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.