Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dennis Clough Strikes Again

Readers of this blog may remember a charming fellow by the name of Dennis Clough who argued here on my blog that the story of Cain and Abel refuted the Calvinistic position on a number of issues. Readers of this blog may also remember that Mr. Clough became very emotional and outright nasty in his posts and was warned several times to either control himself or go elsewhere with his tirades. In the end, he disappeared leaving various points and issues sitting on the table. Several days ago however, Mr. Clough resurfaced after six whole months and sort of picked up where he left off on the Cain and Abel issue. Here is how he chooses to dust off his arguments in that particuliar thread:

You aren't half as tired of my comments as I am of the conclusions of Calvinism which will not stand the light of Scripture. And it's actually funny to be accused of repeation from the Calvinist camp! They who crank out endless books "explaining" Calvinism over and over again to the fully indoctrinated lest they forget exactly how many hairs there were on Calvin's head. The rank and file are so inundated with the flood of cookie cutter books they have little time to read the Word itself it would seem.

And then if there are not the proper "oohs" and "ahhs" from the choir at each presentation of the faded and frayed "tulip" , there will be recriminations! It will be suggested that one is not intellectual, perhaps the unpardonable sin to a Calvinist!

After all, didn't Jesus carefully seek out educated fishermen and indoctrinate them in the theological maze of Calvinism? Peter, James and John were trained theologians, having graduated from the Seminary of Full Nets with a degree in sheep feeding! Not sure if this qualified them to be serious Calvinists however, especially since they were too busy writing Scripture that refutes those nefarious doctrines to actually study Calvinism. Too bad, they could have really done something for God if they were better equipped!

As anyone reading this can readily see, this latest broadside by Mr. Clough is woefully short on substance. There is no mention of any of the issues that he left six months ago nor does he even try to salvage his arguments regarding Cain. The post is nothing but emotionally charged rhetoric which is what his posts devolved into before he disappeared (for further examples see here and here) and thus requires no direct interaction from me. One would think that after so many months Mr. Clough would have been able to calm down enough to actually engage the issues surrounding Calvinism. But ironically, I suppose I should thank Mr. Clough for his latest jab at Calvinism because it only serves to highlight and reinforce my comments and observations from my previous post on the bankruptcy of argumentation from non-Calvinists.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Missing The Mark

About a month ago someone named Evelyn had this to say in response to my blog in general:

Calvanism: How do you explaine this?

Passage 2 Peter 2:20:
20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

1 Corinthians 15:2:
2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

To which I responded with:

Hi Evelyn,

Explain what? Calvinism affirms the truthfulness of these passages just as much as they do the truthfulness of such passages as John 6 and Romans 9. If you believe that the two passages you have quoted somehow contradicts my position then you will need to present an argument for me to consider. As it stands, all you've done here is prooftext under the guise of posing a question.

I haven't heard back from Evelyn so I would like to go ahead and briefly comment further on her passing shot at Calvinism.

Aside from the fact that she's obviously prooftexting, she simply misses the mark. Her quoting of 2Peter 2 and 1Corinthians 15 appears to be aimed at the doctrine of "the perseverance of the saints". Since this doctrine is the logical and theological conclusion of other more basic and foundational doctrines (i.e. God's sovereignty, the nature of man's will, election and reprobation etc.), her passing shot is virtually meaningless. It's like she's trying to stop a train by disabling the caboose or killing a rattlesnake by cutting off it's tail. It's simply not going to get her anywhere and only serves to highlight the bankruptcy of argumentation from the non-Calvinist side and further strengthens my convictions in regards to Calvinism being the truest expression of the gospel of our Lord.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

When Ignorance Isn't Bliss

The other day, my family and I were eating out at a local resturant. We were in a section that had one other large family sitting in it. At one point the other families' discussion grew more audible and we could tell that they were discussing the bible. It was at this point that we were privy to this interesting tidbit:

The bible was written in Hebrew, then translated into jewish. From jewish, it was translated again into the King James.

Now, it isn't neccessary for me to go into a correction of the above quote for the simple reason that if you are reading this blog then you probably have an idea of how our english bibles came to be. I suppose the only thing I would like to say about this episode is that if people are going to be this ignorant, they should at least do it in the privacy of their own homes because they never know when their ignorance might appear on the 'net as someone else's blog fodder!

Monday, October 16, 2006

To My Readers (both real and imagined)

I would like to apologize to anyone out there who might visit this blog regularly (especially you Tom) as I have not blogged on anything in over a month. Much of my online time the past month has been spent engaged in drawn-out dialogues with some pretty nasty anti-Calvinists on a certain message board. Engaging these kinds of people is quite time consuming and can mire a body down in so much theological muck as to cause a person to wonder why they bother in the first place. I have to keep reminding myself that somebody has to do it. Why? Because really bad anti-Calvinist argumentation is rampant on message boards like the one I frequent. These arguments are like bad rumors. No matter how far out that rumor may be, it will be spread and even believed by folks who should know better or, worse yet, by those who don't know any better. It is folks like these in this latter group for whom I dirty myself. These are the folks who have never been exposed to the doctrines of grace and thus are the most susceptible to being duped by rabid anti-Calvinists. Then there are the "fence sitters". These are the folks that are almost convinced of the truthfulness of the doctrines of grace and are waiting for someone to confront and refute something they may have read by an anti-Calvinist. Thus, I roll up my sleeves, don my oxygen tank, and wade in. But fear not my loyal readers (both real and imagined), I have no intentions of abandoning my blog as so many others do these days. I will continue to post here and, God willing, more frequently than in recent weeks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Simple Math

"Sola gratia", or "grace alone" is a doctrine that is affirmed by the vast majority of protestant Christianity. But it has been my experience that protestants outside of the reformed traditions only pay lip service to this doctrine. That is, they will affirm sola gratia on the one hand, while emptying the term of all meaning on the other. Case in point:

We believe in salvation by "Grace" plus nothing and minus nothing. The conditions to salvation are repentance and faith in Jesus the Christ:

This statement comes from Covington Seminary's statement of faith. Immediatly, the Calvinist sees a very basic problem. It is here stated that salvation is by grace plus nothing and minus nothing. Leaving the "minus" out, we can put it another way:

Grace + Nothing = Salvation


G + N = S

Now, this would be in accordance with Sola Gratia if the statement stopped here. But it doesn't. The statement goes on to say that salvation is conditioned on two other things. That is, two conditions are added to the above formula so that now we have:

Grace + Faith + Repentance = Salvation


G + F + R = S

As just stated, the problem is obvious to a Calvinist. The statement started with positing that salvation came by grace plus or minus nothing only to turn around and say that salvation came by grace, repentance, and faith. In the above formulas, nothing (N) cannot be equivalent to faith (F) and repentance (R) because to suggest this would be to deny the reality of faith and repentance in Christian doctrine. Thus, for the Christian, it is one or the other and not both. And while I'm sure that Covington Theological Seminary is a fine institution of Christian learning, someone over there needs some classes in remedial math.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Visitors From The Blogosphere

This Labor Day, I would like to give a shout-out to all the reformed bloggers who have taken the time to post their thoughts here at Conversations.

Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure - Mike was the first to link my blog on his site (many thanks Mike!). One of Mike's most recent posts discusses the crucial doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Bob Ladwig of The Puritan's Sword - Bob has recently drawn attention to the fact that Joel Osteen has released a board game version of his "Best Life Now" book (oh brother).

Thomas W.S. of Doctrine Matters - Tom's latest post is an excerpt from John Newton's "Evil Long I Took Delight". Check it out!

Bartimaeus of The Five Points of Calvinism Defended - Bartimaeus' most recent entry highlights an excerpt from the August 2006 issue of Tabletalk written by RC Sproul.

J.D. of Did You Hear What You Just Said? - J.D.'s most recent entry is 3 months old but is still an eye-opening testimony to the lengths that non-Calvinists will go to in arguing against the doctrines of grace. In my opinion, J.D. should post more often because, as my previous entry shows, there are plenty of "Arminian sayings" on the web to draw attention to.

Jason Robertson of Fide-O - Yeah I know, as if this guy needs a plug from me! Anyway Jason's most recent post concerns the covenant of works and is, as always, an interesting read.

Pilgrim of Slaves of Righteousness - Pilgrim's latest is a light-hearted comparison between himself and Charles Spurgeon.

David McCrory of Covenant Corner - David recently linked to an eye-opening article that discusses Wal-Mart's involvment with homosexual activism.

Lady Raven of The Reforming of the Raven - Now, "Lady Raven" has several different blogs that appear to be dedicated to several of her many (and unusual) interests. From what I can tell, the one I've linked to here is where she blogs on her views as a reformed Christian. This entry is particuliarly interesting as she discusses what it means to be offended in our day.

And lastly, Gene Bridges of Triablogue and Strange Baptist Fire - Gene reportedly had a rough time of it this past week so everyone is encouraged to pray for him. Also, I would like to thank Gene for letting all us Star Trek fans know about the new SFX in upcoming episodes of the original Star Trek!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Anti-Calvinism Quote Of The Day

A long-time poster over at Zola Levitt's message board who goes by the screen-name "Littlesooz", has posted a comment in response to a quote from Loraine Boettner. I've looked at this quote all morning trying to figure out how it relates to the quote from Boettner and I can't make heads nor tails of it. Anyway, here is the quote:

Well, I would say that is true if one serves a Ku Klux Clan god.

As I said, I don't see how this relates to Boettner's statements and even if it did, how does this really answer what Boettner was saying? A one-liner like this isn't going to refute anything and only calls into question the credibility of the person posting it. And as I've previously pointed out in reference to similiar statements, this person may very well have to answer for it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dave Hunt: The Man, The Myth, The Dishonesty

In the reformed communities, Dave Hunt's name has become synonymous with such terms and phrases as, misrepresentation, ad hominem, charicature, poor research, and dishonesty. This concensus stems largely from Dave Hunt's polemical work entitled, "What Love Is This?". This work hit the bookshelves in 2002 and almost immediately, James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries began the tedious task of documenting the errors that permeated the pages of "What Love Is This?" (hereafter referred to as WLIT). It wasn't long before Dave Hunt's own ministry began to lose revenue due to WLIT and eventually was forced into publishing the work himself thru his own ministry due to his publisher refusing to put out the second edition. Amazingly, Hunt has recently released a third edition of WLIT despite the fact that he is still being forced to self-publish the book.

Now, as mentioned above, James White has documented many gross errors contained within WLIT (both first and second editions) and others that have sprang from Dave Hunt's ministry and writing. Some examples of White's documentation are:

  • Hunt's statement that Charles Spurgeon "unequivocally" denied limited atonement (see here)
  • Hunt's endorsement of the New World Translation's rendering of Acts 13:48 (see here)
  • Hunt's exegetical error on 1John 5:1 and the subsequent retraction of his statements in regards to the same in the second edition of WLIT (see here)
  • Hunt blaming the refusal of his publisher to print the second edition of WLIT on some great "Calvinistic conspiracy" (see here)
  • The now infamous "Hebrew original" of Acts 1-15 (see here)

After reading thru these examples coupled with listening to White's audio files, one wonders how anyone in their right mind could endorse Dave Hunt's work. Indeed, I was surprised to find an individual recently who not only bought WLIT, but was aggressively defending both Hunt and his book. And what's sad is that no matter how many times Hunt's errors are demonstrated, this individual believes Hunt to be right and everyone else to be wrong including Laurence Vance whose criticism on parts of WLIT was written off by this individual as being biased.

Also, this person at one point linked to a Q & A section of Hunt's site in which I found this interesting tidbit:

Sadly, with few exceptions, most of the Calvinists who write to me make similar unsupported charges. For example, see James White's response to my book, What Love Is This? -Dave Hunt

This statement was made in response to a letter Hunt receieved that was critical of his work in regards to Calvinism. The charges made against Hunt are similiar, if not identical to many of White's own criticisms of Hunt. Yet, Hunt says that not only are the charges unsupported, but White's charges are equally unsupported. Undoubtedly, Hunt is referring to White's open letter that was written and posted to White's site soon after WLIT was released. And as anyone can see, White's open letter (which is also linked above) is lengthy and full of documentation of White's charges. In light of this, I dare say that Hunt's statement above is a bold-faced lie. There simply is no other way of looking at it. For Hunt to dismiss White's open letter as "unsupported charges", is outright dishonesty on Hunt's part. It is precisely this, coupled with the documentation on James White's site, that justifies and strengthens the reformed community's opinion of Hunt and his work. And it is this sort of thing that is ignored and/or explained away by ardent supporters of Hunt such as the aforementioned individual. Indeed, since White's documentation shows Hunt to be immune to correction, can we really expect Hunt's supporters to be any different?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Servetus Maneuver

I love Star Trek. Specifically, I love the "Next Generation". I remember one of the earlier episodes in which Captain Picard, while on board his previous ship, the Stargazer, had been brainwashed into believing that he was re-living a past battle in which he was forced to destroy an attacking ship. During that battle, Picard came up with an unorthadox maneuver that would eventually be labeled, the "Picard Maneuver", a tactic that had no known defense. So while brainwashed and still aboard the Stargazer, Picard believed that the Enterprise was the attacking ship from the past and was preparing to repeat his patented maneuver. But as one may guess, the crew of the Enterprise did figure a way out of the whole situation and they went on to explore the galaxy happily ever after.

In like manner, non-Calvinists and unbelievers alike will employ the "Servetus Maneuver" whenever they are faced with Calvinist opposition. This tactic is often used as a last ditch effort when confronted with superior argumentation or, in place of an argument to begin with because everyone knows the "Servetus Maneuver" cannot be defended. Or, so the non-Calvinist assumes. The problem with the "Servetus Maneuver" is that those who employ it have great difficulty answering the question of just why the burning of Servetus automatically falsifies Calvin's theological viewpoints. The main thrust of this tactic is to paint Calvin as being as tyrannical and blood-thirsty as Vlad the Impaler himself, so that anything and everything about the man was just wrong. But even if it be granted that Calvin was a religous Hitler, the logical fallacy remains. The one employing this tactic is still left with refuting Calvin's views biblically. At any rate, both Steve Hays and Gene Bridges of Triablogue have recently addressed the issue of Servetus and everyone is encouraged to peruse their handling of this issue.

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.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Face of Evil

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools... Romans 1:18-22 NIV

These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful...For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. Revelation 17:14 & 17 NASB

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Response To "Alpha"

"Alpha" had this to say in response to my earlier post titled, "God's Relationship to Evil":

Thank you for allowing me to respond to your post. I am not a Calvinist or Reformed Doctrine follower but perhaps we both can learn from one another.

And thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts on what I have written. But before we go any further, I would like to clarify that I do not "follow" anything or anyone other than Christ. I mention this so as to hopefully avoid any accusations that I follow Calvin instead of Christ. As long as this canard is avoided, I believe that we may indeed be able to learn something here. Moving on:

I list below a very clear section of scripture from the Lord in Jeremiah 19. Verse 5 clearly refutes the reformed position and the following claim within your earlier post-“However, the Calvinist at some point must admit that Reformed theology affirms God as the ultimate cause of all things and thatnothing occurs but by His will”.

Jeremiah 19:5 reads:

and have built the hight places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; NASB

In Jeremiah 19, the LORD is rebuking Israel for turning to heathen gods (in this case Baal) and for offering their sons as burnt offerings. Verse 5 states that God did not command or speak these things to the Israelites. The LORD further states that these things the Israelites were doing did not "enter His mind". Alpha's contention seems to be focused on this last phrase. Apparantly, these things not "entering" the mind of God refutes the notion that God decrees all things that take place. But why should we accept this? Alpha doesn't present an argument for why Jeremiah 19:5 contradicts Calvinism. Alpha simply says it does. As it is, the verse is recording God's assurance that He did not in any way command or approve the actions of the Israelites. Alpha needs to demonstrate a contradiction between what is written in v. 5 with the Calvinistic notions of God's preceptive will and decretal will.

Mat 23:37, Acts 7:49-52, and Proverbs 1:22-31 are additional scriptures to support that not all things are authored by the Lord.

I do not see anything in Acts 7 or Proverbs 1 that speaks directly to the issues at hand. As for Matthew 23:37, much can be (and has been) said here. Calvinists have written extensively on this verse and have effectively removed it from the arsenal of the non-Calvinist. For a thorough exegetical discussion of Matthew 23, click here.

I maintain that GOD permits all things for HIS ultimate GLORY.

And I would say that God "works all things after the counsel of His will". I see no reason to maintain that God merely permits things to happen in light of the fact that none of the verses I covered stated anything about God merely "permitting" evil. Further, this would be a double-standard. That is, folks who hold the view that God permits evil that He knew about before hand but did nothing to stop it, is guilty of inconsistency in that these same folks would hold any person accountable for the same thing. For example, a lifeguard that "permitted" a child to drown because he simply didn't feel like getting wet on that particuliar day, would be held accountable for the child's death (and probably buried under the jail to boot). So the obvious question is, since God isn't being held accountable, why is man?

Moving on:

The Bible says he changes not:

And I agree. It was never my argument that He does.

Now to address the verses in question.

Yes, lets. But, for the sake of brevity and simplicity, I am going to address one commentary at a time. In other words, if Alpha wishes to interact with this post, we can discuss the verses in question and Alpha's comments on those verses one post at a time in either the comments section of this post or the home page.

The first verse I would like to address in regards to Alpha's comments is Acts 4:28. Alpha said:

My reply to this is statement is to turn your Bible to Acts 2:23 and see emphatically where through GODS foreknowledge the cast of characters you listed earlier would crucify our beloved Jesus.

In order to answer what Acts 4:28 states, Alpha takes us to Acts 2:23 where the term "foreknowledge" is mentioned (incidentally, this is what I originally said would be done by a non-Calvinist). The problem here is that Alpha assumes that the term "foreknowledge" means what he thinks it means but provides no supporting argument. In other words, Alpha fails to demonstrate that God determines because He foreknows instead of God foreknowing because He determines. The text of Acts 2 does not lay out the "simple foreknowledge" view that Alpha apparantly endorses. So in order for Alpha to succeed in refuting my comments on Acts 4, he would need to demonstrate the simple foreknowledge view (mere prescience) from the text of scripture.

I also wish to thank you for allowing me to post on your blog. I realize that it may stretch very long but it was necessary to clarify and perhaps enlighten others in the future. It is my hope that what I have offered is of help.

And, again, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts. Now, as to your comments on clarifying and enlightening myself or any other Calvinists who may read what you have posted, I must say that you will need to present arguments for all that you contend since much of what you posted was assertive in nature. That is, many of the scriptures you posted or cited to counter what I originally discussed in my article was not accompanied by argumentation (such as Mat. 23:37). As I said above, if you wish to continue to dialogue on the verses in dispute, we can begin at Acts 4.

God Bless You... alpha

And may God bless you as well.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Anti-Calvinism At It's Worst

Every Calvinist who has spent any time trying to witness to others the truth of the doctrines of grace has experienced what can only be called "anti-Calvinism". Anti-Calvinism can be characterized by sheer hatred of the doctrines of grace and the willingness to attack them by any means neccessary. Every logical fallacy from ad hominem to outright dishonesty can and will be employed by anti-Calvinists in order to gain any percieved ground in their holy war against what is so plainly taught in scripture. The single most shameful fact in this is that the typical anti-Calvinist is a professing Christian. These professing Christians will drop every standard of holiness, civility, and honesty in order to paint Calvinism in the worst light possible. Nothing can be more saddening than to watch a brother act like a trial lawyer, skillfully sowing the seeds of doubt to get his guilty client off the hook.

Now, I occasionally visit one of those web boards where folks can post on various topics related to and about Christian doctrine and I ran across one such anti-Calvinist named Bill Johnston. I attempted a dialogue with Bill because he seemed sincere and willing to openly discuss issues related to the doctrines of grace. Unfortunatly, Bill turned out to be one of the worst anti-Calvinists that I've ran across. What makes Bill such a bad anti-Calvinist is the fact that he knows very little about Calvinism and has admitted such. In fact, Bill makes Dennis Clough look scholarly. Below are some of Bill's statements from the aforementioned web board and my comments concerning them. I believe it's worth calling attention to this sort of behavior due to the fact that so many professing Christians will engage in it. It is my hope that at least one non-Calvinist out there will read this and evaluate if his/her argumentation is any better. note: these quotes do not appear in chronological order.

No, you chose to believe God is unjust by providing salvation for some, but not for others. You've been lied to, pal!

Bill says that Calvinists believe God to be unjust. Of course, we don't and Bill has been told this but Bill doesn't care. Bill believes that if God doesn't give all men since the time of Christ a chance to "get saved" then God is unjust. When I confronted Bill about those who lived in the new world and Australia during and immediatly after the time of Christ, and how they might have recieved the gospel, his response was one of those "All I know is..." statements. Bill still hasn't faced this issue squarely.

But, I don't suppose you guys witness to anyone, since you don't know who is chosen and who isn't, right?

Here, Bill muses that Calvinists do not witness to folks because we don't know who the elect are. Bill has been corrected on this as well but he has refused to listen. At any rate, Calvinists witness to any and all precisely because we don't know who the elect are. Calvinists believe that preaching is the means to God's ends in bringing His elect to His Son. In other words, we believe that God ordains the means along with the ends. Thus, preaching to all is in complete harmony with Calvinistic theology.

Jesus told us to go preach the Gospel to everybody, so it's obvious He didn't believe like you do. Thank God

Yes, Jesus told us to preach to all men. As stated above, Calvinists affirm this. But notice how Bill doesn't attempt a demonstration of just how the great commission contradicts anything in Calvinistic theology. Bill relies almost entirely on assertive argumentation and, at times, outright dishonesty.

It's also funny to hear folks like yourself claim that not all are chosen for salvation, but somehow all the people that claim this have been chosen

Kinda like how when the Christian witnesses to the lost, all the while believing that he himself is going to heaven while the person he is witnessing to is headed for hell, right? Oh, and never mind that Christians are referred to as "the chosen" many times in scripture.

That's always funny to me! Are there any in your group that have been chosen to go to hell?

What's funny is that this statement is no different than suggesting that a Christian is hell-bound. Further, this question is loaded and designed to mock Calvinism. It demonstrates unequivically that Bill is not serious about any of the issues surrounding the doctrines of grace. Since he cannot hope to refute Calvinism with such argumentation, what reason is there for him to act in this manner outside of sheer spite?

I've never heard such a crock of cr*ap in all my life that God created some people to go to hell, which obviously means you believe it is God's will for some folks to burn forever!

Aside from the fact that Bill is having to censure himself, this question bears just as much on his own position. For instance, Bill believes that God had perfect knowledge of all future things. This means that God knew that the majority of mankind would reject Him and end up in hell. But God chose to create anyway knowing these people would live and die without ever having hope that things would turn out different. If they did, then God's knowledge would be imperfect. So can Bill explain why God created men who had no hope of salvation? Would Bill even acknowledge the problem beyond "All I know is..."?

Bill takes his argumentation to new lows with these next two statements...

That's right, because I refuse to see things from the devil's point of view!

What? Now, why would I want to allow the devil to decieve me into believing like you?

The first statement was in response to me pointing out that he is attacking a belief system that he knows little about. Again I ask, what is to be gained in this kind of argumentation? It cannot be a concern for truth because there is no demonstration of truth in either of these statements. Again, I can only conclude that what is driving Bill at this point is pure spite.

This is classic cultism that claims "we are all saved, but God appointed some from outside our little group to go to hell....but, none of us of course because we are all saved!"

You tell those calvin cult followers!

Here in these two quotes, Bill resorts to calling Calvinists "cultists" (nevermind the fact that he doesn't bother to show just why). Since cults lie outside of what's accepted as Christianity, I can only conclude that Bill's opinion of Calvinists is that they are not Christians. Now, if Calvinists who believe this about non-Calvinists are called "hyper-Calvinists", why can't Bill be called a "hyper-Arminian"? At any rate, belief in predestination does not qualify anyone for cult status anymore than does believing that musical instruments are not acceptable for worship.

calvinism is nothing more than a pimple on the butt of the Body of Christ. One that needs to be popped!

This one I'll let stand without commentary as it says more than I could hope to about Bill's argumentation.

If you truly believe God fixed things so some people don't have any way of getting saved, then you serve a mean, ugly, evil god!

Only at death will any of us know for certain if we were right in accepting or rejecting Calvinism. If Bill is wrong in rejecting it, then he will one day stand before God to give an account for what he has said about Him publically all the while professing to be His child.

So, what is a "Calvinist" believe anyway? Can you name off a few points of exactly what they believe?

I don't follow calvin, or armin, or any other such foolishness. I simply read what God says and believe it.

Here, in these final two quotes, Bill displays his lack of knowledge concering this ancient debate. He asks what a Calvinist believes from, oddly enough, a non-Calvinist. The problem here is obvious. Instead of interacting with Calvinists about their beliefs, he chooses to ask a non-Calvinist for information while continuing to belittle and attack Calvinists. He further says that he does not follow Calvin or Armin (Armin?). Anyway, there is certainly nothing wrong with ignorance. We are all ignorant of a great many things. The problems begin when one tries to attack something that he doesn't understand. This axiom has been shown to be true too many times to count. Bill has been told that he doesn't understand Calvinism but that doesn't seem to matter to him. What little Bill knows, he hates. And as of this writing, Bill is still at it with no more knowledge than when he first started making the kinds of statements quoted above. As a professing Christian, Bill is supposed to be a lover of truth no matter what that truth might be. To know the truth requires a willingness to investigate. Bill lacks this quality and I believe that only God can give it to him. For the sake of those who frequent that particuliar message board, may it be soon. And for the Calvinists who frequent this blog, may your contact with anti-Calvinists such as Bill be few and far between!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Conversion of Lydia

Sometime ago, I happened upon a web page critiquing Calvinism that was written by a self-professed former Calvinist named Steve Jones. During Mr. Jones' discussions on the five points, he briefly mentions the story of Lydia found in Acts 16. Here are his comments:

The conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:14) does not prove the Calvinist's point. God was not here opening the heart of a totally depraved rebel. She was already "a worshipper of God," not a so-called "spiritual corpse."

Mr. Jones' argument appears to be that Lydia was already a believer. Thus, the reference to God opening her heart should not be understood as God causing Lydia to accept the Gospel message. Rather, this would be looked at as some sort of post-conversion blessing being bestowed by God. Now, I didn't then, nor do I now believe that Mr. Jones' brief treatment of Acts 16 is compelling and worth even responding to. However, I saw where a commenter on a reformed blog used this same argument recently. This caused me to wonder if Mr. Jones' understanding of Lydia's conversion was a common one so I thought that I would go ahead and offer a few observations.

First, here is Acts 16:14 as it reads in the NASB under the heading of (ironically) "First Convert in Europe":

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

The verse states that God opened Lydia's heart so that she would respond to Paul's preaching. The very next verse states that Lydia and her house-hold were baptized after this response to Paul's preaching. The Calvinist argument is that Lydia, despite being a "worshipper of God" was not a Christian convert before Paul's sermon. Her acceptance of Paul's words came only after God enabled her to respond. Lydia's conversion to Christianity at this point is evidenced by her baptism afterwards. Also, the Calvinist's view of free-will (i.e. compatiblism) is consistent with these events as described by the biblical narrative.

Now, Mr. Jones' objection seems to be based solely on the phrase "worshipper of God". He appears to be assuming that this phrase demands one to be a Christian convert. But I would only point out that the Pharisees themselves were "worshippers of God". Indeed, modern practicing Jews can be said to be "worshippers of God". Even Christ Himself stated that people honor Him with their lips while their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8,9). Obviously, this phrase does not demand a Christian conversion. Also, if Lydia were already a Christian, why would God need to open Lydia's heart to respond to Paul's preaching? Why would Lydia put off baptism until that point if she were already converted? It would seem that in order for Mr. Jones' interpretation to hold up he would need to:

  • explain why the term "worshipper of God" can only be applied to Christians
  • show that Lydia's response was something other than regeneration
  • explain why Lydia was not baptized until her encounter with Paul

Until these issues are dealt with by non-Calvinists who are in agreement with Mr Jones, I see no reason to amend my original evaluation of Mr. Jones' comments on Lydia's conversion.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dennis Clough and Luke 19:10

Readers of my humble blog are no doubt aware that a fellow named Dennis Clough has become a regular visitor here at Conversations. But readers here may not be aware that Mr. Clough is indirectly responsible for the recent increase in visitors to my blog because it was he whom I was responding to on Alan Kurschner's site when Alan graciously recommended my blog to his readers. There is tremendous irony in this because Mr. Clough hates Calvinism and has visited several reformed blogs of late making this known (see for instance Mr. Clough's post here and the many refutations he receieved in response). Despite his visits to these other blogs, Mr. Clough has decided to pitch his tent here, which is fine (that is, as long as he behaves himself) because Mr. Clough has given me much to blog about in the past week or so. Take for example Mr. Clough's assertions in regards to Luke 19:10. Mr. Clough has contended on both Alan's site and here that Luke 19:10 somehow refutes the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44. But as we are about to see, Mr. Clough's assertions are not justified.

Here is Luke 19:10 as it reads in the NASB:

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Here, Luke records Jesus as saying that He has come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is a statement by our Lord in regards to His mission here on earth. The question that needs to be answered is just whom is Christ seeking to save? Is it all mankind or a specific group of people? Before we answer this, let's look at two other statements describing our Lord's earthly mission.

The first of these two will be Matthew 1:21 which reads:

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. NASB

This was spoken to Joseph by an angel of the Lord. The angel is telling Joseph who Jesus is and what he is coming to do. Jesus' mission is to save His people from their sins. So again, who is it that Jesus saves from their sins? The text states that it is His people who is saved from their sins. So Mr. Clough has two options here. He can insist that all people are Jesus' people or he can say that only some are His. If Mr. Clough chooses all people, then Jesus failed in His mission because not all are saved. If he chooses some people, he must give an answer as to who these people are. The Calvinist of course, says this group is none other than the elect. If not the elect, then who? Mr. Clough might claim that the Jewish nation is in view here. But if this is so, again, Jesus failed in His mission because not all Jews are saved. Clearly, the Calvinistic interpretation is preferred.

The next verse I wish to look at before returning to Luke is John 6:38 & 39 which read:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. NASB

Here in John 6, Jesus states that His earthly mission is to do the Father's will and that the Father's will is that Jesus lose none of those whom the Father has given Him and to raise them to life. Now, the first thing to notice is just who it is that Christ will not be losing. This is a specific group of people that the Father has given Him. If Mr. Clough tries to insert "all men" here, then what he ends up with is either Universalism or the notion that Christ failed to do the Father's will. Both of these are unacceptable so, what does Mr. Clough do here?

So far, Matthew states Jesus will save His people from their sin, and John says that Jesus will do the Father's will by raising to life all those given to Him. What then of Luke 19:10? We have already noted that v. 10 states that Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost. In light of the previous verses, those whom Jesus seeks are His own people. Further, these people are the same ones that the Father has given Him in order to raise them to life. But this is not all. Luke 19:10 falls within the story of Zaccheus the tax collector being converted. Jesus states in verse 19:9 that salvation came to Zaccheus because he was a son of Abraham. So in context, Jesus sought to save the Sons of Abraham. Undoubtedly, the non-Calvinist or perhaps Mr. Clough himself would object to gentiles being referred to as sons of Abraham. But this term is not limited to the jews for two reasons. First, if the term "son of Abraham" were limited to the jews, then Christ failed in his mission because all jews are not saved. This is clearly unacceptable. The second reason is that Scripture identifies Gentiles as also being the sons of Abraham thru faith (Gal. 3:7). So we see that Luke falls in line with Matthew and John on Christ's mission. Contextually, Jesus sought to save the sons of Abraham in Luke. The sons of Abraham are "His people" according to Matthew. And "His people" are the ones whom the Father has given to Christ for the purpose of raising them to life in John.

In looking at these statements of Christ's earthly mission, we have seen that all three refer to a particuliar group of people. This particuliarity in Christ's mission is in complete harmony with the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44 because there is no disjunction between those whom Jesus sought to save and those who are drawn to Him by the Father. In order for Mr. Clough's assertions in regards to Luke 19:10 to hold up, he will need to deal with the demonstrated harmony of all three accounts of Christ's earthly mission and then show an inconsistency with the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Calvinist Humor

If any of you out there have ever heard of an atheist named Reggie Finley, a.k.a. the "Infidelguy", then click here. This audio clip is brought to you courtesy of the guys at Fide-O!

Also, this one from Purgatorio, is just plain evil. Click here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Calvinism and John 12:32

As I've stated previously, the text of John 6 comes up frequently whenever Calvinism is discussed. Upon being quoted John 6:44, the non-Calvinist's retort is almost always John 12:32 with an accompanying cry of, "All means all!". At this point, it becomes necessary for the Calvinist to address John 12:32 for the sake of progress in the discussion. Since I have had this same defense used against me by two different people in the last two weeks, I would like to discuss a few issues that bear against the non-Calvinist's use of John 12:32.

The first of the above mentioned issues is Universalism. It is the Calvinist's contention that if John 12:32 is read back into 6:44, then the result is an affirmation of Universalism. The reason for this contention is in how both verses read. For instance, 6:44 reads thus:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. NASB

And John 12:32:

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. NASB

The plain reading of John 6:44 is that no one can come to Christ unless first drawn to Him by the Father. Non-Calvinists will often concede this if pressed. It's the rest of the verse that causes problems for them as the verse goes on to state that those who are drawn (represented by "him") are also raised to life by the Son. What non-Calvinists are essentially doing then, is accepting the first half of the verse but denying the second half. This is done by going to John 12:32 and insisting that all men are drawn to Christ. Now, the problem should be obvious. If 6:44 states that all those that are drawn are then raised, and if all men without exception are drawn to Christ per 12:32, then you have an affirmation of Universalism. Since both sides reject Universalism, another explanation must be sought. For the non-Calvinist, this usually means an immediate switch to "all these other verses over here". For the Calvinist, it means dealing with these verses on their own and in their immediate contexts.

Now, when John 12:32 is brought forward by non-Calvinists, there is never any mention about the context in which Jesus makes His statements. The only thing that seems to interest those using this verse against Calvinists is the appearance of the term "all". The assumption is that "all" always means all men everywhere. This assumption remains even when the Calvinist points out that the term "all" is often times limited by contextual considerations. So obviously, the question is what did Jesus mean when He said that He will "draw all men" to Himself? Did He mean all men everywhere, or all *kinds* of men?

The important thing to note about the non-Calvinist's use of this verse is that "all men everywhere" are not in fact drawn to Christ. We know this to be true by both Biblical and experiential considerations. The Pharisees for instance, were not drawn to Christ unless one wishes to count their attempts at killing Him. Further, each of us knows or have known people who have never had an interest in Christianity outside of trying to disprove it. There is also the issue of those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. So, either Jesus was mistaken in what He said, or He did not mean "all men everywhere" but rather, all kinds of men. In support of this, we find in John 12:20 that there were Gentiles who were wishing to see Jesus. When Jesus got word of this, He began to address a crowd that now comprised both Jew and Gentile. It is to this mixed crowd that Jesus made His comments about "drawing all men". And it is this consideration that makes the Calvinist's interpretation of this verse not only plausible, but probable. That is, the Calvinist believes this verse is limited by this contextual consideration coupled with the above mentioned issues. If the non-Calvinist's interpretation clashes with other texts, and makes no sense of the verse when considered on it's own, then the Calvinist's interpretation becomes the most probable. Indeed, it would seem that these considerations would make the Calvinist's interpretation the only one *possible*.

Undoubtebly, the non-Calvinist will object with something like, "but you're changing *all* men into *some* men just to make it fit your doctrine!". But I would point out that this isn't a response to the argument offered. In fact, I haven't heard a non-Calvinist address the Calvinist's interpretation of 12:32 with anything other than comments like this. Indeed, in order to refute the Calvinist interpretation of John 12:32, the non-Calvinist will first need to:

  • Harmonize this verse with John 6:44
  • Show that all men since the time of Christ have in fact been drawn to Him
  • Refute the contextual argument derived from John 12:20 with the appearance of Gentiles seeking Jesus

Without addressing these issues, the non-Calvinist will be obliged to hand over one of their primary prooftexts to Calvinism.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Does The Story of Cain Contradict Calvinism?

I recently visited Alan Kurschner's site and read some comments that a fellow named Dennis Clough had posted concerning Calvinism. I responded with a couple of points concerning his comments and he responded by directing me to a challenge he made concerning Cain that shows, according to him, that Calvinism is false. So, in order to avoid any accusations that I, or any Calvinist will not or cannot answer Mr. Clough's challenge concerning Cain, I will take the time to respond to the claims made by Mr. Clough.

Mr. Clough, in a somewhat lengthy commentary on various issues, had this to say concerning his challenge to Calvinists:

I challenge any Calvinist to say that God did not call Cain! One must deny the clear record of Scripture in order to do so.

Apparantly, Mr. Clough is saying that God called Cain to salvation thus negating the Calvinist doctrine of irresistable grace because Cain rejected God's call. Further, Mr. Clough states that to deny Cain was called salvifically would be to deny clear scriptural teaching. So we have here several assertions made by Mr. Clough that he believes refutes Calvinism. Is he right? Let's take a look.

Mr. Clough's first statements regarding Cain in his post read thusly:

Besides receiving what God freely gave, Eve’s faith was seen in her excitement at the birth of Cain indicating that she thought he would be the promised Messiah.

Mr. Clough states that Eve was excited at Cain's birth because she thought that Cain would be the promised Messiah. But where does the text say that Eve believed Cain to be the Messiah? Nowhere in the text of Genesis 4 does it state that Eve believed such a notion. In fact, Genesis 4:1 simply states that Eve credited the LORD with helping her bring forth her firstborn. So where does Mr. Clough get this idea if not here? It appears that right off the bat, Mr. Clough is reading notions into the text that aren't there. Is this a developing pattern? Let's continue and see.

Cain refused to bring blood and rebelled against God’s clear call to get right.

Here, Mr. Clough claims two things concerning Cain. The first claim is that Cain refused to offer God a blood sacrifice. The second claim is that Cain rebelled against God's salvific call. So in response to the first claim, I'll quote Genesis 4:3-5 which reads:

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. NASB

Mr. Clough's first claim from his above quote is that Cain refused to offer God a blood sacrifice. But where in the above citation does it state that Cain refused to do anything? The text simply states that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground and that God rejected it. So it appears that Mr. Clough is still reading things into the text that aren't there. His second claim is that Cain refused God's salvific call. But is he yet again reading a notion into the text that isn't there? So far, Mr. Clough is 2 for 2. Can he keep it up?

Genesis 4:6 & 7 read thusly:

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouchning at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." NASB

Here, the LORD addresses Cain and tells him that if he does well his "countenance" will be lifted up. If Cain does not do well then sin will overcome him. Now, I presume that Mr. Clough's contentions are based on these two verses (he doesn't give specific citations in his post). If so, where is this supposed salvific call? Where does God explicitly state that He is calling Cain to salvation? And where is Cain's denial of this supposed offer? God's statements are simply what will happen if Cain does this or does not do that. And notice that if Cain does good then all that happens according to God's statements is that his "countenance" will be lifted up. This simply means that he'll be in a good mood with perhaps a smile to boot. Thus, it is my contention that God's statements to Cain are *descriptive* of what will happen if Cain does good and not *prescriptive* of what Cain could and should do for salvation. It is also my contention that Mr. Clough is fairly consistent in reading concepts into the text that aren't there as all of his stated assertions cannot be demonstrated from the referenced texts.

In Mr. Clough's first quote above, he stated that he challenges any Calvinist to deny that God called Cain and that to make such a denial is to defy Scripture. I submit to Mr. Clough that I have not only denied that God called Cain salvifically, but have shown this from the text of Scripture itself.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Anonymous Response

This morning, I recieved a response to my article about Ergun Caner's recent anti-Calvinism sermon. I would like to briefly address this response sent in by "Anonymous".

Oh, my! All this wears me out!! I am sick and exhausted of all this debating, etc.

So have you been debating this issue yourself? If so, where? When? Certainly not here. If not, then how can you be exhausted from something you have not engaged in?

For me, I will follow the Lord Jesus Christ! I want to be available to hear His still small voice.

Okay, so are you suggesting that because I and others choose to debate relavant issues within the Church that we do not follow the Lord Jesus? And just what does it mean to be "available to hear His still small voice"?

How can this happen if I jump on every bandwagon that comes along in Christianity?

By "bandwagon", do you mean denomination, or perhaps a particuliar theological view? If so, are you denying that you are a member of a denomination with particuliar theological views (i.e. bandwagons)? If you are a protestant, are you not on the "protestant bandwagon"? If your theological viewpoints put you in agreement with Jacob Arminius, are you not on his "bandwagon"?

Can we come together in the essentials of the Word of God and eliminate all this debating?

As long as false doctrine exists within Christ's church, then no. Would you want to fellowship with someone whom you believed was teaching false doctrine? Or perhaps someone in your congregation that openly attacks what you believe to be the Gospel? Are you seriously suggesting that Christians should throw out doctrine in favor of unity?

No wonder the American Christian Church is going down the toilet!!

I would agree that evangelicalism is indeed swirling down the toilet. But who is to blame? Those who are trying to confront false teachers and their doctrines or those who stand idly by and do nothing?

The drug addict whose life is transformed by the Gospel of Christ couldn't care less about your debates.

This would depend on whether or not this former drug addict cared about what Scripture so plainly teaches on watching your doctrine closely (2Timothy 4:2-4)

Mike Ratliff is correct when he says, "it's a sad day when 'Christians' are more in love with their traditions than they are with their sovereign Lord".

Mike Ratliff was indeed correct but not in the way you mean. What Mike is talking about are those who would sacrifice clear and unambiguous passages of Scripture for the traditions of men. You are thus in error by trying to turn Mike's statements into an endorsement of Christian complacency.

I might add: it is a sad day when "Christians" are more in love with their "interpretation of theology" than they are with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

What I see here is nothing more than a veiled attack on my, and every other Calvinist's status as a believer. It is a common thing for folks such as yourself to suggest that just because a Calvinist dots his soteriological "I's", and crosses his theological "T's", that he is somehow a subversive heathen seeking to destroy the truth of God's Word. What is telling about such assertions is that they can never be demonstrated and I would invite you to try. But that would involve going to the Scriptures for such things just as the Bereans did, which, based on your comments is apparently something you would be unwilling to do. This tells much about who really cares for God's truth as revealed in Scripture.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Questions and Answers

I received an email recently containing some questions regarding my previous post on God's relationship to evil. I would like to address those questions here for the benefit of any curious readers out there.

The first question reads thus:

What do you mean when you said that a natural disaster and evil are the same thing?

This question refers to my comments on Amos 3:6 regarding the prophet's statement that God causes disaster to befall the cities of men. The first thing I would point out for the questioner is that the translators for the NIV chose the word "disaster" over the more literal term "evil" meaning that they themselves saw these terms as synonymous. The second thing to point out is that a natural disaster is considered a kind of evil by both sides of the debate on the problem of evil. Just because natural disasters are beyond the control of man doesn't mean that they are not a kind of evil. I believe that the questioner would agree that whatever causes suffering and death can be considered evil, be it man or hurricane.

The next question reads as follows:

Isn't evil a man's action?

Yes it is. But as I pointed out above, evil is not limited to the actions of man. For instance, is it an evil thing or a good thing that thousands died when the tsunami struck a few years back? As stated above, suffering and death result from natural disasters. Surely suffering and death are not morally neutral things.

And God being responsible for 9/11?!?!?

I wouldn't say that God is "responsible" for 9/11 but I would say that this event happened according to His will. In my article on God's relationship to evil I made mention that Calvinism does not say that God can be responsible for evil in the sense of somehow being held accountable to His creation. The notion that creation can hold it's Creator accountable for His decrees is absurd. Can man really sit in judgement on God himself? I believe to ask this question is to answer it. But I do understand where the questioner is coming from. For the non-Calvinist, it is difficult to see how God can have anything to do with the decisions of evil men. I mean, how can God have "caused" the terrorists to do what they did? The best way to answer this is to show from scripture what God has done in similiar situations in the past. Case in point:

Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him agaisnt a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. Isaiah 10:5,6 NIV

In Isaiah chapter 10, we find that the Jewish nation has fallen away from God and that God intends to punish His people by sending the Assyrians to invade and destroy. The thing to note here is that God is the One bringing the Assyrians against the Jewish nation and not just allowing them to do what they would otherwise do anyway. This is further evidenced by God's statements that the king of Assyria believed that these events transpired apart from any divine influence. The text of Isaiah 10 further states:

Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it? Isaiah 10:15a

Here, God is rhetorically stating that it was He who is the cause of the actions of the Assyrians. He goes on to say that He intends to punish the Assyrians for the arrogant attitude of their hearts due to their belief that they have accomplished these things on their own. Non-Calvinists have had a difficult time explaining how these events fit in with the notion that God only allows things to happen according to the supposed free-will of man. But this issue aside, I would ask the questioner to think of these passages in light of 9/11. If God could bring a heathen nation like the Assyrians against the Jews, why not then can God bring the terrorists against the people of the United States? I mean, what is the fundamental difference between these two events? Does the questioner believe that we as a nation are better than the Jews of Isaiah 10 and should not be punished as God sees fit?

If you hold God responsible for evil then what is Satan for?

Again, I do not hold God responsible for anything. I would not presume to think that I or anyone can call into account God's decrees. As for Satan, I believe him to be on a leash of sorts. That is, he does only what God allows him to do instead of what man allows him to do. But I believe that in light of all the verses I covered in my article on God's relationship to evil, this question about Satan also applies to the questioner's beliefs. In other words, if God Himself claims to create and/or cause evil, what is Satan's role? Does he act contrary to an omnipotent God's decrees or does he act according to those decrees? Can a creature such as Satan defeat his Creator's purpose for him? If so, how does this square with God's omnipotence? I hope our questioner will place as much time and consideration on these questions as I've given to his/hers.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

God's Relationship to Evil

In almost any conversation about Calvinism, there is the accusation that Reformed theology makes God responsible for sin and/or evil. The Calvinist will usually answer this charge by denying that God is responsible in the sense of being held accountable by His creation and that He is not the author of sin by making a distinction between primary and secondary causation. However, the Calvinist at some point must admit that Reformed theology affirms God as the ultimate cause of all things and that nothing occurs but by His will. Through all this theological wrangling lies the main issue, which is, what scripture says about God's relationship to sin and evil. I will review several sections of scripture that speak directly to this issue without going through all the theological considerations just mentioned.

The first verse I would like to briefly discuss is Isaiah 45:7 which reads:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. KJV

The obvious point to make about this verse is that God, thru the prophet, states that He creates evil. The King James translators chose to give the most literal rendering of the underlying Hebrew which is why you would see other, less pointed, translations in the NIV or NASB. But even with other, less literal translations of the underlying Hebrew, the meaning changes little, if at all. The terms employed by other translations such as adversity, disaster, catastrophe, etc. are all synonyms. So, in light of these considerations, what does the non-Calvinist do with this verse? How does the common assertion that God only *permits* evil to happen but has nothing to do with it otherwise, do justice here? How does the non-Calvinist point an accusatory finger at Reformed theology for making God the "author of evil" when you have God's own testimony that He creates it? These questions will become more weighty as we continue with the Biblical testimony.

In the book of Lamentations we read:

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? Lamentations 3:38 NASB

Here we have the prophet Jeremiah stating that both good and ill come from God. The NASB's rendering is a bit interpretive in comparison to the KJV which again has translated the underlying Hebrew as "evil". But do the implications not remain the same? Is not the prophet trying to communicate that both sides of the moral spectrum come from God himself? If not, what other possibilities are there that can do justice to this verse as it reads?

Next, we have the prophet Amos stating:

When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? Amos 3:6 NIV

The prophet Amos states that when a disaster strikes a city, the LORD has caused it. Again, the KJV renders the underlying Hebrew as "evil" versus the NIV's "disaster". But I again point out that the meaning is the same. Moreover, this statement by the prophet has modern implications. Do not modern disasters such as 9/11 or hurricane Katrina not fall under God's hand and will according to Amos? If this be admitted, is it not true that the terrorist attack on the twin towers was "caused" by God Himself? Was this act of terrorism not evil? I believe that many non-Calvinists would still be reluctant to state that God had anything to do with 9/11 even if they conceded the above reasoning. But what about hurricane Katrina? Many non-Calvinists have stated that Katrina was an act of punishment from God. But is not a natural disaster a kind of evil? If the non-Calvinist answers in the affirmative, what does this do for his criticism of Reformed theology?

Next is Job 2:10 which reads:

But he said to her, "You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. NRSV

Here, Job has just answered his wife by saying that men receive both good and bad from the hand of God. Again, the KJV translators chose to render the underlying Hebrew term as "evil" versus the New Revised Standard's "bad". The most important thing to notice concerning this verse is that it explicitly states that Job did not sin by the comments he made. In modern discussions of this topic, it is the non-Calvinist that accuses Reformed theology of "making a monster out of God" by stating essentially the same thing as Job. But notice it is scripture itself that defends the Calvinist's assertions against this criticism. I have commented previously on one non-Calvinist's handling of this verse. His solution to how the verse read was to simply not quote it in full and to state that Job was suffering from some sort of dilusion due to his afflictions. As I noted before, this attempt at censuring the word of God in order to save one's theological presuppositions is inexcusable.

The next verse I would like to briefly discuss is Exodus 4:11 which reads:

The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? NIV

In this section of Exodus, Moses himself is complaining about being God's mouthpiece. God's answer is very interesting in that He states that it is He that makes men mute, deaf, seeing, and blind. Now, I do not believe that these are the only infirmities that God can be said to be the cause of. I mean, why would God only be the cause of blindness and deafness and not of, say, cancer or diabetes? Either way, disease is considered a kind of evil amongst those on both sides of the debate on the problem of evil. If it be admitted by the critic of Calvinism that disease is a kind of evil, then what is his explanation of this verse? How does this fit into his system of theology?

The last verse I would like to discuss has to do with what theologians have called the single most evil act man has ever commited. This act being the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Acts has this to say:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:27, 28 NASB

This text states that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish people and the Gentiles did whatever the "hand and purpose" of God predestined them to do. As all Christians know, these people were all involved with the execution of our Lord and though the crucifixion is how our salvation is made possible, this was an act of pure evil on the part of the parties named. So if it be admitted that all those involved in the crucifixion were predestined by the hand and purpose of God to the roles they played, and it be admitted that they commited evil, what can be said against the Calvinist who affirms that God is the ultimate cause of all things? In the case of this particuliar verse, the non-Calvinist will try to slip in their concept of "foreknowledge" in order to distance God from what is plainly stated. But the Calvinist only need respond by pointing out that the term foreknowledge is not mentioned here or in the immediate context. So what else is left?

In all the verses that we've looked at, nothing is at all stated that God merely "permits" or "foreknows" evil. In fact, four of the verses bluntly stated that God creates or causes evil. So for the non-Calvinist who takes the view that God only permits evil and does not in no way cause it, what does he do with these verses? How will he continue to criticise Calvinism for affirming what the text of scripture so plainly states?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Strange Baptistfire Launched

In response to one of the worst anti-Calvinist sites on the web, Gene Bridges, Evan May, Timmy Brister, Dustin Segers, and Nathan White have collaborated on a new site called "Strange Baptist Fire". Aside from answering the anonymous folks over at "Baptist Fire", they will also be discussing issues related to Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention. Everyone is encouraged to visit this site regularly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ergun Caner's Predestined Sermon

This past weekend, Dr. Ergun Caner of Liberty University preached a sermon titled, "Why I'm Predestined Not To Be A Hyper-Calvinist". Now, this is the same Ergun Caner that showed up at the Founder's Blog recently and "kicked the hornet's nest" so to speak, and this has led to the upcoming October 16 debate between Dr. Caner and Dr. James R. White. The reformed community has been buzzing with anticipation ever since the announcement for the debate was made. I commented previously about Dr. Caner's behavior over at the Founder's blog and how this would make the upcoming debate interesting to say the least. Caner's sermon also gives the outlook of an interesting debate as well. Caner launched immediately into the old straw-man argument of equating historic Calvinism as Hyper-Calvinism and hammers away on 1 Timothy 2:4 as if no Calvinist has ever discussed this passage before and the sermon only gets worse from there.

One thing in particuliar that caused my jaw to drop was Dr. Caner's statement that God did not hate Esau from before the foundation of the world but that God's hatred was based on Esau's works. Dr. Caner was of course refering to Romans 9 and I only need quote that particuliar section to show how badly tradition can blind a man to how a text actually reads:

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED BUT ESAU I HATED". Romans 9:11-13 NASB

May October 16 come swiftly!


James White responded to Ergun Caner's sermon here. Anyone who has listened to Caner's sermon is incouraged to hear Dr. White's rebuttal. Also, when I first listened to Dr. Caner's sermon I stopped just short of Jerry Falwell's closing prayer. I wish I had kept on listening because Falwell proved Charles Haddon Spurgeon correct when he noted that Arminians do not pray in accordance with their own theology. After stating that God "will not force you against your will to come to the cross", Falwell trips over his own tongue and prays this:

Do not let one person say ‘no’ to your precious will. Save the lost, reclaim the wayward.

Obviously, the question is raised," how is this statement consistent with the theory of libertarian free-will?" (I think Calvinists everywhere already know the answer to that one ;-)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What About Proverbs 16? (part one of two)

When was the last time you had a conversation about Calvinism that *didn't* include a reference to John 6, Romans 9, or Ephesians 1? Or even Acts 4 or Genesis 50? These sections of Scripture are exceedingly difficult to avoid when discussing the Biblical foundations of Calvinism with non-Calvinists. But, when was the last time you discussed Proverbs 16? Believe it or not, this chapter in Proverbs lends much Biblical support to Calvinism in general and to theological determinism in particuliar. So, before we discuss particuliar verses in Proverbs 16, a brief summary of determinism and indeterminism is in order.

First up is "determinism". Nearly all Calvinists hold to one form of determinism or another. There are "hard" determinists and there are "soft" determinists. This latter form is sometimes referred to as "compatibilism". It isn't neccessary for my discussion to go into all the theological ins and outs of these different forms of determinism. It will be enough to keep the focus narrowed to how determinism relates to the will and actions of man. So, in a nutshell, determinism is the belief that all man's actions and decisions are causally determined by both internal and external influences or causes.

The exact opposite of this is "indeterminism". Most, if not all non-Calvinists hold this position. Again, in a nutshell, indeterminism is the belief that the will and actions of man are not causally determined by internal or external causation. In other words, the will of man is as free to choose one course of action as another. Now, it should be pointed out that some indeterminists will concede that causes do *influence* the decision making process but that they cannot "decisively incline" the will in either direction. In other words, there cannot be a clear cut cause that determines the will to make a choice. This is also known as the theory of Libertarian free-will. Now, with these brief and somewhat simplistic definitions out of the way, we can begin to look at some of the verses from Proverbs 16.

First up is Proverbs 16:1 which reads:

The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. NASB

The plain reading of this verse is interesting in that it suggests that no matter what the plans of man might be, the words that come from him are somehow "from the LORD". Now, as the verse reads, a determinist has no problem. But what does the indeterminist do with it? If libertarian free will is defined by there not being any "causally determinative" forces working on the will, how is this consistent with man planning a course of action but his choice of words is from God? In order for libertarian free will to apply here, there cannot be a disjunction between what man plans in his heart and what choice of words comes from his mouth. In other words, man cannot be the cause of his plans while God is the cause of his words.

Now, I suppose that one possible way out for the indeterminist could be that this verse refers only to a few whom God chooses to lead in this manner for His purposes. I am familiar with at least some non-Calvinists who are comfortable in saying this. But I would only point out that the verse itself does not explicitly limit God's actions to some instead of all. Also, this would damage the common charge that determinism makes robots out of men. In other words, those who level this charge at Calvinists would be guilty of saying that God makes robots out of *some* men instead of all. The inconsistency in this position would be glaring to say the least.

I will continue this discussion of Proverbs 16 in part two of this article. The verses under consideration will be 16:4, 16:9, and 16:33. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Clearing Up Or Creating Confusion On John 6?

Last night, while following links thru the blogosphere, I happened upon a blog called "Philosophy of Religion" authored by a fellow who calls himself the "philosapologist". I scrolled down a bit and an article titled, "Clearing Up Contemporary Calvinistic Confusion" caught my eye. The article addresses John 6 so, needless to say, I was very curious to see how philosapologist clears up the Calvinists' supposed confusion regarding this text. Five full paragraphs later I'm sitting there feeling somewhat cheated and, well, confused. Why? Anyone familiar with the Calvinism/Arminianism debate knows John 6 is a key text that always (along with Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) ends up on the center stage of exegetical scrutiny. The amount of time and ink spent on John 6 by Calvinists is almost staggering and I have to ask, does philosapologist really believe that he can refute centuries of Calvinistic exegesis in just 5 paragraphs? Just to give you an example of what I'm talking about, here are two links to modern Calvinists' websites who have discussed John 6. I ask the reader to look at these and to note the depth to which they treat the text in question and to compare them to the five paragraphs that philosapologist has provided to "clear up calvinistic confusion". Also, I would like to briefly discuss a couple of other problematic aspects of philosapologist's article.

The first thing to note is that philosapologist starts his discussion of John 6 with a contextual argument. He states that Jesus is in debate with the religious leaders of his day and quotes John 5:37-38 and 5:45 (this takes up two of his five paragraphs by the way). He then states:

The point of the passage is this: Jesus' opponents could not come to him because of their track record of rejecting his previous offerings of light.

Philosapologist is leading into John 6:35-45 by starting with a contextual argument derived from John 5:37. The problem here is that the context philosapologist starts at is not the context of John 6:35-45. Jesus' debates with the religious leaders that philosapologist mentions ends at John 6:1 which reads:

SOME TIME after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), NIV

From here, John records the feeding of the 5,000 and the miracle of Jesus walking on the water. The text then has Jesus discussing the unbelief of the same crowd that had witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 and had followed Him to Capernaum looking for more miracles. This sets the stage for John 6:35-45. So if philosapologist begins his contextual argument by saying that Jesus is debating the religious leaders of His day and quotes John 5:37, 38, 45, to support this, his entire article is in error from the very beginning and thus is lead to an erroneous conclusion. Arguing against calvinistic exegesis based on the wrong context simply isn't going to get it done.

Another thing to note is that the key verses from John 6 are never quoted in full. In other words, philosapologist's readers do not get to see if what he says lines up with what is actually stated by the text. Case in point:

The answer to the question to whom does "no one" refer is quite simple: it means no one who has a relationship with the one true God and creator of the universe refrains from coming to Christ.

The verse being referred to here is John 6:44 which reads:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day. NIV

For the Calvinist, it's easy to see why philosapologist would not want to present the verse as it reads. It explicitly states that no one can come to the Son unless first drawn to Him by the Father. But that's not all. It goes on to state that the one drawn is raised up. Does philosapologist's contexually based assertions do justice to how the verse actually reads? Of course not since he starts with the wrong context in the first place. Philosapologist is still reading into the text the notion that Jesus is still debating the religious leaders from John 5 when in fact Jesus is explaining to a crowd of people who have followed him to Capernaum just why it is they do not believe in Him.

The last thing I would like to address is the use of the word "contemporary" in the title of philosapologist's article. Is he suggesting that Calvinists no longer interpret this text the way, say, Warfield, Turretin, or even Calvin himself did? If this is the case then I would simply state that I have read Calvin's remarks on this section of John and what he states is no different than what modern expositors such as White or Sproul would say. In fact, Calvinists are very uniform in their handling of this text because they simply let it speak for itself.

So, in light of these issues I've brought forward, I can only say that what philosapologist ends up doing is *creating* confusion for the Calvinist instead of clearing it up.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Workplace Tracts

In my meanderings thru the workplace, I recently came across some tracts and booklets that you would find at your local church for the purpose of some quick info and for passing them out to folks you witness to. I looked thru them to see what subjects they addressed and who the authors were. One booklet in particuliar caught my eye due to it's title, "Where Is God When You Hurt?". Due to the title, I figured that it would try to address the "problem of evil" and a quick scan of the opening page confimed my suspicion. The booklet was written by a fellow named Richard W. Coffen. I had never heard of Mr. Coffen so I looked him up on the web and found that he is associated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Since I know someone who is a member of the SDA church, I was curious to see how someone from that denomination would handle the subject. So I sat down to read. But, as you might guess, I was less than impressed and would like to briefly address some of the things written by Mr. Coffen. I will limit my discussion to the way in which Mr. Coffen handles and interprets certain verses mentioned in his booklet.

First up is Mr. Coffen's handling of Luke 13:16. He sets up his comments on this verse by relating real life examples of suffering and evil and trying to establish that God does not will evil of any kind and that since Jesus was here to do only the Father's will, He didn't will evil either. Now this all sounds well and good but the issue is how Mr. Coffen handles Luke 13:16 in relation to other verses that bear on the same subject. In other words, is Mr. Coffen guilty of ignoring verses that contradict his reading of Luke? We shall see...

Luke 13:16 reads thus:

And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day? NASB

Here is Mr. Coffen's remarks:

Did you notice whom Jesus blamed for the woman's condition? Satan had crippled her for 18 years. But Jesus came to our planet to show us what God wants.

With these comments, Mr. Coffen attempts to show that Satan was "the lone gunman" so to speak, and that the Father and the Son had nothing to do with it.

Now, when I first read this I immediatly thought of Job and God's interaction with Satan in regards to Job's afflictions. But I'll hold on Job for a moment in order to discuss another verse that sprang to mind that bears on Mr. Coffen's interpretation of Luke 13:16. The text is John 9:3 which reads:

Jesus answered, "it was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him". NIV

This verse comes on the heels of the disciples asking Jesus about a blind man they had met. They wanted to know the reason for his blindness which they assumed was the result of sin. Jesus' answer is eye opening to say the least. Jesus states that this man was not struck blind because of sin at all but that he was blinded for the purpose of God showing his power and mercy to this man thru Christ. The implicit statement here is that there was divine purpose in this man's condition irregardless of Satan being named as the direct cause of the woman's infirmities in Luke. How can I say that you might ask? I readily concede that there is not an *explicit* statement in John 9:3 that names God as (ultimately) causing this man's blindness for that specific purpose on that specific day in time. But I can answer this objection by stating that the *implicit* is there and that I can show elsewhere the *explicit* statement that God is (ultimately) the cause of, not only blindness, but all infirmities that afflict man. My prooftext will be Exodus 4:11 which reads:

The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? NASB

This verse provides us the *explicit* statement that God makes man mute, deaf, and blind. I believe it clearly establishes the Calvinistic interpretation of John 9:3 and disproves Mr. Coffen's contention that God had nothing at all to do with the woman's infirmities in Luke 13:16. But what about the mention of Satan and Not God in Luke 13:16? Without getting into a drawn out discussion of the theological distiction between primary and secondary causation, I will simply take the reader to the book of Job for the answer to the question concerning Satan's involvment with the woman in Luke (incidentally, this is where Mr. Coffen goes as well).

After trying to establish that Satan is solely and ultimatly the cause of evil by appealing to Luke 13:16, Mr. Coffen takes his readers to the book of Job and relates the tragic events in Job's life as recorded in the opening chapters. This is, I believe, where Mr. Coffen is at his worst. Let's pick up with his comments...

During Job's depression after having lost livestock and children and health, his wife muttered something about cursing God and getting it over with. But Job retorted, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
(Job 2:10)
That's a rather puzzling affirmation, because the implication is that we should actually expect both good and bad to come from God's hand. But we really shouldn't construct theology on the musings of someone wallowing in the slough of despond. Deep depression is hardly the crucible for deep theology. And even Job himself later admitted that he really hadn't known what he was talking about.

Now, the first thing I would point out is the glaring lack of any mention of the "conversation" between God and Satan concerning Job. This is significant because God explicitly gave permission to Satan to inflict all the suffering that Job experienced. Indeed, it was God himself who mentioned Job to Satan in the first place. But of course, Mr. Coffen does not even hint at these things because they are detrimental to his assertion that Satan is the cause of man's woes and acts solely apart from God's will in such matters. I also believe that this bears heavily on Mr. Coffen's interpretation of Luke 13:16 as mentioned above.

The second thing to mention here is Mr. Coffen's handling of Job 2:10. Coffen only quotes *half* the verse and proceeds to tell his readers that Job was depressed and simply talking out of his head. But is this the case? Here is the full verse:

But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. NASB (emphasis added)

The part of the verse that Mr. Coffen did not quote states that Job did not sin by saying that man recieves both good and adversity from God. It hardly needs to be pointed out how the very mention of this half of the verse refutes Mr. Coffen's assertion that Job was merely depressed and saying things that are not accurate. If this were true, the text would agree with Mr. Coffen and affirm that Job did indeed sin by implicating God for his woes. Further, the second half of the verse brings out even more the relevance of God's granting permission to Satan to afflict Job. Why? Because often the argument is made that God only gave permission to afflict Job and thus is not responsible (that is, being the cause) for the evil that befell Job. But again, the text itself refutes such an assertion by stating that Job did not sin in saying that men recieve both good and ill from the LORD. It is therefore very telling as to why Mr. Coffen did not completely quote Job 2:10. This kind of cut and paste handling of God's word is saddening and inexcusable.

I could go on reviewing Mr. Coffen's booklet but I think that I have made my point. The problem of evil cannot be dealt with by holding up certain verses and ignoring others. There are many verses in the Bible like those I've brought forward and they must be dealt with by those who profess to love truth. I can only hope that Mr. Coffen is not representative of the way Seventh Day Adventists handle the word of God.