Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pelagius Wannabe

An anonymous commenter going by the name "Pelagius", visited my blog recently and posted his thoughts on a particuliar entry of mine, and on Calvinism in general. Here is what he said (with my comments interspersed):

I laud you for your intellectual honesty even though I am a Finney Presbyterian and disagree with your theology.

A Finney Presbyterian? Didn't that used to be an oxymoron?

As you point out in your post, most Calvinists deny that under their system of theology; which is predicated on the Eternal Decree; God is according to Reformed theology - the author of sin.

Pelagius seems to think that I believe God to be the author of evil whereas, most Calvinists do not. But what I stated was that, while Calvinists deny that God is the author of evil, they will admit to God being the ultimate cause of all things and that nothing occurs but by His will. As I pointed out in my last blog entry, Calvinists use the term "author" differently in theological contexts. The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes tatken away, but rather established...

I, and every Calvinist author I have read affirm these words. So what Pelagius fails to do is to address how the Calvinist defines the term "author" in theological contexts, and also fails to address the distinction between *primary* and *secondary* causation. Since Pelagius offers no argumentation to these distinctions, nothing further need be said here.

Calvinism is a system of necessity and precludes any liberty, free will, free agency or second causes.

Yes, Calvinism is a system of necessity but it does not preclude liberty, free-will, or free-agency. What Pelagius is doing here is smuggling in his views of Libertarianism and human autonomy under the guise of these terms. He fails to mention the competing theories of man's will such as Compatiblism. Like most non-Calvinists, Pelagius assumes his particuliar theory of man's will without benefit of argument.

When theologians attempt to get around this logical truth, they create a host of philosophical and logical problems and inconsistencies.

Notice how Pelagius proceeds to criticize Calvinism based on his unsupported assumptions of how free-will and liberty are properly defined. This is the fallacy known as "question begging".

Surprisingly Hodge's Systematic Theology is full of contradictions and errors - all because he wants to maintain the concept of free agency and free will;

Notice again how Pelagius does not offer us any examples of Hodge's supposed contradictions and errors. Though I haven't read Hodge's Systematic Theology, I assume that Hodge at some point affirms free-will and free-agency but defines these terms according to deterministic/compatiblistic thinking. If so, then Pelagius is still begging the question because he hasn't bothered to demonstrate just why Libertarian free-will is correct and why compatiblistic free-will is in error.

"I must admit, the scriptures that you have quoted do not charge God with sin."

Nor did I mean for them to. The verses I briefly examined address God's relationship to evil. I have never claimed that God sins nor do I know of any Calvinist who has. Undoubtedly, Pelagius means to say that he disagrees with my assesment of the verses covered in my article. But again, he offers no argument which causes me to wonder what this fellow's purpose was in posting this response since without supporting argumentation to the assertions made, it is pointless.


Bob said...

Why...what you are saying will make humans into robots! Love cannot exist when we are robots!

"I laud you for your intellectual honesty even though I am a Finney Presbyterian and disagree with your theology."

Yeah it's kind of funny because for Finney to get ordained in the Presbyterian church (which he was) he had to flat out lie about agreeing with the WMCF. In truth Finney later admits he had never read it.

It's really hard to find somebody who really does understand Calvinism and disagrees with it.

J. Matthew Cleary said...


And it's just as hard to find someone to accurately represent Calvinism even after being corrected on a particuliar point.

Anonymous said...

It is worth pointing out that Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by the Church after debating Augustine on the matter of free-will.

It is in Arminianism that we find the fruit of the semi-pelagian doctrine which denies the sovereignty of God over salvation.

Nice post.

GeneMBridges said...

Calvinism is a system of necessity and precludes any liberty, free will, free agency or second causes.

One wonders if Pelagius has read the standard confessions.

He doesn't understand the difference between material causes and efficient causes. He does not understand the difference between compulsion and necessity. He doesn't understand the difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition.

Lisa said...

Oh no, the famous robot argument...How could God make us all robots? :)
It's a gracious God who over-rided my rebellious will and saved me.
Wow, some other Calvinists...that's a rare find indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

I prefer the term "slave" to Christ rather than "robot" for Christ. Paul calls himself a salve. I dare say, most Arminians don't like that term either.

Since, "The Natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit, since they are spiritually discerned" something had to happen to me... it's call regeneration, which Paul describes as being dead in trespasses and sins, and now I have been made alive.