefs are concluded based on consideration of evidence.
2) Determinism precludes any consideration of evidence.
3) Hence, determinism entails that we cannot hold rational beliefs.
What Reformed Epistemology does is allow the determinist to reject Premise 3, without denying the preceding premises. They can continue to affirm determinism, but also make the flat assertion that their causally determined beliefs are somehow rational!

 


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3 Responses to “Musings on Calvinism”

  1. br.d Says:

    Nice web site!
    Here is another resource – if you find it of value

    CUTTING THROUGH THE FOG OF CALVINISM
    http://www.behind-calvinisms-mask.info/#INDEX

  2. Scotttcast Says:

    Thanks mate, this is def appreciated!

  3. br.d Says:

    You are welcome!
    And blessings!

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