Monday, May 21, 2007

Brief Response To Roy Ingle's Comments on Calvinism

Roy Ingle said:

From the Calvinist viewpoint, God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-14). God elected to save people by His grace alone and by His sovereign choice in His Son (John 1:12-13). Therefore, we did not chose to become disciples of Christ but He chose us (John 15:16)

These comments are taken from Roy Ingle's recent blog article on the question of who chooses who in salvation. Roy's article is basically concerned with contrasting his views as an Arminian with those of the Calvinist in order to demonstrate that the Arminian position is preferable in regards to the question being addressed. My drawing attention to his comments here will not be an attempt to counter Roy's arguments but rather to point out some problems with the way in which Roy represents the Calvinist position. For instance, the last sentence from the above excerpt is not an accurate statement of the Calvinist position. Roy's statement would give the uninformed the impression that Calvinsts do not believe that men choose to become disciples of Christ. This common error in representing the Calvinist position on the reality of choice is regrettably repeated in Roy's post as we are about to see.

Calvinist strongly oppose free will in man...

Here again, Roy makes a mistake in how he represents the Calvinist position on the reality of choice. Calvinists are not opposed to free-will per se. It is the libertarian notion of free-will that a Calvinist strongly opposes. In other words, the issue is not over whether there is such a thing as free-will, rather, the issue is over how free-will is to be defined.

...because of their teaching that God directly controls all things including the very decisions of men.

The accuracy of this statement depends upon what Roy means by the phrase "God directly controls". That is, Calvinists believe and teach a distinction in how God causes things to come about. This distinction is usually stated as primary causation versus secondary causation. An example of primary causation would be the incarnation of Christ. God the Holy Spirit directly acted upon Mary's person and caused her to conceive a child. An example of secondary causation would be Adam and Eve's first child. The child came about by way of natural procreation without divine intervention and yet, the text of holy writ nontheless attributes to God a role in bringing about this event (see also Gen. 4:25). Such distinctions in Reformed theology should be acknowledged by anyone performing even a cursory critique of Calvinism. Otherwise, the danger of misrepresentation becomes unavoidable.

Arminianism, however, believes that God does not directly determine man's decisions but He does directly control man's decisions. In other words, God is in control but He does not violate man's free will.

Here, Roy states that in Arminianism God does not violate man's will which is all well and good. However, a problem arises when one remembers that Roy is contrasting Arminianism with Calvinism. Thus, the implication is that in Calvinism God does in fact violate man's will. But the Calvinist is left wondering how such an assertion can be made in light of the fact that the Calvinist position on man's will has not been shown to lead to such a conclusion. Indeed, the Calvinist position has yet to be mentioned!

So the Arminian understanding of the question of who chose whom would be that God did in fact chose us by His grace alone but He did not force us to chose Him.

And it is also the Calvinist understanding of the question at hand that God does not force men to choose the things that he does. No Calvinist with whom I am familiar believes or teaches that men are forced to do anything. Now, Roy may well believe that this is what the Calvinist position boils down to but he does not present an argument for consideration thus, there is no reason why anybody reading Roy's article should accept his charicature of the Calvinist position.

He does draw us unto Himself through His Son (John 3:16-17) but He allows the human being the freedom to chose to love Him and obey Him (John 3:36; 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Again, Roy's statements carry with them the necessary implication that it is the Calvinist position that men do not have the freedom to choose to love and obey God. But this is patently false. Calvinists do in fact believe and teach that men have the freedom to choose whatever they want. If a man chooses to love and obey God, he will. If a man chooses to hate and reject God, he will. Thus, if a man can choose according to what he desires, how is this not freedom?

At any rate, while I found Roy's article to be interesting, I don't think he properly represented the issues surrounding this ancient debate. There was very little if anything that a Calvinist could have agreed with in regards to how their view was presented and this in itself should be enough to give the cautious reader pause.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Justin says...

Roy said, "He does draw us unto Himself through His Son (John 3:16-17) but He allows the human being the freedom to chose to love Him and obey Him (John 3:36; 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6)."

It is interesting to note how he quotes John 3:16-17 (which speak nothing of drawing, either in the Reformed or Arminian defintion), yet he says that God "allows the human being the freedom to chose to love Him and obey Him," a fact I in no way deny, but a thing which man is unable to do! Look at the immediately following verses of John 3:16-17, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (verses 19-20). Men, by nature, always refuse to come to the Light, due both to hatred of the Light and fear of the Light.

A recommended reading I, well, recommend (duh!) would be Spurgeon's sermon on libertarian free-will, found here: http://www.the-highway.com/Freewill_Spurgeon.html

The Seeking Disciple said...

Again, I agree that man does indeed hate the light as you quote from John 3:19-20. Arminians don't believe that man does love the light but we certainly do not believe that man has no choice when it comes to the drawing of the Spirit (John 6:44). We affirm that God, in his goodness and grace, allows the sinner to either humbly submit or reject his offer of salvation by His common grace. It is Calvinistic inability that we deny.

While I do agree that Calvinist use the word "free will" they do not use it the same way myself or other Arminians would use it. By free will, I mean that God controls all things but He does not directly determine all things including sin or even belief. He allows human beings freedom to choose to be disciples or not by His grace. Calvinism, in contrast, believes that man is free but it is limited and determined beforehand by God's sovereignty (their view of it) and thus free will is not truly free will in the purist sense. This is a point we both know fully and will disagree on until Jesus comes.

J. Matthew Cleary said...

Hi Roy,

I hope you don't mind too much that I had a go at one of your posts. I figured you and I would end up discussing our differences at some point so I thought, "well, better sooner than later I guess!"

"Calvinism, in contrast, believes that man is free but it is limited and determined beforehand by God's sovereignty (their view of it) and thus free will is not truly free will in the purist sense."

And by "purist sense" you undoubtedly mean *libertarianism*. So what you're basically saying is the Calvinist notion of free-will isn't truly free-will because it isn't being defined in the libertarian sense. But is this not question begging? And if you appeal to a "common" understanding of free-will, then you would still be begging the question. Just because something has a common understanding doesn't automatically mean that it's right. A common understanding can be, and oftentimes is, wrong.

Anonymous said...

Justin says...

"It is Calvinistic inability that we deny."

My brother, simply explain to me how, when Jesus said and John wrote, "No man is able to come to Me," they both did not mean what they said? The word that John used in 6:44 was 'dunamai' which only means 'to be able to do something.' And for "no one," John used the word 'oudeis' which only means 'no one, nothing.' Now, the only message I can take from that is, "Nothing is able to come to Me." Explain to me why this passage does not teach human inability.

"We certainly do not believe that man has no choice when it comes to the drawing of the Spirit (John 6:44)"

Neither do Calvinists. When sinners are drawn, they are drawn willingly. Effectual grace is, among other things, the removal of resistence, so that we joyfully flee to Christ when convicted by the Holy Spirit. Hence the term "irresistible."

Also, you ignore the word for "draw." The word used in 6:44 is 'helkuo,' which only and always means, 'to drag off, to impel.' It does not mean simply 'to woo' or to 'beg.'

"We affirm that God, in his goodness and grace, allows the sinner to either humbly submit or reject his offer of salvation by His common grace."

If you affirm that all men everywhere, by nature, hate God and fear God, and will not come to God because their deeds are evil, you must see the futility of your statement. All men, because of their condition, will continually deny God and His offer, if left to themselves.

"While I do agree that Calvinist use the word "free will" they do not use it the same way myself or other Arminians would use it."

Of course. :)

"Calvinism, in contrast, believes that man is free but it is limited and determined beforehand by God's sovereignty (their view of it)"

In a sense, yes. It is of necessity that man is limited because of God's sovereignty. We cannot be equally as free as God.

But, in a sense, no. We believe that, due to the Fall, men are by nature sinners. Because we are sinners, our free choices will always result in rebellion and sin. Ergo, God must change our nature (and that against our natural will, too, otherwise it would never happen) in order for us to make the Gospel choice.

It all goes back to compatibalism vs. libertarianism.

"thus free will is not truly free will in the purist sense."

So then you believe that men have more freedom than God? Because God cannot simply choose to be other than what He is. While men on earth can choose whether to be sinful or holy, God has to remain being holy. While men on earth can choose whom they love or hate, you suppose that God must always love everyone equally. While men can choose to lie, God cannot. While men can be unworthy, God can only be worthy.

I think the Arminian argument is, "If I can't refuse to love someone, then it isn't love at all." Then we have just made God a robot, for He cannot refuse to love someone, according to you. While at the same time sinners are undergoing God's judgment and fierce hatred in Hell, because "God is love" He is obligated to love them with the same love that He has for those in Heaven.

So in the end, libertarianism makes God less free than man, a view which I simply cannot reconcile myself to.

"He allows human beings freedom to choose to be disciples or not by His grace."

Agreed, but if it is libertarian freedom, then again, no one would choose to be a disciple. Let's consider Jesus' words to those who want to become Jesus' disciple, "Deny yourself, carry your cross, and follow Me." Does this sound like something a man who loves their sin, hates burdens, and is a sheep constantly wandering afar off, would "freely" choose? Not to me, anyway.

"This is a point we both know fully and will disagree on until Jesus comes."

Well, unlike you, I believe that "if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you" (Philippians 3:15). But yes, if it is God's will that we should both be in Heaven, we will be reconciled regardless the outcome.

Anonymous said...

Justin says...

PS: Roy, do you sin? Assuming you answer in the affirmative, then why not stop? If your definition of free-will is true, then you should simply be able to say, "Nope, I don't want to sin anymore." And, because you are free, you shouldn't have any problem not sinning.

I'll give you a day to go without sinning.

kangerooDort said...

Justin said:

Also, you ignore the word for "draw." The word used in 6:44 is 'helkuo,' which only and always means, 'to drag off, to impel.' It does not mean simply 'to woo' or to 'beg.'

Can you provide any lexical evidence that when "helkuo" has reference to the human soul (as in Jn. 6:44; 12:32) it carries the meaning of "drag" or "impel"?

If you want to cite lists of verses which refer to swords being drawn, nets being dragged, etc. then all you have proved is how the word is used with regards to material objects.

John 6:44, and 12:32 have reference to how God draws our spirits through His word and Spirit. This is quite a different situation than that of physical objects being pulled, dragged, etc.

Anonymous said...

Justin says...

Kangeroodort, hello! Pleased to meet you.

You write, "Can you provide any lexical evidence that when "helkuo" has reference to the human soul (as in Jn. 6:44; 12:32) it carries the meaning of "drag" or "impel"?"

Since the word "helkuo" only means those things, then there really is no need, now is there?

Likewise, can you provide any evidence that it does NOT mean "drag" or "impel"? It has never been used in a context in which it simply means, "to woo, beg, plead."

Again, you write, "This is quite a different situation than that of physical objects being pulled, dragged, etc."

Should it matter what the object of the verb is? I've never known the object to change the verbs designated meaning. If I climb a tree, or I climb a human, I'm still climbing.

Here, I've written a post a while ago dealing with irresistible grace, if you are interested. Go here: http://knowingtheyhwh.timothysburden.com/2007/05/23/irresistible-grace-part-1/

Peace and grace,
-Justin

kangeroodort said...

"Since the word "helkuo" only means those things, then there really is no need, now is there?"

If it only ever means drag, impel, then it strange that every Bible translation I know of renders the word "draw" in Jn. 6:44; 12:32. No one would read the word "draw",in these contexts, and conclude that it meant "irresistibly drag". The lexicons I have looked at always include "draw" as one meaning of the word. If translaters know that the word only ever means "drag", then it is strange that they do not translate the word that way in these contexts. Are they trying to mislead the unbiased reader of Scripture?
I do not object that this is a powerful "drawing", only that it is finally irresistible. I do object to you seeming to assume that I see helkuo as meaning "beg" or "plead".

For an excellent treatment of the lack of lexical evidence for your understanding of helkuo in the context of Jn. 6:44; 12:32, see article at http://www.fwponline.cc/v19n1switzki.html; or google "Free Grace or Forced Grace?" and it will be the first article that comes up.

I have not had a chance to look at your article, but I will try to get to it today. God Bless.

Justin said...

Matt, like this?

~~~

Kangeroo, the word "helkuo" is only used four times in the Greek New Testament. All the times it is used, it is translated as "draw" but that doesn't alter it's intended meaning (to drag, impel). Three of the times it is used in reference to people. Two times it speaks of actually being dragged (the fish, and the persecuted Christians). Despite this, you have failed to show me why a verb loses its intended meaning when used against a different object ("If I climb a tree, or a person, I'm still climbing").


"No one would read the word "draw",in these contexts, and conclude that it meant "irresistibly drag"."

Well, great, I guess I'm No One then, because when I read the word "draw" in the context of John 6:44, I conclude that it means irresistibly drag.


" I do object to you seeming to assume that I see helkuo as meaning "beg" or "plead"."

How else, then, would you suggest we should define the word? Either God begs/pleads/woos a sinner to Himself, or He draws/drags/impels a sinner to Himself.


""Free Grace or Forced Grace?""

I've heard of the article, but haven't gotten around to reading all of it. I'll take a look at it over the week.

And don't worry about not reading my article. It was only a suggestion.

kangeroodort said...

I will reserve further comment until you have read the article. I did read yours.